Interview with Simon Kernick

How was the “author” in you born?

I’ve always wanted to write, pretty much as soon as I could pick up a pen. I have no idea why. It was just instinctive, I suppose, and the urge is as strong today as it ever was.

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You write seriously ugly stories, why?

I wouldn’t call them ugly. I’d call them fast-paced, dark thrillers. It sounds better.

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Have you considered writing crime stories for young readers?

I have, but I’ve never got any further than that. Maybe one day, but at the moment, I’m enjoying writing my fast-paced, dark thrillers, even if they are a bit ugly!

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What would be the biggest challenge compared to stories for adults?

The challenge would be the same. Writing a story that appeals to your audience. That’s always hard, whatever age you’re aiming at.

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It seems more and more common that authors use made up places instead of using cities and places that really exist. Why do you think that is?

I suppose it gives them more freedom to set their scenes, but I wouldn’t do it myself. I prefer to use places that people know are real because I think it helps the reader identify with them.

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How much of the time to produce a book is research and how much time is actual writing?

Planning a book takes me about two months, while the actual writing takes roughly another six. I research less these days, preferring simply to call one of my police contacts if I get stuck on either a technical issue, or one of procedure. I’m a firm believer in the adage that you can research too much.

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Is there an actual roll model for Dennis Milne?

No, but he is loosely based on three different police officers I know, although I promise that none of them are murderers!

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How do you go about doing research in the kind of environment your books are placed in?

I know the areas I write about, having spent a lot of time in London in the Nineties, and I’ve gained good contacts on both sides of the law, who I talk to regularly. They help to make the work authentic, and tend to be great sources for ideas.

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What are you working on right now?

I’ve just finished my ninth book, THE LAST TEN SECONDS. It’s a thriller about an undercover cop who finds himself in too deep inside a criminal gang, who are planning to kidnap a suspected serial killer from police custody. It all takes place over forty-eight hours and has plenty of twists and turns, and I’m very pleased with it. I’m going to take a short break now until Christmas and am then planning on writing my third Dennis Milne book, which will appear in the UK in January 2011.

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Are you familiar with any of our Swedish crime authors?

Yes. I’m a big fan of Henning Mankel, and have read most of the Wallander books now. I also like Johan Theorin. I thought his debut, ECHOES FROM THE DEAD, was brilliant. Incredibly, I’m yet to read the millenium trilogy but will devour it now I have some free time, considering everyone I talk to thinks it’s so good. Swedish crimewriting is enjoying a real boom in the UK at the moment. The competition’s beginning to worry me!

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If you were to suggest who we should interview next, who would this be, and what question would you ask this person if you could?

My God, that’s a tough one! If it was a dead writer, it would be Anthony Burgess. I would like to know what made him think the future would be as bleak as he portrayed in his brilliant novel, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and whether, having been proven largely correct in his predictions, he saw any hope now. As for live writers, it would be Dennis Lehane. I’d ask whether he’d ever consider writing another Kenzie and Gennaro novel. I consider the five he wrote to be some of the best PI novels I’ve ever read, and would recommend them to any afficianado of pacy, thought-provoking crimewriting.

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Many thanks for you time!

It’s a pleasure. Thanks for your interest.