Hello my fellow bookworms and page turners, in this post I will be covering both Panel one and two of the Literary festival, which was moderated by my good friend Stephanie Cox.
Due to the sheer amount of information and chatter that you would expect in a open event such as this, all questions, where sent 24 hours in advance and where typed into the comment section for the present authors to answer in real time. In this post I will be documenting some of the questions within all the individual author panel 1 Q&A’s. I couldn’t possibly document them all as there are far too many of one post! it would be an information overload!.
Panel #1 : Serial Killer Thriller – with Rebecca Bradley | Steven Dunne | Jane Isaac | Craig Robertson
Q&A with Steven Dunne, Author of Killing Moon
Q : Noelle : How do we come up with the characteristics of our serial killers?
A: Good question Noelle. From my personal point of view I’m trying to make my killer as believable as possible so in many respects, I’m looking to make him as normal as I can so that readers might believe he or she could be living next door. Much depends on the nature of the crimes I want to explore. For instance, the Reaper has quite a wide remit to kill anywhere in the country provided he finds the right victims. That then determines the nature of the beast. He (not too much of a spoiler as most serial killers are men) needed to have the time and the financial independence to commit his crimes. He also needed a certain principled logic, no matter how skewed, that he could use to justify his actions and, indeed, claim they were reasonable. Also to be able to kill families that he hasn’t met required a certain elitist detachment if you like. The Reaper sees himself as a kind of Nietzschean superman who is above the laws governing the common herd. In The Unquiet Grave I needed someone local to Derby who melted into the background because the crimes the Pied Piper commits require that he move unseen amongst the populace searching for the children he lures to their deaths.
Q : Susan Pola: Can you tell us a little about your novel and why you went the serial killer route?
A: Hi Susan. I’m fascinated by why people kill especially those amongst who are planning to kill on a regular basis. I think that’s a much more interesting question than how people are killing. Disorganised crimes are of little interest to me because like Sherlock, if I have created a genius detective for want of a better phrase, I need to pit him against extremely devious and difficult to catch killers. Catching a random killer requires little more than police legwork. Catching organised and evil serial killers exercises what Poirot calls “the little grey cells.” These are the puzzles I want to read and solve, Susan so these are the thrillers I write.
Q: Liz Barnsley : I love a good serial killer thriller me. But I’d love to know where the inspiration behind Brook came from. How the character came into focus for you.
A: Hi Liz. Brook came out of my love for such flawed detectives as Sherlock and Will Graham from The Silence of the Lambs. It intrigues me how the cleverest detectives have to entertain the most horrendous thoughts to catch the most evil killers. Will Graham is the perfect example of why Brook is like he is. If you’re smart enough to catch organised serial killers, you’re smart enough to put yourself in their shoes and what you see may damage you. Brook was an attempt to create a character who walks that fine line like a tightrope and daren’t jump off.
Q: Andrew Hill : Is it a common thread that Serial Killers feel that the laws that govern us simply don’t apply to them? There’s some sort of Narsistic element, as well as a Superman/eugenics aspect, perhap?
A: Hi Andrew. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Most killers who take a life must at some point assume the power of God to end someone’s existence. With most killers that may be a temporary psychosis which persuades that their desire to kill overrides any other consideration. With an organised serial killer that impulse is even more pronounced because they have a twisted logic to what they are doing. Killing is something they have to do and all other factors are secondary, including the rule of law.
Q: Darcey : How do you avoid inadvertently copying another plot? There are so many crime books out there!
A: That’s a simple one for me, Darcey. I love to be tied in knots by a thriller that leads me by the nose through a complicated plot, giving me all the clues and leaving me breathlessly excited at how wrong I was about the (now) obvious solution. Those are the thrillers I (try to) write and the plots I devise I hope are impossible to replicate or copy.
Q: Dawn Ashford : s there anything “off limits” that you would not include in your writing? Any crimes that are so heinous you can’t write?
