An Interview with Mark Tilbury

It is my absolute pleasure to be hosting Mark Tilbury on my blog – I sent him a few questions and he’s very kindly answered them. Mark is the author of The Revelation Room and The Eyes of the Accused, I read the first almost in one sitting it’s that gripping (it normally takes me ages to read a book!) The second is still a delight to come but I know I’m going to enjoy it because Mark’s writing style is fluent and edge of the seat, with shades of my favourite author of all-time, Stephen King. Grab a coffee and have a read about what inspires him and the writing process. Take it away, Mark…

The-Revelation-Room-Complete-200x300.jpgTell us about the book(s) you’ve written. What was the first seed of an idea you had for your book? How did it develop?

The idea behind the Ben Whittle investigation books was to try to create a character that was not your typical sort of private investigator. He was thrown into the role by the kidnap of his father by a religious cult. Ben just worked in the office at Whittle Investigations. A shy, insecure boy with a traumatic past. I didn’t want the usual super sleuth who cuts his way through a minefield of clues to slay the dragon at the end. I wanted to create something much more subtle than that. To show that the ordinary guy, who is full of self-doubt and lacking in confidence, can also overcome the odds and stand up to evil.

How would you describe your writing process? Do you outline or are you (like me) a ‘write the first line and let’s see where it goes’ type of person?

I used to write and see where it took me. I quite liked the excitement of discovery, finding hidden trails and seeing what obstacles lie in wait for my main character. Unfortunately, that lead to too many blind alleys, and it seemed to take longer to unravel the mistakes than it did to sit down and write a proper plan. So for my third novel, which should be out later this year, I planned it meticulously. I know I’m probably tempting fate, but it seemed to go without a hitch. First draft written in ten weeks. It’s also a departure from the first two books. More of a supernatural thriller. Very dark and emotional. Somewhere I really want to explore in future books.

How has writing books changed you?

I’ve become a lot more focused on the job in hand. I plan more than I used to, although the germ of a novel still tends to spring from one of the main characters (usually the bad guy) speaking to me in my head. I’m also a lot more aware of what works and what doesn’t. It’s like a huge learning curve. Also, feedback helps enormously, and I’ve learnt so much from people’s comments, both good and bad. Overall, I’m much more aware of the need to respect the art of writing and give my very best when I write if I want to share it with other people.

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What do you keep in mind as you write? An overarching question, a theme, the last line of the book?

The characters. Making sure that they act, speak and behave consistently, and that the main character follows the character arc I have set for him/her.

Is there an aspect of writing that you favour over others, e.g. dialogue, setting, or character? Is there one that is more difficult for you?

Dialogue. I really love writing dialogue and putting words into my characters mouths. Or do they put thoughts into my head? I’m never quite sure which way around that is! I can only really get going with a plot when the characters speak to me. Once I get the flow and the rhythm of their voices, I’m pretty happy. The rest of it I find quite hard work. Like anyone, there are many areas I still need to improve on, but the dialogue comes more naturally to me than the rest.

Tell us about the funniest/craziest/most interesting thing that has happened to you as a writer.

It’s something that happens right out of the blue. One of the characters will speak to me in my head before I’ve even got a story to put them in. For example, in the Revelation Room, long before it was the Revelation Room, Edward Ebb, the bad guy, spoke quite clearly. He said, “you’re going down the rabbit hole where all the burnt bunnies go.” I quite literally had to work the rest of the story out from there. Another guy spoke to me recently. He said, “What doesn’t kill you will make you wish it had.” I have no idea what story he’s from, because I haven’t even thought of it yet. I know his name’s Peter King and he’s a narcissist. It’s now up to me to fill in the blanks.

What would you tell aspiring writers today?

To always believe in yourself and to never stop learning. Listen to advice, constructive criticism and anything else of value that comes your way.

Mark’s books are available on Amazon and, if you want to find out more, here’s his stalk links:

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/294Gdd0
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/marktilburyauthor
Twitter profile: http://www.twitter.com/MTilburyAuthor
Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/marktilbury

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Peter James, Brighton and the Paranormal!

It is with great pleasure that I have fellow Brighton author, Peter James, on my blog today, talking about his books (of course!) but more than that, the paranormal aspect to them. And yes, that does include reference to his incredibly popular Roy Grace books! Peter is the author of some of my favourite paranormal books, and also Alchemist, which is in my top ten. Here’s the questions I asked and how Peter replied…

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The very first Peter James book I read was Alchemist. A very powerful book, it changed the way I viewed not only the pharmaceutical industry but the way in which all big industries are run. It did what all good books should – it got me thinking. The second I read was Sweet Heart, a chiller of a tale that delves into aspects of the paranormal. What inspired you to write both books?

