You obviously did your research regarding tattoos. Do you have a tattoo? If not, were you ever tempted to get one?
It’s not something I’ve ever fancied, to be honest. I’ve seen some really lovely ones and I’m happy for people who enjoy them. I’ve never thought too much about why I wouldn’t want one, but one reason is that I think I’d be concerned about getting bored with it and not being able to get rid of it easily. It’s not like changing your clothes!

Why do you think some people totally reject tattoos?
I doubt if there’s any one reason. I know some people just object to the idea of putting something on your skin that nature didn’t intend to be there; some seem to think they’re disfiguring and ugly, however artistic they are. They’re as entitled to their opinion as people are to their tattoos, although it would be nice if they weren’t judgy or rude about people who choose to have them.

IN INK your detective Quarrel finds out there was one guy who had every inch of his body tattooed and another that had his whole body inked black including eyeballs – are those extreme cases still human creativity or a case for the shrink?
You’d probably have to ask a shrink! Cases like that do seem to be taking it to extremes, but it’s an interesting question. Lots of celebrities seem to have an awful lot of tattoos. I seem to
recall one football star saying whenever he got bored, he’d treat himself to a new car, a new watch, or a new tattoo. If there’s a line to be crossed into the ‘extreme’, I’m not sure where it should be drawn. What I mean is, when do you reach the point where one more tattoo one too many?

How did you get interested in the Tarot cards? Did you ever have a Tarot reading?
Before I started developing ideas for the book, I had a passing knowledge of Tarot, but not much more – and no, I’ve never had a reading (although I once had quite a spooky palm reading). But once I decided my killer should leave a calling card, the idea that it should literally be a card – a Tarot card – quickly followed. So then I had to do a lot of research. There’s tons of stuff on the Internet, of course, not necessarily all consistent, but I was lucky that a colleague turned out to be married to a Tarot enthusiast, who was happy to give me some extra pointers.

Was it a welcome diversion to create new characters for IN INK or did you rather miss to write about Archer and Baines?
I’m not in the least bit bored with Archer and Baines, but one of the things I enjoy as a writer is creating characters. After five Archer and Baines books, it was great to start with a blank page and populate it with a whole new cast of characters, each with their own life, their own past, their own strengths, flaws and foibles. As soon as the manuscript had left me for my trusty early readers to look it over, I started plotting out Archer and Baines book 6, and I’m as excited about that as any work in progress.

IN INK is also a guide to the beautiful area of Hertfordshire. Care to share your top places to go with us?
Okay, here we go, in no particular order:

  • Ashridge Forest, just because it’s a wonderful place to walk and see the landscape change with the seasons. It’s owned by the National Trust and has a fabulous open air café (which is mentioned in the book). Go when the bluebells are out.
  • Warner Bros Studio Tour and the Making of Harry Potter. I bet you didn’t expect that one, but we’ve been twice and will go again in more normal times. It’s a great day out, and they are always adding to the attractions. You don’t have to be a Potter fan to enjoy this peek behind the scenes.
  • Tring Natural History Museum. Originally built in 1889 to house the filthy rich and eccentric Baron Walter Rothschild’s private collection of taxidermy and mounted insects, the building and its contents were gifted to the Natural History Museum in 1937. It’s been smartened up in recent times, but retains its charm and fascination.
  • Hatfield House, once the home of Queen Elizabeth I, and its gorgeous gardens. Go when there’s something special on, like a major arts and crafts event.

Your inspector Nathan is in his forties while you are a few 😉 years older. Have you ever thought about creating an older/retired detective closer to your age?
Ha ha, you wound me, Nic! But seriously, writers have to be able to remember – or imagine – all age groups. Quarrel was originally going to be 49, only that didn’t fit with events in his back story, so I ended up making him early 40s. John Harvey has a great character called Frank Elder who’s a retired cop, and his Charlie Resnick and Ian Rankin’s John Rebus have both aged over their series, with Rebus actually retiring but still working cases with his protégé, Siobhan Clarke. I’ve never really thought about an older protagonist, but it’s an interesting idea. I don’t go out of my way to choose a character’s age though – their circumstances dictate that, and not just in Quarrel’s case. When we first meet DS Dan Baines in The Scars Beneath the Soul, he’s been grieving for his dead wife and missing two-year-old son for just over a decade. If you start with the age Dan might have been when Jack was born and work forward, that’s why he’s late 30s in that book.

IN INK is a lot about how the past can still influence the future and about feelings of injustice. Is it a typical human trait to be unable to let go even if it’d make things so much easier?
I don’t think it’s the case that people typically can’t let go, but some undoubtedly can’t. I recently heard a programme about prisoners of the Japanese in WW2 who worked on the ‘Railway of Death’. They spoke to one who had a supportive family who had no problem with his experience coming up in conversation; and he had a strong faith and was active in his church, which invited him to give a talk about what had happened to him, which had been cathartic. He’d moved on and been able to forgive the Japanese people, even his captors. Contrast that to another ex-POW, who said his family didn’t want to hear about it, because it upset them too much (for Pete’s sake!). So he’d bottled it up, had mental health problems, and needed counselling to be able to start dealing with it. To this day, he hates everyone and everything Japanese. I think traumatic events and their consequences must inevitably have an impact on a life. They’re not easily forgotten, but a whole host of factors will determine where that life goes from there.

IN INK has two storylines that are about ‘his version/her version and then there’s the truth’. Why do you think that even in these times when we have all the information at our hands 24/7 it often feels impossible to find the truth?
This is supposed to be an information age because we have so many sources of ‘information: the press, the broadcast media, politicians, the Internet, social media, the bloke down the pub… yet we’ve never been less certain of what the ‘truth’ is. At best, it’s a version of events; at worst, it’s downright lies, or opinions based on selective or non-existent evidence. We see credence given to conspiracy theories, but can we trust that the supporting evidence is ‘facts’? What about ‘fake news’? So, even if we have all the information in our hands, there’s every chance we’ll have a bunch of other stuff that contradicts it. This sort of stuff is of course meat and drink to a crime writer. Who do you believe? Who do you trust? Are even memories reliable? We try to keep the reader guessing but enable them to look back at the end and see that the ‘right’ information was there all along.

Thank you so very much for the interview, Dave!

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