Author Interview with Karen Millie-James

  • How long have you been writing?

I started writing about five years ago.  It wasn’t a case of thinking that I would sit down and write a thriller novel, but rather I sat in front of my computer and everything just flowed.  The result took me by surprise as the characters evolved and the scenes just rolled. I also have to say, there were no pauses or interludes of my writing being blocked either. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world. It was something I always wanted to do and I decided that unless I started, I would lose the opportunity and something I will never do is have regrets.

  • What is your favorite genre to write?

I was always going to write a thriller because that’s what I read.  I love the excitement of the chase with the characters blending together to discover the truth. The trouble with a thriller is that it is quite complicated to write because you have to keep the reader guessing for quite a long time in the book.  With a romance, it is normally boy meets girl, they fall in love and have problems on the way but in the end love wins.  In thrillers, it is never that simple.  You have to grip the reader, keep them on the edge of their seats, create a real page-turner and evoke emotions so that at the end, the reader will almost gasp as they discover the villain.  I love creating this type of adventure.

  • Which genre have you never tried before, but would you like to try out?

I have been mulling over an idea for a children’s book for many years, even before I started writing my first novel.  I have a couple of really great ideas and it is just the simple matter of making time to do this.  However, first I want to establish myself firmly as a thriller/crime write and then it will be much easier to write and have a children’s book published.

  • Please tell us about your book.

Where In the Dark is a story of crime and punishment, remorse and retribution, and finally peace.  It starts with two elderly holocaust survivors each receiving a bearer bond for one million dollars in the post, with no clues to their origins. This puts fear in their hearts because they have a feeling that they know from where the bonds came, but are scared to admit it. On the other side of the Atlantic, in West Virginia, sits an escaped Nazi officer, Albert Whiteman, who has funded the bank into which he married with stolen gold from the Jewish people and whose son is governor of the state and about to run in the primaries for president. How are these three men connected? Cydney Granger, my protagonist and an expert in corporate forensics, is asked to investigate and the results lead her to uncover a web of lies, deceit, fraud and corruption at the highest level which has the potential to topple one of the world’s oldest and most powerful banking dynasties.

  • Which character was your favorite, and why? Which character was your least favorite, and why?

I absolutely love Cydney Granger.  She is a strong, self-sufficient businesswomen surviving in a man’s world despite her tragic upbringing. She is resilient, ambitious and highly professional and leads her team firmly from the front.  She is not, however, without her frailties and is juggling her career whilst bringing up her twin teenagers singled-handedly because her husband, a captain in the Special Forces, is missing in action, presumed dead.  I am often asked whether Cydney is based on me, as I also have a background in corporate business, to which I usually reply: without a doubt.

Albert Whiteman is the epitome of evil and an example of a psychopath created and allowed to run free during WWII.  It almost gave me pleasure to make him as wicked as I possibly could.  I studied and explored his character in depth for my own peace of mind as I needed to understand how any man could treat another human in the way that the Nazis did to the Jewish people, killing them with no remorse or compunction whatsoever.  I believe I have done justice to this.

  • What was the hardest part about writing your book?

The emotions that came to the surface following my research into the horror of the concentration camps and the degradation of another human simply based on their religion.  The worst part was describing the journeys in the cattle trucks because I imagined that’s what happened to my grandparents and uncles, aunts, cousins. What I discovered was heart-wrenching and life-changing for me. I interviewed two holocaust survivors and their stories were unimaginable.

  • What is your writing routine? Are there things you absolutely need to start writing?

I don’t have one, unfortunately. I would love to wake up in the morning and go to my desk and write for seven hours but I am still working full-time in my corporate consultancy. One day! Once at my desk, and in front of the computer, the words flow and I become lost in what I am creating. I also don’t set out my books in advance. I sort of know the beginning and possibly even the end but I couldn’t work out each chapter because that is too structured and allows no room for the characters to evolve or the story to change within that.

  • How long did it take you to write your book from start to finish?

This book took me two years from start to finish including the full editing and proof-reading process and finally to publication.  It is not an easy process and one has to have a lot of perseverance and patience, not one of my best traits.

  • Can you tell us about your editing process?

