CTG Interviews: best selling author Peter James

Peter James

Peter James

Today I’m excited to welcome best selling novelist Peter James to the CTG blog.

His latest novel  – WANT YOU DEAD – is out now (watch out for our review next week) and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his many writing projects for us …

Welcome Peter!

Dead Simple, the first novel in the Roy Grace series, is also rumored to venture its way onto the London big stage in January of 2015. Can you share some of the difficulties or advantages of adapting a thriller novel into a production play?

The two biggest difficulties are firstly containing the action within the very limited confines of a stage and the maximum number of set changes is it possible to have, and secondly reducing the number of characters in a book into the relatively small amount it is possible to have, both for economic and logistic reasons, in a play. The biggest challeng we have in bringing Dead Simple to the stage is that one of the central characters spends around two thirds of the entire play buried alive in a coffin. In the novel, much of the suspense comes from things that are happening to him – water rising within the coffin, his air supply being cut off, the excruciating claustrophobic fear of the enclosed dark space. So we’ve had to explore all kinds of different ways to portray this, from projecting the image of the actor in the coffin onto a screen, to simulating the feeling of being in a coffin by plunging the entire auditorium into darkness.

You recently contributed to the New York Times best selling novel, FaceOff. What were the highlights from the collaboration with Ian Rankin? Any challenges?

The whole concept of FaceOff, asking crime and thriller writers to have their central detective characters collaborate with another fictitious detective was both brilliant and highly daunting. Also although Ian Rankin and I are both British, the laws and police procedures in Scotland, where his character John Rebus operates are different to those in England where my character, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace operates. But right from the getgo, this collaboration was a really joyful experience. I’ve known him for some years and always found him to be a delightful, friendly, generous spirited guy, and all of this came through in spades during our time working together on this. Ian has a huge amount of knowledge about music, and it was his idea to hang the story around a cold case, and a rock and roll era, connecting our two cities of Brighton and Edinburgh. We met over a pint – or three – of beer in Scotland to kick it around, Ian started the ball rolling by writing a couple of pages which he sent to me, then I continued while he went off on tour to the US. We wrote the story in quite a short time period, with no arguments whatsoever. It was a strange feeling writing some of the scenes in which I had his central characters act and speak – I felt as if I was treading on sacred ground! I think the only real challenge was the amount of alcohol consumption the whole collaboration required 🙂

Want You Dead cover image

Want You Dead cover image

With 25 novels translated into 36 languages, publishing the world’s first electronic novel, Roy Grace’s 10th novel, a children’s novel, a novella, your involvement in Hollywood, your endless devotion and support to your hometown of Brighton, and charitable work under your belt we are all left wondering what is next for the man who seems to have done it all, and more importantly, how do you celebrate your successes?

Thank you! The big goal I now have in front of me is to see my books really break through in the USA. I’ve spent so much of my working life to date in the US, I feel as at home in North America as I do in England. I’m completely certain, from both the wonderful reviews I consistently get in the US press and from the enthusiasm of my fans, that it is possible. As to how I celebrate my success – it may sound strange, but I celebrate very cautiously. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have such a huge and global readership, to be able to make a living doing what I love, and to be able to travel so much, but equally I know, from my own experiences as a reader, just how many of my favourite authors seemed to decline as they became increasingly famous – almost as if they felt they didn’t have to make the effort any more. I’m determined not to let that happen, and I try my hardest to raise the bar with each book I write. My extravagances, when I am in full celebratory mood, are fine wines and fast cars – but not together!!!

 

A huge thank you to Peter James for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit with the CTG blog.

You can find out more about Peter by hopping on over to his website: http://www.peterjames.com

Visit him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peterjames.roygrace

And follow him on Twitter @peterjamesuk

CTG Interviews: Helen Giltrow author of The Distance

The Distance cover image

The Distance cover image

A few weeks ago I caught up with Helen Giltrow, author of the fabulous crime thriller The Distance. Over a long lunch, sitting in the sun-drenched garden of a beautiful Oxfordshire pub, we tried to out-booknerd each other and talked all things books and writing.

First, a quick reminder about the book. Here’s what the blurb says:

“Charlotte Alton has put her old life behind her. The life where she bought and sold information, unearthing secrets buried too deep for anyone else to find, or fabricating new identities for people who need their histories erased.

But now she has been offered one more job. To get a hit-man into an experimental new prison and take out someone who according to the records isn’t there at all.

It’s impossible. A suicide mission. And quite possibly a set-up. So why can’t she say no?”

And so, to the questions …

Karla/Charlotte is a fabulous, strong female lead. What was your inspiration for creating her?

Well, originally the main character was supposed to be the hit-man, Simon Johanssen, and Karla was the character he went to for information. In the earliest draft she didn’t appear until the third chapter. Around that time I went on an Arvon writing course with Val McDermid as one of the tutors. When Val read the opening, she said that the first couple of chapters were okay, but the story got really interesting when Karla appeared.

Shortly afterwards, I had to take an eighteen month break from writing and by the time I went back to the story I knew it needed to be Karla’s book. I found Karla easy to write, in fact I probably share a few of her characteristics – like her need for control, and her obsessiveness!

The Distance – which I loved – is set in the near future. What made you decide that as your setting rather than the present day?

The setting came out of the plot and the characters. Johanssen has to break into a prison to carry out a hit on another prisoner, but as that prisoner is a woman – and we don’t have mixed prisons here in the UK – I needed a near-future setting to make it work. So, really, it wasn’t something I chose, it came from the needs of the story.

But it’s not a futuristic novel – the setting’s only a couple of years ahead of where we are now.

You use the present tense throughout The Distance which works really well. What was it that prompted you to go for present tense?

I didn’t plan it consciously. It was just that when I started writing, Johanssen’s viewpoint came out in the present tense. I was surprised as I’d always written in the past tense before, but I found I liked it. Then, when I switched to Karla’s viewpoint, present tense seemed to work for her too.

Karla’s scenes are all told in first person – she’s the ‘I’ of the story. Again, it’s just how it came out when I started writing in her viewpoint, whereas Johanssen’s automatically came out in third person – ‘he’. I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t be mixing the two, so I experimented early on, trying Karla’s viewpoint in third, but I didn’t like it – it lost so much of her intensity – so I carried on going with first.

