Last week it was Kevin Wignall. Today we have Simon Kernick author of THE CRIME TRADE. Simon offered to answer some questions.
Thanks for your patience. Here are the answers to your questions:
Let’s start with your bio.
I’m a 38 year old former software salesman, currently living just outside London with my wife and two young daughters, and I’m the author of three London-based crime thrillers: THE BUSINESS OF DYING, THE MURDER EXCHANGE and THE CRIME TRADE (the latter just released in hardback in the UK in June 2004, and set for release in the USA in July 2005). The stories are a loose chronological series and are told from the points of view of both the criminals committing the crimes and the men and women out to catch them. In the case of my first novel, THE BUSINESS OF DYING, which is about a detective who moonlights as a hitman, and told in the first person, you get the view of both sides of the fence from the same man.
Who do you read?
These days, mainly mysteries and thrillers. I like to see what the competition’s doing!! A list of my favourite authors would include from the US: Lawrence Block, Dennis Lehane, Jason Starr, Harlan Coben, and the late and very much lamented Lawrence Sanders, who wrote the Deadly Sin novels, as well as the Archy McNally series. He’s the only guy I’ve ever read who wrote cosies as well as the hardboiled stuff. I also loved Victor Gischler’s debut novel, GUN MONKEYS, which has a great first line. From my side of the Atlantic, I make it a point to read Irish authors, John Connolly and Ken Bruen, and UK writers I tend not to miss include Val McDermid, Ian Rankin and Mo Hayder. Her latest, Tokyo, is a disturbing but very intelligent read, and in my opinion a step up from her first two.
What’s next for you?
I’ve just completed my fourth book, A GOOD DAY TO DIE, which will be released in the UK in June 2005. It’s a sequel to my debut, THE BUSINESS OF DYING, and brings back the detective/hitman anti-hero, Dennis Milne. Returning to London from a self-imposed exile in the Philippines, he’s looking to avenge the murder of a former police colleague, and finds himself dealing with people who are one hell of a lot nastier than he could ever be. He’s a very interesting character to write because he’s morally ambiguous and, although we know he’s done many bad things, the fact remains that he does have a sense of justice, which is illustrated by the fact that he only hurts those he believes deserves it. Whether his actions are justified or not remains a matter for debate.
With book 4 done and dusted, I’ve now got a screenplay to finish off and then it’ll be time to start on book number 5, which is still in the planning and research stage. It’s going to be a big thriller, though, told in the third person and introducing several major new characters.
Are you pleased with critical reaction?
I’ve been very pleased with it. THE BUSINESS OF DYING was described as the crime debut of the year for 2002 by the London Independent, and every one of the UK’s newspapers gave it good reviews. My follow-ups THE MURDER EXCHANGE and THE CRIME TRADE have also been written about very favourably, with THE MURDER EXCHANGE getting a starred review in Kirkus in the States, which is never easy. It’s also up for a Barry Award for Best British novel through Deadly Pleasures magazine, so I’m hoping it’s second time lucky (THE BUSINESS OF DYING was nominated last year but pipped at the post).
Is it okay to punch critics in restaurants? (Optional) Philosophically, you know.
Only if they spill my drink!! No, in all seriousness, you can’t. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had many bad reviews, but you do get the occasional one, and although it’s never nice to read something unflattering about a story you’ve spent a lot of time and sweat writing, you just have to take it on the chin. When you put your work in the public domain, you’re inviting comment, and since you can’t please everyone it stands to reason that some of that comments are not going to be one hundred percent positive. It’s a critic’s job to criticise. If you don’t like what he or she puts down in the paper, don’t read it.
Some comments about how you work, how your career started.
I was a salesman for ten years, and an amateur fiction for probably twice that time, and then one day, after more rejections from publishers and agents that I could ever hope to count, I struck lucky and secured a two book deal, which has now been extended to six. It was one of the happiest moments of my life getting recognition after all that time.
These days I tend to work to business hours Monday to Friday, starting at a little after nine in the morning and finishing up between 4.30 and 5. I find you can’t actually write for more than about six hours a day maximum, otherwise the quality of the work begins to go downhill drastically. These days, now that I’ve got young kids, I sometimes do my writing in a back bedroom round my parents’ house, where it’s a lot quieter and more condusive to creativity.
As I’m full-time now and with a growing family, I tend to not to work on Saturdays and Sundays if I can help it, but I never leave a book I’m working on for more than two days in a row, otherwise I find it incredibly hard to get back into it again.
Any advice to writers?
Yes, be prepared for the long haul- unless you’re very lucky, you will find it an uphill battle getting published, but if you’re confident in what you’re doing and you enjoy doing it, keep going. New writers do emerge from nowhere, and I’m testimony to that. Also, develop a thick skin. You’ll need it to deal with critics (see above), but also editors (whose job it is to make your book saleable even if it means hurting your feelings by putting a red pen through some of your hard work).
Oh, and most important of all, keep practicing. The more you write, the better you will get. I guarantee it.
Are you coming to the States? Canada?
I’ll be at the Bouchercon crime convention in Toronto between the 7th and 10th October this year, and I’m hoping to get to El Paso in February for Left Coast Crime, but I can’t confirm that yet. Other than that, we’ll have to see.
Is there something you’d like to say I’ve forgotten to ask?
No, I think you’ve covered things very nicely. It just leaves me to say thanks very much for your interest, and if any of your readers enjoy my work (or, of course, want to criticize it) please visit my website at www.simonkernick.com, where you can contact me direct to make your comments.
Thank you Simon. It should be noted that Simon has a short story in the latest issue of Plots With Guns; it’s a good one with plenty of twists written in a deft terse style.
Once I have a copy of The Crime Trade, I’ll submit a review. I’m looking forward to it.