Archive for the ‘crime’ Tag

Monthly Round-up: January 2019

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s been a while since I posted a monthly update. Mostly because I haven’t had much to report.

COMING SOON

I am pleased to announce that my short story ‘Cigarette Burns’ will be appearing in the 10th Women In Horror issue of THE SIREN’S CALL‘ e-Zine (issue #43). This is the second year I have appeared in the special WIHM issue of this e-zine.

PUBLICITY

I’ve really not been pimping myself of late, so nothing to report.

WORK IN PROGRESS

This is where it gets difficult. I’m still trying to get my writing mojo back. I have several works on the go, but struggling with all of them.

The fourth Shara Summers book I have recently done a bit of work on, but since I still don’t know what’s happening with the third Shara Summers book, and the first two really aren’t selling, I am not sure if there is any point in my carrying on with this series.

The collaboration I have been working on with Hubby – a rather sweeping crime thriller set in the 1960s – I have put to one side because I think there are so many problems with it I don’t know how to fix it.

And finally, there is the sequel to OUTPOST H311. Which I do want to write. The first book seems to be doing reasonably well, sales-wise. The problem is I haven’t finished plotting the sequel yet, and that stage of staring at a blank page wondering where to start is even more overwhelming than usual.

Hopefully by the end of next month I will have something more positive to report. In the meantime, if you’ve read any of my books I would really appreciate it if you could consider leaving a review. Knowing I have a few readers out there provides more encouragement to a writer than you could ever imagine.

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Best Books of 2018

(Cross posted on the WriteClub blog)

Once more it’s time for me to review the books I read in the previous year and blog about the ones I liked the best. My criteria for this is quite simple. I log all the books I read on Goodreads, and those I give a 5-star rating make my ‘best books’ list.

In 2018 I set a goal of reading 70 books. I fell a bit short of that, managing to complete 68 books before the year ended. However, there was an unusually high number of books I gave a 5-star rating to last year. Seven have made the list. In the order in which I read them, they are:

Ready Player One: Ernest Kline
Everything is Lies: Helen Callaghan
Y is for Yesterday: Sue Grafton
Cross Her Heart: Sarah Pinborough
The Roanoke Girls: Amy Engle
If She Did It: Jessica Treadway
Tombland: CJ Sansom

This list includes one science fiction book, two crime novels (both sort of historical, but one decidedly so), and four psychological thrillers. Further details on each book can be found below.

Ready Player One

The only science fiction book on my list, this is a novel that was recommended to me and when I went to buy it on Kindle I discovered my husband had already bought the Kindle version – we have linked our accounts, so we can each access books bought by the other. Someone else had recommended it to him, completely independently. We both read the book, loved it, recommended it to our D&D group and then when the film came out a couple of months later we all went to see it together.

Set in a dystopian near-future, where everyone escapes their appalling reality by spending all of their time in an idyllic Virtual Reality universe, part of what makes ‘Ready Player One’ so enjoyable are all the references to 80s pop culture. Anyone who grew up watching films, playing video games and playing D&D in the 1980s will recognise all the references.

The film is quite different from the book, but equally enjoyable. If you saw and loved the film, do yourself a favour and read the book as well.

Everything is Lies

In my review of ‘Everything is Lies’ I described it as ‘a near-perfect psychological thriller’. Helen Callaghan is a member of my writing group, and it’s so lovely to be able to watch an author grow and develop in their craft, and eventually produce something of this calibre.

This the first of several psychological thrillers in my list. It’s a genre that is in danger of being overexploited. To be able to do one this well, in such a crowded market, is exceptional.

Y is For Yesterday

I was given this book for Christmas in 2017, and I had no idea then that it would prove to be the last Sue Grafton book ever. She sadly passed away not long after, and her family announced they would not be finishing the series on her behalf.

I’ve been reading the Kinsey Millhone series for decades, and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. Because I had this one in hardback, therefore making it difficult to carry around with me, I read it when I was confined at home recuperating from surgery in February 2018. The fact that it was Kinsey Milhone’s last case added extra poignancy, but it was an outstanding story. I have a great deal of admiration for a writer who had 25 books in the same series published, and there was never any drop in quality. Ms Grafton left us too soon, and she is greatly missed.

