After his Saturday morning panel at CrimeFest, I met up with the charming and rather mysterious Mason Cross – author of The Killing Season.
Over coffee in the rather fancy drawing room of the Bristol College Green Marriott Hotel we chatted about his fabulous debut novel – one of my favourite reads of 2014 so far – his writing process, and geeked-out about our mutual admiration for all things Lee Child and Jack Reacher.
Here’s the interview …
So Mason, firstly, where do you write?
Lots of places. In the house – at my computer surrounded by CDs and a huge pile of washing. I find it’s really important to have a writing space, like Stephen King said, you need a place to go to and close the door. Also, I travel a lot for work. Commuting into Edinburgh on the train is the optimum place for me to write as there’s no distractions just so long as I don’t get WiFi. Having a full-time job I’ve learnt to grab writing time whenever and wherever I can, so I can write in all different places – pubs, cafes, a park bench.
I find it important to write every day, even if it’s only 500 words. Those 500 words will turn into, say, 3000 words in a week, and in a few months a whole lot more.
Are you a planner or a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser?
I always feel guilty admitting to plotting! But I do start out with a fairly detailed synopsis, with the key beats outlined. Right now, I’ve got a five page synopsis for the next book, but I know that as I write the plan will change. So I’m flexible, but I have a path to wander from. I use Powerpoint to plan – one slide per chapter – and build up from there. I find it’s a good way to keep track of the action as I write, and also keep track of the different timelines.
And when it comes to writing when are you most productive – are you a lark or an owl?
An owl – I’m better at night, definitely.
So what about research – do you do it, and if so how and how much?
I tend to research while I’m redrafting. It’s mostly internet based research, so for The Killing Season I looked up the FBI website, read books on serial killers and snipers including Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, which was really helpful on the history of the FBI. And, of course, I read a lot of other thrillers.
Carter Blake is a very mysterious guy. Are you like him and, if so, in what ways?
Like a lot of other thriller writers say about their characters, I think Carter Blake is a cooler, taller, better looking, better in a fight version of me. He tends not to talk about himself, which is something we share, and he’s methodical, which I tend to be too. But the green eyes? They’re completely different!
Actually Banner, the female FBI agent that Carter Blake partners-up with in The Killing Season, is similar to me is some ways too. She has a full-time job, she’s balancing family life, kids alongside – having to sort out a babysitter and get to school play while also doing her job.
Who would play Carter Blake in a movie?
I didn’t really have a person in mind as I wrote. Carter’s still quite a mysterious character even to me!
What authors do you read – who are your inspirations?
I take something from most books I read. My favourites? I guess they’d be Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Robert Crais, Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, John D MacDonald. Oh, and Raymond Chandler – even after all the years since his books were first published they still seem so fresh and the writing is so good.
What’s your favourite all time book?
Must I pick one?! [I said, okay, two then] Well then, The Big Sleep and The Shinning.
What’s your favourite drink?
And finally, what have you got planned for the rest of 2014/15?
Well, the next book is due out in Spring 2015. It’s called The Samaritan and is set in LA. I’ve also sold a story to Ellery Queen, which I’m really excited about, and it should be out soon. For the rest of 2014 I’ll be promoting The Killing Season.
The coffee was finished. The interview was over. And Mason was off to cram in some more Lee Child facts in preparation for his event the following day – Criminal Mastermind.
A huge thank you to Mason for letting me interrogate him!
To find out more about Mason Cross, Carter Blake and The Killing Season, hop over to this website: http://carterblake.net/
And read our review of The Killing Season click here