Author A.D. (Antony) Davies is clearly a man who likes to explore characters and their motivation. He had three different types of mystery novels available and we talk about them all today: A police procedural series with a female serial killer profiler as the main character; a wealthy private investigator; and a stand-alone mystery involving a cult in Nevada and a cop with a deep faith.
You can also watch the interview on YouTube, if you prefer.
Transcript of Interview with A.D. Davies
Alexandra: Hi, mystery readers. I’m Alexandra Amor, this is It’s A Mystery podcast and I’m here today with A.D. Davies. Hi, Antony.
Alexandra: How are you?
Antony: I’m good, thank you.
Alexandra: On a Sunday afternoon in…I forget where you live.
Antony: Staffordshire in the United Kingdom.
Alexandra: Staffordshire. Yeah, I knew the U.K. I chad West Yorkshire in my head but that’s where you were raised.
Antony: That’s right. Yeah. That’s where I’m from originally and it seems to be where I’ve put a few of my books.
Alexandra: All right. Well, I have a ton of questions because you’ve got three different series, sort of, that I want to ask you about. So let me introduce you to our listeners.
A.D. Davies grew up in Leeds, West Yorkshire. In high school his ambition was to be a writer of horror novels although in adult life he became an avid fan of crime fiction. After a long stint in an unsatisfying job, and we’ve all had those, he attended the University of Leeds where he attained a degree in creative writing. Shortly after graduation he moved to the midlands to marry the love of his life. A.D. Davies is well-traveled, his favorite destinations being New Zealand and Vietnam which have influenced his writing immensely.
For now, however, globetrotting is taking a back seat to raising his two children and writing. Although he hopes one day to combine all three.
Let’s start maybe talking about this stand-alone mystery novel and then maybe we can talk about the two series that you have.
Antony: Yeah, sure. Sure.
Alexandra: “Rite to Justice” is set in Hope, Nevada which is interesting.
Alexandra: We have a Hope here in B.C., as well, actually.
Antony: Right. Right.
Alexandra: And this is a police officer who’s a…And there’s been a death in a cult. So tell me about that.
Antony: Well, that is based in the fictional place of Hope, Nevada. So it won’t appear on any maps.
Antony: I set it near Reno just because I like the idea of Reno and my friends were there and I’ve got lots of pictures and so I kind of felt like I knew the place. It was my first novel that I published. It was under a different title originally. But it didn’t do very well so I withdrew it from sale and rewrote it after I’d got a bit more experience.
The story’s about a guy called Rolland Rect who is a devout religious guy and so the murder of a pastor kind of hits a bit harder for him. And his colleagues aren’t exactly as devout as he is, let’s put it that way. So he’s struggling to treat it just like any other murder while his colleagues are a lot more successful at that. The point of it was really to sort of look at a guy whose life is all about faith but whose job is all about evidence. That was kind of the idea. I wasn’t sure if it came off or not.
But that was sort of the disconnect because he’s surrounded by people who don’t share his faith and he is still an intelligent guy, he doesn’t let his faith change his job, he just, as he says, in fact, early on in the book, his faith is who he is, his job is what he does. And it kind of goes along those lines.
The plot of it itself is this cult leader that’s been killed and there’s one witness who is a troubled young woman, a former drug addict who has found faith with the cult and she’s trying to insist that it’s not a bad cult, it’s not a place full of sex and violence and abuse. It’s just a safe place. And the journey takes him to Reno where there’s some organized crime going on and I probably better not say any more about that because there’s some witnesses and some FBI investigations that he crosses over with and a couple of little twists here and there. So hopefully it’s a satisfying ending.
Alexandra: Yes. Exactly.
What was it like for you writing about American characters? I mean you’ve lived in the U.K. Your whole life and were there any sort of cultural things that you needed to be aware of?
