Rachel Amphlett Interview: “I grew up surrounded by crime fiction and thrillers”

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Creator of not one but three unique crime fiction series and a myriad of standalone novels Rachel Amphlett talks to me about how she creates the characters that her readers have come to love.

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

I grew up surrounded by crime fiction and thrillers. I think like a lot of crime writers, I started off with the Famous Five series and went from there, working my way through my parents’ and grandparents’ collections of Ed McBain, Dick Francis, Alistair MacLean – all the greats. A defining moment for me was when my granddad loaned me his copy of Jack Higgins’ The Eagle Has Landed when I was 12 years old – I loved it, and so I think becoming a writer in this genre was a natural progression. It just took me a few years to get around to it

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

Before I became a full-time writer I’d played guitar in bands, helped to run a pub, been a TV/film extra, worked in desktop publishing, project administration and things like that. I started writing on my commute into work by train seven years ago. Every morning I’d plonk myself in a corner of the carriage, open my laptop and make sure I hit my daily word count target by the time the train pulled into the station at the other end. I went full-time last year when I was made redundant – I’ve had so much support from readers around the world that I didn’t need to find another job, for which I’m extremely grateful.

Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular, and what draws readers to them?

I think it’s the characters. That’s why I get hooked on series I like to read – I have an investment in what happens to those people and how they cope with what happens to them.

With the Detective Kay Hunter series, I have a resilient detective who has been through the wringer personally but has a loving partner (Adam, a vet) who supports her and she’s a real team player. I think that’s important, too – she’s not a lone wolf, and her team of detectives are as integral to the stories as Kay herself.

My Dan Taylor series of spy thrillers are similar in that I hope readers are invested in the main character and those around him. The Dan Taylor books are fun to write because I can take those characters anywhere around the world, drop them into a messy situation and see how they get themselves out of it.

That’s very similar in style to my new English Spy Mysteries series featuring Eva Delacourt – here you get to meet a woman who has been hiding for a number of years before suddenly being thrust into the spotlight again with no idea who to trust. You get to go on that journey with this character as she tries to fathom who has betrayed her while attempting to stop a terrorist.

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

I’ll read every interview I can get my hands on with Peter James, Val McDermid, Peter Robinson, Ian Rankin, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Michael Connelly and Jeffery Deaver. That’s how I learned to understand how to write crime fiction – all their interviews are filled with great advice, and of course I love their books, too.

I read outside the genre, too. I think it’s important to listen to different voices and styles to avoid becoming stagnant. Two of my favourite authors on the fringes of crime and another genre are Jim Butcher (the Harry Dresden series) and CJ Sansom (the Shardlake series).

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

Well, I’m currently in the process of moving back to the UK after 13 years in Australia so things are a little crazy right now! However, I’m busy plotting and drafting the next Detective Kay Hunter story and I’ve got the first book in a new crime series drafted – that won’t be released until sometime next year. I’ve just got to find somewhere to live first…

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

CJ Sansom’s new one, Tombland in the Shardlake series is out in October so I’ll be snapping that up on publication day. I’m also looking forward to Peter James’ Absolute Proof, out the same month. There are so many good books to look forward to later this year!

It’s been great to hear from you Rachel- thanks for taking the time! You can find out more about Rachel HERE.

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Skyjack Review: A Novel That Will Hold You Hostage

skyjack

My second book tour post today is a review of the thrilling new hostage negotiation novel that has the plot of a Hollywood movie. I didn’t mean to schedule them on the same day, but one date looks very much the same as the next when it’s warm and sunny outside! So have a look at my review of this latest edge-of-your-seat roller-coaster of a book which will soon be THE novel to take with you to the beach.

K.J Howe’s sequel to the renowned The Freedom Broker brings back hostage negotiator Thea Paris. This time, she’s on a flight to take two former child soldiers to a new life when her plane is hijacked. Separated from the boys she is minding, Thea and her team undertake a desperate search for the truth which leads them to some deep conspiracies that reach deep into the heart of many of the world’s key organisations.

