Thank you so much Rod for agreeing to do a Q&A session for my blog! My pleasure – thank you for having me!
I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? What was the inspiration for Black Reed Bay? I’ve always been a big reader but I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer – I come from a working-class background and, simply put, I didn’t know anyone who did a job like that. I was inspired to try writing by a combination of a former boss of mine who was writing a book and encouraged me to give it a go and was inspired when I discovered James Ellroy’s books. I’d never read anything like them at the time, and it made me want to be able to grip a reader the way his books did me.
Black Reed Bay was inspired by the real-life crimes attributed to the Long Island Serial Killer. I read some of the news coverage at the time, in around 2012, and there were some similarities with the book I was working on at the time (my debut novel, The Dark Inside) in terms of the bleakness of the locale and the hints of institutional corruption. I followed the case intermittently for a number of years (it’s still unsolved) and finally felt ready to write about it a couple of years ago.
Did you want to raise awareness to the victims of The Long Island Killer? Not necessarily – I feel like the media coverage of the case has done and will do a better job of that than I ever could (although if the book does raise awareness in any small way, then that’s a bonus) but I was very wary of writing about the case because of the devastating impact the murders have had on so many lives – both the victims and the family members who are left behind – and I wanted to make sure I could write the book without being disrespectful to those affected, or inadvertently adding to their suffering in any way.
How easy was it to write from a female point of view with DS Casey Wray? I didn’t find that aspect too tricky. My previous book, Blood Red City, featured a female protagonist, and I enjoyed bringing her to life. Obviously, as a writer, when you approach any character you want to make them credible and authentic, so I was doubly aware of that when writing a female character, but one of the things I wanted to do with Casey was to make her a normal person, who just happens to do an extraordinary job, so that allowed me to draw on elements of people I’ve know from all walks of life, to help create her – in terms of her sense of humour, for example, or her tenacity or self-doubt.
If Black reed Bay was turned into a movie/tv adaptation, who would you like to play DS Casey Wray and David Cullen? I always struggle with these questions because I don’t really ‘see’ my characters when I’m writing them – I’m almost watching the story unfold through their eyes – so I guess I just need to choose actors I enjoy watching. I’ve always liked Mark Ruffalo and I think he’s got that ‘everyman’ quality that would suit Cullen. For Casey, I think Toni Collette is an incredible actress, with the ability to portray strength and vulnerability all at the same time, so she would be perfect for Casey.
As a child growing up, were you an avid reader? Do you have a favourite book from your childhood? Yes, I was always a big reader – even down to the old cliché of reading with a torch under my duvet so I could cram a bit more reading time in. Like a lot of people, Enid Blyton’s books were the first ones to really grab me, so I read all the Famous Five and Secret Seven books I could get my hands on. The first ‘grown up’ book I read was when I was ten or eleven, my sister’s copy of The Firm by John Grisham, and I can still remember now how tense it made me feel – I was absolutely gripped.
What is your favourite book you read in 2021, and why? Since 2022 has just started, I’ll base this on 2021! I read a lot of great books last year, but my favourite was probably True Crime Story by Joseph Knox. I really enjoyed Knox’s previous trilogy, but even though this was a bit of a departure from those books, the trademarks that set his writing apart were all there, and I loved the oral-history style of the book and the way he weaved himself into the story.
Do you have a favourite author or favourite book of all time? I’ve got dozens of favourite authors, but I’ll stick with James Ellroy for my choice here, for the reasons mentioned above. My favourite book of his is The Big Nowhere – it’s the story where he really found his chops and established the three-protagonist structure he’d use for his more famous works. Even though it’s a gritty noir, it’s written with real heart, and at its core is a love story (even though the author would probably dispute that!) with one of the most poignant endings I’ve ever read (and my favourite in all of fiction).
If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why? Wow, there are so many I could list here. JFK’s assassination would be up there, because it fascinates me, and knowing all the things we know now, I’d be looking in about fifteen directions at once to see what really happened…
You can pick 4 famous people, dead or alive, for a dinner party, who would you pick and why? Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Hunter S. Thompson. You’d have arguments for years, and HST stirring it all up.
When you’re writing do like silence or do you listen to music? I don’t have a rule on this, depends on the mood I’m in. Sometimes it’s silence, sometimes it’s anything from instrumental to Metallica.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Writing advice? Read your work aloud to yourself. It’s the best way to catch clunky dialogue and all sorts of other duff bits of writing. If you mean life advice, I’d go with…stretch more as you get older!
What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever received? My kids? Am I allowed to say that? Or is that too saccharine? If we’re talking material things, probably dinner at a rooftop hotel in Miami just after our wedding. Best views, best food, best cocktails I’ve ever had!
Are you currently writing another book? I’m always writing another book in one way or another, even if it’s just letting ideas develop in my head. I’ve not been as productive as I would’ve hoped over the last couple of years, thanks to lockdowns and homeschooling, so I am hoping to ramp up again in 2022, and there is a side project I’ve had on the back burner that I’m slowly re-working. But I would like to start work on a new manuscript this year – maybe that should be my new year’s resolution…!
As always, I must say a huge thank you to Rod Reynolds for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions,
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