Ali Gunn is not only a literary genius, but a powerhouse of inspiration. The London-based author is a remarkable example of how an individual can turn their dreams into reality. Recently, I had a chance to cross paths with Ali Gunn and found her being to be a true treasure chest of hope and wisdom. I’m sure you will find an abundance of wisdom in her story. Enjoy!
Warlock Asylum: Before we begin, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share a portion of your life with our readers. Please introduce yourself. Who is Ali Gunn?
Ali Gunn: I’m a full-time author based in London. I write about crimes, the people who commit them, the people who solve them, and, most importantly, the victims. A lot of crime fiction focuses on the logistics of murder rather than the underlying drivers of criminality. While the puzzle element of a murder mystery is important, I want to write books that show the people involved and how their motivation impacts how the story is resolved at the end.
That’s the trifecta of good crime writing: a strong emotional hook, an accurate and satisfying mental puzzle, and the restoration of law and order at the end of it.
Warlock Asylum: What inspired you to become a writer?
Ali Gunn: Money. Just kidding. I was looking through the shelves of my local Waterstones and finding that so many crime novels were variations on a theme. The characters and locations might change but the same half-dozen revenge/ greed/ hate plots surfaced time and again. More often than not, the protagonists were white, middle class, middle-aged, men which isn’t representative of society at large.
DCI Elsie Mabey is my answer to that. She’s a woman. She’s young. Both of those set her apart but don’t define her. The “unique selling point” is that she’s disabled. Elsie suffers from “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” which is an invisible illness which is really poorly understood. I can’t do it justice but imagine you think you’ve put your phone on to charge before bed and then when you get up, you realize that the other end of the cable isn’t plugged into the socket. Annoying, right?
That’s what sufferers deal with every day: perpetual tiredness that doesn’t get better by going to sleep. It waxes and wanes and it makes life difficult. A close friend of mine suffers from the condition and she inspired me to write a story with a CFS-suffering detective. It’s the ultimate challenge: an invisible illness that undermines physical ability and mental cognition in a career that requires incredible intellect. As you’ll see when you read the book, Elsie has to develop coping mechanisms to rise to the challenges of London policing and keep her disability hidden from those who would use it against her.
Warlock Asylum: I would like to congratulate you on the success of your book The Career Killer, which also marked your debut as a novelist. Can you share with us how this new novel came about?
Ali Gunn: I’ve been involved in publishing for a while and I know that most books don’t sell many copies. When Gripping Twist offered me a 4-book deal for the Elsie Mabey series, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I’m delighted with how the book has been produced and really grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a rock-star editor that turned my messy prose into a publishable story.
Warlock Asylum: How were you able to create the characters for the story?
Ali Gunn: I shamelessly pinch quirks from real life. Lots of speech patterns and mannerisms are things I’ve heard or seen while wandering around London. If I hear someone say something funny or act in a weird way, I make a mental note. Then I do a lot of research for each character interviewing people who have actually done the job in real life and mix up the fact and fiction too, hopefully, deliver satisfying, interesting characters that my readers can imagine.
Warlock Asylum: Prior to becoming an author, you worked as a forensics specialist. How has your previous occupation affected your work as a writer?
Ali Gunn: I’m fastidious when it comes to details. Verisimilitude often demands changing, rewriting, tweaking things so that the forensic timeline lines up. Like everyone else, I take the occasional liberty but I like accuracy wherever possible even if that isn’t the focus of the story. Eagle-eyed readers might spot that Dr. Valerie Spilsbury’s surname is a homage to the famous court pathologist of the same surname, or that DI Seb Stryker’s name pays tribute to the cutting saw used during an autopsy.
Warlock Asylum: Aside from reaching Amazon Canada’s Top 100 Bestseller’s list, what feedback have you received personally about The Career Killer?
Ali Gunn: Thankfully, lots of nice things! I love hearing from my readers and I’m very fortunate to get emails, tweets, and Facebook messages all the time.
Over 500 people have now reviewed The Career Killer on Goodreads so if you want to see a broad mix of opinions, check those reviews out here: Goodreads
Warlock Asylum: What were some of the obstacles that you had to overcome in order to make your dream as a writer a reality?
Ali Gunn: There are so many but they boil down to three key things: time, money and inspiration. It takes me about a year to write a book from cover to cover. That includes all the research time, writing time, editing time, as well as the time taken to do things like this interview. I’m not the only one working on it either: my editor spends money on it, and then it goes through proofreaders, advance reader groups, a typesetter. Then there are the graphic designers, branding specialists, marketing guys. Lots of people need to be paid. To make that add up, I have to sell a lot of books. I’m on a one-book-a-year treadmill so hopefully, I can run/ type fast enough to keep up!
Warlock Asylum: The Psychopath Within is another work that you’ve authored which possesses an incredible theme. Can you share some thoughts with us on how this book came to see the light of day?
Ali Gunn: This is a stand-alone sequel to The Career Killer (meaning that it still stars Elsie Mabey but the story can be read independently of my debut). So long as readers keep enjoying the books, I’m hopeful I can keep writing more of them! There’s an “early bird” preorder price of 99c that is (at the time of writing) still on offer so if you love the series, grab your copy before it goes up to the full price.
Warlock Asylum: What are some of the underlying messages that you seek to transmit to people through your novels?
Ali Gunn: That all is not as it seems. First impressions can be misleading. I want to stress that nobody is perfect, that we’re all trying our best, and that what matters is our intention. I hope I’m representing CFS fairly (even if Elsie has to suffer a relatively minor case – there are plenty of people who are worse off). I also want to show how much harder women have to work to succeed in a male-dominated profession.
Warlock Asylum: What can we expect to hear from Ali Gunn in the next five years? Any final thoughts?
Ali Gunn: The Psychopath Within launches on September 1st, 2020. The third and fourth books in the series (currently untitled) will launch September 1st, 2021 and September 1st, 2022. I’m also co-authoring a book with a famous British author that should see the light of day some time in 2021 but I can’t any more than that just yet!
On behalf of Warlock Asylum International News, I would like to wish Ali Gunn all the best in her professional endeavors. Readers can stay up to date with Gunn’s work by visiting her website at https://www.gunncrime.com/