Author Showcase, Writing Tips and Tricks

Publication Day! Author Q&A: Karen Dodd – EVERYBODY KNOWS: A Nicoló Moretti Crime Thriller

After the past year, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m really craving a holiday. However, with travel rules up in the air and my partner starting a new training contract, who knows when I’ll be jetting off next.

However, I’m not too worried, because I had the delight to work on Karen Dodd’s latest crime mystery, Everybody Knows, set on the beautiful island of Malta. Although there is a lot more action and dark deception in the novel than you’d want on your own holiday break, it’s the perfect summer read that will have you gripped and taken on a wild, thrilling ride, even if it’s from the comfort of your own sofa.

Karen is no newbie to the writing game and has a few mystery titles under her belt, but check out the exclusive interview below to find out what fascinating discoveries she made whilst researching for the novel, not only about the true story the narrative is based on, but also about herself as a writer.

Everybody Knows by Karen Dodd

30th June 2021

A shocking murder. Globe-spanning greed.

Can one man untangle the brutal truth before he meets a gruesome end?

Calabria, Italy, 2019. Special Prosecutor Nicoló Moretti is reeling from the news he has a five-year-old son. And when he realizes his former lover is only coming clean because her high-profile anti-corruption campaign has provoked death threats, emotions flare and he never learns where she’s hidden him. Nico is overwhelmed with guilt when she’s slain in a horrific blast, vowing to hunt down the killers… and find his little boy. 

Traveling to Malta to track down who ordered the hit, Nico battles ruthless power-mongers desperate to keep their secrets buried. And as he closes in on unscrupulous CEOs, government officials, and foreign despots laundering their dirty money, the callous assassination of a whistleblower has the determined investigator fearing he’s next on the list.

Everybody Knows is out today – grab your copy here.

Read on for an exclusive interview with the author, Karen Dodd.

Karen, welcome! EVERYBODY KNOWS is your latest novel and the start of a new series. Tell us a little more about it.

Yes, I’m really excited about this one! It’s a fast-paced thriller that starts with Calabrian prosecutor Nicoló Moretti discovering he has a five-year-old son by Maltese anti-corruption lawyer, Ariana Calleja. The next day, she’s assassinated, and their son is missing. Fighting his way through an intricate knot of dangerous and corrupt individuals, Nico embarks on a hunt for Ariana’s killer and to find his son before it’s too late.

The action takes place in both Italy and Malta, and one of the things I love about the book is that the setting plays such a huge part, almost like characters in themselves. Is there a reasoning behind why you chose to base your novel in these locations?

Thank you for saying that. For me, setting is very much a character in my stories. It’s something I discovered by accident from my first book, Deadly Switch. Without exception, readers said they could tell that I’d lived in Tropea, Italy—the main setting for that book; they could visualize the locations, smell the smells, feel the emotional connections. The truth was that I hadn’t visited there until almost a year after the book came out! The difference with Everybody Knows is that I had actually been in Malta in 2017 and for several reasons, I was inspired to set the story there.

Who inspired you to start writing? Have your influences changed since then?

I have always written, but it was in the form of non-fiction: entrepreneurial and marketing articles for various online and print publications. When I was young, I was a voracious reader of mysteries (Nancy Drew, Victoria Holt, Daphne du Maurier), which then grew into an interest in thrillers. While my influences have changed over time, my thirst for well-written, twisty mysteries and thrillers never has!

Everybody Knows is the start of a great mystery series that I’m sure readers will fall in love with, so why did you choose to write mystery/thriller/crime?

I think it’s because I love to figure out puzzles. While I’m okay with blood and gore, it’s more the intellectual mind-games that fascinate me. As a reader, I expect major twists or a jaw-dropping ending, so that’s what I try to write to do in my own novels.

What is the biggest challenge you faced when writing your first novel? How did you overcome it?

Without a doubt, it was Imposter Syndrome. Who was I to write a thriller? I don’t have an MFA or other writing credentials. I would have to say that my critique group—we started out as five and whittled ourselves down to three—helped me get over that to the extent I was at least willing to put that first book out there. From the positive feedback and reviews from readers and loyal fans, my confidence built. But I’ll be honest, the imposter syndrome still comes back from time to time.

And how about now? Were there any new obstacles you faced writing Everybody Knows?

Oh my gosh, yes! As my editor, you’d know this better than anyone, Rebecca. Two things happened with this book. One, I was torn between writing it as a standalone and querying it to agents/publishers (which I decided against). And two, it went through many iterations before finding its way into being the first novel in my new series. Ultimately though, every author wants her next book to be better than the last, so I was determined to raise the bar on this one. And I’m so grateful to you for helping me do that!

Do you like to plan the action of your novels (plotter) or do you just let them write themselves (pantser!)?

Haha! In the past, I’ve been a pantster, through and through! Again, that sort of happened by accident with my first book, Deadly Switch. I felt like I just sat down at the computer and channelled the muse. Naturally, I expected that to happen with the second book, Scare Away the Dark. When it didn’t, I was like what!?!

After the huge challenge of writing Everybody Knows, I am going into book four with a whole new approach; I’m going to do a minimal outline while still leaving enough room to be a discovery writer. I’ll let you know how that goes!

