Steven Dunne’s books include The Reaper, The Disciple, The Unquiet Grave and The Killing Moon. His latest novel, Blood Summer, was published on 23 July 2021.
Steven kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Blood Summer.
Blood Summer is about two very different cops from different cultures forced to join forces to find a particularly brutal killer. Michael Trent is a retired FBI Agent from Chicago who, for reasons that become clear during the novel, is unable to return to his homeland. To earn a living, he uses his skills to hide people who are in grave danger for reasons beyond their control.
The story begins with him escorting a wealthy couple to a house in the wilds of the South of France from their penthouse apartment in Singapore after threats have been made against them by the Russian mafia. Once they’re safely installed in a remote house, he travels the globe using his client’s identity to create a false trail. However, weeks later he receives a shattering phone call from a detective, Commandant Serge Benoit, which sends him hurrying back to France…
2. What inspired the book?
I was inspired by a visit to the medieval village of Seillans, about an hour away from Nice, which became the setting for the novel. It was such a wonderfully atmospheric place and so remote that when I had the germ of an idea about a couple hiding from the threat of violence, I just had to use it as a location. I hope I’ve done its attractions justice. I think lockdown also had a role to play because I loved placing my characters in exotic faraway locations.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
A bit of both Janet. I have to have a vague outline for the plot and hopefully an overriding theme – Blood Summer is about redemption from a past that you can’t escape. With some idea where I’m going, I can make a start whilst remaining fully cognisant that better ideas may present themselves along the way. With Blood Summer the plot arc remained pretty much the same throughout, which is unusual for me.
4. Having been through the publishing process a number of times, is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?
The biggest surprise is that it doesn’t get any easier. Experience definitely makes you better at your craft but the more books you write – Blood Summer is my 8th – the harder it is to step outside your body of work and generate fresh ideas. The more words you have in print, the more you’re aware of the dangers of repeating yourself and it’s a something I’m acutely aware of in the editing process. The other key difference is self-publishing. When I self-published my first book, The Reaper, I commissioned 2,000 physical copies and sold most of them around the East Midlands before Harper Collins bought the rights. With Blood Summer, the process was much simpler. Commission a great cover and get the manuscript as perfect as you can get it were my guiding mantra and I’m very pleased with the results. And, of course, the emphasis these days is on producing an electronic version of your book.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
Writing is so sedentary and so all-consuming, the best way for me to relax is to exercise and that usually involves swimming, walking or cycling to keep at bay the ravages of writing, with its constant supply of tea and jammie dodgers. Exercise is also great for cleansing the mind and I’ve often solved writing conundrums while out walking. I also used to like travelling a lot but we all know what happened to curb that particular pastime – one of the reasons I wrote Blood Summer.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Wow, that’s a hard question and an unthinkable restriction. I’d have to assemble a shortlist of life-changing reads but my top choice would vary according to mood and it would have to be something fairly dense that could deliver new insights on rereading. Perennial favourites include…
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
The Magus – John Fowles
The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
One question I’m NEVER asked to my face – though it often appears in favourable reviews – is why aren’t you well known? One reviewer once said I’m the “best crime writer they’ve never heard of,” which I thought was wonderful and I took it for my twitter profile. My answer is, of course, that genuine writers don’t write for fame or money but for the sheer pleasure of the work and it still thrills me when people tell me they’ve read and loved my work. And that thrill is exactly the same if it’s just one person or one million.
About the Book
Two detectives from opposite sides of the planet join forces to hunt a ruthless killer in the South of France.
Commandant Serge Benoit is haunted by the terror attack in Nice, a crime scene he can see from his seafront apartment. Dispatched to a remote village, an hour’s drive from his home city, Benoit finds two brutally dismembered bodies. Who are the victims? Where did they come from? And who killed them? Benoit’s only clue is a cell phone with a single number in the memory…
Former FBI Agent, Michael Trent, is a wanted man in his homeland. Unable to return to America, he travels the world as an escapologist-for-hire, helping people in trouble to disappear. In Singapore, he is engaged by multi-millionaire Harry Renfrew who needs to relocate after receiving death threats from the Russian mafia.
After hiding Renfrew and his wife in a rustic French village, Trent assumes Renfrew’s identity to lay down a false trail to confound pursuers. After weeks of incident free globetrotting, Trent arrives in Barcelona for the final leg of his journey. But before he can congratulate himself on a job well done, he receives a shattering phone call…