– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Cinderella Plan’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
Yorkshire-bred, Abi Silver is a lawyer by profession. She lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and three sons. Her first courtroom thriller featuring the legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb, The Pinocchio Brief, was published by Lightning Books in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. Her follow-up The Aladdin Trial, featuring the same legal team, was published in 2018.
Read more about Abi and her work at www.abisilver.co.uk .
When James Salisbury, the owner of a British car manufacturer, ploughs his ‘self-drive’ car into a young family, the consequences are deadly. Will the car’s ‘black box’ reveal what really happened or will the industry, poised to launch these products to an eager public, close ranks to cover things up?
James himself faces a personal dilemma. If it is proved that he was driving the car he may go to prison. But if he is found innocent, and the autonomous car is to blame, the business he has spent most of his life building, and his dream of safer transport for all, may collapse.
Lawyers Judith Burton and Constance Lamb team up once again, this time to defend a man who may not want to go free, in a case that asks difficult questions about the speed at which technology is taking over our lives.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Hi Stefanie. Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. My parents were both teachers, so I was lucky enough to grow up in a house full of books. But although I was always writing stories and plays and protest essays and composing my own alternative lyrics to the songs of the day (!), I became a lawyer and that occupied most of my time for a while. When I was on maternity leave, quite a few years back, I decided to try my hand at writing again, partly as a “release” in the evenings when the house was quiet, and then I found I just couldn’t stop.
Which books did you love to read as a child?
I loved Roald Dahl and Fantastic Mr Fox was definitely my favourite. True, it had some wonderful Quentin Blake illustrations to draw me in, but it was the story I loved; the crafty fox battling against the combined might of Farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean and, naturally, gaining the upper hand. Everyone loves an underdog – even when he’s a fox.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I have been fortunate enough to hear a number of my “hero” writers speak over the last few years and it is always wonderful to understand a little of what influences them. But I haven’t ever heard from Ian McEwan and I would love to talk to him. He is such a prolific and wonderful writer and his latest book, Machines Like Me covers so many of the themes which interest me.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I think it would have to be someone really terrifying to keep me on my toes. And also someone from whom I could learn a lot about the criminal mind. So, maybe someone like Hannibal Lecter, as long as he kept the mask and straight-jacket on. Then I would get to eat all the scones as well.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I drink lots of milky coffee and eat lots of biscuits. It really helps the ideas flow. I also walk around the house, speaking the characters’ words out loud. And I do print out bits of the story from time to time, especially if I have more than one thread, and move them around to help me decide on the order of events.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried?
I steal my ideas from absolutely everywhere. For example, the lie detecting technology in The Pinocchio Brief came from an article in New Scientist (all the technology referenced in my books is real) and Ahmad’s background in The Aladdin Trial was heavily influenced by the refugee crisis, which was on the News throughout 2016, when my ideas for the story were germinating. More generally, I overhear people speaking at bus stops, supermarket checkouts and underground stations and, if it interests me, I squirrel it away for later.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I always have the rough beginnings of a plot in mind, for example, a central theme and where it might take me. That’s it though. Then I just sit down and write. And in the three books I have written so far, I haven’t decided myself “whodunnit” till near the end of the writing process.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Do have a go. Unless you sit down and write and then read back what you’ve written (or ask a friendly person to read it) you won’t know what you can achieve.
Don’t give up. If it’s not perfect first time around (and it really won’t be), try again. I re-work things many times over till I’m satisfied.
What are your future plans as an author?
I am writing a fourth Burton & Lamb and I also have plans for something else which will be quite different.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
Sure. So this is from early on in the story. James Salisbury, the highly creative and dedicated CEO of SEDA (a UK-based manufacturer of self-drive cars) is addressing a government committee, with a view to promoting his cars. Alan Tillinghurst is the irascible Secretary of State for Transport and Peter Mears is Alan’s tricky special adviser, who has been working closely with James on an initiative to introduce self-drive cars into the UK. Shortly afterwards, though, James’ judgment is called into question in the most extreme way.
‘Extensive research has been carried out,’ Alan replied, ‘and the majority of people surveyed said they would not feel safe in a fully autonomous level five vehicle.’
‘But we all know the vagaries of market research,’ a woman on the end of the row joined in. ‘Who did you ask? People shopping at Westfield at 2pm on a Monday?’
‘You wanted to hear from a manufacturer and James has answered the question,’ Alan said. ‘We can debate the issue after he and the others have given their addresses today. Let’s allow someone else to ask a question now, shall we?’
‘How can you be so sure that your vehicles won’t have accidents?’ a woman to Alan’s left piped up.
‘We have been trialling our cars in the UK for the past five years,’ James replied. ‘We have driven over 600,000 miles and never had one collision. What I can say with confidence is that once all vehicles in the UK are autonomous, and they are all linked, connected – we’ve talked about this before – essentially, “speaking the same language”, then there will be no more accidents.’
‘And when do you anticipate that will happen?’
‘It depends on when the Bill is passed. But, assuming it’s in this reading, which is very much what I should like to see then, if level five vehicles are out in two years, I would say ten years maximum. Of course, the government could hurry things along by outlawing manual vehicles before then, but that’s not a matter for me.’
‘No, it isn’t,’ Peter muttered under his breath.
‘Are there any technical issues that concern you, which we should know about?’
‘Absolutely none. Not only with my own product, but I attend regular meetings with all the other autonomous car manufacturers worldwide. Perhaps surprisingly, we are very collaborative as, like myself, everyone sees the fantastic potential to change lives which these vehicles bring.’
‘You’ve already said that,’ Peter mumbled louder than he had intended, and his neighbour frowned at him.
‘I understand that people have concerns, and maybe part of that is the misunderstanding that driving is somehow a skill; we pride ourselves, don’t we, on being “a good driver” or “a careful and experienced driver”,’ James said. ‘We need to accept that driving is really just a process like any other, getting from A to B safely without colliding with anything. It doesn’t require emotional intelligence or judgment. It’s the perfect task for a machine to carry out.’
Alan half rose from his seat and swivelled around to face the committee chairman.
‘We are running a little behind schedule and our next speaker is waiting. Can I suggest that we allow Mr Salisbury to go now, and that any further questions are channelled through my office, in writing.’
Outside the auditorium, Peter clasped James’ hand tightly.
‘Well done,’ he said.
‘Thank you. Do you think that did the trick?’
‘Who knows? They are notoriously unpredictable, this lot, and cautious. But you were confident and behind your product and they liked you. That should go a long way towards oiling the wheels.’
‘So what happens next?’ James asked.
‘Two more speakers now. You can tune in, if you like. Then we go into a closed session for further debate, probably finish up in a couple of hours.’
‘And will that be it?’
Peter raised his eyes to heaven.
‘God knows,’ he said, ‘but we are getting there.’
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Abi Silver.
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The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!