John Bowie Interview: “As far back as I can remember I’ve written”

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This week John Bowie, from the beautiful city of Bristol talks me through his gritty crime fiction and how he came to write it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime noir fiction?

I started out writing dirty realism, which evolved a crime side to it. The noir has always been there: the atmosphere tying it together. A shout line ‘Classic Crime Noir Full of Dirty Realism’ was used for my first book. I think it still works. There are many layers for book lovers, writers and music fans to discover beyond its pigeonhole though.

I wasn’t sure of crime fiction originally. I always loved dirty realism, the Beat Generation and noir and they flowed to and from my semi-autobiographical pieces I was working on.

Then I read a Robert Lewis book on a beach in Malaysia. Realising it was set in the same city and timeframe as my work, and with a really similar tone, my wife and I almost wondered if I had some Fight Club style alter ego. I referenced this in my themes of identity in Untethered. Paul Auster, who I’m a big fan of too, and Robert Lewis both get honorary mentions in Untethered as well as quite a few other writers, bands and artists who I’ve been inextricably interwoven together with by creativity over time.

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing?

As far back as I can remember I’ve written. I had a short story published, Milburn’s Last Class, with Storgy this year. This was a dark fiction piece reimagining a story I’d actually written and read out in school. It was my revenge through storytelling after being repeatedly berated by my teacher.

My writing took a more purposeful vocation as I started writing what I thought was my version of Bukowski’s Post Office in 1998. I worked for a corporate hellhole of a bank at the time and it was good therapy to drink, write, paint and anything else besides what I was meant to be doing. It built up into four outlined books over time and sat on a virtual shelf in my head and in lots of sketch and notebooks. They were semi-autobiographical noir pieces but lacking a momentum somehow. Later I discovered hardboiled P.I. and crime fiction. The mechanisms I discovered in these were such an important springboard to move my works off my shelf and onto other peoples’. It gave my writing a vehicle beyond the cathartic poetic rants I was used to.

Tell me all about your books. Why do you believe readers enjoy them?

I feel the semi-autobiographical elements give a depth that can only come from reading something that has already or is maybe going to happen. With the lyrical atmosphere, it’s a believable hard fiction with a killer soundtrack. I use metaphysical tools to place the reader in my past and present.

What books do you like to read and how do they impact on your own writing?

I try to master the art of saying complex things in a simple way. There are so many good writers to discover and old favourites — true masters at it. I’ve been lucky and discovered some great new ones through my writing.

Is there anything else that influences your writing (places, people, films etc)?

Ghosts and future memories of the cities, music, people and life I’ve encountered all wrestle round in my head, waiting to be written out.

I always have a notebook for short story ideas and another for my novels to make notes with me. These notebooks are written into each story. They’re as real as the characters and places in them.

I listen to music and revisit it and the towns and cities my stories are set in, to add to the atmosphere too. This gives the words a lyrical feeling; like notes. The music and words weave together, pushing me on. It feeds the flow of it all as I go. Factory records, the Hacienda and the music of my time in Manchester (mid to late 90s) are at the heart of Untethereds’ follow-up, Transference. All four books in the series (so far) have intentional Joy Division feeling one-word titles with multiple interpretations.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me and 24hr Party People films made me think he’s passionate about the same music and themes that surround my stories; maybe I’ll send him a copy of something…

Ian Curtis, Sally Potter, Mary Harron, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Mark E. Smith, Charles Bukowski and David Cronenberg are all just wistful thinking; to bring them together for a drink fuelled brain drop of ideas.

What’s next for your writing? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

I dabbled playing with horror tropes recently. I applied my semi-autobiographical elements, music and questions on identity. It’s just come out with Dead Man’s Tome in the U.S. I’d like to try the same with other genres as short story exercises. I saw some great old Western covers in an old bookshop at lunchtime and thought a dark and dirty Brit-Western-Noir would work for me: ‘A Weston-Super-Nightmare’.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

Anything by Paul D. Brazill, Paul Heatley, Julian Barnes, Paul Auster and all the others I keep finding: there’s not enough time to quench the thirst they create. 

