One of the amazing things about being a writer is that our words can live on after we die.
An author friend of mine, Eva Hudson, died from cancer earlier this year but her amazing thrillers continue to please readers. Fresh Doubt, Ingrid Skyberg #1 currently has 673 reviews on Amazon.com with 4 star average as well as being #1 in Crime Noir and #2 in Conspiracy Thriller. It's also available for free so you can check out the adventure here!
Tell us a bit about the Ingrid Skyberg books and why Eva chose to write a kick ass female FBI agent.
Eva was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, and instead of falling apart it made her even more determined to write. The Loyal Servant was quickly followed by two more thrillers, but what she had always wanted to create was a female Jack Reacher series.
When she found out the cancer was terminal in 2013, she knew she didn’t have any time to waste. As she couldn’t travel to do research, she decided to set the new series in London; however, she wanted an American protagonist so when she found out that FBI agents work out of the US Embassy in London, the Ingrid Skyberg FBI Thriller series was born.
When we first meet Ingrid in Fresh Doubt, she is a rule-following good servant of the Bureau, but by the end of the book she’s learnt how to bend those rules… and finds out that she’s not the goody-two-shoes she’d always thought she was. By the third book, Deep Hurt, Ingrid’s become a real maverick who will do whatever it takes to bring the bad guys to justice. We also see her personal life fall apart as she realizes the guy she’s engaged to is, frankly, a jerk and she starts to date again, often with unsuitable men.
Going through Eva’s books carefully – as taking over the Skyberg series is a responsibility I’m taking very seriously – I’ve been struck by how much of Eva is in Ingrid, even though biographically they share very little: Ingrid is a farm girl from Minnesota and Eva’s from a council estate in south London. What they have in common are a phenomenal determination and tenacity (all three of the Skyberg novels, plus a novella and a collection of short stories were written while Eva was ill), a love of leather jackets, a corresponding discomfort with high heels and posh frocks, and – oddly – an obsession with obesity. If you read the novels closely, you’ll see how often Ingrid notices someone’s weight or eating habits: that’s a direct consequence of Eva having seen her younger self as ‘a fat kid’.
It’s also impossible not to note that, as Eva’s health was failing, she invented an almost indestructible character who runs five miles without breaking into a sweat, who does parkour for fun, and who leaps up stairs four at a time. In that sense, Ingrid represents a big dose of wish fulfillment for Eva.
Eva was a Londoner. What did the city mean to her and why does it feature so much in her books?
From a novelist’s point of view, London is a gift.
It’s a city where anything can happen and it offers an almost limitless number of backdrops, from rundown industrial estates to glamorous art galleries, as well as landmarks that readers all over the world recognize. It’s home to the richest and the poorest people in Britain, and that diversity means plots can go in any direction. But that isn’t why most of Eva’s books are set in London, it was because she absolutely loved the city. It has that sense of endless possibility, of feeling that you can do anything and meet anyone, and Eva loved those London moments of coincidence and synchronicity.
What are the themes that keep coming up in Eva’s books? Both in the Skyberg series and her other award winning novels?
Aside from the fact that all Eva’s books feature strong, female heroines, the defining theme of all Eva’s work is justice, and not necessarily (in fact, not often) the kind handed out by the courts. The bad guys always get what’s coming to them.
Which authors did she read for pleasure?
Although reading thrillers became a bit like homework for Eva, it was obvious that some authors in the genre really gave her a kick: Lee Child, Michael Connelly, CJ Lyons.
In terms of literary fiction, she had huge admiration for Jeffrey Eugenides and Donna Tartt (she often said The Secret History was the best crime book ever written), but the authors she relished curling up with were Kate Atkinson, Sarah Waters and Hilary Mantel.
Tell us about Eva’s writing journey. What did she do before and how did she transition into writing?
Eva didn’t start writing seriously until her 40s. Before then, she’d been – among other things – a singer, a portrait artist, a dotcom entrepreneur, a civil servant and a project manager. But turning 40 was something of a catalyst: it was time to do what she what she had always wanted to do, which was to become an author.
At first she just read. And read, and read. She realized she enjoyed reading thrillers more than any other genre and became sure that there was some kind of ‘thriller code’ she could crack. So then she studied: she started breaking down the books she’d enjoyed most – Lee Child, Dan Brown, Michael Connelly – into their constituent parts and tried to work out the tricks that the authors she admired had used. Her bookshelves are full of guides on how to construct plots, develop characters, build tension, maintain pace: she really did her homework.
It was only afterwards that she started to write.
She learned from writing her first few books and, crucially, developed the habit of filling a blank screen with words. Her third book – a political thriller set in the heart of Westminster – was a game changer. She was a finalist for ITV’s People’s Novelist award (see Eva on video here) and The Loyal Servant won the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize from Cambridge University.
How do you feel taking over the reins of the Skyberg thrillers?
Massively daunted, but also hugely privileged. I’ve had lots of supportive emails from Eva’s fans and I know I’ve got a huge responsibility to make sure the next book in the series doesn’t let anyone down. However, I’ve got a few of things that are really helping me: the first is that, for the past ten years, I’ve worked as a ghostwriter, so I’m quite used to writing in different styles.
Another advantage is that Eva and I collaborated on a couple of novels a few years ago so I know how she thought and worked: The Hollywood Detective series was good fun, but had to take a back seat after she became ill. But the really big thing I have helping me is Eva’s notes. Not only did she leave an unfinished manuscript for the fourth Skyberg thriller that she had meticulously plotted out, but she also left me a sheaf of plots that take Ingrid on a huge arc of self-discovery in future books, so I even know what I need to foreshadow.
Taking on Eva’s legacy sometimes feels like hiking across vast and perilous terrain, but she’s left me with a detailed map and all the necessary tools, so it’s a bit like having the literary equivalent of Bear Grylls by my side.
The new title will be ready in the autumn (or Fall, as I need to start calling it – the Skyberg books use American English!), with more books in the series to follow. Assuming, that is, that the fans tell me I’m doing a good job.
You can follow my progress at evahudson.com/blog.
Madison Faber is a brilliant American psychology graduate studying at a prestigious London college. At 8.30 this morning she discovered her friend lying in a pool of blood.
Two hours later she’s in police custody being questioned for murder. Although traumatized and terrified, Madison is not alone. She has Special Agent Ingrid Skyberg at her side.
Agent Skyberg works the criminal division of the US embassy in London. It’s her job to rescue American citizens when they get into trouble. Unfortunately for Madison Faber, a murder charge is just the start of her problems.
Afraid the killer is now targeting her, Madison persuades Agent Skyberg to hunt him down before he strikes again.
But Ingrid is new to the embassy and fighting battles of her own. When she starts digging at Madison’s college, she uncovers a sinister group operating out of the psychology department. But the local cops won’t take Ingrid’s discoveries seriously, forcing her to continue her maverick investigations in secret.
Up against the clock, and disobeying strict FBI protocols, Ingrid’s obsession to bring the killer to justice forces her to take matters far beyond the law. So far she may never get back.
Fresh Doubt is the first in a series of thrillers featuring a new FBI heroine. Click here to buy on Amazon.