Sinister and overwhelming in equal measure, the novel penetrates right to the heart of organised society and explores the greed, violence and injustice inherent in humankind, as well as the lengths people will go to in order to stop it. Thea Paris is a truly inspirational character; a woman who is both sympathetic and at the same time intelligent- her emotions do not blind her to reality, unlike many female characters in similar positions, making her even more engaging and exciting when you think of how many male protagonists there are in this genre.

Short, sharp sentences punctuate the narrative, keeping the novel tightly wound from the first chapter right through to the nail-biting conclusion. Keeping readers guessing throughout, Howe creates a truly un-put-downable book that is impossible to forget about or ignore. Her multidimensional characters are impressive considering there are many and some have very limited time spent on them.

At the end of the book I felt truly immersed in Thea’s gripping world, which, fundamentally, is what you’re looking for in a good thriller.

 

 

 

Now You See Her Review: Deeply Deceitful and Deliciously Dark

Now You See Her Hi-Res Cover Image

For my first book tour review of the day, I checked out Hedi Perk’s new novel Now You See Her. Upon reading the blurb initially, the novel put me in mind of Shari Lapena riveting thriller The Couple Next Door, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

After all, both feature the disappearance of children and the lies people tell when they’re in hot water. In the case of Now You See Me, the little girl in question is named Alice; she’s staying with her mother’s best friend and her children when she unexpectedly disappears.

Her devastated mother Harriet can’t bear to speak with or see her former friend, however, just weeks later the pair are both being questioned about the child. Lies and deceits are bought into the glaring light of day, leading both friends to question everything they thought they knew about the other.

High on suspense and quick to twist, the novel packs the narrative thrills, although at times I am not entirely convinced by the characters. Perhaps it is my own personal lack of experience with suburban mothers, but I find myself wondering if peoples’ friendships and behaviors towards each other are quite the way they are here.

Now You See Her Blog Tour Banner

That being said, the novel is definitely a page-turner, with some tense standoffs and gripping dialogue. Perk really captures the desperation through her portrayal of Alice’s mother and her unfortunate friend, and the reader is constantly on a knife-edge as they try to keep one step ahead of the narrative, which speeds away just as you feel you’ve got a grasp on what’s happening and who’s telling the truth.

Overall an gripping tale, I am impressed with Now You See Her, and am certain that, given a few weeks, the novel will be snapped up by some Hollywood studio, and Reese Witherspoon will have snagged herself a key role.

The Top Five Political Thrillers To Get You Woke

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As James Patterson, and, of all people, Bill Clinton create a new political thriller, I decided it was high time I checked out five of the best novels in the genre for anyone looking to whet their appetite and find a new favourite.

After all, with the current political situation around the world looking, to all intents and purposes, like the plot of a dystopia novel, now has never been a better time to escape into some fiction and draw alarming parallels to real life.

5. The Whistler: Former Lawyer John Grisham’s riveting thriller explores how corruption at the heart of the American judicial system can allow a gang to create a casino and use it as a base through which they can conduct all manner of crimes- including murder. Exploring the potential influence of a corrupt judge, an investigative journalist delves deep into this extraordinary mystery and finds a scandal that reaches into the very heart of the legal system. Grisham is a sure-fire bet for a fast-paced, exciting story, and this is no exception.

4. Tinker Tailor Solider Spy: The film was a lacklustre version of this exceptional tour de force from Le Carre, the king of innovative spy thrillers. Delving into the heart of the establishment to root out the rotten core, his enigmatic protagonist George Smiley proves that sheer determination and hard work, along with a dry wit and a nose for the truth, can get you just about anywhere.

3. The Manchurian Candidate: Richard Condon’s classic political thriller became the blueprint for many followers. The novel centres around a decades old conspiracy and one man’s quest to find out the truth- a classic thriller plot, the success of which hinges on great writing and strong characterisation.

2. The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Mohsin Hamid’s gripping tale keeps readers on the edge of their seats from tantalising beginning to cliff-hanger finale. Exploring the impact that 9/11 had on Muslims living in America at the time, the novel showcases in graphic detail how the reaction from every corner of society easily led normal Muslims to drastic beliefs and identity struggles. Tackling this sensitive subject with respect, the novel perfectly sums up the alienation many felt following this horrific event, and turns it into a fascinating story that stays with you long after you set the book down.

