by Alexandra Sokoloff

Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing my blog sister, Zoë Sharp, on her new book, the ninth in the Charlie Fox series: FIFTH VICTIM.


To introduce the interview, I started thinking back to the first few times I met Our Zoë.  And I realized when I first met her, I was intimidated. Now, that’s not something you’ll hear me saying often, about anyone. And as I thought about it, it occurred to me that I was intimidated because I knew I couldn’t fool her. Writers are perceptive people as a species, but even so I think most people tend to buy my public persona.  Which is not NOT me, it’s just not ALL of me.  With Zoë – I knew that wouldn’t work, not for two seconds. There was going to be no hiding anything from this woman.  I didn’t know how I felt about that, so I hung back until I knew her better.  (It was worth the wait!)

Zoë’s heroine Charlie Fox is that way. You cannot get anything by her; she sees to the core of people and also to the core of situations. She has a wry sense of humor and she can take the piss out of anyone (how’s that for British?) without even trying. But she also has this aura that is pure, white-hot power. You do NOT want to mess with this woman.  You especially want to be careful when she gets still. And if you were in trouble, this is the first person you would want to have watching your back.

Just exactly what you would want in a bodyguard.

We sat down over our computers, transatlantically, to talk about the book.



On Long Island, the playground of New York’s wealthy and privileged, Charlie Fox is tasked with protecting the wayward daughter of rich businesswoman Caroline Willner. It seems that an alarming number of the girl’s circle of friends have been through kidnap ordeals, and Charlie quickly discovers that the girl herself, Dina, is fascinated by the clique formed by these former victims.

Charlie worries that Dina’s thrill-seeking tendencies will put both of them in real danger. But just as her worst fears are realized, Charlie receives devastating personal news. The man who put her partner Sean Meyer in his coma is on the loose.

She is faced with the choice between her loyalties to her client and avenging Sean, but the two goals are soon inextricably linked. The decisions Charlie makes now, and the path she chooses to follow, will have far-reaching consequences.

Alex: So how do you research the habits and habitats of the wealthy and privileged?  Enquiring minds want to know. 

Zoë: My day job used to involve a lot of writing about classic cars – often very expensive and rare vehicles that were, by their definition, owned by people with a lot of disposable income. Spending any time of time around these people tells you that the rich are another country – they do things differently there. For the families I describe in FIFTH VICTIM, I guess I just built on that experience and took the next instinctive leap forwards.

Alex: Well, I love how completely unfazed Charlie is by all of it – her dry nonchalance is a riot. Also I noticed Charlie’s pretty comfortable around horses and slings that terminology around like a pro. Did you grow up riding?  Do you still?

Zoë: I confess that I did grow up with horses. In fact, my only professional qualification is as a British Horse Society riding instructor. It struck me when I started planning FIFTH VICTIM that I’d  never used this knowledge in any of the books, and yet I’d made mention  of Charlie having horses in her background, so I thought I’d like it to  play a larger role. Besides anything else, it fitted into the story so nicely, in a way that tennis lessons, say, simply would not have done.

Alex: Wow, I didn’t know that about you, although you do have the aura. I thought it was clever how Charlie uses the horse in that one fight scene. So obvious, and yet I’ve never seen it before.

Okay, since we’re kind of on the subject, when I blog and teach I’m always reminding my readers/students that people read books and watch movies for a vicarious experience. In FIFTH VICTIM you take us into the rarefied world of the Hamptons, the horse culture, the yacht culture.  As an author, do you consciously use settings like this to provide a fantasy experience for your readers? 

Zoë: Not especially, although for people to require close protection, often by definition they have the most to lose. The higher the stakes, the greater the conflict, and I like to put Charlie in situations of conflict.

Alex: Speaking of conflict, you’ve got a great love triangle going on in FIFTH VICTIM (I’m Team Parker, if you’re wondering).

Zoë: Are you? Hmm, interesting. I thought you’d be more of a fan of Sean’s bad-boy image.

Alex: Maybe I hit my limit in real life. But what I was wondering was – did that complication surprise you, or have you been plotting the triangle for years, now?

Zoë: I’d love to be able to say it was all planned from the start, but the truth is that the awkward relationship between Charlie and Sean and her boss, Parker Armstrong, was one of those things that developed more as the series went along. When I came to write this book and I was looking back, though, I was surprised to realise that there had been little signs previously that Parker looked on her as more than a simple employee. So it must have been fermenting away at a subconscious level somewhere. 

Alex: I love it when that happens, actually!

All right, now I have to ask about Torquil. He’s one of those wonderful love-to-hate-him characters. Just that name! You can refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate you, but is he anyone you know?

Zoë: Actually, Torquil is nobody I know – honest. OK, so there might be one or two traits I’ve observed in various people who shall definitely remain nameless, but nobody specific. I think that all through this book I was working on a theme of people appreciating what they have – or failing to appreciate it until it’s too late and they don’t have it any more by which time it’s too late to go back. I wanted to embody some of that feeling in one character in particular, and Torquil was it. 

