Author Interview with Crime Writer Leigh Russell

 

 

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About Leigh Russell

After many years teaching English in secondary school, internationally bestselling author Leigh Russell now writes crime fiction full time. Published in English and in translation in Europe, her Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson titles have appeared on many bestseller lists, including #1 on kindle. Leigh’s work has been nominated for several major awards, including the CWA New Blood Dagger and CWA Dagger in the Library, and her Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson series are in development for television with Avalon Television Ltd. Journey to Death is the first title in her Lucy Hall series published by Thomas and Mercer.

 

 

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Your new book Suspicion, is out April 22. What do you enjoy about writing psychological thrillers?

What I enjoy most about writing, is the freedom to explore how other people might respond when they encounter difficulties and challenges. All of my books begin with a “What if” question. In the case of Suspicion, the question was: ‘What might a woman do to preserve her marriage, if she discovered her husband was having an affair?’ Writing psychological thrillers allows me to live someone else’s fictitious life for a while, and experience their story vicariously.

 

 

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How does your approach to writing differ between a psychological thriller versus a police procedural?

My police procedurals are written mainly from my detective’s point of view, but they also include chapters that take readers inside the mind of my killer and other characters. This adds tension for readers, who often know more than the police investigating the murder. My stand alone psychological thrillers are written in the first person. Although readers only know what the narrator knows, they can still deduce information for themselves. Writing in the first person focuses more closely on the character of the narrator, and his or her private thoughts and feelings, which affects the readers’ engagement with the narrative, but writing from different points of view can be more dramatic. Both types of story are fun to write, and I enjoy the challenge of switching between third person and first person narratives.

 

What motivated you to write psychological thrillers?

As a writer, I don’t believe we choose our stories. Rather, our stories find us. So when the idea for this book occurred to me one day, complete with the voice of the protagonist, all I had to do was write the story in her words – although they are my words really, because she is my creation.

 

 

share your story. Coffee mug and wooden letters on wooden background.

 

 

 

What’s a typical writing day like for you?

There is no ‘typical’ day for me. Every day is different. I wake up as late as possible, and most days my husband brings me a cup of tea in bed, by which time I’m usually already working. I write on an ipad with goes with me everywhere, so I can work anywhere. Once I am up and about, if I’m not otherwise occupied my day will be spent writing, but it is extremely rare for me to have a completely free day. Life often gets in the way of my writing, but I consider myself fortunate to have a family who place so many demands on my time. I wouldn’t change anything about my life,       except to have more hours in the day.

 

 

Tell us about the investigation that Detective Sergeant Geraldine Steel is working on in Rogue Killer.

In Rogue Killer, a rough sleeper is killed in a seemingly random attack. The killer is careful to leave no clue to his identity, and the police are stumped. Then a second body is discovered. Geraldine is worried some of her colleagues might not investigate these murders as thoroughly as they should, because the victims were homeless. Meanwhile, a young girl has run away from home and witnessed a murder at night on the streets of York. Her eye witness account  could help the police to track down the killer, but she is too frightened to come forward.

 

 

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Who is the man killed in the attack?

The man killed in the first attack is a rough sleeper who is known to the local homeless shelters, but has no family who would miss him or mourn for him. Sharing news of a murder with the victim’s family is the part of her job Geraldine usually finds the hardest, but she is desperately sad about the solitude this victim endured in his life.  

 

 

Name some of your favourite books of 2019.

I haven’t read many books published in 2019 but books I have read so far this year include the weighty Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, a tour de force which he wrote at the age of twenty-eight. Unusually, most of my reading this year has been non-fiction as I am writing a trilogy set in Renaissance Italy. Historical fiction is a completely new departure for me and it has required a lot of research into a fascinating period in history.

In terms of books actually published in 2019, I’m looking forward to reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood which is published in September, as I enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale .

 

 

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Author Owen Mullen Discusses Crime Thriller Out of the Silence

 

 

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About Owen Mullen

Owen Mullen is a McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year long-listed novelist. And So It Began earned a coveted Sunday Times Crime Club ⭐Star pick

 

 

Interview

 

How did the idea for Out of the Silence develop into a full novel?

