Talking about Wicked Game and writing with a male pseudonym to BOOKSBYWOMEN.ORG 'I sensed that to write a blood and guts, spy thriller with a male protagonist and write it with a first person narrative was definitely going to push certain 'you can't do that' buttons. The task was especially tricky because my main protagonist is an assassin, a man of moral ambiguity, (even if he screeches to a halt in the opening scene and questions his morality and reason for living.) I knew that I wasn't just about to push a button; I was going to enter the 'we'll never sell you as a woman' arena.'
Some answers given to questions I've been asked about Wicked Game
WHY WRITE WITH A MALE PSEUDONYM?:
Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception that women cannot write convincingly and authentically about guns, weapons, biological, or otherwise, explosions, flying in helicopters, tearing off on motorbikes and security service issues - unless of course you happen to have been an intelligence officer.
And, while there is long tradition of female writers creating male detectives - P.D. James and Adam Dalgleish - how many female writers do you know who have male action adventure heroes as their main leads? Hence, I reckoned, that if I couldn't beat my male counterparts, I'd join them.
HOW DO YOU CREATE CHARACTERS?
I should make it clear that I don't know any assassins, or at least I don't think I do! Hex was a composite. I'm a news junkie. It started off, as often occurs, with a newspaper snippet about a banker who 'accidentally jumped' to his death in Shanghai.
Immediately, I wondered what kind of guy would push him? Was it someone paid to do it, greed his primary motivation, or because killing turned him on?
A few years ago, I spent an evening at the headquarters where firearms officers, MOD, security service personnel, foreign and national, and the SAS train so I decided to draw on that experience. I've only ever shot someone in a simulated incident but my physical and mental reaction to it took me entirely by surprise. This is the element that I always bear in mind when writing Hex.
My big challenge was how to make a bad guy a decent man - hence the volte-face in the first chapter. Next, I had to sort out a story for him to really get his hooks into. Around the same time, I discovered a book about the death of Dr David Kelly - and found out, to my astonishment, that attempts had been made to create ethnic specific bio-weapons during the 1980?s in South Africa. Horrified, I decided to use it to enable Hex to have a noble cause: the prevention of such a weapon being used.
WHAT'S THE APPEAL OF THRILLERS?
We all like to be scared. It's in our genes as evidenced by the increase in popularity of extreme sports. At least you don't have to be young and fit to read and be frightened to death in print. Our terror, these days, comes from job insecurity, not enough money, the fear of losing our looks and growing old in a society that prizes youth and health and immortality. By reading about the sharp end of life, we can tap into something elemental and get a vicarious kick out of it without suffering the consequences.