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Veronica Henry

Veronica HenryVeronica Henry has worked as a scriptwriter for ‘The Archers’, ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Holby City’ amongst many others, before turning to fiction. She won the 2014 RNA Novel of the Year award for ‘A Night On The Orient Express’. Veronica lives with her family in a village in north Devon.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into this?
    I started out typing scripts on ‘The Archers’ and it was there I realised that people need an escape from everyday life, whether from books or radio or TV. I learned a lot about storytelling from reading the scripts and hearing them recorded in the studio. I went on to become a script editor for ITV, then when I had my first child I jumped over the fence and wrote scripts for ten years. I wrote for ‘Doctors’ and ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Holby City’. Then in 2000 I realised my real love was for books and by a miracle I got a book deal! I’m now on my 17th novel.
  2. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    It’s a bit of a love/hate relationship. When it’s going well it’s as if someone is dictating the story to you and it just flows through your fingers. When it goes badly you can’t imagine being able to write another word. I like naming my characters, and decorating their houses – that can hardly be called work! I also like the big emotional turning points: the confrontation or the revelation or the secret encounter And parties – I love writing a party. There are always so many things going on underneath the surface glitter.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    Oscar Wilde, Jilly Cooper, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. There would probably be wine too!
  4. What do you think makes a good book?
    Character character character. As long as you care about the characters, you will be engaged – even if you don’t actually like them.
  5. Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
    I’m not a massive fan of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ – I know that’s controversial, but I find it a bit irritating. Though I suppose that hasn’t been hyped as such!
  6. From books to films, what’s been your favourite adaptation?
    I absolutely love ‘The Railway Children’. It’s a wonderful book but the film version wrings every drop of emotion from the pages.
  7. Who is your all time favourite character from a book?
    I’m a little bit smitten by Boris from ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt – he is so naughty and dangerous and reckless and ingenious. He would never bore you. And I am fatally attracted to unsuitable men.
  8. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    I would learn to worry less and care more. If you enjoy your writing, it shines through in your work.
  9. The “Forever House

  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘Kitchen Confidential’ by Anthony Bourdain and ‘Madame Bovary’ in French to give me a challenge to occupy my mind.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    All budding writers should remember that anyone can start a book, but not everyone can finish one. So keep going until you reach the end. Writing is an endurance test. It’s not enough to have a brilliant idea. It’s got to keep going for at least 300-odd pages.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    My miniature Schnauzer, Zelda – who is named after Zelda Fitzgerald.
  13. And finally Veronica do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m writing my seventeenth novel – I can’t believe it. It’s still quite early stages – but I met someone last night and our conversation sparked something that gave me the missing ingredient. That’s why I love writing – a random encounter can develop into something really exciting.

    Oh – and my sixteenth novel ‘The Forever House’ is out now!

Follow on Twitter Veronica Henry for updates

You can buy The Forever House from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Paul Finch

Paul FinchPaul Finch is a former cop and journalist, now turned full-time writer. He cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British crime drama, The Bill, and has written extensively in the field of film, audio drama and children’s animation. He is also well known for his work in the thriller and horror fields. Paul lives in Lancashire, with his wife Catherine and his children, Eleanor and Harry.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into this?
    Absolutely. My father was a writer, so it was something I always wanted to do. However, when I left my education, I initially went into the police force in Manchester, did some time there, and then moved into journalism. By this time, I was in my late 20s and really getting the bug to put pen to paper. I was watching what at the time was a relatively new British police show, ‘The Bill’, and commented that, though I liked it, I didn’t think they’d got everything accurate. My father then challenged me to try and write for it, myself. As such, I bombarded ‘The Bill ‘with unsolicited speculative scripts, which were all studiously ignored until I actually wrote a television screenplay that was nothing to do with The Bill or its characters, but which was nevertheless a police story, and focussed on a murder inside a police station. When I sent this down, ‘The Bill’ asked me to go in and see them. They were sufficiently impressed, they said, to give me a few shots at the show.

