March 11

James Hannah Q&A (The A-Z of You and Me)

Today I am delighted to welcome James Hannah to the blog as we discuss his powerful novel The A-Z of You and Me.

 

We so-often hear that writers are advised to ‘Write about what you know.’ Have you drawn upon personal experiences for The A-Z of You and Me?

Indirectly. The point of working with a pre-existing structure – or rather, two of them, the alphabet and the body – was to render personal experiences largely redundant. I simply had a set of questions to answer:

Why would anyone be playing this A to Z game?

A to Z of you and meAnswer: My character wants to occupy his mind with stories.

Why?

Answer: Because he’s anxious.

Why?

Answer: Because he’s dying.

Why?

It was from these and subsequent questions that the story began to tell itself, without having to rely on any personal input from me.

However, I did find that the personal experiences began to accompany and attend to the main plot as I went along. The Amber and Sheila subplots in particular started to encroach on the main plot and see it on its way, and came from experiences I was going through as I was writing the book. But these experiences were by necessity reduced to their essential emotional drivers, which hopefully then makes them universal and relatable: they really could be happening to anyone – as indeed they probably will, to everyone, in some form.

How long did it take to bring The A-Z of You and Me from your original idea to now (the week of publication)?

My first notes were on 20 March 2008, so that’s very nearly seven years. But I’ve done a lot of other things too.

Can you share with us how it feels to see your first novel unleashed into the world?

I suppose I was hoping for positive responses and anxious about negative ones – but I’ve been surprised and moved by the depth of feeling and emotional openness with which some people have responded. Which is stupid of me really, because that’s what I set out to achieve. I feel a great deal of responsibility for working with subjects that have the potential to reactivate some difficult memories for readers.

I am trying to avoid plot spoilers, however, it is fair to say that this is not always a happy carefree story. How hard was it to find a balance against Ivo’s bleak situation and yet retain the “Comedy of Errors” element which lightens the story?

A great many people (a majority of people I know) tend to leaven extreme situations with humour. Humour is rarely far away from even the bleakest situation, because often humour is the very expression by one person to another of how very sad a given situation is. And it’s togetherness that almost inevitably creates opportunities for cheerfulness, even in the most utterly hopeless of circumstances.

Every town’s hospice has its name circulated in doomy whispers: “You don’t want to end up in St Andrew’s or St Leonard’s or St Catherine’s . . .” But when you get there, they can be places of great relief, togetherness and no little humour.

So it was, if not simple, then at least a straightforward task to give this book as much lightness and ease as I could. I used the working title of the book (‘The Body Comedy’) as an aide memoire to keep it funny wherever possible. Of course the end result is not quite comedy (as far as I can tell), but it creates poignancy and relief.

Much of the story is told through flashbacks as Ivo recalls significant events in this life. He does not sugar coat his past and the picture we get is of a man who believes that he has made mistakes. Did you try to make Ivo a flawed character or do you see him as a relatively typical guy who perhaps did not always made the best of the opportunities that arose?

Quite a few people have found Ivo to be immature for a 40 year old, which I find interesting. I see Ivos everywhere, in any friendship group. People in their late teens and twenties do stupid things and don’t look after themselves. There are entire industries founded on this constant. And it’s so common to see older men and women than Ivo sporting the styles they identified with in their teens and twenties.

As far as Ivo is concerned, when you use first-person narrative you see all of your character’s thoughts, good and bad, and so for me a fully-rounded, truthful character is always going to be flawed.

As for Ivo not making the best of the opportunities that arise, that is true, but I would also point out that he has no effective support and no role models.

I keep returning to the adage that you can choose your friends but not your family: I don’t think this is true at all. It can require deep personal resources to actively choose friends – it is far easier to remain inert with the default group of people. Ivo’s greatest challenge is to successfully make that leap of aspiration to Mia’s way of life.

I felt the three characters that brought out the best side of Ivo were Mia, Sheila and Amber – each countering the seemingly negative influence of Ivo’s group of friends. What did you want to be the single most important thing that each of these three women bring to Ivo?

I agree that these three bring out the best in Ivo, but I must admit, I didn’t set out for them to bring any qualities to him; it was when I brought them all together in improvisation that he seemed to drink up their presence, like they were nourishing him with something he desperately needed.

All three women demonstrate active characteristics – whereas Ivo is sunk by a passivity brought about by uncertainty, anxiety and plain circumstance. Ivo has a saving grace in his kindness and gentle perceptiveness; he wants to come out of himself, but he just doesn’t know how. I think Mia in particular sees that and seeks to nurture it. I have a sense that Mia thinks she can save Ivo from himself and his friends.

Was the body A-Z element always to be included or did that arrive during the writing process? Specifically I am keen to know if you started with a list of body parts and built the story around these or if you adapted a draft to include them?

This novel started out as a high-concept attempt to write a Gray’s Anatomy – an anatomical dictionary – in which the body described turned out to have a coherent narrative. So the alphabetical body parts were there from the beginning.

I wanted to let the body parts dictate where the story was going to go, and thereby create a narrative that was hard-wired into every reader’s experience. Everybody, for example, has sat too heavily on their coccyx and wanted to die; everybody has split their earlobe by wrenching off a tight-necked jumper . . . haven’t they? So The A to Z of You and Me started out as my attempt to write everybody’s story. Eventually though, Ivo’s story began to take over, and I let it do so.

I didn’t actually have a list of body parts to begin with, but in certain areas of the alphabet, there are only so many places you can go, so I started there. It’s very easy to break the unspoken bond of trust with the reader; if I had a chapter called ‘xiphoid process’ people wouldn’t see the artifice in what I’m doing, and lose interest.

Which authors do you find inspiring?

It changes. Roddy Doyle. Kurt Vonnegut. Derek Jarman. Bill Watterson. JK Rowling. Samuel Beckett. Stewart Lee. Maya Angelou. Eimear McBride. Dennis Potter. Roald Dahl. Douglas Adams. But some years authors I’ve really admired don’t move me at all. Susan Barker’s ‘The Incarnations’ is the best book I’ve read in recent times.

James Hannah (c) Claire CousinWhen writing do you have to set yourself daily word count targets or do you block out time specifically to work on a project?

I’ve really only finished this one novel, and it employed such a spectacularly uneconomical method, and took me such a very long time, I couldn’t present my writing method as anything other than ill-advised. I wrote in the only time I had, which was the last twenty minutes before going to bed, and now that’s the only time I can write in. It’s a problem.

Can you tell us what comes next from James Hannah?

