1. How did you get started writing?
I started writing short stories when I was a student, experimenting with a lot of styles, mostly imitative of whatever writers I was into at the time. A few years ago I wrote a pretty generic crime novel, which I’m now happy didn’t get published. So The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau was really my second attempt.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel?
I didn’t set out to write a crime novel as such. The book started with the characters and the setting. The element of mystery – The Disappearance – was just something that happening in writing process, but it turned out to be a good way of placing the central character in a position of jeopardy and, hopefully, introducing an element of tension for the reader.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
The biggest influence on my work is the Belgian author, Georges Simenon. To me, he is the master craftsman, brilliant at evoking setting and painstakingly delving into the psychology of his characters. He also writes in a very sparse, economical way, which is the kind of prose I aspire to write.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
It was quite a long road to find a publisher for The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau. I got taken on by an agent who was very helpful in developing the manuscript, but they weren’t able to find a publisher. I then sent it to some independent publishers and feel very lucky to have been picked up by Saraband. The book maybe doesn’t fit comfortably into the mainstream crime genre, but I think independent publishers are perhaps more open-minded about the books they take on, and more willing to look at the quality of an individual manuscript, rather than just looking for things they think will fit their list.
5. There are many interesting characters in your novel, do you have a particular favourite one?
The central character, Manfred Baumann, is a twitchy, ill-at-ease outsider, a bit creepy I’ve been told. I think when you’re writing something it’s important to strongly identify with your characters, however fucked up they are. I also love my detective, Georges Gorski, a similarly flawed figure, but Manfred is my favourite and I suspect always will be.
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novels?
The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau was initially inspired by a chance visit to a traditional bistro in the small French town of Saint-Louis where the novel is set. I didn’t do a huge amount of research, but I did return to the town towards the end of the writing of the first draft, mainly to find locations for certain scenes. On the other hand, my new book, His Bloody Project, is set in a crofting community in Wester Ross in 1869, so I had to carry out a fair amount of research into the way of life at the time, as well as into nineteenth century psychiatry and the legal system.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
A couple of characters in His Bloody Project are based on real historical figures (albeit very obscure ones), but I don’t base characters on people I’ve met. At least not consciously. I’m not sure I’d feel very comfortable doing that.
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Crime Fiction Novels out there?
I don’t actually read that much contemporary crime fiction, so it’s hard to say. But my books are maybe less focussed on the solving of the crime than on exploring the impact of that crime on the characters involved.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
Manfred Baumann is a rather paranoid character, constantly over-analysing the most trivial events. He finds himself in a few situations I’ve never been in, but he probably reacts to them as I would. He’s basically an exaggerated version of myself.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.
My second novel, His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae (to give its full name) will be published by Saraband on 5 November 2015. As I mentioned, it’s set in the Scottish Highlands in nineteenth century, and it concerns a brutal triple murder carried out by a seventeen-year-old crofter. The story is told through a series of ‘found documents’ – memoirs, newspaper reports, police statements, and the like. It’s pretty different from my first book, so it’ll be interesting to see what people make of it.
11.What was your favourite scene to write in your novel and why?
It’s always a great feeling when you get in a bit of a groove and feel that you’ve more or less nailed a scene at the first attempt. There’s a chapter in The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau describing how Gorski met his wife, which I wrote long-hand, on a sunny afternoon in a park in Berlin, quaffing bottles of beer. Maybe it was the beer, but it flowed out with rare ease and remains one of my favourite parts of the book.
12. As a up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
The internet is awash with advice, but I think if you get over-concerned about following too much of it, you could end up writing something formulaic and lifeless. So I would say, write what you would like to read yourself, not what you think someone else would like to read.
Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae. A brutal triple murder in a remote northwestern crofting community in 1869 leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. There’s no question that Macrae is guilty, but the police and courts must uncover what drove him to murder the local village constable. And who were the other two victims? Ultimately, Macrae’s fate hinges on one key question: is he insane? A story ingeniously recounted through the accused’s memoir, trial transcripts and newspaper reports, His Bloody Project is a riveting literary thriller that will appeal to fans of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.
Manfred Baumann is a loner. Socially awkward and perpetually ill at ease, he spends his evenings quietly drinking and surreptitiously observing Adèle Bedeau, the sullen but alluring waitress at a drab bistro in the unremarkable small French town of Saint-Louis. But one day, she simply vanishes into thin air. When Georges Gorski, a detective haunted by his failure to solve one of his first murder cases, is called in to investigate the girl’s disappearance, Manfred’s repressed world is shaken to its core and he is forced to confront the dark secrets of his past. ‘The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau’ is a literary mystery novel that is, at heart, an engrossing psychological portrayal of an outsider pushed to the limit by his own feverish imagination.
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