Brian Jacobs Interview: ‘I am a visual artist by training, and I think about writing the same way that I approach painting’

Author image by Michael Steinberg

Mars Violent Evenings is an innovative novel about art, by an artist, giving a unique perspective and interesting insights. To find out more, I spoke to author Brian Jacobs about the novel, his inspiration and what the future holds.

Tell me about Mars Violet Evenings and what made you decide to write a book about an Englishman trying to make it in the American fine arts scene.

Well, the fine arts aspect is pretty straightforward. After years of working a wide variety of insufficiently fulfilling fine arts jobs (most of which will likely show up in my books), I retreated to positions where I could enjoy some peace and solitude while cleaning and providing building maintenance. This gave me the time and space to think about my creative life and start imagining a protagonist who endures similar experiences in the world of art.

Originally, Marc Clemens was American. But when I printed and read the first draft of the opening pages of the novel, I mentally heard my written words in an English accent. It was the voice of a LibriVox audiobook reader I had listened to for many hours in the car. This voice continued to speak my words through several drafts and the experience was so striking that I decided that Marc must be an Englishman.

Once I knew that Marc was English, I was compelled, as I wrote, to let this fact shape the story. And interestingly, having made this decision, I now heard the novel in my own American accent as I silently read drafts, even as I wrote Marc’s lines in more of an English dialect.

How did you come to create your protagonist, Marc Clemens? I know a lot of writers create autobiographical main characters—did you include any of your own traits in your character?

Friends and family naturally interpret Marc as my alter ego. Personally, I think Marc and I are very different, and I have a picture of him in my mind that doesn’t look at all like me.

But I did put his character in situations I have known. Sometimes it’s simply that my own experiences are easy to describe. Other times, I’m drawing on personal experiences I have strong ethical convictions about.

And what can I say about Marc’s romances? Before I began to write, I gave him a few flaws to counterbalance his strong powers of observation, which I had intended to drive the narrative. One of his flaws was to be his habit of choosing the wrong romantic partners. From the start, however, the women asserted their places in the story. As a writer, I became smitten with them and they all feel like people I might have come across sometime in my life, perhaps a long time ago.

Why did you decide to write Mars Violet Evenings; what was the inspiration behind the book?

I am a visual artist by training, and I think about writing the same way that I approach painting. In Mars Violet Evenings, I’m painting a picture with words, and it’s the world of art that I am portraying. I could make a real canvas and lots of people would like it, and a few would understand why they like it. By imagining art, however, I have found a strong vehicle for expressing ideas about visual art—concepts that I think increasingly elude literary description, and language in general.

I have a less lofty and more charming reason, too, for writing the book. I’ve enjoyed creating it for myself. Joe says it better than I can. “If I had been a collector,” Joe told us, “I would have wanted paintings like these in my collection. But no one had made them yet, so I had to make them myself.”

How did you come to publish a book? What was your journey towards publication like?

I had no idea how to write a novel, but I knew it wanted to be written. When my area of the world shut down during the early stages of the Covid 19 pandemic, I suddenly had time to write. The US government became my patron. I wrote the novel during this shutdown. This just goes to show what creative people can accomplish when they have access to time, money, and resources: six weeks, $2400, and the Scrivener software program was all I needed.

Editing, on the other hand, took another couple years and many, many drafts!

And I couldn’t have done it alone. I enlisted a London hybrid press to edit my manuscript, design the cover, typeset the pages, and market the finished book. It was essential that I have professionals to explain literary conventions and an editor well versed in British English. Last year, I self-published my novel through Authoright’s press, Clink Street. This January, I republished it on my own with revisions (based on feedback from my readers) through my own imprint.

Front cover of Mars Violent Evenings (cover art by the author)

What style of writing do you enjoy reading yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

Honestly, I love any good writing. I used to take a subscription to New York Magazine (while living in Cleveland) and the one feature I consistently turned to was the restaurant reviews because I found the author to be the magazine’s best writer.

When it comes to fiction, two very different writers really speak to me as a reader and frequently haunt me as a writer. I think I channel a little bit of each of them in my novel. I wonder if my readers can see their influence when I say that Marcel Proust and Hans Christian Andersen hold important places on my bookshelves.

