Q&A with author MJ Arlidge! @mjarlidge @angelaontour #graceland

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When I got an email asking me whether I wanted to be one of seven bloggers to interview Matt Arlidge about one of his books I jumped at the chance. Regular readers of my little blog will know how much I love Arlidge’s Helen Grace books and that he is one of my absolute favourite authors so you might be able to imagine just how excited I was. I was asked which book of his I wanted to ask Matt vabout and I didn’t have to think twice, Eeny Meeny was the first book in the series and my absolute favourite. I first read it in January 2015 after hearing some buzz about it, two and a half years later I can tell you a lot about it, not just the shocking storyline but also how I felt reading it. I very much doubt that there is another book that I read in 2015 that I could say the same about.

I’ve found two different blurbs for Eeny Meeny, one I found when I was trying to come up with my questions for Matt but the other seems to be more prevalent so I’ll put that one here, but the one that I read gave me question two, as that is a question asked in the blurb. I just love that Matt thought that it was an enjoyable unpleasant question! So, without further ado, here’s the blurb of Eeny Meeny followed by my Q&A with M.J. Arlidge.

Blurb:

The “dark, twisted, thought-provoking” (#1 New York Times bestseller Tami Hoag) international bestseller–first in the new series featuring Detective Helen Grace.

Two people are abducted, imprisoned, and left with a gun. As hunger and thirst set in, only one walks away alive.

It’s a game more twisted than any Detective Helen Grace has ever seen. If she hadn’t spoken with the shattered survivors herself, she almost wouldn’t believe them.

Helen is familiar with the dark sides of human nature, including her own, but this case–with its seemingly random victims–has her baffled. But as more people go missing, nothing will be more terrifying than when it all starts making sense….

Q&A:

Hi Matt! Thanks so much for joining me on If Only I Could Read Faster. Regular readers of my blog will know how much I love your Helen Grace series and how excited I am to have you stopping by.

  1. The premise for Eeny Meeny was shocking, how did you come up with the storyline and did you find it difficult to write about the characters in such an awful situation?

I was interested in writing a story about competition culture. When I came up with Eeny Meeny, reality shows were in their pomp. Big Brother, I’m a Celebrity and other shows were actively encouraging us to judge other people – who do we like more, who’s hottest – and then discard those found wanting. I thought it would be interesting if a serial killer did something similar, raising the stakes so it became a case of life and death. The point was to ask questions about how we value people. If a woman was imprisoned with a man, the gun lying between them, should the man be chivalrous and let the woman live? Likewise, if a mother was imprisoned with a woman who doesn’t have kids, should the latter spare the former, because her life is somehow worth more? It’s knotty, moral territory and something I was keen to explore. I was also interested in serial killer’s calling cards – this is a trope in fiction and in real life – and I wanted to play with this notion. Wouldn’t it be interesting, I thought, if in Eeny Meeny the calling cards were not a glove or a printed letter or what have you, but rather living breathing beings. I loved this idea, so in my debut novel the survivors – tortured by guilt and the knowledge of what they’ve done to survive – are effectively the killer’s calling cards.

  1. Would you rather lose your life or lose your mind?

What an enjoyably unpleasant question. And not an easy one to answer. I’d like to be dramatic and say my life, but I suspect I’d plump for the latter, in the fond hope that I would one day recover my senses. In terms of the Eeny Meeny dilemma, I’ve always suspected I would kill, rather than be killed.

  1. Do you have any regrets of how you have treated any of your characters? Anything that would change if you could?

Absolutely not! Not because everything I write is great – far from it! – but because I never flinch from making tough decisions. There have been times during the writing of the novels, when editors etc have said “Are you sure you want to kill that character? People really like them.”, but I have generally ignored them, favouring the honest, logical conclusion of a story, rather than a fudged decision made for the wrong reasons. Everyone gets rocks thrown at them in my stories – I treat everyone equally!

  1. I have heard that Eeny Meeny is being made into a tv series. As you used to write screenplays why have you decided not to be involved with adapting your own book?

For the simple reason that I’d already told the story once and wasn’t keen to rehash it in a screenplay. I was – and remain – far more interested in moving Helen’s story forward, than in going over familiar ground.