I’m a husband and father, so I’m going to spend a reasonable time just being a husband and father.

 

My most sincere thanks to James.

The A-Z of You and Me is published by Doubleday and is available from 12th March in Hardback and in digital format.

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on James Hannah Q&A (The A-Z of You and Me)
March 10

Guest Post: David F Ross

David RossToday I am pleased to welcome David F Ross.

As part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the paperback launch of his exceptional novel The Last Days of Disco, David has kindly shared some recollections of his early musical influences.

 

The Thin White Duke Street

The Last Days of Disco is very nostalgic and much of that comes from the music of that time in the early 80s. There’s nothing else quite like a piece of music to pin-point a significant memory. From first days at school, to loss of virginity (one of these days I’ll finally remember where I left it…) to the birth of my children; all of the vivid moments in my life – good and bad – have had an associated soundtrack. Like the majority of you reading this, I suspect, music has an importance to me that’s often found bordering on the irrational.

From the eight years before 1972 that I knew her, my only remaining recollections of my mum involve music. Although not through the beat groups of the early and mid-sixties, surprisingly. My dad was a country and western fan, particularly of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Their subliminal influence has left me with a natural tendency towards songs with a darkly descriptive background story. Glen Campbell was also a favourite of both my parents, as were the crooners. Sinatra, Crosby, Como and Martin were all regularly played on the big mahogany Marconi radiogram that competed for their attention in the opposite corner of the living room from its main rival, the black and white television set. Their records were the backdrop to my early years in the small fourth floor, brownstone top corner tenement flat where we lived, near Hampden Park on Glasgow’s Southside.

My dad especially, acquired lots of diverse records from various sources. The LP and singles covers for many of them are as vivid to me now as they were then. Old Blue Eyes, smiling, hair receding, calm and confident from the sleeve of ‘My Way’. ‘Little Old Wine Drinker Me’ with its Reprise logo in black on a black and white portrait of Dean below the heading ‘File Under Easy Listening’. Johnny’s gravity defying, brylcreem supported quiff with an attitude all of its own, live from ‘Folsom Prison’. The big red lipstick kiss on the cover of Connie Francis’ most famous record. Don and Phil Everly’s pearly white teeth and matching checked Arthur Montford jackets concealing the then little known fact that they despised each other. The Zombies brilliant and beautiful ‘Odessey & Oracle’, which remains one of my all-time favourite LPs. These records were the foundation for my interest in music and for this legacy at least, I am thankful to my dad. I loved these songs and still do but I inherited them. They’re not mine and the recollections that they prompt now often seem to belong to someone else.

My grampa had taken the death of his youngest child particularly badly. Despite their frequent, but generally good-natured arguments, they were very close. He’d lost weight and had suffered a minor stroke in the immediate aftermath of the funeral and it had forced him to retire. He also had a genuine fondness for my dad. Both worked in the transport industry; my dad for British Rail and his father-in-law latterly for Glasgow Corporation as a bus conductor on a regular route along Duke Street. An agreement had been reached where my grieving dad and I were to stay with his in-laws, partly to give the old man something to focus on but more practically because there really was no other viable option. My other grandparents were older, infirm and lived in a relatively small second floor flat in Tollcross.

Pollok was, and undoubtedly still is, an impoverished working-class enclave south west of the Clyde. My gran frequently lamented that it was home, very briefly, to Moors Murderer Ian Brady, but she had it mixed up with the more upmarket Pollokshaws. The house in Pollok was a three-bed-roomed one. It sat opposite the bus stop at the bottom of the hill on Braidcraft Road. My grampa was a keen gardener and the reasonably sized rectangular garden at the back of the house was a testament to his hobby. I loved the house. There were loads of places to hide and, with the garden I had a ready made football pitch and a net in the form of a five-foot-square wire plant climber. The flat we’d previously lived in had a shared drying green but no grass. There was always loose rubbish congregating around the concrete ‘middens’, and as a result, a large and uninhibited rodent population flourished.

My grampa was very proud of his garden. He spent hours in his small greenhouse at the bottom of the garden where he grew tomatoes. The greenhouse sat just behind the impromptu football net and on a few occasions, a fierce thirty yard shot from Derek Parlane went past the imaginary Evan Williams, bursting the net, and unfortunately the greenhouse glass. Each time my excuse was the same. A big boy did it and ran away. He’d thrown a stone from Levernside Road and it broke the glass. My grampa indulged this fantasy every time despite the fact that to the glass from Levernside Road would require an aim and trajectory ranking alongside the Magic Bullet Theory.

‘Starman’ was the first record I bought with money that could be considered my own. There’s my plea for coolness. My grampa had paid me for cutting his beloved grass with an old manual blade lawnmower. I made a terrible, patchy job of it but he kept his side of the deal anyway. But perhaps more accurately, the first record I was given was by a band named the Strawbs. The a-side was titled ‘Part of the Union’ but I quickly grew to hate it as it jumped at the start of the chorus. Years later I heard the song again and I fully expected it to go:

DSC_5361 David Ross 2010‘You don’t get me; I’m part of the U…part of the U…part of the U…part of the U…’ for days until someone eventually lifted the needle. At the age of eight, I blamed the record for its inability to get to the end of its grooves. I’d no idea that a blunt stylus was the real culprit. The bastards could sing it fine on the radio. Why did they only get the stutters in my grampa’s house? I’ve tried to excise this blundering, stammering shambles from my personal history, but it’s still there, at the back, hand up, protesting like a belligerent old shop steward.

‘David Bowie can get tae fuck, boy. Ah wis yer f…f…f…f…f…first.’

The image of David Bowie on Top of The Pops in the summer of ’72 was revelatory. My grampa wasn’t impressed but I was astonished. Years later, people would debate whether Boy George was male or female, but watching him then, Bowie didn’t even seem to be from the same species as me. I knew instantly where my ‘wages’ were going. The Bowie record had a green and white plain sleeve with, to my initial but short-lived dejection, no picture. The famous orange RCA label glowed through the circular cut out. Despite its aesthetic shortcomings, I came to think of it as a thing of beauty. I got it on a trip into Glasgow from Woolworth’s on Argyle Street but a different store from the one that had been there until the chain became extinct in the worldwide fall-out from the American sub prime credit crisis. It cost 24 new pence. Jim Murdoch and Ally Baxter were with me when I got it. Both were a couple of years older than me. Jim’s dad had taken us all into the city. I remember the two of them laughing because I’d bought a record ‘by a fuckin’ poofy cunt’. When I got back home, the two others went out to the back garden and were dummy fighting with each other. But I sat in the living room, silently staring at the big wooden box as Bowie’s voice came out of the speakers. To my utter delight, it did so without any speech impediment.

