His First Lie by Mark Hill
Do you want a thriller that grips from the first line?
Do you want a thriller to leave you gasping for air?
Connor Laird frightens people: he’s intense, he’s fearless, and he seems to be willing to do anything to protect himself and those he loves. He arrives in the Longacre Children’s Home seemingly from nowhere, and instantly becomes hero and villain to every other child there.
Thirty years later, someone is killing all of those who grew up in the Longacre, one by one. Each of them has secrets, not least investigating cop DI Ray Drake.
One by one the mysteries of the past are revealed as Drake finds himself in a race against time before the killer gets to him.
Who is killing to hide their secret?
And can YOU guess the ending?
Q) I mention at the beginning of my review, that the theme and nature of the crime does leave me with specific reservations about the scenes within. I do however think this novel was intelligently written and did not rely upon graphic scenes at all. As a writer and especially as a debut author, did you create a list of your own rules in the writing of this novel?
A) I think as a debut author, you’re always in search of that elusive u.s.p. What do you do well as a writer? What do you like doing? What is it that makes you different from other authors? A lot of those decisions are instinctive, so I’m not going to lie and say I had a very specific plan of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to write in two timelines – the past and the present – and I knew that where violence is concerned, less is more. The odd, sudden burst of violence is more shocking than endless fisticuffs and fights. Everything else evolved without my ever quite noticing it. I don’t think rules are overly helpful Having completed two books now and nearly a third, I realise that as soon as you invent a rule for yourself as a writer, you end up breaking it almost immediately. And don’t let other people tell you what the so-called rules are, because there aren’t any. I love that W. Somerset Maugham quote: ‘There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.’ I love reading on social media so-and-so’s rules for writing, but I take them with a pinch of salt. Everyone does it differently.
Q) I also mention the comments I have read, regarding another novel. With it labelled as ‘uncomfortable reading’. I personally think if an author can resonate with a reader on such a level; the message of the novel has truly gotten across on the page. When the novel was released were you concerned that some readers may find the themes uncomfortable?
A) Not really. As you say, the abuse stuff happens off page. It’s not something I would be comfortable writing, it’s not something I really wanted to dwell on. It’s implied, and I think readers realise that it’s very much not the focus of the novel, which is hopefully the twisty thrills and satisfying investigation. And, of course, it’s meant to be kind of uncomfortable because you want to feel sympathy for the characters. But at the end of the day, His First Lie is intended to be an entertainment – it stands or falls by whether readers like the characters and the twisty plot and the mystery at the heart of it.
Q) The novel is a very accurate portrayal of victims and their psychology. Specifically relating to their ‘coming of age’. Did you research the background of institutionalised care settings? Did the research make for harrowing reading itself?
A) No, I didn’t! But we’ve all been teenagers. It’s a confusing period at the best of times. The Longacre Home in my novel is more of a fever-dream than based on any real place. I wanted to write a novel about dark childhood secrets coming back to haunt adult characters and a children’s home seemed to have more gravity as a choice than the circus! The former residents of the home don’t get an easy time of it in His First Lie, it’s true, but then nobody does.
Q) The character of Connor Laird, has so many layers. Was there a real-life inspiration behind his characterisation?
A) I do hope not! But I like Ray, he’s a little bit of an enigma and there’s plenty to explore. He’s like one of those icebergs, the vast majority of his personality is hidden deep, deep below the surface, and I look forward to mining further aspects of him in the future. But he’s not based on anyone in particular. True, he can be charismatic and charming, traits I’m often reminded of when I look in the mirror…
Q) Gordon Tallis is the very stuff of my nightmares. His reckless disregard for the children in his ‘care’ and his systematic abuse is terrifying. But his character is essential to portray the vulnerability of the young kids. Was Tallis based around any of the high-profile cases in the media?
A) No, but it was difficult not to be aware of the avalanche of allegations and revelations that filled the newspapers for a couple of years. I wanted to write a character who was an absolute shitbag, someone who knew he was damned and who was comfortable with the idea, and Tallis was that guy. I liked the idea of having someone long dead – more than thirty years at the time of the novel – and forgotten by the world, reduced to just a name in a newspaper report, but whose existence still casts a long, threatening shadow in the lives of a few people.
Q) Thank you for the hard-hitting and emotional read of His First Lie. It really will stay with me for a long time. Do you have a next release planned? And can we have any snippets of information?
A) People have asked me what happens after ‘that’ cliff-hanger, well, the answer is coming soon. The second Drake book, It Was Her, comes out in May, and it’s about a series of terrifying home-invasions. Someone is taking an inconvenient interest in Drake’s past. And, again, the inexplicable crimes at the heart of the investigation have their roots in the past, and in one woman’s desperate attempts to put back together the family who rejected her… I’m thrilled with this new book, and really can’t wait till people get to read it!
Thank you so much for taking the time to complete my Q&A. I wish you every success with your future writing career.
MH: You’re very welcome, Abby – and thank you for the lovely review!
Coming Soon!!!!! 17th May and just £1.99 for pre-order
It Was Her by Mark Hill
Do you want a thriller where nothing is as it seems?
Twenty years ago, Tatia was adopted into a well-off home where she seemed happy, settled. Then the youngest boy in the family dies in an accident, and she gets the blame.
Did she do it?
Tatia is cast out, away from her remaining adopted siblings Joel and Sarah. Now she yearns for a home to call her own. So when she see families going on holiday, leaving their beautiful homes empty, there seems no harm in living their lives while they are gone. But somehow, people keep ending up dead.
Did she kill them?
As bodies start to appear in supposedly safe neighbourhoods, DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley race to find the thinnest of links between the victims. But Drake’s secret past is threatening to destroy everything.