Fear The Silence with D. Nolan Clark and Forsaken Skies.

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Today I am very happy to welcome D Nolan Clark to the site, talking about his writing process and creating aliens. Love this!

THE WRITER’S PROCESS: DESIGNING ALIEN SPECIES

by D. Nolan Clark

The writer who wants to invent an alien species faces a number of obstacles that require creative solutions. Aliens are by definition unlike anything found on Earth, and the writer needs to get that across. You can only get so far with blue cat aliens or Martians who look just like us except for a latex prosthetic on their foreheads. Aliens that satisfy readers and viewers, aliens that mean something, need to surprise or shock us with their differences from what we know. It can be a daunting task to create an alien species from scratch, but like all world-building it can also be fun and it can even open up your story, give it new dimensions you would never otherwise have considered.

I’d like to share my process for creating aliens. Obviously every writer has their own technique and this is hardly a definitive guide, but at the very least I hope it’ll spark some creativity.

My alien designs go through five main steps, each as important as the last. I tend to go through them in this order:

1) Concept: What role will the aliens play in your story? Are they violent aggressors or wise teachers? Are they a metaphor for people on Earth, or are they intended to evoke the strange and exotic? The concept of your aliens will shape the story in many ways. It may even become the crux of your tale. Do your aliens have three sexes, or seven, or none at all? Humans interacting with an asexual species could be the start of lots of interesting tales, and let a writer examine human sexuality from an outsider’s perspective—as an example. Your aliens don’t have to drive your story, but you still need to know why they’re there and how they’ll relate to your human characters.

2) Evolution: Assuming your aliens came from a planet of their own, what did that planet look like? How hot was it, how strong was the gravity? Every element you can imagine of the alien homeworld will have a massive effect on what your aliens look like now. If they evolved on a water world, they’re likely to have fins and maybe gills. If they come from a dry place they might have scales or nictitating membranes. Studying Earthly animals can be a great font of inspiration here, but make sure you don’t just lean on biology as we know it. Aliens that just look like bipedal buffalos aren’t nearly as interesting as creatures that evolved on a dark world and therefore have no eyes, but find their way around by echolocation. Knowing what senses your aliens possess will greatly shape how they perceive us. Details of their physiology will utterly define how we see them. How big are they? If they come from a high-gravity planet, they’re likely to be low to the ground and very strong by our standards, while aliens from a low-gravity environment will be frail and delicate when they come to Earth. Are they horrifyingly ugly, by human standards, or ethereally beautiful—or both?

3) Culture: Your aliens will have a rich history, a story of their own—a story that could include mistakes and brilliant successes, charismatic leaders and popular movements. History, art, the games they play—these are the things that define how your aliens live now. This is absolutely crucial to know. What aliens look like is almost less important than how their society works. This is also one of the great pitfalls of science fiction. It’s an old cliché that all aliens from a given planet dress alike, have the same form of government, enjoy a single form of art, etc. It’s a cliché because it works, to a degree—homogeneous aliens are a kind of shorthand, a way for a writer to get big ideas across without muddying the waters, but in the end they feel more like a force of nature than like people. Consider creating multiple religious sects, or simply having one of your aliens stand out because they’re famous among their people for being a terrible dresser, or for their unpopular political opinions. You can spend way too much time on designing alien art movements and changing tastes in music—stuff that may not make it into the final story at all, or that makes your aliens so chaotic that they might as well belong to multiple species (which could be an interesting story in itself, of course). But a little cultural differentiation can really make individual aliens pop. Think how few things all humans agree on—other species are likely to be the same, right? If they’re not, that’s a Concept in itself.

4) Psychology: Beyond what your aliens believe, how do they think? How is their thinking different from that of humans? Most humans value individual experience and freedom. Maybe your aliens have a hive mind. Conversely, humans are social animals, who like to live in close proximity to each other. Maybe your aliens evolved from solitary predators, and they live reclusive lives where they only get together to mate or to wage war. If you want to get really trippy with it, maybe your aliens experience time differently than we do, and can spend an entire week making breakfast, or they don’t recognize individual consciousness at all, and are so confused when they meet humans that they act like we’re invisible. Make it weird—but make sure it’s not so weird that your readers feel lost. Be able to think like your aliens, and to express their ideas as clearly as you express the thoughts and emotions of your human characters.

5) Technology: The previous four steps will likely determine the kind of machines and technologies your aliens use. Alternatively, this could be part of your high concept. How do your aliens relate to humans in terms of their overall development? Are their spaceships faster than ours, or invulnerable to attack, or are they incredibly slow, designed for creatures who think a hundred year journey is a quick joyride? Are your aliens still working on discovering fire, so that first contact with humans is likely to blow their minds? Or have they been tooling around the galaxy so long, and met so many other species, that they’ve seen our like before and aren’t terribly impressed? Technology is not the only factor that defines species, but it is the primary sphere where two species are likely to first interact. Imagine aliens showing up on the White House lawn tomorrow with force fields and the ability to teleport. Even if they claim to come in peace, we’re likely to be terrified of their destructive potential. We could also want very much to trade with them, to get fusion power or the cure for cancer—but what would we have to offer in exchange? On the other hand—maybe we’re at exactly the same level. Maybe our first starship meets their first starship halfway between here and Tau Ceti—what happens next? Do we compete for habitable worlds, or do we join forces to explore the unknown?

As you can probably see, if you want to create aliens you’ve got your work cut out for you. None of these steps is easy, and none of them should be done too quickly. Think of as many cool ideas as you can, right off the top of your head—but then give them time to marinate, to let the puzzle pieces interconnect, a process which can create whole new ideas. If you take some time and let yourself meditate on these factors, you may be astounded at how many story ideas just magically appear. A fascinating, well thought-out alien species is one of the great joys of science fiction. It doesn’t happen overnight, but when it’s done right, it can be the start of something amazing.

About the Book:

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From the dark, cold void came an unknown force. Their target a remote planet, the home for a group of people distancing themselves from mankind and pursuing a path of piety and peace. If they have any chance at survival a disparate group of pilots must come together to fight back any way they can. But the best these aces can do might not be good enough.

Read my Review

You can purchase Forsaken Skies HERE

Find Out More

Follow the author on Twitter.

Happy Reading!

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20 Questions for….David Mark.

Today I am very happy to ask David Mark 20 perfectly sensible questions about really sensible stuff.

So for Cruel Mercy you sent Aector to the great US of A…what made you do that then?