I suspect that a little bit of every author we read seeps into our writing. While I was still in the editing stages, I came across a translated anthology of short works by Denis Diderot while digging around my shelves looking for a bookmark. Easily distracted from my task, I flipped through the volume and stopped on a passage where I found a sentence that, verbatim, matches one of my own in Chapter One. So that’s why I really liked that line! I didn’t write it, I subconsciously lifted it from a twenty-year-old memory. And I kept it.

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

I sometimes daydream about collaborating with Mackenzie Crook. When I found his television series Detectorists, I felt immediately validated for the way I am writing. Early on, in drafting Mars Violet Evenings, I’d been feeling a bit out of accord with some popular trends in literature. In fact, when I first approached Authoright, I told them, with some degree of trepidation, that my book was going to be “quirky.”

Though I felt some affinity with past writers like Aldous Huxley, G. K. Chesterton, and E. F. Benson, I needed to see that some other living writer was accurately capturing an unexplored corner of the real world with situations and characters that are simultaneously absurd and believable. Crook understands that verité does not exclude absurdity. Naturalism and silliness are not mutually exclusive.

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

I’ve begun work on a collection of short stories by me and my late father. I recently found a folder of short stories that he had written in the early to mid nineteen-fifties. Reading the yellowed, type-written pages, I was fascinated that my father and I share some stylistic similarities in our writing. It appears that none of these stories was ever published.

Aside from Mars Violet Evenings, I have four unpublished short prose works and I’ll include these in the project with a half-dozen of my dad’s stories. I’ve also begun two short stories specifically for this collection—one which is yet just notes and the other is only kicking around in my head, but they are fully formed otherwise (I think). There may be a collaborative piece, too, working from some sketches that I presume were for his writing class.

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

There are so many good new books. Unfortunately, life here in the US is very stressful at the moment and I’ve been finding it hard to relax and enjoy much reading. But recently I was given tickets to attend an inspiring talk by Neil Gaiman. I enjoyed the diversity of readers in attendance and the works he read that night proved to be accessible to a wide audience. I’m on the lookout for other writers like Gaiman who have a unique voice but can write for everyone.

A writer like Gaiman draws the reader through the words on the page the way an artist guides the eye through the composition of a painting. In my own reading, I’m less interested in books that grant readers the characters and plots they ask for and more interested in writers who create characters and plots that readers will find themselves drawn to.

Huge thanks to Brian for answering these questions: it’s really exciting learning more about your work and I’m excited to seeing your future releases!

Tom Mead Interview: “Telling stories is what I love to do”

Tom Mead is an author of locked room mysteries who recently published his debut novel. I chat to him about his work and the road he took to publication.

How did you come to become an author? What’s your career experience and how do you draw on it in your writing?

Well I studied creative writing at university, but before that I always had my head in a book. The idea of being a writer has always appealed, ever since I was young. Telling stories is what I love to do. I grew up reading classic mysteries by Agatha Christie, so fair-play puzzle plots have always been a significant feature of my reading life, too. It just seemed like a natural progression to take my enjoyment of the puzzles and use it to construct mysteries of my own.

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

I’ve always had a fascination with magic tricks and illusions, and really the locked-room mystery is the closest literary equivalent. The best kind of locked-room mysteries are the ones that give you a sense of “retrospective illumination”- a moment where you want to kick yourself because you realise how deceptively simple the solution is and you can’t believe you didn’t think of it. I love reading those kinds of book, and so I want to try and give readers the same sense of joy that I get from them.

How did you come to publish a book? As a debut novelist, what was your journey towards publication like?

My publishing experience was a pretty unorthodox one. I’d been writing short mystery stories for a long time- several years, in fact- when my story “Heatwave” was selected by Lee Child for inclusion in his anthology The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021, which was published by Mysterious Press in the US and Head of Zeus here in the UK (under the title The Best Crime Stories of the Year). This put me in touch with Otto Penzler, who runs Mysterious Press, and who shares my love of locked-room mysteries. So I took a chance and sent him my manuscript, hoping for a bit of feedback at best. Not only did I get the feedback, but I also got an offer to publish it, which certainly exceeded my wildest expectations. But it was through Mysterious that I established a connection with Head of Zeus, which is why the book came out in the US first, although I live in the UK.

Why did you decide to write Death And The Conjuror? What was the inspiration behind the book?

