Indie Interview: Ryan Casey

As a follow up to my review of his book Killing Freedom last week, today we’re being visited by Ryan Casey! I was impressed on a few levels with his book, and so I invited him to come here for another interview. As usual, my questions are in bold, his answers in regular text. Enjoy!

1. One thing that impressed me about this book is the amount of research you must have put into it. Can you tell us about your research process?

I’m going to throw an immediate spanner in the works and admit that I’m probably the worst researcher on the planet. Researching tends to bog down my first drafting process, and sucks the life out of the details. However, you’re right — I did have to research Killing Freedom, mainly because of a lot of technicalities with regards to all sorts of upbeat things, such as the correct lifting of dead bodies, and such.

That said, all of this research tended to come later in the process. After I finish a first draft, I go through it and make notes on areas that I know I need to elaborate on. Something I did have to try and account for was how Jared had managed to evade the police for so many years, but I think with the gang/government overarching narrative, I did a pretty decent job on it.
So, yes. Research can be a pain, but I think it’s about finding what works for you as a writer, then sticking with that.

2. Jared is a great example of how a character shouldn’t rely on the plot–his occupation is a convention that could be changed without damaging the character. Which came first–the moral conundrum or the story?

It’s the old ‘chicken or the egg?’ question, reframed for a twenty-first century audience! But that’s interesting because with Killing Freedom, I knew I wanted to write a hitman novel of some form, but I wasn’t initially aware of the dilemma. It was only when I started digging into Jared’s backstory — asking questions, writing down stream-of-consciousness thoughts — that I understood his dilemma. I think any character with a strong enough dilemma is enough to create a good story. Jared’s dilemma is that he wants to be free, but he can’t be free because he’s a career hitman. The main source of transformation in the book, without spoiling too much, revolves around Jared reframing his relationship to that goal of freedom, which hopefully makes for an interesting read. I don’t always write my books like this, but it definitely worked in the case of Jared. He’s a fascinating character.

3. There were some moments in this book that seemed inevitable, but were still shocking–one character’s fate in particular. Are the twists and turns in your writing planned, or do they surprise even you? 

Thank you — that’s one of the biggest compliments I can receive. I always try to surprise readers, but I keep it within reason. I love creating suspense around the inevitable, if that make sense? As for that particular moment (slight spoiler alert) I was a little worried I’d make a villain out of Jared, but I think there’s something so sad and tragic about that scene too. Initially, it was a little bit lengthier, but I like ending the scene on that image of the indentation in the long grass on the horizon. It’s a really sparse, really lonely moment, and I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written. I teared up writing it, I’m not gonna lie. It’s sinister, but it’s so, so sad, because that moment is Jared realising that everything he’s ever wanted is impossible. I’m pleased it worked for you, as a reader.

4. This book is violent, but never seems gratuitous when it easily could have been. Where do you draw the line between violence for the plot and violence for it’s own sake?

Thanks. I was worried Killing Freedom might go a little over the top in terms of violence because I was watching a lot of films like Drive and some Grindhouse stuff at the time. The reason I didn’t make the violence gratuitous is because I actually believe that it’s the smaller, more relatable pains that affect us more, as readers. If I wrote a scene where loads of people blew up in an explosion, then sure, that’s violent, but we can’t relate to that. However, our skin being cut by a sharp knife, or some rusty scissors? That’s real. It’s domestic items causing a lot of pain. The sequel (which I’m working on at the moment) also has some violent scenes, and again, I’m trying to find that line between necessary/unnecessary violence. I like to think that all violence should have a purpose — to advance the plot. I like to think that in Killing Freedom, it really does.

5. Everyone loves an anti-hero–what’s it like getting inside the head of a killer?

A lot of fun! Jared’s an interesting character because the sense is that deep down, he’s not all that bad a person. He’s sympathetic, despite all the terrible things he’s done in the name of somebody else. Killing Freedom really explores Jared’s relationship with killing for somebody else, and his realisation of whether he is truly comfortable with that. The sequel will explore another emotion, that I don’t want to go into too much yet, but it’s the natural and logical progression from book one.
And there we have it. If you haven’t had a chance, you can pick up Casey’s newest novel here. And of course, you can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter. Stay tuned for more reviews and interviews coming up!

2 comments on “Indie Interview: Ryan Casey

  1. Great interview James and Casey I completely agree “that it’s the smaller, more relatable pains that affect us more, as readers…” I am totally intrigued by this book even though I’ve never read your work but you sound like someone who totally understands how to utilise the elements of a story with maximum impact. Also its great to hear I’m not the only one who does most of their research after the first draft is written!

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