    What I didn’t realise at the time was that I wasn’t a particularly adept writer, but that I did have something they valued, which was authentic police knowledge and experience. Anyway, it got me inside the door, and I was subsequently coached by what was then the best script department in British television. A number of my episodes went to air, so when I was made redundant by my Manchester newspaper in 1998, I already had a parallel career. By then, I’d also branched out into writing children’s animation and horror fiction – novels, novellas and short stories, and I subsequently won a number of awards, which began to draw wider attention to me. This led me into writing novels and full-cast audio dramas for ‘Dr Who’, but the real break I’d been waiting for came in 2012, when my agent persuaded me to return to my roots, crime fiction, and write a dark, hard-hitting police novel.

    The outcome of this was ‘Stalkers’, which was published by Avon (HarperCollins imprint) the next year, and introduced a new lead character – DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg. It seemed to achieve best-seller status with almost indecent speed, and I suppose the rest is now history. There have been six Heck novels to date, with the latest, ‘Ashes to Ashes’, published this April. The success of these books has also enabled me to launch a parallel series of cop novels, the Lucy Clayburn mysteries, in which the central character is female and where we adopt a slightly more down-to-Earth tone. The first of those, ‘Strangers’, was published in 2016 and made it onto the ‘Sunday Times’ top 10 list, which was very gratifying. The next one, ‘Shadows’, is due out next autumn. And that’s where we are up to at this point.

  2. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
    Well, this a commonly asked question, but it’s always a difficult one to answer. I have three physical files of ideas, and each one is literally as thick as a telephone directory, if not more so. The ideas themselves come from all around me – places I visit, snippets of stories, both true and fictional, that I may hear, items on the news, conversations with friends, etc. I’m never without a notepad and pen, even when on holiday, so that I can quickly jot something down if it comes to mind. With crime novels, it’s relatively easy. I’ve drawn many times on my own police experiences, and on the experiences of friends and colleagues who I’m still in regular contact with. Just at this moment, I have so many workable ideas that I doubt I’ll ever be able to put them all into book form – which would be a shame, but there you go.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I’m not going to name names, but I think it’s only fair to give the new guys and girls as much exposure as the old reliables. When I first joined HarperCollins, that was because my editor at Avon had given me a chance to show them what I could do. Although I’d had a career in television, that, on its own, never cuts much ice with novel publishers, as these two forms of writing are distinctly different disciplines – so they were taking a chance on me. As such, I guess I would like to extend the same favour to those lesser lights in the genre. I mean obviously, if it was in my power, I’d sign up all those major crime and thriller writers of the moment, and probably quite a few horror writers as well – I think we all know who these major players are, but I hope I’d also leave it open to the up-and-comers and the newbies. As a hobby, I edit the ‘Terror Tales’ series, which are region-specific anthologies of contemporary horror stories, currently coming out through Telos Publishing. I try to give as many lesser-known writers as I can slots in these. It only seems fair to put something back into the industry that has done so well for me, and that’s not just for purposes of philanthropy, but because the dark fiction industry needs to be nourished and re-seeded on an almost constant basis. The big names at the top are not getting any younger.
  4. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    I don’t know about favourite opening line, but I can give you my favourite opening passage, which is from ‘Jack’s Return Home’, as written by Ted Lewis back in 1970. It still remains one of my favourite crime novels. Most modern students will know it better as Get Carter, which was the film version made one year later. I think in pure atmosphere terms, there has never been a more effective opening than this:

    The rain rained.
    It hadn’t stopped since Euston. Inside the train, it was close, the kind of closeness that makes your fingernails dirty even when all you’re doing is sitting there looking out of the blurring windows. Watching the dirty backs of houses scudding along under the half-light clouds. Just sitting and looking and not even fidgeting.

