Monday 31 May 2021

Find out what inspired #HistoricalFiction author, Chris Bishop, to write Bloodlines @CBishop_author

(The Shadow of the Raven Book 4)
By Chris Bishop

Publication Date: 11 February 2021
Publisher: RedDoor Press 
Page Length: 304 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Your bloodline flows not from your heart but from the very core of your existence.

WESSEX 893 as King Alfred readies his defences against another Viking invasion.

Among his many concerns is the plight of Edward, his stable boy, who he believes to be the bastard son of Matthew, a renowned warrior who died fighting for the Saxon cause. If Edward’s heritage can be proved, Edward he would stand to inherit a vast fortune which Alfred fears would attract every fraudster in the realm. Worse still, given his noble lineage, the boy could well be used to usurp him as king. 

Alfred therefore sends Edward to the burh at Wareham on the pretext of having him train Fleet, a magnificent black stallion, so spirited it’s thought to be all but unrideable. The boy soon proves his skill with horses but is considered too puny to be a warrior. However when the fyrd find themselves outnumbered, isolated and confronting a Viking warband, Edward’s quick thinking and extraordinary courage leaves no doubt about his bloodline.


Some thoughts and observations based on the research undertaken for my latest novel, Bloodlines.


Chris Bishop

When writing historical fiction, I find it helps if you can mentally ‘transport’ yourself back to the era you are depicting so as to better understand how things might have looked at the time. I therefore like to visit the locations featured in my novels but, as development and expansion carried out by intervening generations often conceals the past, a certain amount of conjecture and supposition is called for. However, I was fortunate enough to choose Wareham as the principal location when writing the next book in my series, The Shadow of the Raven, which is set at the time of Alfred the Great. The choice was no accident as I needed a setting with quite specific characteristics in order for the plot to work. After a great deal of research, I found Wareham to be the ideal place, not least because there you are still able to get a very real impression of its Saxon heritage. 

For one thing, it is quite liberally referenced in the wider context of Saxon history which helped a great deal in terms of assembling background material and filling some of the many ‘gaps’ which normally restrict our knowledge of this era. It also retains quite a lot of the infrastructure appertaining to Saxon occupation – certainly a good deal more than most places. The street pattern is probably little changed insofar as the principal roads are concerned and there are references to (or evidence of) the location of significant features such as churches, the Priory, the North Bridge etc. It also has a small but impressive local museum - Wareham Town Museum ( – where one of the temporary exhibits included a sword which was recovered from the River Frome whilst the South Bridge was being rebuilt in 1927. This alludes to the turbulent times in which my book is set and provided the inspiration for one important aspect of my story - though I admit to having shamelessly exploited it! 


Wareham came to prominence in 876 when it was taken and held by a sizeable Viking force who presumably intended to use it as a bridgehead from which to invade Wessex. They occupied the Priory, probably a nunnery at that time, and ransacked the settlement itself until Alfred paid tribute for them to leave. However, treacherous as ever, the Vikings reneged on their deal to leave Wessex and their land army moved on to occupy Exeter instead. They were eventually forced to leave after losing 120 ships in a fierce storm at Swanage. 

Given these events, it’s hardly surprising that when he began instigating his system of strongholds to protect his realm against further Viking attacks, Alfred included Wareham as one of them. These ‘burhs’ as they were called comprised a series of about thirty fortified settlements spaced approximately twenty miles apart (equivalent to a full day’s march) and therefore close enough to support each other if one of them was attacked. Whilst not the largest burh, Wareham was probably one of the most important as it was of strategic significance, being located on the fringes of a large expanse of water known today as Poole Harbour. It would thus have made a tempting and viable target for an invasion fleet who could moor their ships in the harbour then use the tracks, roads and the rivers to strike deep inland. Like others, the burh would have been manned by the fyrd - a sort of local militia - with the able-bodied men serving in rotation so that half were always available to continue work on the land and carry on with other essential trades etc. According to the Burghal Hidage, Wareham could muster a not insignificant force of 1600 men. Whilst the administration of the fyrd system appears to have been well thought out and developed, it seemed to me that there was a problem when it came to Wareham insofar as much of the surrounding land would have been marsh or forest, meaning that the men serving in the fyrd and living outside the settlement would have to travel a considerable distance in order to complete their duties and obligations. In Bloodlines I have therefore suggested that things in Wareham may have been organised differently to other burhs, but this is pure conjecture on my part. 