I’m still not sure if it was my idea or Aector’s or simply a response to the fact I was reading a lot of great American fiction. It just suddenly felt important to broaden Aector’s horizons and mine too. I think I’ve shown that I can write convincing, compelling noir set in Hull and I was rather keen to see if I could do the same in a different location. As it turns out, it’s rather terrifying to plunge your lead character into a whole new world that neither of you are very familiar with. It left us both a little scarred but satisfied.

At the time of writing these it is coming up to Christmas. Which will thankfully be a distant memory by publication date as I’m not a Christmas person. Are you a Christmas person?

I try to be. I have happy, wacky kids and as such it’s impossible not to get caught up in all the carols and mulled wine and egg-nog (my second favourite nog, behind Noggin) but there will forever be a Scrooge element to me that scowls about all the hassle and expense and the people pretending they like each other. It would probably work better if we moved it to the summer holidays.

If you could suck the creative genius out of any other crime writer and use it as your own who would it be and why?

I think I would rather suck the marketing genius out of certain writers so I could work out how to become a juggernaut bestseller. But if you’re really asking, and you think she counts as ‘crime’, then Margaret Atwood all day and every day, as she is simply sublime in both character, story and delivery.

Favourite flavour of crisp.

Smoky bacon, unless it’s Seabrook crisps, in which case prawn cocktail.

Which of the McAvoy novels has been your favourite to write to date and what was it about that one that stays with you?

The fourth book (and least read) was Taking Pity and I very much enjoyed that one as it had more of a split narrative and allowed me to write about crimes and personalities from the 1960s, which is an era that fascinates and inspires me. I’ve enjoyed writing all of them, to be honest. Editing, on the other hand …

Do you think you could pull off the perfect murder?

It’s very easy to pull off the perfect murder. Just kill somebody you don’t know. The trouble is, the only people I have ever wanted to kill are the people to whom I have quite an obvious connection so it hasn’t been worth the risk, as yet.

Who would you trust as your partner in crime?

I don’t trust anybody. Probably my daughter, Elora, as she has a dark soul and can lie very convincingly. But even she would blab in exchange for cake.

Favourite type of cheese. Everyone gets the cheese question…

Shropshire blue.

We were (fairly) recently together at the launch for Susi Holliday’s Willow Walk which is a brilliant crime novel. How much do we love Susi?

She’s great. Ace writer, lovely person, quite the stunner and generally a fabulous girl. I’m quite fond.

I apparently have terrible taste in music (when in doubt I put on Taylor Swift) – what is your taste in music like, when in doubt what do you listen to?

I like most things and have always had a fondness for jazz, but I guess my era is mid-nineties, so it’s a lot of Britpop and banging Indie tunes. Anything that makes me feel 17 again. I don’t listen to music when I write as it turns everything into an overly dramatic scene with soaring strings and panning shots.

Name a book you’ve read in the last year that you put down and went “Wow”

Probably The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor, though I’m not one for ‘wow’. Expletives, possibly, or extraordinary jealousy at somebody’s literary superiority.

On a desert island that you’ve randomly crashed on for no likely reason whatsoever, which 5 people would you like for company and why? Assume you’ll be there for a while before rescue…

For a long time, my answer would have been that I wouldn’t any company at all. But I’m lucky to have found somebody who makes everything seem more tolerable, so my fiancée would be there. Elora, too, though she would be getting booted into the lagoon if she moaned about being hungry. After that, I’d take Monica Bellucci, Ray Mears and Nigel Farage. Monica to look at, Ray to keep me alive, and Nigel because it would bring me pleasure to see him deal with the existential crisis of being a foreigner on uninhabited shores.

Ok you can talk about the book a bit more now. Cruel Mercy indeed. You get 5 sentences to sell it. Go!

Three Irishmen went to America. One’s dead. One’s as good as. One is missing. The missing man is Valentine Teague. Petty criminal, bare-knuckle fighter – and DS Aector McAvoy’s brother in law. Back home, Val’s being held responsible for the blood spilt in the snowy woods of upstate New York. If McAvoy doesn’t find out the truth, all hell will break loose, putting his own family in the crossfire. Investigating proves harder than he could have imagined. New York City is a different world, with different rules. Soon, he finds himself up against squabbling cops, mafias old and new, and the culmination of a brutal crime forty years in the making. All McAvoy can do is the right thing. Even if it kills him…

Dinner menu of choice…

Scallops and black pudding, followed by fillet steak with peppercorn sauce, then sticky toffee pudding, a cheese course, a coffee, a brandy, more brandy, an after Eight, maybe a Bailey’s, then onto the whisky. Actually, can I see a wine list …?

Are you a daytime person or more of a vampire?

I write during the day and think during the night so it’s hard to say. I’m not a great sleeper and I don’t have to go to an actual job so I’ve never really had to make that distinction. I’m certainly never going to be the last person to leave the bar and still be up drinking at 5am. I prefer to be in bed by 11 with a book – preparing for eight hours of gnashing my teeth and dealing with heartburn.

Talking of which if someone sat you down and made you watch ALL the Twilight movies do you think you could cope?

I can go into a happy place in my head and tune out reality so I can probably get through it. Twilight is the one about a teenage girl’s choice between necrophilia and bestiality, yes?

Yep that’s the one.

And moving on from that name a film you’ve watched multiple times and probably will watch again…

Grosse Point Blank, over and over. Rocky, The Untouchables, Amelie, The Godfather, Dances With Wolves, The Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Arsenic and Old Lace, His Girl Friday … I could go on.

One piece of technology you would find it difficult to live without…

Does the kettle qualify as technology? I hate technology, to be honest. I have to use the damn stuff but I’d be delighted to go back 20 years and steer the world away from its obsession with phones and tablets and websites. I do think we’ve taken a wrong turn as a people.

Your personal favourite crime series….tv or book. Or both.

The Charlie Parker books by John Connolly are perfect. On a TV front, anything by HBO, though the BBC’s Waking the Dead was brilliant and should have continued. I think it should be given new life in novel form but nobody has made me an offer for the idea. I’m all ears.

How much do you hate me right now?

I remain largely fond of you, though I do find myself yearning for all the foodstuffs I just listed and I’m aware my movie list will not get The Culture Show ‘Originality Prize’ people knocking on my door any time soon.

Thanks David!

About the Book:

Three Irishmen went to America.

One’s dead. One’s as good as. One is missing…

The missing man is Valentine Teague. Petty criminal, bare-knuckle fighter – and DS Aector McAvoy’s brother in law.

