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Karen Millie-James

Crime Time Interview

My latest novel follows the investigations of Cydney Granger, a corporate forensics specialist.  The subject matter is one that I have considered writing for some time because I wanted to delve into the psychopathy of the Nazis and examine why they committed genocide on such an horrific scale without compunction, without remorse, and more importantly, without anyone preventing their treatment of, not only the Jewish people of Europe, but gypsies, the mentally ill, the less-able bodied.  Hitler and his minions were responsible for the mass murder of so many innocent people and their incarceration in death and labour camps that defied humanity.  Could their crimes against humanity ever be redeemed? There is also the matter of the stolen gold, diamonds, art and businesses from the Jews.  The extensive research I carried out gave me an insight into Germany between 1914 and 1939 and the economy of a country that was fighting to recover from the enormous financial losses incurred as a result of losing the First World War.  Why was gold so important and furthermore, how was it able to be transported across countries and even continents as means to aid his war efforts?  I needed to find answers for myself, on behalf of my family, and the conclusions I reached, through my characters and the situations in which I placed them, were ground breaking, heart wrenching and cataclysmic.

I am a student of literature and languages and many writers have inspired me over the years, from a very young age.  I was brought up on the classics and have enjoyed the works of Orwell, Dickens, Hemmingway, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Elliot, Austen.  I love books that evoke strong feelings and send messages, that make me think and teach.  Since writing a novel myself, many times now I read a sentence and wonder at the sheer poetry and feelings that a writer can evoke from such a simple combination of words.  If only, I ask myself? I examine my sentence construction and try to ensure I put myself in the mind of my reader so they picture what I see in my mind.  I am in awe of many of my writing peers and there are a few I would never miss reading.  I love thrillers and adventures especially the novels of Wilbur Smith.  I am enthralled by his writing and through his vivid descriptions; it is like watching a movie in my mind.  Ken Follett and Sebastian Faulks are other favourites, especially the latter’s historic works, and most of John Grisham because I appreciate his legal mind.  Those were always the types of books I wanted to write and who inspired me when I first started the process of writing.

The society in which we live shows violence in all its extremes through all forms of media.  There is not much left to the imagination and I thought strongly about how to approach this in my books.  People accept violence and they are not so shocked by images of victims and blood-covered bodies.  I questioned whether my book would be any the less for not including certain scenes, especially where it involved the Nazis.   Obviously I am dealing with a very intense subject matter and I have used violence to demonstrate the acts of these people in all its horror. Personally, I don’t like gratuitous violence in books or on films unless it is relevant to the plot. Throughout all forms of media, films and books, sex and nudity are depicted graphically. Fifty Shades of Grey epitomised this – but now what does the general public expect?  Would they want a book without sexual descriptions, swearing and violence, or is a writer’s job to portray that because it is in our everyday lives, and thus expected from a contemporary writer?  In The Shadows Behind Her Smile and again in Where In the Dark, I have included two sex scenes purely because of its relevance to the growth of my main character whose husband, in the Special Forces, has been missing in action for four years and it is a way of expressing her freedom from the restraints of widowhood.  Would I include sex for the sake of it? No I wouldn’t and in fact, it is one of the hardest type of scenes to write. I have questioned many times as to what my job is as a crime writer and whether it is important to portray the rights and wrongs of society, or just concentrate on the narrative and my characters’ journeys.  I don’t believe you can separate the two as a person’s actions and thoughts are governed by the situations around them and how society reacts.  Take Pride and Prejudice as an example.  This is by far the most important portrayal of society you could probably encounter, even though set in the Regency age.  Elizabeth Bennet and her family are beset with the problems of how to behave in a strict society where so many factors revolving around class encourage a certain behaviour.  The novel would never be so distinctive without those issues of society. It is the writer’s role to give the reader a view of how people react because of what is ingrained into them from an early age to adulthood and what influences their thoughts and actions.  How could you have a novel about war without discussing the reasoning behind it?  How could I write about the Nazis without understanding why they took the actions they did?  Any book would be the less without these factors.

Many books are placed into specific genre and that is accepted throughout the literary world.  However, some books do not fall easily into specific categories.  I like to think the kind of fiction I write is white-collar crime and adventure thriller with paranormal overtones, a sort of John Grisham meets Sixth Sense.  My latest book, Where In The Dark, is published by King of the Road Publishing Limited and is due for release in all formats on Monday, 4th September 2017.  It will be available from that date in WH Smith, Waterstones, Foyles and all good bookshops, and on Amazon in paperback, and for download to kindle and audible.