#TheGirlWhoBrokeThe Rules Blog Tour: an interview with Marnie Riches

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Today I’m delighted to be hosting the last stop on THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES Blog Tour and to welcome the fabulous Marnie Riches to the CTG blog for a chat about her wonderful Georgina McKenzie thriller series.

So, to the questions …

Your second book in the Georgina “George” McKenzie thriller series – THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES – came out in August, can you tell us a bit about it?

The Girl Who Broke the Rules sees George studying in the UK for her PhD in criminology. Interviewing violent sexual offenders on their use of pornography during the day, she is working as a cleaner in a Soho strip club by night to fund her studies. But when the mutilated bodies of two working girls are found in Amsterdam’s red light district – seemingly sexually motivated murders – and Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, George is only too happy to work as a consultant for her old friend. The hunt for The Butcher takes George and van den Bergen through the seedy underworlds of Amsterdam and London’s Soho, where they rub shoulders with human traffickers, a backstreet surgeon and a leading pornographer. Hitting dead end after dead end, eventually George seeks the guidance of one of Broadmoor Hospital’s most infamous patients – the dangerously charming and warped serial killer, Dr. Silas Holm.

The series is set primarily in Holland, what was it that attracted you to setting a thriller there?

As a student of Dutch, I lived in the Netherlands for a year in the early nineties. Particularly after seeing the popularity of Stockholm and Oslo in Scandi-Noir crime fiction, when it came to write my own crime thriller, Amsterdam seemed like a perfect location. It’s stunningly beautiful, with architecture and a rich cultural history to die for. But pay a visit to the coffee shops and take a stroll past the prostitutes’ booths and sex shops of the red-light-district and you can imagine so many stories springing from those red-lit alleyways and canalside brothels…

How did you get into writing thrillers – what was it about the genre that attracted you?

I have always loved thrillers. As a child, I read Peter Benchley’s Jaws and adored the adrenalin rush of turning those pages. Then, when The Silence of the Lambs came out, I was hooked for life – utterly seduced by the evil genius of Hannibal Lecter and the inventive sadism of Jame Gumb. It was terrible perfection! With crime thrillers, I love the sense, as a reader, of having a jigsaw puzzle to piece together. It’s always a challenge to see if I can solve the mystery before the narrator gives me the answers. I love a killer twist. There’s a certain escapism in the violence for a big softy like me, and principally, crime thrillers are stimulating political and anthropological portraits of our world. All of these elements also appeal to me as a writer, except I’m in the driving seat, deciding what form the action, the twists and the violent intrigue should take!

Do you have a favourite crime/thriller novel or a crime writing hero/heroine?

Favourite thriller is The Silence of the Lambs. Favourite heroine is Lisbeth Salander because she’s unusual, insanely bright and a kickass rebel. Easy! Favourite anti-hero is Hannibal Lecter because he’s such an elegant, evil charmer. I’m not sure about a true hero. I often find heroes in the thrillers I’ve read a little Alpha Male for me. Even Harry Hole has a bit too much testosterone going on. So, I’ll be cheeky and say van den Bergen, because he’s exactly the sort of man I wanted in a hero.

What about your own writing process – do you plot everything out first or dive right in?

Working with a structured two to six page synopsis as a guide, I write the first draft in one go. A novel usually takes me about a month to research and three months to do the actual writing. When the first draft is finished, I give myself a month to edit. I tweak and refine, chop out the rubbish and then replot the whole thing to ensure the high points are in the correct places. Then, I polish again and send my manuscript out to my agent and my editor.

When you write do you picture actors in the roles – if so (or even if not!) who would you be your dream cast for George McKenzie and Chief Inspector van den Bergen?

I never picture actors in the roles when I’m writing. My characters exist as real people in my head. But I have recently been asked the question several times – who would I like to see playing George and van den Bergen on the big screen? George is an outspoken London girl, so the actress would have to have real screen presence. Marsha Thomason, maybe or Naomie Harris. Perhaps Nathalie Emmanuel. As for van den Bergen, I was thinking the other day that if you gave George Clooney grey contact lenses, he might do! He has that silver fox thing, going on, although he’s a bit beefy. It would have to be an attractive, ageing man who could play a miserable bastard beautifully.