Back home, Val’s being held responsible for the blood spilt in the snowy woods of upstate New York. If McAvoy doesn’t find out the truth, all hell will break loose, putting his own family in the crossfire.

Investigating proves harder than he could have imagined. New York City is a different world, with different rules. Soon, he finds himself up against squabbling cops, mafias old and new, and the culmination of a crime forty years in the making.

All McAvoy can do is the right thing. Even if it kills him...

Find out MORE

Follow David on TWITTER

To Purchase Cruel Mercy clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

 

Aye Write – Getting to Know the Authors. With Rod Reynolds.

Today I’m getting to know Rod Reynolds (Yes everybody can have a good laugh at that one) but he’s appearing at Aye Write and so he has to do this interview. Because I said so. And sometimes he lies! (Nothing is my fault)

Thanks Rod!

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it.

Black Night Falling is the second book in the Charlie Yates series, sequel to The Dark Inside. Charlie is a disgraced reporter from New York City who gets a call from an old acquaintance begging him for his help in investigating the murders of two young women. The kicker is that Charlie it means going back to the south, to Arkansas, a place he barely escaped with his life just months earlier. Reluctant as he is, his conscience gets the better of him and he accepts the call.

On arrival in Hot Springs, Charlie finds his contact has disappeared and that the town is a den of crime and corruption, run by mobbed-up politicians and racketeers. More than that, there is no record of the murders his friend talked about. Sensing the place is rotten to the core, Charlie investigates anyway, but the closer he gets to the truth, the closer it takes him to danger – and to the past he thought he’d outrun…

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

I grew up in Camden, in north London, with my mum and two sisters. Family life was really normal – I was a pretty typical boy, in that all I wanted to do was play football or computer games. No one in my family wrote books or anything like that – it was never something I thought about as a kid. I was always a big reader, though, and my mum always encouraged that. The first books I really remember being obsessed with were The Famous Five.

Academic or creative at school?

Academic, definitely. I was a decent student but never really had much interest in creative subjects. At university I studied history, which was my favourite subject.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

Professional wrestler.

**Pauses a moment to laugh quite a lot**

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

When I read my first James Ellroy book, The Cold Six Thousand. I’d never read anything like it and it completely blew my mind. I remember thinking if I could ever write something a fraction as powerful as that, I’d be thrilled.

Who are your real life heroes?

James Ellroy, David Peace, Hunter S Thompson, Eddie Vedder, Scott Weiland, David Simon, Michael Mann…and on and on and on. Although in truth I’m not much of a hero-worshiper. A lot of my family work in the public sector and, I know it’s a cliche to say it, but people who do jobs like doctors or nurses or teachers – people who literally change other people’s lives every day – are the people I admire most. Not least because I don’t think I could ever do what they do.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

Well there was that time at CrimeFest…no, wait, you were involved in that. So what about that time at Crime In The Court…er, no, wait, you again. How about First Monday when…nope, still you.

Let’s go with when my ‘friends’ took me to a Spanish water park in a ginger Morph suit on my stag do. That was pretty embarrassing.

I refer you all to the “not my fault” comment in the introduction…

DIY expert or phone a friend?

Phone a friend. I detest DIY and am terrible at it.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

I could get a sunburn from a reading lamp, so let’s say night owl.

A book that had you in tears.

I don’t think a book has ever made me cry. Which is odd because since I became a dad, I cry at the drop of a hat.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

Tall Oaks by Chris Whittaker and Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

You’ve met me – do you seriously think anyone would listen to advice offered by me?!

Well no not anyone with the sense they were born with anyway…

About the Book:

And now I stood here, on a desolate airfield in the Arkansas wilderness, a stone’s throw from Texarkana. Darkness drawing in on me. Cross country to see a man I never imagined seeing again. On the strength of one desperate telephone call…’

Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.

Read my review HERE

Follow Rod on Twitter here:

You can purchase Black Night Falling by clickety clicking right HERE

Purchase Tickets to Rod’s event at Aye Write HERE

See the full Aye Write Programme HERE

Happy Reading!

 

Aye Write -Getting to Know the Authors. With Daniel Cole.

Ragdoll is out this week – more on that tomorrow – YAY but the lovely author Daniel Cole is also appearing at Aye Write – ticket info and book info to follow. Gordon of Grab This Book and I are getting to know a few of the appearing authors  so keep an eye out on his site too. Today it’s Daniel’s turn. Having received his answers I kind of love him. So if you can, get along to Aye Write in Glasgow and see his event. By the way the book is blinking brilliant!

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it…

It’s called Ragdoll and in the category of books about serial killers and dismembered body parts stitched together, I’d say it definitely falls into the more light-hearted and entertaining end of the spectrum. It certainly isn’t a straight police procedural. It’s larger than life escapism, it’s got a whole cast of great characters, a very cinematic feel, and lots and lots of dark humour.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

I grew up in Bournemouth and it was fine – thank you for asking.

Academic or creative at school?

Definitely not academic, so I’ll say creative… although I’m not entirely sure that fits either. I did manage to get through A-Level Music Technology without being able to read a note of music though, which is quite impressive in an incompetent sort of way, I suppose.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

I remember being so happy when I got accepted onto the Paramedic training course. I’d been working on and off in an investment bank (it took several attempts to escape). The whole shirt and tie office thing just wasn’t right for me so getting onto that course was my way out.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I started off writing screenplays. I think that was due to becoming a little frustrated with my favourite television shows and believing that I could do a better job. The US series especially, tended to have a lot of ‘filler’ episodes when there are 22 or more in a season. …Still do.

The first screenplay I ever wrote faded in to reveal the imposing hallway of an investment bank. The main character watched his boss enter through the unnecessarily Hagrid-sized doors below before throwing himself down the main staircase – a painful and bloody; albeit well worth doing way of getting a day off (an only slightly embellished version of real life).

Who are your real life heroes?

My heroes are the frontmen of my two favourite bands: Max Bemis of Say Anything and Ace Enders of The Early November. I’d also add to the list a few of my very favourite screenwriter/directors such as Joss Whedon, Shane Black, Alex Garland and Martin McDonagh.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

So many… Too many. Stand next to me for five minutes – ten at a push – and I guarantee I’ll say or do something stupid.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I’m not sure my friends are any less useless than I am so… phone a stepdad.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Both. And I live in Bournemouth next to the beach to make the most of the sun when/if it ever comes out.

