CTG Interviews: Chris Culver about his new book Measureless Night

Measureless Night cover image

Measureless Night cover image

Today I’m delighted to be joined by Chris Culver, author of the New York Time bestselling Ash Rashid crime series. His latest novel MEASURELESS NIGHT is out today (28th May).

And so, to the interview …

Your latest book in the DS Ash Rashid series – MEASURELESS NIGHT – is out on 28th May, can you tell us a bit about it?

MEASURELESS NIGHT is the fourth book in my Ash Rashid mystery series. It’s about a detective from Indianapolis who’s recently discovered someone is murdering men and women who witnessed a murder Ash investigated many years ago. It straddles that fine line between being a mystery and a thriller, but I think it works pretty well.

Where did you get the idea/the inspiration for this story?

I come up with ideas for stories all the time. I live near St. Louis, Missouri, so we’re not short on crime, some of which is fairly interesting. So I get a lot of ideas from the newspaper. I also keep in touch with a lot of lawyers and law enforcement officials, and they give me a lot of ideas. By the time I write a book, I’ve extended that idea and twisted it so that it’s barely recognizable, but most of my ideas come from reality.

MEASURELESS NIGHT is an exception. The concept evolved over time from a very simple kernel of an idea to something much more complicated. This was one of those rare books that didn’t start with an “Aha!” moment. It started with me wondering how Ash Rashid would handle finding out that a witness to an old case of his was murdered. From there, I just started asking the kind of questions Ash would ask. Why would someone kill this witness? Who had something to gain by this victim’s death? The story snowballs from there and, hopefully, takes some interesting twists and turns along the way.

What got you started writing crime fiction?

Like most crime writers, I started writing crime fiction because I loved reading crime fiction. Even as a very young boy, I loved mysteries. When I was in third grade, I read through the entire Hardy Boys series. Before that, I read the Boxcar Children, and the Encyclopedia Brown novels. I couldn’t get enough of them as a kid.

As I got older, my tastes shifted to more serious work, and I fell in love with early hard-boiled mystery novels, especially those by Raymond Chandler and later Mickey Spillane. They were terrific books with great twists and unforgettable characters. When I sat down to write my first novel, I didn’t even consider writing anything else.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plan first or jump right in?

I’m a big planner. By the time I sit down and type “Chapter 1”, I’ve already written about a hundred pages of notes. I know reasonably well how the book will start and finish, I know all the major twists, and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen in the middle. I know the characters equally well.

Of course, things can change rapidly when I start writing. When that happens, I throw my notes out the window and see where the story takes me.

If you had to pick one, what’s your best writing moment so far?

Probably finishing my first novel. At the time, I thought I had written the greatest book the world had ever seen, but looking back, it was a mess. The characters were clichés, the plot meandered, and the writing was stilted at best. Despite being a miserable failure, that first book taught me a lot and gave me the confidence to work on my second book.

For those looking to get published, what advice would you give them?

I’d suggest a writer look at every option he or she has available because there are advantages and disadvantages to every choice. An enormous publisher has market clout and the ability to get books into Walmart, Cosco, and everywhere in between. That’s great if your publisher is willing to put every resource it has at its disposal into your career. Chances are that won’t happen unless your name happens to be James Patterson. In fact, chances are quite high that they will give you excellent editing and a terrific cover but no marketing support whatsoever. Your book will come out, sit on store shelves, and no one will ever hear about it. That’s just how this business works.

At a smaller publisher releasing fewer titles, you’ll probably get more attention from the marketing department. Unfortunately, they will likely have fewer resources than a larger publisher and fewer options to help push your book.

You can also self-publish a book now. This is a hard route, but it’s one worth considering. You keep a larger percentage of the book’s sale price, but you pay for everything—editing, cover design, formatting, etc. In addition, you’ve got to do your own marketing. This route has a steep learning curve, but it’s one worth considering in a market that’s increasingly shifting to digital.

Author Chris Culver

Author Chris Culver

And, finally, what does the rest of 2015 have in store for you?

To be honest, I don’t know. Right now, I’m a stay-at-home dad who occasionally writes books. We’ll see how that goes.

 

Big thanks to Chris Culver for dropping by to see us and talking about his writing.

Chris has also given readers of the CTG blog a lucky peep at MEASURELESS NIGHT …

Measureless Night – what the blurb says: “Detective Sergeant Ash Rashid wants little out of life: a steady job, a quiet place to call home, and a healthy family. Now three hundred days sober, for the first time he can see his happy ending forming on the horizon.

Then patrol officers find the body.

