What inspires Sheryl Browne?

Earlier in the week we celebrated the double publication day of After She’s Gone and Deadly Intent; two thrillers in the DI Matthews Adams’ series by Sheryl Browne. Today Sheryl talks a little bit about the inspiration behind these gritty, heavy-hitting new books …

What inspires me to write thrillers?

It’s a good question. The inspiration behind latest thriller, Deadly Intent, is a bit of strange one. My partner and I are keen boaters. It’s hard to imagine, though, how this idyllic scene might lead me to writing a book featuring family driven to the edge of sanity by a psychopath described by one reviewer as “the devil himself”.

Boat

We have our own little narrowboat, Aquaduck, so can often be found messing about on the water. We tend to moor up as near as we can to a pub for our evening meal. Sometimes the spots we moor in can be very remote and the pub can be an awful long way off, involving a trek along the towpath with nothing but the wind whispering through the trees and the eerie calls of nightlife for company.

 

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On one particularly spooky, moon-free evening on the walk back, I spotted someone parked in a country lane running parallel to the river. A prickle of apprehension ran the length of my spine. Why, I wondered, would he just be sitting there in the dead of night alone? It wasn’t long before I was playing the ‘what if’ game. What if … he’s a burglar? A mad-axe murderer? On reaching the boat, my partner announced he’d left something in the pub and promptly scarpered off back down the towpath to retrieve it, leaving me … with the strange night-watcher and my vivid imagination. Alone on the boat, it wasn’t long before the man had morphed into …

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Panicking now, I immediately searched for something with which to defend myself. The rubber ring, I decided, possibly wouldn’t fend off the hit man my partner had obviously hired. The front hatch was padlocked for the night, I had no phone signal, and the only other way out was the door he would surely imminently enter by.

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On his return to the boat, his phone safely retrieved from the pub, my partner took one look at my face and fell about laughing. My ‘hitman’ had apparently broken down and was waiting for the rescue service. Personally, I didn’t think it was that funny. Humph.

As you might have gathered then, people inspire my writing. Every scenario, every face, every place tells a story. A glimpsed situation, an argument between a couple, for instance, a verbal ‘slanging match’ in the street, and you have your stimulus for a book, upon which your overzealous writer’s mind will weave fictional facts. You simply can’t help yourself. The premise for After She’s Gone – now out in print – is a longstanding argument, or rivalry, between two men on opposite sides of the law, DI Matthew Adams and Patrick Sullivan. To quote Rachel at Rachel’s Random Reads, who gave the book a fabulous review (thank you, Rachel!), ‘both men are angry, both men know how to kill …’ I think that sums it up nicely.

I’ll leave you with a short excerpt, which hopefully demonstrates the friction between the two men.

After She’s Gone: Excerpt

‘Oh, for …’ Sullivan shook his head. ‘You’re scraping the barrel, Adams. And you know it. They’re for personal use.’ He reached wearily for his car door. ‘You won’t find anything more. And, if you are planning on finding anything, you might want to have a rethink. Unless you’re not too bothered about getting your partner kicked off the force, that is?’ Sullivan nodded to where Steve stood behind Matthew. ‘Probably better not take a leaf out of your old man’s book and try to stitch me up, don’t y’think?’

Obviously knowing he’d got the upper hand, Sullivan climbed out, giving Matthew a supercilious smirk as he did.

He was right. Matthew knew it. His stomach churned at the very closeness of the man, as he squeezed past him to the car, no choice but to with Sullivan allowing him little space. He’d wanted an excuse, any excuse to haul him in. He couldn’t do so though without some proof of a crime having been committed.

Sullivan waited while they searched, Steve giving Matthew quizzical glances as they did. There was nothing, of course, as if Sullivan would be likely to have a stash of heroin stuffed in his boot. Matthew sighed, exasperated. He must have left his brains at home this morning.