Thank you! For Alchemist – I’ve always been interested in conspiracy theories – the idea that there is a group of people who secretly control the world! I met the head of one of our biggest pharmaceutical companies who told me that his company were busy patenting human genes and that the ultimate power in the world will lie in the hands of pharmaceutical companies. For Sweet Heart – I became interested in of past life regression and underwent it myself as an experiment and it gave me the idea for this book.

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I read in a newspaper article that The House on Cold Hill, your most recent paranormal book, released in October 2015, was inspired by true life events – can you tell us more about this?

The House On Cold Hill is very much inspired by – and modelled on – an isolated historic house in Sussex that my former wife and I bought in 1989, and lived in for a decade – which turned out to be very seriously haunted. Whilst I have never actually seen a ghost, there were things that happened at that house I really couldn’t explain. I saw on many occasions, tiny pinpricks of white light floating in the air. A medium who I used a lot during my writing of Possession, visited my house and she told me I was slightly psychic, and that is why I saw these pinpricks, and that while I was not actually seeing the entire apparition, I was picking up on some of its energy.

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We both base our books in and around Brighton (our mutual hometown). How important is location to you and why?

For me there was only ever one location for Roy Grace to be based….my hometown of Brighton. To the outsider, Brighton is a hip, beautiful seaside city, but it has a long history of darkness – right back to its roots as a smugglers village! In Regency days it gained a reputation both as a fashionable bathing resort, but in 1841 when the London-Brighton railway line opened, criminals flooded down from London, finding rich pickings and a much nicer environment than their city! They brought cock-fighting, prostitution, pick-pockets, muggers, smugglers, burglars, and gangs. Simultaneously, with the railway enabling quick access from London, many wealthy Londoners brought their mistresses down here and it became known as a place for “dirty weekends”.

Three consecutive past Chief Constables of Sussex Police have all told me that Brighton is the favoured place in the UK for first division criminals to live in. The reasons are: Firstly it has a lot of escape routes, very important to all criminals: It has the Channel ports, Eurotunnel, and Gatwick Airport just 25 minutes away. London is only 50 minutes by train. It has a major seaport on either side – Shoreham and Newhaven, perfect for importing drugs and exporting stolen cars, antiques and cash. It has the largest number of antique shops in the UK – perfect for laundering stolen goods and cash. For many recent years it held the title the Tourist Board do not like me mentioning: “Injecting Drug Death Capital of England”! It has a wealthy young population combined with the largest gay community in the UK, providing a big market for recreational drugs. It has two universities, so a big drug-taking student community. A huge number of nightclubs and a large transient population. Very importantly it has not been over-written by other writers.

One of the characters in my books, Ness Patterson, a psychic, has worked with Brighton Police in the past to solve some rather heinous crimes. How open is Roy Grace, the main protagonist of your crime novels, to using the paranormal in this way? I ask because in the very early books I remember it was suggested.

A key aspect to Roy Grace’s character is his open-minded attitude to the paranormal. This is not just in his searching for his missing wife, Sandy, but his willingness to turn to the occult when desperate on a case. I have come to realize that being open-minded to absolutely everything is a key asset for an effective homicide detective. The use of mediums by police in the USA is far more openly commonplace than it is here – but I have met many UK police officers, at all levels from Chief Constables down, who are more than prepared to talk to any sensible medium who claims to have information. As one said to me: “If I am in a desperate situation and all else has failed, I would be derelict in my duties if I failed to listen to a medium who claimed to have information.”

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I’m sure we’re all intrigued – what’s a typical writing day like for Peter James? Do you tend to do all your research before you sit down to write a book or research as you go?

My whole writing day is back to front… It is from the time when I was writing novels whilst working full time in film and television as a screen writer and producer, so I had to make my “Me time” to write. My writing day starts at 6pm in the evening, when I mix a large vodka martini, with four olives, put on some music, light up a cigar and get into a zone. I try to ensure that whatever I’m doing I leave myself time to write 1000 words 6 days a week. In terms of research – a lot I do before, but then as I progress I realise there is more I need to learn, and I’m an absolute stickler for research.

Who are your favourite authors in the paranormal genre?

Stephen King, M R James, Edgar Allan Poe.

The writing industry is a tough business and, in many ways, it is getting tougher. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

The best possible advice I can give to any aspiring writer is to read, read, read, and analyse, and write, write, write.  Writing is a craft, and any craft is improved with practice.  But most importantly is to read the most successful of the kind of works you would yourself like to write:  So if you want to be, for instance, a crime thriller writer, read the blockbusters of the past fifty years.  Analyse them, literally deconstruct them and try to figure out what made them so popular.  This is what I did when I started out.  I took the books I most admired, the ones I most wished I had written, and literally read them until I knew them inside out.

