Good morning everyone! I have a special surprise for everyone this morning! My first ever Q+A! This is with renowned crime author Graham Masterton! This is for his new book Ghost Virus, which I cannot tell you to read enough!
Graham trained as a newspaper reporter before beginning his career as an author. His credits as a writer include the bestselling horror novel The Manitou and the Katie Maguire crime series, which became a top-ten bestseller in 2012.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the Q+A, check out the books biography to give you some idea of the book!
The girl had been staring into her mirror all morning before she picked up the small bottle of sulphuric acid and poured it over her forehead.
Samira was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her. What could have brought her to this? DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel of Tooting Police suspect it’s suicide. But then a meek husband kills his wife, and the headteacher of the local school throws her pupils out of a window. It’s no longer a random outbreak of horrific crimes. It’s a deadly virus. And it’s spreading. Somehow, ordinary Londoners are being infected with an insatiable lust to murder. All of the killers were wearing second-hand clothes. Could these garments be possessed by some supernatural force?
The death count is multiplying. Now Jerry and Jamila must defeat the ghost virus, before they are all infected…
Read the Q+A below!
Please introduce yourself to my audience
Before I became a novelist I was a newspaper reporter and then the editor of two men’s magazines, Mayfair and Penthouse. While I was editing Penthouse an American edition had just been launched so I was a frequent visitor to New York. It was then that I got to know several American publishers and I was invited to write ‘how-to’ books on sex. These became very popular…some of them are still in print even today, such as How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed. But the market for those books began to falter, and my publishers said they didn’t want any more. In the place of the next sex book, I offered them a horror novel which I had written mostly to amuse myself. It was inspired by the first pregnancy of my late wife Wiescka and a story I had read about Native American spirits in The Buffalo Bill Annual 1955. That book was The Manitou. It sold half a million copies in six months and was filmed Tony Curtis playing the lead role. After that, I continued to write horror novels but also political thrillers, disaster novels, historical sagas and even comic novels.
I was born in Edinburgh, the son of a British Army major and the daughter of a renowned scientist, Thomas Thorne Baker, who invented fluorescent paints and was the first man to send photographs by wireless. I started writing stories when I was about seven years old and have never stopped. When I was about 10 I discovered Edgar Allan Poe and was really enthralled, so I started writing horror stories to entertain my schoolfriends. I have never really stopped!
I lost interest in my English A-level studies when I was at school because I became interested in the American Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. I admired their directness and the way that they were unafraid to say anything or describe anything in all its grisly detail. I became friends with William Burroughs and he and I wrote a novella together, Rules of Duel.
Because of my lack of interest in what my school had to offer (apart from the girls in my class) I was expelled at the age of 17. Luckily I got a job as a trainee reporter and that was where my full-time writing career began.
What made you write this book?
I have been writing a series of crime thrillers lately, set in Cork, in Ireland, and featuring Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire. I have written nine, and they have been so successful that I neglected to write any new horror novels. My horror readers were growing impatient for something new, so when this idea came up, I decided to give it a go.
The basic idea was inspired by the charity shop where a young woman friend of mine works as manager. I used to wonder if the second-hand clothes that were donated still retained not only the smell of their late owners, but something of their personality. Perhaps when somebody bought these clothes, the late owners would try to possess them and come back to life. Not only come back to life, but take their revenge on some of the people who had mistreated them when they were alive.
What made you include the almost supernatural element of the virus?
Apart from the charity shop clothes, I was also inspired by Nikolai Gogol’s famous story The Overcoat, in which an impoverished clerk saves up for a smart new overcoat, only to have it stolen from him on the first day that he wears it. He dies of sickness and disappointment, but a ghostly presence goes around the city taking revenge on his behalf.
Why did you make the murders so gory?
Murders are gory. I am often asked the same question about the murders in my Irish crime novels, but it would be dishonest in my view to try and make murders seem anything except the ghastly grisly tragedies that they really are. I don’t write so-called ‘cosy’ crime like Agatha Christie in which the worst thing that happens is that the bishop gets beaten to death with a badger in the bathroom.
What made you include the cultural references – eg) the Pakistani family and the Pakistani police woman with the honour killing in the first few chapters.
I wanted the story to be up-to-date and relevant to modern times and modern concerns, and of course ethnic diversity and honour killings are still very topical. I also wanted to emphasise the well-deserved promotion of women to positions of responsibility, which I am also doing in my crime novels about Katie Maguire. You might not think that a one-time editor of men’s magazines was a strong supporter of women’s rights, but there was always great sexual equality on the staff of those magazines and we always promoted respect for women’s intelligence, creativity and business acumen.
What did you edit out of this book?
How long did it take you to write this book?
It took about six months. I had to stop halfway through, which was the first time I have ever done that while writing a novel, but I was commissioned to write The Coven, the second in my series of historical crime thrillers featuring Beatrice Scarlet, and I suddenly realise that the deadline was pressing!
What books have influenced you as a writer?
As I mentioned, Edgar Allan Poe influenced me when I was younger. Then tough American writers like Nelson Algren, who wrote The Man With The Golden Arm, and Herman Wouk, who wrote The Caine Mutiny, which is a brilliant example of how during the course of a novel a reader’s sympathies can be turned around 180 degrees. After that, Beat poetry like Pictures of the Gone World by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gasoline by Gregory Corso. I enjoyed Bomber by Len Deighton because of its historical realism. These days I get no time (or inclination) to read other people’s fiction. I’m critical enough of my own. I must say that I think writing poetry is extremely important for any author. It improves your self-discipline, your vocabulary, your sense of rhythm and your ability to be able convey strong emotions in the minimum of words. I have written a lot, and still do, and had quite a number published.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
As a newspaper reporter and a magazine editor I have had to write about anything and everything, so nothing deters me. I have written celebrity interviews, restaurant reviews, humour columns, car test reviews, record reviews, cartoon captions, novelisations of movies…it’s my job, and I was taught by excellent newspapermen and by magazine editors.
What made you get into writing?
I think it may have been partly hereditary. My great-great-grandfather (who was a Polish émigré) was a theatrical impresario, and loved putting on shows. Writing is a way of entertaining people, which I love to do. If I hadn’t become a writer I might have been a comedian. You don’t really ‘get into’ writing. It’s more like a chronic disease than a calling. I just can’t help it.
How do you get over writer’s block?
I used to think that ‘writer’s block’ was an apartment building where all these writers sat staring at blank sheets of paper. I have never had writer’s block because you can’t, as a professional journalist. You can’t swanning in to your chief reporter one day and say ‘I can’t write a report on this council meeting because I’ve got writer’s block.’ Obviously some days I might feel more like writing than others, but usually I write every day, even if it’s only two or three pages.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It didn’t. I was used to seeing my name in print because I had a regular pop music page for three years in my local paper, plus other bylines. My writing has obviously changed and developed over the years, as I think readers can see if they compare Ghost Virus to The Manitou, or any of my earlier horror novels. But I believe in Ghost Virus that I have updated myself considerably, and not only produced a supernatural entertainment but a story which will make people think about the way our society is developing and their own feelings of bereavement, if they have lost somebody dear to them. and their own impending death. There’s a headstone waiting for us all!
Thanks so much for your time Graham! I loved asking you all these questions! Please write many more books!
Have you ever read any Graham Masterton? You really should! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
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