Interview with Christine Carbo Author of the Glacier Park Mysteries

 

 

Christine Carbo image

 

 

 

A SHARP SOLITUDE – A GLACIER PARK MYSTERY

Interview for Benjamin Thomas


 

What’s your creative approach to writing a book?

I usually get my ideas from small things that spark my interest: an interesting article, a unique person, a story I’ve heard in the past that sticks with me, a line from a poem or a song…. If that thing of interest stays with me, I know I have the seed of an idea I’m willing sit with during the time it takes to write a novel. Once I have that idea, I will take some notes and brainstorm more ideas around the topic or character, but I’m not much of an outliner. I often simply end up diving in and writing as far as the headlights. Sometimes I’m at a loss for what should come next, get frustrated, and force myself to outline, but I rarely end up writing what I outline anyway, so it always comes out differently than I imagine it will. I also have no set writing schedule. I fit it in whenever it makes sense, sometimes in the morning, sometimes over the weekends, sometimes later in the day after my other job. I realize this is different from many other authors, but it has worked for me so far. I always think, someday I will create and stick to a writing schedule, but so far it hasn’t happened. Ha, I’m reminded of the saying: someday is no day.


 

Creativity

 

 

 

You write great characters in the Glacier Park mysteries. What’s the first thing you begin with? How do you develop them and bring out their flaws?

I often begin by thinking about a character’s childhood. So much of a character’s makeup depends on their upbringing: some important family dynamic (or even the lack of a family), a relationship with a parent, a traumatic event that may have happened. Our upbringings so often shape how we deal with circumstances that pop up later in life. Sometimes they prepare us well or sometimes our pasts leave us ill-equipped to deal with various situations and we end up making them so much worse than we want because of our own baggage. I find it interesting when a certain case or criminal situation that my detective or sleuth finds themselves embroiled in brings up unexpected emotions that have not been fully dealt with because of things that have occurred in their pasts.

For example, in my my first book, The Wild Inside, my main character is a lead detective – a Series 1811 – for the Department of the Interior who is called to the federal land of Glacier National Park to investigate a murder that occurs there. However, Glacier is the last place he wants to be because when he was young, something very traumatic occurred while he was camping there with his father. Right from the get-go, I know my character will be haunted by not only the place but by the crime he’s investigating. In my fourth book, A Sharp Solitude, my main character is a local, resident FBI agent in northwest Montana. She is also a single mom of a daughter she fiercely wants to protect and shield from having the type of childhood she had because when she was young, her father was not present and was even in prison for some time. She does not want her daughter to experience the lack of a father and makes sure she is able to spend plenty of time with her dad. However, he ends being a prime suspect in a local case, and my main character gets tangled up professionally because she is driven to protect her daughter. She gets involved in the case in spite of the professional conflict of interest. So, essentially, the things we throw at our characters can often resonate more deeply if they somehow brush up against past experiences of their lives.



 

 

Welcome to Glacier National Park

 

 

 

What’s the relationship like between Reeve Landon and FBI investigator Ali Paige?

Reeve is someone Ali actually respects. She admires his steady, persistent drive to go into the woods and do the work he does, which is part of the University of Montana’s canine detection program in which dogs are trained to help find the scat of certain wild animals for biologists to study. She does not view him as a deadbeat dad, like she saw her own father, yet, she does get irritated with him for putting his work first at times. Plus, in general, she does not understand how they can make a relationship work because, in fact, she sees him as being a little too much like herself. At one point, she thinks: “We both seemed to be followed by a certain darkness like a stray dog you can’t convince to go away. It was if we were always reminding each other that people never rid themselves of lonesomeness even in the company of a partner.” And of course, they both feel this way because of things that occurred in their lives when they were younger.



 

“We both seemed to be followed by a certain darkness like a stray dog you can’t convince to go away. It was if we were always reminding each other that people never rid themselves of lonesomeness even in the company of a partner.”

 

 

 

The settings are woven perfectly into your books. How important is it in your writing?

Setting is very important to me, but I like to point out that setting does not always have to be an entire area or town, or even nature. A strong setting can be a well-described trailer park, a busy, concrete-laden city, a popular bar, an old Victorian home, a cold cell in a jail, a small house not far from a refinery where the windows need to be shut when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction….

So, for me, the question is less about a particular setting, and more about the entire place that is the larger backdrop, or locale, for my stories which are made up of specific scenes in specific places. I don’t dwell on how to weave it in because I think that occurs naturally for the most part, but I do believe describing place is essential to creating good characters and stories because people are shaped by the places they reside, just as they are by their past experiences. And even past experiences took place somewhere, and that area will often inform how that experience played out and the character’s memories of what happened.

Because I reside in northwest Montana – where the landscape is such a huge part of our lives, where its grandness is obvious, I tend to weave geography and nature into my stories. I think many writers from the northwest and the west in general are well-aware of the area’s exceptionalism and therefore, incorporate it into their stories. I’m only about a half-hour drive from Glacier National Park, and at my house, where I usually write, I often see deer, elk, bear and sometimes a stray moose meander through my yard. Already this spring, I’ve seen a herd of up to seventy or eighty elk pass through about three times a week. It tends to inform our existence when every time we look out a window, we see something wild or dramatic, even if it’s simply the jutting mountains in the distance. When we drive to the store, we see fields with eagles perched on telephone poles looking for prey, reminding us that we’re never far from the wilderness. When I walk my dogs, I wouldn’t think of going into the woods without bear spray when the grizzlies are out of hibernation since I live close enough to fairly undeveloped areas, and even the developed ones have bears that meander through.

Also, Glacier brings millions of tourists to see its grandness, and I love Glacier, so it’s fun to set some of my stories in it or near it. I try not to preach in any of my novels, but I do keep in mind that nature is not something separate from us. And although Glacier is, in essence, an island of undeveloped, unmined, unlogged land – a place of unfettered beauty which is sometimes experienced by people like it’s an amusement park to be enjoyed briefly and then departed to return home where nature is not so obvious – I know that we are all a part of nature, even if we’re surrounded by concrete. I’m thrilled that we have conserved certain areas as we have, and I hope that people understand that these places should not simply be islands for enjoyment for a few weeks out of their lives and then left for their homes that might be viewed as less natural. No matter where we live, we are not separate from nature, and although concrete can create the illusion that we are, it’s important to understand how we are a part of it, even when we’re in the center of a city.

Because I carry these personal beliefs about the natural world, and because I’ve mainly written about characters living in northwest Montana, I tend to make characters that are acutely aware of their natural surroundings. I believe I would do this no matter where my book was taking place, even if not among the wilderness of my state. Over-description can definitely bore a reader, but a little attention to the clouds above and the trees on the sidewalk –even if they’re dying – and how characters notice these things or even the lack of them and how they treat them goes a long way to seat a story in geography, in place, and thereby create atmosphere. I do think that’s essential to a good story with deep characters.


 

 

Grunge state of Montana flag map

 

 

 

Have you been to a lot of sites you write about?

Yes, I’ve been to most of them, but every once in a while I make a place up: a landmark, a restaurant or a bar, a house, a campground….  In A Sharp Solitude, I have a scene about a shooting range near Tallahassee, Florida, and I made it up entirely because I have not been to a shooting range in Florida. Of course, even when making up a place, I still try to pay attention to the details that I imagine make that place unique.

 

In A Sharp Solitude, who is officially on the case of Anne Marie Johnson?

The county sheriff’s office has jurisdiction over the case since her body was found on county land, not far from Glacier National Park. She wasn’t found within the park; if she had been, the case would fall primarily under federal jurisdiction. Nor was she discovered in the city limits, so the police department is not involved either. In some instances, the county might ask for help from the city police department or from the resident FBI agents. However, I did not have my county characters corroborating with other agencies in A Sharp Solitude. The county runs the investigation on their own with two Flathead County deputies working for the detective division who are leading the investigation. The police department and the local FBI resident agents, however, would be well-aware of the crime and have access to its developments, which allowed me to have Ali, a resident agent, nudge up closely – too closely – to the investigation in spite of having a conflict of interest. When I was doing my research for the novel, I had called the lead detective from the county, and I asked her, would it be plausible for one of the local resident agents to just pop in to the county building while a detective from the county is interrogating a person of interest for a local crime without any reason other than to see how things are going? I had thought I was stretching things a little too far, but to my delight, she said that it happens all the time and that they all work closely together – that’s it’s not uncommon for the local resident agents to check in and see what’s going on and that they wouldn’t think twice of it. Sometimes, she said, the county asks for their opinion, their advice or for their help.

 

 

 

A Sharp Solitude image

 

 

 

What has helped your writing craft over the years?

Lots of reading, hanging around with other writers, going to workshops and learning to trust my own intuitions about my work. At times, especially when I first began writing, I have been insecure – as all writers tend to be at one point or another – and I have learned that insecurities can be helpful. So often, we think of the feelings of insecurity as awful and unwanted, but insecurities can actually provide fuel to get it right. They helped to keep me wanting to learn more, to never quit trying to do better, and to take advice.

On the other hand, I’m a little bull-headed too, which is also a useful trait in the world of writing. If you’re always taking advice from readers and critique groups, you can revise forever, especially if you can’t parse the good from the bad. It’s important to trust when you think you have it right and to stick to your guns when you do. Knowing when to listen to the critiques and when to shut them out can be a tricky balance. In other words, you need to know when it’s time to fully go with your story and trust in it, and that does take a certain amount of confidence. So, in other words, I’ve learned to use both my insecurities and my bull-headedness to my advantage, which has ultimately led me to be more confident in the process. But, it’s definitely a fluctuating process and some projects go more easily than others.


 

What are you working on next?