Curiously I’ve had readers tell me that Johanssen’s story is told in first person too – which is wrong, but great! I don’t want readers to think I’m telling them a story. I want them to see it through the characters’ eyes. Of course, present tense helps with that sense of immediacy too. And it really ups the pace.

Helen Giltrow (c) Paul Stuart

Helen Giltrow (c) Paul Stuart

For you, does the creative process start with the character/s, the plot or a combination of the two (or something else)?

For me it’s character. I think even if you have an idea for something, the only way to get to it is through character – you bring out the story from the actions of the characters and what happens to them.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Bit of both! From my childhood up to my early thirties, I wrote a lot without too much planning, but increasingly I felt it wasn’t working for me – the narratives were too loose. I’d have loads of ideas, then fail to tie them together. My job involved a lot of planning, so I thought I ought to be able to plot. I mean, how hard could it be? So when I started work on The Distance, I decided to do a plan. Of course, as soon as I began writing in earnest, I started coming up with ideas I liked better, and dumped the plan completely!

The lure of advance plotting is still strong, and occasionally I fall into the trap of trying to write a detailed plan. I do it because I think it’ll give me the perfect book – which would spare me so much revising and redrafting. But every time the same thing happens. I never find plotting a happy experience: it’s always an outside-in process, whereas writing’s inside-out.

Having said that, it’s hard writing into a void! I think making a plan’s really useful if it’s the thing that gets you writing, or if it helps you get unstuck. Now I tend to write a bit, and then see where I am and retrospectively plan.

What’s your favourite drink?

Oh, definitely my cup of coffee in the morning, before I sit down to work.

Where’s your best place to write?

I’m not one of those people who can write anywhere, on buses or on park benches. I’m best sitting at my desk at home. I write on my battered old laptop; I ought to buy a new one, but I’m slightly scared of changing it now, in case that jinxes me … Does that sound weird?

What advice would you give to writers aspiring to publication?

There’s all the obvious advice like ‘Don’t give up,’ ‘Write every day,’ and ‘Don’t try to second guess the market.’ And that’s all valid. I also think it’s best to write what you want to write because ultimately if you don’t like it it’ll show in your writing. It takes a long time to write a book, so you’re better off writing one you want to read – that way you’re more likely to take the reader with you on the journey.

And lastly, what’s next for you?

I’m back at my laptop, writing the next book!

A huge thank you to Helen Giltrow for letting us grill her.

You can find out more about Helen and her fabulous debut novel – The Distance – over at https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409126621 and follow her on Twitter @HelenGiltrow

CTG Interviews: P D Viner, author of Summer of Ghosts

Summer of Ghosts cover image

Summer of Ghosts cover image

 

Today I’m delighted to welcome author P D Viner – author of the recently published Summer of Ghosts – to the CTG blog. 

So, to the questions …

Your latest book – Summer of Ghosts – came out a few weeks ago. Can you tell us a bit about it?

August was an incredibly busy month as on August 1st my second novella, The Ugly Man was released as a free download and on August 14th the paperback of my first novel, The Last winter of Dani Lancing, came out as well as the hardback of Summer of Ghosts.

So, I want to start by telling you that The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is the story of three people who have been traumatised by violence and left damaged and untethered from life as something happened to the girl they loved. In 1989 Dani Lancing went missing and for 22 years her parents, and the man who loves her, are frozen in their pain and loss. Her mother, Patty, was a crime journalist and she gave up her work to devote all her time to investigating the crime. Jim Lancing, Dani’s father, is left alone except for the spirit (if that is what it is) of his daughter who lives with him – and Dani’s boyfriend, Tom Bevans becomes a policeman as he needs to make up for the fact that he could not protect her. Tom Bevans, who rises to the rank of Detective Superintendent, but who is known to all his colleagues as The Sad Man due to the incredible loss he bears with him, heads up a serious crimes unit that deals with sexually motivated murders of young women. These three characters, the trinity of the pained, are all haunted by what happened to Dani in some way, they are all paralysed by their grief for 22 years. Then, out of the blue, a clue is revealed – something that could reveal what happened to her all those years ago. But it leads all three of them back down into the hell of Dani’s death… they will discover the truth of her death but it is at a great cost.

Summer of Ghosts (Hardback out Aug 14 2014) continues the story six months after the first novel. Jim and Patty are dealing with the truth of Dani’s final days (spoilers) but Tom has had a kind of breakdown. For six months he has wallowed in his self-pity and sense of loss – but he has to get back to work as the beautiful skin murderer has returned. Four years before, Tom swore to three mothers he would solve the murders of their daughters… but he failed. Now there may be a fourth victim – the daughter of the man who helped Tom try to find Dani all those years ago. A man called Franco, who also heads London’s biggest drugs gang – a man who is ruthless and cruel, a killer. Together he and Tom must track down the most dangerous man in Europe. Oh and Tom needs the best investigator he knows to help him: Patty Lancing.

Together they follow a train of events that take them from Greenwich to death inside a royal palace in Brighton, to the heart of darkness inside a war in Africa and finally to a showdown with a corrupt policeman and a man who has killed hundreds if not thousands. And, heartbreakingly, there is more about the death of Dani Lancing for her parents to uncover. For them the nightmare will not end.

So, Summer of Ghosts carries the story begun in The Last Winter of Dani Lancing, on a step further but it can be read as a stand-alone thriller without the sense that you are missing something. The plot twists and it is a real page turner, but the intention is also to drag you into the emotional lives of Tom, Patty and Jim. Reviewer and crime writer Stav Sherez said: Summer of Ghosts is strong, assured and with a plot that will poke your heart. I always love fiction that draws you into the lives of the characters – and that is always my intention.

 

And does Summer of Ghosts end the story for Tom Bevans and Patty and Jim lancing?

No, I have always planned the mystery of Dani Lancing to emerge over three books and there are also four novellas that deepen the understanding of the characters. Two of those novellas are already available as FREE downloads from all good ebook stockists. They are The Sad Man, which is a 110 page book that details the case in 1999 that made Tom Bevans’ career and allowed him to set-up operation Ares – his serious crimes unit that investigates sexually motivated, multiple murders. The second is The Ugly Man (120 pages) and is set in the heatwave of 1976 and has Patty dispatched by her newspaper to a sleepy Derbyshire village to investigate a brutal murder – and it leads to her uncovering thirty years of secrets and lies.