I idolised my grampa. He told brilliant stories. Ones where even years later as a young adult, I firmly believed he was right despite the obvious scientific or logical arguments against some of his more ridiculous ones. Once, when I was about nine years old, I asked him how colour TV worked, he told me that it wasn’t actually new technology. His explanation was that since the end of the Second World War, life was in fact monochrome. His explanation for this was that the Government was so taken aback by the euphoric reaction to the war ending that it became concerned that the years of struggling and post war rationing that would follow would be too much to bear. The Government then gave everyone injections that removed the colour from their skin and hair. After a period of time, people became so accustomed to the lack of colour that building materials became monochromatic, colourless foods like semolina predominated and television shows like the Black and White Minstrels emerged to reflect society’s disinterest with anything from the spectrum. TV, he argued with the conviction of a Nobel Prize winning scientist, simply reflected a more disheartened Age. Then flower-power came along and the people demanded their colour back so that the flora and fauna could be fully appreciated again. I used to sit open-mouthed when he told stories like this. My head would nod at bits where my own experience could back up the theory.

‘Semolina, you say…? Jesus, he’s right…! There’s a ton of that at our school.’

Another yarn was that air flight didn’t actually happen. You got on a plane, and while on it, teams of trained experts changed the surroundings outside. The plane didn’t actually go anywhere. The more dramatic the change in scenery, the longer you had to sit on the plane. I assumed that he meant that if you wanted to go to Africa, you had to sit on the tarmac for around 15 hours until the ‘crew’ had rounded up enough black people, safari animals and weird looking trees. Since I hadn’t been on a plane at this point, I’d no reason to question the wisdom of this old sage. Forty years later and I’m writing this now on a long haul flight back home from Singapore and a part of me still needs convincing that I’m not actually on a simulator.

I lived with my grandparents for three years before another move and a new phase of life began in Ayrshire. On the night before we left their house for good, the old man told me he had something for me. I sat expectantly, waiting for him downstairs while he disappeared upstairs for what seemed like an hour. When he returned, it was with a face whitened by talcum powder and with a shaky red lipstick flash drawn down his face. In his hand was the Aladdin Sane LP.

‘Mibbe ah wis wrang aboot this yin, aw along. He’s actually awright, son’.

I remember laughing so much, I pee’d myself. I can’t look at the LP’s sleeve now (or actually Heath Ledger’s ‘Joker’ in the Dark Knight Rises, such was the botched make-up job…) without seeing old James Fleming’s smiling face.

David Bowie and my grampa; The Thin White Duke Street. Heroes.

 

Disco coverThe Last Days of Disco by David F Ross is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format now.  My review (score 5/5) can be found here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=437

 

 

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on Guest Post: David F Ross
March 4

Guest Interview – Helen Giltrow (The Distance)

Today I am delighted to welcome Helen Giltrow to the blog. Helen has kindly taken time to answer a few of my questions about The Distance, her debut thriller which released in paperback last week:

The Distance(1)The Distance:

They don’t call her Karla any more. She’s Charlotte Alton: she doesn’t trade in secrets, she doesn’t erase dark pasts, and she doesn’t break hit-men into prison. Except that is exactly what she’s been asked to do. The job is impossible: get the assassin into an experimental new prison so that he can take out a target who isn’t officially there. It’s a suicide mission, and quite probably a set-up.

So why can’t she say no?

 

 

I have read many Colin Forbes and John Le Carré novels and I believe that spy stories are essentially about the pursuit and control of information. Would it be accurate to say that The Distance is a spy novel at heart?

I think that’s a good definition of a spy novel, and one that The Distance certainly fits. My main character is a woman called Charlotte Alton who steals and manipulates data, then sells it on to criminals. At the opening of the book she is approached by an old client, a hit-man, for help with a high-risk job inside a prison, for a nameless client. Suspecting some sort of trap, she must discover who his target really is and why they have to die.

The Distance didn’t start life as a spy novel. Originally I was planning to write something closer to an action-thriller / crime novel hybrid, with Charlotte Alton as a minor character. But she began to take over the plot, and as she did so, the spy-story elements came to the fore. I’m a fan of Le Carré, in particular the Smiley novels, so the chance to draw on that tradition in this book was too good to miss; readers who know those novels will certainly spot the references. But I think the earlier action-thriller incarnation is still visible, especially in the scenes told by the novel’s other narrator, the hit-man Simon Johanssen.

 

A significant proportion of The Distance is set inside a facility called The Program – can you outline exactly what The Program is?

The Program is an experimental, privately-run ‘secure community’, temporarily created in a run-down slice of east London suburb after an explosion in the prison population and a catastrophic series of riots that has put several jails out of action. Its ideological basis – that inmates are less likely to reoffend if they’re encouraged to take responsibility for their own lives while inside – underpins some real-world facilities for low-risk offenders. But applied here, on the cheap, and with violent and dangerous inmates, it’s going badly wrong. And that’s the environment Simon Johanssen has to enter, when he’s tasked with the killing of an inmate.

 

Your central character is Charlotte Alton, yet she also uses the name Karla. The two persona, by necessity, live very different lifestyles – did you have to think them as two different characters to ensure Karla (or Charlotte) acted in a particular way in certain situations?

Charlotte is one of those characters who turned up fully-formed on the page. I knew from the outset that she would speak and act in one way when she was wealthy, idle Charlotte Alton, and in another when she was the criminal information-broker Karla. In fact I think of both identities as disguises. This is a woman who spends a lot of time pretending to be someone she isn’t; there’s a whole layer of her personality and her emotions that she herself isn’t prepared to acknowledge, and that makes her fascinating to write about.

 

There is one character that appears to have no redeeming feature other than to be the clear villain of the book. Do you think that all stories need a character like Brice? Specifically a figure upon which the reader can hope to see some form of justice served?

Interesting question. Immediately it’s made me think of those crime novels is which justice isn’t done, and any resolution amounts to a messy compromise – because sometimes that’s the way life works …

I certainly felt there had to be a figure like Brice in this book. I was very conscious that I was asking the reader to invest in two characters who are criminals. Charlotte Alton facilitates crimes; Simon Johanssen carries them out. Both characters have a morality, but I felt I needed to bring in Brice – an out-and-out sadistic psychopath – to act as a sort of moral touchstone, and to cast those other characters’ moral values into relief. Brice is the distorted mirror image of Johanssen: while Johanssen kills ‘cleanly’ and is troubled by suffering, Brice prides himself on not killing; he just likes hurting people, a lot. In that way Brice serves to define Johanssen.

