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February 1, 2019

Interview with Diane May, author of EVO

by MK French

Recently, I reviewed the crime thriller Evo by Diane May. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her debut novel.

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I am curious about the research that went into the writing process. The science felt plausible and wasn't too technobabble-y, so was that a function of the research you did, or do you have some background in genetics?

As I don’t have a background in either genetics or medicine, it took me almost a year to actually understand how the science behind the idea in Evo might work, and a thick notebook full of notes. And this while also working a full-time job and writing the book. And do you know how much I’ve actually included in the book? About five percent. But I needed to first understand it myself before explaining it to the reader without going into too many technical details. After all, it wasn’t a scientific paper on genetics that I was trying to write. But that wasn’t the only research I had to do. I needed to find out about weapons, military gadgets and bunkers (the bunker mentioned in the book is real and it was a NATO bunker, now decommissioned), and how the Italian police work. And this was by far the most difficult part of my research as there are two police forces in Italy, State Police and Carbinieri, and they both appear to have the same jurisdiction and the same attributes. I’m still confused about their roles, and because of this, I decided to focus less on the police procedure in Evo. But I won’t be able to do this in my second novel as it is a proper police procedural. Wish me luck! ☺

And by the way, just to give you an idea of how current the events portrayed in Evo are, here’s a link to a news report that circled the globe at the end of November last year, about a Chinese geneticist who used a gene editing technology called CRISPR to engineer twin baby girls whose DNA was designed to resist the HIV infection. This means that we already have genetically engineered babies in this world and I don’t know whether to be scared or happy about it. The truth is we have no idea how this will affect future generations, as even one tiny altering in our DNA could lead to more changes and they might be catastrophic. But let’s be optimistic and hope for the best.

The characters all felt fully fleshed out, with a lot of history that is referred to but not elaborated on in the text. Do you tend to have all of the characters' history done ahead of time, or is a lot of it a mystery to you as well?

When inspiration strikes and I have an idea for a new book, I always get the characters done first. I need to know everything about them, from when they were born and what experiences they had in high school, to why they are who they are today. Then I start writing and after I’ve written about a quarter of the novel, I’ll stop and work on my characters again. And this is where I need to know them as well as I know myself. Their deepest desires, darkest fears, best-hidden secrets. Everything. And once I do that, do you know what happens? They start making their own decisions and don’t listen to me anymore! Ungrateful little…well, you get the idea. Ernest Hemingway used to say that “when writing a novel, a writer should create living people,” so when my characters start telling me where they want to go, that’s when I know I’m working with people and not mere characters anymore.

There were different plot threads in Evo, and at first, it didn't seem to be connected. What was the inspiration for them?

The unfolding of the story itself was the inspiration. As the novel kept advancing and my characters came to life, the plot thickened, so to speak. At the beginning, I only had Livio Marchiori, Maya Blake, Charles Lambton, Doc, and The Hypnotist. Soon after, Alex O’Neal joined them and he added another thread to the story. Then Maya’s dad and the funny thing here is that all the chapters featuring him were written during my second draft.

Which location was your favorite to write about?

Verona. No doubt about it. Although Transylvania is also amazingly beautiful and comes a close second. But Verona is in my heart and will always stay there. I actually wanted to include many more details about this wonderful city, but my husband asked me whether I had changed my mind and decided to write a tour guide instead of a crime thriller, so I had to cut them out.

What were the biggest influences in writing this novel? Or writing in general?

The truth is, all of the books I read influence me and my writing one way or another. But what got me started writing was Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun. I read it when I was 13 years old and loved it so much that I didn’t want it to end. So when it inevitably did, I decided to continue the story because I couldn’t bear the thought of having to leave the amazing world he had created. I soon discovered that my words didn’t seem to hold the same magical power though, as my characters seemed adamant on remaining lifeless stick figures and they didn’t jump off the page the way his did. But I kept at it, I read and wrote, and…now I am here. There are many writers who have had an influence on my writing. I learnt how to create suspense that raised the hairs on your back from Tess Gerritsen; how to write detailed action scenes from Tom Wood; how to describe feelings and emotions from Kristin Hannah; how to keep up the tension throughout the novel from Lee Child; how to write twists and turns from Dan Brown. They are all amazing writers and I can only hope that one day I’ll write as well as they do.

Buy Evo at Amazon

About the Author

Diane May
Diane May is a crime thriller writer and she lives in Verona, Italy, with her husband. When she's not in her office writing, she can usually be found curled up on the sofa with a good book in her lap and a cup of green tea next to her.

The only daughter of an army colonel, she grew up on military bases where she learnt about weapons, discipline and the sacrifices of military life. She also worked for many years as a translator and interpreter for the Court of Law on mostly criminal cases.

EVO is her debut novel and she is currently working on her second crime thriller, Till Death Do Us Part, scheduled to be released in the summer of 2019.
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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever. 

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  1. Thank you MK and Donna! I really enjoyed the questions and had fun answering them.��

  2. Woah! First of all, I LOVE that cover!! Second, great interview! I love learning more about the writing process! Third, I'm definitely going to have to check out this book!