Having been quizzed by friends and family on my debut novel His First His Second, I put together a quick Q&A
Q: Alicia Friend is kind of an oddball, isn’t she?
A: I’d say she’s unique. She knows who she wants to be and she doesn’t compromise. Most police officers she meets are dour and grumpy, and she sees how that impacts their personal lives. She doesn’t want to be like that so radiates the sort of perkiness that sometimes grates on her fellow officers. But it’s who she is.
Q: Unlike the detective she has to advise during the investigation. Isn’t he more of a stereotypical hard-bitten type of investigator?
A: I think of him more as an archetype than a stereotype. The committed detective whose personal life went to pieces because of the job. I needed him to be this way as a contrast to Alicia. We meet Alicia through his eyes. He doesn’t like her at first but he warms to her and slowly becomes less of a grump.
Q: And the novel goes to some dark places.
A: Yes. I found that at one point I was trying to include ALL my research, and I’m really aiming for a thrill ride as much a straight police procedural. I’m trying to emulate the likes of John Connolly and PJ Tracy. I originally included the sort of forensic details you get with Patricia Cornwell or Kathy Reichs, but it wasn’t right for this book. I keep it as accurate as possible, but it’s about the characters and how they uncover secrets, both externally and within the police.
Q: The title is a bit odd. Can you explain it?
A: Not without spoilers. Although, if the reader figures it out early on, it won’t ruin the experience. It’s a small part of the story, but fits the mood. It relates to something the killer tells his victims. I used to simply call the novel “First & Second” but this felt a bit vanilla.
Q: The cover mentions that one victim’s father, a widower, has a dark past. What is that?
A: It is covered early in the novel, but I’d rather not spell it out here. It enables Richard to run a parallel investigation, though, one that hinders Alicia and Murphy. While he really begins to like Alicia, he senses she likes him back, so it’s also a way of staying inside the case, of pushing on to find his daughter. The real question, as the novel progresses, is how damaging this will be for Alicia.
Q: What’s the tale of the novel itself then?
A: I wrote the original in 2004, then rewrote it in 2007, and now it’s had another polish via myself and a professional editor. It was actually the sub-plot (or side-plot) that came first, the idea of Richard tracking his daughter and circumventing the police. But, as I made him more devious and conniving, I realised I needed a different angle. So I came up with Alicia.
Q: And how, exactly, do you come up with a character like that?
A: She is based on a real person. But very loosely. The essence is there, although I had to invent certain aspects for dramatic effect. The parts from real life are: a ditzy, perky outer shell, yet possesses a fierce intelligence, true dedication, and being brilliant at her job.
Q: So the real Alicia Friend isn’t a serving police officer?
A: No, she isn’t. And if she was, I certainly wouldn’t say so here.
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