Antony: To a degree, yes, but we’ve got a lot of American TV, a lot of American novels. My first novels I really loved were Steven King novels. That kind of small town aesthetic is quite familiar to me in the sense that you feel like you know these characters. I’ve got American friends, I worked with an American on a different novel. So it wasn’t massively difficult.
There were a few things I needed to check and my editors often picked me up on little bits here and there, a lot of terms of phrase. But, yeah it was just I’m very well-versed in the genre and quite knowledgeable, I suppose, about America. American culture’s probably the most easily-accessible culture really to people from outside that. Probably a lot easier than if I was writing, say, a South African or an Australian.
Alexandra: You’re right. Yeah. Movies and TV, it’s so prevalent everywhere.
Antony: Yeah. And I use an American editor, as well. So that helps.
Alexandra: Exactly. It makes me think of, there’s a Julia Roberts movie, it might be “Notting Hill” written by Richard Curtis, of course, and in it there’s just one moment where she uses a word that’s very British and she’s playing an American actress and every time I see it it just drives me mad because I think an American person would never say that, use that word in that way. So it’s great to hear your editor’s American.
Antony: Is it a swear word?
Alexandra: No, it’s just such a small moment and, yeah, I don’t know. I can’t remember what the word is but it’s definitely a very British word.
Antony: Sure. I can’t remember the movie that well I’m afraid.
Alexandra: No. Let’s talk about your Adam Park pair of novels.
Adam is a private investigator and the thing I liked about it, I was reading about “A Desperate Paradise” and it seems like it’s involving very current events that are happening in Greece with refugees and that kind of thing. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Antony: It was quite difficult, actually because I got half way through it and realized that if I kept down the road I was going it might date it very quickly. And I was actually getting to the end of the first draft and events in Paris took place. And with so many refugees pouring through Greece and Turkey at the moment, the events in Paris actually gave that whole new perspective, certainly in Europe. People became very afraid of people pouring through from that part of the world. I suddenly realized that I didn’t want it to look like it was politicizing that or taking advantage of tragedy.
Well, not tragedy, a horrible terrorist event like that. I went back and rewrote quite a lot of it to, not sanitize it or to change it politically but just to make it less dated. And it sounds kind of horrible thinking back to so many people dying and thinking, “Oh, gosh, I’ve got to change my novel now.” But, it did make me realize that if anything else was to happen, not necessarily terrorist related or there may even just be a massive tragedy in other areas or the war might take a different turn. I just wanted to keep it on the periphery because it’s a setting rather than being about migrants. It’s not about refugees. It’s a disaster setting that it took place in.
The murder happens around it and then it goes off in another direction, essentially, but it’s not about if there’s danger or if there’s bad people coming. It’s people who are already here, essentially, and it’s in that setting and there are some unsavory people and there are some nice people.
Alexandra: Yeah. And Adam’s kind of an interesting character.
Why don’t you tell us a bit about him? I read in one of the descriptions on Amazon I think it was that he’s quite wealthy. Is that right?
Antony: That’s right. His background is that he started off in a regular P.I. practice and he started to get some corporate clients just doing background checks and he kind of slowly moved into that world. And he got wealthier and wealthier and in the end I stole something from real life, actually, that the story of Porsche. Somebody said one time they became a car sales firm with a brokerage firm on the back. They made more money buying and selling shares than they did from selling cars.
But this is what happened to him. He took on more corporate clients so he started dealing in shares and he then started having to take more people on but he ended up taking on the wrong people who were invested in unethical businesses, shall we say. You know, arms dealing and people who circumvent sanctions. But he was in so deep he couldn’t discontinue his role there so he had to take a back seat almost. And then he began concentrating on missing persons while they did their thing and he tried to oust them. But he couldn’t so he’s kind of…He’s overly-principled in a way but he also doesn’t know how to fight on those terms. So he’s fine in a fist fight but getting people out of a board room, he’s less good at that.
I noticed someone, I can’t remember if it was a reviewer, I think maybe, described him as a man driven by moral outrage. And idealism, which I thought was a really nice way to describe someone.