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you so much for the interview- I’m chuffed to be asked!

It’s been great to hear your thoughts and learn more about your work, so thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

 

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Martin Ungless Interview: “Crime is such a great vehicle for driving forward a story”

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Crime writer Martin Ungless explains his work and how he has created a unique novel in his book Duck Egg Blues.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction? 

I like a nice plot, me. Crime is such a great vehicle for driving forward a story and putting characters in tricky situations, it’s got the potential to be page turning and fantastically entertaining, and in my case, so I’m told, laugh-out-loud.

I’ve always written, but had a brief interlude, a decade or so, as an architect. That’s a great education for a writer; disciplined creativity and learning to critique ones own work. It was also in my case an exercise in narrative and on producing something that pleased the public, and these days of course that’s the reader.

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing?

Perhaps I’ve already half-answered that, but I do think when I designed buildings that the stories they told were important. At that same time, I was continuing to hone my practical writing skills with articles in the architectural press. I do feel that writing is another outlet for the pleasure of creation, just with a different brief, and requiring a whole other set of skills. I have written a fair few short stories, and as well as refining technique these can also be usefully entered in competitions, even a long-listing can keep a writer going through the long dark self-doubt times, and sometimes you even get to win!

Tell me all about your books. Why do you believe readers and critics enjoy them?

I think readers enjoy genre fiction because we all like more of the same but different. Sometimes for me that difference comes in blending the genres themselves. I write fiction that surprises, always, regardless of whether I am genre-blending or not, and I can pretty well guarantee that you will not have read anything like one of my stories before; though (more of the same but different) my books are full of crime and detection and peril and complications and characters who suffer and win through. It’s not that my stories are so far out there, I just have a vivid imagination. Not a bad trait for a writer, I guess.

What books do you like to read and how do they impact on your own writing?

I’ve got pretty eclectic tastes. Right now I’m working my way through a whole history of C20th classic Crime, reading and rereading, trying to understand what works so well for them. I don’t know if your readers have come across They Shoot Horse Don’t They? I read that quite recently and it’s a cracker, that and the astonishing The Postman Always Rings Twice. Both feel like they were at least half a century before their time. I utterly love the energy of something like Fight Club, and the exceptional dialogue of Elmore Leonard. Outside of Crime, I’m a huge fan of Murakami.

Is there anything else that influences your writing (places, people, films etc)?

I’ve got wide interests hence the multiple-genres, but in particular I’m a fan of technology, and this passion gave rise to PArdew, my robot-butler-detective from Duck Egg Blues, and is also the reason why I’m currently working on a high-tech hacker thriller.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I think I mentioned him already, but I do think Elmore Leonard had an utterly extraordinary ear for dialogue. I think it was based on his deep understanding of character, and if they could rub off on me, boy would those be some nice skills to learn. Sadly he has passed away.

What’s next for your writing? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

My high-tech international crime thriller is called Orange612. The opening section was listed for a Debut Dagger by the Crime Writers’ Association this year, so I’m pretty buzzed to be working on that.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I haven’t read Melmoth yet, that looks a cracker and The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, well, you just know that’s something else!

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for inviting me to talk about my work, I think it might be almost as fun as writing it.

Thanks you for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been great to hear your thoughts.

 

Hugh Fraser Interview: “I’ve always enjoyed the gritty American crime writers like Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy”

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This week I’ve got an awesome treat for fans of the Rina Walker novels, as I talk to Hugh Fraser, Actor and Writer extraordinaire, who offers me an insight into his books and how his experiences influenced them.  

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards thrillers?

I’m not aware of having a particular writing style but I’ve always enjoyed the gritty American crime writers like Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy and I imagine I must have been influenced by them in terms of style and also as to my choice of genre.

How do you draw on your time acting and how does it inspire your writing?

When I was a student at drama school in the early 1960s I lived in Notting Hill when it was a much poorer and rougher area than it is today and so I was able to observe the deprived conditions that Rina Walker grew up in and the criminality and racial prejudice that existed then. When I had no acting work in the early days I also worked as a musician in the kind of Soho hostess clubs that Rina frequents with her girlfriend Lizzie.