A: Hi Dawn. A very good question and I suppose the answer to that is the limits are defined by what sort of crimes society throws up. I don’t like killing children in my novels but children ARE killed and abused every day and so it is a legitimate subject for enquiry. I don’t kill people for sport or entertainment and I always ask serious questions about why such things occur. I don’t like thrillers with LIVE salacious violence or rape and although my books appear to contain a lot of violence, they in fact don’t. Most of the murders in the DI Brook series happen “off-screen” and the violence is discovered post mortem. But really, as an artist (pretentious? Moi?) nothing that is actual and real within our society is off-limits. It can’t be because what baffles and appals needs to be confronted, understood and explained. smile emoticon
Q: The Book trail : What do you think Derby offers you that other settings might not?
A: Hi The Book Trail. Derby was a great choice for the Reaper series for several reasons. Practically, because I live there, I can easily check out locations and put the local readers on the street or location where murders are being committed. This adds an extra frisson of excitement that you don’t get with a fictional location. Secondly, no-one else was writing thrillers with Derby as a location which allowed me to have the entire city to myself and hopefully a large audience of readers. LOL. And, thirdly, the city was the perfect place for Brook to escape (or so he thought) from the madness of London, already over-populated with thriller writers. Brook finds the people honest and straightforward and most important, he has the Peaks on his doorstep so between cases he can walk around the hills and rivers spring-cleaning his mind of the horrors he’s seen.
Q : Susan Pola : Rebecca Can you tell us why you decided to write about a serial killer and what that adds to the novel
A : I think with a serial killer it fitted with the novels theme for this book Shallow Waters. If you have seen the media furore recently the people I wrote about work in a way that isn’t just one victim and that’s what I needed to get across. It was more about the victims rather than the killer. That the victim can be from any family, any home… but that gave it the serial killer element.
Q: Darcey Dyson : I would like to know how many books are planned. are you just going to see how it goes, or do you have an overall shape of how you intend Hannah to develop?
A: interesting question about seeing how it goes or having shape… I’d like the series to run as long as it can, though I do have ideas for a couple of other ones that are desperate to be written, but so is the Hannah series. There isn’t a set shape or a set number of books. I do however know what is going to be happening with her and the characters for the following three books and always have, plus I have ideas mulling over in my head about where things are going from there as there are long running storylines to be threaded through.
Q: Noelle Holten : how do you come up with the characteristics of your killers? Do you research or do you delve into the madness of your own minds and drag out the worst things you can think of?
A: I’m a retired police detective so I decided to base my first novel on the area I knew best, the area I worked in which was sexual exploitation, so in doing this, I had all the on hand research I needed having been in close contact with predators. My mind is a gleaming shining palace of white heaven
Q: Susan Pola: Rebecca can you give us some insights into how you decided to self publish Shallow Waters and the benefits you see of that way of publishing.
A: Susan, ha! now that is a long and twisted journey/answer, my decision to self-publish Shallow Waters and the benefits. I’ll try and shorten it – I had great feedback on the novel from agents but they felt it was too dark for them. One agent took me on but publishers then thought it was too dark so I decided to take it out myself. I was invested in the characters, in Hannah and the rest of the team and I didn’t see how the story was too dark, yes maybe sensitive but I think I’ve handled it the right way. I couldn’t let it go. The benefits of doing it myself are that it has sold quite well and readers have told me they have (mostly) loved it. There’s nothing better than a reader saying that! I now know I made the right decision and Hannah now has a long and maybe not so happy life
Q: Darcy Dyson : Hi again Rebecca, I am a huge fan of Nordic Noir (TV programmes like The Bridge, The Killing, etc and the novels from that region). Are you a fan? And do you think there is any likelihood of turning your books into suitably dark TV series?
A: Darcey, I would love to have my books televised, of course! I would also love to write something a little darker than I’m writing at the minute. Even though Shallow Waters is quite a dark subject matter the books are police procedural and I’d love to write something a bit more… colouring outside of the lines. I don’t watch Nordic TV but have recently started reading more of it and yes I do love it. I particularly love the cold isolated settings they can provided.