I’d written about my detective character, Joseph Spector, in several of my short mystery stories. I’d been wanting to use him in a piece of longer fiction for a while, but it didn’t initially occur to me that Death and the Conjuror might turn into a full-length novel. It was only while I was plotting it out, and adding characters and complications, that it occurred to me that it would take a novel to fully explore the complexities- all the twists and turns- of this story.

What’s your research process? How do you go about finding out important facts and integrating them into your work?

Writing about the 1930s is a lot of fun because that era was the height of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, when so many of my favourite writers were at the peak of their creative powers. Crime fiction offers such a brilliant insight into the social mores of an era that I couldn’t ask for better research material. But when it comes to adding period verisimilitude to my depiction of London society, there are plenty of nonfiction resources out there. Historical records, photographs, documentaries and of course books. I used as many as I could lay my hands on.

What style of writing do you enjoy reading yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

My favourite writer is John Dickson Carr, commonly known as the master of the locked-room mystery. He didn’t invent the genre, but he certainly took it to new heights. Discovering his works was certainly pivotal for me. That’s why I’ve dedicated Death and the Conjuror to his memory.

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

I actually have two collaborations happening at the moment. I’ve co-written a murder mystery for younger readers with the author Michael Dahl. I’m also co-editing an anthology of all-new locked-room mystery short stories with Gigi Pandian, another brilliant US author who’s written a number of fantastic mystery series.

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

At the moment it’s all systems go for the UK publication of Death and the Conjuror in hardback, so I’m really excited about that. But I’ve also recently announced the US publication date for the sequel, The Murder Wheel. It comes out in the US in July 2023, and in the UK later next year. So perhaps it goes without saying that I’m also incredibly excited about that.

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

I’m looking forward to diving into the latest book in Martin Edwards’s magnificent Rachel Savernake series- it’s called Blackstone Fell. Other recent books I’ve enjoyed include Anthony Horowitz’s The Twist of a Knife, Victoria Dowd’s The Supper Club Murders, and Fiona Sherlock’s Twelve Motives for Murder. Another author whose works I greatly admire is Robert Thorogood, creator of the BBC show Death in Paradise. Last year I read his brilliant novel The Marlow Murder Club, and I’m very excited for the sequel, which I understand includes a locked-room mystery.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just that I’m always delighted to hear from people who’ve enjoyed the book, and I try to be very responsive to readers. You can find me over on Facebook ( and Twitter (, or you can check out my website (

Thanks for taking the time, it’s been amazing to hear about your debut novel and I’m looking forward to your future work!

KT Galloway Interview: “I write to unwind and relax”

Better late than never! In my first author interview, thriller writer KT Galloway discusses her work and how her role as a psychologist helps her to craft unique and unputdownable books.

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

I have always been an avid reader of horror and psychological thrillers; I love Stephen King, Val McDermid, Karin Slaughter, and of course the great Agatha Christie. The idea of reading a book and solving clues as I go is one of great joy for me. My writing career started with comedy horror screenplays and I also write uplifting book club fiction, but I really wanted to get stuck into a series with great characters and lots of creepy thrills and chills, and so KT Galloway and The O’Malley and Swift series were borne.

What is your career background and how did you become a professional writer?

I am a qualified psychologist and therapist, and that’s what I studied for my masters at university. But ultimately, I just love the way the human brain works, and that blends well with writing about people and real-life (at a push) situations.

I am an agented author of uplifting book club fiction, and have been for a few years now, but I wanted to create another persona who could write all about creepy things instead of lovely things!

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

I write whenever I can. As I still work as a therapist I’m extremely busy. Especially these last two years! So I write to unwind and relax. If I sit down at my desk and no words are forthcoming I will take myself off for a walk (my young daughter permitting) or I’ll scroll social media or watch something on Netflix or read. I often find ideas come when I’m not trying to force them.

If I’m on a deadline then I set myself time limits. 15 minutes writing at a time. These bursts of productivity work well for me and my word count increases when I set these goals.

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I will read anything. I LOVE books and I love getting lost in a world created by someone else. At the moment I’m reading a lot of Eve Chase who has a superpower for creating rich environments and characters. I am definitely a mood reader. If I pick something up and don’t enjoy it immediately, I will shelve it for another time. I tend to have two books on the go at once for this very reason. I don’t mind what the genre is, I’m more about the character and storyline.