 

Hi Benjamin, and thank you for inviting me here.

I woke up with the idea one morning; it came to me almost whole. The beginning and ending arrived exactly as they appear in the book. After that I pieced the individual character’s stories together, then folded them in and out of each other as I wrote. The original draft underwent many, many revisions until I was satisfied I was telling the tale I’d imagined.

 

 

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Did you decide that Ralph Buchanan would be an investigative reporter early in the process?

Ralph wasn’t in the original run of the story and didn’t appear until my wife read what I’d written and asked ‘Yes, it’s very good, but which part will Leonardo play?’ And Ralph was born.

 

 

Why was he banished to Pakistan by his Newspaper?

He was banished because of his drink-fuelled behaviour. In the original I spent 40,000 words exploring Ralph’s back story until again, my wife Christine asked ‘What story are you telling?’

 

 

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Who is Simone Jasnin and what’s her role in the story?

Simone is the Doctor who treats the injured Afra in a rural hospital. Incensed by what she’s seen she goes to Lahore seeking someone to help her expose these types of injustices. That someone turns out to be Ralph Buchanan

 

How did you determine Pakistan was the setting for the story?

Pakistan was perfect for this story…a beautiful, diverse country rich in culture and history, but like most places when you scratch the surface a darker truth lies hidden.

 

 

 

Map of Pakistan

 

 

 

What was your research about Pakistan like?

Exciting! I travelled to the region, read many books, spoke to people and spent long hours on the internet.

 

What’s next for you?

I’ve literally just finished the follow-up to In Harm’s Way which picks the story up five years on. Next project is already underway; a story about two South London gangsters.

 

 

 

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When no one knows you are in danger how can you ever be saved…
The Baxter house in the Lowther Hills, in Scotland, has been on the estate agent’s books for decades. Dilapidated and near-derelict, nobody is interested in it. But, for one potential buyer, the remote location and rat-infested cellar are perfect.

For the first year, Mackenzie’s marriage to Derek was ideal. But Derek believes she is having an affair and when she realises her husband is becoming controlling, she knows she’s made a terrible mistake.

But Mackenzie has a drinking problem so when she threatens to leave Derek and then disappears no one believes she has been abducted.

DS Geddes is handed the case but isn’t convinced anything criminal has taken place until a startling development comes to light.

Has Mackenzie been abducted or has she simply left her husband?

And who has bought The Baxter house and for what purpose?

 

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Owen Mullen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; Owen still loves to perform on occasion. His great love for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home away from home in the Greek Islands where the Charlie Cameron and Delaney series’, and the In Harm’s Way psychological thriller were created.

My books raise a lot of social issues…If you would like a set of questions for #bookgroupdiscussions please contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

Q&A with the authors of The Sherlock Holmes & Lucy James Mystery Series

 

 

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Q&A for MysteryThrillerWeek.com

Charles Veley & Anna Elliott, authors of The Sherlock Holmes & Lucy James Mystery Series

 

 

What’s it like crafting stories about the great Sherlock Holmes?

Pretty exhilarating, actually. We’re in a wonderful tradition, with a lot of brilliant company. And Holmes is so familiar to us both that it’s a joy imagining what he’d do when faced with a particular problem. At first we wondered how readers would respond to our bringing a daughter into Holmes’s life, but the overwhelming majority of reviews are enthusiastic supporters of the idea.  

 

 

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What was your creative process for writing Lucy James?

Anna had the idea of where she’d be the first time Holmes and Watson would see her – on the stage at the D’Oyly Carte opera, singing the lead in The Mikado. Watson described her there, and when she entered a few pages later, she took on a life of her own. She still does. We imagine the situations and Lucy takes it from there.

 

 

What kind of relationship do Sherlock and Lucy have and how do they complement each other?

