Today I’m delighted to welcome the fabulous AK Benedict to the CTG blog. Her spellbinding debut, The Beauty of Murder, was one of my favorite books of 2013, and was shortlisted for this years’ eDunnit Award.
So, to the questions ...
Your fabulous debut novel, THE BEAUTY OF MURDER, comes out in paperback this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?
The Beauty of Murder is a crime thriller with a fantastical twist set in Cambridge in both the 21st and 17th centuries. My main character, Stephen Killigan, is a philosophy lecturer at Sepulchre College and stumbles upon the body of a missing beauty queen and a mystery that changes the way he views the world. The novel includes many of the things that fascinate me: philosophy, music, tattoos, time travel and cake.
In your novel the setting, Cambridge, plays a big part. What was it about that particular city that inspired to you to write about it?
I was an undergraduate at Cambridge and spent a lot of time wandering its streets. I love the austere beauty of its ancient buildings and how some streets make me wonder which century I am in. It is a city of elemental extremes: in summer the old stone shines, trees are big with blossom and people sunbathe by the river but in winter it is cold and forbidding. It feels to me like a place of magic and possibility, the ideal starting point for a mystery. I first thought of a time travelling serial killer while I was at Cambridge and both Jackamore Grass and the city have haunted me since.
Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?
It varies: sometimes the words fly right out, other times I sit with stories for a long time, letting ideas and characters wander about before settling down and talking to me. I like to know the beginning, middle and end before I start writing, leaving lots of room to be surprised by what develops. If I know exactly what happens and who has committed all of the crimes, then I feel no need to write! I write by hand and transfer it onto my computer to start with then work straight onto the keyboard when the story gathers momentum. Towards the end of the first draft, I don’t eat, sleep or get out of my onesie. I’m a real catch.
THE BEAUTY OF MURDER is your debut novel. What was your route to publication?
I have longed to be a professional writer since I was three so it has been a route taking thirty odd years! I wrote several partial novels, a full one, stories and poems before The Beauty of Murder was published in 2013. Rejection letters sighed through the letterbox with the occasional encouraging remark, small publication or competition win along the way. I enrolled on a creative writing course at the University of Sussex and toned up my dialogue, plotting and pacing while learning how to receive and make use of criticism. I started writing The Beauty of Murder during my second term and worked on it for the next couple of years while working as a musician and composer. I met my agent, Rupert Heath, at a Meet the Agents Day organised by New Writing South and he saw the novel’s potential and encouraged me every step along the way. When it was ready, he sent it out to editors and I was amazed when it went to auction. It was a very surreal time. The three year old me who wanted ‘to be a writer and have lots of pens’ was very happy; thirty-three year old me ran across a hilltop in Hastings with champagne and a grin.
What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?
Write hard, write soft, write about what makes you smile, write about what you want to know and what lies beneath the stones but, most of all, write. When you have a slew of stories, scripts or poems, throw them out into the world and see which ones find land. The pile of rejection letters is something to stand on while you reach for your goal.
And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?
I am in the middle of editing my second novel, due out in November, while starting the sequel to The Beauty Of Murder and researching other ideas. There are also some exciting TV opportunities and visits to crime and fantasy festivals and conventions.
Sounds like 2014 is going to be a busy one!
A huge thank you to AK Benedict for popping by the CTG blog for a chat.
To find out more about AK Benedict hop on over to http://akbenedict.com/
The Beauty of Murder is published by Orion and out in paperback now. You can find it in all good bookstores, and online at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Beauty-Murder-A-Benedict/dp/1409144518
And, read our review of The Beauty of Murder here