And while Brice is morally abhorrent, in some ways he’s an instrument of justice too. Johanssen himself has killed, and instinctively I felt he had to pay for that in the course of the story. When he enters the Program and comes up against Brice, he’s confronting – literally and metaphorically – his own past actions. For him it’s a sort of purgatory. The question is whether he can survive it.

 

How long did it take you to get The Distance from the original concept to a draft you were happy to let someone read?

A long time. The first glimmerings of that early crime / action-thriller hybrid story came to me in 2001, and I wrote a version of the opening then. That got shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger, but family upheavals meant work on the book had to be put on hold for long periods. By early 2009 – when I finally hit calm water – Charlotte Alton had become the lead character and I’d amassed a pile of scenes and notes, though you couldn’t call it a first draft. That’s when the serious writing started. A draft went out to beta readers in summer 2011, and to agents late in the same year.

 

Can we expect to see a return for Charlotte Alton?

I’m working on a sequel right now.

 

Do you have to set yourself a routine for writing?

I find I have to. I aim to put in three one-hour blocks in the morning, with 10-15 minutes in between; and another two or three hours from 3.30 pm onwards. (I’m useless after lunch.) I’m quite a slow writer so I need to put in the hours at my desk or the work doesn’t get done.

 

Orion AuthorsWhen not writing how do you enjoy spending your downtime?

I like running, but a calf strain has put me out of action for several months, and I’m only just getting back into the gym. In about a month I’ll probably start running again. I miss it – it’s my drug.

 

I am always fascinated to discover what other people are reading. If I were to see your bookshelves what could I expect to find?

A lot of crime fiction, across a broad range of subgenres, and literary fiction too. What’s interesting to me are the gaps. For a long period I couldn’t afford to buy books, so many of the books that I love and that have influenced me, I borrowed from the library. I often find myself looking for copies of them, only to discover I don’t actually own them.

 

What comes next for Helen Giltrow?

After the sequel to The Distance? More writing, for sure. I’ve been doing it since I was a child so I can’t see myself giving up now.

 

Once again, my thanks to Helen.
The Distance was published in paperback by Orion on 26th February and is also available in digital format.

You can find Helen on Twitter: @HelenGiltrow

 

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on Guest Interview – Helen Giltrow (The Distance)
February 24

Guest: SJI Holliday – Why Did I write Black Wood?

Today I am pleased to welcome SJI Holliday who visits just 24 hours after the digital publication of her debut novel Black Wood.

I am delighted to be able to share this fascinating insight into why the novel was written:

 

Why did I write Black Wood?
By SJI Holliday

Back in 2006, the first thing I wrote – years after leaving school – was the start of a novel about a supernatural bridge where people went missing into some sort of time slip. It was based on a real bridge, with a strange plastic covering over the top of it to prevent suicides. It was wobbly and it echoed, and because of a weird hidden bend, you couldn’t see people walking towards you until they were quite close and they seemed to appear from nowhere. I started writing this (in a notebook I’d bought in a Japanese 99p store) on a long-distance train journey between China and Russia. I didn’t get very far. Reading it back, I realised it wasn’t going to work until I refreshed myself on the nuts and bolts of writing technique.

After that, I attended a night class in London, where I went back to basics and learned about story structure, character and point-of-view. I started writing very short stories – which I found out were known as flash fiction – and I gained a collective gasp from the class as I read out my neat little tale about a man who’d embalmed his wife.

My influences come from horror… Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Sean Hutson, James Herbert. Then from crime: Jonathan Kellerman, James Patterson, Mark Billingham, Peter James and Mo Hayder. So I found myself at a bit of a crossroads. I didn’t want to write a police procedural, as I found that my interest lay more with the victims of crime, and the horrors they face – plus, I am not too keen on research as I am a world-class procrastinator! I had loads of ideas and I started several novels, but none of them made it past the 10k words mark.

I was desperate to finish something. I asked other authors for advice, and it was always the same. Just finish something, anything – it does not have to be “The One”. I knew I needed a bigger draw, something to hook me in to help me keep going. So I turned my thoughts to my own past, my own experiences, and a memory from a long time ago. Something that stuck with me, but something that I was sure no one else really remembered – to the point that I started to think I’d made it up.

But I didn’t… two little girls did go into the woods, many years ago. And something bad did happen. I just embellished it a bit, as is my artistic right. So if you read it, you can let me know what you think… and see if you can work out the nuggets of truth amidst the dark things that my imagination conjured up.

Oh, and one day, I’ll go back and finish that story about the bridge.

 

bw cover1 copy

Black Wood is available now through the Kindle store and will be published
in paperback by Black & White Publishing on 19th March 2015.

 

Bio:

SJI Holliday grew up in Haddington, East Lothian. She works as a Pharmaceutical Statistician, and as a life-long bookworm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist. She has several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies and was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize. After travelling the world, she has now settled in London with her husband. Her debut novel, Black Wood, was inspired by a disturbing incident from her childhood. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com.

 

 

Links:SJI Holliday

www.sjiholliday.com

www.facebook.com/sjiholliday

www.twitter.com/sjiholliday

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Wood-SJI-Holliday-ebook/dp/B00R0ITWRC/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

 

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on Guest: SJI Holliday – Why Did I write Black Wood?
February 18

Winter Siege – Ariana Franklin

It’s 1141 and freezing cold.winter siege 2

Gwil, a battle-hardened mercenary, is horrified to stumble across a little girl close to death. She has been attacked, just one more victim in a winter of atrocities. Clutching a sliver of parchment, she is terrified – but Gwil knows what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And together, they will hunt down the man who did this to her.

But danger looms wherever they turn. As castle after castle falls victim to siege, the icy Fens ring with rumours of a madman, of murder – and of a small piece of parchment with a terrible secret to tell, the cost of which none of them could have imagined…

 

I tend not to read too many historical novels, however, if they were all as good as Winter Siege then it could easily become my favourite genre. I loved this book and became totally caught up within the story as I was transported back to the 12th Century and the days of knights and castles.

We follow the story of Gwil, a mercenary who is an accomplished archer. He has been abandoned by his paymasters but he was already wearying of their company as their actions had not been in line with Gwil’s own moral code.

Gwil finds the shattered body of a young girl, she has been savagely attacked and left for dead yet her will to survive drags her back to life. With no memory of her attack nor of her life before the incident she travels with Gwil as he avows to himself (and his God) that he will avenge her attack.

