Happy Wednesday! We are half way through another week and that means there is time for another Meet The Author Q&A. If you missed it, Monday I was joined by Awais Khan the author of In The Company of Strangers, about how he spends his writing days and even got a tease for his next book – you can find the Q&A here.
Today we are joined by another one of my favourite authors, who also wrote my January 2020 book of the month, A.A Chaudhuri – I met Alex via Twitter after I took part in the blog tour for The Scribe, the first of the Kramer and Carver thriller series, and we have regularly interacted ever since! She’s so wonderful! You can find my review for The Scribe and The Abduction here – you’re also able to purchase your own copies, whether in e-book or paperback format, here.
A killer is targeting former students of The Bloomsbury Academy of Law. The victims – all female – are gruesomely butchered according to a pattern corresponding with the legal syllabus. Even more disconcerting are riddles sent by the killer to investigating officer, Chief Inspector Jake Carver, offering clues as to who is next and where they will die.
Up-and-coming lawyer Madeline Kramer, a former classmate of a number of the slain, soon finds her life turned upside down by the savagery. And when she decides to help Carver track down the killer, she places herself in mortal danger. Can Maddy and Carver unscramble the complex riddles and save the lives of those destined to die?
Kramer and Carver are back…
Madeline Kramer has finally got her life back on track at top City law firm Sullivan, Blake, Monroe. But when two armed, masked men burst into a conference room one lunchtime, kidnapping a trainee and a partner, Maddy’s life is plunged into disarray once more—particularly when charismatic DCI Jake Carver, who caught a heartless killer when they last met and with whom Maddy shared a mutual chemistry, is called to the scene.
Things become more complicated when a disturbing video reveals two more trainees have been taken. What initially appears as a random kidnapping for mercenary gain soon evolves into something far more complex, the horrifying events of thirty years ago motivating the abductors and having colossal implications for those in the present…
Against a backdrop of sleaze, sex, lies and murder in The Abduction, Maddy and Carver must work together to unravel the truth, and ensure that no crimes—past or present—are left unpunished.
So let’s welcome Alex to the Q&A sofa today and jump straight in – starting with the quick round, because it’s fun and I want to see how many authors corner book pages like me!
Let’s start with a bit of either or:
Tea or Coffee?
Tea! It’s funny, because before I had kids, I was a hands-down coffee addict, but my taste buds completely changed after I had them and now I can’t function in the morning without two mugs of Tetley!
That’s kids for you, come in and turn your taste buds upside down! At least you swapped it for the best tea!
Morning bird or Night owl?
For writing, definitely morning bird!
Bookmark or corner folder?
Bookmark (although I have been known to turn a corner or two, eek!!)
Another author, another corner folder! As long as it isn’t other people’s books, right?
Tidily organised or Organised mayhem?
I’d like to say tidily organised, but my husband would disagree, which is probably fair to be honest!!
What makes you happy? Could you share a photo with us?
Awh they’re the cutest!
What is your favourite childhood book?
I have too many, but if I had to pick one, it would be The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. My mother used to read it to me when I was really little and then, when I was a bit bigger, I read it again by myself. I had the large hardback version with gorgeous illustrations inside. While I was reading it, I felt like I had been transported to that world, and those characters became my friends.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Was it always an author?
No, I wanted to be the Ladies’ Wimbledon tennis champion! I lived and breathed tennis for 13 years, was number two in Great Britain under 12, a member of the under 12/14 national squad and turned pro at 16 touring the satellite circuit for nearly three years. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out as I’d hoped and I quit tennis at 18, went back to college, then uni, then law school, became a lawyer, and then a writer. Third time lucky! Having said that, I was a voracious reader as a child and was always writing stories. It was always meant to be, I guess, and when the opportunity to write full-time came around, I didn’t hesitate. I am happiest writing. It comes naturally and never feels like a chore. I never felt like that as a lawyer.
Wow, how amazing – I always assume that a writer always wanted to be a writer but what an awesome journey you’ve had getting to the place you are now! Also, I love how Maddy is lawyer even more now!
If you could choose only one season to last forever, what one would it be?
Summer, without question. I don’t like the cold, I love the long summer evenings, the warmer temperatures, being able to wear summer clothes and open-toed shoes, being able to drink and eat outside, not having to wear a gazillion layers and just generally enjoying all the freedoms summer brings. I was NOT born to live in a cold country. 😞 😆
What is your current read?
Black Summer by M. W. Craven
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing? Hobbies etc.
I am a bit of fitness freak. I LOVE les mills training and am addicted to body combat, a high-energy martial-arts inspired workout. I also run and do weights. It’s my way of managing stress and sets me up for the day ahead. I also love going to the cinema, eating out, travelling, and obviously, READING!
How many books have you written? Do you have a personal favourite? What is it and why?
I have written eight books in total. The first two, Love & Limoncello and Love & Loss, I wrote back in 2010/11 and are women’s fiction novels set in Italy (my favourite country by a mile!) which I self-published under the name, Alexandra Sage. Love & Limoncello sold over 10,500 copies so I am very proud of that fact.