Q&A with Craig Robertson, Author of Random
Q: The Book Trail : Why Glasgow for your serial killer novels? Can you teach us your favourite Glaswegian word?
A: Glasgow is the city I know better than any other and it’s a great place to kill people. It’s dark and blackly funny and agrresive but with a big heart. It suits crime novels perfectly. My favourite Glasgow word is probably ‘gallus’. It’s pretty much unique to the city and means a whole bunch of different things. It means cocky and swaggering, it means something cool and great.
Q: Celeste Ni Raois : did you have to do much research into serial killers for your book or would you picture them in your head on characters of serial killers from say the likes of Norman Bates, Hannibal or characters from other films/series?
A : Hi Celeste. I read a lot – A LOT – about serial killers to get an idea of what drives them, what made them into the monsters they were. But probably the main inspiration for my own guy came from deep within my own imagination. I knew who he was and what made him. He grew from there
Q: Catherine Slee: how do you make your killers human, to make them attractive to the reader?
A: Great question. That was one of the key things for me in Random. I didn’t want him to simply be a monster, that would have been too easy and just wouldn’t have worked. The reader needed to know the why, needed to know he was ordinary and yet was doing extraordinary things.
Q: Douglas Skelton : Did you take a different approach as a writer to ‘The Last Refuge’, given that it was set outside your own stomping ground? Not that you stomp, of course…
A : Hi Douglas. Yes, it needed a very different approach. Torshavn, the capital of the Faroes, is a just a little bit smaller, slower, safer and less confrontational than Glasgow. So it meant the book had to be a bit slower paced, a bit more descriptive. And I was introducing more people to a place they didn’t know at all.
Q: Catherine Slee: can I ask how many submissions you made before finding any agent and any advice on getting the pitch letter to stand out?
A: Katherine, I’m a bit embarrassed to say I got an agent with my first submission letter. Not what I expected at all. I guess with the pitch letter, you have to grab their attention as they get so many. Sell the book in a paragraph or two, making sure you highlight the key premise, the reason they should read it.
Q: Ian Patrick: How did you find writing from a males perspective in Before It’s Too Late?
A: Hi Ian, Thanks for your questions. This was my first outing with a male lead character and it was certainly a challenge. Even though I have two brothers and have lots of male friends, I still felt the need to take time out to observe how men approach and do everyday things differently – and I had to ask a couple of dear male friends to read the first draft to make sure I’d got it right
Q: Ian Patrick : When writing how important is word count and is there a number you like to aim for?
A: I don’t write to daily word counts like some other writers do. I tend to write in scenes and I also write out of order and slot the scenes together afterwards. I’m a third of the way into the book I’m currently writing and have already written the ending. For an overall word count I usually aim for 80-90,000 words for a complete book.
Q: Jeanette Hewitt : Did you ever consider any other genre rather than crime? Or was it a natural choice for you?
A: Hi Jeanette, I’ve always loved the twists and turns of crime thrillers so I think it was a natural choice. I did start off writing romance short stories, but always felt the need to kill someone off!
Q: Sarah Hardy : what makes a good crime detective?
A: Oooh good question! If you’re talking in real life, I think we would all like someone who cares, who notices everything and who would go that extra mile, put themselves in the firing line if necessary, in order to protect the public, solve the crime and make us all feel safe once more. For me, fiction emulates real life and I try to install these traits in my own fictional lead detectives.
Q: Darcy Dyson : How do you avoid inadvertently copying another plot? There are so many crime books out there!
A : I agree that there are so many crime books out there and only so many different crimes that can be committed. However, I think it’s always possible to come up with a different angle or a new character that can take a story in a new direction. Plus technology is changing all the time – my 2nd book opens when with two friends chatting over Skype and one witnesses an attack on the other. In the last 30 years we’ve had the introduction of DNA methods in forensics, CCTV, people use mobile phones and computers which all helps in coming up with something new interesting.
that just about wraps up my highlights of Panel one if you wish to read the full panel convocations you can view them here on facebook
Until next time, read more books