Next year the cycle of stories will be concluded by a third novel and two more novellas. It will not be the end of the line for Patty or Tom but will conclude this story. I have always loved linked books and while each one can be read alone, if you do read them as a set, then the tension does build and build. I hope when they are all done that my publisher will release a box set or a single volume collection with the novellas fitted in between the novels as I intend them to be read… that will be very exciting.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing cover image

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing cover image

 

Summer of Ghosts examines some strong themes including loss and grief. What was it that sparked the inception of the story – the characters or the plot (or something else)? 

When I began writing The Last Winter of Dani Lancing (then titled Three Drops of Blood), I had not thought about going beyond that story. TLWODL is dark and full of rage and pain – all the resentment I felt about my business being destroyed (I had a small audiobook company with my sister and we produced audio books of Shakespeare and the classics for GCSE and A level students) in the financial meltdown and the fear I had surrounding being the father to a two-year old when I was unemployed and in my forties… well, all of that was channeled into the book. Grief and just what we will do for love and to revenge ourselves on those who hurt our family – that was the touchstone that set the tone for the first book. As I wrote that story there was a tipping point, and I became so engrossed in the character’s lives that I began to imagine further – where they could go after the big reveal in Durham cathedral – the point where they finally know the truth of Dani’s disappearance and what happened to her. Then I thought: okay, what would happen to Jim and Patty after the truth was finally revealed. Could they stay together now? How did you cope with knowing the truth after twenty-two years of being in the darkness? How would they cope… that was the question, and the same was true for Tom; for him the finale of TLWODL is like a bomb exploding. I had to know more!

And that is one of the things that I often find series of books (and especially crime) gets wrong. The character just resets for the next book and is fine again… and I didn’t want that. I wanted the weight of the truth to sit heavily on my characters (especially as book three is going to beat them down to the essentials of their humanity) because that is life, human beings dwell in bad news, they get depressed and resentful and petty and angry and let stuff fester for months and years.

Summer of Ghosts keeps the sense of loss from the first books, though it becomes skewed as the world view shifts. Firstly we have three girls who have been murdered. We meet them in TLWODL as a background case – in fact we see Tom visiting the murder scene of the third victim – but in this book Tom is haunted by the fact that he failed these girls. We also have a major new character: Franco. Well I say new – actually we did meet him in the first book but he was a minor (though interesting) character then. Now he is the head of a large drugs ring and he wants out. He is a man who has killed many, created destruction everywhere he has gone… but… can he have a good heart? Could he, in some way, have a sense of morality, even if it is skewed and hard for us to see? That was what fascinated me about his life and the world he operated in – a world where violence is everywhere and life is cheap. It is the opposite of the world of the first book where one life is everything and one act of violence has destroyed the lives of Dani, Tom, Patty and Jim.

 

As a highly successful audio and film-maker, what was it that attracted you about writing fiction?

Success? Ha. As a film-maker I had some early success but after three years trying to make two projects I had written, I gave up and ran away to join the circus. The world of film is so tough and I just folded. I wrote two novels then and they lie under my bed like two deformed children. I feed them raw meat once in a while – but nobody was interested in them. Setting up my audio business was a way of being creative and making a living and working with actors and musicians with achievable budgets. I could direct hamlet with 21 actors and afford to make it and then sell it. They also won awards and got great reviews… but the business relied on library sales and after the financial crisis all libraries slashed their budgets and I was out of a job. I turned back to fiction writing as a way to salve my soul. Also I had a two year old and she needed me to pick her up from pre-school and have her two days a week (my remarkable wife has a real job) and so writing fitted the lifestyle I had. It was crazy to think that this time could get published – and so I didn’t think like that, I just wrote for me and I loved the puzzle of solving this mystery in my head. As it became more complex I had to get cleverer – writing crime is quite addictive you know. So that was that – I fell into an old love due to circumstance and (fingers crossed) this time it worked… as long as I keep killing.

 

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

It is somewhere between the two. Of course when I began TLWODL it was all fragmented as I learned how to craft a story over 100,000 words. With Summer of Ghosts, I had an idea of where I was going and I knew the ending – but it was the research process that filled out the bare bones. I spent a few days with the Sussex police – including a night out in a first response unit and with the 999 team – and that propelled areas of the story forward. The truth about being a professional writer as opposed to a part-time hopeful, is that you have deadlines to meet. I had less than 6 months to write Summer of Ghosts and so you have to be better prepared and plan more. That being said, every time I sat down to write the story would take me be surprise in so many ways. With the third book (in my head I am calling it The Fall of Hope) I have spent a day in a Victorian prison and spoken to a charity for victims. I know the broad outline of the book and have two notebooks full of ideas, but over the next 4 months I will write the first draft and it will take on life of its own.

 

What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?

Write. I did a two-year creative writing course that was excellent and it didn’t teach me to write but it challenged me to flex my writing muscle and try different styles and think about who I was and what I wanted to say. During the course I began the book and at the end of the course I had 67,000 words and I had shared almost all of it with ten people who had helped me grow my characters. Having people you trust to take the journey with you is great – but we all have different circumstances. If you want to get published you have to write a book. Judge your own efforts with a critical eye and don’t be afraid to throw out large swathes. Write and re-write and discover what makes you tick as a writer. Don’t be afraid.

 

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you? 

Well there are only 4 months left and mostly I will use that to write the first draft of my third novel. As I said earlier the Dani Lancing mystery is 3 novels and 4 novellas, so I also have a novella to edit and a novella to write.

The other creative project, pinging about in my head, is a TV show I have written an extended outline for. This year I sold TV rights for TLWODL to Warner TV. It will almost certainly come to nothing but has been exciting (I do like a conference call with Hollywood) – but during the process I was thinking a lot about crime TV and was approached by a UK production team who also wanted to option Dani. I turned them down, but pitched them a new idea, written specifically for TV. They liked it, so I have written the 5 episode break-down and will make that into a script (in my spare time). It will probably never get made (I find it much easier to be pessimistic about TV and movies) – but I have really enjoyed writing it and I think it is bloody good. Anyway I shouldn’t get bored over the next six months.

 

A huge thank you to P D Viner for popping over to see us at the CTG blog and letting us grill him. It sounds like he’s going to be busy for good while yet!

