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Interview with James
Moushon about my novel:
A killer to unmask - on an English country estate. So far the police have failed, but Jennifer Lloyd has a devious plan.
A feisty TV reporter - prepared to go the extra mile to secure her career in television. Blogging deficiencies or a dodgy CV might otherwise lead to her downfall.
A high-risk strategy - accusing someone of murder while filming a documentary about his beloved gardens. Will Jennifer's self-defence skills save her when the knives come out?
You can read the entire interview below - or click here to see the original, together with James' author profile of Ian Kingsley
Good afternoon, Ian. Thank you for agreeing to talk to me about your forthcoming novel, ‘The Grave Concerns of Jennifer Lloyd’.
It’s always a pleasure to talk to you, James. Thanks for your interest.
When was your novel published?
Very recently! It is now available on Amazon.
I noticed the pre-publication review by Book Viral describes your novel as ‘a fine melding of mystery thriller and contemporary fiction.’ Can you explain this distinction?
I believe the reviewer, Stephan Myers, is referring to the character depth you expect from a contemporary novel – not always present in thrillers if they concentrate on a breakneck pace. To me, getting into the psyche of the main characters is what makes a book memorable - and that’s what I want to achieve. Although writing about crime, I’m more interested in the psyche of my characters than, say, police procedures. I like to think my readers will get to know my principal characters so well they will know how they might react in any given circumstances. But I like that depth framed by the pace and direction that results from a thriller plot, hence this ‘melding’. Contemporary novels can easily drift into uncharted territory if there’s no central thread. Not so with a thriller, which demands a logical development, a distribution of clues, some mystery and a denouement. I believe every scene in a thriller should either develop character or contribute towards advancement of the plot. This keeps the novel taut and, hopefully, that keeps the pages turning.
In your Author’s Note, you mention your protagonist, Jennifer Lloyd, came to you ‘fully-formed’? How unusual would you say that is for a novelist?
I think it’s unusual for an author to have in mind a character of such depth and strength right from the start. It’s more usual to gradually get to know your characters as you write, often going back to the early chapters to remodel them into what they have become. This was new for me, too. Normally it’s a process of gradually putting flesh onto the bones and personality into their mind-set. But Jennifer Lloyd was different. Her background, her forthright manner, and her wish to be represented in a strong first-person manner, all came to me right at the start. It was as if I already knew her as a real person. I had to take notice of her because this was such a gift. I’m so glad I did, rather than constrain her by employing a more traditional approach. K. C. Finn, a reviewer for Readers’ Favorite, said I created ‘a charming and real young woman.’ That’s good to hear from a female reviewer about my female protagonist. Although, I would add, she’s not quite so charming in a tight spot!
The most common question a novelist is asked is: ‘Which came first, characters or plot?’ So, did plot develop from your lead character in this case?
Not exactly. I do plan the plot in some detail, including thinking about some of the individual scenes and even how many words they warrant. And I certainly like to know what a satisfactory ending would be from right from the outset – even if I decide to change it later. Knowing a good ending is what gives me the confidence to put in the inordinate amount of time it takes to get there. If you don’t, it’s like setting out on a journey without a map or a destination in mind. That’s either a formula for a rambling book or a lot of wasted time and rewriting. But, given a workable plan, I always remain flexible. I’m willing to change anything if a better idea or an exciting twist comes to me. In this novel, the ending did change from my original idea. I’m always asking myself: ‘What if?’ The answer can sometimes change things dramatically.
Can you give us a brief outline of the plot?
That puts me back to twists. The mystery thriller is such a well-established formula with its detectives - whether police, private or just plain eccentric - so I looked for a new twist there. Which is why my protagonist has an unusual occupation: a television reporter and presenter. Although Jennifer Lloyd is currently enjoying success in television, this is based on a very dodgy CV in which she falsely claims to have a MA in Ecology. She relies on blagging skills and internet research in order to succeed in her work, and her entry into television came from a fortunate break when, as a local newspaper reporter, she was interviewed on national television and was spotted by a media company to be a ‘natural’. Aware her fictional CV may catch-up with her at any time, she wants to build a sound foundation on which to base her newfound television career: with fame being her short-term fix. Inspired by watching Martin Bashir’s exposure of Michael Jackson in her youth, she goes for a similar approach to catch her interviewee by surprise. In her case it’s to unexpectedly expose a murderer live on camera, when he thinks he’s only going to be asked about his beloved gardens. So rather more risky than Bashir’s mission!
Your principal character sound interesting. Can you tell us more about her?
Jennifer has a broken background and she sees the reader as a much needed confidant and friend. Although very feisty on the surface, the reader soon becomes aware of her fears and weaknesses, and her untrusting nature with regard to men, due to being sexually abused in a children’s home. She learned to be strong, and this allows her humour to shine through which, I think, helps make the book more entertaining. With first-person there’s always the problem of not easily getting away from the narrator, but Jennifer’s humour eases this ‘in-your-face’ relationship, and humorous work snippets both develop her character and act as pace buffers – the kind of thing achieved by switching scenes when writing in third-person.
How do you normally develop your characters?
I found this very difficult during my early attempts at writing fiction. After some research I discovered that many psychologists recognise 32 well-defined ‘normal’ and ‘disorder’ character types, and that sounded a great help. But getting from a character idea to the right type was too challenging. So I developed a graphical interface which made this really easy and that was a turning point for me. It helped me to easily create psychologically-rounded, three-dimensional characters suited to their roles in a story. These days I don’t need the tool so much because by using it I acquired a more natural skill. I believe that to create realistic characters you need to get right into their mind-set, not focus too much on their physicality. By the way, if there are any writers reading this who are interested in getting to know their characters in greater depth by using the method I devised, they can find more about it online at: synergise.com/p4. It’s also great for understanding the likely interaction between the different types.
Where can readers find out more about your latest novel?
Just go to: iankingsley.com/books/jennifer-lloyd.
You have a very large following on
Twitter. Can you tell us about your social media preferences?
I prefer Twitter because you can engage so easily with new people, and I can slot in odd tweets while having a breather from my writing. I tweet daily as @authorkingsley. I’m also on Facebook as ‘author.ian.kingsley’, where I replicate my daily tweets, but I don’t have the time to do a lot of original postings on Facebook – although that may well change. I have a Jennifer Lloyd page there where I’ve published some extracts. I’m also on Pinterest as ‘iankingsley’ because it’s a great place to post pictures of the real locations I use in my novels. I like to create a good sense of place by using real settings as much as possible, and these images, plus those on my website, enable readers who know the locations to visualise what is happening. The homepage of my website, at iankingsley.com, will always give details of where I can be found online, and it includes my latest Twitter posts in a form that makes them easy to read for those who do not have a Twitter account. My website also includes a lot of information about my books, including reviews and details of the settings I have used in all my novels.
Thanks very much for your time, Ian, and much success with your novel.
Thanks again for your interest, James.
Want to read another Christchurch/Bournemouth novel?
As mentioned above, this novel is set in and around Christchurch in the UK. If you live in the Bournemouth area, or know it, and would like to read another of my novels set in Christchurch, Mudeford, Hengistbury Head, and on Mudeford Sandbank, then check out my first thriller: Sandman!
cover image source © iStock.com/Yougen