The reality behind the fiction – guest post by CJ Carver

I’ve had CJ Carver as a guest on the blog before and I’m delighted to welcome her back for a second appearance. CJ has a new book, the follow-up to her fantastic Spare Me The Truth. It’s called Tell Me a Lie – more of that later.

First, CJ is here to talk about the reality behind the fiction and how the culture of a country influences the story.

Ready? Sitting comfortably, with a large mug of your beverage of choice? Of course you are. Over to CJ…

For a thriller writer, Russia has everything you could possibly want.  Spies, oligarchs, corrupt officials, gulags, the FSB and vodka.  Lots of vodka.  Which is why, when my character Jay McCaulay in Back with Vengeance awakes in a Moscow hotel with no idea how she got there, she initially blames her memory loss on the vodka.

I’m fascinated by Russia.  I visited Moscow during its dissolution in the early nineties.  I met with factory workers in Samara and farmers in Bishkek.  I learned that the people chain smoke, that they’re flashy and love their bling.  They’re deep thinkers and blunt to the point of rudeness, but more interestingly, they’re passionate and fiercely loyal to their country.  And so, the beautiful Ekaterina Datsik was born in Tell Me a Lie.  She’s a combination of all the Russians I met, good and bad, generous and mean, which makes her the perfect enigmatic foil against Dan Forrester’s quest for the truth.

The plot for Tell Me a Lie is driven by Russia’s culture.  The peoples need for a great leader even if he (never a she) imprisons, exiles or executes millions of people without due process.  Look at President Putin.  He’s a ruthless, cold-blooded, corrupt ex-KBG officer but the majority of Russian’s revere him for being a “strong man” thanks to being brainwashed by the media.

I always play the “what if?” game when plotting a new book.  And with Tell Mea Lie I wondered: what if the people found out about Putin’s media manipulation?  His siphoning off billions into his and his cronies’ accounts in the Cayman Islands?  Would they rise up against the government officials like they did against the Tsars and tear down their dachas, kill them?

As I said, Russia is fertile ground for a thriller writer.

And so is Australia.

The land down under doesn’t just have sharks, deadly snakes and spiders, it has a dark and bloody history of their treatment of Aborigines, where over 100,000 children were taken from their families in the 1950s in an effort to try and “breed them white”.

I didn’t set out to write about what is now called the stolen generation, but when my protagonist India Kane in Blood Junction starts looking for her roots, this ugly history begins to make itself known through an Aboriginal policeman who befriends her.  I used it as a sub-plot, which enriches the story and hopefully informs as well as entertains.

Australian culture is perceived to be barbecues on the beach, but there’s a nasty underbelly under all that golden sand.  There’s political corruption, xenophobia and misogyny, all good fodder for novelists, but this is counterbalanced by the Aussies immense generosity, forged from surviving the outback perhaps, or even their convict history.

The culture of a nation isn’t just defined by the social behavior of its people, but by its arts and psychology, and its history, and when I delve into each, a plethora of plots and sub-plots appear until I’m clutching my head wondering which to choose.

Thanks CJ.

Tell Me A Lie by CJ Carver is published by Zaffre on 12th January 2017 in paperback and eBook. I loved Spare Me The Truth, so can’t wait to read this one! You can follow CJ Carver on twitter @C_J_Carver

tell-me-a-lie

A family in England is massacred, the father left holding the shotgun.
PC Lucy Davies is convinced he’s innocent
A sleeper agent in Moscow requests an urgent meeting with Dan Forrester, referencing their shared past.
His amnesia means he has no idea who he can trust.

An aging oligarch in Siberia gathers his henchmen to discuss an English accountant.
It’s Dan’s wife
From acclaimed and award-winning author CJ Carver, this is the next gripping international thriller in her brilliant Dan Forrester series.

1,342 QI Facts to leave you flabbergasted – a guest post by Literary QI ELF Anne Miller

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted by John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, James Harkin and Anne Miller.

Today we’ve got Anne Miller here to tell us about how she became the chief Literary QI Elf.

Without further ado, over to Anne!

I did a Sociology and Politics degree and spent a lot of time on extra curricular activities – one year I ran the campus magazine, another year the university tango dancing society. When I graduated I was lucky enough to win a place on the Edinburgh TV Festival’s talent scheme The Network. (It’s fantastic – if you’re interested in working in TV you should definitely look them up!) We had a wonderfully busy weekend of going to workshops and talks from people like Jay Hunt, who runs Channel 4, and Charlie Brooker about how the TV industry works.

I worked in various TV jobs and then met the team at QI when I had a day shadowing on the QI set all the way back in Series I. They said to stay in touch and I emailed in a fact that I saw on the wall of the Dundee Science Centre that said ‘an eagle can swallow enough botulism toxin to kill 300,000 guinea pigs.’ They liked the fact and said that if I sent them more they might employ me. I like a challenge so sent more facts and a few months later I joined an internship scheme at QI and began helping out on the Twitter feed (@qikipedia) and organising their databases.

That was five years ago and now I write scripts for the TV series, am the Head Researcher for our sister BBC Radio 4 show The Museum of Curiosity and have just co-authored our new book 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted. My favourite facts from the new book include:

  • In the time it takes to listen to The Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’, the ISS travels 500 miles, then 500 more.
  • Until the 1950s,
the rural poor in Norway warmed their feet
 in cowpats.
  • Hans Christian Andersen wrecked his friendship with Charles Dickens by staying with him three weeks longer than planned.
  • The Pieza genus of fly has species called Pieza kake, Pieza pie, Pieza rhea
and Pieza deresistans.
  • During the launch of BBC2 in 1964, a kangaroo got stuck in a lift
at Television Centre.
  • In 2016,
the Swiss city of Lausanne banned silent discos for being too noisy.