Tell me all about the Rina Walker series. What was your inspiration?

I have always collected the black and white photographs of Roger Mayne and Bert Hardy who captured so many evocative images of the poverty and dilapidation of the post-war inner cities. Roger Mayne’s series depicting the street life of Notting Hill and North Kensington in the 1950s I found particularly evocative, with Teddy Boys in their drainpipe trousers and drape jackets, and Teddy Girls in pencil skirts and tailored jackets with velvet collars, strutting their stuff, while raggedy little kids in threadbare clothes play football and hopscotch, or gather on the steps of the tenements.

It was in this neighborhood and this kind of poverty that I imagined my heroine Rina Walker growing up, the daughter of a recently murdered gangster and alcoholic mother, forced into a life of crime at an early age in order to care for and support her two younger siblings and all too soon acquiring the skills and expertise of a contract killer.

What books do you like to read yourself and how do they impact on your own writing?

I have just finished the wonderful Love Hurts by William Boyd and I’m about to start Milkman by Anna Burns, which has just won the Booker Prize. I’m afraid these kind of beautifully written novels, which make us consider our lives and how we live them, have little or no impact on my own writing. My books are no more than entertainment of a very basic kind.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

What an interesting question. I think it would have to be Marcel Proust – but only if he’d let me share his Madeleines.

What’s next for the Rina Walker series? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

I have no plans to start another outing for Rina at the moment but I won’t be surprised if she gives me a nudge sometime soon.

Is there any other work you’ve got coming up that you would like to tell me about?

I’m going to Iceland in a couple of weeks to appear in the Icelandic Noir Festival, which I’m really excited about.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to moving forward?

I heard Edith Eger on Woman’s Hour this morning talking about The Choice, her harrowing account of surviving Auschwitz and slave labour in Germany. I was deeply moved by her heroism and optimism after enduring such unbelievable hardship and I can’t wait to read it.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for asking me to join you.

It’s been awesome hearing from you, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. You can read more about Hugh and his work HERE.

Bob Mayer Interview: “writing is a very personal experience”

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Bestselling author Bob Mayer talks to me about his writing and the experiences that led him to writing such incredible work.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards writing?

I’ve been writing for a living for 30 years. My style has evolved over time. Initially I was very plot oriented and outlined quite a bit. The last couple of years I’ve shifted more to what I call streaming—which is setting up my characters in a setting and throwing obstacles in their path and just writing. I feel I’ve written enough that I can do it more ‘on the fly’ although that requires more rewriting and thinking than outlining does.

I started writing just to write. I didn’t think about getting published. I’d read so much it just seemed a natural outgrowth of that.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing novels?

I served in the Army for a number of years in the Infantry and Special Forces. After I resigned my active duty commission and was in the Reserves, I moved to Asia to study martial arts. I had some time on my hand, the original 512k Mac, and just started writing. I finished two manuscripts without thinking about selling them. Then someone read one and said, “This is like a real book!” And then I went through the long, arduous process of getting published.

Please tell me about your books and why readers enjoy them.

I write across a range of genres so some of my books should appeal to everyone. I’ve hit bestseller lists in thriller, romance, historical fiction, nonfiction, suspense and science fiction. My bestselling series are The Green Berets (military thriller) and Area 51 (science fiction). I’ve tended to write in areas that interest me. A lot of my focus is on history, psychology and the evolution of the mind. I also enjoy delving into myths and legends, which I did in the Area 51 and Atlantis series. I plumbed history with the Time Patrol books.

Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

Not particularly. Point of view has been a struggle but I’ve settled in omniscient voice. My latest manuscript, which I just completed, is omniscient voice but following one character for the entire book which is something new for me.

I do like to move in time and place. For example, each Time Patrol book features six missions on the same day, such as Independence Day, but in six different years. So each book is essentially six short stories inside of an overall novel, which was hard but great fun to research the history and ask “what if?”

