Q&A with Martin Bodenham

Today I’m delighted to welcome Martin Bodenham to Portable Magic as part of the blog tour for Crime & Justice. My post is presented with thanks to Emma Welton of damppebbles Blog Tours for inviting me on the tour and to Martin Bodenham for answering my questions.

Have you always wanted to write? What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?

I came late to writing. I’d always wanted to write novels, but the career I entered on leaving college soon became all-consuming, leaving little time for anything else. I was a corporate financier and private equity investor, which involved putting together corporate acquisitions and financings, mainly in London.

It was the greed and fear I saw in the financial markets that inspired my first novel, a financial thriller called The Geneva Connection. In it I tell the story of a private equity firm that discovers when it is too late that its largest investor is a front for a brutal Mexican drug cartel. I guess you’d describe it today as Breaking Bad meets Wall Street! I wrote that novel as I wound down from my career in finance.

In 2013, my wife and I moved to Canada. Shortly after, I found a New York agent and took up writing full-time. My first three novels were financial crime thrillers. Crime And Justice is my fourth novel and is a new direction for me, in that it is a political corruption/detective story.

What was your inspiration for Crime and Justice? 

The idea for Crime And Justice came after I watched a TV documentary on DNA matching and its use in exonerating people in old cases. It made me realise how much we have come to rely on that forensic process, almost without question. I wondered how easy it might be for the results to be manipulated or whether a crime lab manager could be coerced.

After I wrote the novel, Netflix brought out a documentary called How To Fix A Drug Scandal. It’s about the criminal actions of two employees at US crime labs and the effect their actions had on the legal process. I took a lot of encouragement from the film as it highlighted similar issues brought up in my novel.  You can’t just make stuff up as an author. As the late, great Tom Clancy once said, “The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.”o

How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?

Some of my ideas have come from my first career in corporate finance. The corporate takeover world is full of big egos and larger than life people. I have “borrowed” a few of their characteristics for characters in my novels. I am a people watcher and I’m always on the lookout to see how individuals express their emotions. It helps that my wife was a psychotherapist. I normally ask her advice if I’m struggling to portray non-spoken emotions in my novels. Often it is what is not said that has the biggest impact.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am very much a plotter. Once I have a story idea, my next step is to create a paragraph or two for each of the fifty or so chapters. That becomes the outline of the story. I spend quite a lot of time at this stage, reordering the plot, looking for gaps and thinking of twists. Only when I have a complete outline of thirty pages or so, do I begin to write the novel. That way, I know I have a story that hangs together. Usually, as I write the book, new thoughts come to mind, which I try to weave in for greater depth. The outline has to be an organic thing. It cannot be too rigid. Some of my best plot twists have come from new ideas as I wrote the book.

How did you research Crime and Justice? Did you enjoy it?

There’s an incredible amount of publicly available data on crime lab and police investigation procedures. It was fun immersing myself in operating manuals and DNA databases. I like to learn something when I’m writing a novel. I hope my readers enjoy this aspect, too.

Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?

My preferred authors are John Grisham and Michael Connelly. They both have an easy flowing, conversational writing style. It looks easy. Believe me, it is incredibly hard to achieve. If anything, I try to emulate their short chapter and rapid pace approach to writing.

An oldie that I must mention is Deliverance by James Dickey. Many remember the movie that was made soon after the book came out in the early seventies. It is still one of the best thrillers I have read.

Finally, I must mention Red Notice by Bill Browder. It is actually non-fiction, but the book reads like a financial thriller.

If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?

My younger self so I could share life’s lessons and avoid repeating too many mistakes.

H.G. Wells. I’d like to know how this largely self-educated man achieved such a prolific writing output, straddling so many different genres.

Raymond Blanc. My wife and I love his food. We would invite him to dinner in the hope that he offered to cook!

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

A smoker. The smoke would remind me of being car sick as a child when my parents smoked in the vehicle’s confined space.

Who would you like to play the main character of Crime and Justice in a film or TV series? 

When I create a character, often I will try to think of an actor for the role at the outline stage. That way, I can more easily visualise each character as I write. That said, I try not to share those thoughts with the reader. In my view, authors can become too descriptive. I like to leave a lot of room for the reader to create his/her own visual image of the main characters. It makes them more real.

However, if you really want to know who was in my mind as I wrote Crime And Justice, here they are:

 

Detective Linda Farrell:            Sandra Bullock

Clark Stanton (crime lab manager):        Edward Norton

Jeff Peltz (corrupt fixer for the mayor):    Michael Kelly

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My wife and I love walking. British Columbia is a beautiful part of Canada. We are spoilt for dramatic scenery. However, we have to be careful. There are bears and cougars throughout the province, so walkers need to stay alert. That said, most of our Canadian friends seem quite relaxed about the wildlife. Maybe, it’s because we are both Brits and so grew up never having to consider predators. I don’t remember ever hearing stories of ramblers being savaged by a wild sheep in the UK countryside!

What is next for you?

I am working on the edits for book five. It doesn’t have a firm title yet, but it is about a woman stalker and is based on Vancouver Island. It’s quite dark and written mainly from the point of view of her male target. My publisher has it scheduled for publication during 2021. 

Favourites:

Book?            The Firm by John Grisham

Film?            No Country For Old Men

Band/Singer?     Led Zeppelin or Bad Company


TV show?        Judge Judy

Place?             With my wife

Biscuit?        Walkers’ shortbread

***

Crime & Justice is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

 

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