At heart Winter Siege is a story of the friendship between Gwil and Penda (Gwil renames her after her attack). Yet the story plays against the backdrop of King Stephen’s attempts to repel his cousin (the Empress Matilda) as she tries to wrest control of the English Throne from him.

The siege in the title takes place at Kenniford Castle in Oxfordshire. The castle is a strategic stronghold and the home of Maud who, when we first meet her, is being married against her will to a prominent knight. This rushed and unwelcome marriage is to secure a political alliance that will protect both her and Kenniford from King Stephen and show allegiance to Matilda.

As the events in Winter Siege unfold we find Gwil and Penda arrive at Kenniford and the stories of our key players become entwined. This is very much a tale of people, friendships, politics and war. Ariana Franklin tells the story with an easy readable style. The characters are jumping from the page as they are expertly realised and it is impossible not to get caught up in Gwil’s quest to avenge Penda’s attack.

I tend to avoid historical novels as they become too caught up in the politics or the period at the cost of keeping the story flowing. Winter Siege stuck the perfect balance between background and story. There are not too many earls, dukes, knights and knaves that could confuse a casual reader – just a focus on telling a tale which will entertain and enjoy.

Fans of historical drama are in for a treat, fans of a good story this is for you too. Review score of 4/5 from a genre I tend not to read should reflect how much I enjoyed this story – I actually wish the book had been longer but all good things must end.

Category: Blog Tours, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Winter Siege – Ariana Franklin
February 6

The Vault Blog Tour – Karen Long Q&A

Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years. During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing. She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for (debut novel) The Safe Word.

She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family. She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.

Karen is happy to correspond with readers and can be contacted through her website _DSC7396KarenLongWriter.com, where she posts regular blogs.

 

Karen has very kindly agreed to round off her blog tour for The Vault by taking part in a small Q&A session.  Having read the above author biography there were a couple of things mentioned that piqued my curiosity. I would not normally open a post with a biography, however, some of my questions will make a bit more sense if you are armed with the same facts that I had!

With this in mind my opening gambit was to ask if Karen could bring us up to speed:

 

Eleanor Raven is introduced in The Safe Word. While I was able to read and enjoy The Vault without having read The Safe Word, there are clearly elements of the first story still impacting upon Eleanor at the start of The Vault.  Can you briefly set the scene?

The Safe Word is set six months earlier. When murder victims begin to appear in the city, presented as macabre artistic installations, it’s Eleanor Raven’s job to get inside the killer’s head and understand his motivations and message. This journey takes her into the dark heart of Toronto’s BDSM scene; a world she is no stranger to. It’s her need for dangerous sexual encounters that lead her to the killer’s studio, where she is to become his final masterpiece. Surviving this encounter has left her with physical and mental scars, which are affecting her relationships, self-control and ultimately her ability to do her job.

 

I enjoyed the squad-room scenes in The Vault and there seems a good team dynamic between Eleanor and her colleagues (though relations are strained in one area). Do you consider Eleanor to be a rebellious element within the squad or is she misunderstood, perhaps due to her intellect and her ability to think ‘outside the box’?

Eleanor is less a rebel and more of a maverick. She’s not out to overthrow, rather her thoughts and actions keep her on the periphery of the establishment. Her colleagues see her as being uniquely able to see the hidden connections and truths behind events but like Cassandra, she lacks the social skills that would allow her to convince those she needs to. Everyone is very supportive and respectful of her insight and methods but she is her own worst enemy, on so many levels. I think all truly good fictional detectives are pariahs of some flavour.

 

Raven is pitting her wits against an adversary she dubs The Collector and through the book we follow the progress of her investigation. The reader gets to know who The Collector is and we follow his story as he tries to juggle his crimes with his day-to-day routine.  Which did you have most fun writing – the investigation or the criminal activities? And which was easier to write?

Constructing a criminal mind and letting their actions weave a story plot is fabulous fun. The psychopaths I write about in my novels have very clear ideas on love, integrity and, in particular, family. What they lack, but don’t recognise or acknowledge, is the ability to empathise with any other living being, other than themselves. For me that is a truly terrifying concept and just playing around with those sort of thought process, can make you feel very uncomfortable. But writing characters that lack moral structure can only entertain on a very superficial level. What I really enjoy is how the behaviour of one individual shapes the mind of another. Eleanor constantly battles the damage wrought on her psyche by the destruction created by the killers she hunts. It is that investigation which is the most satisfying to write. Creating and analysing the uniqueness of a character’s mind that ultimately sheds light on one’s own.

 

As I carefully try to avoid plot spoilers…there are detailed discussions on the decomposition of a corpse and ways that this process could be slowed. Do you enlist specialist advice when writing about technical processes or do you fall back on personal research?

I saw Gunther von Hagan’s ‘Bodyworlds’ exhibition twice and was bowled over by the beauty and complexity of the human form. Part of the pleasure was reading as much as I could on how it was achieved. I have always been fascinated by decomposition and autopsy and had been following the work at Dundee University being championed by a collective of crime writers, particularly Val McDermid, on developing a new form of post-mortem preservation that keeps the body soft and retains natural colours. I had long conversations with Practitioners and although I have seen postmortems I was not granted permission to witness an embalming. So, I would say that all the science I write about is researched as thoroughly as I can, however I’m not writing a scientific paper and do have to blur the edges and take artistic licence sometimes.

 

I have asked this question in the past of other crime authors but everyone has a different opinion: Why do you think that we all seem to enjoy reading about serial killers?

It is one of the defining aspects of the conscious mind that we seek to understand the mind of another. Have you not said to a loved one, “What are you thinking?”, “Penny for them?” or you see the personality and empathy in a pet? We look for the similarities and fear the differences. A great white shark is more terrifying than an orca, both are apex predators, roughly the same weight but we feel less threatened by the orca (count the ratio of shark to orca documentaries on the Discovery channel). It looks back at us with an intelligence and complexity of purpose that we believe we can understand. It’s more like than unlike us. The unconscious mind is terrifying; simple motor responses that can’t be tempered or reversed by logic, emotion or negotiation leave us vulnerable and afraid. Those atavistic fears, tamped down by collective intelligence and analysis need an airing if we are to survive. What better way to practise than from the safety of your own living room, protected by hearth, locks and a telephone. When we confront the serial killer in the safety of our imaginations, we look into the shark’s mind. It is a lesson in survival that dares us to look into a mind devoid of reason.