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

Hands down, the amazing Agatha Christie. Her writing has that perfect mix of humour and suspense, and her characters are so much fun. I think I could learn so much from her; red herrings, plots, settings… just everything!!! Plus I think she’d enjoy a proper cup of tea with me while we’re writing.

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

I am really excited about book 4 in the O’Malley and Swift series The House of Secrets. It’s playing out to be the most chilling one of the series so far. And I just love the relationship between Annie and Joe and how that is developing. It’s out in May so watch this space. You can pre-order on my amazon page here

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

I read a lot! It’s essential as a writer, I think. I have already read the new Lucy Foley, The Paris Apartment, which is AMAZING, and the new Gillian McAllister, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, which is sublime. They’re both out later on this year. As well as those, I am looking forward to The It Girl by Ruth Ware as I think she writes some of the best whodunnits.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been lovely chatting with you. If readers would like to find me they can on Twitter and Facebook
I also have a newsletter where I run competitions and giveaways and you can sign up here

Huge thanks for answering my questions it’s been amazing to hear about your work and lovely to chat with you too.

Cathy Hayward Interview: “I read a lot of historical fiction because I love reading about different times in history and it also helps my own writing”

Check out my interview with The Girl In The Maze author Cathy Hayward, who talks me through how she came to create her debut novel and what’s next for her writing career.

Please let me know about The Girl In The Maze. How did you find the process of getting the novel written and preparing for publication?

The Girl in the Maze is historical fiction about three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy. It explores the theme of mothering and being mothered. I started a creative writing course in 2015 and somewhere in the second year, I realised that what I was writing was not lots of smaller pieces but part of a greater whole, which eventually became The Girl in the Maze. My mother, with whom I’d had a difficult relationship, had died while I was on the course.

It was while I was clearing out her flat that I was inspired with the main part of the plot – a woman discovering something in her late mother’s possessions which sets her on a trail of discovery about her mother’s life. I didn’t discover anything in my mother’s flat, but writing the story was a form of therapy in itself and I now feel at peace with our relationship which is why the book is dedicated to her. I tinkered with it in 2017 and 2018 but it was only in 2019 that I started to properly work on it and I finished it in the first Covid lockdown. My old writing tutor, who had helped me get it ready for publication, suggested I enter the Lost the Plot writing competition which I went on to win. The organisers, Agora Books, then offered me a publishing deal – an amazing moment. But that was after I’d had loads and loads of rejections from agents and publishers.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards history fiction and darker themes?

I didn’t consciously set out to write a dark book. I think you just write what you know. At the time I started writing in earnest, I had just lost both parents and was struggling to come to terms with my relationship with my mother and the fact that could never now be fixed. I knew loose details of my mother’s life and ended up writing a fictionalised account of her experiences to help me with my grieving. I also did an English and History degree back in the 1990s, so writing historical fiction allows me to explore both elements.

What is your career background and how did you come to write a novel?

I trained as a journalist and edited a variety of trade publications, several of which were so niche they were featured on Have I Got News for You. I then moved into the world of PR. I’ve been around writing all my life but hadn’t written creatively since I was at school. It was hitting 40 in 2015 which made me realise it was now or never. I signed up for a creative writing course with the intention of writing a novel and went from there.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

I love a routine. I used to try to fit writing in and around work and life and it just always fell by the wayside. But once Covid hit, I used the time I would have been travelling to London to write and quickly got into a really good routine. I now write between 5 and 7am and then get the kids up and get on with my day job. It works really well, although I do have to go to bed early. My first two novels were inspired by old family history. I came up with the idea for my third while watching a documentary.

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I enjoy a mix. I read a lot of historical fiction because I love reading about different times in history and it also helps my own writing. I’ve just finished all three of Stacey Halls books and particularly loved The Familiars. But I can’t resist a good thriller – the sort of book you read in one sitting because it’s just so good. This year I’ve been reading many fellow debut authors books, both to support them and see what else is out there. It’s been a great opportunity to read outside my usual genres – Neema Shah’s debut Kololo Hill about Ugandan Asians fleeing from Uganda after Idi Amin ordered their expulsion was incredibly moving and gave me real insight into the refugee experience.

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

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to collaborate with someone on a writing project. I see fiction books which are co-written and wonder how it’s done. Writing is such a solitary and personal thing, I wonder whether the co-writers fight about where the plot is going! That said, I’d love any opportunity to work with Kate Morton because I adore her epic books about family secrets.