However, there is nothing conjectural about the fortifications themselves. Wareham is one of the few places where even today you can actually see and walk around the impressive earthworks which formed the backbone of the defences. It’s not clear whether these were constructed specifically as part of the burh or were based on previously established fortifications which were simply extended and improved by the Saxons but, either way, when ‘topped off’ by a tall stockade, they would have presented a formidable defensive barrier. This ran along three sides of the settlement, the fourth – the southern boundary - being formed by the river Frome which it seems was considered deterrent enough and was, in any event, an important waterway for trade on which the settlement depended so needed to be kept ‘open’. There is also a river to the northern boundary, the River Piddle, but this was presumably not considered to offer sufficient protection in itself. 

Building the earthworks would have been a huge undertaking. Given that there were no mechanical diggers at that time, all the earth would have been dug by hand using picks and shovels etc then transported by cart or carried in baskets to where it was needed. But the Saxons were nothing if not resourceful and you can just imagine the hive of industry as they dug the defensive ditch, piling up the spoil to raise the earthworks to the desired level before grubbing out tree stumps and generally clearing away any foliage which might be used to conceal any would-be attackers. In fact, just constructing the stockade on top of the earthworks would have required a huge effort as the timber needed would have had to be felled and brought in, then sawn and erected using nails and brackets forged on site. Even having completed the work, the members of the fyrd would have been regularly rostered to help maintain these fortifications as well as the roads and the bridge whilst continuing to somehow scratch out a meagre living as farmers or tradesmen, and of course, providing military service when needed.


In reality, Wareham was probably not large in terms of the number of inhabitants residing within the fortifications, most of whom may well have lived quite near the existing crossroads and thus close to the quay which would have been the commercial heart of the settlement. There was probably no quay as such, ships being simply pulled up onto the muddy bank to be loaded and unloaded, trading goods with settlements all over Britain and even the continent. It seems to have been a thriving commercial centre and the area would have been a bustling and busy place with numerous storage sheds and warehouses and such like.

The remainder of the area enclosed within the fortifications would probably have comprised open space which could be used for grazing or to provide a site for temporary accommodation for those coming into the burh for their rostered duty or those seeking shelter in the event of trouble. The latter was certainly part of the function of a burh and doubtless they would have brought their families and possibly their livestock with them.


So, although a prosperous and wealthy settlement, the people of Wareham would have lived under the constant threat of invasion and raids and I suspect they would have served in the fyrd willingly enough despite their already heavy workload and wider commitments. 

All this makes Wareham the perfect backdrop to a story set at this turbulent time – I hope that in Bloodlines I have done justice to both it and to those inhabitants who lived there at that time. 

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Chris Bishop is the author of the much acclaimed The Shadow of the Raven Series which is set at the time of Alfred the Great. All four books in the series have been awarded a Five-star Coffee Pot Book Club award. He is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association and The Historical Novel Society.  

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Friday 28 May 2021

Cover Reveal: Kingfisher (The Kingfisher Series Book 1) by D K Marley @histficchickie

(The Kingfisher Series Book 1)
By D K Marley

Publication Date: June 28, 2021
Publisher: The White Rabbit Publishing 
Genre: Time-Travel Romance
Page Length: 556 Pages

The past, future, and Excalibur lie in her hands.

There is a myth of a bird called the Halcyon, the ultimate symbol of peace. There is also a story of a legendary King wielding a sword of peace. Myth . . . fantasy . . . or perhaps, history? 