 

You are a resident of Shropshire, yet your novels are set in Toronto. May we assume that you have enjoyed spending some time in Canada?

I did spend some but not enough, time in Toronto. I loved it! It’s liberal, eclectic and full of contradictions and because I was on a film set at the time I had the opportunity to visit some of the less touristy area. All of the specific ‘event’ locations in my novels have been visited and investigated, including the seedy nightclubs! I live on the periphery of a very small rural village, lacking either a shop or pub, I don’t think we have enough residents here to inspire a ‘Miss Marple’

 

Does a Canadian setting allow greater flexibility for story lines and plot devices than you would have with an English based character?

Absolutely! I have a tendency to get bogged down by the details both logistical and scientific. It’s very liberating to take a flavour of a place and then mould it to accommodate your storyline. I would spend most of my writing hours driving around, seeing if a scene were possible, if I set my novels here. My productivity is poor to abysmal at best, so I’m grateful to be using my memories and Google maps to get it written.

 

We have Eleanor Raven and your author biography makes frequent references to crows: how do crows and ravens come to play such a significant part of your life?

I am obsessed with corvids. They are smart, deliciously mean and bad tempered. I think my first encounter was as a child listening to ‘Arabel’s Raven’ read by Bernard Cribbins on Jackanory. So, when I had an opportunity to save one, I jumped at it and on it. Mortimer filled my house with cunning plots, malicious intent and bird shit and I loved it. Since then I’ve kept ravens, rooks, magpies and crows. For me they are ‘other’, I can understand their motivations to an extent but have no comprehension of what it’s like to ‘be’ them. Perhaps that’s how I see Eleanor, an otherness, like a person but ultimately a construct of my own imagination.

 

Are you currently working on the next outing for Eleanor Raven or have you plans to change focus?

I’m working on book three called, ‘The Cold Room’ and hope to have a five book series before trying something different.

 

When do you find time for writing? Are you a night owl or do you need to put aside time through the day?

Unfortunately, due to a love of reading and wine consumption I am very much a daytime writer. My youngest daughter is at school during the day, which means I can think, write and not have to jump to the dulcet sound of ‘Mom!’ every ten minutes.

 

If we were to sneak a peek at your bookshelves what could we expect to see?

Forensics, science, novels (mainly crime fiction and classics no sci fi), text books and I love photography collections.

To prove this Karen has also sent me pictures of her bookcases (they are distressingly clutter free).

IMG_2158

 

My most sincere thanks to Karen Long for her time and assistance making this leg of her Blog Tour possible. I would also like to extend my thanks to @crimebookclub for the behind the scenes magic.

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on The Vault Blog Tour – Karen Long Q&A
February 6

The Vault – Karen Long

The Vault coverVAULT: A large room or chamber used for storage of valuables, especially an underground one…

In the unrelenting heat of the Toronto summer, a fire at a land-fill site uncovers the remains of a local prostitute. But the post-mortem reveals disturbing details –the body has been preserved and is not who or what it seems.

DI Eleanor Raven is back on duty six months after barely surviving being kidnapped and tortured by a depraved serial killer. Work is her sanctuary but she’s carrying deep scars – mental as well as physical. Where do you go when the place you feel safest is also the place where you are most at risk?
As Eleanor battles her own demons, it looks as though a killer in the city is making a gruesome human collection. And Eleanor’s fight to save the last victim of the Collector becomes a battle to save herself.

 

My thanks to Karen and @crimebookclub for my review copy

 

If you seek out crime novels which are described as ‘dark and disturbing’ then you are in for a treat with Karen Long’s The Vault. Even for a seasoned crime reader, such as myself, there are some decidedly uncomfortable elements to this story which make it stand out as a memorable read.

The Vault features a second outing for DI Eleanor Raven following her debut in Long’s previous novel The Safe Word. Raven is returning to work after a prolonged leave of absence – she had been recuperating from an horrific attack (as depicted in The Safe Word). Her return to duties are seemingly arriving earlier than she may be ready for and there are signs that Raven is not yet fit to resume her role.

Having not read The Safe Word before starting The Vault I wondered if I may have missed key plot points which may explain Raven’s ‘awkward’ return to duties, however, everything I needed to know was addressed in full so I did not feel disadvantaged by skipping book 1. Karen Long does a great job of teasing out the underlying issues surrounding Raven’s fragile state and we are left in no doubt that Eleanor Raven is a wonderfully complex character.

The Vault opens in the less than glamorous setting of a Toronto landfill site. A fire has ravaged an area of the city dump and firefighters uncover skeletal human remains, however, the remains they found are positioned in a very unnatural pose and there can be no question that this is the body of someone who dead before the fire started. Raven is called to the scene to investigate.

Soon we are crossing paths with prostitutes, undertakers, morticians and an extremely disturbed killer that Raven dubs the Collector. The driving motivation behind the Collector is….not nice (and redacted due to spoilers). However, what I very much enjoyed was that the story follows the Collector as well as the investigating team. As a reader we get to see both sides of the story and get an insight into how the criminal conducts himself when he is trying to get on with everyday life and, more alarmingly, how he may identify a potential victim.

I am sure that The Vault will be one that sticks with me for some time. The crimes are morbidly memorable, the central character is damaged and has a dangerous penchant for deviant sexual encounters and I found the book kept me hooked – which is all I want from my crime novels.

My benchmark for shocking crime has always been the works of Michael Slade. Slade has described many nasty and unpleasant deaths yet within his stories the murders are usually sudden and shocking. Karen Long may just have laid down a new standard: a whole novel that made me uncomfortable as I read. (By odd coincidence both Michael Slade and Karen long base their stories in Canada – I may revise my list of potential holiday destinations).

I found The Vault compelling reading. The central characters are well defined and (as I discovered in my Q&A with the author) they will return and be developed further. I liked that Long will take characters and concepts into unfamiliar places picking up on areas which may be considered taboo for some.

Although I missed Eleanor Raven’s debut in The Safe Word I will be rectifying this oversight in the very near future. I want to read more from this author and, specifically, I want to read another Eleanor Raven book. The Vault was sufficiently entertaining, memorable and creepy that I have to award it a review score of 5/5 – I didn’t want it to end.

 

 

 

Category: 5* Reviews, Blog Tours, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on The Vault – Karen Long
January 31

Alf The Workshop Dog- Emma Calin

Once upon a now bannerThe wisdom of the fable through the eyes of modern children. A series of books following traditional pathways of storytelling towards issues and solutions of our times.

Emma Calin has worked with the Philippines based talented anime/manga artist Miko Abellera,
to create this collection of illustrated chapter-book stories for 6-12 year olds.