This is the most time-consuming part of writing, laborious even. I have a wonderful editor, Elaine Denning.  She understands me and what I am trying to create and we have become close friends.  During the first edit (of which there were three or four) we were forever texting each other with questions about certain scenes.  It is hard but worth it and one of the most important aspects of writing.   A writer is too close to the book to see certain things and that’s why the editing is so crucial.

  • Is this book part of a series? If so, how many installments do you have planned?

Where In The Dark is the second novel in the Cydney Granger series, following on from my debut novel The Shadow Behind Her Smile which came out last year. And I can happily say I have no intention of letting Cydney go. I want to know what happens to her and her family; I care a lot about her. I can’t say how many instalments there will be but I am sure I will recognise this when I get there.

  • Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Be patient as nothing happens overnight. Research your subject well as nothing is worse than getting facts wrong, in my opinion. Know your characters and how they would react to situations, and don’t give up if you believe in yourself and your abilities.

  • Why should everyone read your book?

It is a unique genre, a sort of John Grisham meets Sixth Sense. Cydney is real and a lot of women will understand and empathize with her. Men will like the Special Forces aspect, and I believe the in-depth story about the holocaust and the looted gold is something not out there in the market place currently.

  • If you could meet three authors, dead or alive, which authors would you choose?

John Grisham because he writes great legal/corporate thrillers and I would love to have him read my books.

Jane Austen because my favourite book of all time is Pride and Prejudice.

Wilbur Smith because I buy every book of his and love the adventures he creates and the suspense. His descriptions and the way he uses words to create the atmosphere is outstanding.

  • What inspired you to write your book?

My father and his background mostly. He escaped Germany in the Kindertransport and had relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust, some at Auschwitz itself. I wanted to do justice to his story and what happened to our family.

  • Are you working on something at the moment? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I have been asked to write a stand-alone novel which I started recently called A Thousand Silent Cries. It’s about a clinical psychologist, Felicity Cunningham, and her downward spiraling relationship with her husband, a top barrister, following the death of their only child.  Obviously, it will include some corporate and legal aspects, as how could I not, but also I want to study her, the way she deals with life and the actions of her patients.

Karen Millie-James is the author of Where In The Dark (out now in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook).

About the Book

Stolen Nazi Gold. Voices from beyond the grave. For some crimes, there is no redemption…

Based on the author’s own family history, this enthralling thriller explores the dark secrets of stolen Nazi gold and the hunt for justice and redemption.

Two bearer bonds each worth one million pounds arrive at the homes of two Holocaust survivors, with no clues as to their origin. Fearing their lives are once again in danger, they enlist the help of Corporate Forensic Investigator, Cydney Granger, to track down the bonds’ origins and bring the demons of their past to justice.

Along with her top team of investigators at Granger Associates, Cydney enters the secretive world of international banking to uncover a web of corruption, blackmail, murder and stolen Nazi treasures. With a little help from beyond the grave, Cydney’s investigation will bring her face to face with an escaped Nazi criminal living under an assumed name whose son is running for the US presidency, and an insidious conspiracy with the power to destroy one of America’s oldest banking dynasties.

Meanwhile, Cydney is plagued with doubts over the unexplained death of her husband, Captain Steve Granger, in Afghanistan five years earlier. Although she finds comfort in raising their teenage twins and manages to find love once again, Cydney struggles to move on from the ghost of her own past. Together with her trusted protector, Sergeant Sean O’Connell, they seek to discover the truth behind Steve’s disappearance, no matter the cost.

 Karen Millie-James was born in North London to a father who escaped Nazi Germany with the Kindertransport in 1939. Where In The Dark is partly inspired by Karen and her family’s search for justice for her grandparents who were murdered in the Holocaust. Karen studied business and languages at the University of Westminster, and founded her own international business consultancy in 1993. She is widely recognised as an expert in the world of business which has inspired the life and work of her main character, Cydney Granger. Karen now lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband and their three dogs. Where In the Dark is her second novel, her debut The Shadow Behind Her Smile was published in March 2016.

Connect with Karen on her website , via Twitter at @KMillieJames and on Facebook.

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