Cross Her Heart

Sarah Pinborough made my list last year with ‘Behind Her Eyes’. This year I read the next psychological thriller she brought out, and while the twist ending is perhaps not as legendary as BHE, this is still an excellently written novel that had me gripped to the end.

The Roanoke Girls

Everyone had been raving about this book, so I thought it was about time I got around to reading it. It’s a psychological thriller about a family that produces extraordinarily beautiful young women, but there’s a dark secret running through it.

It’s not exactly a happy read, but it stayed with me for a long time after I read it, and it’s rare for books to do that. You can read my review on Goodreads here.

If she Did It

Yet another psychological thriller, this is a story told from the point of view of Hanna, mother of two daughters. Three years on from a brutal attack that killed her husband and left her disfigured, Hanna is still trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Her youngest daughter’s boyfriend was arrested and found guilty of the attack. Hanna can’t remember exactly what happened the night of the attack, but is fixated with finding out. Because she finds herself entertaining the unthinkable suspicion that her daughter was somehow involved.

Again, this is a somewhat disturbing read, but it had me gripped. Find my full review here.

Tombland

The latest book in the Matthew Shardlake series is the most epic yet – spanning 850 pages and dealing with the peasants’ revolt in Norwich in 1549.

I really hope that this isn’t the last Shardlake book, but I understand that CJ Sansom has cancer. This illness has taken far too many fine writers from us in recent years.

This concludes my list of recommended reads for 2018 – those books that I thought stood out above all the rest I read throughout the year. This year, I’ve once again set the bar at reading 70 books. I have high hopes that I will make my target this year.

Monthly Round-Up: January 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I really hate January. It has no redeeming features. It’s dark, cold and wet, everyone is broke after Christmas, there is nothing to look forward to and as I never see daylight during the working week it’s the month my SAD seems to hit the hardest so I spend most of it feeling depressed.

Hence, I am always glad to see the back of it. Happily, we are now out of January and there are a few things to look forward to in the coming months as there is news to report.

COMING SOON:

I am pleased to announce that my previously-published story “Morgan’s Father” (most recently available in the collection SOUL SCREAMS) is to be published in the forthcoming ‘Women in Horror’ edition of the ezine SIREN’S CALL.

My new horror novel OUTPOST H311 is currently with the editor, and will be released later this year from KGHH publishing. I will let you know when I have more news regarding release date.

PUBLICITY:

I’ve been a bit quiet on this front of late, and there’s nothing to report at the moment, but there are a couple of things I’ve been working on and I hope to have something to report soon.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

With the horror novel finished I’ve been trying to figure out what to work on next. I’m back at work on the collaboration with Hubby, which has been a somewhat long-running project. It’s a crime thriller set in 1967, about a young woman with a dream to play bass in a band, who gets caught up in the heady world of London gangs and the rising music scene when she searches for a friend who’s disappeared.

The fourth Shara Summers novel is about a third of the way through draft 1, but I have not done any work on it for 12 months. I am still in two minds as to whether to carry on with this series. I enjoy writing it, but it’s not selling, and is there any point in carrying on with a series people don’t want to read?

As we move into February and the days start to get lighter, things start to look brighter. Join me again at the end of this month to see what it had in store!

Monday’s Friend: Mary Andrea Clarke

Today I’m pleased to welcome historical crime writer Mary Andrea Clarke to the blog. Good to have you as my guest, Mary.

SJT: Did you always know you were destined to be a writer?

crimson cavalierMAC: No, although I always enjoyed writing.  It wasn’t really something I thought about consciously.  Some of my primary school teachers had suggested I should become an author.  I wasn’t really convinced at that point.  A slow burning flame that came to fruition, or maybe like the maturing of a good wine.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

MAC: Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Dorothy L Sayers, Jean Plaidy, although I don’t write about known historical figures, and Jane Austen.  Pride and Prejudice made a direct contribution to The Crimson Cavalier when I named Georgiana Grey after Mr Darcy’s sister.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

MAC: Try not to get discouraged by the rejections.  There’s no average time or number of nos a writer will hear before getting the yes.  Go looking for opportunities to write, even if it’s not your preferred format.  Competitions, writers’ groups, evening classes, all are good discipline and set targets.  Even an encouraging letter from a competition organiser where you just missed the shortlist can be the spur to keep going.  Accountability is a good motivator and good feedback is always a help.  It also provides valuable interaction in an essentially solitary occupation.

love not poisonSJT: Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?