  1. Why did you decide to have a female lead detective? How did you find it as a man writing a woman’s character?

Three reasons. First, because I think women are more interesting than men both in life and fiction. Men are predictable and relatively simple in their desires, women are much more complex and nuanced – and thus more interesting to write. Second, because life is harder for women, which is good in terms of creating an interesting protagonist – you want to be able to throw as many rocks as possible at your main characters. And lastly, because it just feels like the hour of the woman in crime fighting fiction. All the interesting crime fighters of recent years – Lisbeth Salander, Sarah Lund, Saga Noren – have been female. How do I find writing them? No different from writing male characters really – I just imagine what might be going through their head and off I go…

  1. Helen has an interesting way of dealing with the stress of her job, can you tell me a bit more about why that became part of the story?

I guess we’re talking about the S&M element! Well, I wanted to avoid a lot of the cliches of the genre – hard drinking male cop with marital problems etc etc. So I created a female copper who was tea total and allergic to relationships. However, everybody needs a pressure release, Helen more than most given her traumatic back story, so I opted for pain. Whenever Helen feels the dark clouds descending she heads to her dominator and manages her feelings through the controlled use of pain. I wanted to make Helen different and I thought that it would be interesting if the person she had the closest personal relationship with was the man she paid to beat her.

  1. You pitched seven Helen Grace books to penguin, who thankfully got very excited. Have all the books you pitched stayed as you set out or did you make changes as you wrote them? How many more Helen Grace books do you have planned?

Some of them made it into print, but several fell by the wayside as I came up with better ideas! My point in pitching the seven books was not to faithfully follow those ideas, but more to show that both Helen and the series had legs. There are many more Helen Grace books planned – as long as people keep buying them, I’ll keep writing them!

  1. Do you have any strange writing quirks?

Not really, I’m quite boring. If I have a quirk, it’s my tendency to wave a wand around when searching for inspiration. My kids gave me a replica of Voldemort’s wand for my birthday and occasionally I find a touch of Slytherin aids the writing process.

  1. Can you tell us one thing about Eeny Meeny that we, your readers, won’t know?

It was originally called “Nemesis” – a truly terrible title. I have my agent to thank for coming up with a better one.

Quickfire questions:

Favourite music while you write?

Classical music, especially choral religious music. Very sinister.

Favourite snack while you write?

Wasabi peas or jelly babies. It’s a mood thing…

Favourite place to write?

Anywhere where I can people watch.

Strangest feedback or review comment?

Someone once gave a copy of Eeny Meeny to a friend who he feared was trying to starve himself to death, in order to try and jolt him out of it. I wasn’t convinced of the wisdom of this and was slightly freaked out by it.

Book you’ve read that you wish you wrote?

The Silence of the Lambs. I think it’s a near perfect crime novel.

 

Well, I hope that you enjoyed that! If you haven’t read any Helen Grace books then why not??!! Definitely start with Eeny Meeny and then Pop Goes The Weasel. I’ve reviewed the rest of the books from the series on here, The Doll’s HouseLiar LiarLittle Boy Blue, No Way Back, Hide and Seek,  and Love Me Not. You can buy all of the Helen Grace books on M.J. Arlidge’s Amazon UK and Amazon US author page.

 

Book review: The Breakdown by B.A. Paris.

 

the-breakdown

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris.

 

Ok, so I have to admit that in order to read this book as soon as I possibly could I became something of a stalker. Regular readers of If only I could read faster will know that I loved Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris’ debut book that was my book of the year 2016. So when I knew that her second book was available to reviewers I wanted it, badly. I don’t normally bother and if I want to read a book and can’t easily get it to review then I pre-order it and wait like everyone else, but I just couldn’t wait to read this book! Thankfully the author herself came to my rescue when she heard how much I loved her first book. So thank you B.A. Paris for helping me get a copy of your book!

My 4.5* review:

The Breakdown had a lot to live up to, I absolutely loved the author’s debut novel Behind Closed Doors, and was desperate to read this book. I was worried that I would be disappointed, as so often happens when you have really high expectations, but whenever I heard from anyone who had read it it was all positive so I was excited to read it.