Thanks Anne! I do love a quite interesting fact…

1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted is out now at Amazon and Waterstones.

The blog tour continues…
qi-blog-tour-use-this

Jonathan Dark, or The Evidence of Ghosts – a guest post by A. K. Benedict

Today I’d like to welcome A.K. Benedict to my blog. She’s the author of Jonathan Dark, or The Evidence of Ghosts. A brief blurb before we get going, to whet your appetite.

Jonathan-Dark-or-The-Evidence-Of-Ghosts

Jonathan Dark sees the shadowy side of the city. A DI with the Metropolitan Police, he is haunted by his failure to save a woman from the hands of a stalker. Now it seems the killer has set his sights on Maria, and is leaving her messages in the most gruesome of ways.

Tracing the source of these messages leads Maria and Jonathan to a London they never knew. Finding the truth will mean seeing a side to the city where life and death is a game played by the powerful, where everyone is lost but nothing is missing, and where all the answers are hiding, if only they listen to the whispers on the streets.

Shot through with love and loss, ghosts and grief, A K Benedict weaves a compelling mystery that will leave you looking over your shoulder and asking what lurks in the dark.

One of the many fantastic characters in the book is Marjorie, a cabbie who looks after the dead as well as the living. I asked the author if she would mind passing on a few questions to Marjorie, and she very kindly obliged.

Without further ado, over to Marjorie…

1. Hi Marjorie. Who would you most like to pick up in your cab?
Ooh now that’s a lovely question, and an even better thought. If you’re talking famous people, I wouldn’t mind Cary Grant. I’d have a good time with his ghost, I can tell you. I reckon I’d have a great night with Mae West. I’d get Diana Dors along – she’s a laugh.

2. Do ghosts get grumpy if you take a turn that leads to a dead end?
Ghosts and the living are very much alike – they can all be grumpy bastards at times. It’s harder, mind, to sling a spectre out of the cab if they turn nasty. The only dead ends my cab encounters these days, mind, are those sat on its seats. Last time I took a wrong turn was in 1968 and Jim, another cabbie, spotted me. I didn’t live it down for years. Jim still brings it up on my deathday.

3. Where are the pickup ‘hotspots’? Round the Tower? Whitechapel? Posh types in Kensington – what about around the docks?
Those are all good, but not because people died there. People die everywhere – those areas are great for ghost tourists. You don’t stop wanting to see the sights just because you’re dead.
Cemeteries are real hotspots. It’s popular to go and watch relatives mourning at your graveside. A lot of truth comes out at gravesides. A lot of nonsense, too, but you’re more likely to get that apology you’re after. Train stations are also popular. Free travel is very attractive when you’ve had to pay for it all your life. They tend to go late morning or afternoons to get a seat. If you’re in a carriage with a lot of empty seats – then you’re probably not alone.

4. How long have you been taxiing ghosts around the city?
Let me see now. I got my license in 1960 and started picking up ghosts almost from the start. I’ve been Sighted all my life so it seemed impolite to drive by when they flagged me down. So that’s fifty-six years or so. Blimey. At some point during that time I died and became a ghost myself. I saw no reason to stop driving a cab. I’ve never been the retiring kind.

5. Do all the ghosts realise that they *are* actually ghosts?
Not all of them. People need careful handling when they first enter ghosthood. It can be very stressful, being thrown out of life into death. Some don’t understand for ages, a few don’t at all. Even when they accept what they are, some insist they are in a version of
heaven, or hell, or limbo. They’re not. This is it – only this time you don’t get a body. Not your one, anyway.

6. What’s the strangest fare you’ve ever had?
The ghost of a gorilla walked out of London Zoo and hammered at my window. I let her in, she sat in the back and I took her on a round trip of the sights. She seemed to like Buckingham Palace – she thumped on the seat. Could’ve been a republican protest, I suppose. I dropped her back off at feeding time and she put a hand up to the glass before walking back into the zoo. Everybody needs a day out sometimes.

7. Are ghosts good tippers? How do ghosts actually pay, anyway?
Some ghosts are great tippers, others not. Some haven’t had a chance to build up reserves of obols yet – obols are ghost currency, in Europe anyway. Have been since ancient Greek days. It’s not quite the international money markets, though.
The coins are solid in living hands, insubstantial for ghosts so that they can handle them easily. Some materials are like that, such as thinsilk. Ghosts carry their obols in thinsilk bags or purses.

8. Has anyone ever tried to get in the cab if they could not see there was already a ghost riding inside?
The orange sign keeps most of them away – they see that it’s not on and assume I’m off duty or on my way to somewhere in particular. It happens occasionally, though, especially when I stop in the traffic. I usually remember to lock the door but sometimes I forget. One afternoon, a city boy barged in while I was taking a grieving ghost to a funeral. Lovely lady, she was, gentle. I was about to have a word when the lady turned to him and screamed in his face. He left pretty quickly after that.

 

Thanks Marjorie! Jonathan Dark or The Evidence Of Ghosts by A. K. Benedict is available from 25th February, published by Orion.

Enormous thanks must go to A. K. Benedict for being such a good sport and playing along! Thanks also to Netgalley for the review copy – watch out for a review soon!