“I like writing about secrets”: A Q&A with Hilde Vandermeeren
Posted 4th October 2021
Up next in our Walter Presents series is The Scorpion’s Head, a nail-biting story of innocence and guilt from Flemish writer Hilde Vandermeeren. We sat down with Hilde to find out how she came to write the book, what’s on her TBR pile, and what she’s working on next.
Tell us about the inspiration behind The Scorpion’s Head.
It all started with the main character Gaelle, the mother of a 7-year-old son, who’s accused of attempting to murder her child.
Being a mother myself, it wasn’t difficult to empathize with all that Gaelle is going through in her search for the truth. It was much more difficult to get into the mind of my other main character: Michael, a hit man. I wanted him to be a layered character, so I asked myself these questions: what happened in his childhood and in what way did that influence him in the decisions he makes? The storyline of his past is woven into the book, so the reader will know at the end what happened to Michael as a child.
What has been your favourite response to this novel?
Some readers said to me that they rediscovered the pleasure of reading because of this book. That’s wonderful for a writer to hear.
There’s also a reader who had never heard of the Catacombs in Paris before he read my book. After reading it, he actually went to Paris to visit the Catacombs. I hope he enjoyed the trip as much as the book!
What are you currently reading?
It’s not a novel but an interesting non-fiction book: Domestic Noir: The New Face of 21st Century Crime Fiction (Laura Joyce and Henry Sutton). I’m very interested in the genre of domestic noir both as a reader and as a writer. Recently I have read a lot of international crime novels in that genre.
Another book on my nightstand is The Gift of Fear (Gavin De Becker). It’s not a recent book, but my youngest daughter advised me to read it and it’s really captivating. According to De Becker, we should trust our intuition. He describes how we can recognise subtle warning signals that can protect us against people with bad intentions. It resonated with me because I use that way of thinking in my life as well as in my books. In The Scorpion’s Head, Gaelle feels that there’s something really wrong. She learns to trust people she does not know well and she learns to distrust people in her close environment.
I’m currently working on a project that involves three domestic noir-stories. They will be published in 2022 as e-books and audiobooks. I’m very fond of domestic noir because it confronts us with the fact that a lot of houses are not safe places to live. We don’t really know what’s going on behind those walls. I like writing about secrets, lies and the subconscious tension that goes with it when people try to hide things.
The Scorpion’s Head by Hilde Vandermeeren (translated by Laura Watkinson) is out now from the Walter Presents series at Pushkin Press.