• NZ Booklovers

Interview: Paul Cleave talks about The Quiet People


Paul Cleave is an award winning author who often divides his time between his home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where his novels are set, and Europe, where none of his novels are set. His books have been translated into twenty languages. He’s won the Ngaio Marsh Award three times, the Saint-Maur book festival’s crime novel of the year award, and has been shortlisted for the Edgar and the Barry and the Ned Kelly. Paul talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about your new novel, The Quiet People.

It’s about a husband and wife crime writing team. For years they’ve been writing about children going missing, and then one day their seven year old son is kidnapped. The police, the media, the public – they begin to believe that if anybody can get away with staging a crime – it’s a crime writer – after all, Cameron and Lisa Murdoch have been saying it for long enough.

It’s an interesting book title, can you tell us about how you came to settle on it.

Titles are always tricky – but sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll be writing a sentence and go ‘oh damn, there’s the title right there’. That’s what happened here – where Cameron is talking about how folks on TV, when they are neighbours with somebody who has just killed or abducted somebody, will go, ‘oh, he was such a quiet guy’. So ‘Quiet People’ is a term they started using in their books to describe that situation – and when their son, Zach, goes missing, Cam realises that Lisa and him are now The Quiet People. I think it’s my favourite title of all my books.


How much of your new novel is inspired by your own experiences of being a successful crime writer?

Some, I guess. This is the second time I’ve done a book involving crime writers – and like last time, I like to throw some of myself in there – some of the experiences that come with writing. Cameron isn’t me – but we do have similar tastes in music, and alcohol, and books etc, and we both travel a lot. I really love writing about that world – and reading about it too. Some of my favourite books are about writers. There’s more that can be mined there too – I have another really cool idea for a crime writer, but I have to wait a few years otherwise people be go ‘oh, not another one…’.


What research was involved with your latest book?

Well – if you had asked this for any other book, the answer would have been between ‘none’, and ‘ten minutes on Wikipedia’. But I actually met with a homicide detective for this one. He gave me some of his time to go through with me how an investigation like this would start. I needed the beats of that first day, then second day, then third. It gave me a map as to where the book would go – and I used it as much as I could. However – you can’t always let the facts get in the way of a good story – so I had to deviate a bunch of times.


In the story, the public very quickly turns against the crime writing parents, how much does this reflect the age we live in with social media and ‘fake’ news?

It absolutely does. I don’t doubt for a second that what happens in the book would happen in real life – and maybe.. maybe if not right now, then soon. People loved to be outraged before they know all the facts – even I’ve found myself doing it lately. In fact – I barely use social media these days because it makes me lose hope.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

I can’t answer that – because I really have no idea. What I can say is that I wrote this book listening to Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, and Bruce Springsteen concerts over and over.


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

Tom Cruise. I don’t think anybody would have an issue with him being too small for the role.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Oh geez – that’s tough. I’ve read a few. Either Michael Connelly’s ‘The Night Fire’, or Claire McGowan’s ‘The Other Wife’.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

A diet, for one. I’ve put on ten kgs since lock down ended last May, and it’s not pretty. 2020 was my first year without travel in a long time – and 2021 won’t be any different, so I’ll work. I started writing a new book a few weeks ago with a pretty crazy premise that I’m loving – so I’m hoping that’ll pan out. They don’t always – so we’ll see.


The Quiet People by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press, $37.99 RRP) is out now. https://upstartpress.co.nz/product/the-quiet-people/