Ariana is based off a real-life justice seeker. Can you tell us a little more about that? Did you have to do a lot of research for the novel? Was it difficult getting the details right?

Yes, Ariana is based off the very real story of slain journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia. I was in Malta just months before she was blown up in a car bombing outside her house. I think because I’d just been there and fallen in love with Malta, it affected me deeply. My character, Ariana, was originally to be an investigative journalist like Daphne, but out of respect for her family (who still have not received justice as of this writing), I decided to change Ariana to be an anti-corruption lawyer and to fictionalize the rest of the story.

Doing the research wasn’t difficult because Daphne’s story has been in the Maltese and European press for the past three-and-a-half years. However, I did have to research other aspects for authenticity. For example, part of the story is set in Calabria, and it’s not always easy to get information about the Italian justice system! For that, I largely had to rely on verifiable sources on the internet.

The novel ends on somewhat of a question mark. Is there more in store for Nicolo?

Oh, absolutely! I’m just getting warmed up for Nicoló. He has such a rich future ahead of him. Without giving away any spoilers, he is now a single dad while being even more committed to his job as Tropea’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor. I wish I could tell you more than that, but I’m going to let the premise of the next book percolate over the summer. I’ll work on that “minimalist outline” I talked about and start writing the draft in the fall.

What is your desert-island read?

I guess you know that’s the hardest question you could ask a voracious reader, right? Okay, one book: it would be Canadian mystery author, Louise Penny’s latest Chief Inspector Gamache novel. I’ve already got her next one, The Madness of Crowds, on pre-order! It doesn’t come out until August, so hopefully I won’t be stranded on that desert island before then.

Do you have any writing tips to share?

I would say—especially to a first-time author—don’t be overwhelmed by how much information is out there. Yes, we need to market our books, but I’d encourage you to focus on craft. A well-written book will always find a home, whether it’s in the traditional or self-published world. While I don’t believe you need an MFA to be a writer, I do think you need to take writing courses, learn as much as you can about your genre, and read, read, read—inside your genre and out.

What is your writing process like? Do you have a routine? A favourite place to write?

I do have a routine. I’m definitely most creative in the morning; I’m useless in the evening! I write five days a week from 8 or 9am until about 2pm. Then I switch to marketing and other business-related stuff in the afternoon or go out and work in my garden. I do most of my writing in my office (often with a cat on my desk). I have a desk-riser so I can alternate between sitting and standing, especially when I’m revising for six to eight hours a day. I write in Scrivener. I love it because I keep all my research files, web pages, photos, etc. in the same project file with my current WIP.

Also most important question. Favourite writing snack!

I’m not much of an eater while I’m writing (thank goodness, because I make up for that at other times!) but a copious amount of coffee is a must. I start each morning with a strong (three-shot) latté and then fill it up several times with regular coffee. When I’m in Italy, researching a book, I make my own espresso in the traditional moka pot on top of the stove. Then, I go out to the main square to meet people and have a latte and a cornetto ripieno alla marmellata (a croissant injected with marmalade).

If this has whet your appetite to delve the sun-scorched drama of Everybody Knows, dripping with tension and suspense, read below for an extract that will have you utterly hooked.

Ariana Calleja took one final look at her notes and mused over the government’s likely reaction to her office’s imminent announcement. Thou doth protest too much, Prime Minister. The citizens of Malta are coming for you. And when they do, they will blow your private fiefdom wide open. An image formed in her head: the prime minister, fear and guilt stamped on his face as the judge read out the guilty verdict. Those in the courtroom would heave a collective sigh of relief as they heard the clear message that their leader’s corrupt reign over them was about to end.

She closed her laptop and sat back in her chair, the sun warming her face as she stared out at the Tyrrhenian Sea. Her gaze rested on a small boat bobbing on the calm water offshore, perhaps half a mile away. What would life be like, she pondered, when the cause she’d devoted herself to for so many years came to fruition? Freedom. She’d never let herself think of that possibility before. She prayed Nico would forgive her and they could pick up where they’d left off before she’d frozen him out. Even if they couldn’t mend their relationship, she knew he’d love Max—after all, they were carbon copies of each other—and she would have to prepare herself for an equitable custody agreement.

But she was ready. She was tired of keeping secrets.

At precisely 10:50, Ariana pushed back her chair and was about to head to the downstairs toilet. Simultaneously, the captain of the small boat that idled nearby received a phone call and sent a code to a second device.

With a deafening roar, the entire outer edge of the Cannone Square café plunged one hundred meters to the coastal road below.

That sunny Calabrian morning, Ariana Delia Calleja became Malta’s second anticorruption prosecutor to be assassinated.

Sixty kilometers away, a text was received.

The errand has been completed.

Everybody Knows publishes today and is available here.

About Karen Dodd

Karen Dodd is a novelist living in a small seaside village on the west coast of British Columbia. The second novel in her Stone Suspense series, Scare Away the Dark, won the 2018 International Chanticleer CLUE award. Everybody Knows, the first book in her new Nicolò Moretti Crime comes out 30th June 2021. Her books have hit #1, #2 and #4 on Amazon. She is past president of the North Shore Writers’ Association and is currently vice-president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter.

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