Interview with James Hayman: ‘I try very hard to make my characters as imperfect as real people always are’
Some Crimes Can Never Be Forgiven.
Lainie Goff thought she had it all. The ambitious young attorney was brilliant, beautiful, and on a fast-track to a lucrative partnership at one of the top firms in New England. But then, one cold night, a dark and ugly secret comes back from Lainie’s past and she pushes things too far. Soon her body is found, frozen solid in sub-zero temperatures at the end of the Portland Fish Pier.
A mentally ill woman named Abby Quinn witnesses the brutal crime. But when she tells what she has seen, nobody will believe her. Not until she too mysteriously disappears.
In The Chill of Night, Portland homicide detective Michael McCabe finds himself finds himself fighting memories from his own past as he races to find the killer before another life is lost.
James Hayman once again tells a gripping tale of evil and deceit and creates characters so real and so human, we want to meet them again and again.
This is the exciting premise of James Hayman’s new thriller, The Chill of Night. We interviewed James to find out more about his new book! Enjoy!
Thank you for this interview, James. Can we begin by having you tell us what your new book, The Chill of Night, is all about?
James: The Chill of Night tells the story of two women.
The first is Lainie Goff a beautiful and ambitious young attorney who was sexually and emotionally abused by her stepfather when she was a teenager. As a result of tht experience, she does a lot of pro bono work for a shelter for abused teens. Until she’s brutally murdered.
The second woman is Abby Quinn, a 25-year old schizophrenic who accidentally witnesses Lainie’s slaying and reports it to the local cops. But because she has a history of seeing things that aren’t there and hearing voices no one else can hear, they don’t believe her. But McCabe quickly realizes she really did see the murder. He also realizes that he must find her before the killer does.
I’ve been told your characters feel so unbelievably real. Would you like to give us a glimpse into the lives of the main characters?
James: I try very hard to make my characters as imperfect and multi-dimensional as real people always are. While the heroes of some thriller series are portrayed as supermen, McCabe isn’t. Yes, he’s a tough determined cop. But he’s got faults and he’s got regrets and he’s got baggage from his past that he has to deal with and overcome. Just like we all do.
I have a question about Michael McCabe. Throughout the book, he finds himself fighting memories from his own past. Can you give us an idea of what kind of memories he is fighting against? At least a hint?
James: One of McCabe’s problems is his ambivalent feelings about his ex-wife, Sandy. She is a beautiful, shallow, self-centered narcissist who walked out not only on their failed marriage without a second thought but also on her own ten-year-old daughter. McCabe hates her for that and can neither forgive Sandy nor forget her.
When he examines the body of Lainie Goff, the woman whose murder he’s called upon to investigate, he realizes she looks remarkably like Sandy. This resemblance reawakens the strong sexual feelings he still has for Sandy. These are feelings he knows he must overcome if he is ever to be free of that old, dead relationship and able to build a decent life for himself and his daughter.
How do you get into the “head” of your characters and do it so well?
James: I write in what is called “third person personal,” which is a style of writing that requires the writer to get inside the character’s head. You train yourself to become the person you are writing about as you are writing. To think and feel as they do and to put those feelings down on paper. It’s a difficult style but it makes the book feel real and the tension much more immediate.
If you had to pick out the most intense part of this book, what would it be?
James: This is an intense book with a number of intense moments.
One is the interrogation of a suspect McCabe is sure is the killer. Just the two of them in the interrogation room. McCabe is determined to get a confession. The suspect eqully determined not to give one. The scene is written almost completely in dialogue and is a powerful face-off between two strong men.
A second is an intense physical battle between Abby and the killer n which she tries to club him to death with an old wooden tennis racket. However the reader can tell, even if Abby can’t, that both the man she is attacking and the tennis racket she is using as a weapon are not really there. They are nothing more than vivid hallucinations.
What is the biggest compliment you’ve ever received about your book?
James: It’s one I hear over and over again from readers both in person and via email. “I couldn’t put it down,” they say “The book kept me up late into the night and I had to keep turning the pages until the book was done and I found out who did it.” For a thriller writer there’s no bigger compliment than that.
In a recent interview, you admitted to always being an avid reader of thrillers. Who is your favorite thriller author and what do you admire about him/her?
James: There are a number of them. I like Michael Connelly for his characters, particularly his hero Detecive Harry Bosch. I like James Lee Burke, John Hart and Tony Hillerman for their strong settings. One can’t imagine their books taking place anywhere other than where they are set. I like Richard Price for his strong dialogue and gritty pacing. There are too many to mention them all.
Finally, I like to ask authors this question…what is your passion? What is it that you’re more passionate about than anything else?
James: Let me let an excerpt from The Chill of Night answer that:
“Finally, McCabe flicked off the light and stood up. He took a deep breath and walked toward the trunk, preparing himself for the first few seconds he’d spend alone with the victim. The cop and the corpse. A unique and strangely intimate relationship. Just the two of them. It didn’t matter to McCabe who the victim was. A gangbanger or an innocent child. Either way, for him, it was this moment of shared intimacy that turned what, for some cops was merely a job, into an obligation. A sacred trust. To find and punish the killer, to right the wrong, to balance the scales. The Lord may someday get His turn. But for now, McCabe believed, vengeance is mine. I go first.”
Thanks for coming, James! Do you have any final words?
James: Just that I love hearing from readers. If you do read either of the McCabe books, please let me know what you think of them by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to email you back.
You can visit James on the web at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.