Emma Calin
Each book features interactive bonus links, via URLs for digital readers (e.g. Kindle, iPad) or by scannable QR codes for paperback readers. The links lead to free downloads of pictures for colouring, as well as photos and video and audio clips to enrich the story and bring the characters to life.

Alf The Workshop Dog

How could a scruffy dog in a bus depot and the call of crows, link back to another world of power and love?
The ancient Kingdom of Zanubia and a stray dog looking for scraps in an inner-city repair garage, hold the secret. A wicked king, a beautiful girl, a young prince and the struggle between right and wrong maintain the fable tradition.

ISBN: 1502479583 Kindle ASIN:B00NWQ96PE Audio book ASIN:B00OBT8RDI GENRE: Children’s Fiction

 

Isabella’s Pink Bicycle

There’s something strange in the woodshed…
A poor little girl in a faraway land dreams of riding a pink bicycle. When she meets a strange animal, her dreams come true. Her happiness turns to sadness when a tragedy occurs in the town and her father doesn’t come home. Maybe her new magic friend can find him?

ISBN: 150323407X Kindle ASIN: B00OFQO0WY Audio book ASIN:B00P1O1XLK GENRE: Children’s Fiction

 

Kool Kid Kruncha and The High Trapeze

Charlie finds it tough when his parents divorce – but Auntie Kate helps him overcome his greatest fear.
When Charlie has to move from the country into the city, he needs new friends. With his small size and red hair, some people aren’t kind to him.
He wonders if he can face another day at school. A trip to the circus gives him the strength to see himself and others in a new way.

ISBN:1503267105 Kindle ASIN: B00OFSNQL8 Audio book ASIN: B00PX8V76K GENRE: Children’s Fiction

 

Alf The Workplace DogThanks to CandleLit for my review copy of Alf The Workshop Dog. I enlisted the help of my 8 year old son to give a parent and child overview of the story.

From a Dad’s viewpoint Alf the Workshop Dog was a great reading experience with my son. The story caught his imagination and the promise of the interactive elements to the book were a great incentive for him to try to prolong his bedtime story each night.

The integration of story and additional content through digital media is a great idea and worked well as a hook to get my son reading a story that he may not normally have considered.

 

My son is keen to muscle in on my blog so I asked him to provide me with his own review of Alf The Workshop Dog. After much consideration we established the following:

“It was great fun to read about Zanubia but I did not like the King very much. I like when I can go to You Tube and watch the videos and things at the end of some of the chapters. My favourite was when we sang the national anthem.”  To interject at this stage – we sang the anthem FREQUENTLY.

Back to the boy: “I liked to read on my Kindle for a change as normally my books are paper or comics” (keeping him off the other apps was a challenge). “The story was good and I read loads when you were at work as I didn’t want to wait for bedtime” (always love when he reads so I cannot complain too much that he was reading ahead). ” I didn’t like the King but I liked how the story ended, it made me feel happy” (at this stage I hear echoes of his teacher trying to explain to me at Parent’s Night how they will tackle Book Reviews for 8/9 year olds – How the story made me feel was right up there)

A hit in our household – Alf The Workshop Dog was read over a few nights and has been revisited already, especially the video of the Zanubian National Anthem. Lots of fun and a nice way to round off the day for us both.

 

January 8

Hellbound – David McCaffrey

hellboundHis crimes – unforgivable. His death – inevitable. His suffering – just beginning.

Obadiah Stark aka The Tally Man, is executed at ADX Absolom, his death sentence watched by the world’s media, victim relatives and one investigative reporter, Joe O Connell. Penning an account of Stark’s personal history and subsequent crimes in the hope of determining what elements make the sociopathic mind tick, Joe discovers clues and inconsistencies which cause him to investigate Stark’s execution.

While this is happening in the real world, Obadiah Stark awakens to an afterlife where he has a wife and daughter bound to his childhood hometown. Following his natural predatory instinct, Obadiah proceeds to torment the town, committing multiple murders before being gunned down by the police.

He awakens to find that everything has reset, with no one recalling his murderous spree a reality which offers no escape. As the scenes repeat, he is forced to submit to emotions he has never experienced before…and with it, a poisonous dose of morality.

 

Thank you to the Crime Book Club for giving me the chance to host this leg of the Hellbound Blog Tour and to David McCaffrey for providing a copy of Hellbound for review.

Joe O’Connell is a journalist writing a book about a serial killer – Obadiah Stark. Hellbound opens with Joe attending Stark’s execution. We are left in no doubt that Stark is a cold and unrepentant killer and that nobody will mourn his passing. The execution proceeds (no last minute reprieves) and Stark is gone.

Joe intends for his book to cover Stark’s crimes and he hopes that the families of Stark’s victims will help with his research. He stands a good chance of gaining their support as Joe has made a commitment not to sensationalise the murders committed by Obadiah Stark. It becomes clear that there is a symmetry here with Hellbound; David McCaffrey also chooses not to depict Stark’s crimes (over 20 murders) into a gore-fest tale aimed to shock the reader, instead he adopts a much more clever approach…I shall explain.

The narrative of Hellbound can broadly be broken down into three distinct sections. One section takes the form of clinical notes or reports upon Stark’s movements and interactions (including the killings) which are described in precise and factual detail. I found this unusual approach to be a really effective way of establishing the dispassionate and brutal nature of the killer.

The second narrative stream follows Joe. His quest to get to the heart of the Obadiah Stark story brings him into contact with the family members of Stark’s victims, prison employees and even another writer that wants to assist Joe with his work. Yet the deeper he digs the more he becomes convinced that the execution did not progress quite as it should have.

Now we get to the third of the key narrative streams – that of Obadiah Stark himself. Stark remembers his life, his crimes and even his execution…yet how is this possible if he died?

Stark has awoken in a town he remembers from his childhood yet he is now married, has a child and seems not to have spent the last years of his life in a remote island prison. Confused and angry Stark commits some very public murders and is gunned down by the police. The next day he awakes and finds that everything has been reset as if nothing ever happened. I must confess at this stage of reading that I had no idea what was going on and the words ‘Groundhog Day’ were zooming around my head.

From this point on David McCaffrey takes the readers on a fascinating journey. First the investigation: O’Connell is pursuing a story as he is sure the prison are hiding something following Stark’s execution.   Alongside is the unexplained mystery: Stark seems to be living in a dreamlike world where he is self-aware yet nobody knows he is one of the most infamous killers the world has seen.