The victim has chemical burns on her arms, two broken legs, and a gash on her throat so deep it exposes the vertebrae of her neck. Then they find a second body and then two more. The killings aren’t random, far from it. Each victim testified in a murder trial ten years ago, one that launched Ash’s career. Each of them helped put a very dangerous man in prison, and now each of them has paid the price.

Ready or not, Ash will soon learn the true cost of his happy ending. Because very dangerous men have a knack for reaching through walls. Ten years ago, Ash helped send a predator to death row. Now someone plans to make him pay. And she’s willing to kill everyone who stands in her way.”

What Chris says about the book: “Measureless Night is the fourth novel in my New York Times bestselling Ash Rashid series. Big picture, it’s the story of a detective who’s trying to solve a grizzly murder and protect others from being murdered as well. At it’s heart, Measureless Night is a mystery, but it has a lot of suspense elements as well.

On a slightly smaller scale, it’s the story of an average man who’s trying to balance the various roles he plays in life. He’s a devoted father, a loving husband, a dogged detective, and a religious man among other things. Those various roles are in constant tension, which is something, I think, most of us can relate to. In my own life, I’m a dad, a husband, a writer, etc. It’s not always easy to balance work and family, especially with a young child.”

EXCERPT:

The picture was a wide-angle shot of Michelle Washington’s body. Someone had ripped off her shirt and bra. A dark liquid glistened against her brown skin, forming a word from her neck to her navel. I felt sick, but I forced my face to remain impassive, a skill I had picked up from several years working homicides.

“The liquid is probably blood, and it says slut,” said Bowers. “Someone cut off her hand—before she died, according to Dr. Rodriguez—and then used her fingertips as a brush.”

I’ve been a police officer for a long time, even spending a couple of very good years as a homicide detective. Rarely did I hear things that took me aback, but this did. You’ve really got to hate somebody to dismember her while she’s alive, to hear her scream as the knife strikes bone, and to keep going until the deed is done.

“How’d you connect her to me?”

Bowers glanced up from his phone, but then glanced back at the screen. “She had your card in her purse.” He slipped the phone back into his pocket. “And you can’t think of any reason why someone would want to hurt her?”

I started to tell him no, but a sick thought hit me. Michelle and I hadn’t met by chance. Ten years ago, she and her brother had witnessed a murder. It was one of the first homicides I ever worked, and their testimony helped send a violent and very well-connected gang leader to prison for murder. I didn’t often keep up with the criminals I put away, but Santino Ramirez had a special place in my heart. He was the first and only man I ever sent to death row. Unless he won a last-minute appeal, he’d get a needle in the arm in a couple of days. The world would be a better place without him.

I swallowed a lump in my throat and hoped I was wrong about what I was about to say.

“She testified against Santino Ramirez ten years ago,” I said. “His old gang might have just called her out.”

 

To find out more about Chris Culver and his books be sure to check out …

 

The Corpse Role Blog Tour: an interview with author Keith Nixon

The Corpse Role cover image

The Corpse Role cover image

Today I’m delighted to welcome Keith Nixon, author of The Corpse Role, to the CTG blog as part of his blog tour.

The Corpse Role is out now, can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s a police procedural with a major twist at the end. This is the blurb:

When the body of a security guard implicated in a major robbery two years ago turns up in a shallow grave DI Charlotte Granger is called in. £1.2 million went missing in the heist – the money has never been found and the culprits remain at large. At the time the robbery had been major news and becomes so again, with investigative journalists, her own superiors and career criminals crawling all over the case. However, Granger’s own past threatens to catch up with her…

How did you get the idea for the story?

These things usually start with the kernel of an idea and then I add the layers and Corpse was no different. The trouble is, if I tell you the original idea, I’ll give the twist away!

What’s your writing process – do you plan first or dive straight in?

A mix of both to be honest. I put a degree of planning in up front, have a central theme, characters, some chapters mapped and an ending but the stuff in between is a mystery until I get down to the nuts and bolts of writing! It’s also fairly normal for me to hit a wall about a third of the way in and then have to take a step back and have a good look at how the narrative is working out.

If you had to pick one, what’s your best writing moment so far?

Dream Land for sure. It’s an 8k word novella that’s now the first part of Russian Roulette – Konstantin the Russian tramp from my first debut novel and his first 24 hours in Margate. 8 days of hectic writing and editing around my day job. The Russian found his place in the world as a result of that work.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given on writing?

Never, ever give up.

Author Keith Nixon

Author Keith Nixon

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

Lots! May 11th I have I’m Dead Again being published, the third Konstantin novel after The Fix and Russian Roulette. I’m also working on the fourth in this series, a further stand alone police procedural and finally I’ll start the 3rd in Roman historical fiction series about Caradoc, Britain’s first great General, but later in the year.