1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Frankly, the entirety of Larsson’s Millennium series is truly excellent, but the first novel really delves into the corruption inherent in the author’s version of the Swedish judicial, legal and political systems. This is a true thriller, and at times it is truly terrifying and will have you hooked from the first page.

 

Night Driver Review: An Engaging Thriller the Likes of Which You Won’t Have Seen Before

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If you’re looking for something a little bit different to your average thriller, but with the grit and human drama that you’re used to, then look no further than Marcelle Perk’s latest novel. Initially established as a sort of alternative crime novel, the narrative quickly escalates as the reader becomes embroiled in a tense mystery that is both unsettling and empathetic at the same time.

Heavily pregnant Frannie is an English woman who now lives in Germany. Hoping to gain some control over her confusing life, she learns to drive; however she is so nervous that she chooses to only drive at night. During one of her nocturnal drives, she becomes entangled in a search for a missing person, and is then thrown into the path of a serial killing truck driver.

Putting a woman, and better yet a heavily pregnant one, at the centre of the mystery gives this a great dynamic, and as unlikely sleuth Frannie gets deeper into this intriguing mystery we learn more both about her and the danger she is facing. Author Marcelle Perks creates has a true imagination and an eye for detail that lends itself to this great, new take on the traditional late night thriller.

Written in the third person, the novel gives Frannie a unique agency as she explores a truly horrendous underground world of pimps, prostitutes, organ trafficking drug addicts and sadistic serial killers. It is really different to read about a heavily pregnant woman snorting cocaine and generally raising hell, but this is what you get with Night Driver.

At the end of the day, this is an unusual take on a thriller/ mystery novel, but it’s definitely one worth checking out. Being a book blogger who specialises in crime fiction, mystery and thrillers, I rarely read anything truly unique, but with this novel I was genuinely impressed.

The Top Five Canadian Authors to Celebrate on Canada Day

Margaret Atwood

Happy Canada Day!! To celebrate, I decided to compile a list of my five favourite Canadian authors from across the genres that showcase the best that this unique country has to offer. So check it out and see if you can find something new to read on this exciting national holiday, and maybe keep going with for a bit longer if you’re so inclined. Happy Reading!

5. Yann Martel: Celebrated author of The Life of Pi, Martel offers readers a truly unique perspective on the absurdity of life. Another of his books that is well worth a read is Beatrice and Virgil, an allegory for the holocaust told through a novelist’s exploration of taxidermied animals.

4. Joy Kogawa: Japanese-Canadian Poet and Novelist Joy Kogawa writes some truly phenomenal poems which are really delve deep into human trauma and the most harrowing of human experiences possible. I have personally never read her novels, however I am told that her work is inspirational, and as such she is absolutely worth looking into.

canada writers3. Peter Robinson: Odd to think that the author of the Yorkshire based DCI Banks as Canadian, but Robinson was born in Leeds and moved to Toronto, presumably because it’s better than Leeds (although, let’s be fair here, there are lots of places better than Leeds). His novels are gripping and will keep you entertained for ages, because there are a lot of them, so what’s not to like?!

2. Louise Penny: Canadian thriller writer Penny creates harrowing and tantalising novels, which will stay with you forever. Set in Quebec, her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has been translated into a number of different languages and has become a true bastion of Canadian fiction, and as such any thriller reader should defiantly check her out, especially as it is Canada Day today!

1. Margret Atwood: Renowned for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which has recently been turned into a brilliant TV series, Atwood has also written a range of novels across a variety of genres, and her work really resonates, particularly in today’s perilous world. Her intuitive explorations of human nature are incredibly empathetic and as such everyone will find a character in Atwood’s work that they can relate to.

Simon Bower Interview: “As long as I can remember, I have adored a good crime thriller”

SIMON BOWER

For anyone looking for a good book to read while they laze on the beach and enjoy the heat wave, Dead in the Water is a great thriller to keep you entertained. I interviewed Author Simon Bower to learn more about the novel and how he drew on his own experiences of international travel to write it.