I am working on my fifth novel – one that has been a bit of a challenge for me (speaking of projects that go more easily than others). I have heard that sometimes a manuscript will resist us, no matter how much we love a subject, and this is my first experience with that. It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be written. Quite the contrary – it means we’re onto something that is worth working harder on to get right. It just means we struggle a little more. In this novel, the main character has a very unusual job that not many people are aware of. She is a death-row mitigation specialist, which means she helps research, understand and interpret the dark case histories of criminals destined for death row to present recommendations to judges and jurors with the goal of mitigating their sentence. Only, she is currently taking a break from that job because she has had a crisis of conviction that has compelled her to retreat to a cabin in northwest Montana. A crime occurs in her neck of the woods that draws her back into that world which now haunts her, and she is forced to reckon with who she believes she is as a person.

 

Thanks so much, Benjamin, for asking such great questions!

All best, Christine

 

 

 

Christine Carbo image

 

Christine Carbo is the author of The Wild Inside, Mortal Fall, The Weight of Night, and A Sharp Solitude (all from Atria Books/Simon and Schuster) and a recipient of the Womens’ National Book Association Pinckley Prize, the Silver Falchion Award and the High Plains Book Award. After earning a pilot’s license, pursuing various adventures in Norway, and working a brief stint as a flight attendant, she got an MA in English and linguistics and taught college-level courses. She still teaches, in a vastly different realm, as the owner of a Pilates studio. A Florida native, she and her family live in Whitefish, Montana. Find out more at ChristineCarbo.com.

 

 

www.ChristineCarbo.com

 

 

 

 

Interview with Denise Domning Author of Servant of the Crown Mysteries

 

 

Denise Domning author image

 

 

 

Meet Denise Domning author of the Servant of Crown Mysteries  

 

 

mysteriousand magical image of woman's hand holding a gold crown over gothic black background. Medieval period concept.

 

 

 

How did you develop a love for medieval history?

I was ten when I decided I wanted to be an archeologist. I spent years studying hieroglyphics and became proficient enough to write a middle school essay using them, but my true love at the time was the Minoan culture. Then in the mid-80s I had a dream about the high Middle Ages in Europe. The light bulb went on and I started researching. I found myself drawn to one particular place and period – England in the years 1189 to 1199, or England under the absent King Richard. I’ve been researching that time period ever since although I’ve let my interests expand to his younger brother John. Suffice it to say I’m pretty focused.

 

 

You stated, The Final Toll was the hardest book you’ve ever written, but “I think I like it the best of all.” Can you tell us about this experience?

I blame the whole problem on my sleuth, Sir Faucon. You see, for the first time since he took the job of Warwickshire’s first Coronarius, he makes an error in judgment, one based on a common prejudice of his time. Neither he nor I knew he had this prejudice, mostly because it’s aimed at the people of his own class. Moreover, until this book, I’ve always been pretty certain who the murderer is from the moment I start writing. That’s not to say I don’t doubt. As each suspect presents him or herself and their story, I find myself saying, “Look! I was wrong. This is the one who did it!” In spite of my doubts, my first choice has ultimately been the right one.

I started The Final Toll with that same tenuous certainty, and it stayed with me even as I worked my way through the suspects. But when it came time for Faucon to make his accusation, I couldn’t get him to do it. No matter how I wrote the scene, he refused to agree with me. Even though I was certain I was right, I went back to the beginning and rewrote— not once or twice, but five times— trying to skew it so he would agree with my predetermined murderer. The clues refused to add up. Finally, the little piece I needed appeared, revealing that Faucon himself was the problem. Once he admitted that, et voila, as Faucon might say.

 

 

 

The Final toll image

 

 

 

What’s the historical context or background of this story?

This series of books is based on a snippet of history I discovered years ago. One of the most intriguing things about England in the Middle Ages is its ability to generate wealth for its king. Blame this on the Norman Conquest. Because of William and his Aunt Emma, all of England belongs to the English king who then grants pieces of it to those under him. That’s the perfect structure for a lucrative taxation system, something the Plantagenets did their best to exploit. In 1194, right after the English have already once emptied their coffers to pay King Richard’s ransom, Richard turns around and demands that his councillors find a way to wring even more silver out of his subjects, whom he detested and blamed for leaving him locked up in Germany too long.

Under Archbishop Hubert Walter, Richard’s councillors come up with a novel solution, or rather find an avenue that had yet to be fully exploited. It is the English king’s right to collect a fine—

as well as lives and limbs— from murderers, burglars, and rapists. However, collecting those fines depended on the royal justices appearing to hear the accusation and render a judgment when decades could pass between judicial visits to each shire. Life didn’t stand still in the interim. Appealers, the accused, or witnesses could disappear or die, or worse, accuser and accused could settle the matter privately between themselves, cutting the king and his fine right out of the picture.

Richard’s councillors introduce their solution at the Michaelmas court of 1194. First, they strip sheriffs of the right to investigate these capital crimes, mostly to prevent the common practice of the sheriff taking bribes from wrongdoers to look the other way. Then they pronounce that each shire must elect three honest knights, each knight having an income of more than twenty pounds a year, to become the new keepers of the pleas. Finally, the councillors make the most important change of all and require that these knights employ a clerk at their own expense. For the first time every plea for royal justice will now be written down. This notation must include not only the crime, the value of the estate of the wrongdoer, and the verdict of the inquest jury, but the names of witnesses and the jury members. The edict not only includes the capital crimes of murders, rapes, burglaries where the stolen item is worth more than a shilling, but “any foul act,” such as treason or outlawry, where property or goods might be forfeit to the king. Never again will the royal treasury be cheated because appealer and accused settled “out of court.”

And why did Hubert Walter and his colleagues limit the choice of knights to only those with a substantial income of their own? The brilliance of this new position of Coronarius, or servant of the crown, is that it’s unpaid. Now if that isn’t efficient government, I don’t know what is.

That’s where my sleuth, Sir Faucon de Ramis, finds himself in October of 1194, as the first coroner for Warwickshire. Unfortunately, or fortunately as Faucon soon finds, there is very little direction as to how to do this job. He swiftly realizes he needs to determine to his own satisfaction who committed the murder so he’s certain he’s assessing the right estate.

 

 

 

Knight Medieval kneeling image with sword

 

 

 

How important is setting in historical fiction versus the setting in other genres?

I can’t say that setting is any more or less important to historical fiction than any other genre as every genre has its conventions. What makes or breaks a novel is how deft an author is at conveying the expected milieu. In that, historical fiction can be unforgiving. Readers who love this genre already know their history. Beware the author who doesn’t check her facts for she will suffer the slings and arrows of critics who remind her that sycamores are an American tree and potatoes come from the New World. For the record, neither of those were my errors but I have heard from readers protesting facts that in other genres would be deemed unworthy of comment.

In historical fiction it’s not enough to be comfortable with the details of your chosen time period. You also have to get that information from your brain through your fingers and into the book in a way that doesn’t stop the flow. For me that requires writing out all the details I think I’ll need for a particular scene, say a meal in a merchant’s house. How many tables are there and how are they set? What’s on the floor? Where are the windows, if there are windows? Is there a newfangled chimney or is there a central hearth? What colors/designs are painted on the walls? What

furniture might there be besides the tables? Is there crockery? How does it smell? What sounds fill the air from nearby homes or their own workshops? Are they close enough to hear the bells from the nearest church? Are there regraters outside in the street selling goods? Is the neighboring merchant shouting out to passers-by about his wares?

Once I’ve answered those questions, I go back and tighten, tighten, tighten, eliminating this, shortening that, until there are just enough details to describe the scene without slowing the action. This is very hard to do for someone who writes history textbooks disguised as novels to educate unsuspecting readers. I want to share every cool fact I’ve learned. To protect my readers, I employ this mantra: “If I love it, take it out.”

 

 

 

Medieval castle middle ages image

 

 

 

What are some of the customs of Warwickshire?

That’s a pretty broad question, so I’m assuming you mean the customs of Faucon’s time period. It’s surprisingly difficult to research local customs, celebrations and rituals. It’s even harder to verify that a particular ritual was practiced the same way in the 12 Century as it was when th someone finally wrote a description of it in the 14 Century. Fortunately for me, Faucon is new th to Warwickshire although his small inheritance, which comes to him through his mother, is in the forest of Arden. He isn’t aware of any customs although perhaps he’ll eventually find his way to the Rugby area on Martinmas, 1195 for the collection of Wroth Silver. Although he’ll be in near Atherstone in his next book, the onset of the Atherstone ball game is still five years distant.

With that said, there are plenty of general customs and traditions for me to employ. Life in this time period revolves around two calendars which often intersect. The first is the yearly progression of Catholic celebrations, festivals, and masses. The second is the seasonality of farming. For instance, Lady Day or Candlemas on February 2 is also the day to celebrate the nd beginning of the farming year with plow races. As for Edmund, he’s more likely to note the date on his scribblings as “third day after Martinmas in the third year of the reign of our holy Father, Celestine III.”

 

 

 

Warwickshire, vintage stamp on paper background

 

 

 

How is it different than a typical city of today?

For three days after the awful events of 9/11 an awesome quiet broken only by birdsong ruled our skies. That’s when I realized I’d never once experienced the world without the sound track of engine noise. It was a pivotal moment for me in my understanding of what it was like to live in the late 12 Century. th

Medieval people live within sight and sound of nature. In rural communities the days begin with everyone’s roosters crowing along with the honk of domesticated geese, the quack of ducks, and the cooing of doves from their dove cote. A truly riotous avian chorus erupts from every tree, thicket and bush. There’s the complex song of a lark, the shrill military chatter of a kingfisher from the nearby stream and the mundane chatter of the swallows nesting under the eaves of barns and sheds. In the spring and fall, the skies fill with vast flocks of migrating wild ducks, geese and swans, so many that the almost non-stop honking must have been deafening. In those areas kept

wild for the pleasure of noblemen, stags trumpet to attract mates, the rare wolf howls and boar offer up blood-curdling grunts.

In the barnyards, sheep and goats bleat, cows low (or moo, depending on which word you prefer), and pigs grunt, all of them demanding attention. Rats and mice skitter and rustle in the thatch along with the occasional hedgehog. Everyone coughs, because even though the smoke is supposed to wind its way out of the hole in the cottage roof, smoke is everywhere. And everything–absolutely everything–in the cottage smells like smoke.

