Interview: Jake Needham

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I am pleased to present an interview with the exceedingly cool and knowledgeable Jake Needham, described by The Straits Times as “Asia’s most stylish and atmospheric writer of crime fiction”!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

JN: No. Good. At. Such. Questions.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

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Excerpt: Tay had no idea what time it was when he eventually slipped off to sleep, but he woke in the night to the sound of rain splashing against his windows and bouncing off the brick pavers in his garden.

He had just had that dream again.

There had been lights. There were always lights. They swirled in the air likes pieces of a shattered mirror propelled by a whirlwind. And his mother had spoken to him from somewhere outside in the rain.

It was a dream he had had several times since his mother died, but when he woke he could never remember what she had said to him. Nothing good, he imagined. His mother had never been happy with his career choice and after he became a policeman she gradually seemed to lose interest in him altogether. After she moved to New York and remarried, he seldom heard from her at all, but to be fair she seldom heard from him either. Over the last fifteen or twenty years they had just gradually slipped out of each other’s lives. It seemed impossible that a man could lose track of his mother, or a mother could lose track of her son, but that was exactly what had happened.

Tay figured he and his mother had communicated more in his dreams over the last year than they had in life during all of the twenty years that had come before. The only problem was, when he woke from his dreams, he could not for the life of him remember what it was they had communicated about.

Tay hoped, at the very least, he had finally said some of the things he should have said to his mother before she died, some of the things he knew now he had wanted to say to her all along. It was a phenomenon he found himself experiencing more and more often recently. People kept dying before Tay could tell them the things he wanted to tell them. The older he got, the more distant his connections to the world became, and the more people there were whom he knew he had failed to communicate with as well as he should.

A progression like that, Tay knew, did not bode particularly well for his future.

— THE UMBRELLA MAN (An Inspector Samuel Tay novel)

Blurb: “In his raw power to bring the street-level flavor of contemporary Asian cities to life, Jake Needham is Michael Connelly with steamed rice.” – The Bangkok Post

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

JN: I don’t have a favorite author. Honestly, I don’t. I read contemporary fiction constantly and have what most would probably call rather middlebrow taste. Yes, there are authors whose new books I look forward to — such as James Lee Burke, David Ignatius, Stephen Hunter, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, John Sandford, Charles McCarry, Nelson DeMille, and Martin Cruz Smith — but there’s no particular author I could come even close to labeling as my favorite.

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

JN: It’s unexplored territory, as least as far as mainstream fiction goes. I’m not at all sure I could bring a fresh enough eye to a novel set in Los Angeles, or New York, or London, or Paris to make you see and smell the place. You already know all about them, or think you do. But when I take you to Hong Kong or Dubai or Singapore, you are less certain of your ground. Then you’re all mine…

Once upon a time, Jake Needham got incredible press coverage in Singapore — two huge features in The Straits Times and pieces in darn near every other local publication as well. Then THE AMBASSADOR’S WIFE came out and there was no more press coverage overnight. For all the details, check out this interview HERE, which makes for rather interesting reading…so I asked Mr. Needham the following question: How have your experiences with the media in Singapore influenced you, as an individual and/or as a writer?

JN: Not at all, really. I write what interests me, and people read what interests them. I can’t see that whether I am a popular figure with the authorities and the mass media in Singapore is relevant to much of anything. Anyway, not being able to go back to Singapore again is about as disturbing as being barred from having a prostate examination.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

JN: Anything I enjoy reading.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the crime fiction genre:

JN: Don’t take yourself or your work too seriously. We’re entertainers. We’re not responsible for the survival of the species.

* * *

JAKE NEEDHAM is an American screen and television writer who began writing crime novels and legal thrillers when he realized he really didn’t like movies and television very much. He is a lawyer by education and has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand for over twenty-five years. He, his wife, and their two sons now divide their time between homes in Thailand and the United States.

THE DEAD AMERICAN (Inspector Tay Novels, Book 3) is out now!!

Jake Needham Online: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

Interview: Mel Sherratt

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I am pleased to present an interview with Mel Sherratt: a writer of murder and mayhem…and a hoarder of killer heels!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

MS: Emotional, loyal, obsessive, creative, determined.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

Excerpt: At eight thirty that evening, Ella grabbed her handbag and almost bounced down the front steps to the pavement and into a waiting taxi. She slid into the back seat and closed the door.

‘Rendezvous, Marsh Street,’ she told him.

