Monday, October 14, 2013

Black Dog by Stephen Booth: Interview and Excerpt


How did you start your writing career? 

I think I’ve always been a writer. I wrote my first novel when I was twelve years old, and I knew straightaway it was what I wanted do when I grew up. From that age, I dreamed of being able to hold a book that had my name on it as the author. But I knew you can’t just leave school and become a novelist, so I decided newspaper journalism was a way of earning a living from writing. I did that for more than 25 years until the newspaper business changed so much that I wasn’t happy in the job any more – and of course I’d always known what I really wanted to do! My big break was finding the right agent to work with. When she sold the first Cooper and Fry novel ‘Black Dog’ to HarperCollins, my life changed overnight. With thirteen titles now published in the series, it’s still a thrill to see my name on the cover of a book. I know how lucky I am to have achieved that childhood ambition. Although I’ve been a full-time novelist for the past thirteen years, I’m still that twelve-year-old kid, excited by the idea of being published!


Who is your favorite author? 

You know it’s impossible to name just one, don’t you? As a reader, I came to crime fiction through Agatha Christie and the other great, class British crime novelists (who all seemed to be female). Of that older generation, the writer who can still produce something new and interesting after all this time is Ruth Rendell. Some of her books, like ‘A Judgment in Stone’ are extraordinary achievements. But I have many other favourites, including Reginald Hill, Peter Robinson and Michael Connelly.


When in the day/night do you write? How long per day? 

I do most of my writing in the evening, sometimes into the early hours of the morning. This seems to be my creative time, but it’s also quieter then, with fewer distractions. One of the drawbacks to working from home is that everyone knows you’re there and available! So it’s hard to create the sort of structured working day you have in most jobs.


Where do you research for your books? 

I regularly put my walking boots on to do location research ‘on the ground’ in the Peak District, because the locations are very important to the books. Readers love to visit the places I mention, so I try to be as accurate as possible to help them find the right spot! I’m writing about a real police force, and Derbyshire Constabulary have been very helpful in allowing me to talk to their officers and visit police stations to get a bit of authentic detail. And for background subjects, the internet is a godsend, of course.


Do you listen to music while writing? If so what? 

Sometimes, but it has to be the right music to suit the mood. Occasionally, a single track will capture the feeling and I’ll listen to it many times. In ‘Black Dog’, that track was ‘A Twist in My Sobriety’ by Tanita Tikaram. As a result, it appears in the book and plays a part in the story. In fact, I find myself listening to the sort of music my two central characters like – Ben Cooper is in to folk rock bands such as the Waterboys or Show of Hands, while Diane Fry listens to powerful female singer/songwriters like Tanita Tikaram or Thea Gilmore. This helps me to feel closer to the characters.  


What books have most influenced your life? 

When I was a child, we had no books in the house but for two large volumes – one was a Bible, and the other was book about fortune telling. I soon knew all the stories in the Old Testament, and how to read the future from tea leaves and hold a séance! But my view of reading changed when I came across a novel hidden in the house. It was ‘Silas Marner’ by George Eliot. That was my real ‘light bulb’ moment, when my eyes were opened to the possibilities of fiction.


How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula? 

There’s no formula. When I set out to write a new book, I have no idea what’s going to happen, or how it will end. I write in a very ‘free form’ way, starting with some vague ideas about a few characters and a place they belong to. I write around them until I start to know a little about who they are. Then I put them into a situation where they’re immediately under pressure (this will normally involve a murder or a dead body, of course!), and I watch what they do. So the story arises out of the characters, and it’s a discovery process for me as I’m writing it. Luckily, I’m writing about police detectives, so I rely on them to do their part of the job and ask all the questions!


Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they? 

If you hope to get published, you have to observe the three ‘P’s – be passionate, professional, and persistent. 


Describe what it’s like to be an author in three words. 

I only need one word: privileged.

Black Dog

by Stephen Booth

on Tour October 8 - November 8, 2013

Book Details:

Genre: Fiction/Crime
Published by: Witness / HarperCollins
Publication Date: 10/8/2013
ISBN: 9780062301963
Series: 1st in the Ben Cooper & Diane Fry Series
Purchase Links:


The helicopters are halted. The search for fifteen-year-old Laura Vernon ends when her body is found, murdered, in the forest.

On his hunt for the killer, detective Ben Cooper begins to suspect the people of Derbyshire are guarding some dark secrets-secrets that Laura might have known. Further complicating his investigation, Cooper is paired with an unfamiliar partner: Diane Fry, a woman as tenacious as she is alluring. Together they learn that in order to understand the town’s present, they must unearth its past.

Black Dog is like Twin Peaks by way of Tana French, and the first novel in the multiple award-winning Cooper and Fry series.

Read an excerpt:
The spot where Ben Cooper stood was remote and isolated. A passing walker wouldn't have been able to see him up here among the bracken, even if he'd bothered to look up.

Cooper turned round, wafting his hand across his face against the flies. He was looking through the trees and thick brambles as if towards the end of a dark tunnel, where the figure of Harry Dickinson was framed in a network of branches. Cooper had to squint against a patch of dazzling light that soaked the hillside in strong colours. The old man stood in the glare of the low sun, with hot rocks shimmering around him like a furnace. The haze of heat made his outline blur and writhe, as if he were dancing a slow shimmy. His shadow, flung across the rocks, seemed to wriggle and jerk as its shape fragmented among the bracken and brambles.

The expression in Harry's eyes was unreadable, his face lying partly in the shade from the peak of his cap. Cooper couldn't even tell which way he was looking, whether he'd turned away or was staring directly towards him in the trees. He wanted to grab the old man by the shoulders and shake him. He wanted to tell him that somebody had disturbed this spot, and recently. The evidence was right there for anyone to see, and to smell.

There had been two people here, and at least one of them had been looking for more than just rabbits. The smell that lingered under the trees was of stale blood. And the flies had found something even more attractive than Cooper's sweat to feed on.

Stephen Booth is an award winning British crime writer, the creator of two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry, who have appeared in twelve novels set in England’s beautiful and atmospheric Peak District.

Stephen has been a Gold Dagger finalist, an Anthony Award nominee, twice winner of a Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel, and twice shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year. Ben Cooper was a finalist for the Sherlock Award for the best detective created by a British author, and in 2003 the Crime Writers’ Association presented Stephen with the Dagger in the Library Award for “the author whose books have given readers the most pleasure”.

The Cooper & Fry series is published all around the world, and has been translated into 15 languages. The latest title is DEAD AND BURIED, with a new book, ALREADY DEAD, published in June 2013.

Catch Up With the Author:


Tour Participants:


Lance Wright said...

What a terrific interview with such a fascinating author. I thought the question about music was quite insightful; we all know music is important to our lives, and it's interesting that when the author listens to music his characters like that he feels closer to them.

CMash said...

Incredible interview. TY for posting.

Stephen Booth said...

Laurie, many thanks for a fantastic interview. Your support is much appreciated. :)