Review: The Crime Interviews, Vol. 3

The Crime Interviews, Volume 3
Len Wanner

Blurb: If you’re interested in learning about how to write, how to be a writer, or about the writing life in general, what greater resource and pleasure than frank, revealing interviews with some of today’s best-selling authors?

Len Wanner’s acclaimed interview series continues with VOLUME THREE, featuring in-depth interviews with twelve of the leading lights of Scottish crime fiction and with a foreword by William McIlvanney, creator of Jack Laidlaw and the Godfather of tartan noir.

The interviews –

– Peter May talks about writing for television, repairing bad dialogue, researching his China thrillers with the help of the Ministry of Propaganda, and receiving international exposure with a book no British publisher wanted to publish, THE BLACKHOUSE.

– Charles Cumming talks about the rewards of a degree in literature, refining expositional storytelling, researching state secrets at home and abroad, writing the great international spy novel, and being recruited by the SIS.

– Campbell Armstrong talks about going abroad to write about home, giving up on teaching creative writing, getting over the paralysis of a bad sentence, going on stake-outs, giving us his memoirs, and getting commissioned to novelise Indiana Jones.

– Caro Ramsay talks about teaching herself how to write with her back against the wall, learning how to write crime fiction from agents and editors, teaching herself how to compartmentalise, and learning how to finish a book.

– Aline Templeton talks about diving in and out of writing, writing a series of cosy police procedurals based on a subterranean cave system, living in the city yet writing about the countryside, and discovering that a fictional protagonist is a living person.

– Lin Anderson talks about the transferrable skills of teaching mathematics and calculating a career in creative writing, the constants of writing about a female serial protagonist, the variables of forensic science, and the lessons of fictional and factual near-death situations.

– Alex Gray talks about the rewards of writing about a policeman twenty years younger than her, returning to education, researching as she writes, writing about what she doesn’t know, and writing rather than retiring.

– Gillian Galbraith talks about learning to nurture her talent for the uncollaborative nature of writing, letting go of her legal career to write about the limits of institutional justice, and leaving her comfort zone as a way of finding her voice and writing about her home.

– GJ Moffat talks about what remains of his initial impulses and his international influences, the rules broken in most legal thrillers, and the rewards of letting his lawyer-cum-judge-cum-executioner break the rules of his day job.

– Craig Robertson talks about the joys of fiction in and after journalism, the pleasure of writing for himself, the pressure of writing for others, the need for brutality in editing, and the greed for brutality in writing.

– Ken McClure talks about the science of storytelling, the survival rate of a series of medical thrillers, the appeal of being his own agent, his second coming as an e-book bestseller, and his involvement in the identification of Gulf War Syndrome.

– And Frederic Lindsay talks about the best ways to propel and pause plots, invent manner along with matter, make the familiar strange with the weight of experience, and exhaust potential to energise narrative.

Review: I may be accused of bias toward all things Scottish, but I certainly enjoyed this third outing of Wanner’s interviews as much or more than the other two. Interviews depend largely on the subjects, of course, and there’s a great bunch here. But the real important part comes from asking the right questions and not always settling for the answers you get without probing a little more and that’s where Wanner truly shines. Well worth the price — a master class in different approaches to writing well.

~ K. A. Laity

John The Aussie Interviews Kenneth Cain

Interviewer: John The Aussie

Author: Kenneth W. Cain, writer of These Trespasses (The Saga of I) and it’s sequel Grave Revelations (The Saga of I).

John: Kenneth thanks for taking the time to do an interview with me, can I call you Ken?

 Ken Cain: Absolutely. My pleasure.

John: So let’s jump straight into how you got into writing horror, I believe we can blame it on your grandfather?

Ken Cain: Well he certainly played a large role in storytelling. He used to tell fantastic stories of cowboys and Indians, the Old West. These were the sort of things that sparked a young mind. But, it was actually one of the tellings of Baba Yaga that first got me interested in the darker fiction.

John: The Russian Folklores?  An interesting spark, which of the tales still remains at the forefront of your mind?

Ken Cain: Yes, that is the one. The story had actually been told several times over the years, with each telling a little different I suppose, but at the heart it is a story of a witch that lives in a hut that has chicken legs.

As for my Grandfather’s tales, the one that sticks with me is one he told of shooting two men and killing them in cold blood. He cried telling that one, so I believe it might have been true, as this was back in the coal mining years and he was a Union leader for the miners.

Most of his tales were derived from pieces of his life, though, that had merely been stretched to tall tales.

John: A good yarn keeps the young enthralled, and the details are kept fresh in the mind.  You’re also a family man, a wife and a couple of younglings, how do they respond to the horror portrayed from your own tales?

Ken Cain: My children are very proud of me. They like to tell their teachers and friends their dad is a writer. They take my bookmarks in and give them to everyone. My wife has been my backbone. When I decided to write full-time she pushed me and every time I talked of giving up she was there to push me onward. She is the sole reason I am still writing today.

As for how they are portrayed in my stories, my tales are little pieces of me. I detail many of my own fears in my stories in one way or another, slight or full on, but they are there in my thoughts always.

John: Behind every great man…  I’ve enjoyed a few of your book, but I’ve lured you in to talk a little about yourself and your relationship with your book “These Trespasses, Book One: The Saga of I”.  Set in days very shortly after ‘shit hits the fan’ we find ourselves reading how a small band of survivors join together to get the hell out of dodge, only to be presented with strategic obstacles…  Marty inadvertently become the decision maker of the group and is hit with trials of personal conflicts and group conflicts pretty heavily.

