Category Archives: Author Interview

Samantha Norman talks about co-writing Winter Siege with her late mother Ariana Franklin

“I would never have got round to writing a novel if my mother hadn’t died. I wanted to, but only in the way a lot of people want to write – in a rather dreamy, rare as hen’s teeth way: a sudden flash of inspiration one day leading to a perfect plot and 90,000 immaculately ordered words divinely processed through the fingertips by the next. It was never going to happen. Like most people, I had neither the rigour nor the discipline to do it and, when it came down to it, probably didn’t want to enough.

My mother, however – Ariana Franklin, the much-admired historical thriller writer and author of the Mistress of the Art of Death series – loved writing and was as good at it as you can get. She was also a great mum, and, as all great mothers tend to be, a terrific nag. Ever since I can remember she had nursed a conviction that I should write novels. So when she died, suddenly and unexpectedly, halfway through a book it felt not only like the most dreadful thing that had ever happened to me but a rather weird challenge as well.

I took it up hoping to do her justice, to make her proud (even from beyond the grave) and because it was the very last thing I could do for her. The result is Winter Siege, her last novel and my first, published this week.”

WinterSiege

Click on the pic for a link to Amazon UK.

For Samantha Norman the unfinished Winter Siege was a gift from her late mother, launching her on the road of a new career in writing. Published today, it’s a standalone novel set in a freezing cold 1141. Gwil, a battle-hardened mercenary, watches in horror as a little girl with red hair is dragged away by his own men. Caught in the middle of the fight for England she is just one more victim in a winter of atrocities. But a strange twist of fate brings them together again. Gwil finds the girl close to death, clutching a sliver of parchment – and he knows what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And together, they will hunt down the man who did this to her. But danger looms wherever they turn. As castle after castle falls victim to siege, the icy Fens ring with rumours of a madman, of murder – and of a small piece of parchment the cost of which none of them could have imagined …

A review of the novel will follow next week.

Mo Hayder submits to the It’s a crime! “Five+1” Interview

Image © Margaret Lister

Image © Margaret Lister

Just in time for Easter weekend we have the publication of Mo Hayder’s latest Jack Caffery novel Poppet.  Now, the sign may say “PRIVATE KEEP OUT” but Mo has kindly let us in and generously replied to our probing questions.

1. Your arrival on the crime fiction scene came with a shocker of a book, Birdman, and you’ve established a name for yourself since with your ability to shock.  Do you set out to do this or is it incidental, a by-product of a theme you choose to explore?

If something in life shocks me I can’t process it without putting it into my writing.  It’s a sort of therapy, I guess.

2. Where your novels appear to turn on a theme or specific topic, what is it for Poppet and what’s its genesis?

Probably the theme is about how reality and hallucination can become indistinguishable for the mentally ill patient.  Also I play around with ideas of faith and destiny. 

3. Poppet brings your hero, Jack Caffery, nearer than he’s ever been to being “healed” – do you intend to keep going down this track or will you be torturing him some more in later books?

Of course I intend torturing him!  It is human nature to strive for peace, sadly the moment a fictional character finds it they lose their potential for drama.

4. Do you have anything you regret putting into a novel and/or regret omitting from a novel in your oeuvre?

I took a lot of stick for being quite so descriptive about the violence in my earlier books, and I admit at the time there were moments I found it hard to take.  But ultimately no, I don’t regret that use of violence.  Writing like that came as my natural rebellion to the fiction I’d been reared on, so it was a natural part of the creative process. 

5. Are you more scared or fascinated by some of the things you research for your novels?

For me fascination is always the corollary of fear, so I can’t really distinguish the two.

And just when you thought it was over, here’s the random “+1” question: is there a hidden character in Mo Hayder the author, something we don’t yet know about?  A Cath Kidston pinny-wearing, cupcake-baking domestic goddess?  A bit of a biker gal?  An urban explorer?

I’ve exorcised the biker gal side of me in Hanging Hill, and there is definitely an urban explorer lurking. The domestic goddess however… probably a subject better avoided.  Much as I admire people who can cook, the only thing that ever comes out of my kitchen is smoke and people crying.

Thank you Mo Hayder for being the first willing victim in our “Five+1” short interviews series.

Thank you!!!

Poppet HB

Click for Amazon UK link.

Poppet:

The Maude is outside.  It wants to come in.  It wants to sit on your chest.

