Jan Needle brings back the beloved characters from KICKING OFF in the second of a series. This one is called THE BONUS BOYS. Cynical investigator Andrew Forbes – drinker, smoker, gambler – was always an unlikely partner for Rosanna Nixon, so apparently demure that she’s known as the Mouse. Their love affair has not survived their first brutal clash with sordid reality, although both have found the break-up devastating. Now they are thrown together in the world of “the bonus boys”– men so rich that normal rules do not apply.
But the world of wealth and country mansions loses its veneer when a gang of psychopathic killers comes to call on Thea Hayter while her husband is – conveniently – in America. As it turns to blood-soaked horror, a blundering police force and a politician on the make turn up the screws to fever pitch. It seems impossible Rosanna, hostage in a hidden chalet in a wood, can survive.
Let’s talk about your main male character in the series Andrew Forbes. He’s the complete opposite of Rosanna Nixon. What does she see in him?
Although she’s got an inner core of steel, the Mouse gets involved in the brutal worlds of politics and crime only when she meets, then falls in love with, Andrew. He is hard-bitten and cynical, but he’s very much on the side of the angels underneath it all. He’s a widower, and essentially a one-woman man. But life has knocked him about a lot. They say feeling sorry for a man is the most dangerous thing a woman can do. Rosanna does – and falls!
Do you envision this to be a long running series?
Yes. Andrew and the Mouse came together in the first book, Kicking Off, almost by accident, and it took me some time to realize they were going to be inseparable. Then, of course, they separated. The strains they both live and work under are very great, and will get worse as the series goes on. To be quite honest, I don’t know how, or if, they’ll survive! That’s why I love writing about them.
What’s next in the series?
As The Bonus Boys could be seen as being rooted in the traditional country house mystery – only much, much bleaker – the next one takes them into modern noir, with a police force getting rapidly overwhelmed by a series of brutal killings which seem motiveless and bizarre. Behind it all is mysterious ex-soldier who lives within, and minutely observes, a small community but manages to remain invisible between killings, and impossible to track down. Key to it all appears to be an immensely tall crane that broods over the blighted and terrified community.
You are a very prolific writer with a wide variety of books, plays and essays to your credit. Do you have favorite genre in which to write?
At the risk of sounding like a flibbertigibbet, I tend to be tempted to carry on in the same vein as the book before, whatever “genre” it is. Having finished The Bonus Boys my mind leaps to the next crime thriller. But I’ve got other strands that need a new one, so I have to force myself into that “mode.” At the moment I’m doing a series of novellas based on Nelson’s life, a series of full-length historical sea adventures, and some short spy/Cold War thrillers. And a film company has just asked if they can make a feature of my award-winning teenage novel about racism, My Mate Shofiq.
You’ve stated in interviews that one of the things you love about e-books is the flexibility to go back and improve an earlier work. Do you think that a book is ever “done”?
When I finish a book I tend to consider it done until I reread it (sometimes much later) and think I could do bits of it better. The last book in one of my earlier series, for instance, suddenly struck me as being much weaker than the others. In the old days that would have been that, but I threw myself back into it, metaphorically speaking, and ended up with what I think is a much better book. Playwrights do this sort of thing all the time, of course. And I love the collaborative process.
Over the years the publishing landscape has changed dramatically. In what ways do you think it’s easier for a writer? In what ways worse?
That’s a sort of eternal question, and more or less unanswerable, as it really depends on what each writer wants out of the process. It’s easier in that anyone can write something, and get it into print (whether concrete or virtual) and possibly just as hard to be “recognized.” That’s a lottery, always was and always will be, I fear. There are some great books out there that no one will ever hear of. That’s what mums are for; they always love your stuff! Mine did…
How has your background in journalism influenced your novels?
I suppose the greatest single thing was speed. I was a reporter for many years, then a sub-editor. I had to write fast, I had to be accurate, and I often had to compose it as I went along, often into a telephone surrounded by utter mayhem. Now, I write wherever I am, and with whatever tool comes to hand, pen, pencil, laptop, tape recorder. And I enjoy it! That’s worth its weight in gold.
Tell us about your writing process. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Either or both, strangely. Ideas usually come out of the blue, and sometimes they’re virtually fully-formed. Sometimes, though, they need a great deal of kicking into shape. I always hope it will be easy; sometimes it’s hellish hard.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I don’t think I do.
What’s the worst advice you ever received on writing?
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I’ve always found that if you rewrite something more than three times, the last will be worse than the first.
If you could dispense just one piece of advice to beginning writers, what would it be?
Ignore what I just said about rewriting! Everybody’s process is different. Trust yourself, listen to others. But write. Always write.
Has your success banished the self-doubt common to most writers, or do you still struggle with that with each new book?
To be honest, it doesn’t worry me much. The bonus of journalism again, I think. If something’s not working I chuck it and start something else. The same with cutting. Even if you think something is much too precious to cut, remember that only you will ever know it was there in the first place. If you cut it, no one will miss it. It doesn’t matter!
What is something we would be surprised to know about you?
How many of you think/thought I was a woman? My mother again. She’s got a lot to answer for, that lady.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
A solid tome on the life of Napoleon. My last novella (a Kindle Single) was called Napoleon: The Escape. I can’t get enough about him. Did you know that at one time he had a wife and two mistresses all called Josephine – and that it wasn’t the real name of any of them! Crazy or what?
If you could have dinner with any writer, dead or alive, who would it be?
Christopher Marlowe. To see if he answered to the name of Shakespeare! If he didn’t I’d want Shakespeare as well. Both good drinking men, I’d guess.
Where can readers connect with you?
Jan Needle is an internationally acclaimed author of thrillers, historical sea novels, and books for adults, young adults, and children under a variety of pen-names. He also writes television and stage plays, and literary criticism. He lives in the North of England and has six boats and five children.