They set off for the city centre, and she gazed idly out of the car window as they drove down Trentham Road. She ran a finger up and down her leg from her knee to the hem of her short skirt. In anticipation, her hand moved to the neckline of her sheer blouse, fingertips running over the naked area of her chest. She couldn’t wait to get into Hanley now. It had taken her a few hours to control her anger today but, God, she needed to be screwed.

She turned slightly to see the driver studying her through his rear-view mirror. Not taking her heavily made-up eyes from his, she ran her tongue suggestively over red-coated lips, fingers trailing across her skin. While he adjusted the mirror to get a better view, she moved her hand down inside her blouse, splaying her fingers and rubbing the palm of her hand back and forth across her nipple.

Already she could feel it erect, sense the heat building up between her legs. The driver crunched his gears and she laughed silently before looking away. Who was she to give a free show? And besides, she was saving herself. It was her night tonight.

Blurb: Following the death of her husband and unborn child, Charley Belington sells the family home and bravely starts life over again. On moving into a new flat, she is befriended by her landlady, Ella, who seems like the perfect friend and confidante.

But, unbeknown to Charley, Ella is fighting her own dark and dirty demons as the fallout from a horrific childhood sends her spiralling down into madness—and unspeakable obsessions.

As Ella’s mind splinters, her increasingly bizarre attentions make Charley uneasy. But with every step Charley tries to take to distance herself, Ella moves in a tightening lockstep with her, closer and closer and closer…

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

MS: I can murder people – it’s a license to kill… Seriously, people are complex, good and bad – there is literally nothing as queer as folk. So I like to write ‘whydunnits’ as well as ‘whodunnits.’ I love creating dark, dangerous characters – with lots of sexual tension, fear and violence. Yet, you’ll always find emotion in my books too – I like to root for the underdog. It all makes for interesting plots. It’s what I’m known for, which is why I aim for a particular market of readers who like that type of thing.

Seriously, apart from staying within the realms of reality as well as, with some of my books, police procedures, it’s fiction so anything can happen.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

MS: As long as the grammar and structure are good, it’s all about story for me. What I mean by that is, I want a good book that I can lose myself in, immerse myself into its characters and enjoy timeout in a world that someone else has created. I read a lot of books in different genres – literary and easy read, but it’s the story that I think defines good writing.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

MS: Write the book you always wanted to read.

* * *

MEL SHERRATT is a writer of murder and mayhem…and a hoarder of killer heels. Taunting the Dead, her standalone crime thriller, was an Amazon Kindle Top 100 Bestseller of 2012.

Mel Sherratt Online: Website (new URL) | Website (current URL) | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

Interview: Brian McGilloway

I am pleased to present Author Interview #4 with Brian McGilloway! Part of the Partners in Crime blog tour.

Describe yourself in 5 words:

BM: Husband, father, former teacher, writer.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

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Synopsis: Just before Christmas, the body of a sixteen-year-old girl is found along the train tracks on the outskirts of a small town. As Detective Lucy Black investigates the teenager’s tragic last hours in search of clues to her death, she realizes that some of the victim’s friends may have been her most dangerous enemies—and that whoever killed her is ready to kill again. Haunted by the memory of a case gone wrong, and taunted by a killer on the loose, Lucy finds herself pitted against a lethal opponent hiding in plain sight.
Someone You Know, Brian McGilloway

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
— The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

BM: I was a crime reader before a crime writer so I love the genre. There’s something immensely satisfying in a good thriller and, for me, the thrill lies not in the violence, but in the solving of the crime and the assertion of some form of order at the end. Mind you, from Greek Tragedy onwards, we’ve been concerned with stories that move from order to disorder to new order – especially where that disorder is caused by the killing of an individual. Thriller writing is the modern iteration of that concept.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

BM: That’s an interesting question. It all comes down to ‘value’, which is, of course, completely subjective. Everyone values different things. Good writing for me is writing which somehow expresses an emotion or feeling which I recognize but would never have been able to put into words so succinctly. I think we all have those moments of recognition when reading – those moments that connect us through our shared thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

BM: I’m in no position to be giving advice to others! My number one rule for me is to write everyday when I am working on a book. Stopping for a while makes me begin to doubt what I’ve written. If I just keep the momentum going, I’ll always come back at the end and redraft anyway.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

BM: I’m online at www.brianmcgilloway.com, on Twitter @BrianMcGilloway and on Facebook. And I’m always delighted to hear from fellow crime fiction readers.