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

As long as I can remember, I have adored a good crime thriller. While I can appreciate some literary fiction, my personality dictates that I prefer fast-paced heart thumping suspense and mystery to beautifully crafted clauses! When I wrote Dead in the Water, I spent considerable time defining the writing style. Specifically, my first decision was to couch each chapter in the viewpoint of one of the characters. This provides a limited viewpoint that also allows a scenario to be explored from two different points of view, and at times with humour (an early example of this in the book is when Charlie and Ana see their relationship from very different points of view). I also decided to write Charlie’s chapters in the first person – it really immerses the reader in his psychological character. Finally, the vantage point of parts 1 and 2 of the Dead in the Water, is at the end of part 2, so part 3 transcends naturally into a present tense suspense. This real-time style can be liberating for the writer and the reader, since anything at all can happen. So I was attracted towards the writing style that I love and I wrote the book that I wanted to read.

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

I have always enjoyed writing and wrote a number of pieces for personal exploration during the past twenty years that I have spent living away from the UK. Undoubtedly, these projects guided the maturity of my work and allowed me to structure Dead in the Water from the outset. In terms of profession, I have lent myself to a whole array of jobs and industries in quite a few different continents – some of my most influential jobs have been when working in the communications field. Despite my keen interest I writing, time has always been in short supply. So the catalyst to put into words my plot for this book was the opportunity that presented itself a few years ago to concentrate on writing full time.

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

In order to have characters with sufficient depth, emotions, speech style and motive, I base my characters on exaggerations of real people that I know. I might not know them well, but it helps to ensure consistency of thought and the liveliness of reality. The crime elements come from a release of constraints, thinking like a kid who has not yet understood the moral lines and laws accepted in our society. What could you get away with if moral boundaries were removed and you didn’t care about the risk of a life in prison?

Dead in the Water is one of a new wave of hybrid genres. It’s a thriller, but before that it’s realistic and a mystery too. Three books in one. The one constant throughout my work is a very strong sense of place. I draw inspiration from locations I know intimately, taking the reader to parts of France, to Amsterdam, New York, London and Oxford, to name a few. When I wrote the manuscript, it was not one contiguous drafting journey – I dipped and delved into different parts of the book, and this meant if I ever met a wall, a way around it soon appeared by working on another point in the story, then going back to it.

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

Writing the first draft for Dead in the Water was a solitary endeavour. However, developing it with my editor, Kate Taylor, was a productive collaboration. Suddenly I could share the responsibility and she was terrific at editing out superfluous details. However, I have not really considered collaborating to write a book, like Clive Cussler and James Patterson tend to do. Although I love the idea of working with Iain Banks, who has sadly left us, it would probably be most fruitful to work with someone who could bring a truly different perspective to the table – a CIA agent, or a convicted killer.

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

I’ve begun planning a sequel to Dead in the Water. It certainly won’t be simply an extension of the first, but so many people are craving to know what happens next. I won’t say too much, to avoid spoilers, but it would also be set globally, have some of the same characters and occur after the end of the first book.

Other than that, I have a keen interest to work on a book that is more speculative in nature. I enjoyed Matt Haig’s The Humans in part owing to its completely normal setting, but with an utterly abstract twist.

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

I’ve mentioned a few writers, but the one that keeps getting away is Terry Hayes. I enjoyed his debut novel I am Pilgrim, despite some reservations of stereotyping, and very much look forward to his belated next release The Year of the Locust. I also like to check out new writers and I have a few of those to try out. One example is Strangers on a Bridge, by Louise Mangos – the plot sounds intriguing.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

My book has been released by a UK indie publisher, Middle Farm Press, and the odds are stacked against ‘David’ when ‘Goliath’ and all the collaborators hold all the cards. Dead in the Water is stocked in some bookshops but for now, our distribution is limited mainly to the biggest online consumer direct suppliers. We are working on improving this, but need to demonstrate demand, so we are most appreciative for the support we get for either the eBook or paperback. Finally a hearty thanks to Hannah for conducting this interview and I hope you enjoy Dead in the Water!

Thanks for answering my questions Simon, it has been awesome to hear your thoughts.