WALES, 1914.

 One young Welsh woman longs for the halcyon days before the war, and her obsession with Lord Tennyson's book Idylls of the King and the famous writings of The Mabinogion sends her on the ultimate quest. Peace for Britain and her family. But after discovering a hidden secret linking her ancestry to Camelot, Vala Penrys is lured into the past through an ancient Druid portal and awakens as Vivyane, the Lady of the Lake - the Kingfisher - and comes face-to-face with a mad Fae bent on destroying Britain in both eras. She needs a knight . . . or a wizard. In her desperate attempt for answers, she finds herself uncontrollably drawn to a mysterious Welsh Lieutenant who teaches her the ways of time travel and reveals that there is much more than just a fairy tale in the legend of King Arthur. There is history . . . in the past . . . and in the future.

From award-winning historical novelist, D. K. Marley - a story for OUTLANDER and MISTS OF AVALON fans - comes a time-traveling historical spanning centuries.

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D. K. Marley is an award-winning author specializing in Historical Fiction, Alternate Historicals, and Historical Time Travel novels.

After spending the bulk of her life as a mother and graphic designer, she embarked on her writing career and published three Shakespearean-themed books from 2018 - 2020.
Her first book, Blood and Ink, won the Bronze Medal for Best Historical Fiction of 2018 from The Coffee Pot Book Club, and the Silver Medal for Best Historical Fiction from the Golden Squirrel Book Awards. Along with Blood and Ink, her novel The Fire of Winter won a "Highly Recommended" award from The Coffee Pot Book Club. Now, with her new series, she has taken her love for books like Outlander and The Mists of Avalon, and built a world around five time-traveling sisters amidst the chaos of WWI, plummeting them back to the days of King Arthur in her new KINGFISHER series.

When she is not writing, she loves being an online bookshop owner, a fun Nana to a beautiful granddaughter, and a happy wife of 35 years living near Atlanta GA.

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Join The Coffee Pot Book Club with Derek Birks @Feud_writer @SharpeBooks

Land of Fire 
(The Last of the Romans Book 3)
By Derek Birks

Publication Date: 23rd April 2021
Publisher: Sharpe Books
Page Length: 294pp
Genre: Historical Fiction

Late Spring, 455 AD.

After a brutal winter struggle against the High King Vortigern, outcast imperial officer Ambrosius Aurelianus has led his weary followers to south-west Britannia in search of his mother's kinfolk. But Vortigern, thirsting for revenge is already forging a dangerous alliance against him.

Taking refuge in a ruined Roman fort near the decaying town of Vindocladia, Ambrosius finds an ally in Lurotriga, the widowed queen of the Durotriges. Though still sworn to his Saxon lady Inga, he is soon beguiled by the British noblewoman.

Between Inga and her new rival there can be no compromise and their enmity threatens to cause a rift between the Britons and Saxons of Ambrosius’ company.

If Vortigern attacks before the fort is repaired Ambrosius fears the outcome. He must find allies fast but, in a land of squabbling rival tribes the Roman encounters more enemies than friends. A treaty with neighbouring Dumnonia offers Ambrosius some hope, but commits him to defend the south coast against Scotti raiders. Ambrosius’ forces are stretched perilously thin putting the lives of Lurotriga and others at risk.

As Ambrosius prepares to pursue Vortigern for a final reckoning, his quest to discover his mother's kin suddenly delivers a startling revelation, but will it help him to defeat the High King?

Heavily outnumbered in the thick forests and steep valleys of Vortigern's homeland, Ambrosius must rely upon the fighting spirit of his small force of bucellarii and raw recruits. But sometimes courage alone is not enough.
Mary Anne: Huge congratulations on your new release, Land of Fire (The Last of the Romans Book 3). Could you tell us a little about your new book and what inspired you to write it?

