No Such Thing as Goodbye – Guest Post by Karmen Špiljak

Karmen and I had a great blether recently about her writing process and what made her choose Mexico as the setting for her  gripping psychological spy thriller. This is obviously delving into a different genre from my usual historical fiction but No Such Thing as Goodbye is a cracking good read, and I wanted to learn more.

You’ve set No Such Thing as Goodbye in Mexico. What drew you to that particular country?

I needed a place that would fit well with the development of the story, something far enough away to create an illusion of safety, but different from what Toni is used to (she comes from Amsterdam). One of my good friends is from Mexico and he’d often mention something that happened, or a food he liked and missed, so I decided to place the story in Mexico. Of course, this was also a good excuse to actually travel to Mexico and experience some of these things by myself, though I didn’t go quite as far in my adventures as Toni did. Luckily, the book is part of a series, so I now have a good excuse to visit Mexico more often and see if all those tacos and enchiladas still taste as good as they did a few years ago. One can’t be too thorough when doing research…

I must say I enjoyed reading a thriller which didn’t have a hard bitten detective at its centre, for a change. Your protagonist, Toni, is young and vulnerable. Can you tell us how she came into being?

Writing a spy novel is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I waited for the character to come and find me. Reading an account of someone who was involved in crime but came clean and angered their family lit a spark. The same day, Toni sprung to life and I barely had enough time to catch her story as it started to pour out. 

Making her young was intentional, as I knew I was writing a series, but I also wanted to leave enough space for Toni to develop and grow. Twenty-five seemed like an interesting age, with quite a few important life decisions ahead. She’s old enough to have gained some experience and insight, but still quite young and not yet properly cynical.

After writing the book, I discovered a bunch of spy-themed podcasts and found out that Toni’s age is within the age range for spy recruitment, which was a lucky coincidence on my side. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Toni will handle some of the obstacles in her way and whether her goals and desires will change as she grows older.

What was the most challenging thing about creating a psychological thriller, and the most fun part?

The most fun part is definitely writing the first draft, which I did during NaNoWriMo. At the time, I thought I was just writing a spy thriller, but after getting some feedback from advanced readers, it became clear the story had a strong psychological aspect. I really enjoy the freedom of this genre, to be able to make up stuff and build tension from within. Toni’s relationship with her two brothers plays an important part, too, and I love creating drama by pulling those relationship strings between the characters.

The most difficult part was revising and cleaning up. As this is my first crime fiction novel, I’ve had to learn quite a few things. The book went through several drafts and I had to do a lot of cleaning up afterwards, which was quite tedious, but also rewarding.

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