The ring of blacksmith’s hammer is rhythmic and even as he brings it down again and again on the thick piece of metal he’s turning into a tool. The bellows that keep his fire hot enough to soften iron gust and whoosh. At the grist mill, the miller snaps the goad over the back of his ox and the big creature begins to walk an endless circle. The grinding stone rumbles, turning steadily, the sound loud enough that the miller has to raise his voice to speak to customers; the knife sharpener’s wheel rumbles; the potter’s wheel rumbles as he shapes clay into new pots. The carpenter’s saws rasp through lengths of wood. The hammers of the wheelwright and cooper thud dully as they work narrow strips of metal onto their wheels and barrels.

And everyone sings. At the fuller’s cottage newly woven cloth is being fulled— the process of tightening the weave so the fabric doesn’t unravel— to the cadence of a specific set of songs. More songs ring out from the fields where the men swing their scythes. They use the rhythm to keep their movements in sync and prevent accidental injury. Down at the stream, the women sing as they rub their clothing clean while their youngest children chatter and play.

It isn’t as pleasant for those who live in the burgeoning towns of this era. Walled cities mean limited space, so dwellings are crammed close to each other. Beware the second storey window for the household maid may use it to empty the master’s chamberpot onto the street. There’s no privacy either inside or outside of the home. Every marital spat, every man practicing his sackbut, every family celebrating some milestone can be overheard, whether by folks on the streets or the family next door. If things get a little rowdy, the watch will be called and the offenders asked to hold it down

This may be a city but the denizens keep all the same animals as their rural cousins. Roosters crow, cats yowl, dogs bark, pigs grunt, cows low and sweetly cooing doves rain you-know-what down from above. Although these urban householders might also hear the tumble of water from their windows— every town and city has a reliable water source— chances are that the water carries the stench of human and animal wastes, including pollution from local industries such as slaughterhouses and dyers. Oh yes, humans were hard at creating toxic waste even a thousand years ago.

12 Century merchants and priests depend on knowing the time and that means a church bell. In th London at this time there are thirteen monastic houses as well as one hundred parish churches. Imagine the cacophony, all the bells ringing every three hours during the day, and of course for every funeral or event that might need to be announced to the public. Here, new technology— water power— is changing the way work is done. Water now turns the wheels that turn the gears

that drop the hammers onto metal or cloth. The never-ending thumping and clanging is so overwhelming that town councils are passing ordinances limiting when these mills can run.

Very few homes in the towns and cities are just a place to live. Instead, most are also the homeowner’s business establishment, with his shop located on the ground floor. Every day our merchant throws open the shutters of his shop and pitches his goods to all passersby at a shout. Regraters— think of them as Medieval mobile food trucks— walk the streets with their handcarts or wheelbarrows filled with something to sell, be that fresh fruit, day-old bread, or cheese. As they walk, they shout for folk to come buy their excellent wares. Priests and monks ride past on braying donkeys.

Where there is trade, there’s wagon traffic moving goods from one place to another. Bellowing oxen, their owners shouting and snapping goads, drag wagons along narrow, mucky lanes. Mounted merchants lead long trains of pack animals from city to city along what we would consider nothing more than an animal track.

Just as they do today, day laborers stand on corners and call out in the hopes of being hired. At night they’ll be replaced by the women who sell themselves to earn their daily bread. And then there are the ale houses, the pubs of their day. Every alewife has her own recipe and some serve food as well as drink. The folk who frequent these establishments are generally travelers or people without the ability to cook their own meals. For the folk who makes homes in the corners of sheds or in warehouses, the alehouse is often their only chance to enjoy the warmth of a fire and of community, so the singing commences.

That was the long answer to your question. The short answer is the only differences are the combustion engine and the lack of television.

 

 

 

Medieval town image

 

 

 

If I sat down with Sir Faucon de Ramis for tea what would be my first impression?

You would find yourself sitting across from a dark-haired man of medium height who wears his skin easily, the way men who have often come face-to-face with death do. There’s a native intelligence in Faucon’s dark eyes. He could well have become a successful Churchman, as is the usual fate for second sons of his class, except that his elder brother suffered a head injury that left him with concussion-related spontaneous rages. Faucon’s father immediately pulled his younger son from his monastery school and turned him into a knight and heir-in-waiting, something Faucon’s elder brother resents deeply. Once knighted, Faucon joined King Richard on Crusade, mostly to escape his family’s difficult and guilt-ridden dynamics. As often happens, leaving the safety of home for unfamiliar circumstances has caused Faucon to mature beyond his years, and given him the ability to feel comfortable anywhere. These traits are what causes his great-uncle, Bishop William of Hereford, to endow Faucon with enough property that he qualifies to become a Coronarius.

 

 

 

Tea being poured image

 

 

 

Who is Brother Edmund and what is his job description?

Brother Edmund is the scribe or clerk whose job it is to write down all the particulars of the crimes Sir Faucon investigates, including the assessment of the wrongdoer’s estate. We don’t know much about him, except that he is in his middle years, is from the Norman-French speaking higher classes, and is well educated in English law. That’s hardly the usual CV for a mere scribe, and sure enough, Edmund didn’t start out as a clerk. He has been a Benedictine monk for most of his life. Unfortunately, Edmund suffers from a surfeit of rigidity in his personality and this character flaw has caused him to be banished from more than one abbey. He describes himself to Faucon as an honest man who will only speak as his heart directs. And so he does, never recognizing that he wields his “truth” as ably as Faucon swings his sword. As much trouble as this creates for Faucon, he swiftly realizes this demoted monk repays honesty with loyalty and has a surprisingly fearless heart.

 

 

What’s next  for you

What’s next is book five in this series, entitled (so far) “Caught Red-handed.” I’ve once again come across an unusual factoid, this time about the walking dead of the Middle Ages. It was just too interesting to pass up, especially when I found evidence of it in Warwickshire.

 

 

 

mediaeval knights on horseback

 

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Interview with Alice K. Boatwright Author of the Ellie Kent Mysteries

 

 

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Alice K. Boatwright

Alice K. Boatwright is the author of the award-winning Ellie Kent mysteries. In the first book, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, life brings the skeptical American Ellie Kent to an English village as the vicar’s new wife; but death keeps her guessing how long she’ll be there. Winner of the 2016 Mystery & Mayhem Grand Prize for best mystery, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN has attracted an enthusiastic following.

The series continues with WHAT CHILD IS THIS? It’s now Christmas in Little Beecham . . . a season to celebrate with caroling, mistletoe, and mince pies. Ellie Kent is looking forward to her first English village Christmas, but a missing Oxford student and an abandoned baby soon draw her away from the fireside into danger.

 

 

Under an English Heaven image

 

 

What child is this image

 

 

 

Interview

 

Who is Ellie Kent and where did she come from?

Ellie Kent is a divorced American professor of English literature in her mid-30s who falls in love with Graham Kent, a widowed English vicar in his mid-40s, marries him, and moves from San Francisco to his home in a Cotswold village. That is her biography, but, as to where the idea for her came from, I would have to say that, like all of my characters, she began as a mixture of me and not-me characteristics and slowly revealed herself as an independent being through the stories about her.

 

 

What is your method of character creation?

I don’t have any one method. Characters come to me in a variety of ways – for example, I wrote a story about a girl I saw on BART (the Bay Area subway) who had her hair dyed like a rainbow. Another was inspired by the idea of writing about someone who thought Marilyn Monroe should star in the movie of her life. Often I give my characters qualities that are the opposite of mine, which I think is a way of telling myself “This is not me.” For example, my women characters are almost always taller than I am and have dark hair. Wish fulfillment! They can also do all sorts of things that I would never attempt to do. . . such as solve a murder mystery. When I first conceived of Ellie, I was visiting England, but I lived in San Francisco, taught part-time, and longed to be able to move to England.

 

 

 

Create Ideas Aspiration Solution Inspiration Concept

 

 

 

How do you go from character creation to telling her story?

By the time I began writing UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, my husband (who is neither English nor a vicar) and I had left the US and were living in an English village. I knew from the start that I wanted to write about my love for England, its culture and traditions – as well as all of the changes Ellie would be faced with as an ex-pat and newlywed in a strange country. These issues became the backdrop for the mystery and an integral part of the book. I also knew that I wanted to write about the period from Halloween to Remembrance Day and plot elements, such as that Ellie would be accused of murder and would try to solve the mystery to clear her name. I knew the identity of the dead man from the first . . . but all of the details of his story took several drafts to become clear. I never outline. I prefer to let a story to evolve like a photograph that develops gradually and comes into focus over time.

 

What are the elements of good storytelling?

The bottom line is that the story offers believable characters striving against the odds to achieve what they need or think they want – and succeeding or not.

 

 

 

Storytelling Puzzle Audience Emotion Engagement 3d Illustration

 

 

 

How did Ellie and Graham meet?

They met by accident at the home of Ellie’s parents in Berkeley, California. Her father is a retired professor who taught for a year at Oxford during Graham’s time as a student there. Years later, when Graham is on a sabbatical in the Bay Area, he visits his former professor – and meets Ellie. Over several months, they become friends and lovers, and then decide to marry when it is time for him to return to England.  The first book takes place less than two months after their marriage.

 

What is the Cotswold village of Little Beecham like?

Little Beecham is a fictional, but typical, Cotswold village of honey-colored limestone cottages and shops, originally built to support a now-ruined manor house. The high street boasts a village store/post office, butcher shop, pub, antique shop, used bookstore, and library. It is book-ended by the 800-year-old St. Martin and All Angels Church at one end and the village school at the other, with a village hall just on the outskirts. Surrounded by woods and fields, it is picturesque without being a tourist attraction. It is located in Oxfordshire about 25 miles from Oxford.

 

Describe your editing process and the importance of rewriting.