The mentally ill patients in Beechway High Secure Unit are highly suggestible. A hallucination can spread like a virus. When unexplained power cuts lead to a series of horrifying incidents, fear spreads from the inmates to the staff. Amidst the growing hysteria, AJ, a senior psychiatric nurse, is desperate to protect his charges.

Detective Inspector Jack Caffery is looking for the corpse of a missing woman. He knows all too well how it feels to fail to find a loved one’s body. When AJ seeks Caffery’s help in investigating the trouble at Beechway, each man must face a bitter truth in his own life.  Before staring pure evil in the eye.

[Thanks and acknowledgements to September Withers and Sarah Hilary.]

Debut Author in the Spotlight: Elizabeth Haynes

HaynesITDC You may have noticed Elizabeth Haynes and her debut novel Into the Darkest Corner recently.  There’s been quite a buzz on twitter and the novel was featured by Amazon in its Rising Stars programme.  A lot of people love this novel.  As one of the judges for the CWA’s John Creasey New Blood Dagger, you won’t see my thoughts on the novel until later this year.  However, Elizabeth’s day job intrigued me and I asked her what it entails and how it impacts on her fiction writing.  When I was at school, the careers service never mentioned ‘intelligence analysts’ and I’ve not heard it mentioned subsequently.  So, if like me, you are curious to get out of this dark corner and learn more, read on for Elizabeth’s reply…

If you were to contemplate the best day job for a would-be crime writer, what would you come up with? Police officer? Well, that’s a given. Forensic pathologist? Criminal defence lawyer? I’m willing to bet not many people would reply with ‘intelligence analyst’ but that’s because my job is one that has been sadly and persistently overlooked by crime writers and producers of detective drama. The nearest we came to glorious representation on the silver screen was possibly Ben Affleck’s CIA intelligence analyst in ‘The Sum of All Fears’, but to be honest he was a bit more hands-on than we are in real life.

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Interview: Robert Wilson talks about the Falcón quartet, food and Portuguese blues…

RW Dividing his time between England and Portugal, near the Spanish border, Robert Wilson recently spent a week in the UK.  His highlights included “a great lunch in Moro, which is my favourite London restaurant” and his first visit to Highgate Cemetery, with his wife.  In the busy week that The Ignorance of Blood was published in the UK, Robert Wilson also, very kindly, took some time out to answer a few questions for this blog.

 

I wondered how he felt now that he had delivered the final in the Falcón quartet and if he missed the character and writing about him.  But perhaps it was more a sense of relief that was evident in his reply.  “Strangely enough I felt as if I’d delivered him to a better place in the world than where he’d been at the beginning of The Blind Man of Seville, so whilst I was sad to be leaving him to get on with his own life without my interference, I felt satisfied that he could manage it better.”

 

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GUEST BLOG: Simon Lewis talks about Bad Traffic and his plans for his (fiction) future…

SLBT It is an honour to be asked to guest blog on It’s a Crime.
 
My book BAD TRAFFIC is supposed to be a fast paced, noirish thriller – with its story of a brutal lawman seeking revenge in a wild and inhospitable territory, it could be described as a western; except the lawman is Chinese, and the ‘wilderness’ is rural England.
 
The book began life as a response to two real crimes: the death by suffocation of Chinese illegal immigrants in a lorry container at Dover, and the drowning of the cockle pickers on Morecombe Bay. I felt an urgent need to write about the world these illegal immigrants and the snakehead gangs who treat them as indentured slaves – because it was secretive and unknown, because it was a disgrace, and because, as a dangerous milieu whose protagonists are involved in life or death struggles, it was obviously a great story. I felt that if Dickens was around today, it’s what he would be writing about.
 
I wanted the book to be as different as possible, so I took the decision to make all the characters, both heroes and villains, Chinese. That made it challenging to write, but also gave me the great opportunity to describe my own country as it might be seen through alien eyes, as a mysterious and frightening unknown, and sometimes a place of threat and terror.



I’ve spent three years in China, and now I feel at home there, but my first trip was utterly bewildering – I had been commissioned to research parts of a guidebook, and was sent up to the northeast, where I spend months wandering fairly cluelessly around, befuddled and alienated. So in writing this book I took that experience and reversed it, giving a Chinese policeman, Jian, a similiar experience. I wanted to make it as tough as possible for him, so not only does he speak no English, he quickly loses all his possessions and money, and makes enemies of some particularly unpleasant ‘snakehead’ gangsters. Though he’s not entirely sympathetic, I think his efforts to overcome his considerable difficulties leave the reader rooting for him.
 