Derek Birks: The Last of the Romans series is set in Post-Roman Britain in the fifth century. It’s a time and a subject that I have always been drawn to. We know so little about that period that attempting to write fiction embedded in actual events is pretty much impossible. Nevertheless, I set out to write the story of a British hero, Ambrosius Aurelianus. This book, Land of Fire finds Ambrosius in 455 AD in south-west Britain trying to establish a safe haven for his followers, whilst the British High King, Vortigern plots his destruction.

Mary Anne: Ambrosius Aurelianus and Vortigern are characters that are very difficult to pin down historically, and many of the stories about them can be found only in folklore. How did you approach researching their lives, and did you come across any unexpected surprises?

Derek Birks: As you say, researching the period is a nightmare since it’s difficult to be precise about any event, let alone discover any certain detail about those who lived at the time. We have names and precious little else – in the case of Vortigern we cannot even be sure whether Vortigern is his name or his title.
I started by examining the few written sources that survive from the period to glean what I could from the sporadic references to Ambrosius. Inevitably, what I found was extremely limited so that there were not just holes in my research but vast chasms. 

Beyond what is known, I wanted to give Ambrosius some context. Where might he have come from? What did he do before he became a prominent British leader? Of course, that meant making things up and the first two books in the series are complete fiction as far as our hero is concerned, though I have striven to achieve accuracy as far as possible with settings, lifestyle and so on.

In this third book, Ambrosius is in south-west Britain which is an area that he is directly associated with in some of the written texts. So we are much closer to at least a possible reality in Land of Fire. One of the many problems is trying to decide upon place names. Anything Saxon is way too early, but did folk still use the Roman names or did they use British ones? In the end, research in this period can only take you into the foothills of the topic; for the rest of the journey to the summit, you are on your own!

Mary Anne: Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?

Derek Birks: I am particularly fond of several characters in the story but I suppose there is one that sometimes ‘steals the show’ and that is Ferox. Ferox is a dog, but not just any dog. Bred from ancient Molussian stock, he is a war dog born to fight alongside his master – and he does so with great enthusiasm, though not always much precision. I gather he has also become a bit of a favourite with some readers.

Mary Anne: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing Historical Fiction?

Derek Birks: My background is in history, which I taught for many years so, for me the challenge is to be as accurate with the history as possible. Even in the fifteenth century that can be difficult but in the fifth, as I’ve said, it’s nigh on impossible. But for all writers of historical fiction, you have to have a sound historical knowledge base at the start. The challenge then is to weave your story into the history without overburdening the reader with information dumps. Your writing must drive the plot whilst at the same time adding a drip feed of description of places and people.

Mary Anne: What advice do you have for aspiring Historical Fiction authors?

Derek Birks: In essence, writing historical fiction is very little different from writing any other fiction: you need to be secure in your subject matter and you need to have a very good story to tell. In your case the subject is a period of time and you need to have a feel for the period in which you set your story.  

As well as telling a cracking story, you need to immerse your readers in the essence of the period and that means its sights, sounds, smells and tastes. People want to know how your characters feel about what they are experiencing. By harnessing the more visceral aspects of a character you can bring the period to life by allowing the reader to see the story through the senses of the character.

But, as with all fiction it matters little how well you create the period if your story does not seize and hold the interest of the reader. The story is everything, so strip it down to its essentials before you start writing. Try to cut out any paragraphs, pages or even chapters that do not drive your story onward or develop your characters. That can be hard but it is worth doing. You have to ensure that, at the end of every chapter your readers will want to read on. 

June 455 AD, on the south coast of Britannia.

Ambrosius Aurelianus lay on the headland summit of Iron Hill with the midday sun warming his back. Looking down on the tired old port, nestled against the south side of the river estuary, he wondered why anyone would want to raid it. It was a mere remnant of a once thriving settlement – a trading outpost now almost devoid of trade. 