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

I’m just starting to go through the edits for my second novel, provisionally titled The Fortune Teller’s Promise, which sees university student Rosie home for the holidays to finish her dissertation which is about the Great War. Her mother suggests she talks to her great-grandmother Edith. Rosie reluctantly visits the old lady but is quickly drawn in by her vivid recollections of the start of the war and her father and brothers joining up to fight. But when Edith repeatedly slips up on dates and locations, Rosie starts to wonder whether her memory is beginning to fail her, or if their family history is not what it seems. 

I studied the Great War at university and loved it, so it’s been wonderful to revisit some of that literature again and do more research. But the story was also inspired by our family history. My late grandmother was engaged to be married to a man who was killed in the Great War.
I’ve also started my third book which is set in the 1970s and explore post-natal depression.

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

One of the judges for the Lost the Plot prize was Laura Pearson, who also published her debut with Agora Books a few years ago and has since had two more books published. She’s been very supportive of me and is very active on Twitter. I’ve just bought all three of her books and am getting started on Missing Pieces, another story about family secrets and intrigue. I’m looking forward to Emily Gunnis’s new book The Midwife’s Secret, which comes out in October and also the second instalment of Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club. I tend to read about two books a month and have a hefty to be read pile!

Huge thanks to Cathy for answering my questions- I’m also reading The Man Who Died Twice and it’s awesome. I’m excited to add The Girl In The Maze to my TBR pile!

C.J. Abazis Interview: “I think of writing as a simulation inside this simulation”

Crime fiction author and software developer talks to me about his work and the influences that drive him.

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

You know about the simulation argument? It’s the idea that, based on an infinite amount of outcomes, we most probably all live in a computer simulation. Well, I think of writing as a simulation inside this simulation. As authors, we simulate alternate realities and characters to prepare our readers for alternate outcomes. Writing “darker fiction” – as you call it – is doing this very knowingly, as if reaching out to the master simulation and trying to mess up its algorithms. It’s the only conceivable freedom.

What is your career background and how did you become a professional writer?

I mostly manage a software development firm. Software development and novel writing share many characteristics. You pick a language, choose frameworks/styles and set down requirements of what needs to be done. In novels it’s “the feel” of the work, what it wants to say, what it leaves behind. Then you write to assemble the plot and go sub-plot by sub-plot, feature-by-feature to make the thing work. Because it has to work. And performance counts in a novel, the same with software, you can never “consume” unnecessary resources, the readers are there to be transported in different worlds, not to play with widgets or investigate your moods. No one cares about your moods except for Spotify.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

I’m a deep conformist; I wear different clothes every day, but they’re of the same brand, same colors and designs. I love doing the same things early in the morning, when I write. Driving to work at exactly the same time. Getting coffee at the same time. We are all Melvin Udalls (As Good as It Gets) in this business, we esteem ritual and sameness and are basically extremely boring people. Otherwise it wouldn’t work. You can never allow drama to spill from the page on to your life and especially vice-versa.

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I keep a safe five-year distance from publication to reading and I expect that your smart readers will be doing the same and ignore The Machine Murders until 2026. A book needs to grow organically, you cannot boost it like a Facebook post. So looking at the past five to ten years, I love what Liu Cixin has done with his The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. The scope is tremendous. I don’t think any other writer can expand the scope, like him. A daring guy. Beyond literature, I’ve been blown away by Nick Bostrom and his Superintelligence. Couldn’t you tell I’m a Bostrom fan?

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

Well, I’d love to work with Bostrom for the third novel of The Machine Murders. He has thought and deeply understands our challenges with artificial intelligence and where we should focus our attention in dealing with the control problem. Sometime in the future, it’s going to be a writer, a philosopher and a developer in front of an AGI (artificial general intelligence) agent, trying to save us from turning into paper clips. The politicians and the generals will be useless. We may begin simulating options on this from now.

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

Currently, I’m working on The Machine Murders: Desert Balloons, which will be the second book in the Manos Manu series. It feels better than the first.

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

As I said, I rarely follow the publishing cycle because I think it’s going to be the long tail bringing up marvels like a gold mining pan, that will define my choices. But sometimes I get carried away. And I’m never disappointed by authors like Nassim Taleb, Yuval Harari, Ian McEwan and Kai-Fu Lee – I have pre-ordered his latest, AI 2041 and can’t wait to read it. Ambition is not in shortage in the writer species and these people always deliver on their ambition.

