Saturday, 7 October 2017

Back Catalogue Books - Q&A with Zoe Sharp - Blog Tour

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, going to aim to read books that have been out for at least 6 months, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

Today I am interviewing Zoe Sharp author of the Charlie Fox series.. welcome.

Q1) Please tell me about your first book, and what started you writing in the first place

A1) Ah, this depends on what you classify as my first book. I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen, which my father (bless ‘im) typed up for me and which then did the rounds of publishers. It received what are known as ‘rave rejections’—everybody loved it, but nobody actually wanted to publish it. It still sits in a box in the attic and occasionally my father threatens to get it out and put it on eBay. It is at this point that I usually remind him that, someday soon now, I may be the one choosing his nursing home …

My first published book was KILLER INSTINCT, the first in the Charlie Fox series. She is an ex-Special Forces trainee, who was kicked out of the army in disgrace and, at the start of the series, is still trying to find her role in life. At that time, she’s teaching self-defence to woman in a northern British city. When someone starts targeting local woman for sexual assault, escalating rapidly to murder, Charlie comes to his attention because she presents more of a challenge, and she must face her fears from the past in order to survive the dangers of the present.
I started working on this story because at the time I was working as a photojournalist and was on the receiving end of death-threat letters in the course of my work—cut up out of newspaper like a ransom note, telling me they knew where I lived and that my days were numbered. It was scary stuff at the time, and it had a couple of effects. One was that I started learning a LOT of self-defence techniques, and the other was that I started work on the book that was to become KILLER INSTINCT.

I think the other reason I wanted to write about a character like Charlie, is that I read plenty of thrillers when I was younger, but the female characters always seemed to be there as love interest for the hero, to make mistakes, to scream in a firefight, cook, tend the wounded, and require rescuing from the bad guys in the final reel. I wanted to read about a strong, independent woman who would do her own rescuing, thankyouverymuch, and when I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided my only option was to write my own.

Q2) How many books have you written and what are they?

A2) Book twelve in the Charlie Fox series, FOX HUNTER, has just come out in the States, and will be out everywhere else in mid-September. The series, in order:

The reason the series appears to go to a numbering sequence in the middle, that makes no real sense (SECOND SHOT, for instance, is actually book six, not book two) is because my first US publisher bought FIRST DROP, book four, as their first foray into the Charlie Fox books, and then wanted the next one to be called ‘second … something’. As ROAD KILL, book five, was already out by that time, the next book was dutifully given a suitable title. I have now, thankfully, reverted to more simple titles.

I have also written a collection of Charlie Fox short stories, FOX FIVE, a standalone with espionage thriller author John Lawton called AN ITALIAN JOB, and a solo standalone crime thriller featuring an ex-CSI turned crime-scene cleaner called Kelly Jacks, who went to prison for a crime she can’t remember, THE BLOOD WHISPERER. And quite a few short stories.

Q3) Which book are you most proud of writing?

A3) I’m reasonably proud of all of them, in one way or another. They all have their strengths—and probably their weaknesses as well. I think your first novel (first novel that makes it to publication, I should say) is always a major achievement, though. Maintaining faith in an untried project, right to the end of it, despite the criticisms and knock-backs, is incredibly difficult. I always reckon there are far more persistent writers published than there are talented writers published, just because there are so many things that can derail a perfectly good book and consign it to the bottom of a desk drawer forever.

Then again, I’m just as proud of book two, RIOT ACT. Following up a first novel with a second can sometimes seem even more difficult than it was before. And although he’s alluded to in KILLER INSTINCT, it’s in this novel that Charlie meets up with Sean Meyer again, who’s a spectre from her army past, and someone whose life will be inextricably linked with Charlie’s for most of the series.

And, equally, my latest book, FOX HUNTER, is one I’m proud of. The more you write, I think the more you hone and improve your craft. I’m always striving to make the next book better than the last.

The standalone, THE BLOOD WHISPERER, was something very different for me to write, after doing so many books in the Charlie Fox series, particularly as they were all a first-person narration, and TBW was third-person from various different characters’ perspectives. Getting it to all knit together into a cohesive whole was certainly a challenge.

Q4) Which book was your favourite to write?

A4) I think, looking back, it was probably THIRD STRIKE. In the earlier books, Charlie’s parents make occasional cameo appearances. They are typical upper middle class, who don’t really understand or approve of what their daughter does for a living. Her father in particular, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, is a clinically objective man who lives by brains rather than emotions. In this book I decided to have him lose his cool, so I placed her parents front and centre. I have them under threat and have it down to Charlie—and Sean—to save them and to keep them safe. It was fascinating to watch her father’s downfall from his lofty principled stance, and the blossoming of her mother’s self-confidence as she was forced to take a more substantial role.

Q5) Who are your favourite characters from your books and why?

A5) You have to make a decision in a series whether to keep your main character static and unchanging, or take her on her own journey with each book. I chose to do the latter, so her character is always picking up or learning something new about herself in each story, which helps keep things fresh for me as I write.

So often, though, it’s the side characters that really stand out. I mean, I love Charlie, don’t get me wrong—I’ve been developing and growing this character for a long time. But the people you meet in each of the books have their own appeal, and some of them really leap off the page at me. In book two, RIOT ACT, she calls upon her father, Richard, to do a little unofficial emergency surgery. He stole the show for me in the scenes where he appeared, and I knew he was going to keep putting in appearances.

In HARD KNOCKS, the characters of Balkan gangster Gregor Venko, and his son Ivan, were so engaging for me that I revisited them in the latest book, FOX HUNTER, and they even pop up in the standalone I co-wrote with John Lawton, AN ITALIAN JOB. I loved the old couple who lived on the beach at Daytona in FIRST DROP, Walt and Harriet. I’ve still got notes for giving them a story of their own some day.

