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.

 

 

 

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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