Adventures in Books… Blog Tour Cut Dead and Author Interview with Mark Sennen

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Cut Dead by Mark Sennen Released 27th February 2014

“‘He could be out there right now. Passing you on the street. You’d never know …’

DI Charlotte Savage is back, chasing a killer who was last at large ten years ago, a killer they presumed dead … Now he’s back and more dangerous than ever.

When three headless bodies are found mutilated in a pit, it’s a particularly challenging case for DI Savage and her team. The bodies bear the hallmarks of a killer who was never caught, last at large ten years ago, butchering girls on Midsummer’s Day.

Could this be a copycat or has the original killer resurfaced? With a steady stream of bodies arriving at the morgue and gruesome secrets from the past emerging DI Savage is up against it to find the killer before he attacks again? The past has caught up with them. And so has he…”

This is the third book in this series by Mark Sennen and although I normally read series form the beginning I was sent this book for review as part of the Blog Tour, so haven’t read the previous ones. I thought that might annoy me, but I really enjoyed this book. I like crime books where I don’t see the twists coming. and this falls into that category for me.

The story follows Charlotte Savage as she and her team investigate the discovery of several bodies and the disappearances of a single women every year. We get introduced the killer early on in the book, but we don’t know who they are, only brief glimpses inside his mind.  It’s creepy and thrilling to discover more about the killer each time.

I enjoyed learning about DCI Savage as well.  She is strong women working in a predominantly male world. She is also dealing with personal tragedy from her past, which we find out about and the story develops as additional plot to main story of the crimes. I like sub plots as they often allow you to get to know the characters better and in this case they really worked for me.

The premise or motive for the crimes was interesting. The cakes left by the killer at each crime scene was intriguing. It kept me glued to the book to find out why these women were chosen and then how they were chosen. At the end of the book I thought it all came together very well.

Overall I thought it was a well written and smart book that kept me engaged and wanting to find out more about the main characters and of course who did it!

Hi Mark Sennen! Welcome to Wandering Angie! I’ve just finished reading Cut Dead and found it thrilling to read. Could you tell us a bit about your book, Cut Dead?

In Cut Dead DI Savage finds herself chasing another serial killer as a cold case suddenly turns hot. The signature of this particular killer is that he takes his victims on the longest day of the year. As the book opens we are just seven days before midsummer…

Where did you get your inspiration to start writing and then to write this book?

I started writing a science fiction novel way back, eventually completing it in the year two thousand. The book did the rounds of several agents, but none liked it. I then began a novel featuring Harry, the killer in Touch, but never finished it. It was when the Amazon Kindle came out that I was inspired to get on and rework what I had into Touch. All I wanted to do was write something and have a few other people read it. Amazon gave me (and everyone else) that opportunity.

For Cut Dead it wasn’t so much inspiration as perspiration. As the third book in the series I knew it would be the clincher if I was to get another deal. Although many people have said Bad Blood (book two) was a much better book than Touch (book one), it wasn’t as popular. It was the creepiness in Touch that readers enjoyed. I didn’t want quite the same elements in Cut Dead, but I knew I had to produce something equally disturbing. I don’t know whether I succeeded, but I certainly scared myself writing it!

I really like books out now that involve a strong female lead, what made you chose to base the book around Charlotte Savage?

I, too, like strong female leads. Conversely I don’t get on at all well with strong male leads, neither do I particularly like the stereotypical male detective who’s a failure with women, tends to drink and has an unhealthy knowledge of a particular music genre. I think there’s room for one or two, but every time? No. When I began to write the first book in the series, Touch, Savage was a man (although not named Savage). I really struggled to get him on the page and what did appear was either too bland or fitted the stereotype. To avoid the stereotype I tried to make him a family man, but I couldn’t get the passion to flow. His wife, who was in the Royal Navy, turned out to be a stronger character. Pretty soon I realized I had the characters the wrong way around: Charlotte (still not yet Savage) would need to be the detective and her husband, Pete, was now the naval officer.

Did you base the character of Charlotte on someone you’ve met or a character you are particularly fond of?

No, but I guess like many characters she’s a composite of real and fictional women and men. It’s going back a bit but I loved the Ellen Riply character in Aliens. Funnily enough I believe in James Cameron’s first script she too was a man.