Antony: It’s kind of going in the reverse direction to what most characters do. Most characters start out kind of cynical and have a better view of life at the end. But my original take on Adam, of the series of books, would be that he starts out as this sort of bright-eyed guy that thinks everything’s okay and he can handle anything but then he sees the darker side of life and it’s kind of the journey to becoming a hard boiled detective, almost. I’m not sure if I’m actually going to go in that direction in the end but that was how it started. Certainly the first book, “The Dead and the Missing”, his first book is the first time he kills anyone. He’s never killed anyone before, he’s not someone who goes around and walks into a place and shoots the bad guy.
He takes it very seriously. And that’s what I try and do with most of the books, is that if there’s a death then it’s a serious death. If a gun goes off then it’s a serious moment. And that’s really Adam’s evolution, certainly in the first novel. From this guy just looking for a missing girl to killing for the first time and actually realizing he’s not that bad at it. And he’s a little bit worried that he doesn’t have nightmares.
Alexandra: Oh, I see.
Do you have plans to carry on with the series then?
Antony: Yeah. I’ve got a third one mapped out ready for this. Hopefully get it released maybe the end of summer, might be a bit later than that. The last one took a bit longer than I expected. Although that was, obviously a lot of rewriting was going on with that one. I steered completely away from any sort of setting where I might need to change a lot. It’s almost a bit ghostly so I might even hold off until October so I can time it with Halloween. There’s no actual ghosts, it’s just that there’s some people in the novel believe in ghosts and things might get a little bit spooky at times. But it’s not a switch of genre, it is still a mystery thriller.
Alexandra: One reviewer I noticed compared it to James Bond. So they must be kind of quite tightly-plotted.
Antony: Yeah, it’s quite tightly-plotted. I think that if it’s the review I’m thinking of, said it got a bit slow in places but that’s actually been rewritten since then. I sent it off to a second developmental editor rather than just going through what are called beta readers who are free readers if any of the viewers aren’t familiar with that. But I actually paid for a developmental edit and we cut out some of the slower bits and just republished it, essentially, after that. So it’s a quicker read. I ended up cutting out an entire character, in fact.
I combined the purpose of the two characters and it was so much better because one of the characters was only in it I think for the first 10% and the final 10% of the book. And I realized it didn’t really serve a purpose.
I think it just kind of highlights beginner writers, not beginner writer, aspiring writers, I suppose, we learn a lot as we go and if we can make things slightly better for the next reader to come along I think we should probably do that. I wouldn’t rewrite something just on a whim or because I got one bad review or anything, but I realized that some reviews were coming in privately, as well, that said it was too slow and I’ve corrected that since then. I think I have, anyway.
Alexandra: Yeah. well, this review I read was very positive on the James Bond.
Antony: Oh, yeah.
Alexandra: The James Bond comment was appreciative. They like the page-turning aspect.
Antony: Yes. Sure, sure. And what I try to do with the Adam Park novels, certainly, is to have the investigation taking center stage. And if there are any action scenes, and there some action scenes in them, they’re kind of either sporadic or fairly grounded. There is a speed boat chase in the first book and there’s things blowing up in the second one but it’s not the focus of it. I wouldn’t call them action-adventure novels.
Alexandra: They’re more traditional sort of private investigator mystery novels.
Antony: They are set abroad. Most of them.
Alexandra: Yeah, exactly.
Is the new one set abroad, as well?
Antony: Yes. Yeah, it takes place Poland mainly.
Antony: Again, it’s not somewhere I’ve visited a lot. I’ve been for a weekend but I do have a friend who’s Polish who I work with on my day job so I’m going to make sure everything’s spot on through her.
Alexandra: Good. Oh, that’s great. That’s a great resource to have.
And then you have your pair of police, what I would call police procedurals with Detective Alicia Friend.
