AUTHOR INTERVIEW Q&A with A Crime Readers Blog
The Penance List is the story of 3 friends and a stalker. Tara, Helen and Josie meet every week for a catch up. However they are unaware that they are being watched. David is obsessed with Tara and his obsession soon turns creepy and dangerous. This was an interesting story that flits between the current day of the three friends, David and his background. Gruesome in parts and with a lot of sex scenes it is pretty fast paced and is an easy read that will keep you hooked until the end.
Therefore I’m delighted to welcome S.C Cunningham to my blog to find out more about the author behind The Penance List.
Hi Siobhan, thanks for joining me. Firstly I like to know what was the inspiration behind The Penance List?
I tend to write what I know; my storylines are founded on real life experiences.
From a very young age I’ve always known that my job in life was to entertain. To drag folk kicking and screaming into a world of escapism, to situations they’ve never experienced before and have them championing characters, willing them on and punching the air with a “Yesss!”
When building a character I draw on observations of people I know or have closely watched, it’s easier to write from truth. Luckily, I’ve had a hectic life path, worked in a few fascinating industries, and been able to study a wide range of characters.
In a nutshell my path has been – am British born of Irish parents, was plonked from the age of 8yrs into an Irish Catholic Nuns Boarding School. After a short spell of studying law (realising there is too much injustice in our systems) I went on to work as a fashion model, married a rock musician and worked in the music to film industry. Got divorced and then as a single mum worked within football, sports celebrity management, horseracing, children’s charities, and more recently for the Police as a Crime Investigator – Intel Analyst, Major Crime Team, Wanted and Absconder Units. Am proud mum to a wonderful daughter (Contemporary Artist) and owned by three dogs.
For the past ten years I’ve been drawing on these experiences as inspiration to write steamy Psychological Thrillers ‘The David Trilogy’ and gritty Paranormal Crime Romance ‘The Fallen Angel Series’.
The Penance List was kick-started by an incident that happened to me in my twenties when I was living in London. Quite frighteningly and out of the blue, I crossed paths with a prolific serial attacker who targeted single girls living alone in basement flats in Notting Hill and Olympia. It was then that I realised evil can sit around any corner, learn to trust you gut.
This male haunted London for a long period of time; he was astute, studied his victims for days and avoided capture. I believe he attacked 14 or so women, luckily I got away unscathed (must have an Angel looking out for me) and managed to help Police ID him with a photo fit. He was a nice looking, well dressed, calm, cold, precise and unhurried. He didn’t say a word, just stared, seeming to revel in the fear he instilled.
I remember looking into his face and asking why? I needed to understand how a human could be that cruel to another. He had the look of a spoilt mother’s boy; I guessed his mother must have loved him at some stage, but what life changing event or who had turned him from a sweet little boy into an evil adult? The seed for complex protagonist David Howard was sown.
Using a mix of my own experiences (nuns, boarding school, modelling, the press, celebrity management and fun loving career girlfriends) I created a fantasy world of manipulation, shining a light on the ripple effect carnage that the misuse of power, religion and passion can cause.
I enjoy complex characters that slowly reveal themselves, are not who they seem and engage with the reader, pulling at heartstrings and worst fears. I try to create a person who the reader would either like to hang out with or see as their worst enemy. Someone they feel empathy for and understand their choices, right or wrong. Someone they champion and punch the air with a resounding “Yessss!”
And because I’m an old romantic who loves a bit of drama, my books also have to have a few oh-so-sexy personalities with complicated love lives, evil exes, edge of seat fear, twists, turns, steamy romances and cheeky laugh out loud banter.
Working on a series allows you to build characters that hopefully people will fall in love with and get excited about. David is a very bad person, but fans often write saying they’re hooked; they love his charismatic charm warts and all, and can’t wait to see what he does next. They understand and champion the boy, but fear the man he has become. The book has been adapted to film script, so we may see David on our screens one day. I love working on this character so much that I have dragged him into ‘The Fallen Angel Series’ where he causes a bit of more chaos in the skies Pleased be warned, The Penance List is a sexy thriller, think Psycho meets 50 Shades. It can be a little naughty at times and may not be for everyone. But if you’re brave enough, grab a glass of vino, close the bedroom door and read alone.
I’d definitely recommend reading this with wine in hand! Have you always been a writer?
For nearly twenty years I have been compiling storylines. My Crime Investigation works keeps me busy writing also, there are a lot of reports to complete for CPS and Court.
Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?
My crime investigation work consists of arriving at a Police Station, attending a briefing, being given a prisoner and dealing with his or her case; sourcing evidence, speaking to witnesses and victims, conducting safeguarding, disclosing to Legal Advisors, interviewing the prisoner, and depending on the offence and if charged, liaising with CPS and preparing files for Court.
My writing work involves somehow cutting out the rest of the world and becoming mushroom-like reclusive. I tend to try and back out of the world and everything that’s going on around me for days before, emptying my over-zealous mind, to fill it again with another complex fictional world.
On a writing day, I take the dogs for a beach walk, traveling via the back roads to avoid conversations. Am easily drawn into chatting with folk – dog walkers are a lovely friendly bunch.
On the beach I start the process of thinking about scenes for the day’s writing. My work tends to have complicated spaghetti storylines which I need to be on top of – tough on an old bird like me
I get home and set the scene of my writing room; smelly candles, music, good lighting, warmth, quiet, nibbley easy-to-eat food and plenty of drinks. The dogs, exhausted from their walk, sleep at my feet. It’s nice to have another heart beat in the room, writing can be lonely.
I sit at the computer for between 5 to 10 hours, depending how well it’s going, and then log off with a celebratory glass of vino or cheeky gin and tonic.
How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?
I love the beach, in all kinds of weather. The sea seems to calm my soul and is great for rinsing out storylines and the clutter of crime. I also love catching up with a good friend, putting the world to rights over a cup of coffee or a cheeky glass of Prosecco.
Movies are another passion of mine, I could quite happily sit in a cinema all afternoon watching 2/3 movies back to back. I write with film in mind.
I agree on the beach front. Some of my best walks have been on the beach in freezing conditions! Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?
My reading tastes reveal a pretty primitive narrow spectrum of thriller romance and action – Martina Cole, James Patterson, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Colin Dexter, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Dan Brown, Patricia Cornwell, John Le Carre, Ian Fleming and my uber favourite is Lee Child, although I’ve not forgiven him for selling the rights to Tom Cruise. Tom is wonderful I’m sure, but he is no Jack Reacher… (sigh).
Very true. I must say although I like a Lee Child book I have avoided the film! Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on?
I am currently at the edit stage of book two of The Fallen Angel Series ‘Karma’, and have started the final book in The David Trilogy ‘For My Sins’. Thank you for talking with me.
Thanks so much for answering my questions today.