Monday, November 23, 2015

#MMBBR Showcase: Life for a Life by T. Frank Muir @FrankMuirAuthor

Set in the middle of winter in St. Andrews, this Scottish noir mystery is written by one of the UK’s best crime writers, T. Frank Muir

When a young woman’s half-naked body is found on Fife’s coastal path, frozen and with the remnants of a rope manacle around her wrist, DCI Gilchrist is given the case. But Gilchrist’s investigation uncovers a bloody trail of shootings and executions that lead him to the heart of a human trafficking war. Links to Scotland’s foremost criminal family, the Home Office, and a killer intent on expanding his territory pull Gilchrist deeper into this murderous web until he comes face-to-face with the most dangerous man he has ever met. Filled with suspense as the investigation unfolds, Life for a Life will appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or the BBC’s Prime Suspect.

Q.  What inspires your writing?
A  In a word - reading. I love reading, and I read everything and anything I can get my hands on, but mostly mystery and thrillers now, if I'm being honest. I'm currently reading Jo Nesbo's 'Nemesis' and trying to understand why his books are so successful, and I'm really enjoying it.  Reading is one of life's most simple pleasures, no matter what age you are. My mother-in-law is currently staying with my wife and I, recovering from a mild heart attack. She's devoured three books in two weeks, and she's 89 years old. I rest my case. 

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A. Creating stories from scratch. It never fails to amaze me that authors start with a blank page and create new and interesting characters, devious and convoluted plots, colourful landscapes and imaginary scenes, while piling on the suspense for the reader and striving for a page-turner of a story, which in the end turns into a book you can buy from a store and hold in your hand and read - the true definition of art: turning mind into matter. But the greatest thing of all, is when I read some reader's review, and they tell me how much they enjoyed my book, and how they are looking forward to reading another in the series. That is when I know it has all been worthwhile.  

Q.  What is the toughest part of being a writer?
A.  For me, the toughest part is writing that first draft. That's when all the doubts creep in - Is it any good? Is it working as a story? Will readers like it? Will my publisher like it? I find that I never start my story from a detailed synopsis, but rather from just a sliver of an idea. It sounds scary, writing 100,000 words before I have a clearer understanding of what the story is about, but I've learned from hard-earned experience that my first draft is in fact my synopsis, and that once that first draft is down, I read it, and re-read it, making notes of what works, what doesn't, what changes have to be made to improve it. Then I go back in and rework it as many times as necessary to turn it into a story I am proud to put my name to.  

Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?
A.  Let me tackle this one by answering the question - What would I have loved to have been? When I was in my early teens, my dream job was to become an airline pilot. I was devastated when I found that I could never pass the medical because I am deaf in one ear. In my late teens, I made an appointment with the top ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) consultant in the UK, and went to see him, convinced he could restore my hearing.  I was devastated once again when he told me that the nerve was dead, and there was absolutely nothing he could do.  In answer to the question - What would I do/be? I can't say, because I can't conceive of doing anything other than writing now.

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?
A. The Long Road. I say that because, for whatever reason, it has taken me longer than most to achieve my dream of being a published author. My first DCI Gilchrist novel - EYE FOR AN EYE - was published in 2007, and at its launch, I said, 'Since the day I woke up one morning and decided that no matter what, I would write a novel and become published, it took me 18 years; I stopped counting rejections when they reached 400; and I wrote 1.15 million words, which is the equivalent of 12 of these.' (I held up my novel). So, The Long Road seems appropriate.

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?
A. This is a difficult question to answer, as I like so many, but for the longest time I raved about ROSE by the American novelist Martin Cruz Smith. Set in the town of Wigan, in Victorian England, it tells the story of an American adventurer who is coerced into finding a missing curate who happens to be engaged to the daughter of the local Bishop, one of the wealthiest men in the land and owner of the mine in which most of the townsfolk are employed. MCS's descriptive talents are second to none in this novel, and the plot keeps the reader in suspense throughout. Every time I read it, it floats to the top of my most favourite list once again. However, recently I read THE FEAR INDEX by the British novelist, Robert Harris, which currently pips ROSE at the post. THE FEAR INDEX tells the story of a visionary scientist who has created software that tracks human emotions, enabling it to predict movement in the global financial markets. When someone breaks into the scientist's home with the intention of killing him, the story evolves into a thriller of paranoia and suspense as the scientist tries to work out who is out to destroy him. Harris's research for this novel is extraordinary, and he writes with such convincing authority that the reader is left thinking - is this really happening?