  5. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    Well, I always enjoy the brainstorming stage, when I’m actually developing workable ideas, because I tend to do that with my wife and business partner, Cathy, when we’re out at dinner. But probably the most relaxing part of the operation is the second draft. I tend to dictate my first draft (more about that later), and then type it up. But the second draft is when the writing really starts, when, having already broken the back of the job by getting it down on paper, I find that I can play mood-music in the background as I work my way through the often jumbled text, shaping and reshaping it, turning it into something approximating a finished book, without requiring to use too much elbow-grease. Okay, it’s not always an idyllic experience; sometimes you realise you just got it plain wrong the first time and have no choice but to comprehensively rewrite, but that’s rare – and as I say, if I play the right kind of background music, the whole thing tends to breeze past. Those are the best days at work, I think.
  6. Ashes To Ashes

  7. What do you think makes a good crime book?
    One word – jeopardy. Now, don’t get me wrong; I love a good mystery as much as every other crime fan. I love rich characterisation and clever plotting. I love beautiful writing, even if the subject matter is not in itself beautiful. But I think jeopardy, i.e. the danger you feel in the narrative, is indispensable. If you can create a frisson of fear … if you can make your readers shudder at the thought of the peril facing your leads, then that is a job well done, in my view. On the strength of that, I suppose you could say that I’m not a massive fan of cosy crime literature. I prefer all my stuff to be edgy.
  8. From books and films, who has been your favourite bad guy?
    Well, I always like my villains, if possible, to be colourful, outlandish, mad, bad and dangerous to know. I’m not a fan of the kind of banal, miserable losers that most villains are in real life – ultimate no-hopers with a depressing existence and nothing to look forward to. So, I guess I go for the extremes. I always thought that Auric Goldfinger was a marvellous villain, and superbly played by Gert Frobe in the movie. Who can forget: ‘No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!’ But in the novel, he was a way more bizarre character than that. He really hit all my buttons, especially as his scheme was so insanely ingenious. Another Bond villain I liked was Red Grant in ‘From Russia With Love’, who was Bond’s first psychotic opponent, a trained assassin who preferred to kill on a lunar cycle. Again, he was realised amazingly on film by Robert Shaw, who completely convinced us that this was a guy who might genuinely be more than a match for 007. Awesome stuff. Equally, I don’t think you can beat the Joker in the ‘Batman’ comics. The notion that someone can exist who is quite simply an agent of chaos, who wants to see the world burn for its own sake, is a thriller writer’s dream. What deadlier adversary could you have than that?
  9. If Detective Mark Heckenberg was adapted for screen, who do you imagine would play the role?
    If I could have anyone, it would be Tom Hardy. That’s not just because he’s the man of the moment, it’s also because he’s got the acting chops to pull it off. I’ve never seen Heck as a straightforward brute or he-man. Tom Hardy can do brute of course, but as he showed in ‘Locke’, he can also do sympathetic and nuanced characters. Tom’s name was actually mentioned the first time I had a meeting with a TV company who were interested in the project, but their interest wasn’t pursued. If anyone ever asks me, I always put Tom forward. For a time, I quite liked the Irish actor, Damien Molony. Everything about him felt right. But he’s since done two other cop shows, ‘Ripper Street’ and ‘Suspects’, so I’d be surprised if he wanted to do a third.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Funnily enough, whenever I’m asked questions like this, I have to answer that none of them would be crime fiction. Whitley Strieber’s 1978 horror novel, ‘The Wolfen’, is probably the closest because it follows a murder enquiry in the slum districts of New York City, though the culprits turn out to be a werewolf pack lurking in the derelict buildings. Just forget the poor-quality movie version, that novel is intensely terrifying and ticks all my boxes for a page-turning read. 

    The second one is ‘The Saxon Tapestry’ by Sile Rice, from 1991. You almost never hear about this book now, but it’s a heavyweight historical action/romance, telling the tale of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, and the subsequent English uprising led by Hereward the Wake. Incredibly violent, the battle scenes are some of the most vivid I’ve ever read, but it’s also heartbreakingly sad and written with a poetic flourish that I’ve seldom seen anywhere else in prose. I cannot understand how the author is not better known.

