I’m delighted to be welcoming Frank Westworth today. If you follow author blogs or social media accounts you’ll realise that characters (more often than not) have a mind of their own and what was planned for them in the beginning, isn’t necessarily what happens throughout the story arc. Which is the case of the three sisters in Frank Westworth’s Killing Sisters crime series. Read on to find out why in Frank’s guest post (and enter the giveaway too!).
Isn’t it strange how a novel rarely turns out the way it was intended to? I’ve written three so far, and every one of them started out with A Plan. I had the plot, the locations and the characters – at least, I had outlines of them, so I could be flexible while writing the things, just in case a little inspiration set it here and there.
The Big Idea was that there would be three sisters, that they’d have a book each and that those sisters were a little unusual in that they operated a contract killing business. They were guns for hire. I wanted to write books with women as central characters because … well, because I find women more interesting than men, generally. I am a bloke, I know how blokes work, as you’d hope. Women? An endless source of intrigue, delight and surprises.
So, as the ladies were doing the criminal stuff, it would have been silly to have their crimes investigated by another woman, so I invented a bloke, JJ Stoner. He’s a basic ex-military guy, with a long backstory of his own, and with a couple of features which rarely appear in genre fiction. For a start, back when he was involved in the murder for hire business (writers often set a thief to catch a thief, and that was my intention) he used a motorcycle as his way into and out of the killing zone. Originally he was going to ride a Norton, he being a Brit like me, but that turned into a Harley-Davidson, so he could have a little badass gravitas. And he plays blues guitar in a jazz club. That makes a change.
I devoted a lot of time to getting Stoner’s character right. It wasn’t easy, not least because although I play guitar and ride a Harley, I’ve never been a contract killer nor a soldier. The male lead needed to be set up so I could concentrate on the women, the actual stars of the three books: Charity, Chastity and Charm, and yes, those are their real names. This is fiction, remember.
Each of the three stories is based around one of the three killer sisters. And as soon as I started writing them it became clear that they were fascinating. Why would a woman take up contract killing as a business? I asked the ladies at every opportunity: they refused to answer. Stoner talked to me all the time, as did all the secondary characters. The ladies? Not so. They just got on and did what they needed to do. It was often messy and it was always fatal. One of them – I’ll not tell you which – was plainly cracking up under the strain of it all. It was just a horrid life and she hated it. But it was also highly lucrative, and, as the famous Chinese proverb has it, the trick about tiger riding is the getting off without getting eaten.
You can meet all three sisters in the first book; A Last Act of Charity. It’s Charity’s book. Chastity’s in there a lot, too, although in and out rather than central stage. Charm is also around, but she’s calling herself something else. They’re criminals, remember. Telling lies isn’t morally difficult for contract killers, so they say. The sisters’ business evolved. When they started out they shared the various jobs between them, but it soon transpired that one of them was a lot better at the actual face-to-face contact contract killing thing. That would be Chastity, and her tale is in the second book, The Corruption of Chastity. Corruption? Yes, she starts to become less amoral, which does not help with her chosen profession. Charm? She’s … different.
Rather to my surprise, most of the reader comment has been about Stoner, the guy whose presence runs throughout the three books and whose relationships with the three sisters is a fluid, and curious thing. It did not work out how I’d expected it to, which isn’t a bad thing from a writer’s perspective. It makes the actual act of writing much more interesting if you genuinely have little idea what they’re going to do next. I’d planned that Chastity would be the least interesting of the three, but she turned out to be the most remarkable of them all, completely overshadowing Charm in the third book, The Redemption of Charm. Redemption? Yes. But you’d need to read it to find out how.
Lots of people, especially reviewers, compared Stoner to Lee Child’s epic hero, Jack Reacher. They’re not the same at all. Nor is Stoner the central character, the star. He’s mostly a device to introduce the rest of the characters as the stories progress. But… reader interest in Stoner resulted in an entire series of short stories about him.
I’d not intended to write any of those, either, but was compelled to when a truly unexpected and deeply unpleasant villain appeared, grinning nastily, from the shadows. I’d not known that she existed, never mind that she would move in to dominate the plot, to steal it away from the killing sisters whose books these are. Surprises galore.