For me, writing is rewriting.  I do my first draft very fast – like a sketch covering the whole canvas. Then I carefully build up the picture over about seven main drafts. Along the way I make notes, write character studies, draw maps, create timelines, consult experts, do research. As I get closer to the end, I print out the whole manuscript and read it aloud. Very close to the end, I share the manuscript with readers whose perspective I value and an editor. I also do my own final copyedit.

 

 

 

Diagram of Writing Process.

 

 

 

What do you like about having an amateur sleuth?

I love the traditional English mysteries with amateur sleuths, especially Miss Marple, Miss Silver, Harriet Vane, Agatha Raisin, Mary Stewart’s heroines, and others. Amateurs have to be brave, imaginative, and willing to improvise. They have no structure to rely on, no job description, no license.  Although I enjoy reading many types of mysteries, I have never been interested in writing any other kind.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing mysteries?

I like the fact that the traditional plot structure provides a scaffold on which to build the story, but you can vary the other elements as you wish. Creating the puzzle at the core of the story is a very interesting challenge because, as author, you know too much to experience it as the reader will. Finally, it is satisfying to write books where justice is served and good triumphs (at least to some extent). I think we all need that message these days.

 

 

 

woman hands

 

 

 

What are the most challenging aspects of writing?

The most challenging aspect of writing is sticking with your project through all the phases of uncertainty until it is the best book you can write. . . then following it through the further uncertainties of publication and public response. In writing, persistence is at least as important as talent.

 

What’s next for you?

I am working on the third Ellie Kent mystery, another book that has a mystery element but is not a murder mystery, and several short stories.

 

 

 

Alice K Boatwright image

 

 

Alice is also the author of the award-winning COLLATERAL DAMAGE, three linked stories about the Vietnam War told from the perspective of those who fought, those who resisted, and the family and friends caught in the crossfire.

She has taught writing at UC Berkeley Extension, the University of New Hampshire, and the American School of Paris. After 10 years of living in England and France, she now makes her home in the Pacific Northwest.

 

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Interview with M.R. Mackenzie Author of the Anna Scavolini Thrillers

 

 

M.R. Mackenzie image

 

 

M. R. Mackenzie was born and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at Glasgow University and has a PhD in Film Studies. In 2016, he contributed a chapter on the Italian giallo film to Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion.

In addition to writing, he works as an independent Blu-ray/DVD producer and has overseen releases of films by a number of acclaimed directors, among them Dario Argento, Joe Dante and Seijun Suzuki.

His debut novel, In the Silence, reached #2 in Amazon UK’s Scottish crime fiction bestsellers chart.

 

 

In The Silence image

 

Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

Interview 

 

Why did you decide to get a PhD in Film studies?

If I’m being completely honest, a major factor was that, at the time, I was in my early twenties and had very little idea as to what I hoped to do with my life. I’d just completed a Masters in Film Studies, which I’d enjoyed, and felt I had certain things to say about an obscure body of films – the Italian “giallo” thrillers of the early 1970s – which no one else was saying. One of my lecturers, who later became my thesis supervisor, encouraged me to do a PhD, which I took as a vote of confidence and duly submitted my application. In doing so, I was able to avoid the big bad world for another five and a half years, while at the same time exploring, in considerable depth, a body of films I really like. The end result was a 90,000-word doorstop that people tell me has enhanced their understanding of and enjoyment of giallo films… though I did come out the other end knowing I didn’t want to spend another minute in academia!

 

 

 

Take 1 One First Attempt Try Scene Movie Clapper Board 3d Illust

 

 

 

What was it like writing your first book?

Strangely enough, a lot like writing my PhD thesis, both in terms of overall word count and the sheer amount of time I spent on it! In the beginning, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing or if I was even capable of writing a novel, but I persevered and, over the course of several years, kept coming back to the manuscript, chipping away at it, refining it, adding layers to it… If I was doing it again today, it wouldn’t take me anything like as long – indeed, I wrote the first draft of the manuscript I recently finished in little more than two months – but at the time it was an essential learning process for me as I was effectively teaching myself how to write a novel from scratch, so there was a lot of trial and error involved.

 

 

How does your writing process differ between screenplay and manuscript?

It’s funny you should ask, because In the Silence, my first novel, actually started life as a screenplay. I wrote it very quickly: it took me somewhere between two and three weeks to go from the initial idea to a finished (albeit seriously rough) first draft – so I suppose you could say the biggest difference is time! I tend to find that there’s not actually a whole lot that separates the two mediums when it comes to the early planning stages. With both, I write copious notes and spend a long time figuring out the structure, the twists and turns, where the various act breaks occur, and then only start the actual process of drafting once I have a very thorough outline from which to work. A crucial difference, though, and one that I’ve learned to really appreciate as I’ve left scripts behind in favour of novels, is that, when you’re writing prose, you’ve got an opportunity to really get inside your characters’ heads. You’re party to their inner thoughts and emotions in a way that you’re simply not with a film. When you’re writing a script, you have to convey everything through action and dialogue, whereas, with a novel, you’re free to draw on a much broader and in my view richer toolset.

 

 

 

Safety Equipment Near Toolbox With Various Worktools

 

 

 

What did you experience writing about criminology lecturer Anna?

Writing Anna is definitely an interesting experience. In many respects, we have a lot in common, while in others we’re polar opposites – not least the fact that I’m a 6 ft 3 man while she’s a 5 ft 2 woman! She’s someone who tends to have very definite opinions about things – again, some of which I agree with, while with others I disagree with her completely. In real life, I’m not sure how well we’d get on – though I suspect I’d probably just play it safe and agree with everything she said – but I do admire her determination and tenacity… even if it sometimes gets her into trouble. Over the course of In the Silence, I take her to some very dark places indeed, and I can tell you for a fact that I don’t half as much resilience as her.

 

What do you enjoy writing about crime fiction?

It’s a really good question and one I’m not sure I can adequately explain. I find myself drawn to crime and horror, both on the page and on the screen, both as a reader/viewer and as a writer. I suspect there’s something about the vicarious thrill of exploring our darkest fears from a position of safety – a bit like going skydiving or on a rollercoaster. But I also think that, more than pretty much any other type of “genre novel”, crime fiction tells us something about society. All the best crime novels, in my opinion, comment on or reveal some sort of truth about the world today, whether it’s something their authors put there deliberately or something that’s seeped into the bones of the story without its creator being conscious of it. Also, I really love a good mystery and putting all the clues together, whether I’m the one coming up with them or just the one trying to figure them all out.

 

 

 

Hands placing last piece of a Puzzle

 

 

 

Tell about Zoe Callahan in your next book, Cruel Summer.

Zoe was a secondary character in In the Silence, and for Cruel Summer, I elevated her to the position of central protagonist. I designed her to be the polar opposite of her best friend Anna. Where Anna is studious and a bookworm, Zoe is a party girl. Where Anna has very definite opinions about the way the world is and how it should be, Zoe doesn’t really have what you would call an ideology. Her emotions are very intense, but her response to any given situation is always governed by how it affects her or the people she cares about in the immediate sense as opposed to having a highly developed moral or philosophical set of beliefs. That makes her a lot of fun to write, because her responses are always very raw and visceral. She has a keen sense of right and wrong, and when she perceives an injustice as having taken place, she’s incapable of sitting on her hands and doing nothing. But because she’s naïve and impulsive, she tends not to think through the consequences of her actions, so her attempts to make things better quickly end up having precisely the opposite effect…

 

 

Who is Dominic Ryland and what motivates him?

Ryland is a mysterious figure, and intentionally so. He’s a charismatic but previously largely unknown politician who is suddenly thrust into the spotlight when certain shadowy figures, who are pulling the strings behind the scenes, pressure him into running for leadership of his party. We fairly quickly discover that he’s not a nice man at all, though I’ve deliberately kept his motivations, and the nature of the hold his “handlers” have over him, vague. If you want to find out where he really comes from and what motivates him to do what he does, you’ll have to read the book!

 

 

Does Cruel Summer have any thematic elements?

The main theme of Cruel Summer is justice – more specifically, exploring the limitations of the judicial process and both the rights and wrongs and the implications of taking matters into one’s own hands when the official system lets you down. Smashing the system, standing up to power, dispensing your own idea of justice – all these things are incredibly appealing, but as Zoe learns to her cost, all actions have consequences, and other people may end up paying the price for your follies…

 

 

 

Cruel Summer Image

 

 

Zoe Callahan is having the summer from hell… and it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

She’s stuck in a dead-end job, her relationship is going nowhere, and the memory of the Kelvingrove Park Murders three years ago continues to cast a long shadow over every aspect of her life.

When a prostitute is brutally assaulted by Dominic Ryland, a rising political star with a suspiciously spotless personal reputation, Zoe leaps at the chance to distract herself with a noble cause, and sets out on a one-woman crusade to bring Ryland to justice.

But in doing so, she quickly finds herself on the wrong side of some very dangerous people – people who have reputations to protect and who would think nothing of silencing Zoe by any means necessary.

An explosive thriller set against the backdrop of a sweltering heatwave, Cruel Summer is the sequel to M.R. Mackenzie’s critically acclaimed In the Silence and the second instalment in the Kelvingrove Park Trilogy.

 

 

Available May 28 pre-order now: Cruel Summer

 

 

M.R. Mackenzie image

 

 

M. R. Mackenzie was born and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at Glasgow University and has a PhD in Film Studies. In 2016, he contributed a chapter on the Italian giallo film to Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion.

In addition to writing, he works as an independent Blu-ray/DVD producer and has overseen releases of films by a number of acclaimed directors, among them Dario Argento, Joe Dante and Seijun Suzuki.

His debut novel, In the Silence, reached #2 in Amazon UK’s Scottish crime fiction bestsellers chart.

 

M.R. Mackenzie

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Mystery with Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce

Interview with Alan Bradley

 

Describe the historical background during which your story takes place.