    The third one, which kind of falls in between both those titles, is ‘Grendel’ by John Gardner, published in 1971, which re-tells the ‘Beowulf’ and ‘Grendel’ saga but from the perspective of the monster. Again, it’s a marvellously detailed picture of the Dark Age world, but it’s also a philosophical text and hugely imaginative. If you look at it from the point of view of a crime reader, of course, Grendel is the prototype serial killer, a disgruntled loner who responds to being disenfranchised by society with the only thing he does well, violence. You won’t need to be a fan of Norse mythology or Tokienesque fantasy to enjoy this one.

  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities
    Learn the lessons of rejection. Sorry, but I’ve no time for newcomers who won’t listen to the advice of those who’ve gone ahead of them. We all of us get rejections in our early days (and not just then either, trust me). As the old saying goes, we should keep all our rejection slips so that we can gloatingly wallpaper our studies with them when we become successful. It’s no picnic at the time, being told that your work isn’t up to scratch. But if you want to get on, you need to turn this disappointment to your advantage. So, if an editor or a publisher or a producer takes the time to tell you why he/she has rejected your work, you don’t have to accept it, but you at least need to take note of it. And if you hear the same thing again and again, the likelihood is that the fault lies with you, not them. In which case, if you can put it right, that could be the difference between getting rejected again when you next submit … or making a sale. The other thing is, and it’s tied to that, you’re going to have to tough these rejections out. This is no job for a snowflake. But if it helps, remember this – it’s a long, rocky road for all of us, and we trip lots of times, but we only actually fail the day we give up.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    My most indispensable item is my Dictaphone. It always dictate my first drafts while I’m out walking the dogs. It gets me away from my desk, is probably good for me, and it certainly keeps our two springer spaniels in the trim. It also enables me to throw all sorts of stuff in there. As I said previously, once I’m actually typing it up, transforming what’s often just a stream of consciousness, a procession of ideas and broken sentences (though arranged roughly in the correct order), into actual text, I can discard anything that doesn’t work … but at least I get to hear it first on tape, so it gives me a pretty good idea. I think I can safely say that my Dictaphone is as essential a part of my process now as my keyboard.
  13. And finally Paul do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    Well, ‘Ashes to Ashes’, the next Heck novel, is out on April 6, and I think I’ve already mentioned the next Lucy Clayburn novel, ‘Shadows’, which is due for publication on October 19 this year. Lucy, a young uniformed PC, went undercover as a Manchester prostitute to catch a female sex-killer in the first book, but in this one she’ll be facing a very different and more complex kind of villain. I think I can also reveal that ‘War Wolf’ – at least that was its working-title – which I co-wrote with regular screenwriter, Andy Briggs, is a movie adapted from an original novel of mine, and is now in preproduction, with Simon West, of ‘Con Air’ fame, at the directorial helm. It’s a medieval action-horror, set during the 100 Years War, and it follows a company of English knights, at the end of their tether after years of fighting, but who suddenly come up against a more ferocious foe than any of them have ever encountered before. Information updates about all these and other projects regularly appear on my blog, which can be found here – or you can chat to me, if you so wish, on Twitter and Facebook, and I shall always hand over whatever info I have available.

Follow on Twitter Paul Finch for updates

C.L. Taylor

C.L. TaylorC.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. She studied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Northumbria,Newcastle and has worked as a sales administrator, web developer, instructional designer and as the manager of a distance learning team at a London university. She now writes full time.

CL Taylor’s first psychological thriller ‘The Accident; was one of the top ten bestselling debut novels of 2014 according to The Bookseller. Her second and third novels, ‘The Lie’ and ‘The Missing’, were Sunday Times Bestsellers and #1 Amazon Kindle chart bestsellers. Her fourth psychological thriller, ‘The Escape’, will be published on 23 March 2017. She is currently writing her first young adult thriller, ’The Treatment’, which will be published in September 2017.

  1. To the readers of the blog, that may not be familiar with you or your writing, can tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
    My mum recently cleared out her attic and found a huge pile of books I’d written and illustrated as a child. When I was eight I sent one of them, ‘The Flower Friends and The Evil Weed’, to Ladybird publishers. They rejected it but they did send me a very nice letter with lots of useful advice like ‘Ask an adult to type it up for you’ and ‘Keep the illustrations on separate pages’. I tried again when I was eleven and was rejected again.

