you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?
A case of
obsession and murder that will baffle New Orleans Private Eye Lucien Caye,
intrigue him, make him fall in love – three times.
the setting – I don’t know anyone who is writing crime fiction set in 1950 New Orleans – ENAMORED is the most character-driven
book I’ve written. The book was taken over by its characters early in the
process and I let them run with it. I stuck to the plot, knew where it was
going and manage to get there. It is certainly a lot more about the people than
the case. I let them surprise me and they did.
What are your expectations for Enamored?
What I would like to happen is for the people
who made my Lucien Caye short story collection NEW ORLEANS CONFIDENTIAL my best selling book to
give ENAMORED a shot, then spread the
word. Maybe someone will realize Lucien was made for TV. What I expect will happen is what happens with
all of my books. My loyal fans will buy it, some others will try it and I’ll
pick up more fans thanks to amazon.com, but the sales will remain low. I’ve
been a low list writer since I started in 1988 and I don’t see anything
changing. I’m not complaining one bit. This is the path I chose. Success isn’t
in sales, it’s in the quality of the writing.
What’s the worst piece of craft advice you’ve heard?
given almost the same line by agents and editors again and again – “Write for a
specific audience, or write for a certain editor, or write for a particular market.”
I believe that’s wrong and Robert Frost was correct when he said, “No tears in
the writer, no tears in the reader.” I write what moves me. I write what I want
to write. I began with New Orleans
police crime fiction novels because I was a homicide detective and knew the
effects of violence on victims and police officers. I moved on to private eye
fiction and historical fiction because it was what I wanted to write about at
the time. I still write police crime fiction but each novel I write, each short
story I write is for me. I’m happy others like to read some of them.
Put these in order: language, character, plot, money.
I used to
think plot was first, but a critic described my crime fiction as
character-driven and he was right. Character is first for me. Language is next
because dialogue and exposition are the coolest part of a book. Plot is next
because without a plot, without a storyline, all you have are talking heads.
Money is not a consideration. I hope to get as much as I can but it’s not up to
me. Like most writers, I write the best I can and hope to make a buck. Until I
took control of my career and morphed into a Indie writer, I went around with a
tin cup for years, begging editors to give my work consideration. Now it’s up
to the readers. At least my stuff is available.
designed the cover of ENAMORED. It is
a sexy book that needs a sexy cover. I am fortunate to have an excellent model
with great legs. I was trained as a combat photographer in the army and worked
in computer graphic design for a number of years, so I put the talents
together, taking my mentor Harlan Ellison’s advise about covers. Use one strong
image, prominently display the title and writer’s name and say one thing about
the book or writer.
How much time do you dedicate to writing? How much time
would you like to spend writing?
full time as a police officer. I also work full time as a writer. That’s about
eighty hours a week. I don’t do much else. I plan to retire from my police job
to concentrate on my writing as soon as possible, but that’ll be a few years
away. The only way to get it written is to write.
How much time do you dedicate to promotion?
enough. I don’t have time. My wife is my business manager and my friends (fellow
writers, my agent and copy editor) help. I wish I did more promotion. Then I might
not be a low list writer.
We have a
home office and I work on two Macintosh computers, a desktop and a laptop that
I take to coffee shops and other places on occasion. I usually design covers
and layout the books on one computer and type manuscripts on the other. I get
help, as you can see, from my cats.
Do you have any other projects on the go?
I’m in the middle of writing a companion novel to my historical epic BATTLE KISS and have laid out the next
novel, which will be a right-after-Hurricane Katrina crime fiction novel. I
always start a novel as soon as I’m finished with the one I’m writing now. As I
write the novels, I also write a few short stories. I started ENAMORED the day after I finished BATTLE KISS and was able to finish it in
Can you sum up your book in no more than 25
John Simmons’ girlfriend disappears, but
the police doubt she ever existed. Is she a hallucination, or the next murder
victim of a serial killer?
What have you done/are you doing to market it?