To find out more about P D Viner and his books, hop on over to his website at: http://pdviner.com/

CTG Interviews: Chris Culver, author of the Ash Rashid series

Today, I’m delighted to welcome author Chris Culver, New York Times Bestselling author of the Ash Rashid series of mysteries, to the CTG blog.

Welcome, Chris. Let’s jump straight into the questions …

Your latest book NINE YEARS GONE is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

NINE YEARS GONE is a standalone, which is a little unusual for me. It’s the story of an average guy from the Midwest who, to save her life, helps his girlfriend disappear and then frames her evil and quite powerful stepfather for her murder. Then, nine years later on the evening after the wicked stepfather is executed and when my hero is married and has everything he’s ever wanted in life, his former lover returns to upend his entire world.

It’s a story about revenge and the fine line between love and obsession. I’m probably biased, but I think it’s fun.

NINE YEARS GONE cover image

NINE YEARS GONE cover image

NINE YEARS GONE is your second standalone book. What was it that prompted the idea for the story?

NINE YEARS GONE was a departure for me, both from my Ash Rashid series and my typical genre, thrillers. It’s psychological suspense, and I wrote it because I needed a break. I love my reoccurring series character, and I don’t plan to abandon him anytime soon, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut writing in the same universe over and over again. I don’t know where this analogy originally came from, but I think it’s fitting: writing in a series is a bit like a painter buying a canvass only to discover half the painting is done. The painter still has a lot of room to work with, but his new work has to fit the old work. Sometimes, it’s just nice to try something new.

The actual idea for the book came from a footnote in a legal textbook. It involved a 17th or 18th century case in which a man was hanged for murdering his neighbor and then disposing of the body. Unfortunately, that neighbor was on a trip abroad and returned just in time to see a familiar man swinging from the gallows in the town square. When I read that, I couldn’t help but wonder if it could happen in the contemporary United States. From there, I just started asking myself “What if. . .?”

 

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

I do a little bit of both. My outline for NINE YEARS GONE ran 40 single-spaced pages and contained almost 20k words. It had snippets of dialogue, outlines of the various plot twists, the backstory—everything I needed to write the plot of the novel. In addition to that, I have character worksheets that I keep for every character in the book.

As soon as I sit down and start typing, I throw it all out the window. My characters take on a life of their own and do things that surprise even me. At that point, they sort of take over.

 

What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?

Practice. Your first book is the hardest to write and, hopefully, the worst book you’ll ever write. My first book was an absolute affront to literature, but it taught me a lot. My second book was significantly better, and my third book was even better than that. Most writers go through that sort of progression. So don’t give up. If you want to be a writer, keep writing, keep practicing, and never stop trying to improve your craft.

Author Chris Culver

Author Chris Culver

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

I’m going to be busy. I’m about 65% complete with my fourth Ash Rashid title. I think it’ll be a great book when it’s done. After that, I’m thinking of starting a new series. It’s a big undertaking but one I’ve wanted to do for quite a while.

 

Sounds exciting. I can’t wait to read them.

Thanks so much for dropping by the CTG blog to answer our questions.

Chris Culver’s latest book, NINE YEARS GONE, is out this week.

Here’s what the blurb says: “Nine years ago, Steve Hale saved the love of his life from her abusive and very powerful stepfather by helping her disappear and framing him for her murder. Today, that stepfather is dead, executed by the state of Missouri for a crime he didn’t commit, and Steve has a loving wife, a little girl who depends on him, a home, a career – everything he ever wanted and believed he could never have. He also has a new voice mail from a woman the rest of the world believes is dead.

A reunion with his former girlfriend quickly sours when Steve realizes that her stories don’t match up – the one she told nine years ago and the one she told today.

As he unravels her twisted knot of lies, he discovers that events are already in motion and plans are being carried out. Unwittingly, he’s hurtling toward a dark secret – one some very dangerous people are willing to protect at any cost.”

And, you can connect with Chris at: 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@Culver_C
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChrisCulverBooks
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4697453.Chris_Culver?from_search=true

CTG Interviews: Julia Crouch, author of The Long Fall

The Long Fall cover image

The Long Fall cover image

Today I’m delighted to welcome Julia Crouch to the CTG blog.

Famous for her darkly chilling novels of domestic noir, Julia’s latest book – The Long Fall – is published this week in paperback, eBook and as an audio download. 

So, to the questions …

Your latest book – The Long Fall – is out this week. Can you tell us a bit about it?

I started off wondering how someone could continue a life after being guilty of the worst possible transgression.

The story is set in two time frames – 1980 and 2013. The 1980 sections are the diary of 18 year old Emma who is backpacking solo through Europe in her year off. At the end of her journey, something awful happens. The 2013 part is about Kate, a wealthy, high profile charity campaigner, Hedge Fund Manager’s wife and mother to drama student Tilly. When someone turns up from Kate’s past, her superficially perfect life begins to disintegrate around her.

The book takes place in Greece and London, what was it about these particular places that inspired to you to pick them?

I have always loved Greece – I go there whenever I get the opportunity. My first proper visit was as a lone, backpacking eighteen year old. I kept a diary of what I got up to while I was there, and I have mercilessly raided the detail in it for The Long Fall. On the very edge of Europe, Greece is a country of contrasts – of ancient and modern, of East and West, of land and sea. I knew I wanted to set part of the story on an island – as distant, disconnected and isolated as possible – and my son Owen told me about Ikaria, which his Greek girlfriend Eva took him to a couple of years ago. It seemed perfect and, since the novel starts with a fall from a cliff, the idea of the island named after Icarus, the boy who fell when he flew too close to the sun, seemed too perfect to resist.

I had to go and research the island – an arduous task for a Grecophile such as myself – and found to my delight that it was perfect – wind-buffetted with enormous, looming black and grey cliffs, deserted perfect beaches, a jungly interior and a world untouched as yet (touch wood) by mass tourism. Setting is as important to me as my characters and plot, so it was really, really exciting to find Ikaria. I spent a week there, driving a tiny Chevy Matiz over almost impassable mountain roads, exploring mountain villages and isolated bays.