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I enjoy reading writers better than me. Some favourite of my authors are Kate Atkinson, Richard Russo, Michael Connolly, Larry McMurtry, and Pat Conroy. I read a lot of nonfiction because history fascinates me. Also, I lean toward reading books for research rather than the Internet. With the Internet you have to know what questions to ask. With books you find the questions (and answers) you never thought to ask.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I have collaborated and it is an interesting experience. Jenny Crusie and I wrote three books together with our best being Agnes and the Hitman. I learned a tremendous amount about writing from her. Much of which I put into this most recent book, New York Minute.

Ultimately, writing is a very personal experience. What I focus on these days is a writer’s process. I study other authors for how they create. Not just authors, but screenwriters—in essence storytellers. That’s our job. The oldest profession.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

New York Minute launches a new series for me featuring a special character, William Kane. I’m pitching it as First Blood meets Breaking Bad. The first book is set in New York City in the summer of 1977, during the long hot summer of Son of Sam and the blackout. I grew up in the Bronx during that period. My character is also a graduate of West Point and Special Forces veteran (both of which I’ve done). So it’s rather personal.

This is a breakout book as I have a unique cast of characters inhabiting the world. I’m at work on the second book, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. My agent will be marketing New York Minute when I send it to her and I’m very excited about it.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to going forward?

Kate Atkinson has a new book out, Transcription, I will read as soon as I finish this biography of William Tecumseh Sherman.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thanks for giving me this opportunity. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and am more enthused about writing today than I have ever been. I’ve been compiling experience, craft and expertise and continue to strive to become a better storyteller.

Thanks for taking the time Bob- you can find out more about Bob and his work on his website HERE.

 

 

Desmond Ryan Interview: “My readers like the books because they are reading authentic stories filled with believable characters”

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Former Police Detective Desmond Ryan talks me through how his time in the force has influenced his writing.  

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime and thriller writing?

Crime fiction lends itself well to the type of writing I have been doing for the past thirty years as a police detective. I used to joke with my colleagues that I would be that guy who sits in the corner of the pub and tells police stories to any poor soul who has the misfortune of sitting down anywhere near me. And then I retired. Sensing that a semi-permanent seat in the pub wouldn’t serve me well (on so many levels), I decided to take some of those stories, give them a bit of a twist, and write crime fiction instead. I love noir and the classic sleuth novels and try to incorporate a bit of that flavour into my work.

How do you draw on your experience as a detective when writing?

A lot of my storylines are loosely based on bits and pieces of events that I’ve been involved in either directly or indirectly. I find that the characterizations of both my protagonists and antagonists are where I really draw upon experience. My characters tend to be a compilation of the people I’ve worked with or had dealings with. This makes writing so much easier, doesn’t it? Especially for crime fiction. I mean, at the end of the day, a crime fiction novel tends to be about someone murdering someone and then getting caught. Not much fun in that. It’s the juicy bits that make it fun, and I think those juicy bits are the characters. 

Please tell me about your books and what you believe draws readers to them.

The six books in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series are police procedurals that follow the life of Detective Mike O’Shea over a number of years on and off the job. My readers like the books because they are reading authentic stories filled with believable characters. The dialogue, the little details, the plot twists and turns- all bang on because I know what I’m talking about. I have lived that life. And, as a writer, I assume that my readers are not only crime fiction fans, but also clever readers who enjoy complex characters, a gripping storyline, and reading well-written material.

Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

As I mentioned earlier, I expect my readers to be intelligent and informed. I know that they don’t want to be spoken down to or presumed to be incapable of understanding the complexities of a police investigation. I use dialogue to create an authentic experience and direct engagement between the characters and my readers. I use a lot of police jargon, but not for the sake of it. Every piece of it is intentional and establishes the mood of the scene. I also use a lot of profanity because that is what I have heard and said (but don’t tell my mother!) as a real police detective. As a reader, I enjoy novels—regardless of genre—that draw me in completely. As a writer, I believe that it is my obligation to provide that experience for my reader, who has given up however many hours out of their busy day to read my books.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I kind of binge-read. I will find an author and read as much as I can from that author and, regardless of the genre, will draw some clever bit out and apply it to my own writing. For example, I recently went through a slight Peter Temple phase. I loved one of his books and did not enjoy another as much, primarily because I didn’t like the protagonist in the second book. Both books held my attention and I would recommend them, but I much preferred the first over the second. What I learned from that as a writer is that it’s okay for your reader to not love your protagonist as long as the story is strong.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I have just discovered Simon Brett (I know, what rock have I been living under, right?) and absolutely love his writing style. I seriously doubt that he and I will ever co-author a project, but I’d gladly settle for sitting down with him for a few pints!

