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Fast Five with author MJ Arlidge

I feel so fortunate lately, another one of my all time favourite crime authors is joining me for the latest author interviews’ on the blog!

Firstly, Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions in Booked up girl’s “Fast Five” interview series! Matt, could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself … 

My pleasure. So I’m a TV producer turned novelist, author of eight Helen Grace books and one standalone! I write full time now, dividingmy time between novels and screenwriting. I’m a London boy by birth, but am now living in Hertfordshire. When I’m not writing or entertaining my children (!), I love playing sport, going to plays/cinema and  travelling – that is my grand passion!

1. Your new book, A Gift For Dying has just come out- I read it over one day and couldn’t put it down, I absolutely loved it! (Read my review here) In your own words, could you tell us a little bit about the book?

A serial killer is stalking the streets of Chicago. The police are stumped, in fact the only personwho seems to have any insight into where and when the killer might strike next is a wayward teenage girl, Kassie. But not for the reasons you might think. Kassie claims to be able to foresee death – just by looking at you she knows  when and how you will die. It falls to forensic psychologist Adam Brandt to work out whether she’s telling the truth or whether there is a simpler, more malign reason for her knowledge of the killer’s plans.

2. A Gift For Dying is a bit different from your usual work, What inspired you to write this story? How did this idea come to you? Did something suddenly prompt it or was it a progressive thought process?

It’s an idea that I’ve been mulling on for the best part of 15 years. I’ve always loved the idea of a kid with the gift of foresight, someone who might be able to tell you how long you have left on earth. A Gift for Dying is a really twisty serial killer thriller but at its heart there is one simple, massive question. If someone could tell you exactly when you die, would you want to know?

I absolutely love learning about inspiration for books – thank you for sharing. And I don’t know …. Maybe I would … But maybe I’d be too scared to!

3. You have built a great set of characters in this book – young Kassie who has this gift/curse to see how someone dies just by looking into their eyes, and Adam, an intrigued, dependable psychologist, who is determined to help Kassie. How did their characters come about? Did you see any of yourself in them?

No, they’re not based on me or anyone I know. I did a lot of research for this book, travelling to Chicago, meeting forensic psychologists there, getting to grips with  the US criminal justice system, but the characters gave birth to themselves. I knew I wanted a female lead, a teenager with mental health problems, an unreliable narrator perhaps, and I knew I wanted Adam Brandt to be the opposite – solid, good, logical. The clash of this mysterious teenager and a man who thinks he knows all the answers lies at the heart of the book.

As I am a total fan of your long standing series featuring Detective Helen Grace, it would be a crime not to ask you a couple of questions on the subject:

4. I absolutely love Helen – how did you come up with her character? How would you describe her?

Ha ha, how to describe Helen? She is a tough, all action, spirited and intelligent copper. She is also a complete mess – isolated, damaged, highly critical of herself. She came about because I knew I wanted Helen to be a fascinating, intense character – not your standard copper with drink and marital problems – and I think I was influenced by Stieg Larsson (and Lisbeth Salander) at the time. Hence Helen’s love of fast motorbikes and her unusual extracurricular activities.

5. You recently announced you are working on a new instalment for next year, what can you tell us about it?

I’m currently writing Helen Grace No. 9., which is entitled All Fall Down. I can’t tell you anything about it yet, except to say that it’s very much a high concept “what would you do?” thriller in the vein of Eeny Meeny.

Thank you so much for sharing today, I’ve loved getting to know you and your books more! … One last thing – Has it always been a goal of yours to write crime novels? If you weren’t a crime author, what would be your dream job?

Yes, i love reading and watching crime, so I’m very happy with my choice of career. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d love to be a chef. I love the creativity and performance of it and, of course, I love food!

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