I’m delighted to welcome to my blog today, fellow-author, Linda Huber, whose fifth novel, Ward Zero, is published today. Linda is one of my favourite authors because her stories are so scary and her characters so believable. It’s a hair-raising combination.
A few weeks ago, I asked Linda a few questions about Ward Zero which has a disquieting cover.
Linda, this cover is exceptionally creepy. Can you tell us why you chose this cover for your story?
It’s from The Cover Collection, who I worked with for my third and fourth books too. They provide both custom and ready-made covers, and I’ve always been lucky enough to find the perfect illustration for my books in the ready-made catalogue, though for Ward Zero we did quite a bit of tweaking – different background, detail on the figure etc. As soon as I saw the picture of the shrouded body on the bed, I knew it was the one. Why? Because it fits in very nicely with the final section of my book…
What gave you the idea for this novel?
I saw a consumer programme on Swiss TV a few years ago. They uncovered a scam involving older people being swindled out of their savings, and I realised it would make a lovely plot. Conmen and vulnerable people make a fatal combination. And unfortunately, it’s very true to life.
The novel is set around Manchester. Why did you choose to set it there?
In chapter one, Sarah arrives at Manchester Airport, expecting to be met – but no one is there. This is something that happened to me, many years ago. I was going to visit an old school friend, someone I hadn’t seen for many years. My plane touched down and off I got, collected my baggage, through to the arrivals hall and – no-one. I’ll never forget that sinking feeling of – Oh no, what now? (It was in the days before mobile phones.) I was walking up and down peering at people, and then I noticed another woman doing the same thing… it was my friend. She had a different hair colour and I had short hair instead of long; we hadn’t exchanged recent photos. It wouldn’t happen nowadays! Since then I’ve visited her many times, and the area makes a good setting for this book.
How easy did you find it to write the story about a conman targeting old people?
It’s a scam that’s been reported extensively here, so plenty of facts and anecdotes are available. From that point of view it wasn’t a difficult story to research. What was hard was imagining vulnerable people being targeted in such a cruel way. Writers create characters and feel for them – and there I was creating helpless old people, some of whom are in hospital, and making them afraid, frantic, distraught. The knowledge that the book is fiction doesn’t help, because similar scams still go on today, in real life.
How do you feel about the antagonist in the story?
The antagonist is a poor soul too. I think that’s the thing to remember when you write crime fiction – people are bad for a reason. Criminals make wrong choices because in their particular situation, they aren’t able to make the right choice. That doesn’t make the crime any less wrong or despicable, but it does allow us to see why something has happened. How often do you hear – ‘He never stood a chance’? Very few people are real psychopaths. I hope!
This is your fifth novel and all of them are standalone psychological suspense novels. Why do you write psychological suspense?
It’s my absolute favourite genre. I grew up reading and loving the novels of Mary Higgins Clark, so when I started my first novel, it seemed natural to write in this genre. It allows me as writer to put my ordinary characters into extraordinary situations, and watch their reactions – it’s fascinating!
Although this is your fifth novel to be published, it is the third novel you have self-published. Can you say what it is about self-publishing that you enjoy and how does it differ from traditional publishing?
Not that I’m a control-freak or anything, but… Seriously, I like being able to have the last word about details like the book cover, the timing of the release, the promotional activities and special offers. These are all things that aren’t possible when your book is traditionally published. Self-publishing fits in well with my ex-pat lifestyle here in Switzerland, too. Holding down a job here and doing book events in the UK wasn’t easy, though I really enjoyed working with my publisher on my first two books.
What’s next for you? Another standalone? Or do you see yourself beginning a series?
My amazing editor (Debi Alper) and I have already started to bash next year’s book into shape. It’s another standalone. I think that’s part of the charm for me – I create characters, put them through whatever situation, resolve it – and then I let them go, my paper people, to live their own lives in the land of make-believe.
Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.
Linda’s books are psychological suspense novels, and the ideas for them come from daily life. The Paradise Trees and The Cold Cold Sea were traditionally published in 2013/2014 before she self-published The Attic Room in 2015 and Chosen Child in early 2016.
Ward Zero, her fifth book, was inspired by a consumer programme on Swiss TV.
I write novels - standalone and series - in a number of genres. My main aims are to present strong, developing central characters and to set their stories within realistic other worlds into which you can escape. I hope you enjoy.