Mystery writer Francis Sparks gives me an insight into his writing and how he has come to develop his unique style.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards mystery and thriller writing?
That’s a great question. I think like a lot of writers I try to emulate some of the greats like Hemingway and Raymond Chandler, but I also pull from other writers that inspire me like Zadie Smith. I think what I try to do is write the truest sentence and then the truest paragraph until I have the truest possible story when I’m done. A lot of failure is involved for sure. I’m certain I’ve stolen or borrowed this answer in some form.
In terms of why mystery/thriller writing, I’ve always had a fascination with crime and mystery but when I started writing and told myself I am going to finish something I had no idea it would be what it turned out to be. I think we are drawn to stories about people at their basest and most vulnerable and want to know what they will or won’t do when put in those situations because we don’t know what we’d do.
What is your career background and how did you get into publishing your work?
I’ve worked in IT for over a decade mostly in application programming. As a youth, I wanted to be a fantasy writer and later my tastes took a more literary turn but I think I applied a lot of my programming mentality to learning how to write. I started small and kept building on what I knew and continue to do so.
Talk me through your books and why you believe that your readers enjoy them.
My mystery/thriller novel Made Safe came out in January 2017 from Pandamoon Publishing. It’s a story about refugees, organized crime and people, set in the Heartland of America. The story is based in Des Moines, IA and is told from the perspective of a local PI named Moses Winter and Bosnian refugee turned cop, Raif Rakić. Anyone interested in unique settings (Iowa’s frigid winter temperatures are definitely a part of the narrative) and characters put through hell will enjoy Made Safe.
Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?
I definitely use metaphor in Made Safe quite a bit. Moses’ grandfather gave him a German gun he brought home from World War II and has a role to play in the larger narrative and in comparison, to Moses.
What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?
I read heavily in the mystery/thriller/suspense genre but also fantasy, non-fiction, and “literary” fiction. I’ll read anything that has a good story. Reading outside the genre you write in has a lot of benefits. I think it keeps you fresh, giving your mind a break but also there are plenty of interesting methods and tricks you can “borrow” from any genre.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
If I had to choose it would be Zadie Smith. I think I would learn an incredible amount and would get a peek at how that wonderful mind of hers works.
Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?
Yes! I’m currently in the middle of writing a very interesting true crime non-fiction book with a retired detective. I can’t go too deep into the details, but it involves a notorious and prolific criminal that the detective pursued for decades.
After that, I’ll be working on the next Moses Winter book and I’ve got some other ideas floating around for a stand-alone novel or two. It’s also possible that I have a nearly finished fantasy novel in my back pocket.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to moving forward?
Lou Berney has a new book coming out later this year and I’m a huge fan of The Long and Faraway Gone, I can’t wait to see what he’s cooked up for his next book. Also, Tomi Adeyemi’s debut Children of Blood and Bone just came out, I’m excited to read that (my wife currently has possession) and Lauren Groff’s Florida is out this year as well and I admire her writing so much.
Anything you’d like to add?
Thank you for the invitation! It’s been wonderful talking to you.
Many thanks to Francis for taking the time to speak with me, you can read more about her work HERE.