Q&A with John A Lenahan, author of Ice Lake

Category: Interview

     Lying and telling the truth are significant themes in this novel. What made you focus on these and what inspired you to create your central protagonist, Harry Cull, the professional lie-detector?

I read an interesting article on how to beat lie detector machines by a man who thinks they are hokum and I thought about having a character that gave polygraph tests but didn’t believe in the machine. Like all things in a novel, the ideas often move away from their original form. But that was the spark.

 

–       Did you carry out any research prior to writing Ice Lake, which helped you develop the setting, characters and storyline?

Ice Lake is set on a lake in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I not coincidentally grew up on a lake in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I thought that writing about a place that I knew intimately would be easier than my previous writing in a fantasy world but no. Making stuff up is easier. As far as fracking (one of the themes of the book) and lie detection – I did tons of research. Again making crap up is easier.

 

–       Do you have a preferred strategy for plotting and writing a novel? Would you start off with a detailed sketch of the storyline, written on a board across the wall? Or would you begin writing with a basic premise and let the story carry you along?

I have to know the ending. I tried writing a novel once where I just followed where the day’s writing took me with no idea what the finish would be – I haven’t finished that one yet.

 

       Which books convinced you to become a writer? Have you always been a crime fiction fan or were you drawn to the genre later on?

In my youth, I was a sci-fi fantasy reader and later I became a crime fan. Now I have eclectic tastes. If it comes my way I’ll give it a shot. The last thing I read was as a book by Penn Jillette on how he lost 100 pounds.

 

       After Ice Lake, what will you write next? Though you’ve set this novel in Pennsylvania, do you plan to write fiction set in the UK?

I have an idea about a book set in Cricklewood, London.

 

Of all the books you’ve read in the past year, which have been your favourites?

I have recently been bingeing on the Aloysius Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I was first drawn to them because my middle name is Aloysius but later I’ve really enjoyed the mix of the real and the fantastical.

Q&A with Kate Medina

Category: Interview

1. Summarise Scared to Death in once sentence:

Everyone is afraid, but some fears can kill you.

 

2. How long did it take you to write?

Scared to Death took me a year to write.  I begin by spending a lot of time just thinking: developing the idea, the story and the characters that are going to inhabit that story.  I then spend two or three months fleshing out a very detailed plot and won’t start writing until I know how the whole book will play out.  Different novelists write in different ways, but a good crime novel has a very complex plot with multiple set-ups and pay-offs, many false leads and lots of intertwined sub-plots, and I couldn’t imagine writing something so complex without plotting it out first. An intricately carved, twisty-turny story that keeps me guessing until the end is, for me, a critical feature of a great crime novel.

 

3. What’s your favourite thing about the writing process?

I love virtually everything about the writing process.  I love doing a job that gives me the opportunity to be creative, but I also find the plotting process hugely mentally challenging, like trying to fit and enormous, amorphous jigsaw puzzle together.  I also really enjoy getting to know my characters and spending time with them.  It sounds strange, but often, despite my detailed plot, my characters do or say something that I don’t expect and I then have to run with them.  Scared to Death is the second in a crime series featuring twenty-nine year old clinical psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn, and I have grown to love Jessie and her fellow key protagonists, DI Bobby ‘Marilyn’ Simmons and Captain Ben Callan, as have, I hope, my readers.

 

4. …And your least?

My least favourite part of the writing process is editing my novel based on feedback from my Harper Collins Editor.  She is hugely experienced and her wisdom invariably makes the finished novel incomparably better, but I experience a mini-period of mourning each time her feedback arrives.  The plots of my novels are complex and if one bit changes, it has repercussions throughout the novel so a simple change, rarely turns out to be simple.  When I send my novel off to my publisher, I mentally put it to bed and having it come back again for changes is like one of my children climbing out of bed and disturbing me when I’ve signed off for the day and am having a glass of wine and watching a good TV drama!

 

5. What’s the last book you read?

The last book I read was ‘Behind her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough and I loved it.  Its social media hastag is a very appropriate #wtfthatending.  Occasionally I read a book that I wish I had written and ‘Behind her Eyes’ is one of those books.

