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The Overhead Compartment with M.J. Arlidge
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The Overhead Compartment with M.J. Arlidge

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Pop Goes the WeaselA dark, twisted tale, complete with a flawed, fascinating hero and terrifyingly venemous villain, it’s all in a day’s work for M.J. Arlidge. This British television writer found great success focusing on crime and thrillers, so it was only natural the next step would be a suspense novel. With it’s disturbing and captivating plot, Eeny Meeny became an international sensation, as did its main character, the enormously compelling Detective Helen Grace. The thrills continue in the second installment of the series, Pop Goes the Weasel, available in the U.S. today. The Overhead Compartment met up with M.J. Arlidge to learn a bit about the world of deceit and darkness he inhabits, and just how one goes about writing a book that is truly scary to read.

The Overhead Compartment with M.J. Arlidge begins now….

OC: You published Eeny Meeny using your initials, rather than your name, so readers wouldn’t know if the author was a man or a woman. What was the thinking behind that?

MA: It was my agent’s idea – she didn’t want potential editors to be prejudiced against me when reading my manuscript, thinking “Oh sure, this guy thinks he can write a female protagonist, female killer etc”. So we went for gender neutral initials and I’m really glad we did. So many people mistake me for a woman now, which I find a great compliment!

OC: The lead character, Helen Grace, is a unique style of hero. How did you come up with her?

MA: I was heavily into Stieg Larsson at the time and I think that influenced my thinking. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the first thriller I’d read in which the investigative character – Lisbeth Salander – was more interesting than the psychopath she was hunting. Normally the baddies are so much more interesting, but not in Larsson’s work. He inspired me to make my heroine a bit different. When I was writing I had a sign pinned above my computer which said “Do not make your heroine boring”. I hope I’ve succeeded.

OC: Is there a woman in your own life she reminds you of?

MA: That would be telling.

OC: Is there any of you in Helen?

MA: What a good question. Undoubtedly there is, though it’s well hidden. Helen doesn’t judge people or their lifestyles – which I hope is something I share. She is also something of a loner, or at least very self-reliant, which is a trait I exhibit. We all need people close to us, people we love, but I have always felt that you have to be strong in yourself. In the end you can’t 100% rely on anybody else and nobody is responsible for your happiness but you.

OC: Why do you think people are so fascinated by serial killers?

MA: I think what interests us most about crime, both real and imagined, is why people commit acts which they know to be harmful and immoral. Serial killers lie at the extreme end of this spectrum of wrongdoing – our interest in them therefore is most acute, because their behaviour is so bewildering in its depravity and aggression. We long to understand what we fear.

OC: Pop Goes the Weasel is the second installment in these thriller novels. Now that the main character has been developed, is the process of writing different? Is it harder or easier?

MA: Initially I found it harder, as suddenly there was pressure following the great success of Eeny Meeny. You write your first book for yourself (in secret!), but you write your second book for readers who’ve paid money for and enjoyed your first book. You feel a real responsibility not to let them down! It took me a while to start Pop, but once I got over my fear, I was flying and loved every minute of it.

OC: What are three must-see spots for someone traveling to the UK that won’t appear in a guide book?

MA: Steephill Cove on the Isle of Wight. The perfect horseshoe sand beach with brilliant rock pools for the kids to explore – known only to locals!
Covehithe beach in Suffolk. Again off the beaten track, but stunning in every way. Plus it’s near Southwold, home of the Adnams brewery – which to my mind is the best English beer.
The back streets of Southampton – you might find yours truly wandering around dreaming up evil deeds…

M.J. Arlidge

OC: What is your favorite city to visit?

MA: Seville in Spain. A beautiful sun-soaked city, with amazing architecture, brilliant food and a very Spanish pace of life. It’s hard not to relax here.

OC: Stephen King tweeted that he was going to get a copy of Eeny Meeny. Have you heard from him and are you a fan of his work?

MA: Yes, I’m a big fan of his work and am looking forward to his call!

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OC: First thing you do when arriving at a hotel in your room?

MA: Look for the mini-bar.

OC: Complete the following sentence: I never leave home without

MA: A good book. There’s no point wasting your life when stuck in a line or waiting for a plane.

OC: Of all the places you’ve never been, where are you most eager to go?

MA: Angkor Wat in Cambodia – it’s next on my hit list!

OC: One secret about you no one knew until now.

MA: I really wanted to be the new Roald Dahl, but took a wrong turning somewhere…

M.J. Arlidge, please use care upon departure as items may have shifted in The Overhead Compartment during our journey. Thanks for choosing us for your travel tips! Have a wonderful day!

Pop Goes the Weasel, available now.



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