A book that had you in tears.

I am far too tough and manly (some would say intimidatingly so) to cry at a book. If you were really determined – you could put one of the old episodes of Scrubs on where Dr Cox has a proper meltdown and smashes up a hospital room – that should do it.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

Both of the Alan Partridge books made me laugh a lot.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Don’t listen to me.

Ok. I won’t. Thanks Daniel! 

Purchase tickets to Daniel’s event HERE

See the full Aye Write Programme HERE

Come back tomorrow when I’m one of the victims on the Ragdoll Blog Tour and you can read my review.

About the book.

Six victims: one body

Controversial detective, Nathan Wolfe, has just been reinstated to the force after months of psychological assessment following accusations of assault. A veteran to the job, Wolfe thinks he’s seen it all, until his friend and former partner, Detective Emily Baxter, calls him to a crime scene and gleefully leads him to a career-defining cadaver: the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet – a corpse that will become known in the press as the ‘ragdoll’. With six victims to identify, the stakes are raised when Wolfe’s ex-wife, reporter Andrea Hall, is anonymously sent photographs from the crime scene along with a list of six names… and the dates on which the ‘Ragdoll Killer’ intends to murder them.

The final name on the list is Wolfe’s.

Follow Daniel on Twitter HERE

Order Ragdoll by clickety clicking right HERE

#Ragdollbook

2017

Happy Reading!

Getting to Know You with Gwen Parrott

Today I am very happy to welcome Gwen Parrott telling us a little bit about herself and her 1940’s Murder Mystery “Dead White”

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it.

‘Dead White’ is set in rural Pembrokeshire, South Wales, during the terrible winter of 1947. Della Arthur has just arrived off the train to take up a job as the Headteacher of the local school when she becomes disorientated in a snowstorm and is forced to take shelter in what she thinks is an empty farmhouse. The terrible discovery she makes there, and the bewildering lack of concern of the locals, drive her to seek the truth. As if the weather didn’t make life hard enough during that particular winter, Britain was still recovering from WW2, and everything was rationed. Life in the remote village of Nant-yr-Eithin is tough – no electricity, no transport apart from bicycles or a horse and cart, and every luxury nothing but a distant memory. It’s a world that is only 70 years ago in time, but it might as well be 200. However, Della is feisty, determined and self-sufficient, and despite only having the help of an Italian prisoner of war, and having to cope with a disturbed pupil and a very unwelcome guest, nothing is going to stop her finding out what happened.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

I grew up in a very similar village to the location of the book, and although we had electricity, it used to fail regularly. I lived through two episodes of deep snow, when the village was cut off for six weeks at a time and my dad was the Headteacher of the local two-roomed school. As an only child I was adept at making my own fun. I don’t remember being lonely, because there was a real sense of community, and you were free to wander almost anywhere. My parents also included me in every decision and discussion, and my obsessive interest in people was sparked and encouraged by them.

Academic or creative at school?

Both. I can remember being quite sad when I had to give up Needlework in order to do Latin. Oddly enough, although Latin has been hugely useful right through life, crafting of all kinds has been my main means of relaxation. I suppose it was worth it – you can make a lot of progress in crafting by teaching yourself. Latin, not so much.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

Good question, because for many years I never really considered the possibility that writing could be anything more than a secret pleasure. Then, by a series of lucky events, I was offered the chance to help storyline and script a Welsh language radio soap for the BBC. I finally felt I’d come home, and it was a very valuable experience – and an incredibly steep learning curve.

Do you remember the first moment you wanted to write?

No, because I’ve done it ever since I could print my name. When I got pocket money, it was a really hard choice between a bar of chocolate and a shiny red exercise book to write down my latest epic. The exercise book won out very often. The sight of a fresh, unsullied page still fills me with joy – all those possibilities.

Who are your real life heroes?

People who sacrifice their own lives and comfort in order to devote themselves wholly to a sick or disabled loved one. I simply don’t know how they get out of bed in the morning. It’s humbling to consider their selflessness and disgraceful that they don’t get more help and recognition.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

Some years ago, my mother and I went down to the south coast to Sidmouth for a few days’ shopping before Christmas. The hotel held a quiz night and guests formed themselves into teams – some made up of whole families or people on a group holiday. Mum and I didn’t know anyone else so we just did the quiz for a laugh although it didn’t help that she’d left her spectacles in our room. When we’d handed in the answers, the quizmaster told us that two teams had drawn – a team of eight and guess who – us. The tie-breaker was ‘What bodily process goes at 150 miles an hour?’ – and I happened to know that the answer is a sneeze. We won a box of chocolates and a bottle of sherry, but quite frankly, I wish we’d stayed in our room that evening, because the team who lost took massive umbrage and were mortally offended at having lost to a team of two, one of whom had had to have the questions read out to her. They ignored us pointedly from then on. You could feel them glaring from the other end of the dining room. I actually heard one of them mutter ‘I bet she’s having an affair with the quizmaster!’ I laugh now when I think of it, but at the time it was quite disturbing – good copy, though.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

If it’s within my field of capability then I do it myself – otherwise I just shout for my husband.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Night owl, definitely. It is beyond me why people get up at the crack of dawn – there’s nothing happening! I also like being up late at night, with the sense of the world winding down, lives being lived behind lit windows, strange noises and lonely pedestrians passing by. It’s no coincidence that my favourite painter is Edward Hopper – he captures that mood so well.

A book that had you in tears.

‘We need to talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver. She has famously said that it’s a book that polarizes readers – you’re either on the mother’s side or the son’s side. And despite recognising the mother’s shortcomings, I’m with her and I feel for her.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

‘Lake Wobegon Days’ by Garrison Keillor. He could copy out pages from the phone book and I’d still find them funny. One of the reasons he resonates with me is that parts of his experience of childhood and community are familiar. It’s a mistake to think he’s a ‘cuddly’ writer and I so admire his turn of phrase and his cold, clear eye.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Leggings are not trousers – anyone who tells you they are is lying.

Thank you!

About the Book:

During the harsh winter of 1947, Della Arthur arrives at a remote Pembrokeshire village in the middle of a snowstorm to take up her new job as headteacher of the local primary school. Losing her way from the train station, she comes across a farmhouse and takes shelter there. After finding two dead bodies inside, Della struggles to discover the truth behind their deaths. She soon realises that in this close-knit community, secrets and lies lurk beneath the surface of respectability.

