M.J. Arlidge in Literature.gr, by Kostas Stoforos

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«I always start at the end. It’s amazing how many novelists start writing with no clear idea of how the novel ends.

The ending is the whole point of the story so how can you not know»




A few days ago I had the pleasure to  present  M.J. Arlidge’s novel “Little boy blue” published by Diοptra Editions. A truly thrilling thriller with unexpected evolution. The heroine, detective Ellen Grace has already become one of the most interesting characters of modern crime fiction. As the writer told us, it is likely that she will be played by a well-known French actress.

The writer visited our country in June and was excited about our hospitality. At the event that took place in the Public Constitution, I had the opportunity both to ask questions and to coordinate the discussion that followed.

Prior to the event, we had a great and enjoyable conversation that continued in the evening with Greek appetizers and wine which the British writer particularly appreciated. With a source of humor and courtesy, he did not seem to have been affected by the great success of his books in the world.

In the following interview I tried to include a part of our talk.

 Kostas Stoforos 





Where does your inspiration for your books come from?

My inspiration comes from many different sources. My first book, Eeny Meeny, was inspired by reality TV shows like Big Brother in which people have to judge each other’s value and decide who to eliminate/evict etc. Another Liar, Liar, was inspired by a true crime case involving a serial arsonist in England, whilst The Dolls House, my third book, was inspired by my daughter, believe it or not!


«I always start at the end. It’s amazing how many novelists start writing with no clear idea of how the novel ends. The ending is the whole point of the story so how can you not know». Why?

I used to work as TV producer and was constantly reading crime books hoping to find “the next big thing”. But frequently I was disappointed by the endings. I hated that! For me the climax of a book is crucial, it’s the point that the whole story has been driving towards. If it doesn’t make sense or feels like a rabbit pulled out of the hat, then to me that is sloppy work.



«Patricia Highsmith taught me to love the bad guys”. Tell me more about her influence in your work.

For me Highsmith is the most original and interesting crime writer. She never takes the obvious route, never resorts to cliché. There are no “goodies” in her books – her characters exist in a fallen world in which everyone is compromised in some way. I love her for avoiding the virtuous heroine, the innocent victim in need of rescue and the two-dimensional evil villains. I find her books utterly compelling, none more so than Strangers on a Train in which a chance conversation between two travellers sets off a nightmarish sequence of events that has you gripped from start to finish. I can’t say that she influences my work as our styles are utterly different – I just love what she does.


Why you chose the name Grace?

Because Helen is trying to achieve a state of Grace. Because of her past actions, she feels terrible guilt. She wants to atone for her sins – to wipe her slate clean – and this motivates her every action. Hence her name.


Seven books in three years. How do you organise your life to give you time to write?

I treat it like day job. I sit down at 9 and keep going until my kids burst in at the end of the day. Stephen King has a nice quote about writing: “It’s your job to let your Muse know that you will be at your desk from 9 til 5 every day” I completely agree.


You wrote “I have a confession to make. I’m not a ‘book person’. I’ve always loved reading, but my background is in television” So why you continue writing books?

Because I’ve completely fallen in love with it. It’s so much fun, you have so much creative control and readers are wonderful, passionate people. I’m becoming a book person!


They called you ‘The new Jo Nesbo’ You agree?

I would love to think so. But Jo is much more experienced and successful than I am.


Who is your favourite crime fiction hero/detective?

It has to be Lisbeth Salander. I think she is so unusual, so surprising, so alive.


If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?

My wife would like it to be Matt Damon, so I’ll got with that!


Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?

Probably Eeny Meeny as it was my debut and you always love your first.  But I am very fond of Little Boy Blue, as it really opens up Helen Grace for the first time.


Tell as something about Hide and Seek and Love me not

Hide and Seek leads very naturally on from Little Boy Blue and is entirely set in a women’s prison. Love Me Not by contrast is a road movie – 24 crazy hours in Southampton, as a pair of spree killers go on the rampage.


Your experience in Greece?

Fantastic. Unforgettable. I have never had such a warm welcome from publishers, readers and fans. I cannot wait to come back.


M.J. Arlidge has been working on television for the last fifteen years and is specialized in the production of quality dramatic series, including ”Torn”, ”The Little House” and ”Silent Witness”. He also prepares pilot productions for original crime series for both British and American television networks. In 2015, his book ”Six Degrees of Assassination”released exclusively as an audio book, hit No. 1 in sales.






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    September 11, 2017 at 11:40 am

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  2. Literature

    September 11, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you very much for your kind remarks.
    Literature.gr team

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