I’ve always said that when you write a continuing protagonist in a long-running series, you have to make a choice right from the beginning how much you’re going to allow them to change.
Keeping them static does have its distinct advantages, I must admit. For one thing, it doesn’t matter which book a new reader picks up first, as they’re not going to encounter any big spoilers for earlier stories. It’s also a lot easier for the character not to age significantly, although I think most readers accept that book-time works at a far slower rate than real time.
When I began writing the Charlie Fox series, I knew right from the outset that Charlie herself was going to develop and grow from book to book. Part of the fascination with the character for me is being able to set her personal as well as professional challenges in each story. I like to take her on a personal journey—one that she will learn from and grow in some way—quite apart from the dramatic events of the book.
At the beginning of the series, in KILLER INSTINCT, Charlie was not yet working as the close-protection specialist she later becomes. She was still very much an amateur when it came to her involvement with crime. By that I mean that she didn’t work for any kind of agency, private or government, who were paid to investigate. She gets caught up in events and has to deal with them as best she can to find a way out, protect the people she cares for, and to survive. It turns out to be very good training for what comes later.
Charlie is a little more raw at that point in her life, she’s still looking for direction and purpose after being kicked off the Special Forces training course she’d fought her way onto, and then being thrown out of the army altogether. At the start of that story she’s on the way back up from her lowest ebb, and I included a nod to her then-job working nightclub security in the latest outing, BAD TURN.
Read the rest of this article over on By The Letter Book Reviews.
Day 5 of the Blog Tour for BAD TURN and today I’m the guest of the terrific Tina Hartas at TripFiction, recalling my visit to rural New Jersey and why I felt the state made a great location for the opening scenes of the book.
New Jersey may be the sixth smallest state in the US but it certainly punches above its weight when it comes to a reputation for corruption and crime. After all, it was home to Tony Soprano, and while I acknowledge that the Soprano family home on Stag Trail Road was fictional, North Caldwell NJ was not. What better state to locate my own international arms dealer with possible ties to the darker side of the trade?
Before I got out and started exploring, all I had really seen of the place was the inside of Newark Airport, parts of Jersey City, and the train ride under the Hudson to Penn Station. I admit that these areas were probably not really New Jersey’s best side, although the view across the river from Jersey City to Manhattan Island was quite something.
It was a pleasure, therefore, to rent a car and drive out west from Newark into the rural farmland that makes up so much of the state. I passed signs for places that I’m used to seeing at home in the UK—Bedminster, Tewksbury, Bloomsbury and Hampton—just not in that order.
Once I got off the main 78 highway, I found myself on winding roads bordered by woods and fields. The traffic thinned almost to nothing. And my mind, as it tends to do, turned to thoughts of…ambushes.
Read the rest of this post over on TripFiction.
Day 4 already on the Blog Tour for the launch of BAD TURN and I’m in New Zealand (virtually, more’s the pity!) with the wonderful Judith Baxter at Growing Younger Each Day. Judith has already reviewed BAD TURN on her other blog site, Books & More Books, but Judith asked me to write an article about the intricate relationships within the family Charlie is tasked to protect.
Judith Baxter: I had written and scheduled my post for the blog tour in advance as I was going to be away for a few days. Earlier I had asked Zoë about this, one of my all-time favourite, series and she generously agreed to write something for my post. Here she gives us a hint of how she gets into a book and bit of a background into Charlie Fox’s character and the effects some of the situations in which she finds herself, have on her. So a second post for today.
And a really big thank you to Zoë for this :
“Dysfunctional (Crime) Family
BAD TURN: Charlie Fox #13
At their heart, the Charlie Fox novels are action-filled crime thrillers. But I hope that’s not all they are. Exploring the effect that the events of the stories have on Charlie herself, as well as on the other characters involved, has always been one of my main interests.
I like to know what makes people tick. How far they can be pushed. And, in the end, what makes them break.
It’s why my bad guys are rarely all bad. Everyone has shades of light and dark about them. After all, if you’re going to make your antagonists think they are really the heroes of their own story, you have to give them some reason to believe it. You don’t have to like them, as a reader, but you have to be thoroughly engaged by them.
Charlie usually arrives as an outsider into an already established group. Often she is seen as unwanted interference. She has to do her best to protect people almost in spite of themselves.
As was the case with BAD TURN.
Read the rest of this article over on Growing Younger Each Day.
