Crime and Thriller Month is all about getting under the skin and exploring my favourite genres of fiction, and how could that possible be done without a little help from some of the talented authors of I have had the privilege to work with?
Our first author interview is with the delightful Tyler Flynn, author of Where the Wolf Lies, a pacy and twisting race-against-time novel set in the glorious streets of Paris.
Tyler is a former anti-money laundering investigator, having spent years investigating terrorist financing, tax fraud and human trafficking amongst other crimes. After several years in banking, Tyler became an international financial analyst, with a focus on Europe. He graduated from the of University of St. Thomas with a degree in Political Science. Tyler and his wife Marie are based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but spend much of their time in Marie’s home country of France. Where the Wolf Lies is his debut novel.
Tyler, welcome! Where the Wolf Lies is your first novel. Tell us a little more about it.
Pleasure to speak with you! Where the Wolf Lies is a story about a naïve American banker, Paul Hart, sent to France to work with a mysterious client. There, Paul unwittingly finds himself implicated in an international money laundering scheme that finances terrorism. Without many people he can trust, Hart places his confidence in the hands of Clara Nouvelle, the right-hand woman of his client, who has some secrets of her own. Together they race around Paris and London, hunting down the truth to clear Paul’s name.
The book is quite international, with the characters jumping across the pond and the Channel throughout the course of the book. Setting is such a strong presence in the novel, especially in London and Paris – they are almost like characters in themselves. Is there a reasoning behind why you chose these settings?
I am so thrilled you found that the settings were like characters because this was very deliberate. For example, London to me is suave, sophisticated, regal in many aspects of its architecture and culture, but like any major city there’s a gritty underside too. I thought it a perfect home for the antagonist as he has these same facades like London.
As for Paris, I wanted to show different depths culturally. Oftentimes, especially Americans, I myself included at an early age, think of Paris as the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre and having some baguettes as a true French experience. But that’s not entirely true, it’s really the little details that, to me, give Paris life. The fashion, the meals, the debates, the conversations and the elegant bustle that the city moves with. There’s also a guardedness to Parisians that I think worked well with the mystery that Paul falls into. This elegant allure of both London and Paris also hide the darkness that lurks underneath, which I’d like to think comes through in the story.
Who inspired you to start writing? Have your influences changed since then?
Alan Furst was my predominate inspiration. He writes World War Two fiction, always set in Paris. And, in fact, it was an interview I read of his where he explained how he started his first book . It began on the back of a Graham Greene novel he’d just finished and said, ‘I think I could do this,’ and just started writing.
That very night I’d read the article, I started writing myself! In fact, that chapter made it into WTWL! But for intrigue, I won’t say which one. His scene-setting and descriptions are so immersive, every time I read his novels, I feel like I am traveling, learning about a culture or lifestyle and I appreciate that. I’d like to think his influence reflects in my detailed scenery, clothing, and means of traveling.
Why did you choose to write thriller/crime?
I grew up reading and watching the thriller and crime genre. Whether it was reading the Hardy Boys, or watching John Wayne films, or my favourite character ever, James Bond, I always loved a story with adventure, travel, and good vs. evil. I also think the genre is so interesting because many of us don’t experience crime or adventures like in these stories we read in our daily lives, so there’s absolutely a sense of escapism.
What is the biggest challenge you faced when writing your first novel? How did you overcome it?
Being naïve to the profession was definitely a challenge. When you start writing, or from the outside, perhaps being a novelist seems simple. You write, edit and then you’re all set, but the truth is there is so much to learn about the profession every day. How to refine your characters, how to write a synopsis (I am still learning that) and ensuring your writing is the best it can be, then selling your story, which isn’t easy to do all on your own. For me, it was finding people that I can trust and I could learn from to become even better. I think editors, proofreaders, designers, are all crucial to fulfilling the book’s potential. Leaning on professionals gave me the peace of mind that I tried to make my debut the best it could be.
Do you like to plan the action of your novels [plotter] or do you just let them write themselves (pantser!)?
I have to admit, I didn’t know what a panster was! But I was firmly in that camp for my first novel. It was riveting to write every day because I didn’t know what direction or decisions the characters would make! I had general ideas of scenes or sequences I wanted to occur but I am not clever enough, nor patient enough, to work on an outline for weeks or months before I start writing. For my second novel, I did try to give more structure to the story and had more scenes and outcomes in my mind before I started writing, and that did help my process. But oftentimes, the characters had other ideas!
Like Paul Hart, your protagonist, you used to work in the financial industry yourself. How has your day job influenced your writing of the book? Did you have to do a lot of research for the darker sides of the novel? Was it difficult getting the details right?
Writing Paul Hart for me was the most difficult. While I knew a lot about his profession, I didn’t want to bog the reader down with too many details or drab financial speak. So that was challenging; to find the balance to give the authenticity I wanted, keeping him naïve but also somewhat likable, without making his world too authentic. The financial profession can oftentimes be dull. I actually took a ton of information out during my first edit, it read like meeting minutes! The antagonist Igor on the other hand, was easier because he’s based in London where I needed to learn about specific laws and processes, so that was simple to incorporate. It was also quite fun to write the bad guy, but there were many dark things to learn as well. For instance, I obviously don’t know what components are required to build bombs, so that was an interesting Google search, let me tell you!
