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In your books, you make Christchurch look very bleak. Is the city really that way? Or do you just see it that way?

This is something I get asked a lot. Christchurch is a fantastic city, I love living here, and I don't see it in the dark way I write about it. I take everything bad I've learned about Christchurch and I exaggerate it for the books to create an atmosphere more suitable for a crime novel. Remember, it's not me who sees Christchurch so darkly - it's the characters. The books are written from the point of view of a serial killer, or from characters who have suffered and are still suffering, whose lives are in danger. Christchurch is nowhere as bad as I paint it to be - but it definitely has its dark underbelly, and it's absolutely a perfect backdrop for my characters to live and play in. I like having Christchurch as a 'character' in the books now, almost an entity that makes the other players behave badly.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I always wanted to be a writer – ever since primary school. I never really thought I’d do it, though. It wasn’t so much that I got inspired by any one thing, it was more that writing had always been my passion – and then one day about fifteen years ago, I decided to take that step and begin working on a book.

Each of your novels focuses on a different protagonist. In the crime genre, it is typical to have a recurring character through all novels – would you consider developing a character like this?

At the moment the three books have an overlapping timeline, so some characters from one will appear in the other, and actions of one character will create problems for the other characters in other books. I do have a leading character that I want to bring back again and again.

Who are your favourite crime novelists?

There are lots. But my favourite three are John Connolly, Lee Child, and Michael Connelly. I would never have become a crime writer if it weren’t for these guys.

Would you ever consider writing in another genre?

I’m not sure. I think so. All I know for sure is it wouldn’t be romance.

Your novels have a cinematic quality – would you consider allowing them to be developed into films?

Absolutely. Anybody have Peter Jackson’s cell number?

You spend a lot of time renovating property – is it easier than constructing a novel?

Yes. A lot easier. Plus you get to see short term gains – you can finish installing a new kitchen or landscaping a garden and you get to see a result. Writing is hard. I could spend the next six months writing a novel that nobody would like and would never get published, and all I’d have managed to do was waste six months – and when you start a new book with that knowledge… well, it can be tough.

If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what else would you do?

I don’t know. I guess I’d become a book reviewer. Those guys seem to have a lot of fun.

Is it hard to stay motivated?

Yes and no. It depends on what else is going on around me. I have no real schedule I stick to. I might not write for a month. Then other times I'll be writing all day up to two or three in the morning.

Ever base any characters on real people?

I got warned about that years ago –you do that, then your friends wonder if this is how you see them. Some of the random people I see in the city are in there, just background characters, like the guy riding his bike with a cardboard tube extended from his nose down to a bag of glue that enabled him to 'multitask'. You see these things and think 'man, I never could have come up with that!' There are a lot of real people I've met over the last year or two I'd like to put into the book - but I'm sure they wouldn't be too happy about the way I portray them. However some characters have been inspired by real people – but certainly not based on them.


How much of the characters are in you? Especially Joe from The Cleaner.

It depends on the character. For the most part, many of the leading characters share some of my views on the world, or on life. Joe is different. I don't share much in common with him - perhaps some of the humour - but nothing more. I hate to think anybody shares the same views he has. As for other characters, like Theodore Tate, or Charlie Feldman - again I share a lot of their views. Would I behave the same way these men have done in the same circumstances? I don't know. Probably not. I think I'd like to behave more like these characters - but the closest I can get is writing about them.

Are you nervous when a new book comes out? Or a previous book comes out for the first time in another country?

Absolutely. I don't know if that feeling will ever go away. I hope so. At this stage I freak out with every book release, here or in any other country. I keep hoping for the best and keep expecting the worse. The thing I fear the most is waking up one day to find out that the reviews are telling me I need to get another job.

Do you know what's going to happen in your stories before you begin to write?

Depends on the story. Sometimes I don't have any direction at all. All I have is genre. I don't know what characters are going to be in it, what their point is, what they're all striving towards. I get a better feel for it as I get further into the story. I get more control over the situations I'm creating, and with some serious rewriting it all comes together nicely. Other times I plan most of it out before going to far into it.

And finally, what would your top tips be for aspiring novelists?

Write every day. Even if it’s only a hundred words – just get that story moving. And rewrites make a huge difference – I can rewrite a book half a dozen times before I’ll even let any friends look at it – and maybe another half a dozen times before sending it to my publisher. It’s hard work – but the payoff is worth it when you see the book getting better and better.