Today I’m pleased to welcome crime author Juliet B Madison back to Authors to Watch to talk about her new book Best Served Cold, which is released today.
I understand you’ve had some training in forensics. Can you tell us about your background and how you decided to write crime fiction?
Hi Tricia. Sadly my forensic science knowledge is all theoretical. I did a distance learning course in the subject earlier this year. I’m what is generally known as cack-handed, owing to crap physical co-ordination and dexterity, which means I would probably be next to useless in the painstaking fiddly aspects such as lifting prints and making casts.
I live in Reading UK and have had a number of crap paid jobs, which didn’t make use of my potential. I also have no kids by choice and don’t consider myself as inferior on account of it, although some in society would do. I have plenty of author friends who are parents so if I need to check any parent/child scenes I’ve written or need to know about aspects of parenthood I can ask them. I have been reading crime fiction since my late teens so decided to have a go to see if I could do it.
In your opinion, how important is research when it comes to writing your genre?
Research is absolutely essential for crime fiction. If you are writing in a different historical period, like my series which is set in the 1980s and 1990s, you need to be aware of what forensic knowledge and technique was available then. Writing about DNA analysis in a crime novel set in the 1960s for example would be an absolute no-no. You also need to know a bit about the setting of the crime, i.e if you are writing about a theatre you need to have some idea, research the setting as far as you can. Don’t be scared of touching on controversial subjects since crime arises as a result of ignorance in some cases. I’ve been lucky to a great extent in that I know a crime author, Paul Trembling, who is a real-life CSI and I ask him technical questions. Some situations I have been able to write about from personal experience, the emotion associated with losing a partner for example or living with Insulin Dependent Diabetes.
For those who aren’t familiar with the DI Frank Lyle mystery series, can you give us an overview?
The DI Lyle series is set in the 1980s and early 1990s. Frank grows and matures as a person and as a detective throughout the series and develops working relationships with the other detectives who pass through Ashbeck CID. Ashbeck is a fictional city located between Reading and Oxford in South-East England. He & his team investigate many high profile murder cases, the latest of which is told in Best Served Cold. To date Frank has dealt with various killers with diverse motives for, and methods of, murder.
Does Frank Lyle change much as a result of the crimes he investigates throughout the series?
Yes, Frank does change. He gets older for one thing. At the beginning of the first book, Second Chances, he is a youthful thirty-nine, at the time of Best Served Cold he is five months short of his fiftieth birthday. He develops an amicable relationship with his ex wife, Sarah, more for the sake of their son, James. In Second Chances they are constantly at one another’s throats, by the time of Best Served Cold they have a fairly easy relationship. Frank learns a great deal about human nature and more about what motivates people to murder. He also learns that family and friends are more important than results and Best Served Cold continues the story of his second happier marriage to ex Detective Constable Jayseera Lyle.
Other than Frank which character changes most throughout the series?
Without a doubt the character who changes most is Sarah, Frank’s ex wife. Although she is ten years older than Frank she behaves like a bit of a spoilt brat in Second Chances, blaming Frank’s job for the divorce and making it difficult for him to spend time with James (who is only ten at that time) as a result. Although Sarah does not actually appear again until the fourth book, Murder in the Wings, we learn how she has finally managed to separate someone she loves from the crimes he committed. Her somewhat vitriolic reaction to James coming out shocks all present, but even that hostility fades with time because James is her son and she loves him. Sarah has never truly stopped loving Frank, but she finally realises that she has lost him for good. She must learn to live with her regrets.
What do you think Frank’s biggest challenge is in Best Served Cold?
As a result of something that happens during the book which affects people he cares about, I think Frank’s biggest challenge will be to keep everything in perspective.
Besides Frank Lyle, who is your favorite character in the series?
That’s a really hard one to answer because I love all the regular characters for different reasons, but lately I believe my favourite is Detective Sergeant Thomas Fox, nephew to the District Coroner. DS Fox showed incredible insight in the last book Murder in the Wings and he will show that again in Best Served Cold. DS Fox is ambitious, but not the sort to trample on others to get what he wants.
Your latest novel in the series, Best Served Cold, touches on some serious and disturbing issues. Without giving too much away, can you give us an idea of what your book is about?
DI Lyle is about to get a glimpse into the murky world of political activism and hate crime; the murder of a prominent city councillor is just the tip of the iceberg.
The city of Ashbeck is on high alert when news breaks that convicted triple murderer and paedophile Bob Kenyon has escaped from custody.
Can DI Lyle and his team get to the bottom of this murky mess before another atrocity occurs?
So far, you’ve had positive feedback about your series. Do you think your decision to delve into more controversial topics will generate any negative feedback, and if so, what is your response to would-be critics?
You can’t predict what a reviewer will say or think, if they possess a brain at all. I would pointedly ask a critic for links to their own books on Amazon. (guaranteed they will not have any). The adult content/theme warnings are clear enough. I am still expecting some form of homophobic comment with reference to James Lyle’s relationship with DS Thomas Fox. My advice to homophobic critics would be to come out of their own closet before they attack peoples characters’ mature enough to be out of theirs.
Best Served Cold raises two important moral questions, which readers will no doubt already have their own opinions on, but I ask them to hold fire on those opinions for now and see just how much, if at all, the book challenges or changes those views. The first moral question is whether people are born wicked or if the circumstances of their lives make them that way? The second question is whether or not murder can ever be morally justified?
Who has been the most helpful to you throughout the series so far?
It’s impossible to thank everyone. I owe huge thanks to Katrina Bowlin-MacKenzie, who takes time out to edit my work, to Malika Gandhi, who gives me advice on the Hindu faith when required, Paul Trembling, who gives me advice on typical CSI stuff, to everyone who tweets about and shares my work. Tricia Drammeh has been a very staunch supporter of the series from book one and I value her advice on mom stuff too. Thanks again to John Holt for the wonderful cover designs and promo pictures. Lastly to everyone who has ever had me on their blogs to talk about the latest series release.
What’s next for Frank Lyle? What are you currently working on?
I have made a tentative start on Dead on Arrival, the 6th DI Lyle novel, which involves people and drug trafficking. I am also working on a novella, A Murder-Free Christmas, which should be available to pre-order from the last week in November.