MCN: You have 3 words. Describe The Killing of Emma Gross.
Damien: Hardboiled German expressionism.
MCN: You now have another 21 words. Tell me some more.
Damien: Emma Gross is equal parts police procedural, psychological
thriller and dramatic deconstruction of a love affair gone very, very wrong.
MCN: I’m liking all those parts, BTW. Emma Gross is an incredibly assured debut
(this is me buttering you up)- this level of skill doesn't happen straight away, so go on spill,
what else have you been writing?
Damien: Ha! You terrible brown noser, you. What was it about the book you
found particularly skilful?
MCN: Eeesh, I hate it when people answer a question with a question. Emmmm, what did I
find skilful? All around quality - character/ plot/ prose/ sense of time and place - difficult to find fault, really. So, where did you learn your craft?
Damien: I couldn't write until I worked as a journalist in Brussels. That's
when I really learned to write quickly, and to make a story out of
unpromising material. Out of thin air sometimes. Once I was sent to
interview a man from the Cook Islands and my boss couldn't remember
who he was, just that he was either the prime minister or the foreign
minister. Luckily the man gave me his card when we met and he turned
out to be the foreign minister, so I could at least make it look like
I'd been briefed. But even then I didn't have a clue what to talk to
him about until we actually started talking.
High wire days, those were, and very useful. Everything since that job
has been a kind of tweaking or refining what I learned then. As for
Emma Gross, I think the secret with that was that I'd found a story I
really wanted to get out and that no matter how long it took I was
going to do it. If there's a reason the book turned out to be good,
MCN: Yeah, that chimes with me. A story you were passionate about. Talking about
passions (we were, keep up) you mentioned a love affair gone terribly wrong. We are terrible gossips at MCN – do tell ...
Damien: Let's just say it's based on experience, though nothing as harrowing as
what occurs in the book. I will say that I probably wouldn't have been that
confident writing about abortion if it wasn't something I'd had to deal with
MCN: Answered with admirable honesty, sir. (And there was me after some salacious
To be continued ...