Cass sees a car stopped on the side of a remote road during a huge storm, she pulls over but worried for her own safety she doesn’t get out of her car and as the driver of the other car doesn’t get out or signal to Cass she decides to drive home and call someone from there. On arriving home Cass gets distracted and never makes that phone call.

When the next morning news spreads of a murder on the very same road Cass is flooded with guilt when she learns that it was the driver of the car that she saw that had been killed. Cass decides to keep it a secret, scared that she will be judged by others for not helping the driver.

With the murder so close to Cass’ isolated home it is not surprising that she feels jumpy but as time goes on Cass is sure that she is being watched and becomes convinced that the killer saw her on that fateful night and is going to come after her.

At the same time Cass starts to find her memory going, her mother had early onset dementia and it appears that the same is happening to Cass. She does her best to hide it but her husband can’t help but get frustrated at her and gradually Cass comes to accept that she is heading the same route as her mother.

The combination of her memory loss and the guilt that she feels over not helping the murdered woman causes Cass to crumble and without the support of her husband and best friend she knows that things would be even worse.

But is everything as it seems?

This book is totally different to the author’s debut which is definitely a good thing, it is an enjoyable and easy to read book, that keeps you guessing and wanting to know what will happen. I felt that the ending was rushed which was a real shame but it gets a solid 4.5*’s from me. I loved how the story took you in and you were never quite sure about what was going on. Now I have to wait for the authors next book!

Blurb:

THE NEW CHILLING, PROPULSIVE NOVEL FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

The Breakdown is out on 9th February 2017 and is available to pre-order now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Q&A with Angela Marsons

I am so excited to share a Q&A with Angela Marsons. Angela is the author of the brilliant Detective Kim Stone novels. I have read and reviewed all four of the Kim Stone books and I’ve given them all 5* which is pretty impressive. She has also written two other books, The Middle Child and My Name Is which I have yet to read.

Angela thank you so much for joining us at If Only I Could Read Faster!

1. Can you tell us something about you that we, your readers, don’t know about you?

I rode a moped until I was almost forty years of age. I am terrified of moths and heights which I know makes me a bit of a wimp!

2. Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?

I’m not sure about quirky or strange but I do still like to write the first draft of my books with pencils and A4 notepads. Each time I start a new journey I have to have a new box of pencils and some brand new colourful notepads.

3. How do you come up with the names of your characters?

For me the name has to match the character traits that I’m trying to convey. When I was looking for a name for my main character it had to be short, sharp, to the point, one syllable, no fuss – a bit like the character herself and once the name Kim came to me I knew it was the right one. A name like Felicity would not have suited the sharpness of her character. My characters have been known to change names half way through a book if their personality has changed or developed beyond what I originally had in mind.

4. Are any of your characters based on you?

Ha, not really. There are elements of Kim that I suppose come from me. Before being lucky enough to write for a living I managed a diverse team of 70+ security officers at Merry Hill shopping centre. It’s not a job you can do without a certain level of directness. However, I do like to think I have slightly better social skills than Kim.

5. Have any of your books had an alternative ending that you didn’t end up using? If so can you tell us any of them?!

The ending in Silent Scream with regard to the relationship between Kim and Lucy was going to be very different. Initially, I had planned that Kim was going to help Lucy in an altogether different kind of way (by ending her misery) but as I was writing the book my gut started to react unfavourably to this idea and the very notion of writing it began to make me angry, always an indication that I’m taking the wrong path somewhere. As the relationship between them grew I knew that I had to end it differently and as soon as I thought about what Kim does for Lucy I knew it felt right.

6. What research did you do into the character Alex, in Evil Games who was a psychopath? How did you find it writing about that character? 

I have always been interested in the sociopath/psychopath personality. I am intrigued by a person that is unable to feel empathy for other human beings. To research I read a lot of books on the subject and trawled the internet for more background information. I really enjoyed writing about Alex (quite worrying I know) but it was enlightening having that freedom to explore the personality of someone without conscience.