The Flavia de Luce novels are set about five years after the end of the Second World War. England is still impoverished from the conflict, and social recovery has scarcely begun. Rationing is still in effect and times are tough. Old England is gone, and everything now seems shambles and decay. Only by clinging to ancient traditions do the people find a sense of comfort and security.

 

 

A lot of your stories take place in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey. What were such places like during the 1950’s?

Before the building of the motorways, and the rise of the motor-car, English towns and villages were much more isolated than today. Transportation was by railway. There was a profusion of local institutions and government, each providing services to a relatively small area. Many people had never traveled far from where they were born, although that was beginning to change. The war had brought an influx of servicemen from the U.S. and what remained of the British Empire. Strangers were viewed with suspicion. Some things never change.

 

 

 

Recessed Country Map Britain

 

 

 

What did you learn about Flavia De Luce while writing this story?

Flavia never ceases to amaze me, especially her frightening grasp of the underside of chemistry. I am always as surprised as any reader at the things she says and does. In “The Golden Tresses of the Dead”, I began to discover Flavia’s underlying compassion. I began to suspect that she might, in the end, come to love a few people as much as she loves corpses. Well…almost.

 

 

I love all of the titles of your books. Describe how you came to name “The Golden Tresses of the Dead.”

The title is taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 68, and concerns a certain ghastly and despicable practice which was once fairly common among those who will stop at nothing in their lust for money. Does it still exist? I hope not, although you can never be sure about anything where money is concerned.

 

 

 

SHAKESPEARE - close-up of grungy vintage typeset word on metal backdrop

 

 

 

What do you enjoy most about writing historical mysteries?

The research is always great fun. England in the 1950’s has always been of special interest to me, and ferreting out forgotten customs and folklore is like a paid holiday. It isn’t so much a case of finding ideas as weeding out the vast number that present themselves. Each book centres upon a particular long-lost English custom or peculiarity, ranging from sociopathic stamp-collecting to peculiar religious sects, and from Gypsy caravans to the exhumation of saints.

 

 

What can you tell us about Ophelia and her wedding?

Feely has come to the altar at last, after a protracted on-again-off-again courtship with former Luftwaffe pilot, Dieter, who has elected to remain in England after being shot down and kept captive as a prisoner of war – and all because of his love of the Bronte sisters! Their courtship has been a war in itself, with Feely as fierce as any Field Marshal. Now, just when peace seems about to break out, something nasty is found in the wedding cake.

 

 

 

wedding funny cake

 

 

 

What’s the relationship like between her and Flavia?

It has been mostly a life of revenge and re-revenge. Feely is as vain a creature as ever fogged mirror with her self-admiring breath. Flavia fancies poisons. The outcome is inevitable.

 

 

What role does Dogger play in this one?

Arthur Wellesley Dogger, who served with Flavia’s father, Colonel de Luce in the Far East, suffers from what would nowadays be diagnosed as PTSD. Because of his fragility, Dogger has worked at different times as gardener, manservant, and general all-round handyman. But much about the man himself remains shadowy. In “The Golden Tresses of the Dead” Flavia and Dogger found their own detective agency: Arthur Dogger and Associates – Discreet Investigations. Their first official case involves rogue missionaries, quack remedies and, of course, that abominable crime to which I have referred above. All typical, of course, of a sleepy country village.

 

 

I recently had the pleasure of listening to an interview you had with Jayne Entwistle on Audiophile. What was it like speaking with Jayne for the first time?

It was astounding to find how similar our experiences had been in my writing the books and her recording them for the audiobook versions. Jayne has won awards for her portrayal of Flavia, and with good reason: her ability to bring to life a whole cast of characters is a special gift. The interview was conducted by an interviewer in New York, with Jayne in Los Angeles, me in a tiny studio on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea. It was like getting Mercury and Pluto together for a good old chinwag and an abundance of laughs. What we had in common, of course, was Flavia de Luce, who seems to have approved. At least, she hasn’t poisoned either of us….yet.

 

 

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Behind the Mic with Audiophile Magazine: Interview with Alan Bradley & Jayne Entwistle

 

Originally appears on AudioFile Magazine Feb. 15, 2019. Duration 30 min. 

 

 

Alan Bradley image

 

 

 

About Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, his first novel, which went on to win the Agatha Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Macavity Award and the Spotted Owl Award. He is the author of many short stories, children’s stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. He co-authored Ms. Holmes of Baker Street with the late William A.S. Sarjeant. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats. His seventh Flavia de Luce mystery, “As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust” will be published in the US and Canada on January 6, 2015, and in the UK on April 23.

 

www.alanbradleyauthor.com

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Writer with Kerena Swan

 

 

Kerena Swan image

 

 

Interview

 

What do you do full time?

14 years ago I left a well-paid and secure job as Head of Disability Services for Bedfordshire County Council to start my own company; a care agency supporting children and families with disabilities. It was a scary leap into the unknown and meant investing my own money and a lot of time. For a while I worked full-time as a management consultant during the day and ran the business evenings and weekends, often totalling 70+ hours a week. I expected to have a team of eight carers but now have around ninety staff, including the management team. As I’ve built the business from scratch and have created all the necessary policies and procedures, the service is unique and personal. I have a highly motivated and positive team and together we provide highly valued care to families in need. It’s rewarding and satisfying though can be demanding at times.

 

 

Work Smart Vs Hard Better Process System Procedure Efficiency 3d Illustration

 

 

What’s it like writing with a full time job under a deadline?

I try to take Wednesdays off now and dedicate the day to my writing but it’s disappointing how meetings always seem to crop up on that day. As my company office is set in a large annexe attached to the house I’m always on hand to answer queries or make decisions. It’s convenient being nearby but I never get a proper break so I tend to do most of my writing at the weekends.

 

 

Why do you write?

Writing is no longer a hobby, it’s become an addiction. I’ve spent my career as a social worker and director writing reports, policies, training materials and content for websites. It was only when I was seriously ill in 2016 that I decided I wanted to tick one more thing off my bucket list which was to write a book and get it published. I joined a writing course and from day one I was hooked. I can lose myself for hours when I’m creating a story and am at my happiest when it pulls together. I just wish I’d discovered writing fiction a lot sooner as the market has become saturated with books and is really tough now.

 

 

Work Hard Dream Big written on desert road

 

 

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit” – Richard Back – What does this quote mean to you? 

As I was born in May I’m a Taurus and one of the characteristics is stubbornness. Once I have decided to do something I won’t stop trying until I’ve achieved it. I still feel like an amateur when I read fantastic authors like Robert McCammon or Michael Robotham but I dedicate time to learning as much about the craft of writing as I can. I study books on character arcs, forensics, and story structures. I research everything thoroughly and have learned how bodies decompose, what patterns blood spatters make and ten ways to bury a body. My husband is alarmed by my searches on the iPad and said I must never write about making bombs or we’ll have the terrorist squad knocking our door down.

I’ve always enjoyed learning and it doesn’t matter how good I am at something I believe there is always room for improvement so will study everything I can on the subject. It feels weird to think of myself as a professional writer but I suppose I am as I’ve earned a little money at it. I’m a long way from earning enough to live on though, so won’t be giving up the day job!

 

 

Metal Wheel Concept

 

 

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished the final proof-read of my third novel, a psychological thriller Scared to Breathe, which is being released on the 3rd June. My second novel, a social crime story called Who’s There? was declined by my current publisher as it didn’t quite fit their lists but is being considered by agents. I’m currently writing my fourth novel, Not My Sister, which was inspired by a news article about a woman who took a DNA test and discovered she wasn’t related to her family. It’s another psychological thriller with twists and turns and I’m about a third of the way through the first draft. I have a contract with my publisher for it and hope to release it by the end of the year.

 

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Scared to Breath image

 

 

When Tasha witnesses a stabbing at the train station in Luton, she is compelled to give evidence in court that leads to Dean Rigby being convicted. But when Lewis, Dean’s brother, vows revenge, Tasha is afraid and no longer feels safe in her own home.

Tasha’s partner, Reuben, hopes to marry her and start a family soon. But Reuben is concerned about Tasha’s state of mind and urges her to see a doctor.

When Tasha is left a derelict country house by her birth father, she sees an opportunity to escape Luton and start a new life. After visiting Black Hollow Hall she sees it as the perfect opportunity to live a life without fear.

At first Tasha feels liberated from her troubles. The gardener, William, who is partially paralysed but employed to maintain the grounds of Black Hollow Hall, is welcoming.

But soon Tasha realises the Hall is not quite the idyll she imagined.

When she discovers that a woman jumped to her death there years ago following the murder of her husband, strange events begin to take place and Tasha fears for her safety.

Have the Rigby family found her?
Is someone trying to scare her into selling the house?
Or is she suffering from paranoia as Reuben suggests?

As Tasha’s sanity is put under pressure she begins to wonder if Black Hollow Hall going to be her salvation or her undoing…

 

Extract of Scared to Breathe

 

The sooner I get the door or window fastened the sooner I can get back into the safety of my bed. Huh. Who am I kidding? Only children believe blankets offer security. I cross the hall and enter the small sitting room then through to the library. Nearly there. A draught of cold air wraps itself around my feet and I shiver, goosebumps rising on my arms and legs. It’s so dark, as though all the colours of the daytime have been layered one over the other like printing ink until the only colour left is black. The lantern barely lights a foot in front of me. Maybe Reuben was right. I should have gone back to Luton, at least until the overhead lighting is sorted.

The tall French window smashes into the wall again and this time glass shatters. Damn. I hasten across the room to secure the door to prevent any more panes breaking but before I get there I spring away to my right as something moves to the left of me. Still backing away, I bring the lantern round to see what it was. Or who…

The light from two tiny candles is pitiful. It barely penetrates the darkness but I’m too afraid to step forward again.

‘Who’s there?’ I can’t help asking.

