Today I’m pleased to welcome Mason Cross to the blog. Mason is the author of The Killing Season and The Samaritan and his latest novel to feature Carter Blake, The Time to Kill, was published by Orion on 30 June 2016.
Mason kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Time to Kill
In the first two books (The Killing Season and The Samaritan), we found out that Carter Blake is a skilled freelance manhunter with a murky past in a classified special operations unit. In The Time to Kill, that past catches up with him.
Blake receives an email attachment of an Interpol black notice showing an unidentified man found dead in the Siberian wilderness. He used to work with the man, and he realizes his former colleagues are sending him a message: he’s next.
From there, it’s a race against time as Blake has to make his way across America with an elite team of trained killers hot on his heels.
2. What inspired the story?
This one was inspired by my love of chase thrillers, like The Bourne Identity, 3 Days of the Condor and North by Northwest. I’ve always enjoyed thrillers focusing on a lone man on the run facing impossible odds, and wanted to make my own contribution to the genre.
It also grew naturally out of the character of Blake. I was interested to see what would happen when the tables were turned and the hunted became the hunter.
3. The Time to Kill features Carter Blake, who featured in your previous novels. What do you find are the benefits and downsides to writing a recurring character?
The major benefit is you’re never starting from a completely blank slate: you have the protagonist and a rough idea of what the setup is going to involve. That said, I was careful to make Blake’s occupation flexible enough that I can drop him into different locations and different kinds of story. That way it doesn’t become formulaic.
The downside is related – you don’t get to throw everything out of the window and do something completely different from what’s gone before. But there’s always standalones for that. Overall, I think the advantages really outweigh the disadvantages.
From a commercial point of view, it’s good because readers invest in series characters, and are more likely to pick up your latest book if they like the character.
4. You recently attended Bloody Scotland, an annual literary festival in Stirling that celebrates all things crime fiction. Can you tell us some of the highlights of the festival? How important do you think literary events are and what makes them so enjoyable?
I think it was the best Bloody Scotland yet this year. There were a lot of highlights, from catching up with other writers and readers to see Mark Billingham perform with the country band My Darling Clementine.
My panel was a blast – I was appearing with Steve Cavanagh and GJ Brown. We were chaired by Catriona Macpherson and the theme was (Not) Born in the USA, because the three of us write very American thrillers despite not being Americans. It was a really interesting discussion with a lot of laughs, some intentional…
So far I’ve attended several lit fests in the UK, including Edinburgh, Crimefest and Harrogate, and I’m looking forward to venturing further afield in the near future. I think literary events are hugely important as it’s the only time writers really get to interact face to face with readers. It’s also fun to catch up with other writers and compare notes.
5. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
I’m a little of both. I write a fairly detailed outline before I get started, usually 3-4 pages. That’s really so I have a reasonable idea of where the story is going and that there’s some sort of ending. As I write, I change lots of things as I come up with new ideas. The ending is usually completely different by the time I get there.
It usually takes me four to five months to get to a decent first draft, and then I’ll usually go through another couple of rounds of edits with my publisher. By the time it’s actually printed, I’m usually sick of the sight of it!
6. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I have a full-time job and kids as well as writing a book a year, so at times it feels like I don’t have time to do anything else. Right now I’m on a break between editing book four and starting book five, which is nice. I’m trying to catch up on all of the television I haven’t watched and books I haven’t read while writing! When I have free time, I like to go for long walks, exploring different cities. I love going to the cinema and concerts too.
7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Argh, that’s a tough one. Actually, it’s an impossible one… I’m tempted to say Stephen King’s On Writing, as it’s such an inspiration. But I kind of think I should choose a novel, so let’s say Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. It’s an absolute classic and the book that made me want to be a crime writer.
8. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you have done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Something I don’t think I’ve been asked is, “What else would you like to write, other than books?”
And the answer is: My books are very much influenced by my love of the visual storytelling in both movies and comics, and would love to write them someday. In comics, I’d love to do a Batman or Punisher story, and I have a few ideas I think would work best on the big screen.
About the book:
It’s been five years since Carter Blake parted ways with top-secret government operation Winterlong. They brokered a deal at the time: he’d keep quiet about what they were doing, and in return he’d be left alone.
But news that one of Blake’s old allies, a man who agreed the same deal, is dead means only one thing – something has changed and Winterlong is coming for him.
Emma Faraday, newly appointed head of the secret unit, is determined to tie up loose ends. And Blake is a very loose end. He’s been evading them for years, but finally they’ve picked up his trace. Blake may be the best there is at tracking down people who don’t want to be found, but Winterlong taught him everything he knows. If there’s anyone who can find him – and kill him – it’s them.
It’s time for Carter Blake to up his game.
High-stakes action, blistering tension and a deadly game of cat and mouse, THE TIME TO KILL is the must-read new thriller from Mason Cross.