Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Like everyone, I sometimes make the wrong decision and wish I’d opted for something different. I’d never read anything by KT FIndlay until less than a month ago when I had the great pleasure of reading A Thoughtful Woman which is an amazing read – I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t recommend it highly enough! That, however, was after I had already signed up for this tour and this time I opted to host an interview with the author, rather than read the book. If I was choosing now, I’d opt to read the book but I’m still very delighted to be able to share his answers to my questions with you today – I found them fascinating to read and believe they reflect his author’s voice from reading the first book in this series ….. Read on to discover more for yourself!
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
When I first started writing my mystery thrillers in the early nineties, the focus was on the detective, Peregrin McEwan, and his wife Hillary. However, after tens of thousands of words, and multiple attempts over more than two decades, I always thumped into the same problem that just crashed things to a halt. Then one day, as I was wondering if I shouldn’t just chuck the whole idea in the bin, a beautiful lady in her thirties strolled confidently into my mind’s eye and said quite clearly, ‘What you want to do, is write about me. I’m much more interesting!’ Sally Mellors had just entered my life, and that changed everything as far as the book was concerned. The next question to truly resolve was why she was doing what she was doing, so we got to “talking”.
I’ve been fascinated with the justice system for years. Its aim is to deliver fair and even handed justice, using the most complete set of facts available to the courts. The lawyer’s aim on the other hand, is to win and to that end they do everything they can to promote their own facts and interpretations, and everything they can to squash the other side’s. That leads inevitably to some very dodgy decisions. Most of us accept that, even if we’re not happy about it, but what if a truly lovely human being found out that her husband’s killer had walked free not just because of a clever defence lawyer, but also because he was in cahoots with a corrupt official, and asked then herself “No… If the court won’t give me justice, can I get it myself, and get away with it?” And could she still stay true to herself if she actually did it?
That was the idea behind A Thoughtful Woman, and it’s extended in An Implacable Woman when Sally finds out about serious domestic violence occurring in her own social circle. She learns about how difficult it is for a woman in an abusive relationship to leave, and what the justice system does to them if in desperation they kill their tormentors. But if Sally decides to free these women herself, in a very permanent way(!), what would happen to her own soul? Is it possible to do dark deeds without falling into darkness yourself? And for me there was the challenge of seeing if I could write such a tale, but still fill it with the joy and laughter that is Sally’s essence.
What is your writing process?
It’s now totally different to what it was. These days it’s what I believe Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman call “The Valley of Clouds” technique. You’re standing on a hill on one side of a valley, which is filled with mist. You can see the top of the hill on the other side, where you want to end up, and here and there in between you can see the odd tree top, a church spire perhaps, a few columns of chimney smoke. You can’t yet see how these things are connected, but if you go down into the mist and wander about, it gradually clears until you can see how everything works.
That’s how a book starts, with a raw idea, a few key elements of plot, and if it’s a new series, with cardboard cutout characters that are just names, descriptions and a few background details.
I might then just write a throw away chapter or two to get a flavour of the thing (walking into the mist), and the characters begin to come to life, telling me their own stories, their takes on the world, and whether or not they really would do something. Then the book proper begins, the plot starts to form in detail, and I mean REAL detail, much of which won’t ever be stated clearly in the book, all driven by the characters and what they will and will not do. I might outline the entire book like that before I start to write, or I might do the first half and write all those chapters because I’m pretty sure things won’t change, before doing the detail plotting of the second half. Some of the timings in this plotting can go right down to the second, and all of the little details like the time of the tides, the phases of the moon, the weather at that time of year, what the farmers are doing, are all worked out in advance. And I haven’t even mentioned all the research I do to make sure that absolutely everything is as right as I can make it without doing a hundred different doctorates!
It’s all a great deal easier for the second book of a series, because the characters are already there, so the new adventure comes together far more quickly as a result.
This approach, which includes a variety of self-editing techniques, has reduced the time required by the real editors by about 95% compared to my first book.
Do you write using pen and paper or on a computer?
I use a computer, and a full sized one at that.
I find pen and paper simply too slow for writing the actual book, because I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. I lose stuff. Pen and paper are however brilliant for capturing facts, sudden thoughts when I’m away from the computer, capturing something someone has said etc. But even better might be to dictate into my phone, because then I have all the nuances of tone and manner of speaking, which communicate an awful lot more information than a few dry scribbles.
