Saturday, 27 August 2016

Interview with Ed James

It’s time for another interview, and this time I have been chatting to Ed James, self-published author of the DC Scott Cullen police procedurals as well as Snared, which was published by Thomas & Mercer.  They will also be releasing two DI Fenchurch books this year, and he recently published a PC Craig Hunter book.

You gave up your day job in IT to write full time (just as I did).  Did it ever feel like a risky move?

Hell yeah! And it felt like that for about eighteen months. Still get shivers if my monthly income goes below a certain level… But I don’t regret doing it.

I took the plunge kind of by accident. I’d been working in London on a huge migration project, and I was in charge of the data migration team, which was running into serious difficulties. None of it my fault, I hasten to add.

During my time there, my book income had exploded from about £900 a month to over four grand. Then around Christmas time, an agent approached me, Allan Guthrie, who’s also a novelist I greatly admired. 

I wasn’t enjoying being away from home every week and I managed to secure a contract back in Edinburgh, luckily for the same amount of money. I took a week to see if I’d actually be productive writing full-time and it went really well, finishing an outline for the first Fenchurch novel, though it had vampires in it… Anyway, I lasted three days at the job before I started getting a really sore back and I had to quit. I’ve not looked back…

What are the main differences between self-publishing and having a team like Thomas & Mercer behind you?

On the self-publishing side, or indie author as we like to call ourselves now, you’re in charge of everything. You’re your own publisher. So as well as writing the books, you’ve got to market them, get covers done, organise and pay for editing. With T&M, I don’t have to worry about any of that, other than working with editors and approving covers, really. The marketing is all taken care of and that’s T&M’s great advantage – they can direct market to everyone who’s got a Kindle.

The plus side of being an indie author is you can set your own schedule. I finished up editing a book with my friend last weekend and I published it on Monday. With T&M, and they’re very quick compared to traditional publishers, it takes about seven months from finishing development editing to publication, something I’m not used to. 

On the T&M side, there’s usually some lead time between submitting that first draft and starting dev editing, something I maybe don’t give myself enough of with my indie work. That means I’m cold to the book and I can take a pair of scissors to it, or more likely add in stuff that’s lacking…

I’m a very quick writer and T&M are being really good at calling me out on it, heh. For instance, I’ve got the first two books in the DI Fenchurch series out five weeks apart and they’re pushing for me to write the third one, which is pretty much unheard of in trad publishing circles. The only exception I can think of is the success Bookoutoure have had with Angela Marsons Kim Stone series, where the books were published very quickly.

On balance, though, I love having the blend. I know a few trad authors who’re stuck publishing just one novel a year, so everything has to go into that book, and it doesn’t seem to have a positive effect on their health… And the social side of being with a publisher can’t be ignored – the parties T&M run every year have let me meet a load of different authors, including yourself, and it helps share stories and pain points and successes. Keeping perspective is one of the hardest things when you’re locked in a room for eight hours a day with just a fat cat for company.

What’s a typical writing day?

When I’m writing, it’s usually a sprint, so getting up at seven-ish for a quick breakfast. I go to the gym four or five times a week, usually about 9, 9.15, so I take a break for that. Then I’m back at it until lunchtime. I usually work straight through to about six at night, though in winter I break to walk the dogs at about three, not a problem in the summer. I usually aim for a word count of about 7,000-10,000 when I’m doing that heavy-lifting phase, mainly so I get through it. Then I can spend a couple of weeks fixing stuff. But I tend to work in an agile way, everything’s timeboxed and focused, there’s no diversions allowed!

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Information is harder than ideas. 

Ideas I usually get from news stories. I use Feedly to subscribe to a load of newspapers and blogs, and skim through them every day saving stuff off to Evernote. I’ll sift through that selection every month or so, and find something that catches my eye and I’ll file a note in my ideas file. Other than, it can be stuff coming out of the ether that I just get struck with. Those are harder to replicate…

Information is the hard bit for police procedurals. Murder cases are pretty easy, as everyone’s seen or read hundreds of books/shows/films with a dead body on page five and a post-mortem and forensics and interviews and so on. The challenge there is in making the story as good as possible, as unique and different, with interesting characters. The book I’ve just published focuses on sex crimes, which is a harder thing to do – the victims are still alive, forensics are different and police procedure isn’t so well-documented. Luckily, I know a few officers, including a couple of serving ones, so that does help.

Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favourite?

It’s always the latest one. The first two Fenchurch books I’m particularly pleased with as I think I’m maybe pushing the genre in a slightly new direction. MISSING, the first Hunter book, is similar as I’m focusing on sex crimes and giving voice to a different set of victims. It allows for the victims voice to be heard dramatically, instead of through exposition.