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

I am so glad you asked! As well as an outrageously rigorous writing and publishing schedule for the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series (Book Two will be out in February 2019, followed by Book Three in June 2019) I have a cosy series on the go. I know. Who writes police procedurals and cosies? And, the main character of the Mary Margaret Mysteries is Mike O’Shea’s mother! There will be some crossovers of characters and dialogue (and room for so many inside jokes referencing the series). I am really looking forward to it and am anxious to see how it all comes together.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

My bedside table at home often looks like a game of Jenga. Ivan Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide, Catherine Hernandez’ Scarborough, Aldofo E. Ramirez’ The Purple Cloud Project…the list goes on and on and on. I’m looking forward to a book by a friend of mine, Christine Newman, a debut author, later this year (I hope!).

Anything you’d like to add?

I’d just like to thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers. It is a privilege to be a writer who is read by others. And I hope that you enjoy reading 10-33 Assist PC as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thanks for taking the time, I’ve really enjoyed hearing from you! 

 

 

 

N. M. Brown Interview: “I spent most of my teenage years gleefully devouring horror novels”

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With a focus on serial killers, Norman M Brown’s writing takes readers deep into the heart of a mystery. I invited him to talk me through his work and how he crafts his often terrifying narratives.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards serial killer books?

My writing style is very much an extension of how I speak. I try to keep my novels short enough to read on flight or on a couple of hours, but still pack a punch in terms of plot. My typical narrative voice is conversational, but that is intentionally designed to ease readers in a world that is brimming with dangers. I try to keep the descriptions lean, and reduce chapters down to the most relevant information. If my writing were compared to painting I’d be more of an impressionist than a realist. This is mainly because, I often feel a little cheated when I pick up a book that is packed with superfluous description of every object in a room, or if there’s a ten-page explanation of the coffee shop in which the protagonist briefly pauses. I love writers who can establish an atmosphere or scene through a couple of key descriptions or objects. That leaves space for the reader to add elements from their own imagination.

In regard to my interest in Serial Killer fiction, like many crime writers, I spent most of my teenage years gleefully devouring horror novels– from the Gothic vampires and undead of Victorian classics, to the contemporary monsters of Stephen King and Clive Barker. Later on, as undergraduate, I learned how these monsters often serve as mirrors reflecting the fears and anxieties of the society which spawned them. In that respect, serial killers-whether real or imagined- are our 21st century monsters. The problem is that they are no longer so easily identifiable by their hideous appearance on their sprawling castle in the mountains. The work in our offices, live in our streets and smile to us as we pass them. That’s what fascinates and scares me. My novels are my attempt to exorcise those fears.

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing thrillers?

I have written fiction throughout my entire adult life, but my interest in writing a Crime Thriller was a direct result of forgetting to take my Kindle on holiday two years ago. I arrived in the villa and sighed with genuine relief when I discovered a fully stocked bookcase. However, the books were almost all Crime Thrillers One the first books I read was The Black Echo by Michael Connelly. I enjoyed the book so much that I decided to set myself a personal challenge – to create my own detective and take him on a journey that people would hopefully want to experience. Having taught high school English for a couple of decades, I knew the elements of setting and character that appealed to me, so it was simply a case of sitting down with my laptop and tapping it out.

Tell me about your books. How did you come to write them and what was the inspiration behind them.

