Harry Beck lives the good life in the Bahamas, with plenty of free time and just enough money to enjoy the Caribbean’s sultry pleasures. Then intrigue and a string of murders, among them the slayings of cherished colleagues, points to Harry’s childhood friend, the millionaire Alan Lancaster. As Harry unravels the clues, he finds himself in the deadly crosshairs of an international child sex-trafficking ring. Maynard-Sims pump out a hard-driving tale of treachery and heroism set in the dangerous undercurrent beneath the sun-dappled waters of paradise.
They recently took time to answers questions for the BigThrill:
The novel is a pinball machine of drama and plot twists. How did you develop the plot? Are you plotters or pantsers?
The book tended to grow organically from the opening chapter. The situation Harry Beck found himself in suggested the direction the plot would go, and after that we let the book develop often with no clear idea where it was going to end up. The mystery Harry had to solve was as much a puzzle to us as it was to him.
We are firm believers in letting the subconscious do the work and solve the puzzle, and often we can sit down to write with no clear idea of what’s going to happen next, and just let it flow. It’s only after the plot strands are developed that we put some thought into how they’re going to be resolved. Ideas are accepted and rejected, until, finally, the plot is resolved satisfactorily. So we suppose “pansters” is the answer.
The maritime details, weather, and geography added a lot of rich verisimilitude to the story. Are either one of you sailors?
No sailing experience at all, but you can’t sit down to write a book set on a group of islands without a fairly firm grasp of seafaring techniques and the geography of the Bahamas. The wonders of research! Years of reading and days trawling the Internet finally paid off. The temptation was to fly out to the Bahamas and research it all first hand. But penniless writers can’t afford such luxuries.
What compelled you to write a novel about the sex trafficking of children? The details you presented behind this operation were disturbingly grotesque, and how much of the specifics are true?
It is a subject close to our hearts and one we’d touched upon in an earlier novel. Researching the subject turned up many of the details presented in the novel, all, as far as we can ascertain, horrifyingly true. It’s an uncomfortable subject and one that many governments throughout the world have swept under the carpet. Hopefully, the book will have played a small part in making people aware of this ongoing crime against humanity.
We are both parents, and granddads too, so the thought of cruelty to children is unthinkable. Unfortunately there are people who do these things, and hopefully others on the other side who will keep trying to stop them. Evil exists.
Those who have tried to collaborate with another writer discover that the process can be both challenging and frustrating, yet you two have managed to smooth over your differences enough to create an impressive back list. What’s your secret?
We have been doing it a long time now, so we have had plenty of time to iron out the differences. And there certainly were plenty when we began. Arguments over a single word, or phrase, which would be quite heated. The secret, if there is one, is that we have always put the friendship first, and writing second. It could be argued we might have been more successful financially if we were more robust but it has suited us, and kept us human and sane.
We began by one of us writing a story and the other critiquing it. Then the critique became a revision, then a re-write. Eventually it became one starting, another completing, or one doing some chapters, and the other doing some. The way it has evolved now is that one writes the book pretty must 100% (sometimes it doesn’t work out like that) and the other revises, re-structures, adds or subtracts. So one person has the author voice throughout but with enough trust to allow the second to change the voice where needed.
What’s your writing process? Do you write alternate chapters?
It used to vary from book to book, but now it’s fairly standard. One of us will hatch an idea and then follow it through to its conclusion. And then there’s a long, detailed editing process. Generally, now, the whole book is written by one of us, and the other revises, re-structures, changes a lot or a little as required. There is enough trust between us that we are no longer precious about “our baby” of a book. It is a joint effort all round and a jointly authored book.
We have had books where one of us has got stuck, and passed the whole project over to the other. Sometimes the book is completed by the second one, and sometimes it just needs a few pages added and then gets handed back to the original author.
Ideas for changes will be suggested and either rejected or accepted. And then the person who gave birth to the story will second draft it to give it a singular voice. It’s not a process that will work for everyone, but it hasn’t let us down so far.
It helps that we have known each other for decades and there is little in the way of conflicting egos. We agreed a long time ago that writing stories to the best of our abilities was paramount, and the issue of ownership – who came up with the idea and who wrote what – was secondary.
DARK OF THE SUN is your first non-fantasy mystery. What pulled you in this direction? How do you decide on a project?
We have written a lot of supernatural books – novels and stories – and it felt time for a change. Not everyone likes horror, and to widen our appeal to a thriller audience is attractive to us. Plus we read an awful lot of thrillers and crime, and no a lot of horror these days. DARK OF THE SUN had its origins in a half-finished thriller novel started over twenty years ago. Only after a few successes with other novels did it feel right to try to finish it. Self-confidence and the ability to get a firm hand on the story and subject matter had improved in that twenty years. The time was right.
All our books are character driven, even the horror ones, and to explore people in a more normal environment – meaning without a supernatural foe – is exciting. Put it this way – since DARK OF THE SUN we have written four more thrillers and just one supernatural book. We have written quite a few ghost stories, but those are a labour of love and something we have always written.
Projects come from all over. Usually it’s an opening chapter that seems to appear fully formed on the screen. There are a few non-starters, but if the germ of a good idea is there then it’s pursued and developed.
What’s next for the dynamic duo of Maynard-Sims?
We are really excited about DARK OF THE SUN, as our first non-horror book, so we want to promote it as fully as we can. We’ll be putting a lot of time and energy into that.
We have a crime/supernatural crossover novel out in July–STRONGHOLD. After that we hope some of the books we have out, and being read by our publishers, will get taken up. These include Department 18 book 4, A PLAGUE OF ECHOES; a thriller novella, HIS OTHER SON; a crime thriller, FALLING APART AT THE EDGES; a mystery thriller, LET DEATH BEGIN; and an action thriller, THROUGH THE SAD HEART. We also have a couple of screenplay projects that might see the light of day.
Currently we are putting the finishing touches to a ghost story novel, STILLWATER. Then it’s a second Harry Beck novel, not so much a sequel to DARK OF THE SUN, but certainly a follow up and another adventure thriller.
Len Maynard & Mick Sims, writing as Maynard Sims, are the published authors of five novels, six collections, and four novellas, as well as numerous stories. They have worked as anthology editors, ran a small press, and written essays.
To learn more, please visit their website.