The same applies to the entire Rescue & Recovery team Charlie joins in ABSENCE OF LIGHT. I could quite happily see me returning to that group of characters for another book. All of them, from the trauma surgeon to the ex-Marine structural engineer, the laid-back Aussie pilot and the dog handler, seemed to arrive fully formed and raring to go.

I put in quite a few characters who have bid to be in the books at the charity auctions held at Bouchercon. This was how Frances Neagley ended up in SECOND SHOT, and Tom O’Day appeared in DIE EASY. Characters with both those names have also been in Lee Child’s books, for the same reason. Dina Willner put in the winning bid to be in FIFTH VICTIM, but was torn whether to take the character name for herself or her mother, Caroline, who had recently passed. Fortunately, I was able to include both mother and daughter in the book. Chris Sagar was great fun to include in FOURTH DAY in the role he asked for, and I had a good time with both Terry O’Laughlin in THIRD STRIKE as a Porche-driving, cat-owning Houston lawyer, and Aubrey Hamilton in FOX HUNTER, as a CIA operative in the Middle East.

Q6) If you could go back and change anything from any of your books, what would it be, and why?

A6) I think I’d start the series in the different way, in a different place, and I probably would have branched out into standalones earlier. As it is, I have another two standalones in the final edit stages. They’re fun to do, and they keep me on my toes because I tend to involve a larger cast of characters and get inside those people’s heads more.

Fox Hunter US Cover
Q7) Which of your covers is your favourite and why?

A7) I love the covers that Pegasus have come up with for the Charlie Fox books they publish in the States, so far from FOURTH DAY to FOX HUNTER. They give the series a very upmarket, cool look. Having said that, I also love the covers Jane Hudson at NuDesign has done for the early UK books, too. Very eye-catching and distinctive, but also very much part of the same series.

Q8) Have you ever thought about changing genres, if so what else would you like to write?

A8) Funnily enough, I’m in the editing stage for a supernatural thriller at the moment, which is a bit of a shift for me, although it still features a strong independent and very capable female main character, and there are crime elements along with the supernatural ones. Can’t say too much more about that yet, apart from the fact that there are no vampires, no werewolves, and no zombies!

Q9) Looking forward, can you let us know what you are working on next?

A9) As well as the supernatural thriller, I’m editing another standalone crime thriller, which is a UK-set version of the Washington Sniper story called DANCING ON THE GRAVE. The story centres around four main characters—a sniper with a mission, a CSI with something to prove, a young cop with nothing to lose, and a teenage girl with a terrifying obsession—and is set in the English Lake District. I’ve also just been doing stories for next year’s CrimeFest anniversary anthology, a Charlie Fox tale called ‘Hounded’ for the latest Sherlock Holmes-inspired anthology, FOR THE SAKE OF THE GAME, and one character’s story from a collective heist novel called CULPRITS.

Next up is another collaboration with author John Lawton, this time set in the drug scene of the 1970s. Also, a prequel to the Charlie Fox series that I put off from last year, the start of what I hope will be a new series, and I’m already putting together ideas for the next Charlie novel. So, no rest for the wicked …

Q10) I dare not ask for a favourite author, but is there any author’s back catalogue you admire and why?

A10) I’ve always been a huge fan of Robert B Parker’s books. They’re all beautifully written in his spare cut-down prose style. He can say so much in so few words, they’re always an educational read for any writer. Also, Lee Child’s Reacher books are so well written and so well constructed, you can’t help but admire them.

Q11) Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your back catalogue of books?

A11) I hope anyone who hasn’t come across Charlie is prepared to give her and the series a try. I think that when you pick a book up by an author you’ve never read before you know when you’re halfway down the first paragraph whether you like the sound of that writer’s voice or not. As a reader, it’s the voice that keeps me coming back for more. I can’t ask for more than that, really, can I?

Thank you Zoe for that comprehensive interview. always interesting to know more about a series, especially when you may never have heard of it before. 

Author bio:

Zoë Sharp opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve and wrote her first novel at fifteen. She created her award-winning crime thriller series featuring ex-Special Forces trainee turned bodyguard, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox, after receiving death-threats in the course of her work as a photojournalist. She has been making a living from her writing for nearly thirty years, and since 2001 has written fourteen novels, including twelve in the Charlie Fox series, a standalone crime thriller, and a joint work espionage thriller author John Lawton, as well as numerous short stories. Her work has been used in Danish school textbooks, inspired an original song and music video, and been optioned for TV and film. Find out more at


FOX HUNTER is the latest in Zoë Sharp’s highly acclaimed Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox crime thriller series.

‘The dead man had not gone quietly … There was a time when I would have given everything I owned to be the one responsible for that.’

Charlie Fox will never forget the men who put a brutal end to her military career, but she vowed a long time ago she would not go looking for them.

Now she doesn’t have a choice.

Her boss and former lover, Sean Meyer, is missing in Iraq where one of those men was working as a private security contractor. When the man’s butchered body is discovered, Charlie fears that Sean may be pursuing a twisted vendetta on her behalf.

Sean’s partner in their exclusive New York close-protection agency needs this dealt with—fast and quiet—before everything they’ve worked for is in ruins. He sends Charlie to the Middle East with very specific instructions:

Find Sean Meyer and stop him. By whatever means necessary.

At one time Charlie thought she knew Sean better than she knew herself, but it seems he’s turned into a violent stranger. As the trail grows more bloody, Charlie realises that unless she can get to Sean first, the hunter may soon become the hunted.

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