Della must choose who to trust among the inhabitants of this remote village – should she reveal what she knows to the sardonic minister of the local chapel, Huw Richards, or the Italian prisoner of war, Enzo Mazzati? Della finds herself under siege on all sides, and encumbered by an unwelcome lodger, a missing colleague and a disturbed pupil. It is only when her own life is threatened that she understands how dangerous her discoveries in the farmhouse really were.

You can purchase Dead White HERE

Happy Reading!

Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski – Harry Saint-Clement-Ramsay.

So the third part of Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski today for you – this time he is talking about one of the characters in the novel, Harry Saint-Clement-Ramsay, whose story forms one of the many moving parts to this incredibly atmospheric and brilliant book. Which I shall be reviewing at the end of all this. But really if you don’t want to wait you can see below for ordering details..

Part 3: Harry Saint-Clement-Ramsay

Matt Wesolowski

The idea of hunting animals for pleasure is as indecipherable to me as it is abhorrent. Even more so the construction of special land in which to do so.

Britain, however had the highest density of ‘Hunting Parks’ in the entire world and it is for this reason that we have more ancient trees than the rest of Europe1.

‘To the medieval mind the park was a closed space quite separate from the other wilderness outside. Within that park everything was the dominion of the noble who had created it. Inside the park courtiers and would-be aristocrats could ride and hunt, overlooked by a castle from which perhaps they might be watched by the objects of their courtly love. Parks, then, were places of recreation for the privileged.2

The untamed land around Chillingham, Castle in Northumberland was the primary influence for Scarclaw Fell and it surprised me that much of that land was a medieval ‘Hunting Park’, with deer brought by the Normans from Sicily alongside native boar and, of course, the famous Chillingham Wild Cattle.

It’s a lazy and unpleasant generalisation to make that all rich people enjoy hunting. There are a fair few that do and a fair few that don’t. I don’t actually know anyone particularly rich, personally, so creating the character of Harry Saint-Clement Ramsay wasn’t easy.

I liked the idea that whoever it was who found the body of Tom Jeffries and was therefore bound to to Scarclaw Fell, was ignorant to the power of the ancient land. It would, again, have been easy and lazy to construct a selfie-obsessed urbanite who didn’t want to get their brogues muddy but what I felt was that, like the rest of the cast of Six Stories, Harry should be an outsider in his own right. To me, it felt like as Harry’s character emerged, he showed no desire to hunt and even his friends – taking lamps and dogs into the ancient woods of Scarclaw felt like they were playing a role rather than acting of their own accord.

With Harry’s character, I was not making some sort of statement about animal rights (although I do have fantasies about terrible things happening to people who hunt animals for fun), I guess I wanted to reflect the insecurity of the other teenage protagonists, showing that awkwardness and the desire for acceptance straddles class.

Harry fights his own battle on Scarclaw Fell and unfortunately does so alone…

1 Dr. John Fletcher’s Chillingham as a Deer Park. ‘Chillingham’ (Fonthill Media Limited, 2016). P.117 2 IBID p.112

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Follow Matt on TWITTER

To purchase the paperback clickety click right HERE

Watch out for more from Matt coming soon….

Happy Reading!

 

New Release Spotlight: Purged – Peter Laws. Author Interview.

So PURGED is out today YAY, loved this one (link to my review at the end) so was VERY happy to get to have a chat to the author. I wrote some lovely questions (ok they were kind of lovely) and he answered them in the rock and roll style (rebel) but excellent. You really don’t want to miss this book. Its one of THOSE books.

So. Purged. Ok this is the obligatory where do you get your idea’s from question, except I kind of already know because I read stuff and take it in – so let me ask this instead. What made you make your main protagonist an ex Minister rather than a current one?

On a practical level, church ministers are often tied down to one geographic location. I prefer the idea of Matt being able to travel anywhere in the world for a case.

But mostly I made Matt an ex-vicar because I wanted his worldview to be complicated. That’s more interesting to me. Not that church ministers aren’t interesting when they’re still in post, ha. Some vicars I know are fascinating and wacky and filled with gripping stories. But for me, I liked the idea of God being a painful part of Matt’s life and something from his past. It’s like a hypothetical old girlfriend who treated you bad. She might have been amazing in one sense, but infuriating and saddening in others. Those sorts of relationships can leave you with emotional scars and disappointments of what could have been. You try and forget, but then old songs play on the radio and you’re flung into the pain again. And maybe there’s a sense of liberation for being free too. Matt has a kind of cosmic version of that.

What did you want to explore with that?

Well, I sometimes meet super strong Christians who never ever doubt their faith. Or atheists who absolutely refuse to believe in the possibility of the divine. I respect those positions, but most people I meet are somewhere in between those two poles. I don’t just mean straight down the line agnostics. People may be 99% atheist or 99% theist but I’m really interested in that one percent grey area. The places where we question our faith or lack of it. I think most people admit to some greyness in these ideas, though we often feel forced to say we are always 100% one way or the other.

There’s also a bunch of people who reject God but don’t reject the idea of the supernatural, demons, hauntings etc. That’s also fascinating to me.

Purged is blinking creepy in places. I genuinely am not going to eat lettuce again or even look at a lettuce.

Ha ha, I’m so glad you found it creepy. I love the idea that the book spooked you. I’m glad you picked up on the lettuce thing too. That was inspired by a genuine medieval tradition by the way, where a nun was supposedly possessed by Satan through eating some unblessed lettuce. Guess she should have bought Rocket Salad instead.

As I work for Tesco this might be an issue but I digress – I’m interested in the ongoing vibe for the series (thank heavens it will be a series because I’m seriously addicted already) – will we see more of the grey area’s between reality and possibility?

Absolutely. Though I have no idea what Matt’s belief trajectory will be. I certainly want to expose him, and the reader, to more elements of the supposed supernatural or unexplained. I like the idea of the demonic featuring as a recurring theme but I prefer to keep natural explanations just as plausible too. That’s why the books sit between the horror and crime fiction genre. I want people to be able to read both world-views into the same book. In Matt Hunter’s world maybe demons are orchestrating the evil or maybe it’s pure human misdeeds. I like the idea that both readings could work.

Also, I don’t want to suggest that my aim is to start Matt off atheist and then in book ten he’ll drop to his knees, shout hallelujah and become a born again believer. I mean I guess I can’t rule that out, as I don’t know who he’ll react to what he’ll end up seeing. But to be honest, if he was to become a man of 100% certainty that God exists he’ll cease to become interesting to me. Because that’s not how most people think.

