Special guest author interview – MJ Arlidge the author of stunning debut novel Eeny Meeny agreed to answer a few brilliant questions from the members of my online book group. Here they are, but first the blurb of his book Eeny Meeny and a link to my review
Blurb: Two hostages. One bullet. One lives. One dies.
They were going to spend the rest of their lives together. Soul mates. But when a young couple wakes up alone together, disorientated and trapped, they are yet to grasp the true horror of their situation. They have no food, no water. Instead there is a gun loaded with a single bullet and a mobile phone with enough power only to deliver a short message: ‘when one of you kills the other, the survivor will walk free’. For their captor it’s simple: set the scene, watch, wait and leave the victims to do the killing. Tortured by fear, desperation, starvation and thirst, there’s only one way to end their ordeal: one of them must die.
DI Helen Grace and her team know they are hunting a complex predator whose broken survivors must endure their role as living calling cards. And killers. The victims – work colleagues, a mother and daughter, a pair of dancers – appear to be chosen at random and yet the planning is meticulous. There must be something driving the choice of victims, but until DI Grace can establish a connection, the killer is unreachable. A breakthrough is elusive and then, terrifyingly, the investigation begins to turn full circle…
In this startling highwire drama M.J. Arlidge throws us headlong into a chilling race to stop evil in its tracks. Dark, ingenious and bullet-paced, Eeny Meeny introduces a major new thriller writing talent.
Kat Duncan: Where does your inspiration for your books come from?
Inspiration? Generally my ideas come to me in the middle of the night, when all is quiet and my mind is turning. Or when I’m watching TV or walking the streets. In other words, I don’t sit down and try to “construct” ideas. They come to me from idle thoughts, or an article in the newspaper or something someone says. The best ideas find you.
Antonella Parker-Hall: How to you decide on and develop the personalities of your characters?
How do I decide on my characters? Hard to say – they kind of recommend themselves. That said, with Helen Grace, you can see the influence of Stieg Larsson. I loved Lisbeth Salander – she was the first fictional heroine I’d encountered who was more interesting than the baddies she was pursuing. Usually heroes/heroines are worthy and dull, but not here. As I sat down to write EM, I put a sign above my desk which read; “Your heroine must not be boring”. Helen Grace was the result.
Mary Edgley: Where do you start? The beginning, the end or somewhere in the middle?
Ok, so process. I always start at the end. It’s amazing how many novelists start writing with no clear idea of how the novel ends. The ending is the whole point of the story so how can you not know?? Once I know what the end is, I then plot out every chapter before I write a word. Its vital, I think, to have a robust architecture in place before you begin. This helps keep pace up, spot any plot problems and helps you write faster. I sometimes manage 5000 a day when I’m in full flight.
Memo Memo: Do you have any experience in/with the police force or medical training etc., which enables you to put so much detailed content into your books?
I dont have any police or medical training but the internet is an amazing thing…
Jo Reason: How do you choose the names of your characters?
Names. Helen Grace was chosen because she is constantly seeking redemption – a state of Grace – that she will never achieve. The other characters’ names all contain elements of people or things known to me. It helps me to know and like them.
Antonella Parker-Hall: How do you organise your life to give you time to write? So you allocate specific time or wait until the inspiration grabs you?
Time management. No, there is no waiting for inspiration. On writing days, I sit down at 9a.m. and keep going until 4/5pm. There’s too much nonsense spoken about the muse descending etc. Writing a novel is like a cross country run. You have to keep going. You can polish later. Time to put in the hard yards… That said, if you have a day job, as I did until very recently, it is possible to stop your day job at 5pm and perhaps squeeze in a couple of hours writing before family commitments intrude.
Grace J Smith: Do you have a plan for character development for the whole series, or do you take it one book at a time?
How I think, I always think long term. Perhaps because I am a TV drama producer by trade, I tend to think in series. So when I first sat down with Penguin to discuss Eeny Meeny, I pitched them the first seven Helen Grace novels. It wasn’t all hot air, I did have stories for all of them. Publishers love you to be ambitious.
And now some links about how to get hold of a copy of Eeny Meeny and other stuff