Q&A with Alex Lake, author of AFTER ANNA

Category: Interview

Meet Alex Lake, the author of AFTER ANNA…

After Anna EBWhat drew you to the world of crime?

I think I just like good stories, and the world of crime is full of them. It’s also a world that we know exists right next to us, but which we hope we never have to experience. Perhaps crime fiction is a way of exploring that world without having to enter it.

Plus, I love reading about and creating a good villain, and there are loads of them in the world of crime.

What author (besides yourself) do you think that everyone should read?

Wow. What a question. Do I get to sit on a fence here and not really answer it? I’m not sure there is a ‘should’ when it comes to choosing what your read – I think you just read what you enjoy (unless you’re training for something – like being a doctor – then you should probably read some anatomy books or something like that) so all I can offer up is who I like to read, and that has changed over the years. I loved Stephen King as a teenager (and still do), Jonathan Coe is a big favourite, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson. Like many people who love reading, the list of authors I like and admire and wish I was as good as goes on and on…

Perhaps the books that made the greatest impression on me, though, were the Borribles Trilogy. I adored them as a child. Without giving anything way, there is a character called Napoleon Boot, who starts out as a villain and ends as a hero, and who, finally, dies so that the rest may live. As a ten-year old I was sobbing in bed when I got to that point – my dad heard me and came in to find out what was wrong. Through the sobs I managed to tell him that Napoleon was dead. I think he was a bit surprised that I was so upset over the demise of a figure from French history. But that’s the power of books, I guess.

Tell us about your new book

The plot is simple (at first, anyway):  a five-year-old girl is abducted. It’s every parent’s nightmare – or one of them, at least – and her mum and dad, Julia and Brian, go through the most horrendous week, wondering whether she is alive, dead, enslaved.

And then she is returned, unharmed, which is when Julia’s problems really start…

Is there a lot of research that goes in to your books?

Yes, but my books are mainly about character and story.  I like to know that the setting or details or whatever are correct – for example, if a character takes a train and you call it an Intercity 125 you need to be sure that Intercity 125s were still running then on that route, because somebody will notice – but once I have satisfied myself that the details are right then I leave it at that.

What are you working on now?

A few things. I tend to work on more than one novel at a time, so I have a few in progress.

I also write for my own kids. We have a character called The Very Wicked Witch, who is a mixture of extreme wickedness, ridiculously grandiose plan and tragic incompetence. She’s very funny – her plans are always thwarted by the village kids, but she never gives up.

Do you think you could pull off the ‘perfect murder’?

No! I don’t think I could pull off any murder, at least not in cold blood or for money or revenge. I think the perfect murder would have to be motiveless, so that no one would ever suspect you did it, and I cannot imagine the circumstances in which I would be planning a motiveless murder.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?

Read as much as you can, and write every day. Enjoy what you write – if you don’t, no one else well. Write the book you wish was in the bookshops. Find your voice – what makes your writing yours?

Oh – and don’t read tips about writing!

What’s your poison?

Hmm. Tea and coffee, for sure. Crisps – chips in the US – which are just an explosion of taste. I think I read somewhere that our taste buds spent millennia evolving in such a way that they seek out a certain blend of salt and sugar and fat and that food scientists designed crisps to match that. So basically, we have no way of resisting their appeal; it is hardwired into our biology, which is kind of worrying.

I also love, when I can get it, soft French cheese like Camembert or Coutances or Coulommiers. I lived in Normandy for a year when I was a student, and I more or less survived on cheese and baguettes. And red wine.

What’s your method – regular writing schedule, late at night, listening to music – what inspires the magic for you?

Whenever I can. Early in the morning before work, late at night when the kids are in bed. Weekends. Holidays. I tend to write quite quickly, but when I sit down to start, I normally know what I’m going to write. If I am swimming or jogging or out for a walk I will think about the next few chapters, so that when I get a chance I’m ready.

What’s your favourite pastime (aside from reading/writing)?

I just started learning the guitar, and I’m enjoying that, even if my family members aren’t. I also like swimming, ideally outside in a lake or pond somewhere, and of course, I love spending time with the kids.

The thing I enjoy most of all, though, is hiking. If I can, I like to get out for long, remote hikes that take all day – there’s something totally immersive about them. Whatever else you have going on just melts away. I spent a lot of time in the Lake District as a kid, and I guess it stuck with me.

Get your copy today here. For the latest from the author, be sure to follow @Alexlakeauthor on Twitter.

Inspired by the Horror of Reality: Patrick Kendrick, author of ACOUSTIC SHADOWS talks the rise of school shootings

Category: Author Post

People have asked how I come up with ideas for my novels and my pat answer is: ‘I read the newspapers.’ While this is not an original concept, with my newest work, Acoustic Shadows, one cannot miss the headline-inspired storyline of the novel. It begins with a shooting at an elementary school.