And (keeping fingers crossed!) do you plan to release any more books in the paranormal genre?

I had a great time writing The House On Cold Hill, and certainly plan to write more in this field. Possibly even a sequel!

Find Peter James on Social Media

My brand new YouTube channel: www.peterjames.com/YouTube

My website www.peterjames.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/peterjames.roygrace

Twitter: http://twitter.com/peterjamesuk

Instagram: https://instagram.com/peterjamesuk

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Something for the Weekend with Claire Stibbe

Claire B&W

Hello and welcome to the blog this dark and dreary Friday! Claire Stibbe’s is here to brighten up our day though, telling us all about her authorly self and her forthcoming book, The 9th Hour. Take it away, Claire…

Originally from England, Claire lived in Hong Kong for three years before eventually finding a second home in New Mexico, USA. Her genres include Historical Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Mystery and Suspense.

She has written two historical fiction novels, Chasing Pharaohs and The Fowler’s Snare, both set in ancient Egypt during the 18th Dynasty. She has just completed a psychological thriller, The 9th Hour, the first in the Detective Temeke series set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and published by Crooked Cat Publishers.

9th HourAfter completing The 9th Hour, finding a publisher was the hardest part. It required many hours of searching for good publishers with a good reputation and ones with open submissions. I was fortunate to have been accepted by Crooked Cat, a publisher based in Scotland. Many of their authors have been shortlisted for prestigious awards, amazing writers who have simply soured up the charts and currently enjoy bestseller status. I would say this is indeed a cattery of quality.

For me, the best part of writing is the process. Researching ideas for the first novel in the Detective Temeke series has been so much fun, especially driving around Albuquerque through all the areas Temeke and his partner, Malin would go. This book takes place in Cimarron State Park where a nine-year-old African American girl has been abducted. Temeke, a detective working for violent crimes against children is called out one early December morning to take over a case nobody wants. Why? Because former lead Detective Jack Reynolds was found dead under the bridge on Exit 230 to San Mateo. He had a gunshot wound to his head. With a new partner, a new case and a new set of wheels, Temeke takes to the roads in search of a man who keeps the body parts of his eight young victims as trophies and has a worrying obsession with the number nine.

With so many state parks here in New Mexico, the hiking trails are numerous and great places to learn about the history of the southwest. Big blue skies, palisade cliffs and all kinds of fauna only add to each scene. With the help of detectives in the local police department, this has been crucial in piecing together a serial killer’s steps. Winter’s coming . . .

The weather has been particularly stormy recently, slate-grey skies, a sheet of rain one minute and the growl of thunder the next, which has provided the right mood to give me inspiration. I’m loving the characters and the way they lead each chapter to who knows where. And yes, I do normally have a structure, only this time it all went out of the window.

It’s all David Temeke’s fault. His dry wit often goes for the jugular, rubbing the department up the wrong way. Unit Commander Hackett is clearly suspicious of Temeke, an African/British ex-pat, and has reluctantly assigned him a new east coast transfer, Malin Santiago. It’s a high profile case where her Hispanic/Norwegian roots are a valuable asset to the team. Can’t say why. You’ll just have to read the book. Only, Temeke believes that Santiago lacks the necessary experience for such a case which is adding a considerable strain to their professional relationship. Not to mention her physical attraction to him which is about as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party.

9th breakfastSo this afternoon as I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop, I was this close to writing Santiago a great scene that would change Temeke’s view of her; maybe give him something to chew over. But being despicable me, I decided to leave it as it is. Unrequited love in the Northwest Area Command is much too much fun to watch. And Malin isn’t all smiles and teeth. There’s a certain metal in her psyche that gets stronger with every book. She might have started out as a pit-dweller, but she’s sure making up for it now.

Winter’s coming . . .

All this and more in The 9th Hour, released November 17, 2015 by Crooked Cat Publishing.

Claire once ran a newspaper for two local business in Albuquerque and has also written short stories for Breakwater Harbor Books, a publisher of anthologies. The collection won Best Anthology of 2014 in the Independent Book Awards hosted by eFestival of Words. She is currently working on the second and third books in the Detective Temeke series in which she explores how even in the darkness of criminal depravity the light of faith is never entirely extinguished.

To find out more about Claire’s books, visit her website at http://www.cmtstibbe.com.

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Claire is also a member of the New Mexico Book Co-op and the Southwest Writers Association.