Antony: Yes. Yeah. That character started out as, my wife would kill me for saying that, but I was thinking about her at the time.
My wife is a very sort of bubbly character and I think if you’d only known her two minutes you might think she’s a bit ditsy. But she’s also a nurse. And I got to thinking she’s actually a really great nurse and she seems to be because every doctor I’ve spoken to who’s worked with her really does like having her around. And whenever she’s left a job doctors have always tried to keep her around. So I figure she must be really good at her job. And I thought, “Well, what if you had a police detective like that who’s kind of really bubbly?”
Certainly when it’s a female detective she’s competing in a man’s world. And some of my favorite detectives are actually very damaged in a way. The Kim Stone series, for example, by Angel Marsons, she’s a fantastic character. And I really love, on TV, The Bridge. I’ve not seen the American version, actually, the remake of that. But the originals, she’s incredible in that. She’s one of my favorite characters of all-time.
Alicia Friend is the polar opposite of that. She’s very bubbly, very almost odd in a way. But going back to sort of themes she’s choosing to be who she wants to be.
She wants to be a bubbly character, she doesn’t want to have to be super serious so she kind of over-compensates. And I think from a reader perspective, if you read the Look Inside bit, once you meet her if she irritates you don’t buy the book because it doesn’t get any better from there. If you like her, if you like this bubbly character who’s just wanting to infect everyone around her with her enthusiasm then buy it.
She’s very intelligent, of course, as well. Because she’s one of the top profilers in the country and she gets paired up with a very dower chap who is very cynical and she’s constantly telling him to smile. She has a bet with him that she’ll make him smile by the end of the first day and it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that she wins the bet.
And the contrast of that, of course, is that in those books there’s a lot of dark stuff going on, it’s a bit violent, I think. I don’t honestly read that many reviews these days any more but obviously early on you do. And early on one of them said it was too gory, it should have been a horror book.
There’s only a few very brief scenes where there is scenes of violence in that and it’s not constant gore and torture and things. But I think if you’re looking for a cozy mystery steer away from…Well, pretty much all of my books, really.
I think “Rite to Justice” doesn’t have any swearing or long periods of violence or sex in it. The Alicia Friend, they’re not, you know, littered with it. It’s not constant. But I think “Three is Dead” is quite graphic in terms of drugs and I think there’s one sex scene in that. But, yeah, I don’t like to litter it with swearing but I do put a few in here and there.
Alexandra: No, that’s okay. You were talking about Alicia.
Alexandra: I love kind of the twist on the traditional police character or private investigator, it tends to be sort of gritty and tortured like we talked about. It must be a lot of fun as an author to play with that trope and turn it on its head with her.
My follow-up question to that, too, is how does she in such a difficult job that does tend to drag people down, how does she maintain her bubbliness?
Antony: With a lot of denial.
Certainly in the first book she does question why she’s doing it. Is it possible that she’s hiding something deeper within herself? But she says to herself, “Look, I do my best work when I’m happy. I do my best work when I’m acting this way. And people around me find me irritating at first but by the end of it they always want me back, they always want me around, and we always get good results.”
I think she says it’s a five-step process. At first you’re shocked that someone like her can exist, then you’re just irritated by her a little bit, then comes acceptance that she’s actually quite good at this, then you actually like her, and then you can’t do without her.
She’s firmly self-aware in the sense that she knows that people find it irritating occasionally but she also won’t change because if she gets miserable, if she gets super serious then she doesn’t work as well. And I think in the first novel it does get like that. She gets more serious and she makes some mistakes and then she suddenly goes, “Well, hang on, I need to be the self I want to be in order to solve the crime.” So there’s more of a journey in the first book.
And it informs a second book but I’m trying to write all my series as if you haven’t read the previous one you can pick them up, you don’t have to read them all in order. It doesn’t end on cliff hangers, the stories all resolve themselves. It’s just the personal lives that kind of continue.