MAC: Only twice, both have ended up dead.  In most cases, I have found characters have evolved as a mix of qualities I have picked up subconsciously or something I’ve heard which has to be used.  The last real life inspired character was left face down in a river in my latest work in progress.  I must decide his fate or he will soon become bloated like some unfortunate individual I saw in Midsomer.

SJT: I’ve killed off real people in my books too! It’s quite carthartic. When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

MAC: Neither and both.  I do plan to an extent, but more on a next chapter basis than detailed planning of the manuscript.  Of course things don’t always go according to plan.  The Crimson Cavalier was full of surprises.  One character intended as a passing background figure suddenly appeared on the page, with a very specific appearance and a large part to play in the next book, Love Not Poison.  The latest Georgiana Grey work started as an exercise inspired by Dorothea Brande’s classic work, Becoming a Writer.  I wanted to shake things up.  Her suggestion of keeping a notebook by the bed and writing the first thing that comes into the head in the morning, before fully awake, kicked off a new novel.  I’m not sure yet where it’s leading but that’s half the fun.

SJT: Your series is about an independent-minded young woman in Regency England. Not a time desperately progressive when it comes to women’s rights. What inspired you to create the character of Georgiana Grey?

MAC: In a way, it was the very difficulties women encountered in that era which made me want a female sleuth trying to negotiate the system, if only to see if it could be done.  I always loved the film, ‘The Wicked Lady’, in its original black and white version.  While it may have required some suspension of disbelief, the intrigue and tension mixed with the class distinctions remains riveting.  The role of highway robber gave Georgiana a level of freedom to circumvent some of the rules  We know highwaymen were not the glamorous Robin Hood-like adventurers of fable.  Yet we also know the world is not black and white, the anti-hero has good points as the hero has flaws.  Ross Poldark’s anger at a sick man’s imprisonment for a minor crime leads to him breaking the law but I suspect most of us would not condemn him.  The prison scenes from the original ‘Poldark’ were in my mind when I motivated Georgiana’s anger about her servant’s conviction.

debt not dishonourSJT: Any current writing projects in the works?

MAC: At present I am editing The Body Nursery, which introduces some new characters, two bodysnatchers who discover a dead baby while liberating an old man from his coffin.  One is uncomfortable with treating the child as merchandise and suspects a questionable death which he decides to investigate.  Another lawbreaker with a conscience.  I have also started writing a new Georgiana Grey adventure, in which her cousin and chaperone, Selina Knatchbull, finds a body which subsequently disappears.

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

MAC: I enjoy spending time with my long distance family when I get the chance, we always manage to do some fun stuff.  I like reading (of course!), going to the theatre and places of historical interest.  Just recently I had a great day out at Hampton Court,  I have been there before but always spot something new!

SJT: Thank you, Mary, for taking time to chat with me today.

If readers want to learm more about Mary’s work, check out her website and follow her on Twitter. The link to her publishers can be found here.

The first book in the Crimson Cavalier series is currently available on Kindle for 95p, so if you want to grab a bargain, hop over there right now (or $.123 if you’re in the US).

 

Monday’s Friend: Sarah E Smith

Today’s guest is fellow KGHH author and crime writer Sarah E Smith. Welcome, Sarah!

Inside the Mind
By Sara E Smith

A couple of months ago, Sara asked me to blog about my processes, and whether it’s changed as I’ve developed as a writer. So I thought I’d explain how I do a whodunnit and why Byrd books are taking much longer to write than the Secret of Aldwych Strand did.

For mesarah e smith (2), writing a time travel trilogy was like falling off a log. Mark and Lucy’s story oozed from every pore. Tumbling like a river in flood; desperate to reach the world. This new set of books is best compared to wading through treacle without waders.  Symington, Earl Byrd,  my latest creation for KGHH publishing, is a gentleman detective; living and working at the start of the 20th century. His world is dark and dangerous. His opponents vicious, clever, and always one step ahead. Hence the treacle. I had to rethink how I wrote; had to become more methodical. Plot more, think more. Draft and discard more.

You see whilst I know exactly who the murderers are and why they have committed such heinous crimes, these tales aren’t put together from chapter one to chapter last.