I wanted the contrast of Kate’s world to the Greek scenes to be very stark. A couple of years ago I did a photoshoot for a magazine and they had hired a gorgeous house in a converted school in Battersea. It’s vast – all enormous high ceilings, white walls and wooden floors. The people who own it live in it – although they were away for the day of the shoot – and there’s a big photograph canvas of the family on the kitchen wall. They are beautiful. The impression is one of a perfect life.

I was just beginning to think about The Long Fall at the time, and it seemed to me that this would be the perfect building for Kate to inhabit – gated, turretted luxury. So I’m afraid I ‘stole’ it!

As a trailblazer of the hugely popular Domestic Noir, how would you describe the characteristics of the sub-genre?

Domestic Noir doesn’t necessarily mean a home setting, but it’s often in there somewhere. it’s about the things people do to each other in the name of love. It’s about the levels at which we can deceive ourselves and others, and how we manage to live with our secrets. It can include police and murders, but that’s certainly not essential. The mystery lies in the why – rather than the whodunnit. Because it is rooted in messy old life and relationships, it doesn’t always provide the neat ending of more traditional crime fiction.

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

Usually, I just dive in and start a story, researching as I go along. I keep writing until I reach the end, even if I know things have to change quite radically in the earlier stages of the novel to support my new discoveries. This I call draft zero, because no one ever sees it except me. Then I go back and rewrite the entire thing, building a firmer structure for the plot, excising loads of guff and putting in hopefully more focussed material. For me, this is the most exciting way to write, because every day you discover something new about your characters and story.

However, it can be difficult to fit this style of working into a publishing schedule. The Long Fall is the first book of a new contract I signed with my publishers Headline, and to secure that I had to put together a pretty clear outline of the story, long before I started. The plot I came up with was quite detailed and so clear that it changed very little in the writing – so I knew what each scene had to do, where the characters had to go. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to structure it, though, so there was still quite a bit of head scratching at the end of draft zero. It is probably a quicker way to finish a novel, but I have to say I have reverted to my old approach for the novel I am currently working on (working title, rather imaginatively, novel #5) and, while it is scarier, I find it more exciting writing, as E L Doctorow put it, “…like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?

Write the best novel you possibly can, then edit it and make it better. Don’t be in a hurry to submit. Do your homework finding an agent – do they represent authors you like? Do they deal with your genre? See what they say on Twitter. Follow submission guidelines slavishly – they all have different rules, so you will have to work around them, which is a good thing. Be patient. Be polite. Be prepared for rejection, but also be prepared to work on editing suggestions from agents. If you are rejected, there will be a good reason. Try to work out what it is.

If you want to self-publish, pay someone to edit your novel, and try to forget that you are paying so that you listen to their edits. Pay someone to typeset it and design the cover. Learn the business. You have to be aware that you are going into business not only as a writer but also as a publisher. It’s a lot of work.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

Novel #5 will take up the next five months, and we’re beginning to plan Dark & Stormy Brighton 2015 (the crime festival I launched this year with Emlyn Rees and Ray Leek). I’m putting together proposals for three more novels – a process I really enjoy. And something might be happening in Hollywood, although that’s all I’m allowed to say right now. Other than that, I’m promoting The Long Fall all over the shop: I’ll be at Harrogate, Bloody Scotland and Edinburgh Book Festival, as well as many other libraries, bookshops and festivals around the country. Good job I love writing on trains!

Sounds like 2014 is shaping up to be a very busy year!

A huge thank you to Julia Crouch for dropping by and chatting about The Long Fall and her writing process. To find out more about Julia and her books pop on over to http://juliacrouch.co.uk/

 

And watch this space for our review of The Long Fall – coming soon.

CTG Interviews: Bruce McCabe, author of SKINJOB

SKINJOB cover image

SKINJOB cover image

Today I’m joined by Bruce McCabe whose debut novel – SKINJOB – is coming out with Bantam Press this month.

Welcome to the CTG blog, Bruce.

Your debut novel – SKINJOB – is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Skinjob is a thriller set in the boardrooms, brothels, churches and alleyways of the near future. It follows the fortunes of Daniel Madsen, a cop trained to deliver rapid results in high-pressure cases where lives are on the line, and Shari Sanayei, an SFPD surveillance officer. The action takes place over just six days. Underneath the surface, the novel takes a provocative look at a series of looming social challenges.

You chose to set the story in the near future, what attracted you to this time period?

I love exploring the big “what if?” and the way we are challenged and changed by technology. Plus I’m privileged, due to my professional background, to talk to the scientists and innovators creating our future in their labs. I find the combination irresistible!

Technology is obviously something you’re very knowledgeable about. Did you need to do any specific research for SKINJOB, and if so how did you go about it?

Most of the research was already done – the book was inspired by a technology demonstrated to me that I found profoundly disturbing, and which stayed with me for years. While writing I spent time in San Francisco and other cities, walking the streets, getting everything just right. I conducted a few interviews too — a special agent I was introduced to was particularly helpful in understanding FBI internal affairs and inter-agency politics!

Bruce McCabe

Bruce McCabe

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

A mixture. I start with a big “What if?”. After I get a very high level sketch in my head (what I want to say, the characters, the kind of ending I want to arrive at), I dive in and start writing. After two or three chapters I pause and do a basic outline, then it’s back to writing. Over the course of the novel I return and rework that outline perhaps two or three times, each time adding structure and more detail. The plot is always in flux, right up until the last page.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to publication as crime writers?

To me, good crime writing is about the ‘slow reveal’: keep the revelations coming, but don’t give away too much and don’t be in too much of a hurry! Get that pace just right and your readers are bursting by the time they get to whodunit. On writing generally: read and write a lot, and understand that all first drafts look awful; everything good was re-written and polished many times over before it saw the light of day.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

Completing my second novel. It’s getting very close now and I’m both exhausted and excited! Then some downtime and some travel – during which I’ll probably scout locations for the next one!

Sounds great. Many thanks for dropping by the CTG blog and answering our questions.

