Award-Winning Crime: Volta by Nikki Dudley

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the author of Volta, Nikki Dudley, in person in London recently! I know, how rare is that these days? We bonded over starting writing projects during lockdown (her amazing MumWrite for writing mums and my Write By You for diverse young female writers) and coping with writing and parenting during lockdown.

And then we got down to book chat. While I don't often read crime novels, I loved the characters in her book. They were so interesting and relatable and it was great to follow them through the twists of her cleverly-plotted novel. Read on to find out how crime writers get the inside knowledge on police procedure and what it was like to win the Virginia Prize...

One thing that really struck me in your book was the characters. They are so nuanced and interesting. How did you go about planning and creating them within the tight plot constraints of a crime novel?

The most important thing to me is the characters and how they inter-relate. I love having strong characters who are bouncing off each other in novels. Though I write crime, what I love most is humanity and how humans react in all sorts of situations - in this case, under extreme pressure. I wanted there to be real friendship between SJ (the main character) and Aris (his police friend), which would then put under the microscope due to the tensions of the main plot (the crime). Then I wanted to bring in some history with Aris's sister, Mari. I think I just had a lot of fun writing all of them and I don't think I can ever write solely crime without some humour and affection peppered throughout.

Speaking of plot, I don't usually read crime novels but am always impressed by the way they lead the reader through the story, often concealing elements from them until later in the book. How did you go about creating this?

It's funny because sometimes I feel like the characters take over the story as I'm writing but there were a few key twists and turns I wanted to include. For me, feedback was key here. Some people said the reveal was too shocking in the earlier drafts so it was about introducing smatterings of information leading up to any big twists so the readers don't feel like I just turned the wheel on them and they had some clues. I hate when that happens so I try to write as I would like to read - hopefully being shocked but without feeling too stupid about it!