They’re different, but equals. Sherlock has a deep and abiding respect for Lucy, and vice versa. Of course, she’s admired him ever since she read Watson’s accounts of his adventures when she was an American schoolgirl. In our stories, the two are not competing and the conflict is never the sort you would find in a ‘buddy’ movie. Our Sherlock and Lucy each go to different places and investigate different parts of the central problem. Then they exchange thoughts and draw their own conclusions. Generally, Holmes takes the role of cautious parent when advising Lucy — but he doesn’t always get his way. And they save each other’s life again and again. Towards the end of the first book there’s this exchange of dialogue, after Lucy saves Holmes in a gunfight and learns whose daughter she really is:

Holmes said quietly, “Lucy, I owe you my life.”

“Well, now I know I owe you my life,” said Lucy, her eyes shining. “So I guess we’re even.”

So, yes, different, but equals.

 

 

 

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How do you share in the writing process?

We start with the core situation of the story and exchange emails on that. Then we’ll send each other chapters of the opening scenes–Anna doing the Lucy chapters and me doing Watson’s. Soon we exchange more emails on where the story goes next, and then we’ll exchange blocks of chapters until we’re done. This all happens via email and Word documents, since we’re hours away from each other. Once in a while we’ll talk about it when we’re visiting or on the phone, but those times are generally devoted to family matters rather than our books.

 

 

Is Sherlock Holmes the greatest detective of all time?

Life Magazine says he is, in their 2016 issue titled “The Story Behind The World’s Greatest Detective.” Holmes is the most filmed character of all time, he has hundreds of fan clubs around the world, he has larger-than-life-size bronze statues erected to him in both London and St. Petersburg, and hundreds of new stories about him are published every year. Can any other detective say the same? Or even come close? I think the evidence is overwhelming. Though I must admit I’ve never seen Holmes’s picture on bubble gum cards ;-).

 

 

 

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What’s Lucy James’ view of her Father?

She understands that he needs his own space – just as she needs hers. Each of them has their own life to lead. Lucy has strong emotional relationships to people – her husband, to name but one person – and in some ways she feels regret that Holmes won’t have many of the satisfactions that come with the life of the heart. But she respects his long-ago choice to pursue his profession with such intensity. She has a unique understanding of Holmes based on what she’s learned about him from her mother. As we continue with the series, Anna and I are exploring the roots of Holmes’s passions for justice and crime-solving—we think that’s going to be a very compelling tale indeed.

 

What role does Watson play helping Lucy James and Holmes on cases?

Watson is the steadying force, the rock, the friend and companion for both Holmes and Lucy. Watson chronicles the parts of the story he sees, as he did in the original tales. He also pitches in with the investigative duties where needed, and even when he hasn’t been asked. Of course he’s always been a good man to have at your side when faced with danger–this holds true in our stories as well. Our Watson, however, shows his human side just a bit more than the canonical figure. He’s challenged when his relationship with Holmes is rocked by the entrance of Lucy into Holmes’s life, and since his wife Mary passed away, he’s feeling the need for relationships even more. Still, he has the satisfaction of always being a key player in the battles Sherlock and Lucy are waging with the evildoers.

 

If Sherlock and Lucy were alive today, do you think they could solve some challenging cold cases?

Most definitely! As our series opens, in fact, Lucy herself is working the 21-year-old cold case of her identity, and she and Holmes get that one solved by the end of the last chapter, even while stopping an assassination attempt that would have destroyed the Empire!  And that was without the aid of all the research tools we have today. So, the answer is definitely a resounding “Yes” I also think they’d take a good attitude toward our century if they found themselves here rather than in Victorian London. They’d both see the advantages to our global technology and wouldn’t spend a lot of time whining about trivia or how bored they are.

 

If you had to pick, who would you be: Watson, Lucy or Holmes?

It’s so tempting to pick Holmes, because who wouldn’t want to experience being that smart and energetic and independent, and also immortal?  Also, though he does have all the cares of the world (or at least the world of the current case) on his shoulders, and that’s a heavy responsibility to bear alone, he still has Watson and Lucy for support.