To find out more about Bruce McCabe, pop over to his website at http://www.brucemccabe.com

SKINJOB is out now, and we’ll be posting our review shortly. In the meantime, here’s what the blurb says: “A bomb goes off in down town San Francisco. Twelve people are dead. But this was no ordinary target. This target exists on the fault line where sex and money meet. Daniel Madsen is one of a new breed of federal agents armed with a badge, a gun and a handheld lie detector. He’s a fast operator and his instructions are simple: find the bomber – and before he strikes again. In order to understand what is at stake, Madsen must plunge into a sleazy, unsettling world where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable, exploitation is business as usual, and the dead hand of corruption reaches all the way to the top. There’s too much money involved for this investigation to stay private …”

Author Interviews: CTG talks to Quentin Bates

Quentin Bates - Cold Steal

Quentin Bates – Cold Steal

Today I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Quentin Bates to the CTG blog for a chat about his fabulous Nordic crime novels and new book – Cold Steal, the atmospheric setting for his books – Iceland, and to find out more about his writing process …

As well as writing the fabulous Nordic crime novels featuring police officer and single mother, Gunnhildur Gísadóttir, you’ve had successful careers as a trawlerman, a teacher and a journalist. What was it that attracted you to becoming a novelist?
I wasn’t actually a teacher for very long and abandoned it as quickly as I could… But I’ve been writing for a living for a long time now, journalism and a few non-fiction books, mostly extremely dull technical stuff about shipping. I had always seen fiction as something of a mug’s game, extremely hard to get published and maybe even harder to stay published, so it was a challenge I couldn’t resist. I didn’t seriously expect the first Gunna story to get published, and certainly didn’t expect it to turn into a series.

Your new book, Cold Steal, is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?
This one involves a fairly disparate group of characters, including some of Iceland’s immigrants who I find interesting – having been in that position myself along time ago as an expat living in Iceland. There’s also a burglar who has been a thorn in the police’s side for a long time as he is exceptionally careful and leaves very few traces and is very successful until he breaks into the wrong house one night and finds himself facing far more than he had bargained for. Then there are a few killings, including a businessman and a few people placed in the difficult positions that call for desperate measures.

Your Iceland-set books always have a fabulous sense of place about them, what’s your secret to creating this?
I think it’s weather. Icelanders may live in centrally-heated houses, but they still live on the edge of the habitable world and weather has always been crucially important to survival in the past when it was a nation of fishermen and farmers, and a hard winter could mean not making it through to spring. So people are extremely conscious of weather; it’s in the blood, and Icelandic weather is extraordinarily changeable as it can rain, snow and hail all in one day, interspersed with blazing sunshine. I’m infected with this weather consciousness as well so I always have weather at the back of my mind and especially when I visualise a scene. One of my first questions to myself will always be what was the weather like?

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?
I’ve done both, the seat-of-the-pants method and the intricate plotting, and neither of them suit me. I’m somewhere between the two and have a fairly loose outline of what I want to touch on, like as series of waypoints, but not necessarily with a direct route between them. I don’t get on with over-plotting as I like the flexibility of using a good idea as it crops up along the way, and I don’t normally know quite how things are going to end until I get there.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to publication as crime writers?
This is purely personal advice, and everyone’s experience is different. I’d say just get on with it and stay with it. Don’t wait for a muse to strike, as if you do that, then she won’t. Try and do something every day as that keeps things ticking over in your mind. Unplug the router if that’s what suits you. And just enjoy it, laugh at your own jokes. If you don’t enjoy your own work, then probably nobody else will. Don’t go to anyone who loves you for an opinion. People who know what they’re talking about will give you advice, and it’s very much worth listening carefully to what they say, but also take notice of your own instincts and stick to your guns when the moment is right.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?
I’m not sure at the moment. There’s a kindle-only Gunnhildur novella planned for later this year although I’m not sure yet when that will appear, probably in the summer some time. There is more Gunna in the pipeline but I’m still mulling over ideas at the moment and I really do need to pay the day job more attention. November this year is also Iceland Noir, the tiny crime fiction festival in Reykjavík that I’m involved in organising with Icelandic crime writers Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir. It’s something of a labour of love, but we did the first one last year and it was just great – because when crime writers get together they do tend to be a lot of fun. They’re not precious or pompous, and they can be extraordinarily irreverent – these are people it’s just great to be around. That’s what happens when people who spend their days sitting over a laptop dreaming of murder get let out into the daylight. There’s an interesting line-up for this year, including rising stars Johan Theorin and Vidar Sundstol, and some more intriguing writers, and hopefully we’ll be able to add more between now and November.

Sounds great.

Thanks so much to Quentin Bates for dropping by. To find out more about Quentin and his Gunnhildur Gísadóttir Iceland-set crime series pop on over to his website at http://graskeggur.com/

And to learn more about the wonderful Iceland Noir crime fiction festival click here http://www.icelandnoir.com/

CTG Interviews: Rachel Abbott author of SLEEP TIGHT

Author Rachel Abbott

Author Rachel Abbott

Today I’d like to welcome Rachel Abbott, who has dropped in to the CTG blog to answer a few of our questions. So, to business …

Your new book, SLEEP TIGHT, came out last month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

SLEEP TIGHT is a psychological thriller, which poses the question “how far would you go to hold on to the people you love?” It’s a story of obsession, deception and retribution.

The story opens when Olivia Brookes calls the police because her husband took the children out for a pizza, and he hasn’t come home. Has there been an accident? But the police don’t think so.

The problem is, this isn’t the first time that Olivia has had to contact the police. Seven years earlier her boyfriend and father of her first child called to say he was on his way home. But he never arrived.

To say any more about this story would give too much away. It was incredibly difficult to write the blurb for the cover for that very reason. Just let’s say that things are not always as they seem, and some times good people are forced to do bad things.

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

I am a huge planner. I don’t always stick to the plan, but I have to really understand my characters and what is motivating them before I start. So I have detailed character outlines for each of them usually including a picture that I find on Google images. I know what their favourite drinks are, what colour lipstick they wear (when appropriate, of course), their hobbies, the biggest thing that has ever happened to them, and what their story goal is. It is so easy to write books in which the characters can’t be differentiated, and to avoid that I want to get to know my characters really well.

In addition to having a plot timeline, I also have character timelines. I need to know what year they were born, when they met their partners, when their children were born – things that happen outside of the story, but may be referenced. I can’t tell you how many times I have read a book and thought “that’s not right – the child would have only been two at the time” or something similar.