Anything you’d like to add?

I want to thank you Hannah for this interview. Your hands move steadily with the mining pan and the role of great blogs such as the Dorset Book Detective is more important than ever.

Huge thanks to C.J. for answering my questions and writing amazing books: without artists like you we’d have never gotten through the past few months!

Vicki FitzGerald Interview: “The world we live in is a sinister place with an extremely dark underworld that many people do not know exists”

Thriller author Vicki FitzGerald talks to me about her work, the experiences that inspire her work and her exciting future plans.

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

I’ve always preferred crime and horror books. As a child, I would plough through Point Horror novels, while my sister was reading Point Romance. After covering numerous crimes as a Journalist, I decided that I would one day write my own novel. I decided to draw from personal experience. They say write what you know. My first book, Briguella features Journalist, Kate Rivendale AKA me. Kill List explores drugging, which I’ve encountered. I wanted to explore our sinister world and show how bad things happen to good people. One action can change your life forever.

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

After graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Journalism, I worked for a regional newspaper for a decade before launching my own public relations firm. I was drawn to crime stories covering anything from murders to assaults. Out of the blue a sex attacker attacked 13 women in 13 days in our town. I was reporting at the heart of it and it gave me a huge buzz being part of a major criminal investigation. I decided to draw from my experiences covering the case to create my debut novel, Briguella.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

From true life. The world we live in is a sinister place with an extremely dark underworld that many people do not know exists. I wanted to explore that and ventured onto the dark web. Trust me, I was horrified at what I found in 30 minutes – a hit man an hour away who was willing to kill babies to pensioners.

I always start writing with a cup of tea. In the summer, I work outdoors. I seem to write better with the sun on my face. I also like to write with a glass of wine in the evening. If I’m ever struggling for ideas, I go out and look for places to set a scene or I delve into a binge Netflix session of true crime or thrillers.

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I tend to stick with thrillers or non-fiction covering forensic knowledge or those that get into the minds of serial killers. I’m intrigued by killers and what happened in their life to turn them into a murderer. I admire every writer for having the guts to put their soul on paper.

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

Stephen King. He never gave up on writing despite numerous rejections. After his wife pulled the draft of Carrie out of his bin, he continued writing even though it was out of his comfort zone. It just shows you cannot stop a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively.

Also, Stephen and I have experienced similar traumas with regards to being injured and having to learn to walk again. I guess I admire his fighting spirit.

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

Kill List. I’ve signed with Hollywood agent, Ken Atchity, producer of the blockbuster, The Meg. We are finalising a film treatment for an adaption to a TV series. Either Ken may produce or sell Kill List on to Hollywood producers. Ken compares Kill List to Killing Eve, Breaking Bad, Peppermint, and Prodigal Son. I find that mind-blowing, as they all rank with my favourite shows and films.

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

I’ve recently enjoyed Lucy Clark and Alice Feeney.

Anything you’d like to add?

I just want to encourage others to chase their dreams. If you do not try, you’ll never know.

Thanks for answering my questions, it’s been great to hear from you Vicki. I’m excited for your TV adaptation!

Leye Adenle Interview: “Like most writers, I’ve been writing much, much longer than I’ve been published”

Award-winning author of both short stories and full-length novels Leye Adenle talks me through his work and how he writes in a wide variety of different genres and makes every piece of work deeply compelling.

Tell me about how the books you write. Why do you have such a passion for such a wide range of different genres?

I’ve always enjoyed reading a wide range of genres; horror, romance, thrillers, sci-fi, even literary fiction. If it’s true that you become a writer because you’re a reader, it only makes sense that I would write, or attempt to write, what I love to read. Maybe I’ll add a horror to my thriller and sci-fi one day. Romance is probably the one genre I’m least likely to write – I just don’t believe in love anymore.

You write a lot of short stories: what do you like about this style of writing and how does it compare to writing full-length novels?

The short story format is simply beautiful. To achieve in a few pages what a novel does in hundreds is just elegant. It’s like paintings; what some painters do with great detail, some masters achieve with simple strokes. I love this format above all else.