What advice would you give a writer aspiring to publication?

Principally, write a lot. Write as much shit as you can until you get really good. Then, brace yourself, because you’ll get rejection after rejection. Grow a thick skin. Believe in your story. Try to attain the same standards as your literary heroes. Mainly, never give up. You’ve got to really want to get published because it’s very, very hard. Only a lucky few have their first attempts picked up. Most toil on for decades. I’d been writing seriously for just shy of ten years and had penned thirteen novels before my “debut” came out! Six were published children’s books but the rest…just practice!

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

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows should be out in November 2015 – I’m writing the final scenes now. When that manuscript is handed in, I’m going to take some time off and kick around some new ideas. I have a contemporary women’s novel on submission to editors. It’s a funny story about mid-life crisis, so fingers crossed, we’ll see that on shelves by late 2016. And, of course, I’m going to be talking to readers and bloggers on social media about my thrillers, because the whole point of writing them was to see them read and enjoyed!

A massive thank you to the wonderful Marnie Riches for dropping by the CTG blog and letting me ask her so many questions.

You can check out my review of the first book in the Georgina “George” McKenzie thriller series – THE GIRL WHO WOULDN’T DIE – here.

Here’s what the blurb says about THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES: When the mutilated bodies of two sex-workers are found in Amsterdam, Chief Inspector van den Bergen must find a brutal murderer before the red-light-district erupts into panic. Georgina McKenzie is conducting research into pornography among the UK’s most violent sex-offenders but once van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, she is only too happy to come running. The rising death toll forces George and van den Bergen to navigate the labyrinthine worlds of Soho strip-club sleaze and trans-national human trafficking. And with the case growing ever more complicated, George must walk the halls of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, seeking advice from the brilliant serial murderer, Dr. Silas Holm…”

To find out more about Marnie Riches hop over t0 her website www.marnieriches.com and follow her on Twitter @Marnie_Riches

If you’d like to see THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES on Amazon click on the book cover below:

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And be sure to visit all the other fabulous tour stops on THE GIRL WHO BROKE THE RULES Blog Tour …

Blog tour

The Killing Club Blog Tour: Guest Post by Paul Finch

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KC blog tour poster

I’m delighted to welcome Paul Finch to the CTG blog. His latest novel, The Killing Club, is published this week, and today Paul is taking over the reins (or rather the keyboard) to guest blog about the books he has read that have been most influential on his career.

Over to Paul …

It would be very easy, I suppose, to respond to the question which books have you read that were most influential on your career, and, given that my own most successful novels are intense murder investigations, simply reel off all the great thriller writers.

It would of course be untrue to say that I haven’t been influenced by other thriller novelists. Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham, Peter James, Kathy Reichs and Katia Lief are all staggeringly high in my estimation. But I don’t just read within my own genre, and I think it would be an interesting exercise to perhaps consider those other types of books that have blown me away, set me on my current career path, whatever you want to call it.

It’s no secret that, before I began writing my DS Heckenburg thrillers, I dabbled widely in the fields of horror and fantasy. And this wasn’t just during my formative years as a writer, my kindergarten if you like; I wrote lots of this kind of stuff, and still do. I also read in this field enormously. But it’s fascinating now, on reflection, how much these apparently unrelated interests have influenced my DS Heckenburg novels.

For example, THE WOLFEN by Whitley Strieber (pub. 1978) presents us with two tired New York detectives, a man and a woman, investigating the murder and apparent cannibalisation of hobos in the city’s underbelly, and soon reaching the conclusion the perpetrators are not humans, but a highly intelligent werewolf pack.

Now, I suppose there are obvious links here with ‘Heck’: a gang of vicious and relentless killers, a lovelorn boy and girl cop team, and so on. But I think it’s the seamy side of the average detective’s working day that most caught my eye about this striking novel. Strieber really takes us to the backside of New York, the subways and ghettos and derelict lots, and peoples them with hookers, winos and druggies. My own experience as a real life cop taught me these are the places you need to go if you want to catch some bad guys, but here we go way beyond the everyday grim, delving into the world of the true urban gothic: it’s a nightmare landscape, beautifully and poetically described, and yet at the same time filled with such palpable menace that even hardboiled detectives are unnerved.