And then because my books tend to have complex plots, I flowchart the main themes. This is the bit that sometimes goes to pot when I’m writing because the story starts to have a life of its own. But I use a piece of software called Scrivener to write my first draft. With that, I can attach keywords to individual scenes, with each keyword relating to a plot point in the story. I can then search on these keywords and reveal only the scenes that are relevant. That way, I can check each element of the story to make sure there are no loose ends or inconsistencies.

What books and authors have inspired you as a reader and writer?

I think my early inspiration came from Daphne du Maurier. I would say that Rebecca is one of my favourite books of all times – and of course, just like my books, in Rebecca you could say that good people are moved to do bad things. It was the whole sense of suspicion and threat that had me hooked, but a great love story at the same time.

Writers like Val McDermid are responsible for raising my interest in thrillers, and Harlan Coben’s early stand alone books made me think about writing from the perspective of the protagonist instead of always from the point of view of the police. I am now a fan of Sharon Bolton’s books too, which can be really dark. I am a member of a book club now, though, and trying hard to read as many non-thrillers as possible.

Sleep Tight cover image

Sleep Tight cover image

What advice would you give to those aspiring to publication as crime writers?

Make sure you do your research. Even if you decide to stretch the truth, be sure you have your facts right. There was one point in SLEEP TIGHT that I thought was a pretty safe bet – part of the book is set on Alderney, which is classed as the UK (it’s a Crown Dependency) and I assumed that – should it be necessary – a British policeman could arrest a suspect on Alderney. Not true! Fortunately, I happened to mention in passing to one of the two Alderney policemen, and he put me straight. So it really is important to check every detail.

Other than that, I would advise any writer to have their book professionally edited. I always believed that editing meant proof reading, and had no idea what it REALLY meant. There is the structural editing in which you might be told to cut things down, reorganise them, change points of view – and that can be expensive. But as a minimum you need a proper copy-edit – somebody to tell you about inconsistencies as well as typos. My copy edits are more red than black when they come back – but it’s all really good stuff. My copy editor picked up things such as two different people being described as deranged, even though the descriptions were a hundred pages apart. Repetition of words is a huge thing that they can help you to improve on, and I would seriously consider this.

But other than that, make sure your book is as good as it possibly can be, with a great title and then if you can’t find an agent or a publisher, don’t be frightened to self-publish. But if you do, you need to ask yourself a question: why are you publishing your book? The three most obvious answers would be:

I just want to see it in print (or virtual print). If that’s the case, stick it up there, and admire your Amazon page from time to time, and get on with the next book

I want as many people as possible to read my book, but I’m not concerned with making money.If that’s the case, consider using Amazon’s free posting and just make sure you let as many of the free sites know as possible.

I want my book to be a commercial success. If that’s what you want, then not only do you have to be sure your book is the best it can possibly be, but also you need to learn about marketing, and you are going to have to dedicate some time to getting it noticed. And you are probably going to have to pay for a really good cover design.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

I am really looking forward to the rest of this year. I am starting on my new novel, and I am going to be attending a few events in the UK over the course of the year, including the London Book Fair, the Literary Festival and the Crime Festival at Harrogate, so I’m hoping to meet a lot of people that up to now I have only spoken to on Twitter or Facebook.

I’m also hoping to move in to a new place to live, which, if I can reach agreement with the current owners, will be a spectacular home overlooking the sea. I’m also hoping to take a trip up the Irrawaddy River in Burma – but that’s gone on the back burner a bit because of the move and the new book. But there’s certainly plenty to be excited about.

It sounds like it’s going to be a busy year!

A huge thank to you Rachel Abbott for dropping by and answering our questions.

You can find out more about SLEEP TIGHT and Rachel’s other books on her website over at http://www.rachel-abbott.com/ on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RachelAbbott1Writer and follow her on Twitter as @Rachel_Abbott

 

 

CTG Interviews: Author Jessie Keane

Author Jessie Keane

Author Jessie Keane

Today I’m really excited to be joined by bestselling British author, Jessie Keane, crime writer and creator of several crime series including the Annie Carter crime novels featuring the fabulous strong female lead character Annie Carter. 

So, to the interview …

What inspired you to create Annie Carter?

Annie Carter sort of appeared in my head when I was at a very low ebb. I wanted to write something entirely for my own pleasure – I didn’t care whether it got published or not, this was for me. So I was able to let rip and let aspects of my own personality come to the fore when I created Annie. She’s not so much me, as everything I would really like to be. Forthright, beautiful, a firm friend and a deadly enemy. She’s tough, and I like that. Not perfect, but a real trooper. She dominated Dirty Game, my first crime novel, and she’s been chucking her weight about ever since.

Did you plan the Annie Carter series from the outset?

Emphatically, no. Once I’d written her in Dirty Game, it just seemed a natural progression to continue her story in Black Widow, and then I got excited about her and the Mafia in Scarlet Women, and then Playing Dead, and Ruthless.I would love to do another Annie book, and when I get that crucial idea, I will.

Dive right in, or plan the story first?

I so admire writers who plan everything first! I have friends who do this, and I wish I did too, and I’ve tried … but it just doesn’t work for me. If I try to plan, I find I’m bored with the story before I’ve written even a handful of chapters; whereas in my own style (strictly seat-of-the-pants) I rush up to my study every morning, keen to get started on whatever comes next.

RUTHLESS cover image

RUTHLESS cover image

What advice can you give to new crime writers trying for publication?

Make sure you love writing crime. Always write what you love and what comes easiest to you, what really suits your writer’s ‘voice’. You’ll know it when you find it. And persist! That’s really boring advice, I know, but you’ll get rejection slips (unless you’re very lucky) and some downright rude refusals. Take it on the chin. Keep going.

And, finally, what does 2014 have in store for you?

Publication of LAWLESS, the second Ruby Darke book (sequel to NAMELESS) in July. Lots of interviews and festivals and fun, in between which I’ll be writing a brand new book (my 10th) with a brand new heroine, the deadline for which is November. So it’s going to be a full year, and by the end of it I’ll be starting out on my 11th book, so it’s all go!

Sounds great – and lots to look forward to reading.

Many thanks to Jessie Keane for popping by and answering our questions.

You can find out more about Jessie and her writing over on her website at http://jessiekeane.com/

And check out our review of RUTHLESS, the most recent Annie Carter novel, here

CTG Interviews: Ed Chatterton author of DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN

Author Ed Chatterton

Author Ed Chatterton

Today I’m excited to welcome Ed Chatterton to the CTG blog. As well as having writing over twenty children’s novels (published under the name Martin Chatterton), Ed is the author of the recently published crime novel, Down Among the Dead Men, the second book in the DCI Frank Keane series, published by Arrow.

