Tag Archives: The Shining Girls

The Intel: Tim Adler

Tim_Adler_headshot-copyWe love writers here, and we love finding out what goes on in their crimey heads. Stepping up to give us The Intel this week is author and journalist Tim Adler.

Tim’s the author of the non-fiction books The House Of Redgrave and Hollywood And The Mob, about the Mafia’s relationship with the movie industry. He’s written for the FT, The Times and the Telegraph, and he’s the former London Editor of the US Entertainment website Deadline Hollywood.

However, Tim’s now focusing his writing talents on fiction, and his debut psychological thriller Slow Bleed went to No.1 in the Amazon Kindle psychological thriller chart.

Tell us about Slow Bleed — what’s it about?

Slow Bleed follows a woman surgeon on the hunt for a female patient who has kidnapped her son – except everybody believes the kidnapper is dead. It’s a chase story that asks the question, “How far would you go to get back the one person you loved?” I suppose the Hollywood pitch would be ‘Flightplan set in a hospital’ (a 2005 Jodie Foster movie about a woman whose daughter seemingly disappears during a transatlantic flight).

Where did the inspiration for it come from?

For me, the purpose of writing thrillers is asking yourself the question, what is it I’m most afraid of? When I was writing Slow Bleed, the answer was, what if one of my children disappeared? How would I cope? What would I do? The beauty of the question is that it keeps changing as you get older. The fear at the heart of the book I’m currently planning is ‘What if the person you loved most in the world killed themselves right in front of you?’

In a funny way Slow Bleed is also my version of the TV show Lost; I liked the idea of the mysterious island. Just as its follow-up, Surrogate – currently out to publishers — is my version of one of those early nineties ‘From Hell’ psycho-thrillers, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle or Fatal Attraction. In my version a childless couple invite a surrogate mother into their home with unexpected and terrifying consequences.

What’s your writing process? What comes first – plot or character?

I’m sorry to say that for Slow Bleed the answer is very much plot driven; this is a nonstop chase thriller so plotting was important. I have read a lot of scriptwriting books, and the best of them is Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat, which has a really handy cheat sheet as to how to develop a story. I figured that a story is a story, whatever the medium. As the story develops, of course it becomes something else. However my new one is much more character driven and, I hope, more sui generis. The important thing is to keep surprising the reader. That’s what storytelling is about: surprising the reader.

Take us through a typical writing day for you?

Well, I have a day job so the important thing is to carve out an hour a day and keep pushing the story forward. It doesn’t matter if you write three words or 500. There aren’t any prizes for rushing something. I mean, you don’t rush a casserole in the oven, it takes time. As my shorthand teacher used to say, the secret to mastering something is little and often.

Who are the authors or you love, and why?

Ernest Hemingway is both a paragon and a danger – his deceptively simple sentences are easy to imitate and difficult to pull off. I’m a huge fan of another American writer Raymond Carver, whose short story So Much Water So Close to Home has to be one of the best crime stories ever written. And, while we’re on an American kick, Norman Mailer’s 1964 account of a fatal boxing match remains, to my mind, probably the greatest piece of descriptive prose ever written.

Slow Bleed 2 (3)What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

That it’s so hard to make any money at it (laughs). I’ve had three nonfiction books published so far and each time one was published, I thought my life was going to change. With my last one especially, a family biography of the Redgrave family, I expected that, given the reviews, publishers would offer me work. Of course nothing happened. The author John Mortimer said that a book has the shelf life of a pint of milk and he was right. So I’ve come to think of it being more like a cabinet maker, trying to make something sturdy. With my thrillers, it’s more like being an expert shot – one day I hope to hit a bull’s-eye.

How do you deal with feedback?

Asking non-writers for feedback is hopeless. People just nod and say, ‘I thought it was very good.’ But when you ask, what was wrong with it, they just look blank. Recently I was introduced to the children’s writer Rohan Gavin, whose new book Knightley & Son has just been published by Bloomsbury, and that was a joy; we spent an hour-and-a-half working through the plot of my new one.

Dealing with rejection is hard. My teenage son is a songwriter and composer, and I tell him that the difference between a professional and amateur artist is the ability to absorb rejection but keep pushing on.

How have your own experiences shaped your writing?

Everything in Slow Bleed is heavily autobiographical. All the settings and characters are places that I’ve either been to or composites of people I have known. When you look at writers like Hemingway or Scott Fitzgerald, really they’re just transcribing their experience. I suppose the real reason why I wanted to write Slow Bleed was to work through my feelings about getting divorced.

Give me some advice about writing…

Hollywood has something it calls “high concept” – a simple original idea you can hang the rest of the story from. Often it takes the form of ‘what if?’ What if you lived in the world where no more children were being born? Children of Men.

Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls has a brilliant concept: a time-travelling serial killer is hunted down by one of his victims. Coming up with a simple, original idea is hard.