    I was thirty-five when my first book was published – A supernatural romantic comedy called ‘Heaven Can Wait’ (Orion). My second book, ‘Home for Christmas’, was published two years later (writing as Cally Taylor). Whilst on maternity leave with my son in 2012 I had an idea for a psychological thriller. That book, ‘The Accident’, was published in 2014. Since then I have written a psychological thriller a year – ‘The Lie’, ‘The Missing’, ‘The Escape’ – all published by Avon HarperCollins.

  2. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
    A lot of my books are based on my fears – fear that an abusive ex will return, fear that friends could turn against me, fear that something could happen to my son. Other ideas are based on news reports I read and documentaries I watch or are just plucked out of thin air.
  3. The Escape

  4. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I do have my own book club! OK, it’s an electronic book club where I review books that I think will be the next big thing (www.cltaylorauthor.com/newsletter) but if I could ask questions of any author I’d love to chat to Margaret Atwood and Maggie O’Farrell.
  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ – ‘1984’, George Orwell. So much intrigue in one sentence!
  6. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    Holding the finished book in my hand. Coming a close second is brainstorming the idea initially. I love the adrenaline rush when an idea or scene that works pops into my brain.
  7. What do you think makes a good crime book?
    A strong mystery, perfect pace, intriguing characters and a killer ending.
  8. From books and films, who has been your favourite bad guy?
    ‘Dexter’! I love him.
  9. Out of all the books that you have written, which one is your favourite?
    I am most proud of ‘The Escape’. The more books I write the more I learn about what works, what doesn’t and where my strengths and weaknesses lie as a writer. Whenever I finish writing a book I am always a little disappointed that it doesn’t perfectly reflect the initial idea in my head. The Escape is the one book that comes closest to my initial idea.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    The Harry Potter series (is that cheating?), the complete works of Shakespeare, and ‘War and Peace’ (there’s no way I’m going to find the time to read it otherwise).
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Don’t spend too much time writing and rewriting your first few chapters, keep writing until you reach the end. You may find that you have started the book in the wrong place and you need to cut your first few chapters.

    All writers reach points in their books when they become convinced that it’s awful and they should write something else instead. Typically these points are at 20,000, 40,000 and 60,000 words. Keep writing through your doubts. You can fix anything that isn’t working in the rewrite.

  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Diet coke!
  13. And finally Cally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    This year I’ve also written a YA thriller – ‘The Treatment’ – which will be published by HarperCollins HQ on 19th October. I can’t say too much about it yet but if you loved my novel ‘The Lie’ this book should be right up your street!

Follow on Twitter C.L. Taylor for updates

B A Paris

B A ParisB A Paris is the internationally bestselling author of ‘Behind Closed Doors’, her debut novel. She was brought up in England and moved to France where she spent some years working in Finance before re-training as a teacher and setting up a language school with her husband. They still live in France and have five daughters. Her second novel, The Breakdown is out now.

