My latest book is Cemetery Lake, a crime novel set in my home town of Christchurch. Christchurch is a great setting for crime – it has two sides to it, there’s the picture perfect setting you see on postcards everywhere, but there’s also a dark, Gotham City feel here which has, sadly, turned this city into the murder capital of New Zealand. I love making Christchurch a character for the books, creating an ‘alternate’ version of the city, where the main character often muses that ‘Christchurch is broken’. The main character is Theodore Tate. He’s an ex-detective, having been forced out of the department on suspicion of murder. Two years on and he’s now a private investigator. He’s been hired to oversee an exhumation, only the coffin leads to the discovery of three other bodies in a nearby lake as the vibrations shake them loose. When the coffin is opened, instead of the old man supposed to be inside, it’s the body of a young woman who went missing two years earlier. Two years ago when the coffin went into the ground, the original owner’s daughter came to Tate and told him she believed her dad had been murdered. However there wasn’t enough evidence for him to believe her. If he had trusted her and exhumed the coffin back then he would have found the dead girl, but because he didn’t he knows that any girl killed since that date could have been avoided if he’d been more thorough. More than anything, it’s that guilt that compels Tate to look for Christchurch’s new serial killer. I’m really, really excited about this book.

I’m really hoping Theo will work out to be my go-to recurring character for future books. I really love reading crime with hard-boiled detectives, and for years I’ve been wanting to create my own detective. I’ve pretty much spend the last couple of years devouring every Michael Connelly book wishing I was him, and lately I’ve been hooked on Raymond Chandler. Fifteen years ago the only guys I’d read were Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Richard Laymon. I always wanted to be a horror writer. Then I read Lee Child’s first book when it came out, and that got me hooked on crime, him and John Connolly. I think if you want to write crime, you have to read the best, and for me Michael Connelly, John Connelly and Lee Child are the best. Actually, I don’t read as much horror any more – these guys changed what I read and what I write. I don’t want to write horror any more, but I still enjoy writing scenes that will make people feel creeped out. The one thing I do try to avoid is too much violence. I mean I’ll have violent things happen in the books, but not with too much description if it’s something bad happening to a victim of a crime. I pretty much think everybody has seen enough movies and episodes of CSI to know what’s going on without me needing to be gratuitous. I really try to limit any descriptively violent scenes to things happening to the bad guys. And because my parents read my books, so far I’ve stayed completely away from any sex scenes…

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is who I write for has changed. Ten years ago I used to write more for myself. The goal was always to get published – but mostly what I wrote was only ever getting read by me, so I wrote what I want. That all started to change when people started giving me feedback. Now that I’m published, I’m far more conscious that everything I write is going to be read by an audience. When the books started selling big numbers internationally, it made me nervous. Ten years ago I’d write anything, no matter how bad it was, just for the enjoyment of writing. These days I can spend hours in front of a computer freaking out over every page, knowing I have an audience of people I desperately want to keep happy, along with trying to gain new readers. Thankfully I have a great relationship with my publisher at Random House. It’s a very honest relationship, meaning that if what I write isn’t up to scratch, she will let me know, but it’s also an encouraging relationship with good feedback, which only makes me a better writer. Back when I was unpublished, I’d come home from work every day and try to write for a few hours. Now that I write full time, my schedule is all over the place. Some days I won’t write at all, or maybe for an hour, but when I’m in the zone I’ll be writing ten or twelve hours staying up most of the night if I have to. When there are days where I can’t seem to write, I read as much as I can. I think that reading is the most important part of writing – other than writing.

Cemetery Lake came out here in New Zealand last year and I was lucky enough for it to become a bestseller. Now I’m waiting for my fourth book to come out, which won’t be until February. It’s called Blood Men. It’s about Edward Hunter, a man who – twenty years ago – witnessed his father being taken away in handcuffs by the police. His father was a serial killer and has been sentenced to life in prison. Edward has grown up with that stigma, always knowing that people are questioning whether he’s caught the ‘serial killer gene’ from his dad. People keep waiting for him to snap… and then one day he does…

Cemetery Lake is published by Arrow

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