BEST-SELLING novelist Belinda Bauer was watching a documentary about a group in America that supports terminally ill people who want to “come out” with dignity, when her latest novel idea hit the spot.
“I couldn’t help but think how bad it could turn out and I knew I had to write a book about it,” said the author and former screenwriter whose hit thrillers include Snap, The Beautiful Dead and Rubbernecker.
Bauer (58) has done extensive research on the law surrounding the right to die debate and the groups that support it. “I didn’t get the impression they were nuts,” she said evenly, “but like everything, it reminds you of legislation. The end of life issue is a minefield.
However, she reveals, “I have always believed that there should be laws to allow people to choose how they end their life, especially when they are in pain.
So evolved his latest novel, Exit, which centers on retiree Felix Pink, a member of a group called the Exiteers, who helps (but doesn’t help) those who are terminally ill to exit with dignity. But one of his affairs, conducted with a 23-year-old newbie Exiteer, goes horribly wrong and Felix soon finds himself on the run from the police.
Although the subject matter is dark, there is a lot of humor in the novel, especially from the older characters.
“It gave me the opportunity to write about the elderly,” she enthuses. “Older people are sidelined by society, but I have always had a great relationship with older people and I get really upset when older people are sidelined because they are fascinating, wise. , interesting and funny, with a multitude of fabulous stories. “
A former journalist, Bauer was a screenwriter for seven years, but struggled when the films she worked on didn’t make it to the screen. (She made a living because she was always paid for the script.)
“I was so desperate to see my name on the big screen. I love movies and wanted to be part of this world. “It was such a chore,” she says. “If I had been a successful screenwriter, I wouldn’t be writing books now. I wrote books because I failed screenwriting. i had my first [screenplay] turned into a movie, which never came out.
“It was very demoralizing to put all of this effort and emotion into a job so that it didn’t see the light of day.”
She took mortgage leave while writing her first novel, Blacklands, which won the 2010 Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Gold Dagger Award and became an instant hit.
Ironically, she had never read a detective novel when she started writing Blacklands.
“After years of struggling, I became a success overnight. This allowed me to immediately stop writing screenplays and start writing books full time. It is a total privilege. I found the world of books to be a much nicer place.
In 2018, his thriller Snap was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, which came as a huge surprise given that commercial thrillers are generally not the genre favored by judges.
“Yet I have always had great ambition for my books,” she notes. “Being nominated for the Booker Prize was hilarious, but at the same time I thought, yes, that’s what thrillers and detective stories deserve. They should be seen as real handwriting, not to be sidelined by snobs. “
Her detective novels have sometimes caught the attention of fans who pissed her off.
“I had someone who was in a position at work where they could access my personal files. He emailed me one day and said, “I know where you live”. It was absolutely terrifying, so I adjusted the way I behave online and at festivals.
“The person apologized the next morning, but that’s something that affected me. I increased security. It was very scary.
Today she is on Facebook but no other social media platform. Her editors tweet for her, she says.
“I’m really anti-social media. I don’t think it does much good and I’m just using it to let my readership know about the books that are coming out. I think it’s a big waste of time.
She lives just outside Cardiff and has a longtime partner, Simon, an IT consultant she has worked with for 13 years, although they don’t live together.
“If we had lived together, it would only have been about two,” she says wryly. “He lives a decent distance away. He’s the smartest man I know. We met on Match.com – we bonded by grammar.
He has strict instructions never to ask her to marry him, she reveals.
“It will only embarrass us both when I say no.” I don’t believe in living with someone else, but I don’t think I could bring myself to marry someone and keep them in another house. We see each other regularly, but not enough to get bored or take ourselves for granted.
These days, she’s a regular at crime writing festivals (or was before the pandemic) and her friends on the tour include Sharon Bolton, Mark Billingham and Lee Child.
“The world of mystery writing is the best world to be in,” she says. “The people are so nice, helpful and friendly. Crime novelists are the funniest people I know.
:: Belinda Bauer’s Exit is published by Bantam Press, priced at £ 14.99.