Monday, July 25, 2016

A Conversation with Mystery Author Alex Clare

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Alex Clare

We are delighted to welcome author Alex Clare to Omnimystery News today.

Alex's debut novel of suspense — the first in a new series — is He's Gone (Impress Books; August 2016 trade paperback) and we recently had the opportunity to catch up with her to talk more about it.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to your new series character.

Alex Clare
Photo provided courtesy of
Alex Clare

Alex Clare: As the book begins, we see the main character return to work after two weeks' leave, except for that fact it was Detective Inspector Roger Bailley who left and Robyn who returns. She has a diverse, multi-racial team and a family of her own. I wanted to show the different reactions to her transition from a variety of people, when all Robyn wants to do is get on with her job.

OMN: How do you expect Robyn to develop as a character over the course of a series?

AC: The series will be following Robyn's transition. If you approach the NHS in England seeking gender identity treatment, it is a long process. Typical waits are around a year for referral to a specialist clinic, time completing "real life experience" which is living in your chosen gender for a period, before you will be offered hormones. There will then be a further period before any surgery and, for transwomen, there may be additional processes needed such as hair removal. Robyn is at the start of her real-life experience, so she has a long way to go with her transition.

OMN: What challenges did you face while creating this character?

AC: Questions about gender are all the way through the book. I have a unisex name, so I'm used to people assuming I'm a different gender. A lot of the novel is about Robyn discovering the reality of living as a woman is different from the perceptions and the stereotypes.

OMN: Suppose Robyn were to interview you. What would be her first question?

AC: Given my lead character is a detective inspector, if she were interviewing me, I would be under suspicion for something, so the question would probably be about my whereabouts at a particular time.

OMN: Tell us something about the book that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.

AC: My fictional town, Meresbourne, is located on the Isle of Grain in Kent.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of He's Gone?

AC: On her first day back at work after coming out as transgender, DI Robyn Bailley must lead the hunt for a snatched toddler.

OMN: What was the origin of the storyline in He's Gone?

AC: The character of Robyn formed quickly and I wanted to create a series to follow her transition through the various steps. Then, in 2013, there was a news story about a child killer (Robert Venables) being granted parole under a new identity. As part of the coverage, they showed the horrific shot of the toddler, Jamie Bulger, being led away to his death. That was the image in my mind as I started writing He's Gone.

OMN: Are any of the characters in the book based on people you know?

AC: There is an active trans community on Twitter and I have read there about real-life experiences and the discrimination suffered. I've tried to reflect these in the book, like the example where Robyn is asked for ID before buying alcohol and doesn't have anything that gives her new name.

OMN: How did He's Gone come to be titled?

AC: The title is intended to be both the mystery Robyn has to solve when a toddler goes missing and reflecting that she has left her old identity as Roger behind.

OMN: Tell us a little more about your writing process.

AC: I am a planner. Without my trusty spreadsheet, I'd be lost. I have basic details for all characters plus I like to know a few personal things like what are they most afraid of? This is particularly important as I'm planning a series, so I want to make sure the characters act consistently between books. I've also developed the history of Meresbourne and a town plan, to make sure I don't have people heading off in the wrong direction. Imagining a whole town has been a lot of fun.

OMN: Where do you most often find yourself writing?

AC: I write on commuter trains, on my way to and from work. It's the perfect environment: it's dedicated time each day so you get into a routine; no one wants to talk and if you get stuck, you look around at your fellow travellers and there is always inspiration.

OMN: What characteristics have you included in the fictional setting of the series?

AC: I've lived in medium-sized towns all my life, so there was no way I could write a gritty, city thriller or a rural mystery. I've taken bits from lots of places but tried to give Meresbourne a character of its own based on pride in its shipping heritage, hence why the local football team is nicknamed The Dockers.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your book?

AC: I really enjoy photography, so that's Robyn's hobby too. It's also a good metaphor because a picture is judged on its appearance and this is what Robyn is fighting against.

OMN: What's next for you?

AC: I'm busy with the second book about Robyn Bailley When I first imagined the character, I had three books planned: as I worked on the first book, I kept thinking up more things I wanted to involve her in and three has turned to four, with ideas beyond that.

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After nearly twenty years of being a committed corporate person, Alex Clare was made redundant. She had always enjoyed writing, studying fiction part-time through the Open University and managing to complete a novel in her commuting time, though no one had ever read it. Now, with lots more time on her hands, there was the opportunity to take writing more seriously. She began to enter competitions and joined a writing group, which encouraged her to try out new genres and styles. After a period focusing on short stories, she wanted to try another novel. Inspiration came from watching Parliament debate the Equal Marriage Act in 2013. Astounded by the intensity of feeling generated, she created a fictional world to explore some of the issues and attitudes. Now working again she is working on her second novel, in her usual place, on a London commuter train.

For more information about the author, please visit her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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He's Gone by Alex Clare

He's Gone by Alex Clare

A Novel of Suspense

Publisher: Impress Books Print/Kindle Format(s)

When Detective Inspector Roger Bailley returns to work as Robyn, all she wants is to get on with the job she loves. But when toddler Ben Chivers is snatched from a shopping centre on Robyn's first day, she has to find Ben — and herself — as she deals with the reactions of her police colleagues, the media and her own daughter.

How do you find a missing child when his mother doesn't believe you have the right to exist?

He's Gone by Alex Clare


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