An Interview with Danuta Kot
The beautifully bleak Yorkshire coast and crime combine in Life Ruins, the latest novel from Sheffield-based, double CWA-winning author Danuta Kot. Sarah Morgan caught up with her recently to find out more about the book and its creator.
“I love the Yorkshire coast,” says Kot when asked about her reasons for using it as a setting. “I had the scene of a body being washed up at Ravenscar in my head for a long time, so once the story began to form around it, the Yorkshire coast was the obvious place to set it.”
The tale is a real page-turner focusing on three very different people – retired Kay, her troubled former foster daughter Becca and Jared, an urban explorer nursing himself back to health, both mentally and physically – who are caught up in a mystery involving the disappearance of vulnerable young girls.
“It’s a thriller but it’s also a book about growing up, struggling with change and how people work their way through their problems,” explains Kot. “At the start of the book, Kay, Jared and Becca are all in a pretty bad place. By the end, they’re in a better place.”
The author has a fondness for all her characters, but it’s Becca who has a special place in her heart.
“She’s based on some of the students I used to teach when I worked in Rotherham. The college took students who hadn’t done well at school and we used to get extremely good results from them because we had staff who took them seriously, who recognised them for who they were.
“We were dealing with 16-year-olds who came from disrupted homes, from where they had to have part-time jobs because they were so poor, from homes where neither adult had had a job for years, or where they were primary carers, all sorts of problems.
“I admired them so much for surviving the things they had survived.”
Kot is currently putting the finishing touches on a sequel, Someone Who Isn’t Me, which will feature both Becca and Kay.
“It’s set partly at Sunk Island, which is just south of Hull, and is a wonderfully eerie coastal landscape. I love writing about that area, but I would love to write about Sheffield and the old pit villages. I’d like to bring Becca and Kay there because I know it so well and it’s a wonderful setting for crime fiction.”
“I like the characters and I think there’s a lot more mileage in them. Obviously I want to stay with Becca because she’s the character I’m most in sympathy with, but I also like Kay. You don’t often see older women in books, other than as a victim.
“I want to show women in their late sixties are people who work, who can handle themselves, who can deal with things. They’re not little old ladies anymore!”
Kot also has other irons in the fire – when she isn’t writing about Becca and Kay, she’s penning short stories (“I don’t write many but when I get an idea, I like to go for them!” she says) or chipping away at two pet projects. One is a children’s book called Celestina Goes Down the Ploughole, while the other ventures into the realm of horror (“I think of it as my Dracula book, although it’s not about vampires; it’s about secrets hidden in old runic carvings”).
Hopefully they’ll eventually be unleashed onto the world, but for now, it’s back to Yorkshire’s dark underbelly and a genre that continues to go from strength to strength.
“I think there’s a dark fascination with some of the worst aspects of crime and we like puzzles,” claims the writer when asked why such violent tales continue to be popular. “Like a lot of people I love stories – and a good crime writer tells good stories.”
Luckily for us, Danuta Kot is certainly one of those.
Danuta Kot’s ‘Life Ruins’, published by Simon & Schuster, is available now