 

6. What are your desert island reads?

I am an avid crime and thriller reader, which is why I chose to write in that genre.  I love well established crime writers such as Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Martina Cole, Peter James and Mo Hayder and newer writers such as Simon Toyne, SK Tremayne and CL Taylor.

I have a degree in Psychology and am very interested in the ‘whys’ of human behaviour, so I also enjoy books that delve into the dark side of people’s psychology, such as the classic ‘Lord of the Flies’, which, although it is set on its own desert island, would definitely have to accompany me to mine.

 

 7. What’s the least likely thing you’d be found doing?

Relaxing! I am a very restless person and never really ‘do nothing’ unless I’m asleep, and even then, my husband tells me that I constantly wriggle.

 

8. Favourite word?

Discombobulated.  It’s a great word and very onomatopoeic, although I am yet to fit it into one of my novels without its inclusion sounding contrived.  One day…

 

9. Do you listen to music when writing?

One of the reasons I became an author was because I’m quite introverted and love silence, so I never listen to music when I’m writing.  I write in an attic room at the top of the house, with the door shut and my two dogs for company.  One of them is getting old now and snores when she’s asleep, so I have to resist poking her to wake her up, as her snoring disturbs my writing.  I only listen to music when I’m driving on my own and I can sing very loudly without anyone telling me that I sound dreadful – which I do.

 

10. Dead or alive, who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I enjoy a good argument, so I’d invite people who had very different views on life to create as much conflict and as many interesting, challenging discussions as possible.  I’d invite Maggie Thatcher, because, although she was Marmite in terms of politics, she was fantastically clever, driven, opinionated and successful woman.  I’d invite Boris Johnson, because I’d like to know if he is as ludicrous in person as he appears to be on the television.  I’d invite Hillary Mantel, as she is such an incredibly clever writer, J K Rowling because her creativity knows no bounds, Peter James because he is a great writer and an incredibly nice person – so he could keep the peace – and Steig Larsson because his crime writing has always inspired me.

I also love to laugh, so I’d have to include at least one comedian.  David Walliams is a fellow Harper Collins author and I’ve seen him at Harper events, but never actually talked to him in person, so I would definitely invite him.

 

I spent five years in the Territorial Army as a Troop Commander in the Royal Engineers, a role that I loved, and I am fascinated and not a little disturbed by the level of conflict the world seems to be experiencing at the moment, so I’d invite General Sir Nicholas Carter, who is Chief of the General Staff (head of the British Army).

Lastly I’d invite Tom Hanks as he is one of the finest actors of his generation, seems like a lovely man and would, I’m sure, have some great stories to tell.

 

Q&A with June Taylor, author of psychological page-turner Losing Juliet

Category: Author Post

‘A gripping tale, beautifully told, and with a shocking twist. A pitch perfect evocation of time and place. Unputdownable’

Frances Brody, author of the Kate Shackleton Mysteries  

 

juneauthorphoto_credit_joleejoleeworld

What sort of psychological thriller do you like?

I love a good twisty, turny, gets-under-your-skin type of suspense rather than an all-out thriller. I think Rebecca has to be my favourite of all time.

I’m interested in characters who are pretty ordinary on the face of it, but, when tested will do whatever it takes. So I love Patricia Highsmith novels. It’s that: What would I do in that situation? I find fascinating. Because none of us really know. There’s a criminal in all of us quite possibly!

 

What makes a book in this genre stand out?

For me it’s two things: brilliant writing, and coming at it from a slightly different angle. So other favourites are Room, Girl on the Train, Notes on a Scandal, The Lovely Bones, The Woman Next Door. In this ludicrously overcrowded market, and given that there are apparently only seven basic stories to be told, you have to write one that sets itself apart.

 

You come from a scriptwriting background…

Yes. So I think that helps me think visually and is a good discipline. I love strong female characters. My favourite film is Thelma and Louise. And Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley is just brilliant TV.

 

So tell us about Losing Juliet

When an old friend gets in touch, the past is painfully reawakened and unlocks a dangerous truth, putting one mother in an impossible position as her daughter demands to know more. Her quest for the truth gathers a momentum which, in the end, no one can control. And what will happen once it’s out there?

 

You can contact June via Twitter @joonLT or her website.

Losing Juliet is available on Amazon now.