So the ladies do the work but the guy gets the credit? That is one way to look at it, but it wasn’t intentional. Stoner turns out to have very few personal problems with the sisters, he’s followed their career path, albeit as a soldier rather than a freelance. But the unexpected villain – Blesses – stole the sisters’ thunder a little. And they’re not the forgiving kind. Not that kind of lady at all.
You can meet Charm and other fatal females in paperback or ebook at Amazon.
THE REDEMPTION OF CHARM
In ‘The Redemption Of Charm’, anti-hero JJ Stoner prowls the threatening territory familiar to readers of ‘Galveston’ or ‘The Winter Of Frankie Machine’ but with a distinctly British twist. Imagine what might happen if Jack Reacher lost the only fight that really matters…
Black humour and wry realism underscore intense episodes of brutal, no-holds-barred conflict. Snappy dialogue segues into surreal, sometimes deadly sexual encounters.
Finally, Stoner must take his last stand and face his ultimate foe. Survival is far from certain.
Perfect for fans of Lee Child, Don Winslow and Nic Pizzolatto.
JJ STONER HAS EVERY REASON TO KILL
The ex-black ops assassin and former soldier has been betrayed three times over. His enemies brutalised his woman, corrupted his best friend. Stoner is now a danger to anyone who knows him. He’s isolated. Neutralised. Vulnerable.
Now he must confront Charm, the final Killing Sister, and find out whether any of his former friends and allies will stand by his side when the bullets start flying.
JJ Stoner has every reason to die.
Can he find a reason to live?
THE REDEMPTION OF CHARM is published on 28 March 2017 by Book Guild Publishing Ltd at £2.99 in ebook or £7.99 paperback. ISBN: 978-1911320555, available at good booksellers and online
FEEDBACK FOR THE KILLING SISTERS SERIES
‘The writing is stylish, clever, razor-sharp, and we are left in awe of the Killing Sisters, with all their murderous skills and their sexual savagery’
Crime Fiction Lover
‘Guns, girls, guitars and scenes of gruesome violence, all shot through with a wit sharp enough to draw blood. Westworth delivers a plot that drags you along relentlessly’
Award-winning author RJ Ellory
‘A fast-paced, high-powered thriller. Terse and stiletto streamlined and sharp as the blade of a knife.’
Maxim Jakubowski, lovereading.co.uk
‘When the fighting starts, you want JJ Stoner on your side’
Quentin Bates, best-selling author of the Icelandic murder-mysteries
‘A dark, grievous tale of hanging out with a nihilistic killer and enjoying the ride’
Eden Sharp, author of the Vigilante Investigator Justice Series
‘This book is the definition of guilty pleasure with explosions, intrigue, and beautiful murderous women’
Jeffrey Keeten, Goodreads top reviewer
Frank Westworth shares several characteristics with his literary anti-hero, JJ Stoner: they both play mean blues guitar and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Unlike Stoner, Frank hasn’t deliberately killed anyone. Frank lives in Cornwall in the UK, with his guitars, motorcycles, partner and cat.
Connect with Frank Westworth
Up for grabs in the giveaway is 5 digital copies (mobi, epub, PDF) of the first short story in the Stoner series, First Contract.
FIRST CONTRACT: A decade ago, JJ Stoner was a soldier. He killed people for a living and made no bones about it. On a scorching day in the Iraqi desert, when British blood stained the sand, he over-stepped the mark. Men died in compromising circumstances; too many men for an easy explanation. Faced with a dishonourable discharge and accusations of murder, Stoner accepted an offer from a stranger who represented an intelligence agency. Suddenly, Stoner found himself half a world away and about to execute his first private contract…
FIRST CONTRACT, a quick thriller, introduces the central character from the JJ Stoner / Killing Sisters series. As well as a complete, stand-alone story, First Contract includes an excerpt from ‘A Last Act of Charity’ and a sneak preview of the sequel, ‘The Corruption of Chastity.’
‘A Last Act of Charity’, is available in paperback and ebook.
Please note that FIRST CONTRACT is intended for an adult audience and contains explicit scenes of a sexual and/or violent nature.
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