Here and there a spiral of smoke drifted up to mingle lazily with the sea-borne haze while, below his vantage point several figures trudged stiff-legged up the winding hillside track. They were making for the smelting furnace over to his left where men and boys toiled each day to rake out a glowing ball of precious iron. No sooner was it out than the workers, their faces burnished by the heat, began hammering the ragged lump of white-hot metal into life. Watching the sparks fly was somehow entrancing – if only, thought Ambrosius the sins of men could be so easily beaten out.

Dragging his gaze from the iron workings, he looked to the west and was relieved to see a column of riders weaving a careful path through the marshy ground towards the twin earth banks. The latter, constructed by the ancients to protect the settlement from a land assault, were abandoned long before Rome’s empire consumed Britannia. No-one now stood watch upon the crumbling rampart and only heath grass attempted to scale the earth banks. Soon his men would pass through the entrance and dismount to await his orders. 

The previous day his new allies in Durnovaria had sent word - not for the first time - that a flotilla of small vessels had been sighted heading eastward along the coast. The people of Durnovaria and its hinterland knew all about Scotti raiders for, in the past the barbarous seafarers had been known to ravage farms and settlements for many miles inland. But only a handful of local folk remembered those times now and Ambrosius found the recent reports scarcely credible. 

Beside him his fair Saxon lady, Inga shifted uncomfortably. 

“They should be here by now,” she groaned. “These raiders - if they’re coming at all…” 
“You could have stayed behind at Vindocladia,” he told her.

She pulled a face. “I see little enough of you, as it is.”

Inga had every right to be annoyed for it was the third time he had raced south to patrol the coast without finding a single Scotti boat. Once again he had left his half-repaired Roman burgus at Vindocladia to intercept a non-existent foe and he was already regretting it. Yet what choice did he have? His new alliance with King Erbin of Dumnonia – his only alliance – required him to answer any calls for help from Erbin’s friends in Durnovaria. In return King Erbin had promised not to support the High King, Vortigern’s vengeful pursuit of Ambrosius. 

 “So, here we are again,” grumbled Inga, “and still… no Scotti. I begin to doubt these folk exist at all.”

 He stood up. “Come on,” he said, offering his hand.
Taking it, she allowed him to pull her to her feet and then contrived to remain in his arms, pressing her breast against him. “There are better ways for Ambrosius Aurelianus to spend his time,” she murmured, “don’t you think?”

Beside her, the war dog, Ferox gave a weary groan.

“Peace, Ferox,” chided Inga.

“He always spoils the mood,” said Ambrosius, laughing as he kept one arm around her waist while they sauntered along the headland. Several times he gazed seaward but a light haze obscured all save the high ground on the nearby isle which Romans called Vectis. If there were any boats offshore, he would not see them; especially as Scotti vessels were small, light craft – or so he was told – for he had never seen one himself. 

 “Your hair grows longer, Roman,” observed Inga, idly twisting a rust-coloured lock around her finger. 

“And not so Roman now, eh,” he said, with a sheepish grin. For as the months passed, less and less remained of the outcast soldier from Rome’s western empire. True, he still possessed the tools of his trade: spatha, helmet and shield, but little else; and here he was, arm in arm with a Saxon, trying to carve out a new life at the arse-end of the world.
“I think the mist is getting thicker,” said Inga. 

“It should be thinning by now,” he grumbled, as they crossed back over the raised ground and returned to peer down once more upon the inner harbour. “But, as long as we can see down there, that’s all that matters.”
In the distance he surveyed once more the gravel hard where fishermen had drawn their small boats high up above the tideline. Close by, a rickety wooden jetty thrust a stubby finger out into the estuary channel and Ambrosius smiled to see children playing on the foreshore. But his grin of satisfaction froze, half-formed as a vessel emerged from the mist. 

“What’s that?” asked Inga, clutching his arm.

After a tense moment, he chuckled with relief for it was just a single ship and not a Scotti vessel either. If anything, it looked Roman in origin. 

“A trader,” ventured Inga.

