In British author R.J. Ellory's Candlemoth, a man convicted of killing his best friend reflects on their long relationship.

Where did you get the plot for Candlemoth?

The plot was always lurking there at the back of my mind. I wanted to write a death row thriller, with the feeling that time was just ticking away relentlessly, and the reader cannot really see any other outcome than the central character’s execution. However, the idea that I could really investigate all those areas of contemporary U.S. history and periods of great cultural significance was always the main thrust of the narrative, and that idea came about as a result of my fascination with Vietnam, Nixon, Watergate, the Kennedys, and Martin Luther King.

Why have you set so many of your books in the U.S.?

I have always maintained a deep and abiding fascination with U.S. culture, music, film, and the very structure of the society. The U.S. is such a young country, and yet so extraordinarily powerful and important in so many ways. There are few countries and cultures that you can visit in the world that do not bear an American influence, and that really interests me.

Why write stand-alones only?

For me, the excitement of a new novel is creating new characters. I try to create as strong a central character as I can, and then have the peripheral characters each stamp their unique mark on the page as well. I have a good friend who writes a series character, and he and I have had this discussion before. I think he has the harder job with a series. He thinks I have a harder job with stand-alones. With a series, once you have really established the character with the first two or three books, then every subsequent book has to be carried by the plot alone. It’s difficult to introduce some wild new angle to an already-established character. With stand-alones the book can be carried by both the characters and the plot.

You’ve written about the decline of literacy. What do you see as reversing that trend?

Education, and a real grasp of our responsibility for the next generation, and the generation beyond that. I’m saddened to see that lack of interest people have in reading, and I wonder what will happen in the future. I think until we really face the reality of how educational standards have declined, we’re going to continue to see a declining interest in reading and study. It’s also time to let teachers teach, for teachers hold one of the noblest and most important positions in any society or culture if that society or culture is to survive.