‘Oh, dear, come up empty-handed, have we?’ Smoking a legit cigarette, Sullivan blew a fat cloud of smoke over Matthew, as he emerged from the car. ‘Maybe you should give up being a copper and do something more fruitful with your life, Adams. I’m looking for a chauffeur if you’re interested. Pays well. Nice steady work, much less frustrating.’

His temper dangerously near spiking, Matthew counted silently. At seven his anger subsided some.

‘Inside.’ He nodded towards the house, a sprawling Grade II listed building. Testament to how fruitful this lowlife’s money-making endeavors were.

‘If you insist, Detective Inspector.’ Sullivan sauntered back to his car. ‘Just so you know, though,’ he said as he climbed in, ‘you’re barking up the wrong tree, sunshine. Whatever happened to Brianna was nothing to do with me.’

Suppressing a sigh of utter contempt, Matthew looked Sullivan over distastefully and headed back to his own car to follow him up the long pebbled drive.

Minutes later, he sighed inwardly again, as the third Mrs Sullivan climbed out of the indoor heated pool – blonde, tanned and healthy in a microdot bikini – to fawn all over the man. Bought and paid for, Matthew thought, as she reeled off Sullivan’s alibi for him.

‘He was here,’ she said, looking as innocent as a newborn baby, ‘dancin’ wiv Taylor, weren’t you, babe?’ She moved across to where Sullivan was watching Matthew with wry amusement. ‘And then we went to bed. He’s a lovely little mover, aren’t you, hun?’

Oozing innuendo, the woman fluttered her eyelashes coyly and draped herself around Sullivan’s neck.

‘Yeah.’ Sullivan’s amusement turned fast to irritation, as he realised she was dripping water all over him. ‘Watch the coat, sweetheart.’ His smile was now more a grimace, as he eased her away from his cashmere.

How long before the doting husband routine wore off, Matthew wondered, and Sullivan reverted to form, giving her the odd slap for some imagined misdemeanor.

‘And what time would that have been, Mrs Sullivan?’ he asked futilely.

‘What, when we went to bed, you mean? Bout two-thirty,’ the woman said. ‘I noticed the time ’cos I was keeping an ear out for Taylor. You know what kids can be like.’

‘No, he doesn’t.’ Sullivan looked at Matthew, his eyes full of calculated malice. ‘Doesn’t have any kids, do you, Detective?’

His heart twisting violently in his chest, Matthew looked away. Count, he commanded himself, swallowing back the hatred that threatened to choke him. Ignore the bastard. Taking a shallow breath, attempting to stave off the imminent wheeze in his chest, he caught Steve’s eye, who clearly noted something was wrong, and moved towards him.

‘Oh, that’s a shame,’ the woman said as Matthew shook his head, indicating Steve should stay. ‘Patrick dotes on his daughter, don’t you, Pat? We’re working on having a baby of our own,’ she imparted. ‘Didn’t go to sleep until dawn, did we, babe?’

Looking suggestively up at Sullivan, she reached to trail a long fingernail down his torso, while Matthew suppressed an urge not to shove the excuse for a human being in the pool and hold him under.

‘That’s right, sweetheart. Taylor can’t wait to have a little sister or brother to play with.’ Sullivan locked goading eyes with Matthew. ‘Happy?’

Not until I see you banged up for life or six feet under. Matthew’s gaze didn’t flinch. ‘I’ll be back,’ he warned him evenly.

‘Ooh, move over, Arnie. I’m shaking in my boots.’ Sullivan blinked girlishly.

‘One day, Sullivan,’ Matthew promised. ‘One day.’

‘Yeah, right, maybe when you grow a pair, Adams. Meanwhile …’ Adjusting his collar and cuffs, Sullivan nodded towards the annexe doors they’d entered by. ‘Don’t have an asthma attack on the way out, will you? Oh, and give me a ring sometime about that chauffeuring job. I’m thinking you might need one soon. Not going to go down well with your superiors, is it, you wasting valuable police resources harassing innocent people?’

Sub-species, Matthew thought. Then, the tightness in his chest warning him of just such an attack, he turned away.

Thanks for reading! I do hope I haven’t frightened you off!

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