Seeing as Alex Barclay’s new Ren Bryce thriller Blood Loss has just been released in the UK, we decided to ask her the questions you’re all dying to know the answers to. So here’s the first of what I hope will be many a Q&A session with our brilliant authors. Keep reading to find out how a working day in the life of Alex plays out, where she gets her ideas from and what she loves to read and watch…
What sparked your interest in crime writing specifically?
It was more that I was struck with an idea for an opening scene: a surveillance operation in New York and what, at first, appears to be the successful resolution of a child abduction. It was so vivid to me, it still is, and I just felt compelled to write it. I thought it would be a screenplay, but once I had written it, I knew it would be a novel. I’ve been reading crime ever since I was fourteen, so it was no surprise that I would have criminal intent…
What kind of research do you do?
I read – books, reports, studies, online articles. If there are documentaries on the subject, I’ll watch them. I spend time in the places I write about. But, the most important part of my research is talking to the experts in the field. I may come across their name in a report or in a book, and then I will approach them to help me with my research. I run the plot by them, and ask more questions than a person should ever be asked. Luckily, the generosity of all these experts has been wonderful.
How did you make your contacts in the FBI, and how forthcoming are they about how the Bureau works?
I was having a chat with a wonderful crime writer and happened to say that I really needed to speak with an FBI agent for my next novel, which would have been the first in the Ren Bryce series – Blood Runs Cold. He had a contact in the FBI, who kindly passed on his number. After that it all went through official channels, which surprised me, because I didn’t think I would get that access.
What’s your writing routine? Do you have to be in a particular place to be comfortable
or can you write anywhere?
I can have ideas anywhere, I can take notes anywhere, but mainly I write in my “office”, which is, in fact, a sweet, very non-threatening bedroom that has fairy lights around the window. The two other places I write are in an amazing writers’ and artists’ retreat in West Cork and a gorgeous local coffee shop, where I sit in the corner drinking gallons of coffee. With Darkhouse, I wrote most of it in holiday homes around Ireland, but mainly in Dunmore East, Waterford, a beautiful harbour village, not unlike the setting in the book. In terms of routine, it changes constantly – but my most productive days are when I start at 6.30 a.m. It can go on until midnight, which is fine by me, because I love what I do.
Which of your bestsellers did you have the most fun writing and why?
I really enjoyed writing all of them, but Blood Runs Cold stands out because of my time in Colorado. It was my first trip there, I was visiting the FBI offices that featured in the book, I met wonderful, kind, generous people. I was welcomed into people’s homes, I fired weapons, I climbed Quandary Peak, I met many crazies, I visited a jail, I made great friends. It was a movie montage of adventures.
What’s your favourite film/TV show?
Film is a big love of mine. To narrow it down to a few films is tricky. In no particular order: The Godfather, Gladiator, Silence of The Lambs, Betty Blue, Rear Window, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Team America, Fargo, La Haine, Donnie Darko, Jaws, Let The Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Elf, The Sixth Sense, Beauty and the Beast, Alien, Toy Story. I absolutely loved the new Skyfall.
TV Shows – The Good Wife, Homeland, Love/Hate (a superb Irish gangland drama), Modern Family, Borgen (the Danish political drama), American Horror Story, Veep. Engrenages (Spiral), an outstanding French crime series. I am still mourning House.
If your book was turned into a movie, who would play Ren?
Eva Mendes is borderline too good-looking. But that shouldn’t stop her…
I was inspired by an NYPD detective who said to me, “Colorado is where people go to disappear”. I was going to send a different character from my first two books there. Instead, I came up with Special Agent Ren Bryce.
Which writers do you love to read?
Jim Thompson, Daphne du Maurier, Declan Hughes, Scott Phillips, Stephen White, Megan Abbott, Dennis Lehane, David Sedaris. It’s been a busy year and all I want to do is go to a desert island and read for a month. I have piles of new books all over my house. I keep buying, but not finding the time to read them