Now you are an actual Baptist Minister.

Yup. I’m an ordained Reverend in the Baptist Denomination which always needs a caveat. That’s because people read the word ‘Baptist’ and figure I’m aligned with people like Westboro Baptist Church in America, who picket gay people’s funerals or say women aren’t allowed to speak in church. The Baptist Union of Great Britain is not like that at all, and I certainly don’t share those sorts of fundamentalist views. But yeah, it says Reverend on my Debit Card. These days though I spend most of my time writing, so I don’t look after any one congregation any more. I do travel around the country though, speaking at churches and leading services. If any of your readers wants me to speak at their church one Sunday, then tell them to drop me a line!

I should admit at this point that I’m not a God person although I sit on the fence, it seems practical to do so considering I don’t actually know everything – and you are also a bit of a horror buff (and expert) – so what made you take all that and channel it into fiction writing?

I loved horror way before I set foot in church. I became a Christian at University, but up until that point I never went to church. Neither did my family. I just figured religion was out to turn me into something I wasn’t, so I stayed away. I did love horror movies and scary stories though. Ironically, horror was one of the few areas of culture that was telling me that maybe there is more to life than purely flesh and blood. That hint at the supernatural was one of the things that set me on a path to explore Christianity later in life. For me, it was natural to fuse those two things together into fiction. I’ve been doing the same thing with my podcast and YouTube show and monthly column for The Fortean Times print magazine. I like to explore the deeper and sometimes spiritual themes found in dark stories and I hope that my novel does that a bit.

You seem like you might be very busy already.

I’m pretty busy, which is great, not least because it’s taken me a few years to get published. Over the last five or so years I’ve written four novels. Some of them got close to getting book deals but none actually did. Each time one failed I just put it on the shelf and wrote another one, but to be honest I was about to give up on that in early 2016. Then I was thrilled to get a two book fiction deal!

Ironically, when I didn’t think I was going to get a deal for my novels, I put together a non-fiction proposal on why people are drawn to the macabre. My agent sent that off, and then after various rejection that also got a publishing deal too – both here and in the US. So I’m working on that now, travelling around meeting vampires, shooting zombies and hunting werewolves. But that’s a whole other story. But yes, I’m busy, since after five years of no deals, I now have three books coming out in the space of 18 months!

Are you a “have to write” person?

I’m not sure. I meet other writers who say they would write forever, even just for themselves. That’s not me. I think I just love creating stuff and sharing it with others. For example, I’m also a musician and just the other day I released a full soundtrack album to the novel Purged. (I used to write soundtrack albums to books I liked growing up, so it was great fun doing it for my own book). It’s available here if you fancy giving it a free spin:

https://peterlaws.bandcamp.com/releases

In many ways writing a complete original score to a fiction book could be seen as a pointless exercise, but I guess it shows I’m a ‘have to create’ person. However, now that I’m getting the chance to write professionally, I’m obviously doing more of it and learning how to do it better. Not that I’m a great writer by any stretch, but at the start Liz…I totally sucked. It was embarrassing. It took me a lot of writing to feel confident in stringing a sentence together. The more I write though, the more I think this is (if you’ll excuse the religious expression) something I’m called to do. So maybe I am a ‘have to write’ person after all, but that’s because I’m getting to share it. If I knew that nobody else would ever read it, ,maybe I’d take up something else creative instead. An Elvis impersonator, perhaps. But no seriously, at the moment I’ve been given a writing shaped creative outlet and I love it, and I really hope that Purged and Unleashed sell enough so I get the chance to keep doing it (The story for Matt Hunter 3 is all set and ready to write!).

I believe the next book in the series is out this year – can you tell us anything about it? Go on….just a hint. A teaser. Pretty please??

Ah, yes. The next book is called Unleashed which sees Matt drawn into a fictional suburb of London, famous for a historic poltergeist case. It’s a book that explores the clash of world-views and while it’s still a crime fiction book, it certainly dives deeper into the horror vibe. Obviously, I’ll be a little nervous for people to enjoy the second book, but for me I really love Unleashed. It’s a particularly meaningful story to me. Plus it starts with an intense animal attack at a primary school open day. Understand that my wife works full time so I’ve done most of the childcare and school runs these last few years. So releasing grim havoc in my house husband environment, albeit in a story, was an evil little pleasure.

I’m pretty much shoving Purged on everyone, its my new favourite thing.

I’m so, so grateful for that. Seriously. After five years of rejections, seeing the amazing reviews so far for Purged has been like a stumbling into a warm inviting cabin after a long trek alone through the snow.

Are you a big reader in the fiction market? If so is there a novel you’ve read recently that you’d like to recommend?

I read a lot more these days, but I’m a notoriously slow reader (I sub vocalise when I read…i.e. I say the words in my head, so it really slows me down). Because of that I don’t read anywhere near as many books as I’d like. I guess I read about 24 books a year, more or less. At least, that’s what my GoodReads Challenge has always been and I always meet it! As for what I’ve read recently, I’ve really enjoyed exploring a few older, spooky classics. For example Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury was just beautiful, and had me sniffling in the coffee shop, it was so moving. I also just read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, which is nothing like the Will Smith movie. It’s scary, clever and thought provoking. Oh, and my current read is a biography of one of my favourite horror actors Vincent Price. Can I squeeze in another. I’m listening to the audio book of the fake memoir Toast on Toast from the Ch4 comedy show Toast of London. I’ve laughed hard at that.

Thank you so much for answering my blather filled questions – to finish off I like to do a fun one – can you tell us 3 random things about you that we may not ever know unless you tell us?

1) I used to play piano in a Pizza restaurant, and would sneak in themes from Poltergeist and Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds into the lounge muzak.

2) I’m terrible at remembering Bible verses and still use the content page of my Bible.

3) I was obsessed with the TV show Prisoner Cell Block H in my late teens. Yeah, I’m THAT cool.

That IS cool. I always watched PCBH with chips. And usually slightly inebriated

Thanks so much!

About the book: 

Matt Hunter lost his faith a long time ago. Formerly a minister, now a professor of sociology, he’s writing a book that debunks the Christian faith while assisting the police with religiously motivated crimes. On holiday with his family in Oxfordshire, Matt is on edge in a seemingly idyllic village where wooden crosses hang at every turn. The stay becomes more sinister still when a local girl goes missing, followed by further disappearances.

Caught up in an investigation that brings memories to the surface that he would prefer to keep buried deep, Matt is on the trail of a killer determined to save us all.

