Photograph by Lou Abercrombie.
I recently caught up with Anna Mazzola, a criminal justice solicitor by day and an awesome debut historical crime author by night, and I’m delighted to share her words with you. But before I do, here’s what you need to know about The Unseeing, it’s ‘a vividly written novel of human frailty, fear and manipulation, and of the terrible consequences of jealousy and misunderstanding.’ Sounds good, right? Read more about it below.
TCB: Your debut crime novel – The Unseeing – is out in July. Can you tell us about it?
AM: The Unseeing is a historical crime novel based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted in 1837 of aiding and abetting her lover, James Greenacre, in the murder of Hannah Brown. Sarah was sentenced to death and petitioned the King for mercy. The Unseeing begins with the appointment of the lawyer who is to investigate her petition, and he – and the reader – has to determine whether Sarah Gale is indeed innocent or whether she is far more involved than she would have us believe.
TCB: Where did you get the idea for The Unseeing from?
AM: The murder is mentioned briefly in the Suspicions of Mr Whicher and it seized my attention as it took place in Camberwell, not far from where I live. When I read the Old Bailey transcript, I became fascinated by the fact that Sarah Gale says virtually nothing throughout the entire trial. Her barrister gives a short statement on he behalf saying that she was not in Camberwell at the time of the murder and knew nothing of it afterwards, but she says nothing to combat the various claims that are made against her or to deal with the different pieces of evidence that are offered up against her. Given she was facing the death sentence, I thought that was very strange. What was preventing this woman from speaking out to defend herself?
TCB: Are you a plotter, a planner or do just write and see where it takes you?
AM: I’ve plotted my second novel out carefully, precisely because the structure of The Unseeing took a long time to sort out. Everyone’s different, but I think I need quite a clear route-map before I set out, if only to give me the confidence to plough on with it.
TCB: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
AM: Fairly late on. I’ve always loved books, and I studied English Literature at University, but I was only really seized with the urge to write in my thirties, after I had my son. I would write in cafes while he was asleep and realized it was a whole new way of seeing the world.
TCB: What can we expect from you in the near future?
AM: As I mentioned, I’m currently writing my second novel, which is set in 1857. It’s about a young woman who goes to work for a collector of folklore on the Isle of Skye and discovers that a girl has gone missing, supposedly taken by spirits, although of course that’s not what she believes. I’m hoping to have time to write and rewrite some short stories as well, and I’m working on some feature pieces. It’s good to have a few things on the boil.
Thanks for you time, Anna. Also thanks to Millie Seaward for sending me my copy of The Unseeing.
Don’t miss your chance to hear more from Anna and get a signed copy of The Unseeing at the First Monday Crime event on Monday 4 July at City University London.
Where to buy