By James W, Sunday 28th October 2018
Mason Cross is the author of the acclaimed, best-selling Carter Blake thriller books which have sold across the globe. In episode 3 of Written in Blood he invites Simon Toyne to his hometown of Glasgow to uncover a case that literally unfolded on his doorstep so we caught up with Mason to discuss his career to date.
CBSR: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to become a writer?
MC: Yes, I always loved writing stories in school. When my family got its first computer, I would write Choose Your Own Adventure stories, print them out and flog them at school to my classmates. My best one was titled Ninja City.
CBSR: Where did your character Carter Blake come from? Was he based on anyone you know?
MC: Not anyone I knew, but I wanted to write a classic hero character with a mysterious past. It was influenced more by some of the fictional heroes I love reading about, like James Bond, Travis McGee, Batman, Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher. The main thing was I knew I wanted him to be a free agent, to let him roam across the map getting into different kinds of adventure.
CBSR: How did Presumed Dead, the fifth book in the Carter Blake series, come about?
MC: I had done a great deal of research on real-life serial killers for my second book, The Samaritan, and that had raised a couple of related things I was really interested in. The first was the fact that when a prolific killer is able to operate over many years or decades, some of the victims are sometimes never found. I had an idea for a story that began with a live sighting of someone thought to have been a murder victim fifteen years ago. The other thing that jumped out was how many unsolved serial murder cases are on the books, the most famous in the USA probably being the Zodiac Killer. These cases exert a grim fascination because everything is left unresolved, and we don’t know why the killings started, why they stopped, or if they could one day start again. People often assume the perpetrators died or went to prison for something else, but there are some cases of killers just quitting and living an apparently normal life. In Presumed Dead I look at a hypothetical example of that: why the killer stopped, and why they return after a long dormant period
CBSR: The crime in your episode of Written in Blood happened quite close to your home; can you recall how you felt when you first heard about it?
MC: No, I was only 3 years old when the murders occurred, but I remember people talking about it as I grew up. It was unnerving to look back at old newspaper archives and see so many of the places I had spent my childhood mentioned as important locations in a murder investigation.
CBSR: Why do you think this crime stayed in your memory more than others?
MC: Because it happened so close by, almost literally in my back yard. And like I said, people would talk about it when I was growing up. I didn’t know many of the details of the case until I got involved with the show, and it was sobering to read up on these terrible murders had happened in the place where I grew up.
CBSR: Does real life always inspire your work?
MC: Not usually. I might get the germ of an idea from reading something in a newspaper or magazine, but real life is usually too messy to meet the demands of a crime fiction plot. It’s important to ground things in reality, though, so you take bits and pieces from everyday life.
CBSR: What is your writing process? Do you have a strict regime or are you more relaxed and write when the mood suits?
MC: I write a little bit every day until I have a draft of a book. My first novel I wrote after the kids’ bedtime, 500 words a night. I have to write more than that now, but the principle is the same. I can write pretty much anywhere: trains, planes, hotel rooms, coffee shops, park benches. If I waited until the mood suited, I would never get anything done.
CBSR: Would you like to write books of other genres?
MC: I’d love to write horror or sci-fi, but I never seem to get any ideas that would fit those genres. I would also love to write for movies or comic books.
CBSR: What are you working on at the moment?
MC: My next book is called What She Saw Last Night, and it’s a standalone thriller set in the UK, published next April. It opens with a body found in a room on board the Caledonian Sleeper train, and a missing child, who only one person remembers seeing…
CBSR: Mason Cross, thank you very much.
Episode 3 of Written in Blood is showing on Tuesday 30th October at 10pm.
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