The Girl on the Bus has an element of personal experience: about twenty years ago, I took a bus from Stirling to Inverness in the Highlands , a journey of over three hours through the picturesque but isolated Cairngorms National Park. The trip was lovely and the scenery stunning. Stirling merged into Perth then Perth into Pitlochry. As I sank into my bus seat, complete with curtained window and a complimentary cup holder, I lost myself in the pages of a cheap paperback book. Occasionally, I would drift off and wake with my face sliding on the cold glass of the window.  But at some point, as the bus weaved its way through the rugged mountains, I realised that the dramatic landscape outside was quite devoid of civilisation. If anything happened to the coach party out there, no one would ever know. Then, in the typically morbid spirit of any crime fiction fan, I considered how terrible it would be if anyone on that solitary bus was actually a killer. Glancing nervously around at my fellow commuters, I studied their faces for traces of psychopathy, and concluded that they all had potential (it was Scotland after all). I then hit on an even more worrying possibility. What if everyone on the bus, including the driver, were actually killers? It would be a mobile crime scene. And what if that bus picked up a naïve passenger who felt safe because there were plenty of other people on the bus with them? That idea grew into my first published novel.

Carpenter Road was the result of the research I had carried out for the first book. The story was inspired by the setting. When writing the first Leighton Jones novel – The Girl on the Bus- I wanted to make the central character as real as possible, without getting too tangled up in backstory. I therefore tried to include just enough details from the past to give the reader a sense of the Leighton’s history, and hopefully make him a little more three dimensional.

In that capacity, there are a couple of times in the book when police officers make references to a historical incident at Black Mountain involving Leighton Jones. We never find out what this incident was, but some of Leighton’s colleagues seem impressed by it. We are also told that the incident also resulted in Gretsch becoming Chief of Oceanside P.D. In his typical style, Leighton is reluctant to speak about it. Carpenter Road is the story of that incident.

I got the seed of the idea when I was originally researching the San Diego area whilst writing the first novel. As I poured over the maps, I made notes on any places of interest. Most of the time I was looking for good places to hide a sinister old bus. However, sometimes I would simply notice an intriguing place name. One such name was Black Mountain. When I first read those two words, my mind was flooded with images. It sounded like the perfect place for the climax of that novel. To me, the name conjured up images of a craggy place – some fusion of Tolkien’s Mount Doom and Castle Dracula.  After pouring a cup of coffee, I sat down at my computer and began looking at images and street views of Black Mountain. I felt my heart sink…

Rather than some sinister location, Black Mountain was actually a rather picturesque area of California, complete with a private development of luxury homes. However amongst the many images, I discovered one that hinted at a darker side to this beautiful part of the country. It was a picture taken from the fascinating website: hiddensandiego.net, featuring an old mineshaft in Black Mountain Canyon. Obviously, there was no way to take my scary old bus into a mineshaft – although I did eventually use the idea of it tumbling into a canyon – so I saved the images in a folder of potential locations.

In that same folder were images relating to a second place name that had also struck a chord with as I read it was Carpenter Road. For some reason it reminded of the absolutely terrifying The Walrus and the Carpenter by C.S. Lewis – you can easily find it online if you’re brave enough. I had read the narrative poem at university and it gave me nightmares. In the poem, the eponymous characters are described walking along a beach where they encounter a group of little oysters. The seemingly respectable convince compliant little oysters to accompany them on a walk to some distant rock. Upon stopping for a rest, the oysters look in horror as their two new friends produce bread and vinegar and begin to feed. Many academics have debated the significance of these two characters, but to me they were simply killers.

Once I had completed The Girl on the Bus, I sat down in front of the computer to write the prequel and opened the folder of locations. Seeing images of both Black Mountain and Carpenter Road together was enough to ignite my imagination. I therefore decided to write a story involving a character that shows up – like the Walrus and the Carpenter– in desolate places to kill whoever they want. Fortunately, for me, Carpenter Road in Oceanside is a fairly deserted place at night and fits the idea well.

