Writer James Raven, whose varied career spans newspapers, TV and riveting crime novels, discusses his work, including his latest book, The Alibi, which is already climbing the Amazon charts and looks set to be a hit. He’s also a fan of this blog so he clearly has excellent taste!
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and mystery writing?
I’d describe my writing style as simple and straightforward, and it owes a lot to my career as a journalist. I was taught to always keep my prose short and punchy so that the pace is maintained and readers are never left confused and frustrated by long-winded sentences and descriptions. I happen to believe that this is the best approach to a crime novel and it’s what drew me towards this genre in the first place.
My late mother was a big fan of Agatha Christie and Mickey Spillane, and she encouraged me to try their books at an early age. I found them so exciting and easy to read that I was immediately hooked. Through my teenage years I read at least one crime novel a week and when I decided to become a writer I knew exactly what sort of books I would write.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past when writing fiction?
I was born in London and when I left school at sixteen my ambition was to be a journalist. I went on to report for local and national newspapers before moving into television. The first book I wrote was submitted to publisher Robert Hale who picked it up and then went on to release another seven of my novels. After running my own TV company for a number of years I decided to pack it in and write full-time. It’s what I enjoy most.
During my newspaper days I reported on a great many crime stories and the experience has proved invaluable. While writing my latest book, The Alibi (Avon/Harper Collins), I returned to my roots and even re-visited my old haunts in south London which form an integral part of the story.
How does your work in TV help you in your writing? How do you use the experience you have producing television and channel it into your writing?
Again, my experience working in television has provided a wealth of story ideas. In fact one of my books, Stark Warning, is the story of a TV chat show host who is told by an anonymous caller that every time she appears on screen someone will be murdered. She suddenly faces a terrible dilemma after the first body turns up. Several TV presenters I used to work with rang me up to say they hoped the book did not give some fanatical TV critic the wrong idea!!
Stark Warning was published several years ago but earlier this month it entered the top 100 Amazon chart in Canada, which came as a pleasant surprise.
Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular?
The Jaime Raven books – The Alibi and The Madam – have been compared to those of Jessie Keane and Kimberley Chambers. It’s a genre that’s very popular in the UK. Both books feature a strong female lead character.
Under my own name I’ve written five books in the DCI Jeff Temple series – The Blogger, Rollover, Dying Wish, Random Targets and Urban Myth. They’re all stand-alone thrillers and are published by Robert Hale/Crowood Press. The books are all set in and around Southampton, including the New Forest National Park.
Stark Warning and its follow up, The Depraved, are published by Endeavour Press and feature the so-called Celebrity Crime Squad, which investigates crimes against the rich and famous in London.
One of my most successful books is Malicious, which was downloaded 70,000 times over one weekend following an Amazon promotion. This features a female detective in the US who is addicted to online porn and gets into trouble when her web cam is hacked!
I like to think that I’ve had a degree of success because I try to come up with original ideas and don’t populate my books with too many characters.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
Most of my ideas come from newspapers. Every day I spot a story that has the potential to be developed into a book. I keep a cuttings file and it’s filled with hundreds of newspaper articles about everything from, court cases to unsolved murders.
I rarely experience writer’s block but when I do I just write the first sentence of a chapter regardless of whether it’s any good. This usually inspires me to carry on even though I will almost certainly go back and change what I’ve written.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
If I could collaborate with anyone on a project it would be thriller writer James Patterson, who is thankfully very much alive. I know he co-authors books with various writers and I’d jump at the chance to be among them. I like the way he writes and the fact that he doesn’t waste his words.
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
I’ve just finished a new book that is currently with my agent. I’m therefore very excited about it. I can’t give too much away but I can say that the concept is pretty unusual and involves child abduction.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?
The books and writers I’m mostly looking forward to reading in 2017 are those that I haven’t even heard of yet. I’m forever checking Amazon and blogs such as The Dorset Book Detective to see what’s new in crime fiction. Hardly a week goes by when something doesn’t catch my eye – be it a great cover or a glowing review. There’s never been a more exciting time for both readers and writers.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I would like to add how grateful I am to The Dorset Book Detective for giving me the opportunity to do this interview. It’s not often that I get the chance to talk about my writing or to express my views. So a big thank you and a happy New Year…