 

 

 

Charles Veley image Sherlock Holmes Mystery

 

 

Charles Veley has loved Sherlock Holmes since boyhood. During one year, he read the entire canon to his then-ten-year-old daughter at evening story time. He is extremely proud of her accomplishments as historical novelist Anna Elliott, and thrilled to be coauthor with her on the Sherlock and Lucy Mystery Series. Also a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan, he wrote “The Pirates of Finance,” a new musical in the G&S tradition that won an award at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2013. Other than “The Last Moriarty,” all the books on his Amazon Author Page were written when he was a full-time author during the late Seventies and early Eighties. He has retired from United Technologies Corporation, but still consults for the company’ regarding its large real estate development projects.

 

 

 

Anna Elliot Sherlock Holmes mysteries

 

 

A longtime devotee of historical fiction and Arthurian legend, Anna Elliott was expecting her first child when she woke up from a very vivid dream of telling her mother that she was going to write a book about Modred’s daughter, Isolde. She was very grateful to her daughter for being an excellent sleeper even as a newborn and allowing her the time to turn her dream into a finished book! She now lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband and baby girl. Twilight of Avalon is her first published work.

 

www.annaelliottbooks.com

A Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery (9 book series)

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Writer Samantha Goodwin speaks about The Murder At Macbeth

 

 

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Author Tempeste Blake interviews mystery writer Samantha Goodwin on her new release – Murder At Macbeth.

 

 

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It’s MYSTERY THRILLER WEEK (www.mysterythrillerweek.com) and I’m doing a little happy dance. I’ve made great new friends at this event and found some fantastic reads to add to my library.

And speaking of new friends. Samantha Goodwin, author of Murder at Macbeth, and I recently sat down over tea and had a chat about … okay, really we talked via email and messenger, but I’m painting a picture so play along … we sat and drank tea and chatted about writing and books, especially those of the mystery variety, and here’s how some of the conversation went.

 

 

 

Hand writing the text: Q&A

 

 

 

T: Do you have any writing habits or superstitions?

S: I handwrite everything as I find my ideas flow better! It’s great because it means I can write anywhere, my favourite location is outside on those rare sunny English days. It is however, not the most time-efficient way of writing as then I have to spend time typing everything up as I go along and start editing!

 

T: Where did you get the inspiration for your story?

S: I was inspired by a newspaper article about a London West End actor who was accidentally stabbed live on stage. That got me thinking; what if that had been intentional? What a dramatic way to murder someone and believe you could get away with it.

I’ve always been fascinated by the superstitions surrounding Macbeth about it being cursed and the fact the play itself is about corruption and deception provided an interesting parallel to the murder mystery. Plus, I found the concept of interviewing suspects who are also actors really interesting; they could so easily be playing a part to hide the truth.

 

 

 

Idee als Glühbirne und Papierkugeln

 

 

 

T: How long did it take you to write your novel?

S: It took me one year to finish the complete first draft of my novel and then another year to complete the editing. Which considering I was working full time and pregnant while writing it, I was really pleased about! I carved out time to write every day but it usually ended up being only 30 minutes in the morning before work or 1 hour during my lunch break. At first it seemed completely impossible to write an entire book with such little time, but before long I found I could get into the swing of it and write pretty quickly. I actually found the balance of doing my editing and looking after a newborn much more difficult. I did a lot of one-handed typing while holding a sleeping baby!

 

 

T: I know asking about favorite characters can be like asking about a favorite child or pet, but . . . do you have a favorite character or one you’d love to bring back in another story?

S: I love both of the detective characters, I’ve deliberately set the novel up so it could work as the first in a series so it would be great to bring them both back in future stories. The astute Detective Inspector Finley Robson leads the murder investigation. Smart and resourceful, he has an uncanny ability for getting to the bottom of the toughest cases. However, he is also struggling to overcome his own troubled past and finds the unusual theatrical case resonates deeply with him. Detective Sergeant Nadia Zahra is his tenacious, no-nonsense partner who has risen quickly through the ranks to become one of the youngest detectives at the London Metropolitan police force. Fiercely loyal, she maintains a healthy disregard for bureaucracy and is a force to be reckoned with.