Today takes the form of a review. Here’s Liz’s verdict on BAD TURN:
“Another pacy thriller from Zoë Sharp—there’s been a few feisty yet realistic heroines popping up in books and long may it last but Charlie Fox set the standard and is keeping it high 13 books later.
This was brilliantly addictive, chock full of action without losing coherence of story and with some unpredictable twists and turns along the way.
Charlie Fox is such a great main protagonist, clearly defined and engaging and every book flies by, page turning quality in every one. I love that you are never quite sure where they will end up.
Really excellent thrillers. Recommended.”
Read the full post over on Liz Loves Books.
Inevitably, when you write, you ‘borrow’ characteristics or mannerisms you’ve noted in friends, relations, enemies, or complete strangers. This is one of the reasons writers love to sit somewhere crowded and people-watch like crazy. A twitch, a tic, a nervous gesture, the way some people look down at their shoes and pace very deliberately when they’re taking a phone call. It’s all grist to the writer’s ever-hungry mill.
I freely admit there were aspects of different real people in the early Charlie Fox books, although I refuse to comment on which characteristics those were and what use I made of them! It wasn’t until I did an event at my local library while I was plotting book four in the series that I realised people might actually want to appear in my work.
My local library in Lancaster were hugely supportive of my first steps into the world of being a published author. So, when one of the librarians mentioned that another member of staff, Andrew Till, would really, really like to be a character in a book, how could I refuse?
When FIRST DROP came out, Andrew Till was an FBI Special Agent-in-Charge who plays a vital role in helping Charlie defeat the bad guys—even if he does try to arrest her the first time they meet.
Since then, I’ve used numerous real people as characters in the books. Over the course of the series they’ve taken on the roles of PIs, LAPD detectives and CIA agents, as well as billionaire philanthropists, Charlie’s principal, main suspect, and even the outright bad guy.
Read the rest of this blog over on Anne Bonny Book Reviews.
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about writing the Charlie Fox books is that they are not tied to one location. A part of me can see the attraction of a familiar locale and I know it might be a good idea to do this. After all, tours of Rebus’s Edinburgh, Morse’s Oxford, or Aimée Leduc’s Paris are undoubtedly popular.
But every time I sit down to write the next instalment in this series, deciding where she’s going to be heading off to is one of the things that keeps me hooked. The very nature of Charlie’s job in close protection means she has to be minutely aware of her surroundings. I take it as a challenge to try to weave in as much of the ever-changing dynamic between Charlie and her environment as I can into the fabric of the story.
For BAD TURN, number 13 in the series, I wanted a real European setting. I took Charlie to a bodyguard training school in Germany for one of the early books, HARD KNOCKS, and on a bikers’ fast trip around Ireland in ROAD KILL, but this time out I decided it was high time she made a return to mainland Europe.
I’d driven down to the southern area of France just before starting BAD TURN, and the scarcity of both people and other vehicles once we got away from the cities really set my imagination going. Tailing someone without other traffic to use as cover, for example, would present its own difficulties for Charlie.
Read the rest of this article over on Shotsmag Confidential here.
Look what the postman brought me this morning! Print proofs of BAD TURN: Charlie Fox #13. The book will be available on September 27 in mass-market paperback as well as hardcover and Large Print hardcover editions. The Large Print and hardcovers are mainly aimed at libraries, so if you know a friendly librarian—or indeed if you ARE a friendly librarian—I hope you’ll ask about stocking this title.
As well as Amazon, these print editions should be available through the usual libraries wholesalers. I’ve listed the ISBN numbers below to make them easier to find.
mass-market paperback: 9781909344563
library hardcover: 9781909344570
Large Print hardcover: 9781909344587
I’ll be talking about the story behind the story, the settings and the characters with either a guest blog or a review every day from pub day, September 27, through to October 06. It should be an interesting ten days. I hope you’ll join me!
Day 1: September 27
Day 2: September 28
Day 3: September 29
Day 4: September 30
Day 5: October 01
TripFiction with Tina Hartas https://www.tripfiction.com
Day 6: October 02
Day 7: October 03
Day 8: October 04
Day 9: October 05
Day 10: October 06
I was stunned to check Twitter today and see that ABSENCE OF LIGHT: Charlie Fox #11 was included on a list of Top International Thrillers led by powerful, ambitious women, as put together by author and journalist, Holly Watt. Holly is the author of TO THE LIONS, as well as writing for all the top newspapers in the UK. Her choices are appearing on the CrimeReads site, as well as being reposted by Marshal Zeringue on Campaign For The American Reader.