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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Jim Fairfax talks about his new crossword murder mystery thriller, The Necklace, and what inspired his story.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Jim Fairfax about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the work that went into his new murder mystery thriller book, The Necklace.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I have been an avid reader all my life. I live in a small village in rural Kent and now work part-time. My interests other than writing include walking our border terrier and playing guitar.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I started by writing poems and songs, but it wasn’t until I completed a Fiction Writing course that I decided I wanted to write a book, initially a collection of short stories.
When did you take a step to start writing?
After completing the Fiction Writing course I started writing short stories whenever I had the chance. I even wrote one on holiday in Switzerland using the hotel computer!
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Writing the manuscript for the book took about six months. Then another couple of months re-writing and checking whilst submitting to agents and publishers. Once I signed the book up with Cranthorpe Millner there was more work with their editing team, which took a further few months. Then the book gets allocated a publishing date, which in this case is January 2023.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Necklace?
I had already written and published a collection of twenty-one short stories- “The Panic Room and other stories”. Whilst I was doing this I realised that the stories I enjoyed writing most were those which had an element of mystery and suspense. So I decided to write a thriller. A holiday staying near a friend in Cornwall then gave me the idea for many of the settings in the book.
I have always been a big fan of classic spy thrillers by John le Carré and Joseph Kanon, but I also enjoy thrillers by Robert Harris and Robert Galbraith. Hopefully, I have produced a book that merges some elements demonstrated by these writers.
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Necklace?
As the book moves between London, Oxford, Cornwall and Kent and has three main protagonists, each having their own thread of the story, the biggest challenge was continuity. Other key challenges were to keep the pace moving and the element of surprise. I was really pleased with the unexpected twist I added at the end of the book- although there are quite a few twists before this one.
The other challenge was creating the crossword clues that hide the messages. In the book all but one of these are solved for the reader by Dom, so I had to think up the clues and their solutions!
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I wanted to have two main protagonists. I liked the idea of Penny as a media agent who tends to deliver most of the commonsense within the book, whereas Dom becomes involved as a way to escape his boring lifestyle. In both cases I use some characteristics of people I have known or observed, but I couldn’t say either is based on anyone specific.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
The main antagonist is a unusually engaging character. I wanted the reader to empathize with Dima to some degree. I hope he comes across as both relatable and someone who has become trapped within the system that has previously served him so well.
What is the inciting incident of The Necklace?
The book starts of with a murder at the end of the first chapter which ignites the story. From then on the story unfolds in front of the reader, whilst there is always a little hidden away for the element of surprise.
What is the main conflict of The Necklace?
Well, I suppose it is the battle of wits between Penny and Dima. With the help of Dom, can Penny uncover the full details of Dima’s plan, before he has time to execute it?
Did you plot The Necklace in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I had the idea for the initial scenario with Stewart – his background and what is uncovered later in the book. After that I had to plan the whole book- over thirty chapters out on paper. I found splitting the book into four parts helped with the planning. I could review where I was at the end of each part.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Necklace need?
Yes, the Cranthorpe Millner editing team worked with me to check the proofs . I don’t think there were any significant changes, but as a writer there are always little pieces you miss and sometimes the book reads differently to a fresh pair of eyes,
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Go for it. Don’t procrastinate- just write. Once you have written something you can always modify it later- you probably always will. Also I heard Hemmingway limited the number of words he wrote each day to 250 words, so that the well was not dry when he returned to it to write the next day. I have tried to follow this advice whenever I can. Leaving part of the story unfinished for a while gives you the opportunity to weigh up the next step.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I have a sequel planned which would be based in an Andalucian village, with Penny and Dom continuing to work together. Of course, I will have to travel their to research the plot.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes I am proud of the book. It was a lot of effort, particularly some mental agility to fix it all together, but I feel it stands up well against other thrillers currently being published.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Cranthorpe Millner published Jan 2023
Twitter jimfairfax1 @jimfairfax1
Facebook- Jim Fairfax
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