Wow, that sounds like a very busy year!

Huge thanks to Keith for coming and talking to us at the CTG blog today.

The Corpse Role is out now. Recommended for fans of police procedurals, this twisty-turny tale follows DI Charlotte Granger as she investigates a chain of murders where the targets are both criminals and cops. With evidence tampered with, and no one telling the full truth, can she find those responsible before the next person dies? Told across two time-lines, this is an intricately woven tale, with one hell of a twist towards the end.

To find out more about Keith Nixon and his books hop on over to his FaceBook page here https://www.facebook.com/keithnixonauthor and follow him on Twitter @knntom

 

CTG Interviews: Alison Gaylin, author of AND SHE WAS

Author Alison Gaylin

Author Alison Gaylin

I’m delighted to welcome today’s guest – best selling author Alison Gaylin – to the CTG blog. Alison’s kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us.

So, to the interview …

Your fantastic new novel AND SHE WAS came out earlier this month, can you tell us a bit about it?

Sure! It’s the first book in my series that features Brenna Spector – a missing persons investigator with hyperthymestic syndrome (perfect autobiographical memory). In it, Brenna investigates the case of a missing suburban woman — and soon finds ties between her disappearance and a missing child case of ten years ago. The mystery that drives Brenna throughout the first three books in this series is the disappearance of her own sister, which happened when she was just 11. It’s the event that brought on her hyperthymesia (which is a real thing!) and haunts her constantly. And so of course, it plays a strong role in AND SHE WAS.

Your investigator, Brenna Spector, is really compelling protagonist – smart and dedicated to her work as a missing persons investigator, and very human in her struggle to balance the demands of her job while trying to make quality time for her daughter. She also has a rare neurological disorder that lets her recall every detail of every day since it developed. What was your inspiration to create her?

Back in 2007, I read an article about hyperthymestic syndrome. It had just been named a year earlier. And it fascinated and frightened me. I’ve said this before, but it struck me not so much as an ability to remember, but an inability to forget. My own ability to forget unpleasant experiences has been a lifesaver — and to be robbed of that ability would be horrifying. So that was my inspiration. I thought about how a perfect, relentless memory would affect someone like me, how it would affect my relationships. I gave Brenna a daughter because I have a daughter. I thought about what a struggle that would be, trying to be present for your child with the near-constant intrusion of the past in the form of visceral memories. I’m married, but I gave Brenna an ex-husband that she can’t even be in the same room with — not because of the bad memories, but because of the good ones. At the same time, the world is a lot smaller than we think it is, and I figured being someone that literally “never forgets a face” would be an incredible asset for a private investigator.

Much of the book focuses on the residents of Tarry Ridge and the secrets they’ve kept. Is Tarry Ridge a real place or somewhere you created for the story?

Tarry Ridge is a fictional town, but the county that it’s in is real. For people who know Westchester County, New York, Tarry Ridge is White Plains meets Scarsdale on steroids. If you don’t know those places, it’s a very wealthy New York bedroom community with some dark secrets. (The dark secrets wholly fictional!)

AND SHE WAS cover image

AND SHE WAS cover image

How do you set out to write your novels – do you jump right in and see where an idea goes, or do you plot the story out in advance?

A combination of the two. I always have to know where a novel ends up – the key to the mystery. But how I get there is more flexible. So I figure out the basic story ahead of time and then I start writing. After I hit around 100 pages, I start outlining two-three chapters in advance. When I finish, I do a very extensive revision, streamlining and rearranging. I used to make very detailed outlines, but I always wound up diverging from them. This way seems to work better.

When’s your favourite time to write – are you a lark or an owl?

Both! Late night is usually when I write scenes for the first time. I find morning is the best time to edit them, when my head is clear.

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

Be persistent, but don’t be inflexible. If you are getting the same criticism from everyone who rejects your manuscript, and it’s about character or plot (as opposed to “this will never sell.” Or the dreaded, “this isn’t for us”) it’s probably worth listening to. Constructive criticism can be a wonderful thing. Use it to write the best book you can.

And finally, what does 2015 have in store for you?

In the UK, the next book in the Brenna series, INTO THE DARK, will be released. As for me, I am currently working on a standalone novel called WHAT REMAINS OF ME. The main character is a convicted murderer — so she’s very different from Brenna. It will be coming out on HarperCollins in the US.

A huge thank you to Alison Gaylin for letting us quiz her!

You can find out more about Alison and her books over at www.alisongaylin.com and follow her on Twitter @alisongaylin

 

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