Where did Crystal Nguyen come from?
DEAD OF NIGHT is a major departure from our Detective Kubu series. We wanted to try our hand at something very different, something darker, something with a totally different protagonist.
Deciding on the style of book was easy. We wanted to write a thriller rather than a mystery. We wanted our protagonist to be in a race against time, to be in danger. But deciding who should be the protagonist wasn’t as easy.
One of the pleasures of writing is that the level of challenge is largely within the writer’s control. We’d written six Detective Kubu mysteries, so were very familiar with the main characters and the location. The challenge each time was creating a story that was interesting and colourful. For DEAD OF NIGHT we decided to give ourselves a huge challenge, to force ourselves out of our comfort zone. So we decided on a female protagonist in contrast to the male Detective Kubu.
We also wanted her to come from somewhere other than Africa, and we wanted her to be different from most main characters. Since Stanley spends half his time in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the States, we decided she should be from there because he knows it so well. But how to make her different? Minnesotans are typically white, with northern European heritage. That didn’t appeal.
Minnesota is also home to refugees from a number of war-torn countries: Vietnam, Laos, Somalia, to name a few. We immediately chose Vietnam because we had already decided that the backstory of the book would be the horrendous poaching of rhinos in southern Africa and the smuggling of rhino horns. Vietnam is the main culprit in this trade.
So, we had a female, Vietnamese refugee as a main character, who lived in Minnesota. Talk about a challenge! And Crystal Nguyen came to life, known as Crys to her friends.
If that wasn’t enough, we also decided to write the book in the first person. We liked the idea of being in our protagonist’s head as she came into contact with evil poachers. What would she be thinking and feeling as she worked her way through the story?
And so we started writing. We soon ground to a halt. We had about 20,000 words that we liked, but couldn’t figure out what Crys would do next. We couldn’t get inside her head. We tried rewriting those 20,000 words in the third person, hoping to gain a better understanding. That also didn’t work. Over the next few years, we rewrote several times, always with the same result. We ground to a halt.
Eventually Stanley said he would write a short story, set in Minnesota, to try to understand Crys better. She was to be an investigative reporter for a Duluth, Minnesota, television station, and a columnist for the local newspaper. Her area of interest was the environment, and her passion was for the gray wolf – an endangered species. Soon the short story turned into a long story as Stanley fleshed out Crys’s background and motivations, her likes and dislikes. Then the long story became a novella, illustrating Crys’s (sometimes warped) commitment to the wolves. Finally, it became a novel of over 60,000 words. Stanley called it WOLFMAN.
We hoped that we now understood Crys and set to work once again to write our thriller. This time, the ideas flowed and soon we had a complete manuscript, featuring what we thought was an interesting main character – a woman, quite naïve, but with enormous energy, courage, and resourcefulness, who is not always quite sure of what she wants.
At last we know and like Crys. We hope you will too.
About the Book
When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, but within a week she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that she doesn’t want, but can’t get rid of…
Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late, both for the rhinos and for her. She has a powerful story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…
Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Nightis a stunning new thriller from Michael Stanley, author of the award-winning Detective Kubuseries, introducing an intriguing new protagonist, while exposing one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent…
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