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Book Fiends Kingdom Q&A 

Do you find it hard to sit and write every day a certain amount of words towards your finished project?

Well Iíd be lying if I said it was easy! I have a minimum target of 1,000 words a day when Iím writing, but really Iím looking to get nearer 1,500 words down on the page. As with many things in life, the hardest bit is starting, but once Iím away itís usually not too bad. The thing I have to remember is that no oneís going to write the book for me!

Did you choose the names of your characters before you started writing, and how did you come up with the name Zac Hunter?

Before I set out to write a book, I spend a fair bit of time making detailed notes on the major characters that can run up to five or six pages long. As well as giving them all a name (and trust me, this can sometimes be the hardest part), I come up with things like their family background, their physical description, their clothing, what they like to eat, what car they drive, etc, until I have a fairly well rounded idea of who they are and what makes them tick. A lot of this information may not get used in the novel, but it makes it easier for me to view them as real people rather than just names on a page.

As for my lead character, Zac Hunter, his surname was chosen as a reference to his role (i.e. heís a hunter of bad guys), while I wanted his first name to be a little out of the ordinary. I got the name Zaccharia from a book I read about a Romany traveller when I was a child, and itís stuck with me ever since.

How many words do you have to write for a book the length of Justice for all?

Justice For All contains just under 90,000 words, which is fairly lean for a book of its type, as I wanted to ensure that the action came thick and fast. The next Zac Hunter novel, Blood Law (due for release in 2009) has around 95,000 words, whereas the first draft of the book Iím currently working on will probably come in at around 100,000 words (although that will be cut down in the editing process). Whenever I set out to star writing a novel, the thought of having to come up with so much verbiage is always a bit daunting!

Did you have to do a great deal of research on a series of crimes before you could commit the story to paper to get the book together?

I did carry out quite a lot of research before I started writing, but not so much on crimes (as my imagination is twisted enough to make these up!) but more on such diverse topics as locations, cars, guns, the Californian justice system, Russian proverbs, gangsta speak, unarmed combat, and the techniques employed by a word class sniper. I find the research process to be an enjoyable one, as it gives me a chance to learn something new.

Do you think that there are authors who have influenced you with your writing?

Without a doubt, as every book Iíve read will have had some sort of impact on me as a writer Ė I think itís fair to say that weíre all the sum of our influences. Off the top of my head, I guess the following authors deserve a mention:

  • Robert Crais, for his pacing, lead character, and love of L.A.
  • Andrew Vachss, for his black humour and shadowy morality
  • Harlan Coben, for his fiendish plotting
  • Stephen King, for his grasp on human, and particularly male, relationships and
  • John Connelly, for taking the crime novel in brave, new directions.

What helps you to keep writing, is it music or a favourite snack?

Neither, itís more the fact that if Iím not writing I feel like the laziest person on the planet!

Do you have a good way of relaxing?

My wife would tell you that Iím not very good at relaxing, as even when Iím not busy, Iím always thinking about the next job that needs to be done. Working from home has countless benefits, but it does mean that you never really leave work, so I do find it hard to switch off. Even when Iím watching my favourite crime shows on TV (The Shield, The Wire, The Sopranos, if anyoneís interested) I often find myself making notes on location, character, dialogue, etc. The one time I do let go is when Iím listening to music Ė usually loud rock music, as besides books this is my other great love in life. I go to a lot of gigs in my hometown, Norwich, and my favourite weekend of the year is when I make my annual pilgrimage to the Reading Rock Festival in August.

Do you feel bad if you get writers block and the words wonít come. What do you do to get through it?

Writerís block isnít something Iíve really experienced yet. I do have days when itís harder to write than others, but I find that the best way to overcome them is to stay at the P.C. and just keep plugging away until something clicks. Iíve had mornings where itís taken me two hours to write (and re-write) one paragraph, and then Iíve suddenly rattled off two pages in half an hour.

Have you found it easy to make the change between being a writer, for your own benefit, rather than writing for a financial institution?

When I wrote for a financial institution my output was very factual, but writing a novel demands a far more rounded set of skills. When I first decided that I wanted to give it a go, the two areas that I was most concerned about were dialogue (as Iíd never really written any before) and plotting, as I had no idea if I could create a storyline that would hold a readerís attention over the course of a novel, but once I started I found that I enjoyed taking on these two new challenges, and hopefully overcoming them Ė but Iíll let my readers be the judge of that! The hardest part of the transition was not so much about the writing, but more about going from full time employment and a monthly wage to not knowing where the next pay cheque was coming from. In fact, when I first started out, there was no guarantee that my book would ever see the light of day (far from it in fact, as very few aspiring writers are fortunate enough to ever see their work published), so it really was a leap into the unknown.

Why did you choose to write a crime novel rather than any other genre of book?

Because crime novels, and American crime novels in particular, have been my favourite genre since I was a teenager, probably accounting for around eighty to ninety percent of all the books that I read, so when it came to writing my own novel, it seemed like the natural choice.

In your research did you find that police officers and detectives are suspended like the way Zac was at the start of your book and still try to carry on with the work they were doing prior to their suspension?

This wasnít something that I researched in particular, but I wanted to write about the sort of man that wouldnít let things go, that felt driven to see that justice was done, regardless of the personal cost. And Zac was actually fired rather than suspended at the start of Justice For All, so his commitment to the cause is all the more impressive!

Is there another novel on the way and will this be a continuing story of Zac and the officers around him?

The second novel in the Zac Hunter series, entitled Blood Law, will come out in 2009. When Hunter answers a distress call from a beautiful Latino girl from his past, he finds himself sucked deep into the murky world of L.A. street gangs, where illegal drugs are the major currency and automatic weapons are the main negotiating tool. With a childís life at stake, Hunter finds himself in a race against time to discover whoís behind the recent upsurge in violence, and why theyíre so keen to see the streets run with blood.

Do you think that it is easy to write a story about an area that you donít live in?

In my experience, itís not easy to write a story at all, regardless of where itís set, but itís fair to say that Iíve made things a little more difficult for myself by setting my novels in America. Again, this decision stemmed from the fact that I love American crime fiction, plus I love its wide screen appeal as everything is writ large, while the fact that half the population is tooled up gives a crime writer plenty of scope for action!

Would you say this was an adult or a teenage book?

That all depends on the teenager and their parents, and thereís a big difference between a thirteen year old and a nineteen year old. For the most part Iíd say that this was an adult novel with adult scenes and themes, but people should make their own minds up Ė Iím no Mary Whitehouse.

How does your wife find it now you work at home and not in an office or does it not bother her very much?

While the idea of working from home is an attractive one, itís fair to say that itís not for everybody. Itís quite a lonely existence (I can go hours on end and only talk to my dog), and many people would miss the cut and thrust of human interaction that an office provides. My wife is one of those people, whereas Iím a bit of a hermit. She also gets the added benefit of having a househusband, as I do most of the shopping, cleaning, washing, etc! And it wasnít until I started working from home that we felt able to get a dog Ė Murphy, our chocolate Labrador, whoís now a hugely important part of our lives.

Would you ever put a member of your family in any of your books, or base a character on one of them?

In short, no. My characters are never based solely on one person, theyíre more of an amalgamation of various human traits and attributes, so theyíre basically a by-product of my over active imagination!