“Could be,” he said, but something about the ship irked him and, by the time Inga’s grip tightened upon his arm he worked out why. The vessel was a navis lusoria, made for short, coastal journeys and river navigation; but its arrival here disturbed him far more than any Scotti incursion.

“That’s… your ship,” cried Inga. “Our ship…”

 The previous year Ambrosius had brought them, against all odds to the shore of Britannia in just such a navis lusoria. Their ship was built to patrol the Rhinus River but it was very like the one he saw below. This one could, of course have been any vessel… except that it certainly looked exactly like the ship stolen from him at the onset of winter by his embittered half-sister.

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Derek Birks was born in Hampshire in England but spent his teenage years in Auckland, New Zealand, where he still has strong family ties. He now lives in Dorset.

For many years he taught history in a secondary school but took early retirement to concentrate on his writing. Apart from writing, he spends his time gardening, travelling, and walking. 

Derek is interested in a wide range of historical themes, but at the start of his writing career he focused on the late medieval period. He writes action-packed fiction which is rooted in accurate history. His debut historical novel, Feud, is set in the period of the Wars of the Roses and is the first of a series entitled Rebels & Brothers which follows the fortunes of the fictional Elder family. A second series, The Craft of Kings, followed and the final book of that series, Crown of Fear, will be published later in 2021.

Since Derek’s interest in the Wars of the Roses period goes beyond fiction, he has produced over forty non-fiction podcasts about the subject for those who want to explore what really happened.

Derek’s most recent fictional series features a change of time period and setting. It starts with The Last of the Romans, an Amazon bestseller, set in turbulent fifth century Europe and it centres upon the shadowy historical figure of Ambrosius Aurelianus. Two more books have been published in the series: Britannia: World’s End and Land of Fire.

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The Kill Chain by John Kennedy #AuthorInterview @JohnKen_writer @SharpeBooks

The Kill Chain
(DI Will Ashcroft Crime Thrillers, Book 2)
By John Kennedy

Publisher: Sharpe Books
Publication Date: 20th April 2021
Page Length: 279 Pages
Genre: Crime Fiction

DI Will Ashcroft, still haunted over a child murder case in London, returns to the north of England.

The murder of a young woman is perplexing local police. Ashcroft agrees to help. He finds that the killer is choosing victims from the emerging rave scene.

WDC Samira Byrne, suffering prejudice both in and outside her department, has been working undercover to infiltrate a gang of drug dealers, but she stumbles on a witness who has been targeted by the killer. Investigating without sanction or backup, Samira soon becomes a target herself.

Working through the incompetence which has kept the case unsolved, Ashcroft uncovers the link between the chain of victims.

Facing internal politics, corruption and self-serving ambition in senior officers, Ashcroft must work alone to find Samira.

But can he get to her while there is still time?

Mary Anne: A huge congratulations on the publication of The Kill Chain (DI Will Ashcroft Crime Thrillers Book 2). Could you tell us a little about your protagonist, DI Will Ashcroft?

John Kennedy: Thank you, Mary. It’s lovely to be here again. Yes, I’ll certainly tell you about my protagonist, though actually, this series has two. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll cheat a little and tell you briefly about both. The story is filtered mainly through Will Ashcroft’s eyes – he’s an experienced Detective Inspector, a little battered by seeing too much of the worst of what humanity can do to itself. He’s had bouts of PTSD as a result of a particularly disturbing case in London, and he takes some leave to come back to his hometown in the north, mainly to see if he can pick up the threads of a relationship with WDC Samira Byrne. But he is soon asked to investigate the murder of a young woman who was involved in the emerging rave scene.

Samira Byrne is the other POV character, and she plays a central role because she’s working undercover to catch some drug-dealers and inadvertently gets close to the killer. But whereas in the first novel in the series, The Trauma Pool, Samira as a black officer was only beginning to guess at the extent of the prejudice at work within the department, here she has been completely undermined by it. Even her sense of self seems to be under threat. But she fights, and never gives up fighting to find her way back to the light, and who she truly is. 