He relies heavily on an illegal immigrant, Ding Ming, forcing the man to act as his translator and map reader. The heart of the book is the relationship between this contrasting couple – a put upon peasant and a powerful policeman turned fugitive.
 
The book was written in fairly tough circumstances – I had to rush it as I was running out of money, and it didn’t seem likely that anyone would want it – the only connection I had to the world of publishing was an agent, but he thought the book was so unpromising he dumped me.
 
So I was very encouraged when Arts Council England gave me a small grant so that I could carry on working, and thrilled when Sort of Books said they were interested in it. Since publication, I’ve been thrilled with the reactions the book has had – it’s being translated into three languages, it was picked up by a big American publisher, and the film rights have sold. Best of all, the Chinese people who have read it have reacted positively – I was obviously nervous about how it would go down in that community but I have only heard appreciation at my willingness to bring attention to difficult issues.
 
Now I’m looking forward to writing another book featuring this odd pair – maybe next time I think I’ll take them to Africa…


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Crimeficeader says: The current situation for this pair can be read here, after a few pragmatics like paying and taking delivery.  Simon has so much to impart and enlighten us.  Roll on the next novel…

Donna Moore on writing, crime fiction, blubbering and the redoubtable Helena Handbasket

GthhDonna Moore, pensions consultant by day and crime fiction satirist at all other times, kindly took some time out from her hectic schedule to be probed on what lies behind her journey into the world of comic crime fiction, starting with her debut novel Go to Helena Handbasket.

Going back to when you first had the thought that you wanted to write a novel and be published, was a comic crime novel what you wanted to do then?

I’ve always really loved humorous crime novels, but I’d never actually thought of writing a novel at all. It sort of happened by accident. I’ve always written, and I’ve always loved writing silly stuff to amuse people on an internet crime fiction list I’m on, but I don’t really consider myself a writer. On the internet mailing list (4_Mystery_Addicts) we’d been discussing clichés in crime fiction – the heroine who goes down into the basement without a torch, the prologue written in italics from the point of view of the serial killer, the grumpy, divorced, alcoholic co, the crime solving cat…that sort of thing – and I decided to put them all together in a story. The wonderful Al Guthrie – commissioning editor for Point Blank Press – saw the story and sent me an e-mail basically saying "If you’d consider expanding this, we’d consider publishing it." My first response was to send him an e-mail saying "Don’t be stupid", but then I decided to give it a go. The rest, as they say, is history.

What was the inspiration for Helena Handbasket & why comic crime?

Comic crime because I really can’t write anything else. I love reading noir books. But if I try to write serious, dark stuff it just ends up sounding ridiculous. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of more serious short stories but they either ended up sounding either melodramatic or warped.

You have to be an avid reader of the crime genre to be able to turn it on its head with such blissful ease and satire, so which authors have been an inspiration to you over the years and why do you enjoy their work?

Thank you for saying so – I’m glad you enjoyed it. I do love crime fiction, and I meant GTHH as an affectionate spoof, and I hope it comes across that way. I actually really love some of those cliches. Although I can do without recipes in my crime fiction. There you are, getting engrossed reading a scene where the hero is being stalked by a Vicious Serial Killer when, just as the VSK is lifting his ivory handled knife to remove the victim’s spleen and carve it into a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa while humming That’s Amore because he was scared by a piece of pizza when he was 5 and hasn’t got over the trauma…where was I? Oh yes, just as you’re getting engrossed in that scene and your heart is beating faster with anticipation, suddenly there’s a recipe for tagliatelli a la milanese.

What was the question again? Writers who have inspired me, ah yes. Well, I love dark, I love warped, and I love funny. If I can get a combination of those then so much the better. Authors whose books I love include Ken Bruen, Daniel Woodrell, Eddie Muller, Joe Lansdale, Raymond Chandler, Barbara Seranella, Bill Fitzhugh, Mark Haskell Smith, Al Guthrie, Ray Banks, Duane Swierczynski, Megan Abbott, Steve Brewer, Stuart Pawson…you probably want me to stop now don’t you? I can’t… Victor Gischler, Sean Doolittle, Christopher Brookmyre, John Baker, Declan Burke, Colin Cotterill….

How did it feel to get the Lefty?

I was completely and utterly stunned. I still hadn’t got over the fact that there was actually a book out there with my name on the cover. When I think back to that evening I still get this huge smile on my face. There’s a 10 minute period where I got up and walked to the stage to accept the award and sit back at the table that is a complete blank. I only know I cried and embarrassed myself. It just doesn’t seem real that I won an award and I am so very grateful to everyone who voted for me. I wish I could give every single one of them a hug. Some of my favourite authors have won the Lefty and even being nominated in such great company was a real thrill.