No one answers. Of course they don’t. The storm continues to rage outside and gusts of air surge through the open door making the candles flicker. Making the shadows flicker too. Was that what I’d seen? Am I literally afraid of my own shadow now? I step to the door and with glass crunching underfoot I reach for the handle. It’s cold and wet in my sweaty palm. I’m exposed here and the rain soaks into my wrap while the strong wind flaps it around my legs. I scrape the soles of my slippers on the door sill to dislodge any fragments of glass then drag the door shut. I click the latch then test it to see if it holds. It seems fine but I puzzle over why I couldn’t open it earlier. The wind continues to throw rain through the broken pane but I’ll have to sort it out in the morning.

As I turn back to face the room a sudden flash lights up the wall of the library and I see a man-shaped shadow. My shock turns into a scream then I run, the poker bashing painfully on my shin and my wet slippers skidding on the wooden flooring as I bolt through the sitting room doorway. I catch my shoulder on the frame and pain erupts down my arm. A door creaks behind me but I don’t stop. I weave in and out of the furniture in the drawing room and rush into the dining room. The candle flames gutter and die as they drown in liquid wax. I slam the door behind me and throw the poker and lamp on the floor then grab a dining chair and tilt it, ramming it under the door handle.

It isn’t enough. One push from the other side of the door would send it flying across the room. The chest of drawers. They’ll be better. My breath’s coming in short gasps now and sweat trickles down my sides. My left arm feels numb. I run to the chest of drawers and lean all my weight into it, pushing it across the floor. The feet scratch the polished wood but I don’t care. It crashes into the dining chair sending it skittering away. With the furniture positioned across the doorway I turn and look wildly around. I need something else to go across the other doorway that leads to the kitchen but no. It won’t work. This one opens outwards.

Under the bed.

No. Too obvious.

The cupboard.

I grab my thin duvet and rush to the huge sideboard. I open one of the doors and crawl inside, grateful I’ve emptied it of old rubbish, and tuck the cover under and around my sodden robe. I find a screw head on the inside of the cupboard door and use it to pull the door shut. I wrap my arms around my knees and hunch into as tiny a ball as possible. I rock slowly back and forth, blood pounding through my veins. I’m trembling all over.

I listen.

Nothing.

I put my head on my knees, silent tears soaking into the thin duvet and then lift my head in horror.

I can hear the unmistakable sound of laughter. Deep and male. There’s no doubt about it now. I’m not going crazy or suffering from paranoia. There’s someone in the house.

 

 

 

Kerena Swan image

 

 

Kerena lives on the Bedfordshire/Buckingham border with her husband, son and two cats. She also has two daughters and two granddaughters.

‘Dying to See You’ is Kerena’s first novel, Her second book ‘Scared to Breathe is being released on 3rd June 2019. Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experience in the problematic world of social work, Kerena adds a unique angle to the domestic noir genre.

 

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa F. Miller Talks Writing and the Sasha McCandless Series

Melissa F Miller

 

Interview with Melissa F Miller

 

What’s a typical writing day like for you?

I don’t really have a typical writing day—although I wish I did! In addition to being a writer, I homeschool my three kids, so my writing days often vary depending on what learning we’re doing on a given day. That said, I try to write early in the morning most days. My word count varies and I often “binge write” toward the end of a first draft, sometimes writing 12,000 or more words in a (long) day. Every time I start a new book, I tell myself this is the one where I’ll write a consistent, reasonable amount each day. So far, it hasn’t happened. Maybe the next book will be the magic one!

 

Your story premises are very intriguing. What’s your creative approach for a story?

Thanks! My approach varies from series to series, but in my Sasha McCandless series, I develop the premise of each book around a legal principle that will be central to the case Sasha takes on and a corresponding personal issue or event that happens in Sasha’s personal life. So, in Intentional Acts, Sasha has a client who may be liable for  releasing customers’ private data because of the deliberate actions of a rogue employee. The case intersects with her personal life and she grapples with her husband’s decision to conceal something troubling from her (his intentional act).  I find it really satisfying to merge the strands of the two plots and explore the various facets of a theme from different angles.

 

 

Do you write character arcs?

Hmm, sort of. My thrillers are plot driven, but my plots are character driven, if that makes sense. So I always know how my characters are going to be challenged and grow over the course of the events in the book, but I don’t write detailed arcs. Likewise, I have planned character arcs for my main characters over the span of a series. Mainly, I do this intuitively. But I’m currently reading Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, which is inspiring me to be explicit in my thinking about my character arcs.

 

Name the best virtues of Sasha McCandless in her job as a civil attorney.

Sasha’s greatest strength as a lawyer is her perseverance. She’s stubborn and determined, which serves her well as a litigator. She also has a natural ability to tease out connections between seemingly disparate pieces of evidence and to see the patterns in facts. And, of course, she can get by on very little sleep (and large amounts of coffee), which comes in handy when she has a court deadline looming!

 

 

Leo Connelly seems like a jack of all trades. Did you learn anything new about him while writing this book?

Leo’s such a fun character to write. As you note, he is something of a jack of all trades. Because he works for a fictional federal government ‘shadow’ agency, his jurisdiction and mission is wide-ranging, allowing him to coordinate with agents from so many different parts of the national security apparatus. In Intentional Acts, he’s put to an ethical/moral test. Without spoiling the plot, I can say his choice didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was that he took some smaller actions he knew might cause an issue in his marriage, but he did them anyway because he believed he was in the right.  (Apologies for being so cryptic—I don’t want to give anything away!)

 

What kind of case is Sasha undertaking?

In this book, her client is a nonprofit organization that has two problems. One, the federal government wants it to turn over confidential user information; and, two, a former employee has leaked private user data online. Sasha needs to help them resist the information request and avoid liability for the leak.  Sasha’s case intersects with her husband’s work when a man whose identity was leaked is murdered and the evidence suggests Leo killed him as part of a national security operation.

 

 

This book has great dilemmas. What was most challenging in writing it?

The trickiest bit was writing the Project Storm Chaser scenes from Leo’s viewpoint. Because I do write multiple point of views, I needed to be fair to the reader in sharing the information Leo would have. But I had to do it in such a way that I wouldn’t tip my hand and undermine the suspense as Sasha learned the truth about what was happening. There was delicate balance between revealing and concealing that I hope I succeeded in navigating!

 

What’s next for you?

I’m finishing up Crossfire Creek, the fifth book in my Aroostine Higgins thriller series.  In Crossfire Creek, Aroostine (a former lawyer turned tracker) searches for a mother and daughter who disappeared from their home without a trace and who have a very compelling reason to stay missing.

I have four ongoing series (three thriller series and one light mystery), and I try to write at least one book per year in each series. My Aroostine Higgins thrillers and my Bodhi King forensic thrillers are both spin-offs of the Sasha McCandless series. Aroostine and Bodhi were characters in Sasha’s books before they got their own series; so even though the three series are distinct and separate, they exist in the same world.  I really enjoy writing within the little universe I’ve created!

 

 

 

Intentional Acts image

 

 

After seven years together, she knows him better than anyone. Doesn’t she?

In the newest entry in this fast-paced USA Today bestselling series, wife-and-husband team Sasha and Leo find themselves on opposite sides of an explosive situation.

Sasha’s up to her elbows in a data privacy matter. Her client could be on the hook for breaching the privacy of hundreds of customers. All because a rogue employee intentionally leaked personal information for reasons known only to him.

Meanwhile, Leo’s busy with a high-stakes case of his own. He’s been ordered to neutralize a national security threat to the country, but he has his doubts about the strength of the evidence against the target.

As Leo vets the information he’s been given, Sasha learns that federal law enforcement has an interest in her civil matter. Because they both take their duties of confidentiality seriously, neither realizes that their cases are intertwined. Until one of the affected customers in Sasha’s case is murdered … and the evidence points to Leo as the killer.

Sasha’s not about to turn in her own husband, so she tails him instead. She only hopes what she finds will clear his name, not destroy their marriage.

 

Amazon |Goodreads

 

 

About Melissa F. Miller

USA Today bestselling author Melissa F. Miller is a former attorney who traded the practice of law for the art of telling stories.

She is the author of more than two dozen bestselling legal thrillers, suspense thrillers, romantic comedic mysteries, and forensic thrillers. All her work shares two common threads: pulse-pounding, tightly plotted action and smart, unlikely heroines and heroes.

Her books feature such diverse protagonists as a pint-sized attorney and mother of twins who’s trained in Krav Maga; a Native American government investigator who relies on her heritage to guide her when the chips are down; a Buddhist forensic pathologist who refuses to harm any living creature; and a trio of twenty-something sisters just starting out in their careers who find murder and mayhem wherever they go.

She’s edited medical, scientific, and technical journals, as well as educational books; clerked for a federal judge; worked for major international law firms; and run a two-person law firm with her lawyer husband.

Now, powered by coffee, she writes crime fiction and homeschools her children. When she’s not writing, and sometimes when she is, Melissa travels around the country in an RV with her husband, three kids, and their cat.

To find out when Melissa releases a new book, visit www.melissafmiller.com and sign up for her email newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Clara Benson Author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries

Clara Benson image

 

Please welcome historical mystery author Clara Benson!

Clara Benson is the author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries and Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures – traditional English mysteries in authentic style set in the 1920s and 30s. One day she would like to drink cocktails and solve mysteries in a sequinned dress and evening gloves. In the meantime she lives in the north of England with her family and doesn’t do any of those things.

 

Interview 

 

  1.    What was your path to becoming a writer?

–          I started out as a translator (Italian to English, since you asked), but I always thought I would write a book at some point, and eventually I decided that if I was going to do it I’d better get on with it! It took four years to write my first, in between moving, having kids, house renovations, etc, and I’m surprised I ever got it finished, to be honest. But once it was done and published and people were buying it, that spurred me on to write more. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

 

 

  1.    What do you enjoy most about historical mysteries?

I love the innocence of them! We’ve all read all the mysteries these days, so it’s difficult to truly surprise the reader, and nowadays the solution is far more likely to hang on a microscopic piece of forensic evidence than on anything else. But I love the fact that in historical mysteries the detective can sweep in, point at someone and say, “The clock said 6.05 instead of 6.08, and your train ticket was dated Wednesday not Tuesday, which proves you are the murderer! Inspector, arrest this man!” And the murderer always snarls and says, “Damn you, you’re as cunning as the devil!” And they arrest him and take him away and it’s all wrapped up in a nice neat bow.