Mary Anne: What inspired you to write the DI Will Ashcroft Crime Thriller series?

John Kennedy: I was initially inspired by the place where I grew up, the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. I wanted to try and capture its bleak beauty and the very specific attitudes and the windswept hardness of the people there. Then, the problems of the characters; Will’s PTSD and the prejudice Samira faces, were both areas I wanted to try and do justice to, hopefully in a way that hadn’t been done before. 

To some extent the themes inspire the stories and the characters, as I think would be true of most novels. For the Kill Chain though, hedonism and wasted lives are very much at the centre and having frittered around the edges of the whole rave scene of the late 80s and early 90s myself, I thought it would make the perfect backdrop for a thriller. 

Mary Anne: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

John Kennedy: That’s an interesting one. My chosen milieu is the 1980s so yes, some historical fact-checking and background are necessary, if only to get the feel right, but there’s not really too much of that to do, for me. Researching PTSD for the first one and racism within the police meant reading several books and googling around quite a bit. Generally though, my research probably takes a few weeks at most. 

The real time goes into planning. I’m not a seat of the pants writer; I plan. That doesn’t mean the novel always sticks to the plan, but I still need the planning to be done before I start writing. It works for me, because I’m a firm believer in writer’s block’being a fallacy, something people use to mystify the process of writing, as if it’s somehow divinely inspired. It’s not. It’s work. But if you do some of the work first, by planning, there’s a good chance you can get to the end. You’ll still get stuck occasionally, but you won’t be walking around the countryside for weeks in pantaloons, a quill behind your ear and the back of your hand to your forehead, frightening sheep and shouting ‘Alas! I’m blocked!’

Having said that, I know that some people very successfully just write, without any preparation. But perhaps they’re geniuses. Your Stephen Kings and Ian Rankins are few and far between, and anyway, I have a feeling they do all the same stuff, just subconsciously. Or they’ve absorbed so much narrative that it seeps out their pores. I’m not a genius. So, I plan. 

Mary Anne: There are many books in the mystery / crime genre. Can you tell us three things that set your novel apart?

John Kennedy: Hmmm. What sets it apart? Well, it’s probably not the first thriller to make use of the rave culture thing as a backdrop, but I’m not aware of any that have thrown a serial killer into that particular mix as well. So, there’s that. It’s well-written, hopefully. I also wanted to evoke the whole small town, small-time drugs-dealer thing, without falling into caricature – these aren’t evil people, but they are people who’ve maybe forgotten where to draw the line. And finally, I think the killer’s motivation is interesting too, not too predictable, but I can’t really go into that without giving the game away. 

Mary Anne: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

John Kennedy: Ah! Lots of things, really. For one, genre is important. That is, whatever you write has to be categorizable. If you can bang two genres together and come up with a new one, wonderful, but to begin with, it’s going to have to fit on a shelf somewhere, real or virtual. So, agents and publishers need to know exactly what they’re selling, or they won’t touch it. The other big one is, get on with it! The only way to be a writer is to write. I see this all the time in younger writers and I was very guilty of it; I wasted a good few years talking about how I wanted to be a writer instead of just writing. It’s about confidence, of course. We need to talk ourselves into action. But I would definitely give myself a slap about that one. Apart from that… I think I’d paraphrase Saul Bellows to myself; readers hunger to connect, whether they’re aware of it or not. If you can put them into a unique perspective and make them believe it, they’ll get to the end of the book. More than that. They’ll be swept along and genuinely won’t be able to put it down. Actually, that one’s not just for my younger self – I try to remember it every day, because it’s an ongoing challenge to try to do that. I hope I’m getting there.

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John Kennedy lectures English at a college in the North of England. He has a Masters’ in Creative Writing. He’s been shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger and the Exeter prize and longlisted for the Bath Novel prize. The Kill Chain is his second novel, following The Trauma Pool released last year.

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