It gives me great pleasure to be featuring a new to me author, John Day, whose latest novel Bent Penny will be released on 11th May 2016 and is available to order here. John kindly agreed to an interview on Linda’s Book Bag to tell me all about his writing. Not only that, but John has given me an exclusive extract from the opening of the second book in the series, Dirty Penny, to share with you too.
D.I. Penny Britain is a brilliant detective, but despised by colleagues for not being normal, like them. She has dark secrets and no man, or woman come to that, in her life. Until Paul enters her life, that is, but he is taken.
Her boss dumps a high profile kidnapping case on her. She discovers a trail of intrigue and murder out of all proportion to the crime. Then the dead bodies start piling up as someone covers their tracks. When Penny finally discovers the enormity of the threat she faces, her name is added to the hit list.
What is the connection to the gruesome Concrete Man murder? A dead body, but no victim.
Who is the serial killer dubbed the Index Murderer? Elusive as a ghost, forensically aware and super smart, leaving no clues. Who will be next?
An Interview with John Day
Hello John. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and new book, Bent Penny.
I greatly appreciate your interest in my new book, Bent Penny, I welcome the opportunity to tell your readers about it and a little about myself.
Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?
My first thought would be, there is little to tell, but at 70 and retired, I can look back on a turbulent life. Without giving detail, it has provided a wealth of life experience that can be used in my writing. I have travelled a great deal and because of my curiosity, I have met some interesting characters. I tend to watch and analyse how people interact in situations most people would never find them selves in. All valuable stock to the author’s cupboard.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
When my books started selling and people I did not know placed reviews. That was about 2 years ago. I started writing for my own amusement 15 years ago, because I couldn’t find books that entertained me sufficiently. The average reader might spend 8 hours at different times, reading their book and enjoying it. I can spend 3 months, scheming, plotting and writing the words to shape the story. Every moment of it will be utter pleasure.
How would you describe your writing style?
Fast paced, packed from cover to cover with a multi-faceted plot, well developed characters to love or hate. I try hard to give each character their own voice. A toff will sound better educated, a thug will sound coarse… I try to describe only what is relevant to the part being read. A character should reveal what is going on in their mind so the reader can get to know them.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
Because the ideas flow thick and fast, I have no problem there. I don’t know what writers block is. Keeping the flow at bay is difficult. I always plan out my stories so they fall into place quite easily.
The process of marketing is the punishment for all the enjoyment I have received, while writing.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
Having developed a skeleton for the story, I imagine a segment in my dreams. So in a sense, I write in my sleep. The morning is devoted to shopping, garden stuff and the afternoon and evening is my best writing time.
How do you carry out the research for your novels?
In many cases, I have been on location. Often I have been caught up in a situation that I have translated as the actions of my characters. The Max & Carla series contains scenes from things I have done. Like their dive on the sunken ship Zenobia, to recover a fortune in diamonds. A frantic chase through the narrow streets in Greece…
I also consult with experts, in weaponry during WW2 for The Glass Beacon and in the case of Bent Penny, a senior policeman and forensic scientist.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
The same genre as I write. Not that the books give me ideas, it is just a change in pace.
Today we’re celebrating the publication of Bent Penny, which is a slightly different genre for you. Why did you decide on this change of direction?
It is a big change actually; Bent Penny is a psychological crime thriller.
I love writing spy stories, particularly those with interesting and diverse characters set in an adventure background.
The term ‘Police Procedural Thrillers’ fills me with dread and to write one properly requires insider knowledge, I could never imagine making the procedure element exciting. In my mind, for a thriller to be thrilling, there must be mystery, intrigue, betrayal, and a smear of gruesome killing. A bit like a spy story, but with the police taking the lead role. The scope for adventure is minimal, but the other ingredients remain.
I also decided I needed to write to a clearly defined market, so the course was set. My other books were less easily defined and to a large extent, have been missed by readers for that reason.
What are the challenges of writing from a female perspective?
I don’t see a challenge as such, because my wife keeps me on track if I digress. She is a frequent reader with a broad range of genre. She does my editing. I often hear her chuckling at something I wrote, a good test of honest enjoyment, don’t you think?
(I do John!)
I will be quite honest here; the books I have read have not done women justice. I hope I have succeeded in redressing the balance in my books, especially Bent Penny. I write about women I have seen in real life. So, they are intelligent, focused and deceptive.
One fan wrote to me about Carla Day in the Max & Carla series. She said ‘Carla is so inspiring, she is a no nonsense girl and I want to be more like her.’
Penny, in Bent Penny, is quite different to Carla, in the looks and character sense. However, you know that you can depend on Penny. She will be loyal and protect you, unless you are a criminal of a bad kind. Then you will never outsmart her and you will end up in the slammer. Oh! She has her own rules, so a smart lawyer will not save you!
D.S. Penny Britain is a complex individual. How did you go about creating her? Is she based on someone real?
Penny should not be a stereotype, however, most people would not notice her, and she is deliberately unattractive and business-like. Not every woman wants to be glamorous and be bothered by men. She has a career she lives for, a personal life that is only shared by Holly, her cat. This is her world. However, even she can suffer the distraction of infatuation, then all hell can break lose.
Yes, Penny is based on a real person, though she wouldn’t appreciate me mentioning her name.
