Interview with Thriller Author Jo Calman                  10.07.21

 

Jo Calman is an English Author, writer of the Kelso, Dunn and Ferdinand series available on the link above and also at the bottom of the interview.  All novels are a compelling, fast paced read you won't want to miss.  

Please tell me about the idea behind the book, its planning and its significance to you.

My initial idea was to write a good commercial thriller. I had been disappointed so many times on holidays and long flights when the latest ‘best seller’ I’d just bought turned out to be dreadful, so I thought I’d have a go myself. How hard could it be?

The thriller idea morphed into a series; six novels featuring the same set of three main, very different, characters who share a loathing of corruption and injustice. ‘A Transfer of Power’ is the first of those novels. It introduces the characters, who we will come to know well in the subsequent stories. The story is pacy and complex, and it doesn’t shy away from the details of relationships, or life and death in the criminal world. Now I’ve completed three of the set (A Transfer of Power is joined by A Price for Mercy and An Inner Circle) I’m looking forward to finishing the fourth – if only to see what happens next.

What motivated you to begin your first novel?

I’ve always been surrounded by books. My mother started out as a librarian and even now she always has a book on the go. I’d been toying with the idea of writing a novel, along with most other people, but I never quite got round to it. I took advantage of the pandemic and the way it changed my working life to think seriously about a novel, and actually start writing it.

 

Do you plot your book, or are you a pantser?

I started out with a plot. It’s nothing like the finished book, so I suppose I’m a ‘pantser’. It’s a source of endless fascination for me to watch words appear on a screen, not quite knowing where they’ve come from or where they’re going. I usually have a few scenes in my head which end up connected by a story; the words seem to take care of themselves.

Is anything in your books based on real life experiences?

I think that a credible author should always write about what they know, whether it’s historical fact, a type of job or occupation, or even a totally invented world. The reader is owed a certain amount of expertise. That said, my thrillers are not based on my own experiences or on real people or cases – but they do make use of techniques and organisations that were appropriate at the time in which they are set. The series is set in the early 2000s, which means I can exploit investigative techniques and methods, and technologies, which have been superseded.   

Some writers have ideas in the strangest places, where do you have your best ideas?

It’s not so much places as times. I’m thinking about my work all the time, wherever I happen to be. I’ve had eureka moments in the car, in the bath, in the swimming pool, all over. I’m lucky enough to live near water on a small estuary. If I’m, really stuck on something I’ll walk down to the waterside to see if there are any seals bobbing about, or to watch one of the small ships using the port. I find that water helps me think, or more probably it distracts me while there’s some thinking going on in the background.   

 

What drew you towards writing?

I became a writer in March 2020 on the M6 in Cheshire. I had just been to a mediation seminar in Preston on what was to become the eve of Lockdown 1. Boris decreed the pubs must shut, and the curry shops and the hotels: Preston complied, and I left. Heading south the next day I listened to the radio news and knew that face-to-face mediation was dead, as was consultancy and anything else that I dabbled with to pass the time. So, somewhere near Lymm Services the decision was made.

What genre of books do you enjoy reading?

I’m a sucker for a historical novel, and I also like some of the less formulaic thrillers. I’ll give just about anything a go, but if the writing doesn’t grip me, regardless of the genre, the book will end up in the charity shop or sit half-read on my ebook reader until it eventually disappears.

  

What do you think makes a good story?

‘Good’ is such a subjective term when applied to anything that a person has created, be it a painting, a piece of music, a story, or anything else. What one person regards as good will be viewed by another as awful. In terms of fiction, a story does it’s job if the reader or listener finds it satisfying and interesting, and that’s what I look for, and try to achieve in my writing.   

What is the best thing about being an author?

It’s a job that entails 90% thinking and 10% typing. You can do it anywhere and at any time, which makes it a perfect occupation as far as I’m concerned. But the very best thing about it is hearing from a reader who’s been enthralled by something I’ve written and them asking for more.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I have been working on an interesting collaboration: an espionage novel set in the Cold War years and based on a true story, told from an unusual perspective. This has been a very different kind of project, and the result is a very different kind of book. A few people have reviewed proofs of the book and to date they have been very enthusiastic, so I’m excited. More to follow.

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