  1. To the readers of the blog, that may not be familiar with you or your writing, can tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
    I was born in England and moved to France when I was twenty-one, where I still live today. Writing was always there at the back of my mind but with five daughters, I never seemed to have the time. Then, about seven years ago, there was a writing competitions in the ‘Sunday Times’ and I told one of my daughters about it, because she’d told me she had an idea for a novel. But when she looked at the rules, she found she was too young to enter so she suggested that I try. I had always imagined myself as a writer of children’s stories so the thought of writing an 80,000 word novel was daunting. But that night I had an idea for a story and began writing the next day. It didn’t win the competition but I couldn’t stop writing, and have been ever since.
  2. Tell us about your new book ‘The Breakdown’.
    It tells the story of Cass, a young woman who, driving home during a storm one night, decides to take a short cut through some woods. She sees a woman broken down in her car and although she stops, she’s too scared to get out of her car to check on the woman in case it’s a trap. The next day, she hears that the woman has been murdered and feels enormous guilt. She also been having problems with her memory and when she begins to receive silent calls, she wonders if the murderer is after her.
  3. What do you think makes a good thriller?
    There needs to be pace and tension, to keep the reader turning the pages.
  4. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I’d invite authors from all different genres. Most of the authors I’ve met through my writing tend to be writers of psychological thrillers, and while I’d invite them to join, I think it would be interesting to have a greater variety.
  5. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
    The moment my lovely agent Camilla Wray said she wanted to represent me was a pretty big one. Seeing my book in a bookshop for the first time, another. Hitting the New York Times bestseller list and receiving the Neilsen Bestseller Award in January for having sold 500,000 copies of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ were pretty amazing too. I feel very lucky.
    The Breakdown
  6. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    Such a difficult question. It’s like asking a chocoholic what their favourite chocolate bar is! I love different books for different reasons. As soon as I name one, I think immediately of another I liked just as much. I’d probably have to go for a book that made a huge impact on me in my early teens, ‘Trinity’ by Leon Uris. Or ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver.
  7. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    No, because it’s been a wonderful journey so far. Sometimes I regret not starting earlier but if I had, maybe I wouldn’t be the writer I am today.
  8. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Write what you enjoy writing, not what is in fashion. At the moment, it’s psychological thrillers. If psychological thrillers aren’t your genre, don’t try to write one. 
  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    A Nancy Mitford novel for diversion, ‘One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich’ by Solzhenitsyn for contemplation (and because I’m stuck on a desert island and not in a gulag!) and ‘Les Misérables’ so that I can keep my French up to scratch.
  10. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    My mobile. When I need to take a break from writing, I catch up with my family or friends, or Twitter.
  11. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
    I’m currently writing Book 3, which will be out next year. I hope to have finished it by the summer and then I’ll be working on my next novel.

Follow on Twitter B A Paris for updates

Ross Armstrong

Ross ArmstrongRoss Armstrong is a British stage and screen actor who has performed in the West End of London, on Broadway and in theatres throughout the UK. Among others, he has acted opposite Jude Law (Hamlet), Joseph Fiennes (Cyrano de Bergerac), Kim Cattrall (Antony and Cleopatra) and Maxine Peake (The Deep Blue Sea). His TV appearances include Foyle’s War, Jonathan Creek, Mr Selfridge, DCI Banks and most recently, Ripper Street. After gaining a BA in English Literature and Theatre at Warwick University, Ross joined the National Youth Theatre where his contemporaries included Matt Smith and Rafe Spall. A three year course at RADA followed and whilst there he won the RADA Poetry Writing Award. The idea for his debut novel ‘The Watcher’ came to him when he moved into a new apartment block and discovered whilst looking at the moon through binoculars that he could see into his neighbours’ homes.

  1. To the readers of the blog, that may not be familiar with you or your writing, can tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
    I studied English Literature at Warwick University and acting at RADA and for the past ten years have been an actor in TV shows like ‘Ripper Street’, ‘Foyles War’ and ‘Jonathan Creek’, and on stage with the RSC amongst others. But I’d always kept writing in one capacity or another. Finishing a book was something I only managed to get the time and mental alacrity to do a few years ago. Then I threw that one away and wrote a better one. I was lucky to have a lot of interest in it, the wonderful literary agent Juliet Mushens took it on and it’s being published by HQ (Harper Collins) in the UK and Harlequin in the US. And is being translated into many languages including, most recently confirmed, Hebrew.
  2. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
    I’ve been thinking recently that crime stories are tales told backwards. I don’t know whether this has been said before and more eloquently, but I feel like someone like Chekhov told stories by showing you the surface and then delving into its darker elements, crime stories start with darker elements and then try and reel back and show you the seemingly innocuous surface. With ‘The Watcher’ I came to a way of doing things which starts with creating a setting and a motive which has some kind of resonance to modern trends, like the gentrification of London in this case, and then tried to figure out the most enjoyable and instructive way to tell that story structurally.