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?
A.  Oh dear. I don't think I'm like any character I've ever read in a book. Well, at least I can't think of any, so I'm going to have to pass on this one. 

Q.  What character from all of your books are you most like?
A.   I am often asked at author events, if my protagonist, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Gilchrist is like me in any respect, and I always give the same answer - Physically, Gilchrist is everything I'm not but wanted to be. He's reasonably tall at six foot one (I'm not), slim (everyone wants to be slimmer), relatively handsome and attractive to the opposite sex (I'll let my wife be the judge of that), has a high pain-threshold (I faint giving blood), and can run for long distances (I once came last in the school marathon). However, emotionally and intellectually, there is probably more of me in Gilchrist than I'd like to admit to, although he's smarter than me, certainly when it comes to solving crimes. Hey, hang on a minute, don't I tell him how to work it out?   
Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
A.  When I was a young boy, I read ROBINSON CRUSOE by Daniel Defoe, and it was the first book I fell in love with. As a young boy with an over-imaginative mind, I was smitten by the idea of being shipwrecked and living alone on a desert island, with all that sand and sea and sun, and eating fresh fruit and fish. Of course, the cannibals and mutineers and sharks didn't bother me at all back then. But I think you have to have suffered the wet, cold and utterly miserable Scottish weather to fully appreciate how that book just captivated me. I believe no one knows exactly where Defoe's imaginary island was set, but somewhere around Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean seems to be the most widely accepted location. I've since visited the Caribbean, and it lived up to all my childhood expectations - without the cannibals and mutineers, of course. It would be nice to be shipwrecked there, provided I had access to all modern conveniences - but only for the weekend.

Q.  What is your favorite season?
A.   Without question, it is spring. Again the miserable Scottish weather has affected me in this, and I just love that time of season when the long, dark nights, and the cold, wet weather are behind us, and ahead lies the promise of warmer days with the certainty of light nights. In the middle of summer, in the west of Scotland, daylight fades around 11:00pm. And in spring, when crocuses push through the winter-worn ground, then daffodils colour the landscape, even the wildlife seems excited by it, with birds scarpering around searching for nesting material. Spring is nature rejuvenating itself, and I love it.

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?
A.   I don't have any say in the design of my book covers. My publishers have full responsibility for that, and have done such a good job on all of them. I have to say that my latest US release - LIFE FOR A LIFE - has an evocative and sinister cover that I really like, and which goes well with the gripping storyline. 

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.
A.   When my first book - EYE FOR AN EYE - was published in 2007, I was invited to participate in the Edinburgh International Book Festival as one of two debut crime novelists. My publisher notified me of this invitation by email, also advising me what the fee was. Well, I'd never done anything like that before, and assumed that the fee was what I had to pay to enter the Book Festival. So I phoned my publisher and asked her how this business about the fee worked, and if she would be kind enough to reimburse me for it if I paid it. She burst out laughing, and once she had managed to settle down, she explained to me that the fee was what the Festival paid me as an author. 

Q.  Are you working on something new?
A.  Last month I finished all final copy-editing on number 6 in my DCI Gilchrist series - BLOOD TORMENT - which is scheduled for publication in the UK in April 2016. Now I am working on number 7, presently untitled, and I have written just over 30,000 words of that first draft. I'm aiming to have the first draft close to completion by the end of next month, after which the enjoyable part of the writing process begins - at least it is for me - tightening the story, and making it better.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A.  My DCI Gilchrist series is the first and only contemporary mystery series set in St. Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf. My series is not cosy, nor is it gratuitously gruesome either. But if you enjoy page-turning suspense and mystery, I am confident you will not be disappointed. Why don't you visit my website at to find out more about me and my books. And many thanks for visiting this blog, and taking the time to read my (somewhat long-winded) answers. It has been my pleasure.

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