Right from the beginning, before you write the words Chapter One, it’s important to know who the murderer is and why their victim, or victims, had to die. So, I write the murderer’s confession first. You know the drill: “Of course, I murdered Major Plumb in the Study with the lead piping…” and in early draft, this section always ends with: “And I would have got away with it, were it not for you pesky kids.”

After establishing the who and why, I write the first murder and continue up to the point where Byrd shows how clever he is by examining the evidence at the crime scene.  Then I stop, and write Byrd’s final speech to the suspects: “I’ve called you all here today to…” This allows me to establish the red herrings,  and the lies these people need to tell during the rest of the tale in order to make them possible murderers.

From then on it’s pretty plain sailing. Get the rest of the main story written predominantly from Byrd’s perspective – except when 3rd person or another POV is needed; meet and interview the suspects; and then kill off at least one more person. This done, it’s time to open the files: “I called you all here today” and the “Pesky Kids”; copy and paste them in, and job jobbed.

Except of course it’s not.

It’s at this point I realise I’ve  missed out one motive,  or forgotten to murder someone. In the worst case (as at the moment with his second book) the plot’s twisted in on itself and the universe will implode. So back I go and change, rewrite, and add until I’ve had enough… and never want to write a murder mystery again.

SB COC NEW MASTER COVER (2)So

Am I

Finished?

No!

Because as I read this draft through, it becomes blindingly obvious there’s no badinage and interplay between Byrd and his bizarre entourage: cousin CC (a chief inspector with Scotland Yard); Sampson and Watkins his servants. There’s no sub plot; no tantalising glimpses into the central characters past – or present.  By this point I also realise the history is missing. Those passing references to the events of the early 1900’s, which I must include, or burn in the fires of inaccuracy. So, after a short temper tantrum, I add those bits, and send it off to the editor before I make any changes … or throw any more toys out the pram.

At this point peace descends. A short month(ish) truce broken by an email from the editor. This reveals: gaping plot holes and an ending that doesn’t make sense; sections of text which drag, she doesn’t like or are a pile of poo – my words. It’s also now I realise, that some of the voices are too similar. A constable on the beat speaks like a toff. Byrd doesn’t have enough whimsies and mannerisms, and the least said about Sampson and Watkins the better.

Eventually though, the final product emerges and it’s over to you dear reader for your verdict…

twitter pics1 (2)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born in Plymouth in 1967 to a naval family, Sarah never wanted to go down to the sea in ships, she wanted to travel in time. For some people this would be a daunting challenge. For Sarah it was easy. There were three ways to do it: stow away in the TARDIS, study History and write a book. The last two were achievable, and she may not have travelled in the TARDIS, but she did once travel in a Mini Metro with Tom Baker, the fourth (and for those of us of a certain age, the best) Doctor Who.

Learn more about Sarah and her writing on her website, her blog and her Amazon page, or follow her on Twitter.

 

BOOK LINKS:

Meet Symington Byrd. Playboy. Gentleman. Detective.
viewBook.at/COC

For the Time Travellers out there: the Trilogy is complete:
getBook.at/CompleteTrilogy

 

 

Monthly Round-up: July 2017

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This month’s round-up post is a week late, but this time last week I was sunning myself on a beach in France. The weather was lovely, but wifi access was appalling.

Hence, here we are now in August, reviewing July.

OUT NOW/COMING SOON

I’m hoping to promote the third Shara Summers novel, SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, at Bouchercon in October, and hopefully I’ll have a release date by then. In the meantime I’m plugging the first book the series, DEATH SCENE.

PUBLICITY

The third Goodreads giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH has finished. The lucky winners were Angela Paull from Hampshire and Olivia Silva from Hertfordshire. They have each received a signed copy of THE WHISPERING DEATH.

I am very excited about the forthcoming Bouchercon in Toronto, which will be my first time attending this particular conference. And I am particularly thrilled about being offered a panel. The panel is about violence in crime, and should be very interesting, though since it’s on at 8:30am on the Friday, I am not sure how many people we’ll have in the audience.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I am pleased to report that the first draft of the new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, is finished, and work has commenced on the second draft. At this stage I am feeling confident I will hit the 1 October deadline to submit this one. Hopefully I’ll be feeling just as confident at the end of August.

Until then, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the rest of the summer. And if you are in then Southern Hemisphere, you’ve still got summer to look forward to.

