One of the perks of editing for The Thrill Begins is being introduced to new books and new authors. This was especially exciting when I had the opportunity to interview London-based author Matt Brolly about his debut novel Dead Eyed. Published in September 2015, Dead Eyed is the first in a trilogy of stories that follow DCI Michael Lambert as he attempts to overcome a personal tragedy while trying to catch a serial killer who is targeting people from his past. The book was riveting, and my conversation with Matt offers some insight into the story, his writing process, and the possibility of several more books in this series.
I read in your bio that you have a law degree and an interest in criminal law. Did you ever practice criminal law? How did you end up getting your Masters in Creative Writing?
No, I never went into practice. Although I found many aspects of the degree stimulating, I didn’t think law was the right profession for me. I decided to apply for my Masters in Creative Writing following a couple of near misses with agents and publishers. I needed some specific feedback on my writing and thankfully the course worked out for me. The feedback was excellent, and helped hone my writing skills.
How did your legal knowledge influence Dead Eyed? Did you have to do much research as you were putting the story together?
I had to check on a few police procedural issues. There are some good textbooks out there, and I was fortunate enough to talk to a few practicing officers. I didn’t want the book to be overtly procedural; I wanted it to feel as realistic as possible.
When you wrote Dead Eyed, were you thinking of the story arc as a trilogy, or was that something that evolved once you signed on with Carina?
I was hoping Dead Eyed would turn into a series. I had a vague idea of how Lambert’s future would pan out but nothing too specific in mind, as I know how much things can change from book to book. I am just in the process of signing on for two more books in the Lambert series so hopefully book 3, and possibly 4, will be appearing this year.
I found DCI Michael Lambert to be a deep and layered character. And, honestly, I love a character who is struggling with a personal tragedy. How did Michael Lambert come about? Can you discuss his character development?
I can’t really remember where the catalyst for Lambert came from. I had a basic outline for a story, and a main character, when I began writing Dead Eyed. I gave Lambert a personal tragedy, practically one of the worse I could imagine, but his real development as a character came from the way he reacted to this tragedy, and the circumstances of the case and everything else which was happening in his private life. In Dead Eyed, Lambert is really at a turning point both at a personal and professional level and this is what made him so interesting to write.
Do you think he’ll be able to work through some of his issues and kind of figure out where he fits in the world again? We see the beginning of this in Dead Lucky when he returns to work, but personally, he’s still kind of stuck between his previous life with Sophie, and his new reality with Sophie’s new baby. Will we see more of May in the next book?
I’m not sure Lambert’s life will be getting any easier soon! However, I think Sarah May might be taking a more prominent role in the next two books. Quite a few people have mentioned that they missed her not being so involved in Dead Lucky, and I don’t she is quite finished with Lambert yet.
Can you talk a little about your writing process? Do you have specific times of the day you like to write? You have kids and a regular job, so how do you find time?
I am fortunate enough to be self-employed, so I’m able to fit in my writing around my work. I don’t have any specific time of the day for writing though I often write late at night rather than early in the morning. Once I start a project, I try to write at least 1,000 words a day to keep the momentum going, and generally strive to write 2,000. Sometime more, quite often less!
What other authors or books have influenced you along the way?
On the crime side, my biggest influence would be the Blue Rose trilogy by Peter Straub. These interlinked stories opened me up to a different type of crime novel. In recent years I have enjoyed reading the Jack Caffery stories by Mo Hayder, and love anything by Chris Mooney, Stav Sherez, and Michael Marshall amongst many others.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? And can you talk a little bit about your first publishing experience (best parts, worst parts, any unexpected problems)?
The most obvious advice is the best: read and write as widely as possible. Dead Eyed is published by Carina, an imprint of Harper Collins. I had received some interest for Dead Eyed from a number of agents but in the end was unable to secure representation. Fortunately Carina accepts direct submissions, so having read some of their titles I thought I’d apply directly. About a year later, Dead Eyed was published and a few months later the sequel, Dead Lucky, was released. The speed to publication has been great and the editorial feedback and support from Carina has been first class. The hardest part has been the marketing aspect. Although the publishers do help on this front, it is important to get out there and promote yourself, which is something you have to learn as you go along.
Your next book in the DCI Michael Lambert series, Dead Lucky, came out on January 11th. What’s next on your plate?
I am writing the third in the Lambert series, and will then hopefully look at a couple of other projects.
Following his law degree where he developed an interest in criminal law, Matt Brolly completed his Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. He reads widely across all genres, and is currently working on the third in his Michael Lambert thriller series. Matt lives in London with his wife and their two young children.
Dead Eyed was published on September 3, 2015. It is the first in the Michael Lambert series from Carina UK (Harlequin/Harper Collins). The second in the Michael Lambert series, Dead Lucky was published in January 2016.
To order copies of Matt Brolly’s novels, click on the covers below:
Stephanie McDevitt earned her undergraduate degree from Catholic University (’02) and holds a Master’s degree in Literature and Languages from Marymount University (’12). She currently works full time in the Athletics Department at Marymount, and volunteers her time as an editor for the Washington Independent Review of Books.