What’s your best advice for an author looking to get into the marketplace…

You can save yourself a lot of time trying to get an agent by going into your local library and making a list of agents who represent books similar to yours. They will be thanked somewhere in the acknowledgements.

What made you take the self-publishing route?

I’m not sure there is much difference between self-publishing and regular publishing any more. With my latest nonfiction book The House of Redgrave, which The Sunday Times called “compulsively readable” and The Daily Telegraph gave 5*s to, in addition to writing the book I also sourced photographs, wrote captions, worked on the jacket blurb and even came up with the idea for the jacket design. My girlfriend’s mother is what they call an “artisan perfumer” which means that everything is handcrafted and bottled in small runs. I prefer to think of this as ‘artisanal publishing.’

Of course, it would be great if one of the big houses got behind my career, but I suspect they reserve their marketing firepower for a handful of titles each season, whether it’s a Before I Go To Sleep or Gone Girl.

What’s next for you?

As I said, the follow-up to Slow Bleed is currently out to publishers. We’ve already had one offer. Now I’m planning my third thriller about a woman who photographs the moment of her husband’s death, only to realise that everybody in the photo is somehow involved in his murder. We’re pitching it as a Murder On the Orient Express for the Instagram generation.

What I really want to write though is what I call a ‘discombobulation’ thriller; you know, a kind of what-the-hell is going on story. Without wishing to be pretentious, the reveal is often a metaphor for what is reality now. So in Truman Show the answer was reality TV or in the movie Jacob’s Ladder, which was set in the sixties, the answer was drugs. My favourite though has to be the film The Game where the answer was ‘it’s all a game’ – which is kind of a timeless metaphor, don’t you think?


You can check out Tim’s psychological thriller Slow Bleed right here.

Crime Thriller Books Out This Week:

It never gets easier deciding what to read next, does it? Here are few of this week’s new releases to send you into a further spiral of indecision.

UnknownHarlan Coben‘s latest stand-alone thriller is called Six Years and is now available in hardback, paperback and as an e-book.

Coben has some interesting things to say about writing. He puts it down to three things – inspiration, perspiration and… desperation. ‘If I didn’t write?’ he asks. ‘What would I do with myself?’ He’s a prolific author because he says that if he didn’t write he’d hate himself, his life would be out of balance.

Which, of course, is why he’s so prolific. According to the official blurb, the story of Six Years unravels something like this:

Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.

But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for…but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life – a time he has never gotten over – is turned completely inside out.

As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart – and who lied to him – soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction.

Unknown-3Thanks to the success of Tell No One, Coben has managed to successfully balance writing stand-alones with his Myron Bolitar series of novels. Another author who has evolved from series to stand-alone novels is Mark Billingham – although you’ll be happy to hear Tom Thorne does make a cameo in the excellent Rush of Blood, which is now out in paperback.

And Thorne’s back in Billingham’s next book – The Dying Hours, which is out next month – and there are big changes afoot for him.

Billingham‘s a big inspiration for those of us who like home-grown police procedurals, and you can read some of his thoughts on writing in this fine Guardian interview right here.

Unknown-2South African writer Lauren Beukes is gaining a big reputation for her novels, which combine thrills and fantasy, and her latest, The Shining Girls, has a genius concept – it’s about a time-travelling serial killer.

Behold the blurb:

Chicago 1931. Harper Curtis, a violent drifter, stumbles on a house with a secret as shocking as his own twisted nature – it opens onto other times. He uses it to stalk his carefully chosen ‘shining girls’ through the decades – and cut the spark out of them.

He’s the perfect killer. Unstoppable. Untraceable. He thinks…

Chicago, 1992. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Tell that to Kirby Mazrachi, whose life was shattered after a brutal attempt to murder her. Still struggling to find her attacker, her only ally is Dan, an ex-homicide reporter who covered her case and now might be falling in love with her.

As Kirby investigates, she finds the other girls – the ones who didn’t make it. The evidence is … impossible. But for a girl who should be dead, impossible doesn’t mean it didn’t happen…

The Shining Girls is available in hardback, paperback, and e-book.

imagesLiz Marklund’s Lifetime, is about what happens following the murder of Sweden’s most famous policeman and the disappearance of his four-year-old son – suspicion falls on his wife. Lifetime is the eighth novel to feature Marklund’s news reporter protag Annika Bengtzon. Lifetime is available as an e-book and in paperback.

images-1And staying in Sweden, Two Soldiers by Roslund and Hellstrom once again features their cop Ewert Grens. It’s a tale of gang warfare, and of kids drifting into criminality. Their books often feature prisons and question the nature of criminality — Hellstrom is an ex-con, and very much involved in a Swedish rehabilitation organisation. Two Soldiers is now available in all the usual formats.

So the, more books to add to the must-read pile. *rolls eyes*