Which is harder… being the Director of the Crime Writers’ Association or penning a debut novel? Claire McGowan knows the answer to that…

If you heard I was a new crime writer, to be published in 2012, and that I also work part-time running the Crime Writers’ Association, you might think I’d planned things very well. In fact, it came together much more haphazardly than that. I’d been offered the job with the CWA, their first paid role, after discovering it on their website while looking for writing competitions. The only problem was I wasn’t sure I could leave my previous, full-time job for a part-time one. I was literally walking in the door to discuss it with my then boss, when I got the phone call from my agent – my book deal had gone through with Headline. I was going to be immersing myself in the book world.

Since then I’ve had a crash course in the world of crime writing, attending Crimefest, Harrogate, CWA events, and more. I feel like I’ve become something of an expert in a very short time – ironic considering I’d no idea I was even writing crime until I sold the book. Working for the CWA has brought many surprises. Firstly, nearly everyone in the crime world is extremely kind, welcoming, and fun. They can drink the bar dry and still get up for 9 a.m. panels (that’s something I have to work on).

I’ve also been surprised, and not always pleasantly, by the strength of feeling the CWA provokes. I imagined the world of books would be calm and placid. Not so – feelings can run high among the book-shelves. Perhaps it’s inevitable that an organisation with such a long history will spark debate, wildly differing opinions, and criticism. The committee (all volunteers) and myself are working hard to make changes at the CWA, and we hope that the members will feel the results better serve their needs and help us to keep up with the rapid changes in publishing.

So, the day job and the writing fit together very well. I’m fascinated by crime writing, and the job has helped to raise my profile more than I’d warrant as a new writer, for which I’m grateful. I’m very aware of how tough things are now, and not every new author gets to have tea at Peter James’ house or go to the Crime Thriller Awards. At times I do struggle to manage the two roles – some days it’s easier to deal with emails than to sort out my plot. And some day I’m desperate to carry on with my book rather than deal with CWA issues. I wish I’d realised earlier that I was actually a crime writer – I can’t imagine a better or more exciting genre to be in today.

The Fall by Claire McGowan is published February 2012

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