As for Black Mountain and the old arsenic mines, I decided that this would serve as the belly of the beast for Leighton Jones. A mineshaft is dark and remote. Not the sort of place you want to enter to confront a serial killer.  So the settings helped inspire the story. Of course I still had to consider how a traffic officer – as Leighton was at the time – would become embroiled in the case. I figured that the simplest way would be to start off with a car, a missing person, and a witness that nobody would believe. At that point I knew I had a story that even as the writer had me hooked. Hopefully it will have a similar effect on some readers too.

When choosing books to read, what style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I like Cormac McCarthy. He has a wonderful for voices, and his prose is sometimes so sparse that it almost seems like poetry. I also like the old masters – especially Ray Bradbury who imbued much of his writing with a feeling of real affection for all aspects of life. In terms of my own genre, Michael Connelly gets my respect for his meticulous research, and the scale of the world he has built around Detective Harry Bosch.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Michael Connelly for the reasons given above. I would love to see how Leighton Jones would cope with working alongside Harry Bosch.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Yes, my third Leighton Jones novel, Toys in the Dust takes my protagonist to his first unofficial missing persons case. It is loosely based upon two of the oldest, most disturbing cold cases in history: Maria Ridulph and The Beaumont Children. However, I wanted to write about an abduction case in which the child escapes from their captor, and has to rely on their wits to survive.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward coming up?

I have been looking forward to Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia. I have always been drawn to stories involving woods and forests. Add a disappearance or two and you have me ready to turn those pages.

Anything you’d like to add?

Just my thanks to you for taking an interest in my work.

It’s been great to hear from you, thanks ever so much for answering my questions. You can find out more HERE.

Rona Halsall Interview: “I’ve always had writing at the heart of my work”

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This week I caught up with thriller writer Rona Halsall to find out more about her debut novel and upcoming projects.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards psychological thriller writing?

Well I didn’t start off writing psychological thrillers, although they’re one of my favourite genres. I didn’t think I’d be able to work out plot twists and plant little clues – all that planning! So I started writing romance. I finished writing my first book and pitched it to an agent at a literary festival. She said she really liked my writing style but didn’t think the story was commercial enough. So I put that to one side and started again. This time I wrote more of a mystery/suspense. When I finished I sent it to the same agent who said she thought my voice would be better suited to psychological thrillers and she suggested a re-work of the story. So, with her help to work out a suitable plot, I did a complete re-write and I so enjoyed it, I realised this was the genre I wanted to write.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I was a business adviser and management consultant for twenty-five years, which involved a lot of writing in the form of business plans and grant applications and notes from meetings. So I’ve always had writing at the heart of my work. When I turned fifty, I decided that I’d better get a move on if I was going to write a novel and when my husband took early retirement, I had a career break to do a bit of writing and this has been my work ever since.

rona book cover

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

I have had quite a nomadic life, living in lots of different places and I think I have been through quite a wide range of life experiences – lots that can be spun into stories.

Inspiration also comes from news stories or things that friends say, bits and pieces online and personal experience. Also, once you start researching an idea it can lead you weird and wonderful places!

If I find I’m stuck with a storyline, I tend to take the dogs out for a walk and let my mind sort things out while I get a bit of fresh air and exercise. Or, if the weather’s really horrible, I’ll read the news or do a bit of admin and let my mind wander.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I think it would be Lisa Jewell. I love her characters. They are always so fresh and real and different and that’s such a hard thing to achieve. I also admire her writing style, which flows so easily and is a joy to read.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

My second book, Love You Gone has just gone on pre-order and is going to be published on 15th November. I’m really happy with the way it has shaped up and the cover is just gorgeous!

Are there any new books you are looking forward to coming up?

The new one by Fiona Barton, The Suspect. I love her books – they are so interesting, seeing things from the view of a journalist. Her plots are really twisty and her writing is a joy to read.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

My debut novel Keep You Safe is out now. This follows the story of Natalie, who has been separated from her baby son for three years. She was wrongly accused of a crime and imprisoned. Now she is free she knows that her son’s life is in danger and she is desperate to get him to safety. But who can she trust?

Readers can keep up to date on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RonaHalsallAuthor/

And on Twitter:@RonaHalsallAuth

It’s been a great pleasure hearing your thoughts and learning more about your books Rona, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.