Interview with Liz Mistry, Author of Unseen Evil
04 Feb 2020
What can you tell us about your new release, Unseen Evil?
Unseen Evil is book 6 in my DI Gus McGuire police procedural series. When teens are being murdered and an image of their bodies uploaded to Snapchat and sent to their friend, Gus and his team realize they have a very sadistic and organized killer on their hands. It’s not long before they suspect more than one person is responsible for the deaths and as their attention centers around a local high school, drug related crimes and the vandalism of a Mosque, Gus and the team are stretched, with pressure mounting to find the killers.
Unseen Evil centers around the use and misuse of social media and how it affects young adults. It covers themes such as social advantage and disadvantage, peer pressure, teen mental health and more, by considering the ways digital technology can be used nefariously.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always written. I remember as a primary school kid writing pages and pages of Famous Five type stories. However, being a working-class Scottish girl being an author always seemed to be for other people. So, as the first in my family to go to University, I took the traditional route and became a teacher. However, my love of writing never waned and after suffering quite badly with my mental health for a number of years, I decided in my fifties to do an MA in creative writing at Leeds Trinity University. This was for me the best decision ever. It increased my confidence and by the end of the MA, at the ripe old age of 53 I published my first book in the Gus series. In total I now have 8 books published. Six in my Gus series and 2 in my DS Nikki Parekh series.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
This list changes on an almost daily basis, but here goes:
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris sticks with me. I love the characterisation. It’s a masterpiece.
Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger – I studied this novel at school and for over forty years it has stuck with me. I think it is as relevant today as it was back in the 70’s.
The Mermaid’s Singing by Val McDermid – really encouraged me to go dark with my writing. Loved her characterisation, attention to detail and the storyline is thrilling.
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker – So powerful, so emotional. It should be on everyone’s’ reading list.
The Twelfth Day of July by Joan Lingard- I think this was the first young adult book I read that had a really strong social justice/ enquiry theme and , growing up in Scotland where sectarianism was a daily occurance, I found it intriguing to see find out more about the troubles in Northern Ireland
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
Sara Paretsky author of the V. I. Warshawski novels. I met her briefly at Harrogate crime writing festival a few years ago and she is absolutely delightful. So generous with her time, so compassionate in her writing and very funny too. I’d want to ask about her road to publishment. She was one of the first crime novelists to have a really strong, feisty female protagonist and I wonder if she realises how important Warshawski is as a character. I’d also ask her about her thoughts on equal opportunities for all in 2020.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I love the fact that I can escape into a variety of lives and explore what it’s like to be that person. I love the puzzle of pulling a crime fiction novel together; of sewing the seams, of dropping in the clues, of creating diversions and twists. It’s a very cerebral activity and I love the challenge of it. I also really, really enjoy talking to readers who share my passion for crime fiction.
What is a typical day like for you?
Lots of coffee, lots of procrastination, lots of staring out the window and then a mad flurry to get my words down for the day. I don’t tend to plot very much. I prefer to let the ideas flow.
What scene in Unseen Evil was your favorite to write?
I wrote a scene with one of my teen characters; a boy called Jo Jo. Jo Jo is sixteen and is the carer for his invalid mother and his six-year-old sister. They live on benefits on a very rough estate in Bradford where two separate gangs try to make Jo Jo join them. Jo Jo desperate to keep his family together tries to cover up how bad things are at home so that social services don’t split the family up. In order to make money, Jo Jo becomes involved in dark web activity.
Writing this particular scene had me in tears. As a teacher, I’d seen many kids just like Jo Jo and although a difficult scene to write, I really enjoyed giving voice to Jo Jo and other kids facing the same sorts of things he does.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
‘Reach for the stars but keep your feet on the ground’ probably sums up how I try to live my life and encourage my kids to lead theirs.
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