* * *

BRIAN McGILLOWAY is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of DS Lucy Black thrillers and Inspector Devlin mysteries. He won the BBC Tony Doyle Award 2014 and is a father of four.

Brian McGilloway Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Write About What You Know

WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW
Guest Post by Benjamin King

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Image by Frank Miller

I wrote about angels. I wrote about the Roman Empire. I wrote about hoboes riding trains. No one understood what I was trying to say. Then I remembered a Mark Twain essay I had read long ago and dug it out and studied it again. It’s a convincing argument that William Shakespeare never wrote the masterful dramas attributed to his name. He couldn’t have written them, and Mark Twain explained why.

A short paraphrase of what he said is, “A butcher can’t talk lawyer talk and make it sound convincing.” Whoever wrote the plays was intimately familiar with the inner workings of the royal courts of Europe, and that didn’t mean butchering calves by the Thames River or holding horses outside a London theatre that catered to rabble, which were William Shakespeare’s only qualifications.

Twain was right you know. And I realized he was right and started writing about what I knew – really knew – and it paid off. I was fortunate in that respect, because the things I knew best were exciting things and things that a lot of authors write about anyway. And yet, many of them get it wrong.

You see I was raised on a small mountain farm that might better be described as a mini-ranch. Horses, ponies, mules, cows, pigs, rabbits, chickens, squirrels – every animal, tame or wild – was either a playmate or a possible target. I had two other lucky circumstances that influenced me from the age of three. My parents were musicians and readers. My father read strictly westerns because he also loved guns.

Everyone has absorbing interests – things we are deeply involved in – and those are the things we learn the most about. For me it was horses, guns, and guitars, in that exact order. As an adult I’ve loaded, shot, and cleaned hundreds of firearms.

It’s hard for me to accept an author of Larry McMurtry’s caliber allowing one of his principle protagonists to carry a Colt’s Dragoon revolver for 800 pages without ever having him load it with the necessary black powder, lead balls, and percussion caps. I don’t think Larry knew the difference between that particular weapon and one that shoots pre-packaged metallic cartridges, or maybe he thought no one else did.

In the first book of my series about a young country singer and guitar player, When a Lady Lies, I use a symbol that enhances the mystery – a collection of old pistols. Those guns are in my mother-in-law’s gun cabinet. I’ve cleaned them and shot them and can describe one so accurately you feel it in your hand. In the sequel, I switch to percussion pistols and have both the victim and the falsely accused protagonist portrayed as Civil War era gun enthusiasts. I own one of those, too.

I was lucky. I absorbed volumes of exciting material without really trying. It was part of my environment. If you want to write murder mysteries or psychological thrillers about guns and the way they operate and feel and have no real experience to draw on, there is a ton of online material you could read. But I suggest you take the time to go to a gun store, explain your situation to the owner, and have him let you hold a real one in your hand. It’s a powerful feeling. Who knows? You may end up on the firing range, which would enhance your writing to the Nth power.

* * *

BENJAMIN KING is a writer, world traveler, sculptor, and professional musician. He had his first country song published in 1971 and followed that with numerous magazine articles, a volume of short stories, and a future-fantasy novel. His colorful characters are drawn from the eventful life he has pursued.

Benjamin King Online: Website | SW | FacebookAmazon | Goodreads | Interview

Interview: Sylvia Massara

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I am pleased to present Author Interview #1 with Sylvia Massara: a multi-genre novelist based in Sydney, Australia, who dabbles in wacky love affairs, drama and murder!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

SM: Creative, passionate, generous, loyal, fiery.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your latest book:

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I tried very hard to control my temper as I fixed my work colleague and friend, Guy Dobbs, with a look that could vapourise a planet in a millisecond.

“Who the hell invited Smythe along?”

Dobbs winced at my enraged tone and did his best to give me a placating smile. “Now, Mia, you know you agreed to be good where Smythe’s concerned. Don’t forget he saved your life.”

I banged down my cup and the items on his desk rattled. We were having coffee in the security office of Rourke International Hotel Sydney, where Dobbs was the security manager.

“Honestly, I can’t believe you’re standing up for the guy. It was his friggin’ job to save my life,” I exclaimed indignantly. “Besides, I was the one who once again had to solve the case for the cops because they were too stupid to listen to me in the first place!”

