What everyday situation drives you mad?
How long have you got? Technology that doesn’t cooperate always makes me crazy.
Your favourite music and the best live concert you’ve ever been to?
I’m very eclectic in my tastes, but Bruce Springsteen, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris are my favourites. Best concert was probably Emmylou and Marc Knopfler together for the Roadrunning tour.
Colours you’d never wear?
Yellow’s not a good look for me.
Name three contents currently in your fridge!
Er… yoghurt, milk, cheese. Oh, that’s all dairy!
Three books that you read that made you want to become an author?
Blimey. The Mr Twink cat detective books had me writing my first crime novel at the age of six. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe really opened my eyes to how great books could be. Wilbur Smith’s early stuff made me really, really want to write novels, even though I don’t read him much any more.
It’s movie night – which films do you choose to watch with your friends?
It’s a Wonderful Life, El Dorado (John Wayne and Robert Mitchum), maybe Steel Magnolias – you’re probably getting what a big softie I am by now.
Your idea of a perfect holiday?
Traveling somewhere in the Far East with my wife.
Favourite literary or movie villain?
Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s It.
Your favourite Hitchcock movie?
North by North West
Evil Unseen is the third case for DI Archer and DS Baines. What would you say have been the major developments for both of your protagonists since their first case The Scars Beneath The Soul?
In Scars, the book in which they first start working together, Archer has transferred from the Met to Buckinghamshire;s Aylesbury Vale to rebuild her career and her confidence after a horrific incident that left her disfigured. Baines still hasn’t come to terms with the loss of his family to a serial killer more than a decade before. In Evil Unseen, they are still on the journeys that started with those events, but readers should be seeing developments in their lives as the series progresses and they confront those demons.
How long in advance do you start planning a story before you sit down to write? And how long does it take you to get all loose ends tied up in the end until your satisfied?
I know the story arc for Archerls and Baines’s characters over a number of books, and have from the start. The crimes not so much, but I usually have the key ideas for the next book in my head and wanting to be let out for months before I finally get to start writing. It means I start the next one as soon as the current work in progress goes off to my beta readers. Getting from first draft to final version takes months of toing and froing with my readers and then my editor.
Do you sometimes get new ideas for the development of your protagonists’ private lives out of the blue? Or do you find yourself sometimes pondering what Archer or Baines would do in a certain situation?
Yes, often when I’m working on a story something about the crime side of the story will throw up something that will impact on the protagonists’ lives. Because I’ve given them both strong, life-changing back stories, I can usually see how they will respond to a situation. For example, anything bad to do with kids gets a reaction from Dan Baines because he still doesn’t know if his own son is still alive and imagining what might be happening to him is worse for him than the certainty that he is dead.
Are you also reacting to suggestions from readers you get? Like, for example, if they’d demand Archer should find a new permanent love, would you take that into thought before writing?
I love it when people ask these sorts of questions, or say what they’d like to happen next, and I’d not pass up a good idea that fitted into my overall plan for the series – but it would have to fit. Changing tack too drastically could unravel the whole thing!
What are your biggest influences regarding your stories? Do you follow the news and sometimes take parts from real crime cases into consideration?
It boils down to those ‘what if’ questions, and they can crop up anywhere: a good place to find/hide a body or, yes, a news story. I don’t base stories on real cases, but they can inspire a ‘what if’.
The UK market is flooded with crime novels and not only from its endemic authors. Do you think it’s getting harder to find your readers in that ever-growing ocean of the genre?
The online crime fiction community are wonderfully generous at sharing each other’s news and helping each other to get exposure. The trick is to have a book that sounds interesting to the audience and has something about it that stands out from the crowd. All we authors can really do is write the best book we possibly can and make every effort to get it noticed. Unless you’re a megastar, that’s always going to take some effort.
How do you work on finding a new hook to keep readers coming and give them a story they feel they have not read or seen before?
I started the Archer and Baines series with the idea of two main characters that readers would like and would want to know what happens next. There are still secrets to be revealed about them and other regular characters.
You’ve also written the Lowmar Dashiel series which is fantasy and far off from crime. Is the mystery genre a welcome diversion from crime and will you eventually pause the Archer/Baines series to go back writing about fantastic worlds again?
Well, the Dashiel myteries are what I call crime fantasy – Lowmar Dashiel is a sort of private eye, but in a sword sorcery world. Murder, mayhem and magic! But I do like that world and hope to go back there one day.
As a self-published author, how would you reflect on your journey so far? Would you still fancy that deal from a publishing house or would you say there are many upsides to being your own boss?
I try to steer clear of the self vs traditional publishing debate, which I think has moved on since I started self-publishing four years ago It’s now seen as very much a matter of choice. I’d never say never to anything, but I’m enjoying having my own business and my own brand. I get to make all the key decisions about the book and its marketing and I like that control. It can be hard work and frustrating sometimes, but it’s mostly good fun.