Alex: That is the way it played out – I never expected to feel sympathy for him, but I did. 

A completely different question, but fascinating to a non-series writer: I like the way your number titles are always actually significant to the story!  Does your series name concept influence your plots at all, or do you have the plots first and then figure out how to integrate the proper number in as a clue or significant phrase?  Is it a hassle or does it actually inspire you?

Zoë: It’s both inspiring and a hassle – and totally confusing, as FIFTH VICTIM is actually the ninth book, not the fifth. See what I mean?

Alex: Oh, yike. That is confusing.

Zoë: I wrote the first three books (KILLER INSTINCT, RIOT ACT, HARD KNOCKS) before the title FIRST DROP arrived from the rollercoaster reference. I  had absolutely no idea that my first US publisher would jump on that  and want the next book they took (actually book six, as ROAD KILL came  after FIRST DROP) to be called SECOND Something. I’m dropping the numerical sequence for the next one, a New Orleans-set tale called DIE EASY.

Alex: And you know I can’t wait for that one! Tell us a little about your research in my favorite city. 

Zoë: There’s a feel and a texture to New Orleans that really interested me. Plus the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing aftermath give the city a stark edge. People there spent a long time looking into the abyss and you can’t go through something like that and not emerge unchanged.  I was in New Orleans in mid 2010 – five years after Katrina – and some parts of it still look as though people evacuated and never went back. 

And although you look at the tourist areas and it’s all business as usual, there felt to be something defiant about it, something ever so slightly forced. I found that contrast fascinating. As an outsider I also felt there was a great sense of betrayal. Coming four years after 9/11 I think there was an expectation that if something really bad happened – whether a natural or man-made disaster, the government would be ready for it. Katrina proved they were not. 

Alex: Not ready or not willing. But you don’t even want to get me started on the betrayal surrounding Katrina!

So what’s next for Charlie—besides that complicated love life? 

Zoë: That’s a good question. I’m planning to take a little break from her next so I can write something new. In 2011 I had a pretty full-on  Charlie Fox year, what with organising getting the backlist to e-book  format, plus I did the short story e-thology for which I wrote a brand  new 12,000-word long short, Truth And Lies, and then did another  Charlie short in December, Across The Broken Line, plus DIE EASY. So, I’d really like a breather, just to take stock with the character and the direction she’s moving in. Having said that, of course, an idea for the next book in the series has already been forming vaguely in the back of my mind. I shall try to keep it in check!  I’ll keep writing about Charlie for as long as people want to keep reading about her. As long as I continue to have avenues of her character that I feel I can explore – as long as she has something to say to me – then the interest is there for me as a writer. I keep putting her under pressure, whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological, and I see what happens. So far she’s always come out fighting. 

Alex:  Was your first Charlie Fox book your first novel, or did you have a few practice novels before that? 

Zoë: I did write a novel when I was fifteen, which I wrote long-hand and  my father, bless him, typed up for me. It did go out to publishers and  received “rave rejections”. I believe it may still be in a box in the  attic. My father keeps threatening to dig it out and put it on eBay. I  just threaten him at this point … Charlie was, therefore, my first real novel, and although I rewrote KILLER INSTINCT several times the basic  core of the book stayed true to the original idea.

Alex: And you’ve now got all the first Charlie Fox books up as e-books.  Can we get a list, in order? 

Zoë: To try to diffuse the confusion I’ve added the book order into the titles. It just seemed the best way to do it.

The full list is:

KILLER INSTINCT: Charlie Fox book one

RIOT ACT: Charlie Fox book two

HARD KNOCKS: Charlie Fox book three

FIRST DROP: Charlie Fox book four

ROAD KILL: Charlie Fox book five

SECOND SHOT: Charlie Fox book six

THIRD STRIKE: Charlie Fox book seven

FOURTH DAY: Charlie Fox book eight

FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine

DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten – coming 2012!

And today we’re giving away an e book to a randomly chosen commenter – any one of the first five Charlie books, winner’s choice.

Thanks so much, Zoë!


37 thoughts on “Zoë Sharp’s FIFTH VICTIM

  1. Pari Noskin

    Each time I read about our Zoë, I learn something new. This time it was the horse info.

    And, Alex, I was certainly intimidated by Z too . . . and when I sat and spoke with her that transformed into sheer admiration. We're so fortunate to have you both here at the 'Rati!

  2. Richard Maguire

    A really great interview, Alexandra.

    Zoe, I read THIRD STRIKE and loved it. My first time meeting Charlie. FIRST DROP and SECOND SHOT are now in my TBR pile and I'm really looking forward to them. I realise I'm reading the series out of sequence, but that's ok, because I'll eventually get around to all of your books. Thanks for a great read.

    Oh – and please count me out of the "give away". I don't have an e-reader.

  3. Tammy Cravit

    Terrific interview – thanks for sharing! And for those of you who haven't read FIFTH VICTIM (or Zoë's other books) – what are you waiting for??

