Ok, so officially it wasn’t actually Halloween anymore but some authors just like to have an excuse to dress up! The monstrous bunch consisted of Daniel (The Count) Pembrey, Sarah (Wicked Witch) Ward, SJI (Day of the Dead) Holliday, Amanda (Zombie) Jennings and Thomas (Frankenstein but looking more like Shrek) Mogford.
The first question to the panel – what horror/crime books first influenced you?
Sarah Ward was an avid fan of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven as she was growing up before moving onto Nancy Drew. In terms of horror or ghost stories, she loves short Victorian ghost stories, mentioning Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Story in particular.
Dressed as a more Regency version of Dracula, Daniel Pembrey pointed out that Bram Stoker used to live in Chelsea and cited him as an influence.
For Susi Holliday, Stephen King is her main influence and she especially likes his short story, The Moving Finger.
Amanda Jennings also had Stephen King in her early reading list, along with Agatha Christie, James Herbet and Virginia Andrews [I read a lot of Virginia Andrews too as a teenager!]
Thomas Mogford confessed that he’s a bit of a scared’y-cat when it comes to horror. However, he likes the works of Paul Bowles who set his psychological thrillers in North Africa.
Next question – do you use any horror techniques in you crime writing?
Sarah likes to use cliff hangers at the end of chapters.
Daniel pointed out that horror can be found in the cities we live in. His new book The Harbour Master, which is published next week, starts off with the body of a prostitute found in Amsterdam Harbour. Pembrey had been invited by the Dutch police to witness an investigation they were doing into sex trafficking which gave him the idea for his book.
Susi agreed with Daniel. Real life horrors, such as the current horrific case in Hong Kong, are far more awful than fiction. In some ways, a crime novel is safer and there’s normally a resolution.
Amanda likes to use atmosphere, similar to a Gothic novel, to create unease in her stories and introducing peril for her main character.
Thomas likes shock tactics to make the reader sit up straight.
We moved onto the locations for the authors’ books.
Sarah’s books are set in the Peak District in Derbyshire. She lives in one of the highest villages in England and often gets cut off by snow in the winter, feeling quite trapped. Although her town is fictional, she embodies that small town atmosphere where everybody knows about the secret but no one talks about it, along with the bleak and isolated landscape of the Peaks.
Daniel’s setting is completely different with the bustling city of Amsterdam. One of the things that he’s really had to think hard about is when your protagonist has a different mother tongue from your own. So he had to carefully research Amsterdam life which apparently involved spending a lot of time in bars!
Susi has a fictional small town called Banktoun in Scotland for her stories, based loosely on the small town she grew up in. She tries to convey her characters as mentally cut off from the surrounding cities – too scared to cross the town boundary.
Amanda is extremely proud to be half Cornish so it’s not surprising that Cornwall featured heavily in her most recent book. The strong identity of the county is weaved throughout the storyline.
Thomas’ books are set in Gibraltar. Although it’s only a very small area, it’s full of lawyers! So it’s not surprising that his protagonist, Spike Sanguinetti, is a lawyer. Thomas likes the colonial feel that is still in Gibraltar and its unique position of being between Britain, Spain and Africa, and the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
Finally, quick top tips for aspiring authors.
Sarah Ward – do it your own way!
Daniel Pembrey – read good books in your genre to get the shape of a story.
Susi Holliday – finish it! She often used to abandon books at the 20k words mark but has learnt to press on through.
Amanda Jennings – ditto!
Thomas Mogford – write short stories first. It’s a good discipline to make each word count. And develop a thick skin for when the rejections come!
And when you have five fabulous authors in a bookstore, there’s only one thing you can ask them to do – sign books!
To buy the authors books and find out more about them:
Sarah Ward – please click here
Daniel Pembrey – please click here
SJI Holliday – please click here
Amanda Jennings – please click here
Thomas Mogford – please click here