M.B. Vincent – Q&A

Writing duo MB Vincent’s new novel, Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death, is published by Simon and Schuster on 18 October 2018.

They kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death.

There’s an intrinsic puzzle in the story, a whodunnit but also a whydunnit.

Sometimes we don’t feel like a good fit with our nearest and dearest, but that doesn’t stop us loving them, and our protagonist, Jess, struggles with this ordinary truth when she returns home to sleepy Castle Kidbury, licking her wounds and unprepared for the killing spree terrorising her home town. Investigating it helps Jess ignore her fractured relationship with her widowed father, and throws her together with a childhood crush, Rupert, now all grown up.

2. What inspired the book?

The book grew out of a game we played as we drove around the West Country. The character of Jess just sprang, fully formed and recognisable, into our imagination, and we enjoyed passing places she might live or pubs she might visit. The west country, with its mixture of farming land and stately homes and beautiful market towns is to blame!

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?

A bit of both. A book that didn’t follow its nose would be unreadable, but to deliver a coherent story on time much planning is necessary. Luckily, we both believe this, so we invest a lot of time in the planning stage. One of the happy side effects is that, when you’ve been making spreadsheets and flow charts for a couple of weeks, you ache to start writing.

4. M.B. Vincent is a writing duo. How do you decide who writes what?

We collaborate on the plan, nailing down all the storylines and character development. Then we take it in turns to write a chapter. If Matthew writes chapter one, then Bernie edits it. We discuss the edits, then Bernie writes chapter two, and he edits it, and so on. We have just one real rule – if one of us hates an idea, it’s thrown out with no argument. We have our preferences, of course. Matthew lets Bernie tackle the chapters that include dinner parties or big get-togethers, and Bernie lets Matthew write the interrogation scenes and the sparring between Jess and Rupert.  We sometimes stand up and improvise important dialogue, which is enormous fun and a great break from the desk.

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? Who do you do to relax and get away from it all?

Dogs must be walked. Jumpers must be knitted. Our daughter must be cuddled.

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life what would it be?

Bernie:   You are a very cruel woman. Hmm. I’d better choose a long book! Vanity Fair by Thackeray would be my choice, as it has breadth and wit and illuminating characterisation.

Matthew: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Beguiling and breathtaking!

7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&s and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish you had been asked, and what’s the answer?

The question that both of us wonder about is “Why does an intelligent woman like Jess Castle eat so much junk food?” The answer, I suppose, is that she’s a mere mortal, like the rest of us, and sometimes the lure of the Pot Noodle is too strong to ignore.

About the book

Jess Castle is running away. Again. This time she’s running back home, like she swore she never would.

Castle Kidbury, like all small towns, hums with gossip but now it’s plagued with murder of the most gruesome kind. Jess instinctively believes that the hippyish cult camped out on the edge of town are not responsible for the spate of crucifixions that blights the pretty landscape. Her father, a respected judge, despairs of Jess as she infiltrates the cult and manages, not for the first time, to get herself arrested.

Rupert Lawson, a schooldays crush who’s now a barrister, bails her out. Jess ropes in a reluctant Rupert as she gatecrashes the murder investigation of DS Eden. A by-the-book copper, Eden has to admit that intuitive, eccentric Jess has the nose of a detective.

As the gory murders pile up, there’s nothing to connect the victims. And yet, the clues are there if you look hard enough.

About the author

M.B. Vincent is a married couple. She writes romantic fiction; he writes songs and TV theme tunes. They’ve even written musicals together. They work at opposite ends of the house, andthey meet in the middle to write about Jess Castle and Castle Kidbury, the West Country’s goriest market town. When they’re not making up books, tunes, and mysteries, they cram head out in an open- top car and explore. They particularly like West Country market towns …

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