Read my review HERE

Find out MORE

Follow the author on TWITTER

To Purchase Purged clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski : The Beast of Belkeld.

Welcome to Part Two of Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski – today he’s talking about The Beast of Belkeld, one of the creepier elements of the novel (random shiver) – Details on the really quite wonderful book follow and look out for Part 3 coming VERY soon. And right at the end I’ll review it – but if you can’t wait I can promise that this is an incredible book and will definitely be one of my top reads of the year. And yes it is only February…

The Beast of Belkeld

By Matt Wesolowski

…the coven would dance, sometimes in their own shape, sometimes becoming animals such as hares or dogs. Anne was asked to join in the dancing, which, along with reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards, was to please a ‘’long black man’’ who granted the witches wishes.

I was on holiday up on the Scottish coast one summer; my sister and I were visiting a dainty little folk museum. The curator, a sweet old lady, apropos of nothing sidled up to me and said.

“There used to be a witch coven up near here, you know.”

My interest in the place was sealed.

The mythology and folklore of the British Isles is never far when you visit its wild places. You can feel it in the black lands of Northumberland, emanating from the iron mountains of Wales and the rugged coats of Cornwall.

In Six Stories, I wanted to capture at least an element of this feeling. I take a great deal of influence from writers such as Algernon Blackwood and HP Lovecraft, expert purveyors of unknown rural menace. Stories such as ‘The Willows’ and ‘The Dunwich Horror’ resounded somewhere deep inside and setting a murder mystery in the Northumberland fells, I was powerless to resist the pull of the tenebrous, the eldritch…

The idea that there was something else out there on Scarclaw Fell evolved as I wrote; a shadowy figure peering out at me from between the lines. Gradually, this other became a significant force in the book.

We have a great many cautionary tales, myths and ancient lore, we also have the capacity to create a Tulpa, a being carved from a collective imagination. Cross-culturally we have similar beings, from the Hidden Folk of Iceland to the shadowy Taqriaqsuit of Inuit lore.

It’s rare you’re out alone in the wilds, but if you are, listen to the sounds on the edge of the breeze, see the darkness of the forests staring right back at you.

About the book:

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Follow Matt on TWITTER

To purchase the paperback clickety click right HERE

Watch out for more from Matt coming soon….

Happy Reading!

 

New Release Spotlight: Behind Her Eyes Sarah Pinborough

Don’t trust this book. Don’t trust this story. Don’t trust yourself.

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He’s a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

As Louise, David’s new secretary, is drawn into their world, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong – and how far someone might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

AT LAST you can all read Behind Her Eyes which is so brilliant in so many ways even before that incredibly wickedly evil ending that will have you wandering around in  a daze of WHY what the hell just happened. Yes you’ve all seen the hashtag if you follow social media #wtfthatending is about right.

BUT step back a moment. Lets pretend for a minute that this book didn’t have that little gem of a finale. Would it stand up against other psychological thrillers, be different, unique and all that jazz?  Yes. Yes it would. Because the story of David, Adele and Louise is utterly compelling. It is gripping from the moment you read the opening salvo. And can I just please for a moment pay as much homage to the start as I do to the finish. That opening paragraph just sucks you right in, I can almost guarantee that if you read that stood in the bookshop you’ll just want to take the book home with you and finish it. Probably in one sitting.

So outwardly we have a lot of the themes that make psychological thrillers so popular – some people all caught up in each others lives, some with nefarious intentions, forget your unreliable narrators the author has created her very own type of storyteller. I can’t think of a decent name for it but then that’s why I’m not a writer. But she has redefined this genre – I read somewhere someone called it a psychological thriller with added Pinborough – spot on that person. If you have read her before that will make perfect sense and if you have not well, I hazard a guess you will be reading more soon.

Stunningly clever characters, a twisted plot to wreak havoc with the most clever of readers, plus an addictively intelligent tale with that x factor that makes you crazily turn the pages, Behind Her Eyes will definitely be one of my books of the year. Its a book you are desperate to talk about with everyone, so much so that you feverishly beg them to read it quickly so you can be less alone with it all.

AND NOW YOU ALL CAN. I’m so jealous of those who have yet to experience it.

Get it, read it, be in on the conversation – because #wtfthatending its coming for YOU.

HIGHLY recommended. Dive in, enjoy the ride but watch out – it’ll blow your socks off.

Find out MORE

Follow Sarah on TWITTER

To Purchase Behind Her Eyes clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

 

 

Fickle – Peter Manus. Author Interview.

 

Today I am very happy to welcome Peter Manus to the blog talking about his novel Fickle – information on the book and a link to my review follow and this was one that I really loved – mainly because it offered something a little different. It has divided opinion it seems, but for me Fickle was a wonderfully twisted and evocative read. So it was fun to find out a little bit more….

 

So firstly whilst I hate the “where do your ideas come from” question and usually avoid it, in the case of Fickle I have to ask because it is so beautifully compelling. So what inspired you to write the novel as a series of blog posts and the surrounding discussions?

I get why you would ask that with this book — a blogging editorial assistant spins out noiry midnight chapters of her increasingly scary life after she witnesses a train suicide and attracts some lovelorn deviant’s attention, with the story told solely through their blogs — one of those ideas you definitely only want to spin out once as a writer.  I got the tone of the book — the concept of a bunch of people sitting in the dark, no connection except the screens in front of them, getting increasingly close and needy and flirty and risky — during a period when I was following a few blogs. People get really frank and prickly and coarse online. Disagreements get raw pretty quickly. I never joined in.  I wanted to, just to sample the interaction, but I would have lost the invisible element that I liked a lot, and also the contributors on the blogs I followed all seemed fresh and wry and I didn’t feel like I’d come off that way naturally. I’m sure the experience I’m describing is extremely common, by the way, but that in itself — the notion that there are masses of timid voyeurs hulking over other people’s ranting and sniping and sex talk all night — was kind of eerie. So I started writing about a girl who sees a guy throw himself under a train, and she’s lonely but she writes well, so she turns to the internet for comfort, and she finds what she needs and that’s great, the way people can connect and grow a sense of trust when thery’re nothing but voices, but of course she also attracts some crazies . . .   And it seemed right to pitch it as noir because it has that element of stroking the surface of seemingly normal people and finding some really raw, kinky, dangerous instincts, both in ourselves and out there.