When I was touring and doing signings for my last book, Extended Family, I would give an accompanying lecture on ‘Mass, Spree, and Serial Killers,’ accompanied by slides, historical information and anecdotes about various killers over the years. The lecture pointed out the differences between these types of killers. Mass murderers: one event, one location, multiple victims, usually targeted, meant to be a statement and lots of coverage by the media. Spree killers: several events over a few days, multiple locations, multiple victims, sometimes targeted, often random, sometimes making a statement, or a person just going over the edge-a lost job, marriage, etc. Serial killers: multiple events, multiple victims, typically over years. They want to be recognized for their heinous acts but do not want to be caught, so they are very careful.

When I began doing these lectures in 2012, there were a number of mass killings but they could still be counted easily enough. Columbine is one of the first that came to mind, then Virginia Tech. But since 2006, these killings have increased exponentially and there have been over 200 of these events since then. Currently, they are happening at a pace of about one attack every two weeks. They are always startling accounts of innocent people being slaughtered by someone, typically, with a long history of mental illness, living an isolated, socially inept, life. For reference, I would suggest this site, based on the FBI’s current data: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/mass-killings/index.html#triggers

For me, none were as disturbing, as heart-wrenching, as the shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, a quiet, small town like thousands of suburban towns that exist all across the world. As a paramedic and fire fighter for many years, I have seen my share of disasters, trauma, and human suffering. But, I could not get over all of those children, so young and innocent, who were slaughtered by another one of these mad men that I often write about in my novels. I could not sleep at night and while I would weep as I watched the news, I could not stop watching it while wondering why does this keep happening and, can it ever be stopped?

I don’t think I answered those questions for myself and am not sure if anyone can. But, my way of dealing with this horrific event was to put it into one of my books, perhaps as a cathartic way for me to deal with my own feelings about the subject, perhaps for people to reflect on the problem that has become epidemic and which, we feel helpless to do anything about. This was how Acoustic Shadows came about. As I pondered the story, a thought kept coming back to me: what if one of the teachers had a weapon?

The novel begins with two armed gunmen entering a school in a small town in Florida. They began shooting, initially it seems at random. But, this time, one of the teachers has a gun and takes matters into her own hands. Of course, teachers having handguns in school has become a source of much controversy and some of that makes its way into the story. But, I posed the question as well, could such an attack come from a different motive? I write thrillers and mysteries after all and, so far, all of them have a common element of conspiracy, so that is where I went with Acoustic Shadows.

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Patrick Kendrick was a firefighter and freelance journalist for years before turning to writing novels. His first book, Papas’ Problem won the Florida Book Award, as well as the Hollywood Film Festival Award. His second book, Extended Family was a Kindle best seller and earned a starred review from Booklist. Kendrick lives in South Florida with his family and endeavors to never be too far from the sea.

A Killer Q&A with author Catherine Hunt

Category: Author Post


Tell us about yourself.

I’m a journalist who for many years was with BBC TV news producing and then editing the main TV news shows. Started out on local papers in the dim, distant past. Currently run a media consultancy business. Avid reader of crime fiction.

Tell us about your latest book.
Someone Out There is my first thriller. It’s about divorce lawyer, Laura Maxwell, who believes she’s being targeted by someone intent on destroying her. It’s about obsession, fear, isolation; about how quickly life can unravel and how well you ever really know the people around you.

When did you start writing?
I only started writing fiction a few years ago. Up until then, it was all factual stuff. I did write a few short stories as a teenager but never dared to send them off.

What drew you to the world of crime?
Probably all the real life crimes I’ve written copy on over the years, some of them so incredible and bizarre they would never have got past a literary agent!

Where do you write?
Wherever I can but preferably at home at a desk looking out at the garden and some woods beyond.

Which other authors do you admire?
Difficult because there are a lot. To pick a few: Patricia Highsmith, Barbara Vine,  Daphne Du Maurier,  Graham Greene , Gillian Flynn, Nicci French, Stephen King and Iain M Banks.

Book you wished you’d written?
To Kill a Mockingbird

Greatest fictional criminal: Count Fosco in The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Greatest fictional detective: Arkady Renko

What scares you?
The usual things: wars, real life killers, cruelty – oh and politicians.

Are you ever disturbed by your own imagination?
Not really though it might be best to keep it to myself to avoid any strange looks.

3 crime books you would recommend to EVERYONE.
        Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith
        Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
        Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

What’s your poison?
Vodka, rum, gin, need I go on?

Are you on social media?
Yes, I’m on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn.

How can fans connect with you?
On Twitter @chwrites and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CatherineHuntAuthor
Or via my website: http://www.catherinehunt.com