Do you have a bigger market in the US (as opposed to the UK) as a result?

I don’t think so. I don’t think I have a big market ANY where. I still can’t get my head around the fact that people will buy it!

What’s coming up next and when might it be published?

I have a short story coming out in the anthology HELL OF A WOMAN edited by Megan Abbott published by the excellent Busted Flush Press in December. I’m currently working on a humorous (hopefully!) caper novel set in Glasgow featuring two elderly ex-hookers turned con artists who set out to steal two gold dogs from a Glasgow museum. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones after the dogs and, just to complicate things still further, there’s a hitman after their wrinkled hides.

And finally, would you hire Helena Handbasket?

Only if I wanted to annoy the authorities, for the crime to remain unsolved, and to extend my cocktail repertoire.

You can follow this link to purchase a copy of Donna’s debut novel Go to Helena Handbasket

L C Tyler talks about writing, reading, creating The Herring Seller’s Apprentice, Danish bars and wardrobes…

Lctyler L C Tyler is the author of The Herring Seller’s Apprentice, which I talked about hereIt’s a cracking read, full of wonderful humour.

L C Tyler kindly agreed to an interview.  My thanks to L C Tyler for his time and to Macmillan New Writing who arranged the contact.

The most obvious point about The Herring Seller’s Apprentice is its uniqueness.  Comic crime is a notoriously difficult genre in which to succeed, but Tyler has achieved this with what appears to be remarkable ease.  So how did he arrive at this juncture?

‘I’ve no idea really – I set out to write a novel and somehow it turned out to be comic crime.  I’m not sure that comedy is necessarily harder, but it’s certainly more obvious when you fail.  If somebody complains that they have guessed who the murderer is by page three, you can congratulate them on their cleverness.  If somebody says the book’s not funny, you’ve got no comeback at all. That said, I can’t see myself writing straight crime fiction, much though I admire those that do.  The temptation to drop in a few one-liners would be too great.’
Is there an avid crime fiction reader in Tyler?
I’m an avid reader generally, and always have been.  In terms of crime, I have recently read Eliza Graham’s Playing with the Moon, Colin Watson’s Bump in the Night, Malcolm Pryce’s Aberystwyth Mon Amour, Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express – all good and highly recommended.  I have also enjoyed Audrey Niffenegger’s brilliant The Time Traveller’s Wife and am currently reading Raymond Queneau’s Les Fleurs Bleues.  Queneau is fascinating – quirky, unpredictable and very funny.’

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The Good Thief’s Guide to Chris Ewan – Interview with the Author

Chris Ewan, author of The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam has always been a fan of crime fiction – especially American crime fiction.   He says, "I do enjoy reading contemporary fiction, and I can get a lot of satisfaction from reading well-crafted writing, but most of all I like a good story. I like to feel like a book is going somewhere – that it has an absolute pull on my attention. I’ve read a lot of crime authors saying that they write in the genre because it gives them an opportunity to comment on pressing modern concerns, or the dark side of contemporary society, for example, but my prime motivation in writing crime fiction is that it allows me, hopefully, to tell a really good yarn."

Before Amsterdam, he also wrote one literary novel and two mainstream novels but during all that time the books he enjoyed reading most of all were crime novels. Then he made a connection, "It finally occurred to me that that had to mean something. As a young male writer I could dream of writing the next Generation X as much as I liked, but ultimately I realised I should be writing the kind of books I most enjoyed reading."

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Brian McGilloway – Interview with the Author

Borderlands2 Brian McGilloway has his début novel Borderlands published by Macmillan New Writing on April 6th.  The novel is the start of a series, set on the Tyrone – Donegal border, between the North and South of Ireland and introduces Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin.  Gallows Lane will follow and Pan Macmillan have recently committed to a further three novels.  Borderlands is the result of Brian’s own passion for reading crime fiction.  Like many, he has his favourite authors, characters and series.  He perceived some as coming to the end of their lives and, knowing that he would miss them, decided to write a story he would like to read, a series he would like to read with a character he could admire and understand.  Luckily for us, Devlin’s stories won’t be for Brian’s pleasure alone, thanks to MNW.

With any début author, it’s always a pleasure to find out more about the author, the novel(s) and what lies behind the passion for writing.  Brian, an English teacher, who, with this level of publishing success can surely now add "writer" to his passport, proved to be very generous and open about his work and background.

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