Alexandra: Right. That’s what I do, as well. I think that’s the right way to go about it.
You have an Adam Park one that you’ve outlined and then do you have another Alicia Friend book planned?
Antony: I did but I started outlining it and I got as far as the sort of vague outline. I mean, I don’t know how you do it, but I sort of outline the brief plot points and then I sit and do chapter by chapter and I’ve got the brief sort of outline of the Alicia Friend novel, but I’m not sure that I like it that much. So I’m going to let that just stay a little bit more because I’m not sure if it’s fully working.
Alexandra: And one of her books is about a serial killer. Is that right? Is that the first one?
Antony: They’re both about serial killers, yes.
The first one’s got a serial killer, yeah. He takes young women off the street who match a certain personality type and looks and he keeps them for a bit and then they turn up dead a few days later. And the period between him picking them up and dropping them off is getting shorter so they’ve got a bit less time than they thought to actually find them.
The latest girl’s father, it turns out, he’s actually…In a former life he was quite a nasty character and he feels the police aren’t making enough progress so he takes matters into his own hands whilst getting very close to Alicia and, obviously, they get very close and by the end of it she feels, obviously, very betrayed and he is unrepentant. He’s going after this guy no matter what.
But it’s not like a Jason Bourne thing. He’s just a kind of sadistic guy. He’s able to do a lot of nasty things and the way I do it, it’s a multi-point of view book so you sort of see it from his point of view, you see it from her point of view and when everything crosses over there’s three story lines really going on because there’s an investigator coming from America who is investigating the girl’s father.
So there’s quite a few layers going on in that first book. I wrote that years ago, absolutely years ago. It nearly got picked up for a traditional publishing deal, it was before Kindle came along. And it just sat on my computer for quite a long time before I picked it up and read it and thought, “This is terrible.” I still liked the idea of it. I just rewrote it almost from scratch and then released it, it got a few good reviews, and so I was quite happy with it.
Alexandra: Good. Well, that’s fantastic. This has been amazing, Antony. Thank you so much for talking to me, it’s been nice. I love talking about the different kinds of books that you write. I think that’s really interesting. And so we’ll look forward to more Adam Park in the future, for sure.
Alexandra: Why don’t you tell everyone where they can find your books.
Antony: You can get it at ADDavies.com. That’s Davies with an E. And if you look on the home page you’ll get a sign up for the first Adam Park novel which will get you it for free. So just sign up for the newsletter and you get the first book for free.
Antony: I’ve just released something called the Sublime Freedom.
Alexandra: Oh, okay.
Antony: It’s $0.99 at the minute. It will be until next weekend, I think. When is this going out? Sorry.
Alexandra: This week. So this is the second week of April, 2016.
Antony: Okay, cool. So towards the middle of April, yeah, it’ll be $0.99 or it’s on Kindle Unlimited if you subscribe to that.
Antony: So that’s the latest one. And, again with that one I’ve actually cut out a lot of the swearing on it. I think there’s like 12 swear words in the whole book and they’re not…There’s none of the big ones, either.
Alexandra: Oh, okay.
Antony: I don’t know why I’ve suddenly started getting worried about swearing, I think I got one review that said there was too much swearing in my books.
Alexandra: I’ve seen that more often that people seem to object and it surprises me.
Antony: Yeah. I think but where it’s necessary, I think the other Park novels will have swearing, but not continuously. But the stand-alone ones, I think, I’m thinking a bit more about the audience when I’m creating that. If it needs a swear word it’ll have a swear word, if it doesn’t it won’t.
Alexandra: Exactly. Well, thank you so much again for talking to me today, it’s been great. Nice to see a bit of the U.K. there in the background over your right shoulder.
Antony: Yeah, oh. My house, yeah.
Alexandra: Your house, yes. Yeah. Yeah, thank you so much and take care.
Antony: Well, thank you so much for having me on. It’s been great. Thank you.
Alexandra: Oh, you’re so welcome.