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

My background is in economics and computers. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me now, but I used to be a computer nerd. Not anymore. Discovering wine and women cured me. Like most writers, I’ve been writing much, much longer than I’ve been published. As far back as primary school. At some point, I had to justify the hours spent dreaming up stories and writing them down, so I decided to try and get published. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

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

I hope not. I hope my writing is so fresh and so original as to be free of tropes and hackneyed terms and all that stuff readers have come to expect and recognise on sight. So original that my works become the tropes of other writers.

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

I enjoy reading all authors, especially new voices. There is always a new writer to discover: from the past, writers writing in different languages, new writers, not yet published writers. There’s just so much amazing talent out there and I want to experience and enjoy them all.

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

Lee Child. Why? His Jack Reacher and my Amaka Mbadiwe would make a perfect duo for a thriller.

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

The third book in the Amaka thriller series is currently being copy edited and I’ve already started on the fourth. I’ve also written the first book in a new series – I’m currently editing that.

What are your aims for your future career? Where do you want your writing to take you in 10 years?

I want to keep writing for as long as I live. I hope that 10 years from today, I would have been a successful full-time writer for many years.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward in the future?

I am excitedly looking forward to Oyinkan Braithwaite’s next book.

Huge thanks to Leye for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about his work at his website here.

Sophie Anderson Interview: “I generally rate the books that make me weep”

Author Sophie Anderson talks to me about her amazing debut novel The Butterfly Garden and what inspired her to create this gripping book about parental love, motherhood and loss.

Tell me about your book The Butterfly Garden. How you came to define your writing style?

The Butterfly Garden is a book about every mother’s worst nightmare- losing a child. My first child was born days before Madeleine McCann disappeared and I watched the horrendous tragedy play out with my new-born baby in my arms and my hormones going nuts and it affected me on such a visceral level. And it continued to come back to haunt me in the years that followed as I found my path as a mother. Ten years later, I started The Butterfly Garden, a story about motherhood, grief and forgiveness. I like to read emotional women’s fiction, I generally rate the books that make me weep and so this was the sort of book I wanted to write. A book about normal people and how a moments lapse in their integrity can send their normal lives so dramatically off course. But ultimately it is a book about forgiveness and whether a mother can find it in her heart to forgive the son who she blamed for her daughter’s death. In terms of my writing style, I experimented with both first person and third person narratives and ended up using both! I liked the contrast and so weaved the voices of Maggie and Erin together as their stories evolved. And the setting was crucial, I was lucky enough to spend time in both Cornwall and Costa Rica whilst I was writing the novel, two coasts, worlds apart in both geography and culture but both blessed with the humbling and inspiring ocean.

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

I have always loved books and studied English Literature at university many moons ago. Then I went on to have a career in TV Production which was great fun but just didn’t scratch that creative itch to write. And so after the birth of my fourth child I decided to take some time out of work and enrolled on a creative writing course. I gave myself the four years until my daughter started school to give writing a go and was offered a two book deal with Bookouture just in the nick of time as she started reception in September last year!

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 wrote most of The Butterfly Garden in a shed at the bottom of my garden hiding from my kids! But I also enjoy writing in cafes, I find the background buzz comforting and inspiring – not that we have been allowed anywhere near a café for a long time but I am looking forward to getting back there. Bizarrely I find that the less time I have to write the more focused and fruitful I am. I wrote my first book with four children under the age of 10 and so had little time for procrastinating. I have since written my second in a matter of months in the last year at the same time as home-schooling the kids in lockdown and whilst it was stressful at times and involved lots of late nights and early mornings it certainly focused the mind on the task in hand!! If I am struggling with something I go for a walk and talk to myself out-loud, trying to work through whatever is blocking me and hoping I don’t come across other ramblers who think me insane!
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

That is really hard!! There are so many amazing writers out there that have been a huge inspiration to me throughout my life but if I had to name one it would be Elizabeth Stroud. I think I could learn so much from her. I am totally in awe of the way that she writes. Not a word is wasted, and yet her characters are so perfectly formed and have such extraordinary depth and complexity. I think Olive Kitteridge is one of the best anti-heroines of our time and could only dream of creating someone so brilliantly flawed and yet somehow lovable.

What books do you like to read and how do they shape your own work?