Monthly Round-up: April 2017

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Time, as they say, waits for no one. A third of the year has already gone. However, the best thing about this time of year is that I actually see my house in daylight during the week. Technically, it’s spring. But I think someone forgot to tell the weather that, as the temperature in the UK has been more winter-like the past few days. Some places even have snow. Anyway, enough about the weather. On with the news.

OUT NOW/COMING SOON

Seven years ago this month, my first novel was published – SUFFER THE CHILDREN was released in e-book format by Lyrical Press. It marked a major turning point in my life, fulfilling a dream that I had chased for thirty years. And now the book is available again, from a different publisher. If you haven’t yet read the book that started it all for me, you can buy it here from MuseItUp Publishing.

Coming up to the present day, I have been in touch with my editor and the edits for SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the new Shara Summers novel, will be underway shortly. I’m still optimistic for a 2017 release.

PUBLICITY

I’ve been a bit quiet on the publicity front of late. It’s now been nearly a year since anything new came out, and I always feel it’s difficult to plug a new book when it’s not really new at all.

I did run another Goodreads giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH, however, that finished on 15 April. The winners were: Rachel Sanders in Sutherland, and Adam Bradbury in Surrey. Their prizes were posted last week, and indeed should be in their hands by now. The plan is to run some more Goodreads giveaways between now and October, so if you’re still interested in winning a copy of this book, keep an eye on the Goodreads page.

I’m a bit light on the convention side of things this year as well. However, that’s largely because I’m going to Bouchercon in Toronto in October, and not only is that a con that requires an international trip, it also clashes with most of the other cons I generally go to (FantasyCon and Bristol Horror Con, to name two). But I’ve been wanting to do Bouchercon for years, and with it being in Toronto it gives me a good reason to go visit family and friends in Canada at the same time.

WORK IN PROGRESS

The new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, is going well. I’ve agreed a deadline with my publisher at KGHH on this one, and it’s full steam ahead.

That’s it for now. I’ve got to get on with the writing!

Monthly Round-Up: January 2017

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I’m a bit late with this round-up since it’s now 1 February. So how have I been doing in the first month of this year? Let’s see…

OUT NOW

Nothing new out, but I’ll take this opportunity to pimp the existing works.

Horror

The Whispering Death
Suffer The Children

Crime (Contemporary Amateur Sleuth)

Death Scene
Dead Cool

Short Story Collection

Soul Screams

PUBLICITY

No guest blog posts to report. However, I am running a Goodreads Giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH for February, with two free paperback copies of the book to giveaway. You can enter here. Please note this is for UK entrants only, due to postage costs. Please promote the giveaway if you are able to – I am hoping to raise awareness of the book and perhaps get a few more reviews. There will be more giveaways over the next few months so watch this space.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Work has started on a new horror novel. Since this one is to be delivered to KGHH this year I am pressing on with it, and I have achieved nearly 10,000 words in the first month of the year. It is set in the Arctic, and it has the title OUTPOST H311.

Meanwhile the fourth Shara Summers novel is also a work in progress.

Plenty to keep me busy, then. See you at the end of February!

Monday’s Friend: Kevin Hopson

My first guest author of 2017 is Kevin Hopson. Welcome, Kevin!

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

KH: I think it was when I went through several career changes and I eventually chose writing over everything else. I had an interest in writing as a child, and it blossomed again while in college. Looking back, though, I really didn’t have a clue about what it took to be a writer. Now that I do, and I have willingly accepted those responsibilities, I’m fully committed to the craft.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

KH: I’m a huge fan of Michael Crichton, David Baldacci, Lee Child, and Michael Connelly. I think these authors have influenced me the most in recent years, especially Lee Child and Michael Connelly. I read Child’s Jack Reacher series and Connelly’s Harry Bosch series almost religiously now. I love their characters, dialogue, pacing, plot, etc., and I’ve noticed their writing styles creeping into my own Jacob Schmidt series.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