You have managed to get a diverse range of characters in here, all compelling, but all obviously seen through the filter of “online” where people can hide their true identities and claim whatever they like. Still, you begin to get a sense of them through their comments and it is very clever – how do you go about plotting and developing those character voices. Especially within a novel as diverse as Fickle.

The bloggie voices — the group of eight or nine groupies of fickel’s blog who blog-chat with her every night — came pretty naturally.  I didn’t plot them out beforehand.  I have a lot of voices in my head, like I bet a lot of us do, and they asserted themselves right from the start.  I’m glad to hear you could sense that they all have fully developed lives that we only get glimpses of in the book, because that’s true.  Of course, they’re all pretty frank about expressing themselves — why not, when it’s the blogosphere and you’re using a snarky pseudonym? — so they’re full-fleshed even though they don’t share much about their personal lives and there’s no visual of any of them. The idea was to make the reader feel included, like as a lurker who read along every night but didn’t happen to post.  Funny story, though — the first editor who worked with me on FICKLE got to know me as we went along, of course, and near the end he started asking me whether there was some girl’s blog we’d need to ask permission to publish. I finally put it together that his issue was that I come off kind of bland in real life and he found it increasingly tough to buy that all these voices came out of me. Pretty funny — personally, I suspect that most of us polite types are simmering maniacs looking for a vent.

 

Now our blogger is a Noir fan and the whole thing reads like Noir. I loved the underlying feel to it all. Are you a fan of Noir yourself? I am a bit of a sucker for those old black and white movies and I love a bit of Noir in my reading…

I’m a huge noir fan, so rabid that I’m always surprised when I rediscover that not everyone is, which is usually when I’m nattering on about some old retro pulp and catch the fact that I’m the only breathless one in the conversation. When I was young I used to grab books out of the library, like by Cornell Woolrich or Gil Brewer, stuff you could read quick, and read them while driving. I’m not recommending this or anything, of course, but there was a lot of open highway where I was and it was part of the ritual. I thought Cornell Woolrich wrote beautifully — all about murder and gore but with a lovely light touch — and was offended when I learned that he considered himself a failure. I guess he was going for something other than the simple, dark-yet-lyrical tales he spun out so well.  I always thought that these books, plus the B films like Kiss of Death and The Woman in the Window and Deadlier than the Male, were actually meant as black humor. When I figured out that noir is a reflection of post-war moral nihilism and the lost American dream and everything, I remember thinking, yeah, but it’s all a tiny bit tongue-in-cheek, right?  I mean, Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books are plenty dark, but there’s a black comedy element throughout — Tom’s psychotic, sure, but he doesn’t stay all that sullen and has a lot of lighthearted fun between the occasional murders.

Fickle is what I call an interpretive novel – in that you leave a lot of room for the reader to filter it through their own thinking so to speak. Deliberate? What do you hope readers take away from it?

The way I saw it, I was, first and foremost, writing a novel which takes place only in the blogosphere. It wasn’t to be a gimmick and I so had to be true to the big empty cheat that the blogosphere is, ultimately.  People lie in FICKLE — scalding, evil whoppers — and I wanted readers to resist their growing realization that there was a manipulator in the mix.  People whose voices you love online can disappear, and people can take on fake personae — it’s all there, waiting to snare you and jerk your faith around.  There are three intended interpretations readers can take from FICKLE, depending on their own need for logic or level of cynicism, and also depending on how hard they fall for the dominant voices in the book. What should readers do with that puzzle when they finish? One woman who read it told me she went to a diner counter, ordered a soda, and watched it lose its fizz while she revived some of her own imaginative conjurings. That sounded about right to me.

What kind of novels do you yourself love to read? Is there a book you’ve read this year you would like to recommend?

Well, as I said above, I read a lot of noir. I tend to like epistolary novels, for some reason. When I was a kid, I thought that epistolary novels were written for women (like CLARISSA) but then I read THE MOONSTONE and also FANNY HILL and I was hooked. I think it’s because I enjoy the voice most about a book I’m reading, and with epistolary stories all the descriptions are actually expressing the speaker’s unwitting viewpoint, so you get this character who thinks he’s giving a straightforward accounting but is actually revealing all sorts of prejudices and aspirations and ignorance and other stuff.  Lately I’ve been motoring through some contrasting noirs, because I was asked to write an article about the role of law in crime fiction so I’ve been collecting prominent cop and lawyer tales in noir. I just finished CLANDESTINE, which is James Ellroy’s first novel. My guess is that most Ellroy fans who love the L.A. Quartet (the basis for the movie L.A. Confidential) already know this, but I did not know that CLANDESTINE is kind of a trial run for the L.A. Quartet themes and characters, with Dudley Smith (a psychotic cop) actually in the book. It was a cool discovery. I also just reread THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (James M. Cain) — it’s truly bleak — and BUILD MY GALLOWS HIGH (Daniel Mainwaring writing as Geoffrey Homes) and found another really quick read, IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE (Sherwood King), where the bad guy is a lawyer and there’s a courtroom scene that totally distorts the law, so it was useful for my theme.

Finally are you able to tell us anything about what is next for you in the writing stakes?

My second novel’s called FIVE DEAD GUYS AND A GIRL.  It’s Boston-based, like FICKLE.  It’s about a serial killer — a strangely impassive, retro style lady with a French accent — and a young go-getter lesbian homicide cop who’s after her, and I did it as the two characters’ journals, which of course presents a huge contrast in the two voices.  It gallops along pretty nicely, and my goal is to have the reader be torn about which of the main characters to root for — killer or cop.  I named it FIVE DEAD GUYS AND A GIRL, to make it clear that there’s a black comedy element running through it, but there’s a lot of tension and some seriously excellent murders as well.  Diversion picked it up, and I’m really grateful about that, and we’re pretty far through the editing process so I’m looking forward to seeing it come out in 2017.

Thanks so much.

Hey, thank you!  It’s hugely gratifying for any author to have someone read their work and be curious enough to ask some great questions about it.

About the Book:

 

One winter night in Boston, a man falls to his death in front of a subway train. The sole witness, a shaken young woman, explains to the police how the man pushed by her as he made his way to the tracks. But when her blog turns up in the dead man’s computer, the cops begin to look for other connections. Was the man a cyber-stalker, charmed to the point of desperation by the irreverent musings of a 20-something blogger? Or are the connections between subway jumper and innocent bystander more complicated?

Read my review of Fickle HERE

Find out more via Diversion Books

To Purchase Fickle clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!