For researching my novel, authenticity to me was paramount. Every locale I write about I’ve personally been to or really lived in. For a few spots, I’d actually visited during my writing so I knew—OK, this is where Paul will walk from, he’ll see Clara there, this will be the weather, the people scurrying about. I’d visualize the scenes and be inspired simply by the settings. That was a blast to conduct some real-life research. At a bar where the characters even visit in Paris, I may of had a cocktail or two just to ensure I got the details right!
The novel ends on somewhat of a question mark. Is there more in store for Paul Hart and Clara?
Absolutely! Paul and Clara are back in the second book of the series, The Golden Prison. Clara is in her element, and this time teaching Paul many new skills. Where the Wolf Lies was an origin story for our couple with mystery and intrigue, while The Golden Prison is a non-stop adventure that sees them grow closer as a couple. The story is full of new antagonists that push Clara and Paul to their limits as they investigate a case across Europe that eventually leads them into the Caribbean.
What is your desert-island read?
Excellent segue from the Caribbean! I am going to take Alan Furst’s The World at Night with me. It’s extremely re-readable—I’ve probably read it four times. It’s classic Furst with vivid scene setting, with most of it taking place in Paris, so you definitely feel like you’re traveling, which would be ideal stuck on an island. Plus, like every Furst novel, it has suspense and a great ending. The lovers find a way to be together and they ride off into the sunset. Magic.
Do you have any writing tips to share?
Be your own biggest supporter. Writing can be hard but encourage yourself to sit down even when you don’t feel like writing, the words will eventually pour out. Progress comes a letter at a time.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a routine? A favourite place to write?
I get up early so the house is quiet and pour myself a big cup of coffee. My routine is to jump right back where I left off the day before, in my favourite spot, a chair right by our front windows where my dog Mac lays. But I can write anywhere, on a plane, the beach, porch, wherever. Some days I’ll double up and write at night too by a candle. Big candle fan. My only superstition is if there’s a major milestone like the final chapter, or the final completed edit, I will sit at my grandfather’s old desk in my office, a special place for me.
Also most important question. Favourite writing snack?
Black coffee. Copious amounts. Seems cliché, but it gets the job done!
If this has whet your appetite to delve into the page of this gripping thriller, read below for an extract of Where the Wolf Lies that perfectly demonstrates Tyler’s evocative style for pace and setting.
“He entered the market from the west, glancing into dark alleys flanking his route. Igor navigated past them, as he had done dozens of times before, entering from Park Street, past The Anchor pub. There, he peered into the reflective, smoked-glass windows of his landmark to see if he had been followed. Pleased he hadn’t been, Igor passed under the high railroad tracks as the sun, fighting an endless battle with the stubborn English sky, disappeared from view.
Igor surveyed the collection of stalls converted to storefronts, surrounded by steel beam pillars painted British racing green. Signs identified the various shops, where one could find almost anything: potpies, Indian spices, fresh eggs, and fish caught that morning. The stand to his right was piled high with brightly colored fruit and vegetables in greens, burnt yellows, and shiny reds. An elderly couple caught his eye as they crossed in front of him distractedly, causing him to abruptly stop walking. The man hunched over, weakened by age, shuffled along, and held the hand of his wife. Igor clenched his jaw in an effort to suppress his desire to whip them to hurry on and sought out another path.
His mobile buzzed in his coat pocket. A text message from a number he didn’t have in his contacts.
Is it done yet?
Igor silently cursed the impatience of his partner.
I will make contact when it’s finished.
He fired the message off, presuming that would be the end of the conversation. The phone buzzed another time.
Make sure everything is ready. Soon we will have a new guest to entertain.
Igor grunted and tucked away his phone. He couldn’t afford to linger on the ambiguity because he had a job to do. But who was the new guest? Another target or a potential client? He gritted his teeth and refocused on the task at hand.
He proceeded further through the right side of the market, maneuvering with his hands stuffed deep in his pockets. To any shop owner or onlooker, he was hidden in plain sight. Conceivably, he was a man out buying ingredients to make a romantic dinner at home, or, judging by his smart dress, he was a chef from a nearby restaurant picking out fresh produce. Igor didn’t care what strangers thought as long as he wasn’t memorable. That was the key. He wanted to blend in amongst the crowd, and for that reason he’d chosen the market.
Igor slowed his pace and feigned interest at an Italian olive-oil shop. Light-colored wooden barrels were arranged around the inside of the store, creating a woodsy, musky aroma. A small breadbasket sat on the counter for curious customers to try the product. Igor turned his head cautiously, allowing his shoulder to creep upwards, blocking the bottom half of his face, and looked back down the way he came. The elderly pair were still shuffling through the market, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Satisfied he wasn’t being followed, he continued on.Where the Wolf Lies is out now and available in ebook (only £1.99 at the moment!) and physical copies.