KH: I remember getting dejected early on in my writing career. I knew it would require a lot of practice to get where I wanted to go, but it took me a while to realize this. Even the best authors were rejected at some point, and I always used this as motivation. However, it never occurred to me the type of investment that’s needed to pursue a writing career. I’m not referring to the financial commitment, though this can still be significant for some depending on how they choose to market themselves. Instead, I’m talking about the time commitment. Outlining, plotting, character creation/development, research, editing, promotion/marketing, submissions, contracts, etc. It’s something I was kind of thrown into and had very little knowledge of. Because of this, anyone starting out in writing should do the proper research before diving in. Knowing what to expect will make the road much smoother.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

khopson-72dpi-1500x2000-2KH: CHILDREN OF THE SNOW is a short story that was released by MuseItUp Publishing on January 3. It’s the second book in my Jacob Schmidt series, which revolves around an Atlanta police officer. This story was initially written for a themed anthology so it can act as a stand-alone apocalyptic tale, but I still consider it part of the series. In fact, we meet a new character in this story that ends up being a major player in future instalments. Below is a blurb for the book.

“A historic snowstorm decimated an American Indian tribe in the nineteenth century. Thousands died, some ultimately eating their own in order to survive. Now the snowstorm has returned, and something sinister hides within it. Something detective Jacob Schmidt will witness firsthand.”

It is now available from Amazon.

SJT: Your character Jacob Schmidt lives in Atlanta, Georgia – a place where this Brit didn’t think there was much snow. Do you have a fondness for the snow or are you more a sun worshipper?

 KH: I’m assuming you’re referring to the cover for Children of the Snow. Even though Jacob Schmidt lives in Atlanta, I make no mention of this in Children of the Snow. I did this on purpose so the historical fiction aspect of the story would remain somewhat believable. For example, I don’t think there are any federally-recognized Indian tribes or reservations in Georgia, so the setting could be another state in the U.S. South or U.S. Southeast. This is fiction, however, and the story does have a “soft” apocalyptic setting, so Atlanta could still be a feasible location. In reality, the city doesn’t get a lot of snow. Personally, I loved the snow as a child. In fact, I still do, but I only like to see it once or twice a year. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more of a sun worshipper.

SJT: What are you working on at the moment?

KH: I just finished another Jacob Schmidt story (the fifth in the series), but I haven’t decided what I want to do with it yet. It deals with domestic abuse, and I want to use it as a charity story. My only issue is deciding whether to self-publish it, keep it with my publisher, or try to market it elsewhere.

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

KH: In addition to writing, I really enjoy making book trailers. I also love to read and watch movies. All of these things keep my creative juices flowing and act as stimulants for my writing.

Author Bio:

Prior to hitting the fiction scene in 2009, Kevin was a freelance writer for several years, covering everything from finance to sports. His debut work, World of Ash, was released by MuseItUp Publishing in the fall of 2010. Kevin has released nearly a dozen books through MuseItUp since then, and he has also been published in various magazines and anthology books. Kevin’s writing covers many genres, including dark fiction and horror, science fiction and fantasy, and crime fiction. His website can be found at http://www.kmhopson.com.

Monday’s Friend: Mark Pryor

Today crime writer Mark Pryor is chatting to me about his writing. Welcome, Mark!

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

MP: I think it’s always something I wanted to be, but I never really thought it was a realistic or achievable goal. Even as a kid I wrote (terrible!) short stories and my mum told me recently there’s a drawer somewhere full of them. Which is sort of a horrifying thought!

About ten years ago, though, I decided to really give it a try. I told myself that yes, I might fail and never get published, but the real failure would be not trying. So I wrote three (terrible?!) novels that never went anywhere, and then The Bookseller, which got interest from agents pretty immediately. Since that time, I haven’t dared to look back!

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

MP: I admire so many writers but I would have to say that the ones I read as a kid and teenager really shaped the stories I put together. People like Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle for their brilliant plotting, they would be my earliest influences. More recently I feel like I’ve learned from writers like Alan Furst and Philip Kerr, who manage to infuse their stories with such atmosphere, such a strong sense of place. I really admire that ability and try to emulate it in my own writing.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

MP: I usually tell beginner writers two things: first, learn the craft. My first three novels didn’t get published because they weren’t good enough. I didn’t know about point-of-view, I used the passive tense, my characters were shallow and poorly-drawn. Maybe it’s time and practice that teaches, maybe it’s classes, or maybe it’s just reading a lot, but learning the craft is essential to success.