 

 

Bow yellow blue box image gift

 

 

  1.    Why do you write English mysteries set in the 1920’s and 30’s?

–          Because that’s what I like to read. I’m a huge fan of Golden Age mystery writers – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Josephine Tey and so on, and I wanted to try and write something similar to the stories they wrote that I love so much.

 

 

  1.    Who is Angela Marchmont and why choose her as a protagonist?

–          Angela Marchmont is something of an enigma to start with, and we don’t know much about her except that she’s a wealthy, fashionable and independent woman in her late thirties who’s a bit secretive about her past. As the series continues, we find out more about her, and by the final two books there are a few revelations as all her secrets come out! I didn’t exactly choose her – she kind of developed herself along the way. She was meant to be older and more eccentric, but she had her own ideas, and emerged as a younger and much more charming character than I expected!

 

 

The Scandal at 23 Mount street image

 

 

The Shadow at Greystone Chase image

 

 

  1.    What makes her a good detective?

–          She’s curious by nature, and has a questioning mind. She’s smart, obviously, but also very cool, logical and level-headed. She’s quite good at cutting through the red herrings and getting to the solution.

 

  1.    Tell us about the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series.

–          Freddy was an occasional sidekick of Angela’s, and he was such a strong character I thought he deserved his own series. He’s younger than Angela – only in his early twenties – and he works (I use the word loosely) as a reporter for an early tabloid newspaper, the Clarion. He’s hedonistic, chaotic, very full of himself, and prone to getting into awkward situations. In his attempts to solve a mystery he can often be found dangling off a rooftop, getting into a fight, or kissing someone else’s girlfriend – not always through any fault of his own.

 

 

A Conspiracy in Clerkenwell image

 

 

A Case of Duplicity in Dorset image

 

 

  1.    What was your experience transitioning from Angela Marchmont mysteries to writing Freddy Pilkington-Soames?

–          It’s quite different writing Freddy, as he’s a lot more active than Angela – partly because of his job – so I have to think of a lot of places for him to go, rather than just weekend country house parties. In addition, he’s a bit of an unruly sort, so I have to think up difficult situations for him to get out of. He’s a bit of a smart alec too, so I spend a lot of time rewriting his dialogue to make it wittier!

 

  1.    How do you conduct research for your books?

–          This is one of the best parts of writing! Although I’m not one for packing a lot of historical detail into my books, I do like to get things right, so I’ve read quite a few history books about the period, and I also make fairly heavy use of the Times Digital Archive (through my library) and the British Newspaper Archive (paid subscription). I’m a big stickler for using the correct language of the period, and for that I use the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (also via the library), which shows when words were first used. Then of course there’s Google and Wikipedia…

 

 

get the facts

 

 

  1.    What’s the historical background of A Case of Duplicity in Dorset?

–          None, I’m afraid! It all came out of my own head, although I did get some inspiration for Belsingham from some grand stately homes near where I live, most notably Nostell Priory and Harewood House.

 

 

  1.  Who are your favorite mystery authors?

–          As I said, I’m a big fan of Golden Age authors, but I’ve read all kinds of mystery writers, from Ruth Rendell and PD James to Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs. Unfortunately, I don’t get to read many new mysteries these days, as I find it interferes with the writing, so I find myself going back to the old favourites time and time again.

 

 

Opened book with flying letters

 

 

  1.  If you had to write in another genre which would it be?

–          I do occasionally branch out into romantic suspense, and I have a few ideas for future books in that genre which I will write when they pass a law to add more hours to the day…

 

  1.  What’s next for you?

–          I had a bit of a go-slow year last year, as I felt I needed to recharge after several years of frantic writing activity, but I’m well and truly back in the saddle now – possibly too much, as I’m busy trying to write two books at once! One is a historical novel set during World War 2, which is much more serious and sombre in tone than my usual style, and the other is Book 5 in the Freddy series, entitled A Case of Suicide in St. James’s, in which Freddy investigates the apparent suicide of a young man at a society ball. This one is turning out to be fun, and I hope to get it finished very soon!

 

Thanks Clara! 

www.clarabenson.com | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside The Murder Mile with Lesley McEvoy

 

 

The Murder Mile image

 

 

 

Evil never dies…

 

Interview

 

 

What was it like writing your first book?

Writing is something I’ve done all my life. Over the years, I’ve written quite a few manuscripts – my first serious attempt was submitted in 1980! I still have it in a box in my office. So in a way, I don’t view this as my first book – it’s just the first one that I’ve managed to get published! What I can say is what it was like making the conscious decision to write seriously and with purpose, rather than simply as a hobby that I loved. Previously I’d had to fit my writing around life. Bringing up a family, building a career and then a business – the kind of things we all do, but which makes writing consistently and productively very difficult. In 2017 I attended the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and met and chatted to several successful authors, agents and publishers. It left me with the feeling, that if I was going to give getting published my best shot, then I had to make the commitment to write full-time – or as near to that as possible. My manuscript for ‘The Murder Mile’ had been something I’d picked up and put down sporadically for a few years. Halting the process when ‘life’ got in the way. I came away from Harrogate determined to treat writing as my ‘Day Job’, and set myself the target of having it ready for the next Harrogate Festival in July of 2018. It wasn’t an easy decision by any means. I still needed to make a living and needed an income. But I worked out the minimum I could manage on, and then committed to working from home as much as possible to maximise my writing time. I run a private therapy practice locally, as well as my corporate work, and the practice became the mainstay of my income during the following year. Fate ‘tested’ my decision when I was offered major contracts, which would have taken me away for months at a time. Something I knew would derail my writing plans. So I gritted my teeth and turned them all down.

It was fabulous being able to think of each day as a ‘writing day’. I tried to be disciplined and get into my office around 10am and work until I really couldn’t write anymore, but I rarely finished before 6pm or 7pm. I finally knew what it must feel like to be a ‘proper’ writer and I absolutely loved it.

 

 

 

Impossible concept with hand pressing a button

 

 

 

What were the most challenging aspects?

Getting into the discipline of making sure that I wrote productively every day. By Productively, I mean, writing words that actually moved the plot along. Developed characters, scenes and plotlines. I realised that giving myself the luxury of a full day of writing was great – but it was too easy to disappear down the rabbit hole of research and not actually do the writing. I know some would-be authors who get so hooked on research that they never actually complete their book.

‘The Murder Mile’, required quite a bit of research in places, but if I was ‘in the zone’ and the words were really flowing – instead of stopping when I hit something I needed to look up, I would just put a note to myself in red which said “Insert [Whatever it was] here later”. Then carry on with the storyline that was flowing.

Another challenge is when I’d hit what others refer to as ‘Writer’s block’. I don’t know how that feels to other authors, but for me those were days when I would stare at the page and literally not know how to start or move things forward at all. My imaginary friends just weren’t talking to me some days. On those occasions I would go back a couple of chapters and re-read what I’d written and do a running edit. Changing words, looking for mistakes and oiling the ‘clunky’ bits. Invariably once I got to where I’d finished the day before, I’d found my voices again and it began to flow. If that didn’t happen, then at least I was comforted by the fact that I’d spent the day productively editing the manuscript and cleaning things up, which saved time at the end.

 

 

 

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What’s your creative approach to writing?

For me a plot always begins with a ‘What if?’ I hear a story on the news or read something in the paper and think ‘that’s interesting….I wonder what if…?’ It can bubble away for weeks, months or in the case of ‘The Murder Mile’ several years. Percolating and fermenting until it drips out to form the words on the page. I also always start with the end in mind. Once I know how it will end and I have the ‘How done it’, I start to develop the rest. I’ve heard other authors use the terms ‘Plotter or Panster’. Which means do you plot it all out before you begin and have the complete story arc? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and just hold on for the ride? I suppose if my experience with this book is anything to go by, I do a bit of both. Sometimes I have a plan, but then the characters say or do something I hadn’t foreseen and that leads us down a completely new path – and it’s often much better than the one I had planned out. I love it when the characters take on a life of their own and start to run things. I just watch it unfold, as if it’s a movie, and write down what I’m seeing. That’s a great feeling and I know at that point that it’s really working and the characters I’ve created have taken on a life of their own. Magical!

 

 

What helped you the most in learning how to write a novel?

A lot of authors I’d met were members of writing groups or had done creative writing courses or had a background in journalism. And at first I thought maybe that was the secret? Maybe you had to have that kind of formal training in order to write a book that publishers would want. Happily I’ve since discovered that isn’t the case – which is just as well as none of those things apply to me.

My answer is rather simple. For me at least, reading is and has always been the key to learning how to write. How can you write books if you never read them? How do you even know what you would want to write in the first place, if you don’t know the type of books you enjoy reading?

I read on 2 levels. The first is for the enjoyment of it. Then I think about what worked in the book? How did the writer create suspense / drama? How did they make sure you wanted to turn the page? Take it apart and examine the mechanics of it or of a particular aspect of it that grabbed you, and see how it was done. I do that all the time. Not just with books, but with films / TV programs or even lyrics in a song. I analyse them and look at the nuts and bolts of how they were put together and what made it work – or not work.

Writing is a craft and like any other craftsman practice makes perfect. So as well as reading, I learned how to write a novel, by doing it. Over and over. Not for profit, but just because I loved the process. In reading the kind of novels I aspired to write and studying the work of the best authors in my chosen genre. Like studying the work of the great masters.

 

 

 

Reading book woman image in sun

 

 

 

What does Jo McCready do as a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic Psychologists generally are involved with the assessment and treatment of criminal behaviour. They work with prisoners and offenders, as well as Police and other professionals involved in the judicial and penal systems.