I was compelled to keep reading as I simply had to find out what was happening! Fortunately this was no chore: the story progresses at a nice pace (crucially there was never any feeling of plot padding) and there plenty of twists to hold my attention.

Throughout the story you find that the morality of the Death Penalty will arise but the reader has to form their own opinion as to whether it is appropriate punishment for Stark. I can see a reading group having a ball with that one! I believe some readers may start to feel sorry for Stark, others most certainly will not – huge plaudits to Mr McCaffrey for tackling such an emotive issue and pitching it perfectly.

By the end of Hellbound I was willing the story to go on. I hope that I am right in my guess that David McCaffrey has not finished will all the characters he introduced in Hellbound – there was a very real feeling that <REDACTED> was being set up for a sequel.

Hellbound is a book that deserves to be read – a clever thriller, well written and extremely enjoyable.

Category: Blog Tours, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Hellbound – David McCaffrey
January 8

Hellbound Blog Tour – David McCaffrey Q&A

Hellbound Blog Tour

As part of the Hellbound Blog Tour I am delighted to be able to welcome David McCaffrey to Grab This Book.

David very kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions surrounding his debut novel, Hellbound, and has also given me an insight into his own reading preferences.

As I had the opportunity, I also tried to squeeze a little extra information from him regarding what may come next for the Hellbound cast – there is good news on that front as you will see…

So with my profound thanks to David I opened with an ‘easy’ one:

 

Why do you think we (as readers) enjoy serial killer stories given the reality is such a horrific concept?

I think we’re fascinated with the concept of absolute evil and how someone can become so devoid of empathy and remorse. There could be many reasons for this fascination…it is because we feel sorry for the events that lead them to become that way? Is it because we sometimes see aspects of ourselves in their character? It’s acknowledged that you cannot have good without evil, light without darkness.  And because of this, as readers, we find ourselves eager to see what horrific acts characters can get up to and what will be done to defeat them.

After all, are they not the more interesting? We seek to find those moments where we can feel affinity with the shadier side of human nature because, as a contradiction, it also makes us feel safe. We know that evil is simply an excuse for unacceptable behaviour and that, if the surface of it is scratched, like a poorly rendered wall it will crumble away.

I think we’ll always find evil personable because at its core, we need to believe that there is more to it than simply basic desire to cause harm and that such characters are more complex than that. That good and evil are but two sides of the same coin. As Obadiah Stark tells Father Hicks prior to his execution “Evil is simply live spelt backwards.”

 

I am keen to avoid spoilers, however, within Hellbound a group called The Brethren feature on occasion. I loved the premise of The Brethren is there any chance they may feature in a subsequent title?

Absolutely!! I am currently working on a Hellbound novella titled ‘In Extremis’ which deals with the birth of The Brethren and how their journey began utilising a famous character from history (alluded to at the end of Hellbound!!). They initially see themselves as altruistic, but as history has often illustrated, our most famous despots and totalitarian literary creations often start believing they’re righteous in their quest. As to whether they are right or wrong, that’s for the reader to decide!

 

Joe O’Connell is the primary character within Hellbound (other than Stark). Do you see Joe’s Story as having reached a natural conclusion or would you consider bringing him back?

I have a beat sheet for a follow up to Hellbound, and Joe is integral to the plot but not the main character. You rightly point out that his story does reach a natural end point, but as to whether he still has a part to play, that would be telling!

 

Within the story O’Connell is writing a book which reflects the story of Stark without sensationalising his crimes. I felt that Hellbound also took this approach, murders are detailed but not in a tone which may convey ‘schlock horror’ was this an intentional symmetry?

It was. When writing it, I had two rules I made integral to his character. One, he couldn’t do anything sexually violent towards women (or men for that matter) and two, he couldn’t harm children in anyway. My justification for this was simple; as odious and evil a character as I made him, if he broke either of those two rules then the reader would never be able to sympathise with him, no matter the extent of his suffering. At the end I don’t expect the audience to like him, as I made him intensely dislikeable on purpose, but I made him dislikeable within the parameters of his own morality. By doing this, readers can hopefully sympathise with his plight and not feel guilty for feeling sorry for such an evil individual. Because ultimately, Obadiah’s journey throughout Hellbound does suck ever so slightly.

 

Stark’s crimes were split between Ireland and the US? Have you visited the areas depicted (or how did you come to select the regions you used)?

I have been to both countries (my Dad’s family are from Kerry)…I love Ireland and would live there one day if circumstances allow. The reason I chose Ireland for the supermax, ADX Absolom, was because The Blasket Islands are extremely desolate (Ryan’s Daughter was filmed there) and it seemed a haunting and lonely place to build a prison with only Artic Terns for company. I also wanted to play a little with convention and set it somewhere other than the United States. Having Obadiah emigrate there and ultimately return home seemed to lend the narrative a slightly cyclic feel in regards to his rationale for choosing to his victims.

 

On a more personal level, what do you enjoy reading? Who do you consider to be your favourite authors?

I’m pretty eclectic when it comes to reading! I enjoy thrillers, the occasional horror story, biographies, science fiction. I recently read I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes which is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time. John Grisham, Steve Alten, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King are probably my all-time favourite authors, but I do enjoy Stephen Leather’s Jack Nightingale books and anything by Lee Child (then again, doesn’t most of the world!!). Two of the most exciting books I recently read were The Willow Tree by Bekki Pate and The Element Order by P.S Ferns, two fellow authors whom I know and who have crafted really stunning debut novels…worth checking out!

 

When do you find time to write?

Usually on a night when my children have gone to bed. I’ll spend an hour or so most days at the computer, but often I’ll have a random idea or thought about adding to a chapter and say to Kelly ‘I’m just going to write this up before I forget’ and disappear for a few hours!

 

What comes next for David McCaffrey?

I have the Hellbound prequel drafted and am in the process of editing, I have two beat sheets completed; one for a Hellbound sequel and one for an completely unrelated title about a deadly infection with the working title ‘Pathogenicity’ (working in Infection Control and the currently Ebola concerns, it now seems appropriate!!). I have a few other ideas floating about in drafts that I’m always toying with. At the moment I’m just so pleased people seem to be enjoying Hellbound! I always knew it was a hard sell, but that if people gave it a chance they’ll find it’s something a little different and not quite what they expect…which seems to be the case!!!

 

My thanks to David and to Crime Book Club (@crimebookclub).

The tour concludes tomorrow (Jan 10th) at tigerlilybooks76@blogspot.com

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on Hellbound Blog Tour – David McCaffrey Q&A