I make a point of never taking my own crime thrillers into such realms of overt fantasy, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to invoke similar feelings of dread and weirdness in the dark heart of the city.

Another relevant horror novel is surely LEGION by William Peter Blatty (pub. 1983). This is a totally different kind of police story. Again, it follows a time-served detective investigating a series of sadistic murders, though in this case he’s dealing with Satanic ritual. It’s a much subtler tale, ripe with a sense of ancient mystery and slow-burning evil (and that would be real evil, of the distinctly inhuman variety). Yet for all this, the point where LEGION really kicks in is the deep assessment the hero, Lt. Kinderman, constantly makes of himself, examining his own beliefs or unbeliefs, puzzling as to why he exposes himself to this depravity time and again, bleeding inside for the victims. Not exactly Heck, who’s never been much of a philosopher, but the longer you work as a homicide cop, the more you’re going to confront yourself with these issues. There is some really deep character work here by Blatty, which you can’t help but admire.

Moving from horror into science fiction and fantasy, there are two other titles I’d like to mention. The first of these contains the most obvious link to those matters I’ve mentioned previously. It is Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi masterwork, DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP (pub. 1968). Most folk will know this as the movie, BLADE RUNNER, but though there are some similarities, the book goes way beyond the limited scope of a Hollywood adaptation. In Rick Deckard, another dogged man-hunter and, thanks to his wife’s depression, a sad loner, working his way through a world gone mad and yet adding to it with his own role, which conflicts him deeply, there is genuine pathos. The movie, of course, had a strong noirish feel – it was almost Chandleresque – which is not prevalent in the book, but the strong central character is still a great blueprint for the fictional lone-wolf detective. For me, heroes always need to be vulnerable: stricken by self-doubt, and with enemies on all sides, some of whom they thought were friends. I’ve never had much time for men of steel, undefeatable icons of hunky machismo, like Superman or Batman. If I took anything from DO ANDROIDS DREAM … it had to be that deep introspection, that guilt, that conscience. It makes our heroes so much more interesting.

On that same subject, the fantasy novel I’d like to nominate is GRENDEL by John Gardner (pub. 1971). I guess we’re all familiar with the tale of Beowulf, the Viking warrior, and his defence of the hall of Heorot against the ravages of the faceless devil, Grendel, who for no reason other than twisted pleasure, came nightly to slaughter the innocent.

As I say, I’m not big on superhero stories. I loved BEOWULF as a kid – it was probably the first spooky tale my late father told me – but as I grew up, I found the monster more interesting. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, Grendel is the prototype serial killer. So in many ways, GRENDEL the novel takes us to the other end of the crime thriller spectrum, Gardner depicting his antihero first as an abused and lonely child, later showing him suffer rejection by those he sought to befriend, and finally having him retaliate with homicidal fury, which at last introduces him to a lifestyle of his liking – if he can’t have everyone’s love, he’ll have their terror. There isn’t as much Norse myth woven into this novel as you might expect. Instead Gardner gives us philosophy, social commentary and, a decade before the FBI commenced offender profiling, the psychology of the reviled. Talk about streets ahead of the game. Of course, we all know what happens at the end of BEOWULF, and it’s the same in GRENDEL, so don’t expect any surprises – apart from the dark joy this narrative will elicit as it works its way through the tormented mind and hideous satisfactions of a creature driven solely to hate.

It’s a strange thing that we think we know ourselves so well, our thoughts, interests and aspirations. And yet clearly there are many subliminal strata to our thinking. Even as I wrote this blog, it became more apparent to me how relevant to my current writing so many of these themes explored by earlier authors actually are. I won’t go over them again, because I think they speak for themselves – they certainly will, I hope, if you get the chance to read any of my DS Heckenburg thrillers, STALKERS, SACRIFICE or, most recently, THE KILLING CLUB. On which note, I suspect it’s a good time to end this monologue. Whichever way you go, please enjoy your reading and writing. There are no finer pleasures.

Paul Finch

A huge thank you to Paul for spending time here at the CTG blog today and telling us about the books that have most influenced his career.

To find out more about Paul and his books, including his latest book – The Killing Club – hop on over to his website at http://paulfinch-writer.blogspot.co.uk/

And don’t forget to follow him on Twitter @paulfinchauthor