The surreal in the real: from the margins of plausibility
Born in Sydney, Australia, Iain Henn worked for many years in print media production for newspapers, magazines, and direct marketing agencies, and as a writer for small business websites. He has written fiction from a young age, and having just released his third title with The Book Folks, we thought now would be the perfect time to interview him so you can find out more about his writing process, inspirations, and his suspenseful thrillers and mysteries.
TBF: Have you always wanted to write books?
IH: Pretty much. When I was very young, I thought everybody made up stories with fictional characters. When I got a little older, I realized that wasn’t the case.
TBF: What is the first piece of work you remember writing, and how old were you?
IH: I was around ten, and I wrote a story about a boy with a magic mirror that could freeze time. I wrote it in a 32-page school exercise book, starting on page 1 and finishing on page 32 because there were no more pages! I don’t have it now and have no idea what was going on in those 32 pages.
TBF: How much does real life inspire your work?
IH: Every story idea is inspired by someone or something I see, hear, or read about.
TBF: For someone who might be used to reading realistic fiction, your stories can demand a suspension of belief. What is your motive there?
IH: I’m generally of the view that there is nothing as far-fetched in fiction as what occurs in real life. I set out to convey that to the reader through realistic investigative steps that show something that seemed impossible is in fact credible. For example, if we went back twenty or so years and told a story about a man who kept kidnapped girls in his basement for over a decade – one of them even having a baby – without anyone knowing, including visitors to his house, it would be regarded as implausible. We now know that exact scenario, and a very different variation of it, has occurred in the real world, not once but twice, in America and Austria. Something only seems far-fetched until it actually happens, and the human race has proven itself capable of both great good, and great evil.
TBF: Police procedure and legal practice varies significantly from country to country, and the devil is often in the detail. How hard was it for you as an Australian author to set a book in the US in this respect?
IH: I’ve done a great deal of research over several years on US practices, as well as locales. I’ll do specific research before I start a new manuscript, and like all writers today, I’m fortunate to be living in a time when I can access vast amounts of information online. As an example of this, the FBI have a very comprehensive website.
TBF: Did the new setting present any (other) challenges?
IH: I didn’t realise just how many differences there are in the spelling and the usage of words between UK English, Australian English, and American English. I now have a folder bulging with the differences, and I don’t think it’s stopped growing.
TBF: A reader of your fiction feels completely hooked, abducted, even! How do you design your mysteries to stimulate such sustained attention?
IH: Like most readers, I get hooked on an intriguing idea and then I have to know where it goes. It’s the same for me as a writer. I set out to keep the reader turning the pages so that they miss their favourite TV show or stay up way too late. Cruel, I know. My aim is to keep the answer to the mystery just out of reach until those final pages.
TBF: You often write about mysteries surrounding missing people. Is there a particular reason for that?
IH: For me, ultimately, mystery and thriller fiction is about the struggle of good against evil and the pursuit of justice. The mystery of a missing person is particularly intriguing, as we don’t know whether the character is alive or dead, whether they were taken against their will, or whether they walked away by choice. There are seemingly infinite paths for the story to take, and for secrets to be uncovered.
TBF: What is the main thing you want a reader to walk away from your books thinking?
IH: That they found the book entertaining, and maybe that they picked up some fascinating facts about the subject matter.
TBF: What is your writing process? Is there a specific setup or time where the words flow easiest?
IH: Many of my earlier stories were written while I was commuting by train to and from a day job. I learned to switch on and write in the time available. These days, I write full-time, at my desk, keeping regular hours (well, I call them regular.) I never know when the words will flow easiest. If the words know the answer to that, they’re keeping it to themselves.
TBF: What are you writing at the moment?
IH: I’m working on a series about a law enforcement team tackling unusual cases.
TBF: Favourite all-time writer?
IH: Too many to name.
THE PIPER’S CHILDREN is out now, available on Kindle, in paperback, and FREE with Kindle Unlimited.