 

 

Follow the remainder of the interview on Tempeste Blake’s website: Author Interview: Debut Mystery Author Samantha Goodwin

 

 

Tempeste Blake

@samanthagoodwinauthor

 

 

 

Interview with Heleyne Hammersley Author of Psychological Suspense & Crime

 

 

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About Heleyne Hammersley

Heleyne Hammersley is a British writer based in Cumbria. She writes psychological suspense thrillers and crime novels.

Heleyne has been writing since junior school – her first work was a collection of poems called ‘Give Them the Works’ when she was ten years old. The poems were carefully handwritten on plain paper and tied together with knitting wool.

 

 

How does your writing approach differ between psychological suspense thriller and crime?

One of the main differences between writing psychological suspense and crime is the amount of research.  I find that, now I’m writing a crime series, I need to try to keep the police procedures as accurate as possible.  I also research postmortem techniques and I’ve spent quite a bit of time finding out about how dead bodies decompose in different environments.

For both of my psychological suspense novels much of the plot and the setting was based on my own travel experiences.

 

 

 

Research

 

 

 

Do you still write poetry?

I haven’t written poetry for many years.  I used to write as a teenager but it was all angst-ridden nonsense really.  I feel most comfortable writing longer works now.

 

Who is DI Kate Fletcher?

Kate is a British police detective from South Yorkshire.  She is dedicated to her career and is extremely good at her job.  She was shaped by a difficult childhood during a time of social unrest in the UK.  After a divorce and a promotion she has returned to her old ‘stomping ground’ after living in the north of England for many years.  She inspires loyalty in her team and she has a strong sense of justice.

 

 

 

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What things have you learned in order to write police procedurals?

So much!  UK police ranks, UK police procedures, forensics, the symptoms of a range of medical conditions, how CCTV and ANPR work, how to dispose of a dead body (and how not to)…the list is endless.

 

 

In the third book of the Kate Fletcher series Bad Seed, who is the first victim?

Melissa Buckley.  She’s in her twenties and works for a train company.  Melissa and her husband have been trying for a baby for some time and her death may be linked to their struggles with IVF.

 

 

 

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Who are the members of Kate’s team working the case?

Other than Kate, there’s DC Dan Hollis who’s having some family issues of his own in Bad Seed.  He’s Kate’s trusted ‘side kick’ but she’s starting to doubt him a little in this book. DC Sam Cooper is a computer geek and Kate’s go-to team member for all things technology related.  She ends up in serious danger towards the end of the novel. DC Matt Barrett is the ‘straight arrow’ of the team. He’s extremely reliable and methodical. The final team member is DS Steve O’Connor who has links with the seedier side of Doncaster life.  They’re all supervised by DCI Bill Raymond who’s working his final cases before retirement in Bad Seed.

 

 

What do you enjoy most about writing crime fiction?

I love the plotting stage – figuring out what will and what won’t work and how a real police team would deal with my fictional crimes.  I also quite enjoy the gorier elements of the research – some of the science stuff is fascinating.

 

 

 

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Who are your favorite authors?

Val McDermid, Karin Slaughter, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Patricia Cornwell….how many am I allowed?

 

What are you working on next?

I’m currently writing the fourth in the Kate Fletcher series.  After that…who knows?

 

 

DI Kate Fletcher Series

 

 

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www.heleynehammersley.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Christine Carbo Author of the Glacier Park Mysteries

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

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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 Robert Bailey Author of the McMurtrie & Drake Legal Thriller series

 

 

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Meet Robert Bailey author of the McMurtrie & Drake Legal Thriller series

 

 

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His last challenge: live long enough to save the lives of those he loves.

Cold-blooded killer JimBone Wheeler blames Tom McMurtrie for putting him on death row. He once vowed that he’d bring “a reckoning” on Tom and everyone the southern lawyer holds dear. When Wheeler escapes from prison, he aims to fulfill his promise. Victim by victim, he’s getting closer to his ultimate target. But for Tom, who’s dying of cancer, the role of savior and protector is a struggle that is becoming more desperate by the hour.