The Missing has been
reviewed by a number of bestselling authors, including Glenn Cooper, Matt
Hilton, James Becker, Elly Griffiths, Scott Phillips, Patrick Lennon, CM Palov
and Thomas Perry. Their blurbs have been really effective in persuading readers
to take the chance with an unknown author. I’ve also used social media a lot –
its Facebook following is increasing and I’ve managed to get a lot of retweets
by celebrities and well-known authors. I think it’s primarily because of these
that The Missing broke the Amazon UK Kindle top ten.
Do you bear the reader in mind when you're
writing? If so, how does that affect the way you write?
Yes. I’m a keen
reader, so I pay attention to how I feel while I’m writing. There were several
moments while writing The Missing when I felt incredibly tense, so I took that
as a good sign. I knew I had to keep the story moving fast, so I thought very
carefully about what needed to be included in the narrative and what was
superfluous. Yes, I wanted character development and a sense of place, but I
didn’t want to labour any point.
Who would you like to direct the film
I think author Scott
Phillips answered this question best with his blurb about The Missing: "It's a shame Hitchcock isn't around to film it, it's exactly
the kind of story he did best." Ok, so Hitchcock won’t ever be possible,
so a contemporary director I think builds tension excellently is Bryan Singer
(The Usual Suspects).
If you were able to co-write a novel with any
author of your choosing, who would it be?
There are so many
answers to this question, but if I’ve got my crime thriller hat on I’d have to
say Sophie Hannah, the author of Little Face, which inspired The Missing. She
really knows how to put a character in a situation that seems impossible to
escape from, her characters are vividly presented and the tension she builds is
palpable. Hers are amazing books.
Put these in order of importance: language,
character, plot, money.
The English teacher in
me says language, but when you consider what’s popular, language is often one
of the last things of importance. I think it starts with the plot, then you
build your characters around it, then you tell their story in a way that’s as
well written as possible, and if you make any money out of it you’re incredibly
How would you describe your taste in books?
unpredictable. The only thing I can say with any degree of certainty is I can’t
stand Jane Austen’s books. I enjoy crime thrillers very much – Sophie Hannah,
Harlan Coben and John Harvey to name a few – but I’m also a huge fan of darker
character-led dramas such as Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden. I also enjoy reading
plays, particularly those by Tennessee Williams. And I’m not afraid of a
classic or two. Wilkie Collins is high on my list.
What are you reading now?
I always have three or
four books on the go – and rarely have enough time to read them for the amount
of time they deserve. At the moment, I’m reading Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
(for the A Level course I teach), Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark (for
entertainment) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (I always have a classic in the pile).
I’ve just bought The Fear Index by Robert Harris to add to it. Not long ago, I
finished The Woman in Black by Susan Hill – atmospheric and chilling. Susan
Hill and I actually have the same literary agent and The Woman in Black plays a
part in The Missing (we didn’t share a literary agent while I was writing The
Missing, so this is entirely coincidental).
Which writer do you most admire?
Again, there are many,
but the writer who’s had the greatest impact on me is Ian McEwan. I remember
reading The Cement Garden when I was eighteen and thinking this amazing book is
like a literary car crash: you know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t stop
yourself. It’s a captivating story, expertly told, and it made me want to
write. So I wrote my first book, Full of Sin, as a direct result. I wanted to
create my own car crash; I wanted to shock the reader, yet find a way to make
them want to read on. Then Harlan Coben drew me to crime fiction and Sophie
Hannah inspired me to write The Missing.
What are your ambitions for the next year?
The next book has to
be written. My agent, Sonia Land, and I have been discussing it recently. It
has a unique selling point and we think it has the potential to be a really
interesting spin on the crime genre. There will also be some elements in it
that will have very close links to my family’s past. I’ve started it and hope
the first draft will be completed by the end of the summer.
What are your long-term ambitions?
Be a writer. Make
enough of a living out of it to survive. I don’t need to be rich from writing –
I just want to see my books on the shelves in Waterstone’s and WH Smith, and
Do you write outside of the crime genre? If
not, would you like to?
Yes. Full of Sin isn’t
a traditional crime story, although there are elements of the crime genre in it.
It’s more of a dark human drama. It follows a character, Sean, who is born into
a desperate life and it focuses on his journey towards rehabilitation after he
sins too much. I’d like to write more novels like Full of Sin, while also
writing more crime thrillers.