Author Confessions: Mason Cross

Mason Cross' debut novel The Killing Season has been described as one of the most accomplished debut thrillers in years.

When Caleb Wardell, the infamous 'Chicago Sniper', escapes from death row, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man whose skills lie in finding those who don't want to be found. Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her career, Blake must track Wardell across America, as he kills, apparently, at random.

We tracked Mason down and forced him into our Author Confessions booth to bring you the below. If you're interested in writing crime, read Mason's top five tips on plotting a crime novel.

 

Win a copy of The Killing Season

You can win a copy of The Killing Season. Simply post your answer to this question in the comments below or email it to: hello@scottishbooktrust.com. Deadline: 17:00 Monday 19 December 2014.

- Which fictional character would Mason Cross most like to party with?

 

Do you ever mentally edit someone else’s work while you read?

Yes, I can’t help it. Not just while reading books, either. I’m always thinking about how I would have handled a particular film, TV show, song lyric or commercial differently, despite not knowing the first thing about directing, songwriting or advertising. Basically I’m just an incorrigible back-seat driver.

What’s your opinion on reading in the bath?

I’m very much in favour. In fact a nice hot bath or a nice quiet train carriage are the two best places for reading a book, because there are no interruptions.

How do you react to bad reviews?

With surprise.

Just kidding. I probably have the same initial reaction as most people – I get huffy and defensive. I do genuinely appreciate constructive criticism, though. If a negative review hits on some points that ring true, I try to take it on board for the next piece of work. I’m fairly harsh on myself as an editor, so I’m usually not too surprised by the specific things people don’t like so much about my work. Especially if I’ve already had my wife’s feedback, because she is brutal.

Where do you stand on spinebreaking?

I’m relaxed about it – books are for reading. Water damage from reading in the bath is a bigger risk for any books in my possession. Break the spines on any of my comics though, and I’ll rip your head off. I’m a man of contradictions.

Which author or fictional character would you most like to party with?

Jay Gatsby is the obvious answer – not just because he throws lavish Jazz Age parties in his sumptuous Long Island mansion, but because I’m the type of guy who likes to stay on the fringes of a party having a conversation with somebody interesting… and Gatsby certainly fits the bill.

Author-wise, I’d have to say Neil Gaiman. I’m a huge Sandman fanboy, and Neil seems like he knows how to have a good time.

How do you arrange your bookshelf?

Pretty randomly, although I make a half-hearted effort to group books into genres and authors. A shockingly large proportion of my books are nowhere near the shelves, and are instead arranged in stacks beside the bed waiting for me to get to them.

Do you judge books by their covers?

I think everyone does, to some extent. A great cover means I’m far more likely to pick up a book by someone I’ve never heard of, just as a terrible cover makes it less likely. Having said that, if the book has other things going for it (an interesting title or endorsement, for example), I’ll give it a chance regardless of the jacket.

Which book has the most disappointing ending?

Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe. It’s one of the most genuinely scary books I’ve ever read. A French teacher told us an abridged version of it in class one Friday and it stuck with me for years until I finally read it myself. Ninety percent of the book is fantastic, but the ending is kind of a cop out. I see what the author was trying to do, but I think the book would have been much improved by going in a different direction. Backseat driving again.

What’s the worst/trashiest book you secretly love?

I don’t really believe in ‘guilty pleasures’, and if a book’s enjoyable on any level then to me it isn’t a bad book. To paraphrase Duke Ellington, there’s only two kinds of books: good books and the other kind.

Do you ever turn to the back of a book and read the end first? If not, what would you say to such people?

Actually yes, all the time, but never to spoil the ending. I just love to read the first and last lines of a novel. I think you can learn a lot about an author from their first and last lines.

Is there a book by someone else that you wish you’d written?

No, because I’d have written a different book, and the book I like would no longer exist. Occasionally I read something where they’ve started with a fantastic idea and I haven’t liked the execution, so I guess in those cases I might like to have a stab at it.

Have you ever pretended to have read a book to impress someone?

No, but I have pretended to like a book that I didn’t.

Mason Cross

Mason Cross was born in Glasgow in 1979. He studied English at the University of Stirling and currently works in the voluntary sector. He has written a number of short stories, including 'A Living', which was shortlisted for the Quick Reads 'Get Britain Reading' Award. He lives in Glasgow with his wife and three children. You can follow him on twitter @MasonCrossBooks.

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