Dobbs did not respond immediately but regarded me for a while until I had time to settle down. He knew me too well to try to push a point when it concerned my archenemy, Detective Sergeant Phil Smythe of the Kings Cross police.

I took a deep breath in order to calm myself. There was no point in losing my temper with Dobbs since the whole thing was now a fait accompli. I therefore remarked after a few moments of silence, “I just don’t understand it, Dobbs. What made you invite him on the cruise?”

Dobbs’s large, dark eyes gazed back at me from a chocolate brown, crinkled face topped by grey, frizzy hair. He spoke carefully lest he should provoke another outburst from me. “Mr Rourke told me I should invite someone in his place seeing as he couldn’t make it,” he explained in his deep voice with a marked American accent.

— Excerpt from The South Pacific Murders: A Mia Ferrari Mystery, by Sylvia Massara

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

— Excerpt from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

SM: I know, it’s not a mystery, but it makes good reading :)

Good reading, yes! What do you enjoy about the genre in which you write?:

SM: Although I am a multi­-genre author, I do enjoy murder and mayhem more than anything else. I love the suspense, “who dunnit” type of novels that keep readers turning the pages.

I love murder and mayhem as well ;) What is your definition of “good writing”?

SM: Aside from having a manuscript without typos and grammatical errors, my definition of good writing is when a story moves along to its conclusion with characters and situations driving the storyline and not being used for “filler.” Everything that happens in the story must have a reason for it—such as “showing” not “telling” something about the characters—and it must drive the story to its conclusion.

Please share your #1 tip for writers in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre:

SM: Keep the main storyline moving without introducing “fluff” or “filler” material. A mystery/suspense/thriller needs to keep the reader from putting it down.

* * *

SYLVIA MASSARA is a multi-genre novelist based in Sydney, Australia, who dabbles in wacky love affairs, drama and murder (or all three) over coffee. She has a soft spot for older female protagonists with an attitude who are on the cusp of 40 years and beyond. This is seen in her wacky, romantic comedies, and most recently, in her mystery novels.

Sylvia Massara Online: Website | Blog | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

The Carrier, by Preston Lang

NEW RELEASE SPOTLIGHT
The Carrier, by Preston Lang

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Genre: Crime Fiction
Published by: 280 Steps
Publication Date: March 2014
Number of Pages: 250

Synopsis: It’s a bad idea for a drug courier to pick up strange women in roadside bars. Cyril learns this lesson when the girl he brings back to his motel room points a gun at him. But Willow isn’t the only one after the goods that Cyril’s been hired to pick up. A fast talking sex-offender and his oversized neighbor are also on the trail, as is Cyril’s sinister brother, Duane. Willow and Cyril soon form an uneasy alliance based on necessity, lust, and the desire for a quick payday. But with so many dangerous players giving chase, will they nab their package?

Excerpt:

They kept walking, past the main business district and into the darker residential streets. Cyril’s motel was off a side road somewhere close by. He hoped he could find it in the dark, but everything looked very much alike. First he led Willow down the wrong street that ended at an empty lot.

“This is where you’re staying?” she asked.

“I think I’m on the next street.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were leading me down a dark alley on purpose.”

“Why, so you could shoot me?”

Willow smiled. They found his motel, a cheap little two-story chain: the Firstway Inn. He led her to his door, and she watched calmly while he opened it and turned on the light. The room smelled flat and dusty, and only one of the three overhead light bulbs worked.

Willow jumped on Cyril, wrapping her legs around him, toppling him onto the bed. She kissed his face and his neck then worked inside his mouth, biting his inner lip. They tore off their clothes quickly and tumbled off the bed, fucking like they were the only humans left in a world full of zombies. It was a fantasy Willow had sometimes—there’s nothing else out there except mindless death, and we are probably infecting each other. Cyril seemed to get it.

She felt a little lost afterwards—a base note of pleasure under a single shot of panic. Jesus, she thought, I could fall for a guy like this. And then she put on her clothes. When she got to her shoes, Cyril sat up.

“Where are you going?”

“Nowhere.”

Cyril started to get dressed.

“You don’t have to get dressed,” she said, “I just like to have clothes on.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Thank you.”

Willow put on her jacket, and then she pointed her gun at Cyril.

“I’m going to need all the money,” she said.

* * *

PRESTON LANG is a freelance writer, living and working in New York City. The Carrier is his debut novel.  

Preston Lang Online: Website | Twitter | Amazon | Interview | Blog Tour