Was it hard to write about Marty and his conflicts, more so about his family?

Ken Cain: Well, Marty is really a big part of myself and my own struggles. I am very close to my brother and we are separated by a great distance, so I was thinking about him one day when I saw this video about the Bot fly. It was terrifying and so I put it all together. But his brother Jake is also a big part of me, so there is a bit of inner war being shown there.

I wouldn’t say it was difficult to write about his family, though. When I write I come up with an idea and dial into that world. From there I become a bystander and let my characters show me the things they want to share. I don’t let them hold anything back and so actually it was quite easy. I grew very attached to that little group of people.

John: Andy, the hot-headed youngster.  Bernard the loyal ox.  Ike, the semi-useful asshole. Were these survivors a part of yourself as well?

Ken Cain: Definitely! When I was Andy’s age I thought I knew everything. Turns out I was wrong. And I am loyal to those I care about, and as was the case with Nancy and Bernard I nearly needed to be struck over the head to see my wife was interested in me. As for Ike, who doesn’t like to be a bit of a smartass? It has a time and place, though. But the main goal with Ike is to show someone can change…and he does, to some degree.

John: Nancy, Sheila and Sandy are also very different in character, though each loyal to their own cause, it got me wondering if this was a part of yourself or tendencies you see in your wife?

Ken Cain: They all have pieces of her as well as other significant women in my lives. More so, of significant scenes in my memories of these women. Sheila’s plight to push Marty onward is of course my wife pushing me to write. I guess that is what makes it so personal when you write and shows you how attached you can become to these characters.

In saying that, though, it reminds me of something I was once told. To make an interesting story you have to make it personal. You have to dig deep and expose your inner self, get “naked’ to a degree with your feelings.

John: It truly does bring out some deeper emotions.

How did you get the concept for the ‘monsters’ of These Trespasses?

Ken Cain: That actually came from a nightmare I had. I took what I was given and I added in some details from The Creature From The Black Lagoon (my first 3D movie). Then I looked at what I had and said, “Something isn’t right.” This was when I decided the mouth needed to go on top.

John: The cover does the creatures justice.  “Project Grasshopper” truly finds some groundbreaking findings, but as always with a catch, as there always is with the military.

Jake and Marty, while Marty being overshadowed most of his life by Jake, have a strong bond, even until the end.  Yet other relationships blossom throughout the book, you mentioned Bernard and Nancy earlier, yet Marty finds himself in a conflict of falling for someone he believes is too soon after losing his wife and daughter in an unfortunate disaster.  We also find relationships (and sanity) are not quite what they seem.  The development of betrayal is thrown upon us, which walks the readers along with the group into “The Hive”.

How did ‘The Hive’ develop and all its tweaks?  Was it created from the mind of ‘I’ or something that had developed elsewhere?

Ken Cain: Well, I always knew there was going to be a hive in the story. I had predetermined that much. It was Marty who exposed what it looked like to me and I thought, “Hell, why not?” It was a pretty outrageous idea. Then I put it all together and things started to work out thank to I, as to how the hive worked and why. Together, the brothers really put that part together for me and when I explained this scene to my artist Philip R. Rogers I was a bit nervous, but he knocked it out of the park I think.

 John: Jake and his development of the name I, had me stop in my tracks and thought “Brilliant!”.   Where’d did this idea form?

 Ken Cain: Thanks! I tried to bring out a really conceited character, one very full of himself and laying it on thick. He had to be the sort of character who wouldn’t be able to understand why something he wanted wasn’t being satisfied. So I actually struggled with a name for a while before I came up with the Infinite. Then it was the monster who said, “I am not going to let you call me that.” I guess he is a lazy creature because he shortened it to just ‘I’.  I was impressed myself by the guy.

Of course, it also fit in well with the religious themes hidden in the story, which are shown in more detail in the second book.

John: I gotta admit, I am yet to read the Grave Revelations as of yet.

Ken Cain: People tend to enjoy the ‘I’ depicted in that book a lot more.

John: I hope to join their ranks, and hope to convince you to come back for another interview once I’ve breezed through the pages.  I gotta ask one last question before finishing up however.  Naked writing, is it for you?

Ken Cain: Thanks. I would look forward to it. Naked writing might not be so enjoyable as pleather and bare skin conflict. But, being naked (transparent) with yourself to some degree, showing people what’s inside, is what writing is all about.

John: A great answer, thanks for your time Ken.

Ken Cain: I much appreciate the opportunity. Thanks!

You can purchase These Trespasses on Amazon.


Interview with author L. Vera

Marcia's Book Talk

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Luis Vera, author of the novels THE HORROR SUICIDE SHOW and DIARY OF A MADMAN, and welcome him to my blog. Welcome Luis!

Q: Have any life experiences lead you to write your books?

A: Not really. I had always been interested in reading and writing, early in my life. What pushed me to publish stories, was a bad relationship. I wrote one story and let her read it. Worst critique ever. Told me I couldn’t write and I was wasting my time. Then I won a small contest online with a similar story and I’ve been hooked ever since. Oh, and she’s gone.

Q: Have you been writing for a long time?

A: I’ve been a “Writer” for little over two years. I have some stuff I’ve written when I was younger, but I don’t count that stuff.

Q: Are there any…

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