Once you have a handle on that, the only thing I can say is: don’t give up. I must have received three or four hundred rejections over the years, from agents and publishers. Sometimes my wife would look at me like I was mad for subjecting myself to all those “no thank-yous”. But I kept going, plugging away, writing and querying, and finally something clicked. Six books later I still look back and thank the lucky stars that I didn’t give up.

SJT: Tell us about your new book, HOLLOW MAN, and where we can buy it.

MP: You should be able to buy it everywhere, all bookstores and online. If not let me know and I’ll fix that lickity-split!

Hollow Man is a stand-alone, a departure from my Hugo Marston series. It’s a book that rattled around inside my head in various forms for several years before taking shape, and it’s certainly a lot darker than my series. It’s the story of a man who presents himself as a normal, functioning member of society when in reality he’s essentially mimicking those around him, copying them and learning how to express emotions by watching them. He’s aware of his emotional failing, though, and that’s why he tries to hide it—to protect his life, his lifestyle. But…

SJT: Your main character is a psychopath. How did you go about getting inside the head of this character, and making him someone that the reader would empathise with?

MP: I did a lot of research. I’m the kind of person who gets teary-eyed at commercials featuring puppies, or those videos of soldiers returning home and surprising their kids… so the idea of someone have no empathy is fascinating to me. I have a friend at work who’s a psychiatrist and an expert on psychopaths, so I bounced ideas off him a lot. And I did a lot a lot of reading, too.

I think (hope!) I made him sympathetic in the sense that he never set out to harm anyone. Quite the opposite, he just wants to live his life as normally as possible, knowing full well that if he’s identified as a psychopath by his peers he’d likely lose his job and his career as a musician. In other words, this isn’t a story about a bad man doing bad things, it’s more a story about a man with the capacity for evil trying to resist those urges, and how he reacts when the choices he makes take him off that path of decency and goodness.

SJT: Like your character, you’re an Englishman living in Texas. What are the main differences you notice between the two places?

MP: Apart from the weather, you mean?!

SJT: That goes without saying!

MP: There’s a lot to love about Texas but I think one of the major things (and I’ve found this to be true of America generally) is the can-do attitude. You’re allowed to be anything you want, and when you strike off in a new direction people are there to cheer you on. I can’t tell you how much support I’ve had when, first, switching my career from journalist to lawyer, and then on becoming a published author. I think this is the attitude that separates this country from almost everywhere else, and I really admire and appreciate it.

SJT: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?

MP: Can I plead the Fifth? Okay, I’ll relent… I’ve swapped emails with an actual sociopath, which may not seem like much but having done a lot of research I have to admit to feeling odd when seeing her name in my in-box. Also, I set one scene in The Button Man at a bdsm party, and I’ll point out that I rarely describe things I’ve not researched in person. What else? I can assure you that a review of my internet search history would raise a few eyebrows, from the above-mentioned to various types of poisons, and some explosives-related searching.

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

MP: My greatest pleasure is my family, hanging out with them. Even when I’m writing, I try to do that—my eldest daughter often accompanies me to the library to read while I write. I’m also a huge soccer fan. I play on two teams and two of my kids play, so watching them gives me a lot of joy. I don’t have a lot of down time, or even time for reading, but I have no complaints about such a full life, I’m really very lucky indeed.

SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?

MP: I’m currently working on the sixth book in the Hugo Marston series, and I think my agent is negotiating further books in the series. I’ll focus on those for a bit but I do have a couple of idea for stand-alones that are slowly forming. I hope to find time to work those out, specifically one about a father and son who have to escape some bad guys chasing them across west Texas. I have a title for that book, but the story itself isn’t settled in my mind. Yet. 🙂

PRYORAUTHOR BIO

Mark Pryor is a former newspaper reporter from England, and now a prosecutor with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, in Austin, Texas.

He is the author of the stand-alone psychological thriller, HOLLOW MAN, released on September 1 of this year by Seventh Street Books. He is also the author of five novels in the Hugo Marston series, which are set in Paris, London, and Barcelona. The first, called THE BOOKSELLER, was a Library Journal Debut of the Month, and called “unputdownable” by Oprah.com. The fifth was published in June of 2015, and the series was recently featured in the New York Times.

Mark is also the creator of the nationally-recognized true-crime blog ‘D.A. Confidential,’ and has appeared on CBS News’s 48 Hours and Discovery Channel’s Discovery ID: Cold Blood.

Website: www.MarkPryorBooks.com
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