Michael: Like most of my novels Watching You is seeded in a real life event, but I can’t give too many details because it would give some of the plot twists away. What I can say is that it involves a story I had to cover as a journalist when a UK paper sent me back to Sydney to write about a woman who claimed she was being stalked. The police initially thought she was being paranoid and then they thought she was being haunted by a past
Michael: Of all my characters, Joe is probably closest to me in terms of age, politics and outlook. We’re both in love, we both have daughters, we both wonder if we’re being good fathers. Joe is far braver and cleverer than I am, with an astonishing ability to understand human behaviour.
Michael: Vincent is actually the only character to have appeared in every one of the nine novels – either as a major or a minor character. On paper he’s almost a cliché – the hard drinking, three times married, world-weary ex-detective, but there is a reason for men like him become clichéd. They exist. Throughout my career as ajournalist, I met a lot of detectives and Vincent is an amalgam of many of them.
Lizzie: Your third book The Night Ferry, features detective Alisha Barba. So were you planning writing stand-alone books, and did the decision to re-introduce Joseph O'Loughlin come when you started writing Shatter?
Michael: I didn’t intend to write a series. When I introduced Joe O’Loughlin in The Suspect, I thought he would be a one-book wonder and I’d move on to a new character. My publishers were keen for me to do a series so eventually I compromised. I created a cast of characters. Vincent Ruiz starred in the The Drowning Man and Alisha Barba in The Night Ferry.
Michael: I wanted to be a writer since my early teens, but growing up in a small outback town in NSW, I felt as though I had nothing to write about. Journalism was the first step in my education because it took me all around the world. As time went on all the confidence and bravado of youth began to evaporate. What was I thinking? What made me think I could write? Ghostwriting taught me that I had the patience to spend a year working on a single project – as well as the ability to capture a character and make them live and breathe, just like the real life subjects I worked with.
Michael: I lived in London for a dozen years, working as a journalist and ghostwriter. During this time I wrote a novel set in a small fishing village in Australia. It was almost published by Penguin almost 25 years ago, but missed out by a single vote in the final publishing meeting. I was told afterwards that if I had set this novel in England,Ireland, Scotland or Wales they would published it in a heartbeat, but a first novel set in Australia, was just a little too hard to sell. This comment stayed with me and when I sat down to write The Suspect I decided to set the story in London and to see what happened. That part manuscript became the subject of a bidding war at the London Book Fair in 2002. The rest, as they say, is history.
Michael: As I mentioned earlier, I had no intention of writing a series. I thought Joe O’Loughlin would only appear in one book. I gave him early onset Parkinson’s Disease because I liked the idea of a hero with a brilliant mind but a crumbling body, someone who had to out-think his foes because he was never going to be a Jason Bourne of Jack Reacher.
Michael: I’m a pantser not a plotter. I come up with a premise and characters and I let the story unfold. At some point I think of an ending and then spend the rest of the book doubting if I can get there. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I think of a better ending. For me it’s an exciting, energetic, almost organic way of writing. It’s like being a trapeze artist working without a net. Sometimes you swing out and let go, tumbling through the air, hoping there’s something swinging towards you to cling on to. On a good day, you’ll grip the bar and keep going. On a bad day, you’ll crash and burn.
Michael: I hate plotting. I know this is a strange confession for a thriller writer, but I much prefer writing back story and dialogue and characters. The twists and turns of plot make my head ache.
Michael: Creating characters that live and breathe in my imagination. I love exploring the dynamics of relationships, within families or friendships or marriages.
Michael: I’m working on a stand-alone, something very different. Called Life and Death, it’s a thriller set in the deep south of America about a man who serves a long prison sentence but escapes from jail the day before he’s due to be released.
The Night Ferry
Bleed For Me '