As the body count mounts, Tom, his partner, Rick Drake, and his best friend, Bocephus Haynes, brace for a confrontation like nothing they have ever faced before. This battle will be waged not in a courthouse but on the streets and fields of north Alabama. With all those he loves at risk, Tom must save his family, his friends, and his legacy from a killer whose hunger for retribution knows no bounds.

Now, as time ticks down and fate and vengeance close in, who will survive Wheeler’s final reckoning?

 

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Interview Key Shows Interviewing Interviews Or Interviewer

 

 

 

What was your creative process when you wrote Tom McMurtrie?

ANSWER:  I was daydreaming in a law school class one day about what would happen if my professor actually had to try a case.  It was very much a smart aleck idea at the time, but it stuck with me. Soon, I was imagining this legendary professor who would return to the courtroom with a former student and I had the situation that would form the basis for The Professor.

 

What type of law did he teach in book one, The Professor?

ANSWER:  Evidence

 

What’s the relationship like between Tom McMurtrie and Rick Drake?

ANSWER:  Tom was Rick’s Evidence professor and trial team coach when Rick was in law school.  During a trial team competition, Rick and Tom got into an altercation, and the publicity from this incident cost Rick a job with a prestigious law firm and forced him to hang a shingle and become a solo practitioner.  In The Professor, Tom refers a longtime friend, whose family has been killed in a tragic trucking collision in Henshaw, Alabama, to Rick for representation.  He makes the referral because Rick is from Henshaw but also in the hopes that the case would give Rick’s career a boost. The two men’s estranged relationship eventually resolves and they team up to take on the trucking company by the end of the story.  For the remaining three books, they are partners in the law firm of McMurtrie & Drake.

 

 

 

 

Legal Sign Design With Scales Of Justice Symbol.

 

 

 

 

Who is Bocephus Haynes and how did  he meet Tom?

ANSWER:  Bo is also a former student of Tom’s as well as being Tom’s best friend.  Bo is an African-American attorney practicing in Pulaski, Tennessee. Bo met Tom after an injury derailed his football career during college.  After being mentored by Tom, Bo decided to go to law school and went on to become one of the finest trial lawyers in the state of Tennessee.

 

 

In The Last Trial, what’s the story behind Tom and his old nemesis Jack Willistone?

ANSWER:  Jack Willistone was the ruthless trucking tycoon from The Professor, who is arrested at the end of the story.  Jack makes a brief cameo in book two, Between Black and White, and is murdered at the beginning of The Last Trial.  The person accused of the crime, Wilma Newton, is represented by Tom in the ensuing murder trial after Wilma’s oldest daughter begs Tom to take the case.

 

 

 

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In The Final Reckoning, who is Jimbone Wheeler?

ANSWER:  JimBone Wheeler is a death row inmate who blames his imprisonment on Tom.  At the beginning of the story, JimBone escapes from incarceration with the help of a rogue nurse.

 

 

 

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What are his motivations in this story?

ANSWER:  To bring a reckoning on Tom and everyone Tom holds dear.

 

What kind of cancer is Tom McMurtrie dealing with in The Final Reckoning?

ANSWER:  State IV lung cancer

 

What is he fighting for in this story?

ANSWER:  Tom is literally fighting for his life and the lives of those he loves, as he tries to stop JImBone Wheeler from obtaining his reckoning.

 

 

 

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Robert Bailey was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the son of a builder and a schoolteacher. From the time he could walk, he’s loved stories, especially those about Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide football team.

Robert obtained a Bachelor of Arts in History from Davidson College in North Carolina. Law School at the University of Alabama followed, where Robert made Law Review, competed on the school’s trial team and managed to watch every home football game.

For the past thirteen years, he’s been a civil defense trial lawyer in his hometown of Huntsville. He’s married to the incomparable Dixie Bailey and they have two boys and a little girl.

When Robert’s not writing, practicing law or being a parent, he enjoys playing golf, watching Alabama football and coaching his sons’ little league baseball teams.

 

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Interview with Denise Domning Author of Servant of the Crown Mysteries

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.”

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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

 

 

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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