What do you know about the Gulf literary scene and local writers?
Well, I'm certainly learning more about it each time I come. This will be my third time at the festival and with each trip I'm finding out more about the local authors. For example, I was surprised to discover that there is no real tradition of genre writing in this part of the world. This year at the festival I will be sharing a platform with an Arab mystery writer, which is very exciting.
How do you research a novel when you're starting off as a crime writer? Do you spend a lot of time with detectives and the police?
When I first started I had to rely on the internet and a few phone calls to the Metropolitan Police press office. Now I know a few police officers very well. They are not only a huge help when it comes to checking my manuscripts for mistakes, but they actually have very good ideas of their own. A couple of them are frustrated crime writers!
You have recently co-written a children's book Triskellion, the extreme opposite of your Tom Thorne novels. Did you purposely choose something lighter?
In fact, the children's books weren't really any lighter. There is probably a higher body count than there is in the average Thorne novel. Of course there were areas I could not go into with the children's books but they were written in much the same way.
You've worked as an actor in the past. Has that helped in developing your characters?
Most definitely. Getting inside a character's head is an acting job. The only difference is that you don't need to dress up. You need to make sure that your character stays consistent; that their voice is realistic. These are all tricks I picked up as an actor.
Will you ever kill off Tom Thorne and start afresh with a new protagonist?
I suppose I should not say "never" but it's certainly not going to happen any time soon. I will keep writing about him as long as he still interests me. As long as he stays unpredictable. There are many writers who have gone on with a series too long. The trick, of course, is in knowing when you have reached your sell-by date. I hope I'll know when that time comes, but I think it's a fair way off yet. I have started giving a lot of space to a new protagonist, Helen Weeks. She featured in my standalone novel, In the Dark as well as in the last Thorne novel, Good As Dead and she is also in the Thorne novel I am currently writing.
What are the most common mistakes a first-time crime writer can make?
Trying to write what they think other people will want. Just write the kind of book that you would like to read. You cannot do any more than that. If others want to read it too, so much the better. And try not to concentrate on the blood and gore. That stuff is easy. What is hard is making a reader care about your characters.
Have you ever thought of bringing out a collection of your short stories?
One day, perhaps, but as of now I simply do not have enough stories. I do enjoy writing them, especially right before starting work on a new novel. It's a good way to get the writing muscles loose. That said, I think it's harder to write a great short story than it is a good novel.
- If I wasn't doing this, I would be bored.
- A person who's had a big influence on my life is my wife.
- A fictional character after my own heart Hannibal Lecter.
- A word or expression that I use a lot the F word.
- Stuff that I always travel with iPod, book, murder weapon.