Way back at the turn of the Millennium I sat down to write my second novel, a scary little serial-killer tale entitled Yin Yang. When it was finished I bought a load of envelopes and stamps, and sent it out to a few publishers, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
On this occasion the stars must have been aligned because I got a call from someone at Hodder and Stoughton to say that their thriller editor wanted to see the full manuscript. Long story short: Hodder passed on the book, however, the editor liked it enough to recommend me to an agent, which ultimately led to two of my later books being published.
Fast forward to 2012, and I was looking to develop a new series. Most writers have a story that won’t quite leave them alone, one that won’t go without a fight. Yin Yang was mine. There was something about the story that kept drawing me back. At odd moments I’d find myself revisiting it and wondering "what if". So I decided to have a go at rewriting it.
The main character in Yin Yang was going to be an FBI profiler, but he ended up being a Scotland Yard detective because I just didn’t have the writing chops to create a believable American lead character. For the rewrite I went back to my original idea, and thank God I did.
Jefferson Winter is a fantastic character to work with, a once-in-a-career character. He’s a former FBI profiler who now travels the world hunting serial criminals. He has a genius-level IQ, a fondness for single malt whisky and an aversion to cheap motel rooms. Oh, and he’s the son of one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Because he’s a nomad I can approach each novel as a standalone, which means you don’t have to be read the books in order.
Inevitably, Broken Dolls ended up nothing like Yin Yang. Pretty much from the first chapter it took on a life of its own, and that was fine by me. Early on in my writing career I learned that the best thing to do was to go with the flow. If you try and force things the end result is usually pretty bad.
There are similarities, though. At the heart of both novels is the question: what’s worse than death? With Broken Dolls that’s a bad guy who goes around lobotomising his victims. Once I’d latched on to that idea that was it. The idea of a madman cutting into people’s brains and stripping away their personalities is terrifying.
So what’s next for Winter? Presumed Guilty, the first in a series of eBooks set in his FBI days, will be out in July. And Smoke and Mirrors will be published in September. Then there’s the TV series WINTER that is currently in development with Stephen Fry and Gina Carter’s production company Sprout Pictures. It’s a busy times for Jefferson Winter, that’s for sure.
Broken Dolls by James Carol is out now in paperback, £7.99 (Faber & Faber)