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 …

 

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