I found the crimes themselves very unnerving, how do you research and come up with ideas for these characters and parts of the books? 

Writing the killer is always the part I find easiest! I have read an awful lot of ‘true crime’ serial killer books (and some were truly awful) and while I don’t take any ideas from them directly all the depravity rubs off. I’ve also found that whatever fiction can throw up, real life is far, far worse. The deeds of real serial killers would never work as fiction because they are too horrible and because there is rarely any motive. For me only when the killer has a motive does the story work. I need to try and put myself in their position and feel the anger or frustration which causes them to kill. It’s not easy and is unnerving for me too, but a piece of writing advice I read once was to go one step beyond what you find comfortable. In other words to look at the page and think ‘what could be worse than this?’ In Cut Dead I distinctly remember a scene where I thought I’d gone too far. I put the question to my editor. Her answer was ‘no, it’s fine’! (just so you know where she’s coming from in Bad Blood, book two, she said at one point ‘I think we might need another body…’)

This is the first book I’ve read of yours and I would love to read more about Charlotte savage life before this story, could you tell me a bit about your previous books and future plans for the character?

Touch and Bad Blood are the first two books in the series.

In Touch we are introduced to Charlotte and the Major Crimes’ team as they hunt down a killer. We learn about Charlotte’s loss (the death of her daughter) and how this feeds into her desire to stop others getting hurt. The book is written from several viewpoints, particularly from that of the killer. While we don’t feel a whole lot of empathy for him, I’d say it’s OK to express a little sympathy, especially when we learn the whole story (not that Charlotte feels this way, of course!).

In Bad Blood DI Savage is hunting a very different type of killer and DS Darius Riley becomes as much a part of the book as Savage. There’s a more complicated storyline involving members of Plymouth’s underworld and introducing some new ongoing characters. Bad Blood was a challenge to write as it involved merging together multiple storylines – historical and present – but I discovered that this is what I enjoy. I don’t plan anything and the thrill when it all magically comes together is the best bit about writing.

I can’t tell you much about future plans (I’m halfway through book four at the moment), but there will be at least six books all told. As to where Charlotte is heading, that’s up to her and something I have little control over.

What can we expect from you next and when?

Tell-Tale (book four in the series) will be out in the spring of 2015, but there may well be a self-published novella/novel before then since after completing Cut Dead I did quite a bit of work on a standalone. Provisionally titled The House on the Moor, the action takes place in the present day and also back in the sixties in what was historically one of the worst winters on record. The moor in question is Dartmoor and the house is not the type you’d want to rent as a holiday cottage. Exactly when the book comes out all depends on how Charlotte and friends behave in the next couple of months.

What are your favourite genres to read? Which authors would you recommend in the genre/s?

I do read a lot of crime and I think you have to go a long way to beat Graham Hurley’s Faraday and Winter series. Although a million miles from my plots I’ve certainly been influenced by his attention to the detail of police procedure (much to my editor’s annoyance – she wants to cut down the number of both acronyms and characters).

Outside of crime I like the type of epic science fiction done so well by Peter F. Hamilton and was a big fan of Iain M Banks. The Culture was an amazing creation: who wouldn’t want to live in it?

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers out there? 

It sounds lame, but keep at it! With self-publishing so easy (and it’s no secret to say I think as good a way as any), there’s no excuse not to get on and finish your book. But you’ll only finish by writing, writing, writing. Get into the habit of sitting down and banging out a few words as often as you can. Set aside a specific time when you’re not going to watch TV, not waste time on your phone/tablet, not read the newspaper; you’re going to write. Even if you only write 250 words a day you’ll have a novel-length manuscript in a year. Note: you’ll have a manuscript, you won’t yet have a novel (there’s as much work from the first draft to finished article as there is from zero words to first draft), but you’re a whole lot closer than the writer who doesn’t have a first draft.

If you are struggling with technique then the best advice is to look at successful writers whose work you like. What length chapters do they have? How do they start or end scenes? How do they use speech? Do they use adverbs? Look at all facets of their writing and try to emulate them. In time you’ll develop a style of your own, one you feel comfortable with, one you no longer have to think about.


Back to Angie – I would like to thank Mark to taking the time to answer my questions and also writing the book. I am excited and happy to be part of the blog tour and hope to more as long as interesting books head my way.

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