The other six are thrillers. Crime/thriller has always been my stand out favourite genre (I was hooked on Grisham as a teenager – I love his slick, pacey, page-turning style of writing – and he inspired me to write my legal thrillers) and once I’d written my first thriller, I knew it was the genre I wanted to focus on. Last year, my two book legal thriller series, The Scribe and The Abduction, featuring feisty lawyer, Maddy Kramer, was published, but I have also written two standalone thrillers and two psychological thrillers, all of which I hope will be published at some point. It’s really hard to call a favourite but I am really excited about my psychological thrillers as they both have BIG twists!
When writing a series, how do you keep it fresh? Is the second in the series always more difficult than the first?
Obviously, you need a different storyline, so, for example, with The Scribe the story centred on the hunt for a serial killer, while The Abduction centred on a kidnapping. This in itself will necessitate a difference in the way the case is pursued by the detective in terms of lines of enquiry/police procedure etc, thereby leading to a different storyline. It’s also important to keep the characters fresh, eg by developing their personalities, the way in which they interact with others, along with things that might happen to them in their personal lives. For example, in The Abduction, you see a different side to Carver, the Chief Inspector leading both cases, who has quite a complicated past and shares a chemistry with Maddy, the other lead character. Also, the dynamic between him and Maddy changes in the second. In a sequel, perhaps something happens to one of the main characters as a side story to the main hook, or, for example, the character might change jobs or firms, for example we see Maddy at a different firm in The Abduction which in itself freshens things up with a new setting and new characters. I don’t think a follow up has to be more difficult if you have a great idea as the story should flow from there, but having said that, you do have the challenge of developing the characters, and also ensuring there is some kind of continuity from the first. Although it’s rare, you might get readers who read the second without reading the first, so some explanation as to what has already happened needs to be given to give the second novel context. But it’s important not to include too much detail, and this can be tricky!
When researching for a novel, do you always have all the research before beginning or do you research as you go? What is the process?
No I don’t have all the research done before I start writing, as invariably something will come up, particularly when writing police procedurals, but also it’s likely you’ll think of something better to add to or enhance your story as you write and this will require further research to ensure accuracy. Some novels require more research than others, though. For example, for my psychological thrillers, I didn’t need to do much research, whereas for my police procedurals and a political thriller I have written, I needed to do a lot of research before I started writing.
A huge amount of research can be done online now, but there may be occasions where you’ll need to do site visits, or employ an expert for advice. For example, for The Scribe, I visited the various murder locations to get a real feel for the place, and for The Abduction I employed two experts to advise on police and forensic procedure.
Describe your typical writing day
When I am in the throes of writing a new novel, I have quite a disciplined schedule. I will take my boys to school, exercise for an hour, then go home and write for four or five hours until they come home. I much prefer to write in the daytime, although when I am editing/working to a deadline, I will work all hours, including weekends.
When I have finished writing a book, or have just had one published, I will spend much of the day online, promoting the book, interacting with bloggers and also writing blog pieces for my website or for other organisations like The CWA.
Describe your publishing journey in 3 words
Tough, character-building, rewarding
Do you have any writing quirks /needs? What are they?
Not especially. Although I do need silence. I’m not one of those people who writes with the radio on, or some other accompaniment. Apart from the sound of the birds tweeting outside (my study overlooks our garden so it’s very peaceful). I also always read my books on a kindle during the editing process.
If it gives no spoilers, what is the hardest scene you’ve had to write?
A rape scene.
I can’t imagine that that’s an easy scene for any author to write, especially when you have to get inside the head of the characters.
What do you find the most enjoyable / difficult thing about writing?
I really enjoy devising my characters, bringing them to life and generally just getting lost in the story. When I am writing, I forget everything, all my worries, stresses; I am lost in the moment and nothing can get to me. I also love it when I think up a new twist or red herring/plot development. That’s a really exciting and satisfying feeling.
Editing can be hard, because when you’re reading your book for the twentieth time and you start experiencing double vision you start not to like it quite so much! It’s also frustrating when you hit a roadblock in the story, although fortunately that’s not happened to me too often.
What is a publishing highlight for you?
Having my book launch for The Scribe at Foyles on Charing Cross Road, London. That was a very special moment, which I will never forget.
Can you give a one sentence teaser for anything you’re working on if you’re allowed?
A young lawyer who narrowly escapes death in a Las Vegas terrorist attack is approached by MI5 to help catch the ruthless organisation responsible.
That’s so exciting! I wonder who the young lawyer is *wink* I can’t wait until it becomes available to pre-order!
My thanks goes to Alex for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s really been lovely to get to know the author behind one of my favourite thriller series – if you haven’t read them I really recommend you do, they’re fast paced, twisty and dark with characters you’ll love – unless you need to hate them!
Thanks for tuning in to another Meet The Author, tune in in two days to see who else is on the Q&A chopping block aka sofa!
Until next time,