NTN: Kerry Wilkinson interviewed

By day Kerry Wilkinson is a sports journalist, but in his spare time he decided to challenge himself and write a crime novel. What he came up with was Locked In, the first Jessica Daniel novel. Rather than send it off to agents and publishers, he worked out how to release it himself on Kindle and iTunes. Locked In is now the top seller in the Crime section of the Kindle Store at Amazon.co.uk and its sequel Vigilante is number two. People seem to love them, and Wilkinson did it all by himself so we had to ask him about his books and his detective character Jessica.

How would you characterise them, or introduce them to our readers?
Jessica is a detective sergeant in her early 30s living in Manchester. She’s a little unsure exactly what she wants from life but somehow fell into working for the police and doesn’t know anything different. I’ve tried to make the stories as much about her life as it is the police work. She has friends and interests away from her job – but not always the time to balance both sides.

One of your purchasers on Amazon says you’re the next Michael Connolly. What’s it like reading comments like that, and which crime writers do counts as influences?
Heh, there was also one who told me their schoolchild could do better, so I tend to take all of the reviews, good and bad, with a pinch of salt. I’m not actually a massive crime reader in terms of prose novels. I’ve liked the Tom Thorne books from Mark Billingham but I take inspiration about pacing and storytelling from all sorts of places. Things like comics with their cliffhangers every 20 pages, or television shows. Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series is a belting read but a lot of people miss it because of the connotations of the word ‘comic’.

Someone also likened Jessica Daniel to Clarice Starling from Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs books. Why do you think readers have taken to Jessica and your books?
I’m not sure really. I just tried to write someone who, to me, felt real. Jessica isn’t some hard-drinking alcoholic, she doesn’t have serious issues with her parents and so on. That’s because, in real life, most people get on with their parents and don’t drink themselves stupid every night. On the surface, she’s abrasive and confident but, hopefully, readers come to see that she isn’t really like that. That’s her way of masking her own self-doubt – which is what I think a lot of people are like. I’ve had some great emails from people who seem to have warmed to her and that always blows me away.

Since your books have become popular you’ve been approached by a couple of publishers, but it’s still just you and your netbook. Why have you decided to continue flying solo?
It’s more agents than publishers but a lot of talk has been theoretical. It’s not necessarily that I have decided to continue solo as such, more that no one has really come with something that’s interested me. I still work full-time and have a career away from the writing so I’m not desperate to sign for anything that doesn’t feel right.

Tell us about your next book?
The Woman in Black more or less picks up where the previous title, Vigilante, left off. Jessica is dealing with everything that happened there, while being left in charge of a major investigation involving severed hands that are being left in the centre of Manchester. Whoever is dropping them off wears a long black cloak and appears to know where the security cameras are. When Jessica starts to receive fingers cut from the hands, it becomes clear the person is playing a game with her. On most occasions, it would be huge news – but, simultaneously to that, an MP’s wife has gone missing too. Political pressure means resources are directed to that, so Jessica is left with her own smaller team trying to find out what’s going on.

The Woman in Black comes out 25 November and you’ll be able to read the review here on Crime Fiction Lover. In the meantime, get started with Locked In and Vigilante which both come at a very good price on Kindle and are also available as paperbacks. If you’ve read one of the author’s books, please post your thoughts below.

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