And so, to the questions …

Before you starting writing crime fiction you’d already written over twenty highly successful children’s books. What fresh challenge did writing fiction for an adult crime reader audience bring?

‘Highly successful’ might be overstating it: I’d been doing pretty well with some books and less so with others, just like most writers. The books I write for children are largely comedies – surreal farces, often with big themes like ‘death’ or ‘the physical universe’ or ‘nose-picking’. There were, particularly in some of the more recent children’s books, crime elements in there too. Two books – ‘The Brain Finds A Leg’ and ‘The Brain Full of Holes’ – were full blown detective fiction, albeit with a comic twist. So the transition into adult crime fiction was less challenging than it might have been for a debut author. The main change I found was that my characters can swear (and some of them do, a lot), can have sex, and can be more violent. From a technical point of view, adult crime writing requires more precision in terms of plot and, given that my books are complex, requires me to use my rapidly shrinking brain more often. In my children’s books if I got to a difficult plot point I would usually insert a T-rex or a time machine. That’s less easy with gritty adult fiction, as most crime readers tend to notice things like that.

Your recent crime novel, Down Among the Dead Men, is set in Liverpool, Los Angeles and Australia. What was it about these particular settings that inspired to you to pick them?

Liverpool featured because the story is a continuation (in terms of some of the characters) of the first book, A Dark Place To Die. In that first book Frank Keane is one of a number of characters. In Down Among the Dead Men I wanted to focus on Frank and see how far I could push him. Frank’s a Liverpool cop who gets pulled into a case that starts relatively small (an apparent  domestic murder-suicide) but quickly gets darker and widens out into something much larger in scale. I picked Los Angeles for two reasons: the first is that I’ve been there a number of times and there were locations I wanted to use. The high desert near Palm Springs and Twentynine Palms is a very evocative landscape (the working title for Down Among the Dead Men was Twentynine Palms). The second is so that I could continue to open out the stories from a single location. I’m not a huge fan of every case in a series being located in exactly the same place. I’d make an exception for George Pelecanos with his Washington-based novels, but single location books too often end up becoming sterile or repetitive. I used to live in the US so I am fond of the place and enjoy writing American characters. The Aussie connection dates back to A Dark Place To Die. Two of the characters from that book, Menno Koopman and Warren Eckhardt, make a re-appearance. Koopman, I think, will become a character who I might develop more as a stand alone. If he lives through Down Among the Dead Men that is . . .

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

Raymond Chandler said that a good story isn’t devised, it is distilled and I think that’s a pretty good description of my approach. I start with a basic idea, or set of ideas and then I let them go wherever they take me. I often have a rough ‘destination’ in mind with a skeleton narrative and a very strong sense of the kind of story I want to tell, but the fine details are worked out in writing. This usually means that I am constantly redrafting and editing – which is fortunately something I love doing – and I find this approach prevents the books being formulaic. My thinking is that if I don’t know exactly where the story is going then that makes it doubly interesting for the reader. I think you can overplan, just the same way that you can over-write. In my stories, I honestly don’t think the reader can guess what way the story is going.

Down Among the Dead Men cover image

Down Among the Dead Men cover image

Your books have been likened to those of Peter James and Ian Rankin. Which crime writers’ novels do you most like to read?

I try to avoid British crime books as I get very jealous and envious and bitter and twisted if they are any good. I’m flattered to be compared to either Peter James and Ian Rankin and, weirdly enough, I met both of them recently although, since I was several continents off being described as sober, they may not look back on the meeting quite as fondly as I do. From what I can remember, they are both lovely blokes but far too successful for my liking. In truth, American crime writers are more my taste and, since they are further away, don’t seem as threatening. I already mentioned Pelecanos who I think is just a little bit special, but I also love Elmore Leonard, Richard Price, Joe Lansdale, Carl Hiassen. One of my favourite books is the one-off, Blackburn by Bradley Denton. I do have a real soft spot for Patricia Highsmith’s stuff too. Some of the Scandi crime is good but I’m a bit sick of the adulation doled out to anyone vaguely Nordic who so much as writes a shopping list at the moment. Of the Scandinavians I like Asa Larsson best. At one point, when I knew my crime series was coming out, I seriously considered adopting a Nordic-sounding pseudonym. In my bleaker 3am moments, I regret not doing so. I reckon I’d have scooped at least three awards by now.

What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?

All the usual gubbins: make sure you have something to say, make sure you keep reading, make sure you keep writing. Don’t think that publication is the ‘win’: publication is just the ticket into the gladiator ring. Maybe this too: don’t listen to too much prescriptive crap about the mechanics of story-telling, plot points, ‘arcs’, use of semi-colons, use of italics, whatever it is. If Stephen King tells stories a certain way that doesn’t mean that you need to do that. Elmore Leonard’s famous ‘ten rules’ of writing, including that ‘don’t start with the weather’ nonsense applies only if you are Elmore Leonard. Despite my healthy man-crush on Leonard, I always thought that was too restrictive. I actually began a kids book with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ once just to prove a point. And never, ever, do anything Neil Gaiman tells you to unless it relates to hair.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

I’m just about to complete the third in this series which takes place in Liverpool, Berlin and Western Scotland and has the rise of neo-Nazism as a backdrop. I’m continuing to write The Last Slave Ship which is a dual narrative novel about the final slave trading voyage from Liverpool and a contemporary race-hate crime which erupts into riots. This book is part of my PhD which just goes to show one of two things. Either (a) crime writers aren’t as dumb as we look or (b) they’ll let just about anyone do a PhD these days. I’m continuing to illustrate children’s books and will be drawing pictures for a book by Jonathan Emmett. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that my‘Mort’ kids series, which has just been bought for development as an animated series by Southern Star, makes it past the pilot stage and into production. Lastly, I’ll be working with a UK TV/film company on bringing Frank Keane to the screen in one way or another. Should keep me busy.

Sounds like it’ll be a hectic year!

A massive thanks to Ed Chatterton for dropping by the blog and allowing us to question him. Watch out for our review of Down Among the Dead Men next week …