Most people are familiar with the role in programmes like ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Cracker’, which concentrate on the  part they play in criminal profiling. In The Murder Mile, Jo McCready is one of the small number of ‘Celebrity’ Profilers. She has come to public attention by appearing on TV documentaries about serial offenders and subsequently writing books about her cases. She has also been involved in the past in helping to bring killers and serial rapists to justice through her profiling skills. She works as an independent consultant to the police who call her in to advise on offender behaviour and draw up profiles of offenders to assist them in their investigations.

Jo has a wealth of experience in the Criminal Justice System and working with killers, many of whom she helped to track down or gave evidence as an expert witness at their trials, which help secure their convictions. Her database of facts and criminal cases, built up over many years and her knowledge of criminal psychology, helps her to look at a scene and draw conclusions about the possible offender, which the police can use to narrow down the type of people they are concentrating on in their investigation.

 

 

 

Forensic

 

 

 

Who was Martha Scott and why was she seeing Jo Mcready?

Martha Scott is a young woman who has been admitted to a psychiatric unit, suffering from severe anxiety and depression. She’s haunted by nightmares of a time when, as a heroin addict she believes she murdered prostitutes by stabbing them. When Jo McCready is called in to help her unlock the memories of what actually happened, she unlocks an ‘alter ego’ who claims to be Jack the Ripper and thanks Jo for setting him free to kill again. Shortly after, Martha is found murdered in the same way as Jack the Ripper’s first victim in 1888 and a sequence of serial killings begin, replicating the murders of the Victorian Era ‘Jack’.

 

 

How do you unlock a repressed memory?

It’s believed that the unconscious mind (which is the repository for all our experiences and memories) can block, or prevent a person accessing a memory, because it’s associated with a traumatic event. A kind of protection mechanism to prevent further damage to a person’s mental health. Such memories can be accessed during hypnotherapy, and if they are a result of trauma, the therapist needs to be one specially trained in the treatment of trauma and probably Post Traumatic Stress. In short, the process has to be done with a therapist. It’s not something you can do on your own. In the book, Jo McCready has become an authority on memory resolution after trauma, and has written books about it. So she is called in to see if she can help Martha, who seems to be suffering from the condition.

 

 

 

 

Memories in the Brain -3D

 

 

 

How did the plot for The Murder Mile develop?

When I tell people about my book, one of the first things I’m asked is where the idea came from? I suppose the short answer is that it sprang from the job I do. I’m a behavioural analyst – a profiler by trade. But it was during my work in the psychotherapy practice that the idea for the book first presented itself. I was a newly qualified hypnotherapist and I was treating a lady for anxiety. She wanted hypnotherapy to help her to relax. My client was in a deep state of hypnosis, when suddenly, her eyes flew open and she turned her head slowly to look at me. The bright blue eyes I had noticed during our therapy session, had turned into black dots that stared coldly into mine. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But then she spoke to me. Gone was the soft gentle voice of the lady I had met earlier. Out of the petite body of this frail woman, came the deep guttural voice of an old man!

If anyone else had described this encounter, I wouldn’t have believed them. But the transformation in front of my eyes was as real as it was shocking.

The ‘man’ I was engaging with now, told me that his spirit was inhabiting her body. He said he liked it there and warned me to “back off” and leave them alone. I found myself entering into a bizarre conversation with this alter ‘personality’, during which he threatened to kill me if I interfered or ‘exorcised’ him. Needless to say, I left him exactly where he was!

On bringing my client back from her hypnosis session, it became apparent that she was blissfully unaware of the presence of her dark companion, and I certainly didn’t enlighten her!

As I said earlier my ideas spring from a central question, which is – “What if?” I found myself replaying that hypnosis session and asking…”what if an alter ego appeared during therapy like that and threatened to commit murder now that he was ’free’”?

What if a series of murders began – replicating exactly what the alter personality had promised to do? There had only been two people in the room that night. Only two people who could know what was said…what if one of those people became his first victim? The therapist would be the only one left…she would have to work out how that could happen.

It would be the ultimate “locked room” mystery, but it would be a locked mind instead and the therapist would have to find the key to explain it.

It was an intriguing premise, but I wanted to write crime fiction – not ghost stories, so I knew I had to come up with a way of making it a ‘flesh-and-blood’ killer committing the crimes. How could that be possible in this scenario? It bubbled away for a few years and as I became more experienced and gained more knowledge in the field of psychology and hypnotherapy, I started to formulate a ‘How done it’. Once I had that, it was obvious that the protagonist would have to be the Psychologist and so Jo McCready was born. Then the rest fell into place.

 

 

 

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What’s DCI Callum Ferguson’s role in the story?

Callum Ferguson is a Detective Chief Inspector in the West Yorkshire Police. He is the senior investigating officer into Martha’s murder. He and Jo McCready met the previous year when Jo was called in as a Forensic Psychologist to assist in a case he was involved with. Callum and Jo had a romantic history in the past, which simmers below the surface during their time together on the Jack the Ripper copycat case featured in The Murder Mile.

 

 

What’s the relationship like between Police Intelligent Unit profiler Liz Taylor and Jo McCready?

Liz Taylor-Caine is West Yorkshire Police’s own Forensic Psychologist. She is younger and less experienced than Jo McCready and seriously resents Jo’s involvement in the current case. Jo tries not to tread on Liz’s toes, but Liz is bitter and it soon becomes clear that she will do anything to undermine Jo. Although Jo tries to maintain a professional relationship with the other woman, it is safe to say that the two are definitely not friends and allies.

 

 

 

About Lesley McEvoy

 

Lesley McEvoy was born and bred in Yorkshire in the North of England and has had a passion for writing all her life. The writing took a backseat as Lesley developed her career as a Behavioral Analyst / Profiler and Psychotherapist – setting up her own Consultancy business and therapy practice. She has written and presented extensively around the world for over 25 years specializing in behavioral profiling and training, with a wide variety of organisations. The corporate world provided unexpected sources of writing material when, as Lesley said – she found more psychopaths in business than in prison! Lesley’s work in some of the UK’s toughest prisons was where she met people whose lives had been characterized by drugs and violence – a rich source of material for the themes she now writes about.

 

 

Lesley McEvoy

 

 

 

William Bernhardt Discusses His New Legal Thriller – The Last Chance Lawyer

 

 

The Last chance lawyer image

 

 

Getting his client off death row could save his career… or make him the next victim.

 

 

Interview 

 

What was your creative process for creating Daniel Pike?

I thought it would fun write some more legal thrillers. After nineteen Ben Kincaid novels, I was ready for a break, but with a few years off to write poetry and nonfiction about writing, it seems fun again. I wanted Dan to be a modern man, very in tune with the zeitgeist, smart, fun to spend time with–but not perfect. Perfect people are boring. I can’t relate. Dan has a special skill for rooting out the truth–useful for a criminal lawyer. He’s a bit quirky–wears sneakers to court, carries a backpack rather than a briefcase, lives on a boat. But he has a passion for justice, for preventing the government from railroading innocents, and as the book develops, you’ll see why.  

 

 

What makes him the last chance lawyer?

After a disastrous event early in the book, he joins a new team of lawyers that take their cases from the mysterious Mr. K, who sends them cases no one else can handle (at least not as well). K pays Dan’s salary, not the clients, so money is not the main focus. Dan becomes a lawyer for those who, due to finances or other circumstances, have few options.

 

 

Last chance lawyer image

 

 

 

How is he different than  lawyer Ben Kincaid in your other series?

Dan is everything Ben was not, at least when he started. Dan is confident, showy, outgoing, and successful. Ben was a dogged bur usually effective lawyer. Dan is a showboat. What he learns in this novel is how to be more than a showboat.

 

“Daniel Pike would rather fight for justice than follow the rules.” What is justice from his point of view?

When Dan talks about justice, he means correcting the imbalance in the modern judicial system. Dan knows from experience that the criminal justice system is stacked in favor of the prosecution. We may say people are presumed innocent, but in truth, most people assume the accused are guilty until it is proven otherwise. The threat of incarceration is so great people plea bargain to crimes they didn’t commit. Dan tries to bring the system back into balance.  

 

 

 

Man in prison

 

 

What is the relationship between the objective rule of law and an attorney’s subjective use of it?

I’m not sure what you mean by “the subjective use of it.” The law is the law. Legislators write it, and judges apply it. The defense lawyer’s job is to hold the jury to the law, which says they cannot convict unless guilt has been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a high standard. And meant to be.

 

 

What can you tell us about the kind of case he’s undertaking?

At first, Dan is representing a nine-year old immigrant who will be deported, because temporary protected status has been revoked for those from her country (after decades), unless she is adopted. Then the prospective adoptive mother is accused or murder.  

 

 

What were some challenges while writing this book, or beginning a new series?

Unlike when I started with Ben, I planned this to be a series from the start. You will see some of the threads sewn into the first book. This is a self-contained novel, but there are elements planted that will expand and combine to form a much larger story over the course of many books.

 

 

What’s next?

In July, the second Daniel Pike book (which I’ve already finished). Court of Killers.

 

 

William Bernhardt image

 

William Bernhardt is the author of forty-seven books, including the bestselling Ben Kincaid series, the historical novels Challengers of the Dust and Nemesis, two books of poetry (The White Bird and The Ocean’s Edge), and the Red Sneaker books on fiction writing. His most recent novel is The Last Chance Lawyer, the first in a new series of legal thrillers featuring rebel lawyer Daniel Pike.

In addition, Bernhardt founded the Red Sneaker Writers Center to mentor aspiring writers. The Center hosts an annual writers conference, small-group seminars, a monthly newsletter, a phone app, and a bi-weekly podcast. More than three dozen of Bernhardt’s students have subsequently published with major houses. He is also the owner of Balkan Press, which publishes poetry and fiction as well as the literary journal Conclave. He has published many new authors as well as prominent authors like Pulitzer-Prize-winner N. Scott Momaday, and Grammy-Award-winner Janis Ian.

 

WilliamBernhardt.com