Martin Bodenham - Once A Killer

Back in 2012 I met a fellow thriller writer, Martin Bodenham. His novel, The Geneva Connection, and my dark tale, The Silent Hills, became stablemates and we've tried to stay in touch ever since. I say tried because Martin gets around - as you'll see! 

I recently caught up with him online and he recapped his writing journey for Strictly Writing.

How did you get into writing financial thriller novels?

During the heady days of the 1990s and the subsequent dotcom bubble, I was a corporate finance partner with both KPMG and Ernst & Young, putting together Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) deals and raising private equity for clients.  After that, I ran a private equity firm in London.  I saw at first hand the tension between greed and fear in investment banking.  They say write about what you know, so I guess it was natural for me to look at the world of international finance for inspiration.  I found plenty!

What are you up to now?

Last year, I moved to the west coast of Canada where I write thriller novels based around finance and crime.  My first novel, The Geneva Connection, was published in 2012 when I squeezed in the writing during the evenings and weekends.  On the back of that book, I was able to sign up with a New York agent.  Now I write full-time and my second novel has just been published.

How do you find the process of writing for an international audience?

It’s funny, but I wrote my first novel with a UK audience in mind, but most of my sales were in the US because that’s where my publisher was located.  When the book went through the editing process, I had to learn quickly about the language differences between UK and US English.  That was not the difficult part, though.  It is the more subtle differences that are hard to spot.  A turn of phrase we might use in the UK can have a completely different meaning in the US.  That is where a good editor improves the quality of the final manuscript.  Mine is based in the US, so she is well placed to spot my errors and misuse of language.  Moving to Canada last year has complicated things further as it seems Canadians have some form of mid-Atlantic English of their own.

Was writing the second novel easier than the first?

Yes and no.  You learn a lot about technique and plotting during a first novel.  That means the technical process is a little easier on each succeeding project.  However, the idea for my first novel was swimming around my head for some time so, when it came to write it, the story just spilled out onto the page.  For my second novel, I had to go hunting for story ideas.  I had to drop quite a number of them before settling on my final choice.  One piece of advice I received from another published author was to make sure you are absolutely happy with the outline plot before committing to it.  That was good advice considering you have to spend the best part of a year to create a finished book.

What is your second novel about?

The book is called Once a Killer and it is set in the world of hedge funds and M&A in New York.  The best way for me to describe it is by sharing with you the blurb from the back cover:

Michael Hoffman has come a long way from his deprived childhood in Chicago’s south side. Now he’s a young, successful partner in a major New York law firm, handling some of its clients’ most prestigious M&A deals. With a beautiful wife, and two young daughters who look up to him, he has built the perfect life.
But Michael has a secret: one that goes back to his childhood; a secret so dark it could destroy his family and brilliant career. Discovered by the wrong people, it would certainly get him killed.
There is only one person who knows about his past, and he is a career criminal who manages a low profile hedge fund, bankrolled by Eastern European mafia money. Michael is safe, but only for as long as he agrees to feed details of his firm’s deals to the fund so it can make millions from insider trading.
More information can be found on my author website:
Where do you get your ideas/inspiration from?

One thing I have become is a people watcher.  I don’t mean that I go around staring at complete strangers, but I try to observe how people react to situations.  What do they say and what expressions do they make to demonstrate their emotions?  As a writer, our job is to show the reader what a character is feeling by describing their behaviour and through the use of dialogue.  It is lazy writing simply to tell the reader a character was angry/ happy etc.

As for plots, they are everywhere: newspapers, television, obituaries, even former work situations.  They say there are only six stories to describe the human existence: love, revenge and so on.  The trick is to find new ways of telling them...

How do you stand out in the crowd?

As I said, there are only so many stories.  A writer needs to find his own approach, perhaps by creating interesting characters or by setting them in new environments.  There are not that many financial thrillers out there, so I guess I saw that as my gap and opportunity to stand out.  My inspiration was my favourite author, John Grisham who, as a former lawyer, led the way with legal thrillers.

What’s next?

My third novel has been written, but I need to take a break from it.  I find taking a break from a story for three months or more enables me to see it in a completely new light.  Once I have revised it, then it will be time to send it to my professional editor.  You need thick skin to take some of her comments, but the process really improves the final product.

Martin Bodenham