We are looking forward to hosting author Paul Charles along with the three writers who make up Miles Arceneaux on Wednesday, May 11th. His latest novel featuring Inspector Starrett has the policeman and his squad looking into a murder at a very interesting location, a home where the Catholic Church hides away their problem priests. Paul was kind enough to answer a few questions about religion, writing and St. Ernan’s Blues.
1.The premise of a whodunit with most of the suspects being disgraced priests is brilliant. How did it come about?
Well the house came first. I spend a part of each summer in Donegal (my wife is from there) and on our many travels we came across St Ernan’s Island with St Ernan’s House. Even more interesting is the fact that all the history in St Ernan’s Blues about the house and the Island are all true. I always find fact more fascinating than fiction and so I resolved to use the island, house and history of both in one of my books but it wasn’t until I started the Inspector Starrett stories that I had an opportunity to use it.
So I had this amazing house on this amazing location and the priests idea fell into place pretty quickly due to Starrett’s back story.
2.What did you want to get across to the reader about those who work for the church?
Well I’ve always felt that there are bad people and there are good people and if you’re a priest it doesn’t necessarily make you a good person and if you’re a crook it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. Equally, if you’re a priest it doesn’t guarantee you’re a bad person either. People are people and we all deal with our foibles the best we can.
3. Do you have a favorite suspect?
Yeah, Bishop Cormac Freeman is my favorite suspect by a country mile. I can’t really say why without ruining the story.
4. Even though I have no law enforcement background, I identified with the workplace society of Starrett and his team. How do you approach writing an ensemble of investigators?
I try to put myself in their company to the degree that I’m allowed to eavesdrop on their conversations and actions. I try to follow them and “report” what’s going on. I always feel that Starrett, myself and (hopefully) the reader are all uncovering the information at the same time. I don’t feel that it’s ever acceptable to hide things from the reader.
5. You have a background in music. Does that influence your writing in any way?
Well in some of the books The Last Dance, The first of the True Believers and some of the Christy Kennedy stories yes music is most definitely a part. With Starrett I tried to make sure that he’s not a big music fan. I mean he loves with a passion Rory Gallagher, the Clancy Bros, Christy Moore and Neil Diamond. But he doesn’t know a lot about music outside of that. He doesn’t have a lot of CDs, maybe a dozen and maybe a couple dozen vinyl albums. He doesn’t feel a need to have every single record these people make. In fact he has one Christy Moore album, to him that’s enough, it doesn’t lessen his love of Christy’s music to be happy with just the one. His love of Rory comes not from any records or CDs but from seeing him a couple of times live and experiencing live changing moments as he watched him. Starrett was an exile for a good few years and so Neil Diamond’s I Am… I Said got him through many a night when he was suffering with homesickness. And The Clancy Brothers… well show me a man of a certain age who doesn’t like the Clancy brothers and claims to be Irish and I’d advise you to check their passport.
6. Ireland has made great contributions to crime fiction with authors like John Connolly, Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, and yourself. What do you think your countrymen and women bring to the genre?
Well I’ve always thought that the Irish and Scottish can look at the dark sides of life while resisting the temptation to close their eyes.
Can’t make the event? Order a signed copy of St. Ernan’s Blues now!