Candice Fox is a New York Times bestselling crime fiction author from Australia. Her first novel, Hades, won the 2014 Ned Kelly Award for best debut. In 2015, her second novel, Eden, won the Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel. In 2015, Candice began a collaborating with James Patterson on their Harriet Blue series. Their first book, Never Never topped best-selling charts across the globe. She has since released four more novels and one novella with Patterson, as well as five more standalone novels. Her latest novels, Gone by Midnight, and Hush Hush (with James Patterson) were released this year. Candice has been gracious enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions.
MB: Many writers talk about how long it took to write their breakthrough novel. Your first book, Hades, was released in 2014. How long did it take you to write it? What did you learn from writing that first novel that helped you moving forward with your career?
CF: At the time, I was writing one book a year. It was ten months writing and two months editing, but I’m a pretty fast writer in general. Lately, I’ve been doing 2-3 novels a year, editing included, with some overlap. When I was a kid, I had to squeeze my writing time in between school, chores, etc., so I had to be quick. I think, boringly, it was that old adage ‘write what you know’. It was my first crime novel, Australian set, after a slew of vampire and werewolves set in Paris and New York, neither of which I’d actually been to. My mother fostered 155 kids while I was growing up, and almost all of them were from criminal households, so I knew a lot about crime.
MB: Let's talk about your latest book, Gone by Midnight. This is the third book in your series featuring disgraced cop Ted Conkaffey and serial killer Amanda Pharrell. What drew you to the idea of pairing a cop with a killer for this series?
CF: I wanted to have two protagonists you couldn’t possibly trust for the first book, so that you’d have to spend a bunch of time and tension as a reader trying to figure out who is guilty. One admits to their crime, the other doesn’t. The worst thing you can do as a crime writer is pair two investigators who get on just swell and are constantly high fiving and finishing each other’s sentences. I needed two people who were going to clash in their morals, histories, and behaviours (her spelling, not mine).
MB: You've collaborated with James Patterson on four novels and one novella. Can you talk for a moment about how that collaboration process worked?
CF: It works just the same as it would if I was collaborating with you. Lots of calls, emails, the manuscript shared back and forth hundreds of times. It’s messy, organic, chaotic. There are friendly disagreements and negotiations. Generally we share the document as our schedules allow. Jim likes huge outlines with every chapter detailed, which is not something I’ve usually done, but something I’ve learned to do as we’ve worked together. It’s comforting, having a road map, and pretty much essential if there are two of you.
MB: Every writer has specific nuisances when it comes to writing. Some have special places set aside where they write. Some are "pantsers" who fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to their plot, while others are plotters who feverish outline their stories before writing a single word. Some edit as they go, and others won't edit until the draft is done. Talk for a moment about your writing process.
CF: I can write anywhere, usually any time – it comes from writing as a kid, like I said, without my own bedroom, my own computer, or a set time to get my thoughts down. I generally write in the morning these days, when I have the most energy, and I have a lovely office at home but I like to play musical chairs – if it’s nice I’ll write out in the yard or under a blanket on the couch. At about 30k words, I’ll show the manuscript to my husband, my agent, and my Australian publisher and get their feedback. I’m interested to know if they don’t like the protagonist or if they can see the general arc of the book unfolding – in which case, I’m being too predictable.
MB: If you could give your younger writing self one piece of advice, what would it be?
CF: Don’t be so angry about rejections. They’re not personal. They feel like they are, but they’re not. Yes, there are a lot of crappy books out there, but publishers don’t have a kind of club where only the cool people get in and are published. You just have to write the right book. It might be your fifth or your tenth or whatever. But you’ll get through. You have the drive, and that’s half the battle. And get an agent. Don’t go into the slush pile. Ever.
MB: Tell me about how one of your all-time favorite books has influenced your writing?
CF: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is something that really touched my heart. If you want to know how to write a character who hurts, who feels alone, who is seeking themselves, that’s the book. It’s a book about abandonment, being an outsider, being a freak who is misunderstood. The best characters are deeper than they seem at the outset and exploring their depths is a pleasure.
MB: What can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any new projects?
CF: Jim (Patterson) and I have a standalone coming out in the US next year called The Inn, and right now I’m taking a break from the Crimson Lake series to write a book set in Los Angeles, because I spent a year there and loved every minute of it.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. Good luck with Gone by Midnight and Hush Hush.
You can find out more about Candice Fox and her books at www.candicefox.org. You can also follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/candicefoxbooks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/candicefoxauthor.