with E J Henry
We are delighted to welcome back novelist E J Henry to Omnimystery News.
E J first visited with us last month, when he provided an excerpt to his new novel of suspense The Witness (Roaring Silence; July 2014 ebook).
Today we have the opportunity to catch up with him to talk about it.
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Omnimystery News: As we were reading through the excerpt of The Witness, we couldn't help but wonder if it was the first of a series?
E J Henry: The Witness started as a stand alone novel where the main character (George Fellows) is a normal, young married man with a small child, who witnesses a murder by chance. This encounter changes and ultimately destroys his life in the short space of 7 days.
As the plot developed, one of the secondary characters, Father Cuthbert, who is selected to investigate the murder on behalf of the Church, takes on a more prominent role and this change became the catalyst to develop him some more.
The result is a spin off of 3 short stories that trace events in his past, before his time in The Witness. There are a further 3 short stories in draft which will take him up to the late 1980s; just a few years before the time of The Witness (which is set predominantly in 1993).
George appealed to me because he was so normal well, before I killed him. What happened to him could possibly happen to anyone! Father Cuthbert is a complicated soul. He enters the priesthood but constantly suffers from fears of inadequacy and the trials he goes through sorely test his faith, not only in religion but also in humanity.
OMN: How do you see Father Cuthbert evolving into the character we see in The Witness?
EJH: Father Cuthbert has changed, as people do, from his early days as a priest, young and really unsuited to his role, to his later years when he has gained experience and confidence but is still confused by human nature. He seems to develop as normal people do; they mature, but he faces situations and hardships that I hope no one else would really have to endure in one life!
The characters develop as the plot moves on. I try not to map them out fully but let them take on a life as things progress.
OMN: We called The Witness a novel of suspense. How do you see it?
EJH: My writing is a bit dark but falls clearly into the thriller/mystery genre. I really try to research particular areas and details of the plot very carefully so that the reader and I learn something (hopefully interesting) as we go along. The books do involve murder but that is really a by-product of the plot.
OMN: Give us a summary of The Witness in a tweet.
EJH: Innocent, normal guy witnesses a bizarre murder and his world is destroyed. His son finds out the truth 21 years later, with devastating consequences.
OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?
EJH: Difficult to say really. Some of it touches on my experiences but I've never witnessed a murder or been killed!
OMN: Describe your writing process for us.
EJH: It varies. In a perfect world I'd just like to write and write when the ideas flow until I'm done but reality always kicks in. I like to let the plot develop and take shape as I go on with the basic idea and theme, rather than be too prescriptive.
OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories? Any particularly challenging topics?
EJH: Bit of everything but the Internet is really good for proper research if you know where to look. It's all challenging but really exciting because it can add to your ideas and change the plot as you go on.
If I had to pin it down, the most challenging and in fact most harrowing area of research concerned child abuse in the priesthood.
OMN: How true are you to the setting of the book?
EJH: I always fiddle with the place to suit me — that's a real benefit in writing fiction. Artistic license is a wonderful thing.
OMN: If you could travel anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, to research the setting for a book, where would it be?
EJH: Haiti, as that's the setting of the most embryonic book in progress, but that's maybe 3 years away from completion.
OMN: What is the best advice you've received as an author?
EJH: Revise, revise and re edit. Don't take short cuts and always do your research. To those aspiring, which I am really, don't give up. If you feel compelled to write, then do it. If not, don't bother as it's hard work.
OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a mystery author and thus I am also …".
EJH: I am a mystery author and thus I am also … a reclusive, paranoid, perfectionist who is brought back to reality by family and work.
OMN: Why did you choose to write under a pseudonym?
EJH: I use a pen name for good but not mysterious reasons. Although, it does make it difficult to get your friends to like someone who they don't even know!
OMN: Tell us a little more about the title and the cover of The Witness?
EJH: The design is something we worked on for a while. I wanted old school, like the Penguin books, rather than the glossy or fussy covers that seem so prevalent. The title was always going to include "witness" because that's what he was. It started as "an inconvenient witness" and then got shortened to something a bit punchier.
OMN: Suppose this series were to be adapted for television or film. Who do you see playing the key roles?
EJH: A guy who looks like the book cover person but more importantly, someone who can really act and relate to the part. James Dean (I know he is dead) because he drove one of the most iconic cars ever created. Oh yeah, and he was pretty cool as well.
OMN: What kind of feedback would like to receive from readers?
EJH: I like anything, as long as it's honest. You can't expect everyone to like what you read and if they didn't have strong views then there is something wrong with the writing.
OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?
EJH: Tolkien mainly.
OMN: And what do you read today for pleasure?
EJH: I read anything that's well written but my favorite of all time is The Leopard.
OMN: Have any specific authors influenced how and what you write today?
EJH: A difficult one. I read a broad mix and hope that I get something out of every author.
OMN: What is your favorite film?
EJH: The Woman in Black — the original version. Simple yet so scary.
OMN: What are some of your outside interests?
EJH: Most of my time is taken up with work but outside of that it has to be walking, cycling and skiing, preferably with my family and dogs (the latter are not great on bikes or skiing though).
OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any subject.
EJH: Top 5 foods:
1. Eggs Benedict;
2. Steak tartare;
4. Fish and chips; and
OMN: What's next for you?
EJH: Writing and then some more.
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E J Henry is a pseudonym. There are reasons behind using one, but nothing mysterious, he assures us!
For more information about the author, please visit his website at EJHenry.co.uk.
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E J Henry
A Novel of Suspense
Life can be strange … just one unexpected event … can change everything …