I like reading well written character lead books. I try to read everything on both the awards and best-sellers lists to see how they have done it! I find it hugely inspiring to see how other authors tell their stories and conjure up their worlds and characters. So much so that I have found myself subconsciously adopting the style of whatever book I am reading at the time and need to do some serious adjusting in later edits to stop my book becoming a total mash-up! Some of my recent sources of inspiration are: Where the Crawdads Sing and the extraordinary sense of place Delia Owens carried through the novel. Hamnet, I love everything Maggie O’Farrell writes but this one was off the dial, her ability to create a character with whom we could feel so much empathy despite being separated by hundreds of years, lots of weeping to be had there! I also loved Small Pleasures, the pacing was so gentle and yet so compelling, reading that book was like snuggling up under a blanket on a rainy day. And I was totally blown away by Sorrows and Bliss and the acerbic wit of her narrator and the way she dealt so masterfully with such delicate subject matters. If I have managed to pull off any iota of these things in my novel I would be delighted!

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

I have recently finished my second book which is due to be published by Bookouture in February next year and I am pretty excited about it! It is a whole new story and set of characters but has some similar themes of family secrets to The Butterfly Garden and is set between Dorset and The Philippines!
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I have just seen that there is a new Sally Rooney book coming out in September Beautiful World, Where are You? which I am excited about, I loved Normal People and Conversations with Friends so can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I am yet to read Lisa Taddeo’s Animal but I loved Three Women so looking forward to that too.

Huge thanks to Sophie for her amazing answers and for being so lovely- it’s been great to hear from you! You can find out more about her work on her website or check out her Amazon page to buy The Butterfly Garden.

John Cox Interview: “I was a prolific reader at an early age”

As part of his blog tour to celebrate the publication of his debut novel, Ashes Of The Living, I interview up-and-coming crime fiction author John Cox.

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

When I first started writing, I focused on paying attention to how many of my favorite thriller writers wrote. Not so much the storyline but rather the style. Did they like first person or third person? How they describe a character’s actions or what a piece of steak tasted like? I tried writing short stories first to see how I would describe an action scene or provide an atmosphere for a tense situation. Most importantly, I have always been drawn to thrillers because the best ones keep you reading until 3 in the morning, and even then, wanting to keep going!

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

I grew up in a family of teachers who focused on English classes and writing. I was a prolific reader at an early age and wanted to create stories like the ones I was reading. My main passion is telling a good story that other people want to hear. When I got into college, I received some constructive advice and earned awards and accolades that told me that what I was doing was working. I was inspired to start focusing on longer and longer stories until I had my full novel that eventually became my first published work.

Tell me all about your upcoming novel Ashes of the Living. What was your inspiration?

Ashes of the Living is about what grief and anger can do to someone’s morality. My protagonist Detective Tyler Morgan loses everything and must continually ask himself what lines he is willing or not willing to cross to get to his version of justice. I was inspired by my interest in noir and thriller novels and wanted to blend the styles in a book that was fast-paced but still took enough time to examine what people are willing to do in times of duress. It has always been a fascinating subject for me! This is a story about revenge and what a single-minded goal can do to you.

What was your experience getting your work published? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with budding authors looking to get published?

To get my work published, I had to learn to accept that not everyone will respond to your inquiries for review. The book industry is so large that you may have a fantastic story to tell, and publishers and agents will not be able to have time to read it, or perhaps it is not in a genre they can currently accept new writers. Sometimes, being a new writer can be disheartening trying to get others to see your work the way you do. Don’t ever give up on this because the day you are successful is the best feeling in your life.

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

Donald Westlake who also wrote under the pen name of Richard Stark. He turned the crime and thriller genre on its head in the 1960s by writing about topics or characters that were controversial by having morally gray themes or elements. Unfortunately, he has passed away, but if anyone wants to see the groundwork of modern thrillers, I highly recommend his body of work.

What does the future have in store for you? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

I am focused on my next novel and cannot wait to share further details as it progresses. I do not want to give too much away because it is tied to the ending of Ashes of the Living, but I am focused on writing about what inspires me, humanity, and how our perception of it can change continually.

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

I have enjoyed Chris McDonald’s work recently and recommend anyone check out his DI Erika Piper series. This is a new author to keep an eye on! He has great talent and is very interactive with his fan base.

Is there anything you want to add?

I am proud to be a part of the writing community and all the phenomenal people I have met in the last several years. Always keep reading, writing, and sharing with others those stories that inspire or move you!

Thanks to John for answering my questions; it’s been awesome to be a part of your blog tour!