Have you ever yearned to collaborate with another author, and if so, who?

I have collaborated with Al Guthrie, though the project we selected is pretty much the hardest thing either of us have ever tried to do. I did my first draft two years ago after Al had done a couple on his own and we’re still back at the drawing board stage, five drafts in. It’s been a great experience seeing how someone else works and picking up skills. Al’s very big on character, particularly motivations and what makes each person unique, but also on writing craft and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot of good tricks from the process. Just hope one day we publish the bugger!

What’s the easiest and hardest things about writing?

The easiest for me is sitting down and bashing away at a project. I can do that till my Spidey-sense starts tingling to tell me I’m working on something that’s rubbish.

The bit I enjoy most is outlining. That’s when it’s fresh and exciting and all the weird little twists and insights come out. Compare with proofing where I’m just done with that book and can’t put any more emotion into it.

The hardest bit is editing, mainly because I could just keep changing it all the time. I have to be very disciplined and go with what the editors are telling me and just keep it at that.

When you’re not writing, how do you relax?

Going to the gym, watching TV (box set stuff, not live), watching football, walking the dogs, going for drives with my girlfriend and generally just spending time with her.

Where can we find your books?

They’re all on Amazon or you could look at my website, 

Sunday, 14 August 2016

My interview with Jennifer Chase

Back across the pond, this time to California, the home of Jennifer Chase.  With her German shepherd Odin by her side, Jennifer writes the Emily Stone vigilante detective thrillers. Emily Stone doesn’t have a badge. But that hasn’t stopped her from tracking down some of the West’s most dangerous criminals.

Tell us about your latest book

I write the multiple award-winning Emily Stone Thriller Series. My latest book, Dark Pursuit, leads the vigilante detective on a case of the Tick-Tock killer that pushes her psychological and physical endurance to the extreme. Emily Stone is not your ordinary detective; in fact, she tracks down serial killers anonymously and covertly under the radar of law enforcement. The Tick-Tock killer abducts a victim and in four days, almost to the minute, he dumps the body leaving the cops with very few clues. That’s where Emily Stone comes into play using her innate abilities of investigation and criminal profiling to track the killer. It’s not without a price.  
What was the hardest part of writing it?

For me, writing a series, and keeping the storyline fresh and engaging for readers keeps me on my toes. I write all my books to stand-alone, but I have a personal competition to write bigger action scenes and twists for each book.  

Do you outline your books first, or just start writing and see where it takes you?

I outline my stories. This is a loose outline where I can change things if the storyline calls for it. I like to think of an outline as a roadmap of the book, and then I can take one of those other roads occasionally if the mood strikes me.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I have been behind the scenes as far as police departments are concerned. I know what goes on with forensics and how investigations are done from the real people that do these jobs. I spent my internship several years ago in forensic lab comparing fingerprints, studying crime scenes, and learning my way around a morgue. In addition, I’ve been threatened and stalked by a real textbook psychopath, which has inspired me to fine-tune my killers. Writing fiction allows for creative license, which is fun, but I’m keenly aware of procedures, realities, experiences, and technology. I try to give the reader the excitement of a police procedural, while striving to keep the story thrilling.  

What has been the best moment of your writing career so far?

That’s difficult to answer. It’s a great moment when you finish any book—whether it’s your first or tenth, and having readers enjoy it. When I won the gold medal for action through Readers’ Favorite for Dead Burn really was a great moment for me—it validated my work and that I can write action thrillers. I’m very grateful.

What is your ultimate writing goal?

I want to keep writing books and short stories, and adding a few new series to my arsenal. I cannot ignore the fact that I would love to have my Emily Stone Series made into films. Who wouldn’t, right? There are some things going on behind the scenes, but that’s for another interview.

Which authors do you read for inspiration?

There are so many awesome authors out there. I mostly read mysteries, thrillers, and horror. However, I seem to gravitate toward authors like Jeffrey Deaver, Lee Child, and David Baldacci. Besides these wonderful authors, I find inspiration from true crime authors as well. 

Where can we find out more about your books?

All of my books are available on Amazon worldwide, in addition to most online book retailers. 

Here’s a link to Dark Pursuit.

For more information about my books and crime related articles:

Author Bio:

Jennifer Chase is an award-winning author and consulting criminologist.  She has authored six crime fiction novels, including the multiple award-winning Emily Stone thriller series along with a screenwriting workbook.
Jennifer holds a Bachelor degree in police forensics and a Master's degree in criminology.  These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent sociopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists.

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