    As to the relationship between Charlie, Sean and Parker – how torn I felt reading FIFTH VICTIM! Charlie and Sean…but Charlie and Parker…terrific chemistry all the way around, and I don't know as a reader which outcome I find myself wishing for more. As a writer, I imagine that must be a lot of fun for you to play with…

    So, when's the next book due out? If it's too far off, I may have to go back to KILLER INSTINCT and re-read the whole series to stave off my Charlie Fox withdrawal cravings.

  4. Sarah W

    My Christmas copy of Fifth Victim *finally* arrived!

    After my husband caught me lurking around on Amazon holding my credit card, I was forced to promise I wouldn't buy the e-version, even though it wouldn't be in print in the States for weeks after.

    I'm halfway through and it's well worth the wait — though I'm never making a promise like that again. Bad for my blood pressure.

  5. Sarah W

    No, I don't have one-click. I like to think that extra thirty seconds of logging in will slow me down . . . Clearly, it doesn't.

    Which is why my husband puts the kibosh on ordering anything on my wish list between November 1 and December 31 — I can't even put anything on hold at the library. He's tired of seeing me read stuff he's already ordered.

    Or so he says. Personally, I think he likes watching me go through withdrawal, the sadist.

    (oh, and I forgot to say, that I agree — Zoë is amazingly cool)

  6. Reine

    Wow! Fantastic interview, Alex and Zoë. Now I realize why I keep confusing Charlie with Zoë. I already knew both were very cool, but this is more of a "you can run, but you can't hide" sort of thing of the mind. I'm blithering (but typing better due to brand new , today, computer controls via bluetooth device on power wheelchair).

    Zoë is the most collected person I have ever met. Knowing that pandering could not get past her, you know I'm telling the truth. And she's nice, too. So there. Collected. Sharp. Witty. Cool. Very nice human being. [But I'm pissed she won't be here in Tucson for the book fest this March.]

  7. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Everyone
    First of all, I’m SO sorry not to reply to comments yesterday. Our internet went down and I’ve had to go find an internet café to get on line this morning. Not easy when you live in the wilds of Cumbria!

  8. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari
    Hey, I’m just a pussy cat. What’s with all this intimidation lark? And horses were a big part of my life at one point. I keep threatening I’m going to go back and do some more side-saddle, which I loved.

  9. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Richard
    I agree – Alex did a great job with the questions.
    Glad you’re enjoying the books, and I have tried not to include big plot spoilers from one to the next, so you can read them out of order without finding out things you really didn’t want to know.

  10. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alex
    Thank you so much for doing this and again, I’m sorry I couldn’t get to answer any of these yesterday. You don’t realize how much you rely on having instant internet access until it suddenly stops working. Argh!

  11. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Tammy
    Thank you for the recommendation!

    Hmm, the Sean-Parker-Charlie triangle is an interesting one and I’m still working out what I’m going to do with it! And I’m in the final throes of DIE EASY at the moment, but don’t have a pub date yet 🙂

  12. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks Sarah
    I try to avoid ordering anything in Dec, too, just in case. January is usually a time for some mad ordering, though – especially nice if I get book tokens or vouchers for Christmas 🙂

  13. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Reine
    Sorry, I managed to post this without answering the second half of your comment.

    I’m going to skip over the nice things you’ve said, ‘cos I get all embarrassed about praise. (Yes, Charlie and I are very alike in that respect.)

    I would have loved to be in Tucson again this year, but there was a mix-up, apparently. I’m told I do have a firm invite for next year, though …

  14. Dru

    Hi Zoe,

    Great interview and I loved that ending on The Fifth Victim. I can't wait to see what Die Easy brings to Charlie and the gang.

  15. Reine

    Hi, Zoë. It's our fault you're not coming to Tucson this year! Waaaaaah! Oh nooooo! So embarrassing! Next year, then. xo

  16. Zoe Sharp

    Hi NM
    Glad to be of use 🙂

    Hi Dru
    DIE EASY is in the final throes, so I hope to find out how it turns out, too …

    Hi Reine
    Never mind – it will make me look forward to next year even more 🙂

    (Internet still down so I'm borrowing a friend's. Argh!)

  17. Karen, NZ

    What a relief to know that other people go through withdrawal symptoms 🙂 I am also torn re the Sean/Parker situation, though I want to know what happens next (and not). Richard don't count yourself out unless reading on a computer screen is too much – there's a free kindle for PC download or Zoë may have other formats available.
    Thanks Zoë for such awesome writing, am grateful there are more Charlie stories, though am fascinated by something different too – I like the way you write….

  18. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Karen
    Sorry about the withdrawal symptoms – I'm writing as fast as I can!

    And I'm looking forward to trying something different, which will enable me to come back to Charlie refreshed 🙂

  19. Reine

    Zoë, you really do have my attention on the doing-something-new front. That's always exciting yet not meaning to imply any lack of want for more of what we already have. xo


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