Author Guest Post: M.J Lee

Fun times fun times fun times.

Today I bring you a rare thing: A POST ON A FRIDAY, which is allowed because, and this is where it gets fun, IT'S NOT MY POST.

Well, this bit is, this little intro, but the actual post is actually from M.J Lee, author of Where the Truth Lies (published by Canelo on October 22nd) who has stopped by to offer up some top tips on how to write crime fiction, which I for one am very excited about because I read Where the Truth Lies and I really liked it and I feel like Mr. Lee is qualified to give a how-to. He obviously knows his stuff. I'm super grateful to him for stopping by and I hope you all like this little insight into the mind of a crime writer!!

Before I hand over to him though, I just want to tell you a teeny little bit about the book in case you are on the hunt for a new thriller for these long winter nights, mostly because why would you not be on the hunt for a new thriller for these long winter nights and if you are then this could solve all your problems,

The case was closed. Until people started dying… 
The unputdownable first DI Ridpath crime thriller from bestseller MJ Lee 
A killer in total control. A detective on the edge. A mystery that HAS to be solved.
DI Thomas Ridpath was on the up in the Manchester CID: a promising young detective
whose first case involved capturing a notorious serial killer. But ten years later he’s
recovering from a serious illness and on the brink of being forced out of the police. Then
people start dying: tortured, murdered, in an uncanny echo of Ridpath’s first case.
As the investigation intensifies, old bodies go missing, records can’t be found and the
murder count grows. Caught in a turf war between the police and the coroner’s office,
digging up skeletons some would rather forget, Ridpath is caught in a race against time: a
race to save his career, his marriage… And lives.
When a detective goes missing everything is on the line. Can Ridpath close the case and
save his colleague?

Sounds good, am I right?


I turned to crime about three years ago.
Luckily, I haven’t been caught yet. Here are the basics of crime writing that have helped
me stay out of the long reach of the law.
You need a crime. Pretty basic, I know. It could be any crime but the best is a nice, juicy murder, red in tooth and claw. Something for the reader to get their teeth, and their imagination, into.
2. You need a likeable criminal.
It sounds strange but if your criminal is totally evil, he becomes one dimensional. Readers like to empathise with characters, even killers. Hannibal Lector is the classic example of a truly evil man with whom one can imagine having a very pleasant dinner, including a bottle of Chianti and fava beans. I would avoid the liver though. 
3. You need a hunter.
Crime novels often take one of the oldest themes known to man; the idea of the quest.
Somebody has to want to bring your killer to justice. Remember ‘The Fugitive’. How many years was Dr Richard Kimble on the run? 
4. You need motives.
Why is your killer killing people? Does he take pleasure from it? Is he seeking revenge?
Or justice? Or money? Or just company? Murderers always have a reason. I spend a lot of time working out why my killer is killing. Again, it helps readers believe in my characters. 
5. You need to be surprising/original/unexpected/deadly.
Keep people up late at night, turning your pages to find out what happens next. When I’m writing, I always ask myself, what would not happen now? And then I make it happen. Your readers may wake up grumpy and baggy-eyed in the morning, but they will feel much better. 
6. You need to know forensics, poisons, weapons, police procedures.
It’s the CSI effect. Unless you get these details right, your reader will not believe you. I
took university courses to get to know how police forces and forensics teams work. And I never stop learning. My latest is the effect of cold on the human body. Did you know your corneas can freeze? Now, there’s the start of a novel. 
7. Lastly, you need to want to live crime.
Because you are going to be in the murderer’s head for a lot of the time. Or surrounded by the stench of death. Or stepping in blood. Or strangling a victim, living the moment through their eyes of those and of the killer.You need to want to spend time in those places.
Which sounds a bit strange, but is actually an amazing journey to take one’s mind.