    In this case, we go in at the middle. Then go back to the start. Then move past the middle and drive on to the end. But then the process of writing any novel is all about dashing around in terms of timeline. The challenge I set myself was to do that in a clear but beguiling way, and by staying with one viewpoint while I did that. Creating an obsessive tension caused by never moving from a close up on the central character. Like a movie like ‘Buried’, or even ‘Son of Saul’ does.

    As for figuring out where that original idea comes from, usually I see an image, in this case the view of a distant apartment from mine and then figure out a plot point, from there I imagine a character that might do the most interesting thing with that plot. Then go from there.

  3. Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
    Firstly, I just love reading, I write in my second book about the pure process of reading is enjoyable in a way that watching a screen can never be, somehow chemically, something my central character can never have, because he can’t read. That’s a long winded way of saying I almost always enjoy a novel. I do however often have trouble with short stories. I’m sure it’s my particular view on things, but I feel like I don’t understand the format. So often stories from the American short story tradition leave me cold. However, I’m enjoying Shirley Jackson’s collection ‘Dark Tales’ and I loved David Eagleman’s ‘Sum’, a series of virtually one page visions of the afterlife written by a neuroscientist. I love Eagleman and he’s been a big influence on my next book.
  4. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    I suppose I would’ve started writing thrillers earlier because I feel I’ll never have enough time in my life to experiment with all the stories I have in my head in the genre, and to read all the wonderful books out there, in all genres, that I want to. I really get so inspired by other writers, the choices they make that take you out of your usual way of doing things.
  5. Why did you decide that you wanted to write crime?
    It took a while for me to realise it was my favourite genre. I think it has a simplicity but sense of constant mystery which I can’t stop going back to the well for. My favourite movies are mostly Hitchcock or David Fincher movies, and I wanted to see whether I could write something that people couldn’t help but consume, but also has a kind of weight to it that those directors, and writers like Gillian Flynn and Harlan Coben create too.
  6. What do you think makes a good crime book?
    I think there is a point where story relevance meets absolute irrelevance, in terms of pure enjoyment and escapism. If that’s not too elliptical. I think a lot of my favourite crime writers seem to do that naturally.
  7. From books and films, who has been your favourite bad guy?
    Great question. John Doe in Seven comes to mind. The way he comes into the story. The absolute relentless darkness. So brilliant, empty, unusual, and superbly played by Kevin Spacey.
  8. The Watcher

  9. If you were to start your own bookclub, what authors would you ask to join?
    Chuck Palahniuk, Teju Cole, Stephen King, Lee Child, Jessie Burton, Deborah Levy, Paul Beatty, Harlan Coben, Gillian Flynn, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Franzen, Ottessa Moshfegh, Patti Smith, Haruki Murakami, Lena Dunham, the poets Derek Walcott, Kate Tempest and Adam O’Riordan, the ghosts of Patricia Highsmith, John Williams, Charles Bukowski and Phillip K. Dick. I think we’d have a good time.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Stoner’ by John Williams. ‘Freedom ‘by Jonathan Franzen. ‘The Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace; at over a thousand pages it’s probably the perfect length for the occasion.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Throw out the idea of writing a great line. Come up with a great structure. Test it over and over again. Chip away at it until it’s a perfect statue. Make sure it’s clear but surprising. Then write a clear and surprising first chapter. Re draft it a hundred times until it’s the most clear and surprising and enticing and true to you it can be.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I can start writing anywhere, then I kind of wake up eight hours later, like someone that can fall asleep anywhere. It’s very weird. But I also need coffee and water to make it happen.
  13. And finally Ross do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m in a great TV show called ‘Will’ about the early writing years of William Shakespeare, made by TNT, which will be arriving soon in 2017. It’s a spikey, punk version of his life, but I play the least rock n’roll character of all time, and I loved every second of it.

    Then I’m working on my second book which is about a man who survives being shot in the head, leaving his brain irrevocably altered, and how he awkwardly tries to solve a crime no one has asked him to get involved in, while negotiating a new way of looking at the world. It’s ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’ meets ‘Seven’.

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