7. What is the most surprising thing that you learnt while writing Play Dead?

Play Dead was not an easy book to write. The idea had been in my head for quite some time but when it came to putting it onto paper this one would not behave itself. When I sent it off to my editor I was convinced she was going to send a note back saying ‘start again’. Luckily she loved it and I learned to trust in the process. Each journey will be different and some will be harder than others but I learned to trust that it will work out in the end.

8. A lot of Play Dead takes place in what is commonly known as a body farm. And what research did you do into what goes on in a body farm? Is there a body farm in the UK?

There isn’t a body farm that I know of but perhaps that’s a good thing. I did my research by reading about the facilities in America. I spent a great deal of time reading up on the type of experiments they do and the results they are hoping to achieve.

9. Would you donate your body to a body farm?

Yes, I think I would. If anyone can learn something useful from my body after I’ve gone then that’s a good thing.

10. D.I. Kim Stone is such a wonderful, but complicated character. If a movie of your Kim Stone books were to be made who would you like to play her?

The picture in my head is Kate Beckinsale from the Underworld films. Her attitude is SO Kim Stone in those films and I think she is a fabulous actress. And I’d have Bradley Walsh to play Bryant.

11. You are mainly known for your Kim Stone books but you have written other books before, can you tell us a bit about them and why we should read them? I have them on my kindle ready to read but haven’t quite got there yet.

My other two books are stories that explore human relationships and subjects that I find intriguing. I have always been interested in the ‘why’ of people’s actions. I want to know what drives them and these two stories gave me the opportunity to do that. My Name Is focuses on a friendship that builds between two very different women who both suffer with alcoholism. The Middle Child explores the complex relationships between three sisters raised in a physically abusive home.

12. If you were going to be stuck on a desert island who would you want with you? You can choose three people.

a. a character from one of your books – It has to be Kim Stone – she is very resourceful.

b. a character from someone else’s book – Jennifer Knight from Caroline Mitchell’s books. She has paranormal abilities and could let someone know where we were (I’m assuming we haven’t got phones!)

c. someone famous that you don’t know in person or on social media. Aaron Sorkin. He wrote The West Wing (my favourite program) and I would love to have him as a captive and grill him.

You can also choose one book to take. Disclosure by Michael Crichton.

13. And finally can you tell us where people can find you on social media?

I’m @WriteAngie in twitter and Angela Marsons Author on Facebook.

 

If this Q&A has inspired you to read some of Angela Marsons’ books then you can buy them all on Amazon UK and Amazon US. You can read my review of Play Dead, the latest DI Kim Stone books here.

Review: Play Dead by Angela Marsons

play dead

Play Dead by Angela Marsons

I think that Angela Marsons is now firmly my favourite author. I’ve loved all her books and this one is one of her best. Read them!!!

‘Angela Marsons has exploded onto the psychological thriller scene in the last year. I read her first book in the Kim Stone series, Silent Scream, and loved it. This is the fourth book in the series and they only get better. I have now given all four books five stars which is pretty impressive as I’m quite careful about giving them.

DI Kim Stone is not the most likeable character, but she is an excellent police detective and goes to all lengths to solve a crime. Her trusty team back her up with total faith, and Bryant knows his boss so well that he manages (some of the time) to reign her in. Stone is not the most tactful of people!

I have always felt that the characters were well formed but they have grown and developed as the books have gone on. Marsons writing in Play Dead feels so natural, she knows her characters so well which really adds to the reading experience. It feels like the book just flows, there’s no unnecessary drama, it feels real and there’s no wasted words.

While each book can be read as a standalone book I’d really recommend reading them all, they are a joy to read and I’ve no doubt that you will enjoy the book even more if you’ve read them all.

If you haven’t read any of Angela Marsons DI Kim Stone books then you’re in for a real treat. She is proving herself to be a brilliant writer and I cannot wait for book number five. Play Dead is a book that grabs you and pulls you in, just remember to breathe when you’re reading!

I was given a copy of Play Dead to read by the publishers, Bookouture, via Netgalley in return for an honest review.’

Play Dead will be available from 20th May 2016 and can be preordered from Amazon UK and Amazon USA