The world you present in Bent Penny isn’t particularly attractive. How far do you think society is becoming more violent and less caring in real life too?
I was told by an expert that in times of war or great hardship, people are friendlier and caring. Not with the enemy, of course. The so-called civilised world doesn’t have those pressures at the moment and people are too wrapped up in themselves. I see this stark and unpleasant contrast when I travel from my Island to the UK and America. There are kind and friendly people, still to be found in those places, I hasten to add.
Crime and murder has never been pleasant, has it? So a psychological crime thriller by definition will not be a merry affair.
When I started writing Bent Penny at the beginning of this year, the carefully planned plot was conceived then. Without giving anything away, I was recently shocked to hear the very things mentioned in the book, appeared in the news. I hope Bent Penny does not become a crime text book.
(Oh. That sounds intriguing.)
What is it, do you think, that draws the reader to psychological thrillers like Bent Penny so readily?
According to my expert, people are so well protected theses days that the only way they can experience the fear emotion in their lives, is to read about it. Don’t forget, many human instincts are dormant in present society. From time to time, they need to be re-stimulated, in case the person should need them. For example, there is no need to play a competitive game, but there is an inner drive to win that must be satisfied. That is the instinct to beat the opponent, expressing itself.
If Bent Penny became a film, which would you choose to play Penny Britain and why?
Wow, that’s a hard one! Said the actress to the film director. My wife and I independently thought of Jodi Foster as the first choice, if she was younger. There are others, but they are unlikely to be well known, because they play supporting roles. Very well, I might add.
A dressed down attractive woman would just not work. Although Charlize Thereon played a serial killer and was unrecognisable.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
Actually I have some amazing times exploring the world. My exploits into dangerous situations could make a good book of short adventures.
I love to take photos. I refer to myself as a happy snapper who takes normal snaps as well as under water photography. I have swum with sharks as they circled for a feeding frenzy, and no, I was not expecting it. I also take aerial stills and video, exploring the beautiful Island I live on.
(Sounds perfect. I’ve swum with sharks in the Galapagos and manta rays in the Maldives and loved it so I understand exactly what you’re saying.)
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
Electronics, writing software, exploring the forts and tunnels on my home island and talking to people. This provides useful background and sometimes a whole story.
When I was writing The Glass Beacon, I discovered there are some dark secrets hidden in the depths of a cooling pond, on the island.
So the story goes, the Germans dumped equipment into the very deep pond and a recent attempt to raise the interesting vehicles was met with top-level resistance from the British Government. The island had many prostitutes up until the war ended, and they were never found. They vanished without trace.
How important do you think social media is to authors in today’s society?
It has provided an advertising opportunity, but not a good one. Most of the site traffic is chatter and that is good, but the flood of adds and banners that no one looks at should be stopped.
The big failure of the current process is the divide between readers and authors.
It is a syndrome that I perpetuate as a reader. I see a book as a product, like a painting or DVDs. I forget that someone contributed many months of his or her life creating it. I fail to spread the word and so only the best-marketed products survive. Often those same unknown products are superior to the best seller. Remember, you only bought it, because you were told it existed by skilled marketing.
Take for example talent competitions on TV. Those winning contestants are brilliant, as good as celebrities, but would otherwise have remained unknown.
Readers are ultimately short changing themselves by not actively promoting good books by the unknowns. I know a few do, but it is a drop in the ocean, actually.
I would suggest a central registry of books where everyone would consult. Forget Amazon & Goodreads and all the other book sites for their bitty reviews and biased service, just buy from them. Use the central register to get the best book for you. It can be done, but again, the reader has to do their bit.
(Which is why you’re here on Linda’s Book Bag!)
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Bent Penny should be their next read, what would you say?
Expose a serial killer and unravel an extraordinary mystery with D.S. Britain, tonight!
Thank you so much for your time, John, in answering my questions.
Thank you for providing me with this amazing opportunity to make my books known. Those readers who love my writing style will be able to find and enjoy my books. Their reading pleasure is my sole objective.
About John Day
John Day is my pen name and was chosen to avoid issues as a business professional. It also looks better than my real name.
I was born in South of England, was widowed and remarried. I now live on a beautiful Channel Island, where the sea is often a tropical blue or turquoise. Exploring Forts, war time military installations and tunnels can be fascinating, there is a lot to see here.
Now I am retired, I travel a great deal all over the world. Often I use those exotic locations in my Max & Carla thrillers. Other times it is just an excuse to take photos.
I have recently discovered previously unknown artistic skills and wish I had another lifetime to do all the things I would like to do.
An Extract from Dirty Penny
The terrified middle-aged man ran headlong down the roughly hewn chalk tunnel. The uneven path under his feet, worn down to a narrow dip in the floor was treacherous. History professor James Walker was running for his life. A misplaced footing would inevitably lead to a fall, probably a serious injury, and certain capture. Over nearly a century, thousands of feet had shuffled and picked their way along the path, bent double under their heavy load. The steep slope down to the sea ended in a sheer cliff face. Rocks lay some 6 metres below the tunnel entrance, but there was a rope hanging there, waiting for him. The men chasing him shouted for him to stop, but why would he, they intended to kill him. Their warnings and threats echoed after him. The sound of their running and stumbling feet added to the Academic’s fear and panic, as they pursued him. They were all young, fit and ruthless men and they were gaining on him.