I received this book for free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Are your characters inspired by anyone from your life?
“It’s safe to say that none of the characters in 8 Hours to Die come from anywhere in my life. They come from a fictional parallel universe perhaps. I’m aware that sometimes authors do draw on aspects of real people to create characters, and I’ve done that myself – people I’ve met who strike me as interesting or different in some way. But hardcore criminals are in the media all the time, so you don’t have to go far to find inspiration. Mind you, most criminals are neither smart nor interesting, so you have to work with very basic raw material and build on it, inject qualities that will grab the reader and make the characters more complicated than they would be in real life.”
Are any aspects of the book autobiographical?
“Flaubert famously said: “Madame Bovary – c’est moi!” And it’s true that writers put something of themselves in each and every character, in my opinion. We have to write from the standpoint of our own existence, from who we are and what we know, so that’s not surprising. Even the bad guys contain some shred of my experiences or attitudes … The protagonist in 8 Hours to Die, has some of my character traits, just minor ones, but by and large he is just a figment of the imagination.”
How much research was involved in writing the book?
“I try to get away with as little research as possible. Books can be over-researched, and that hows on the page. Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series, says he does no research at all. In my case, however, I do investigate certain aspects of the story – in crime fiction, certain things have to ring true, such as weapons, cars, the way people speak (characters ought to sound distinctive), a certain basic degree of forensic detail, locations. I do a reasonable amount of research into this last area as the story has to occur in an authentic setting, not just with physical description but with a sense of identification that impacts on the reader in the same way a character does. Most readers like to recognise a location in a story – it helps draw them into this fictional world.”
What is your favourite thing about writing in your genre?
“In writing crime fiction, my favourite thing is the pleasure of a plot twist or a surprise of some kind that seems to come to me from nowhere … That feeling of ‘Yes!’ when I can see how the story can progress after such a revelation. I guess you’d call it an epiphany. But you know, when you live with characters day in, day out, such surprises spring from a part of their world, a world you have created even if you don’t know it fully, so it makes sense that this happens… You ask yourself, ‘What would the character do in this situation?’ and the answer’s in there somewhere. You just have to find it, or wait for it to find you. The other favourite thing is getting an ending that really works. Which is difficult.”
What are you reading at the moment?
“At present I’m reading a crime novel by James McClure, a Scottish writer, called The Song Dog. I just plucked it from a bookshelf. It is set in South Africa. He writes very well; he was brought up on SA and it shows in his command of language and culture.”
What is your daily writing routine like?
“Usually I write for an hour or so in the morning,then again in the afternoon sometime. I used to write 6 or more hours a day, but I’ve scaled back. I no longer feel the need to produce 2000 words a day, as I once did. But I spend a lot of time, too much really, thinking about the book, what happens next, where is the next surprise coming from, and so on. If I get a good idea I’ll usually write that straightaway, before I forget it! I once dreamed a whole crime novel which seemed to me to be astonishing, so real and convincing … but I didn’t get it on paper immediately and now it’s gone forever.”
What’s the biggest thrill you’ve had as an author?
“My biggest thrill as an author was seeing the galley proofs of my first novel, back in 1982 … But in more recent times, I have had the opportunity to meet great crime writers from both Australia and overseas, includingPeter Corris, Peter Temple, Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, Gabrielle Lord, Shane Maloney, Elmore Leonard, Michael Dibdin, Michael Connelly, Andrew Vachss, Martin Cruz Smith, P.D. James. I was once on a panel with her at a writers festival, and was able to greet her by saying, “How do you do, Baroness James?” Not many people can lay claim to that.”
Who is your favourite fictional character?
“I guess my favourite fictional character is Philip Marlowe, the first true hard-boiled anti-hero. All modern crime fiction comes from him in some way. Chandler really got the ball rolling with him.”
What is your most treasured book?
“My most treasured book? That’s a hard one; there are so many. But I’ll settle for The Great Gatsby. Beautifully written by a deeply flawed genius, it is so moving and evocative, with a compelling dark side too.”
If you could work with any author who would it be?
“An author I’d like to work with? Hmmm – James Lee Burke, probably. Dave Robicheaux is my idea of a dedicated cop with more problems than he knows how to handle, yet he manages to emerge from his nightmarish exploits with a noble quality. Burke is a powerful writer and i could learn a lot from him, I’m sure.”
How have your personal experiences affected your writing?
“Like most people I’ve had lots of ups and downs in my life, nothing too tragic, but enough to give me some perspective and a grasp of the difficulties life presents to us, which in turn helps to forge characters who are ambiguous and complicated, who actually come from somewhere we can all recognise … Life is rarely plain sailing and this is a great help to a writer.”
What inspired you to write your first book?
“My first book was a novel about the Vietnam war, called Token Soldiers. I was in the army during the period of National service in Australia, and while I did not go to Vietnam I was close to a lot of soldiers who did. I thought, when I get out I’m going to make something of this time, and my inspiration was Norman Mailer’s classic ‘lost patrol’ novel, The Naked and the Dead.”
What are your current projects?
“At present I’m engaged in writing a crime novel about a homicide detective investigating a couple of cold case murders. I like the idea of past events coming back to the present … There are many unsolved murders, and I imagine the satisfaction in cracking them is immense. It’s a personal as well as a crime story, as the detective has his own issues that continue to plague him, including having a child who was abducted many years earlier, and who has not been found. So it’s about his quest to deal with that, and other things, while he is investigating the murders that I find interesting. I’m at the halfway point, and I have a bit of an idea how it’s going to turn out. But I have to get to that point first!”
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