A full sized screen. (iMac 27 inch if you want to know) lets me have large text, making it easy to spot errors, and I can have multiple windows open which is great for research, or flicking back and forth in the book to make sure I’m not leaving any loose ends.
I did write a good chunk of A Thoughtful Woman, and In Two Minds using Dragon Naturally Speaking, because I’d injured both shoulders and couldn’t actually write. That was… different… More like writing with pen and paper. When I’m typing, I change things on the fly, the cursor flicking up and down the page, back and forth making changes as I go. That doesn’t work so well with Dragon Naturally Speaking because while it does a first class job of taking dictation, it’s a bit clunky if you use it for editing. So I had to pretty much work out entire paragraphs in my head before I started to speak, which for me is a completely alien way of working. But, it did in fact work, and without it those two books would have taken another twelve months to complete ,so hats off to Dragon Naturally Speaking!
Laptops are all right for actually writing the novel itself, but I find the small screen a real pain when I’m doing research or cross referencing, and even when I’m doing the detailed plotting. Plus, an awful lot more errors slip through if I’m editing on a laptop, an awful lot more… So it’s very much a second best solution for me, and quite frankly, the little scrunched up keyboards most of them have just aren’t good for you!
Who is your favourite character out of your stories and why?
Out of the Sally Mellor’s stories it’s Sally herself. She’s just so full of fun and life, a truly lovely person and a good friend, but able to let her dark side roam free without destroying herself. Quite a number of my beta readers said pretty much the same thing about Sally. “I really like this woman, but I don’t ever want to meet her!” I find her absolutely fascinating!
In the In Two Minds time travel stories set in Anglo Saxon Britain, my favourite character is Thomas, the museum curator who’s plunged back in time where his soul finds itself sharing the body of a ten year old prince. That’s one hell of a situation if you think about how you’d struggle to cope yourself, and on all sorts of levels. He’s a very good man, but he’s having to make some pretty tough decisions, and take effective action in an entirely alien environment. He’s fun to write.
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
Thomas the time traveller I think. I mean for some of the time he can fly (as a spirit) and for the rest he’s a prince with the power to change his world! There are worse ways to live!
In the Sally Mellors stories I’m not so sure. I like Sally a lot, but I don’t think I’d like to be her. There’s a new character, a young policeman called Paul Dobson. He’s really interesting, and I’m going to enjoy watching what he does next, so maybe him.
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
Now that’s an interesting one…
Sally told me her name herself, and most of the names in the Sally stories are like that. They just come into my mind. My characters become quite real to me, as real as a real life human being, with all their little nuances and experiences, far more than ever make it into the books. Sometimes they even change their names. When I first started to write what became the Sally books, the focus was on the detective, not her. I called him Yehudi McEwan, a joke name from one of Billy Connolly’s very early routines. I built up all the trials and tribulations he’d have in his career because his parents had been so stupid to call him that, but the instant Sally appeared that entire subplot simply vanished, and he became Peregrin instead, at his own request, a winged hunter spotting its prey with gimlet eye.
The names in the Prince Wulfstan time travel series aren’t so straight forward. Anglo Saxon names are… tricky things! Finding a range to choose from is surprisingly easy, but I then have to narrow that down to names which most readers will be able to get their heads around without too much effort. Sometimes of course I have no choice and have to use the names of the real characters who’re appearing in the story, such as Ealfflaed and Eadburgh, the actual daughters of King Offa of Mercia, or Cynethryth his wife. They’re a bit harder to grasp than say Rowena, Scarlett and Topaz, which believe it or not are actually valid Anglo Saxon names. So in this situation, the characters sort of have the right of refusal, and if it becomes apparent a name isn’t working, it gets changed.
If a tooth costs a tooth and an eye costs an eye
When a man hits his wife, then it’s his turn to die
Furious that the courts and police can’t prevent respected surgeon John Kirby from beating his wife, Sally Mellors steps in to save her. Permanently…
But Grace Kirby isn’t the only one who needs saving and Sally quickly discovers she’s taken on a much bigger job than she’d thought.
With her unique ability to blend justice with fun, Sally sets joyfully about the business of removing the monsters from women’s lives, but is she in danger of becoming a monster herself?
As her friends in the police get ever closer, Sally has some serious questions of her own to answer.
Additional Maps of where An Implacable Woman is set–https://ktfindlay.com/an-implacable-woman-maps/
Author Bio –
K.T. Findlay lives on a small farm where he dovetails his writing with fighting the blackberry and convincing the quadbike that killing its rider isn’t a vital part of its job description.
Social Media Links –
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