For those of you who fancy reading an exciting new author interview this Bank Holiday I spoke to Fred Shackelford, author of the innovative thriller The Ticket, to find out more about what makes him tick!
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards darker fiction?
The Ticket has a plot-driven style. I attempted to write a page-turner with lots of twists and turns to move the story along at a quick pace. The plot revolves around a missing lottery ticket that will become worthless if it expires, so the tension mounts as the deadline approaches. The character development emerges primarily through dialog. The book’s style is dark because I created several very sinister characters that readers will love to hate. However, other characters are more sympathetic – perhaps even heroic.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past when writing fiction?
I’m an attorney who writes legal memoranda and briefs, so much of my professional writing is in a somewhat dry, technical style. However, some intriguing cases do inspire my creative thoughts. I’ve enjoyed venturing into fiction writing with The Ticket, as I have far more freedom in terms of style, vocabulary and subject matter in my role as a novelist. I draw on my past when I develop composite characters that possess traits that I’ve seen in people I’ve actually met.
With regards to the books you read, do you have any particular favourite writers or series?
My favourite author is John Grisham. When I began reading The Firm years ago, I couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. Coincidentally, Grisham and I live in the same county in Virginia, and I was fortunate to meet him one time in a local bookstore when I dropped in to sign a few copies of The Ticket. The owner invited me into a private room, where Grisham was busy autographing a huge stack of books.
I also enjoy the Henry Spearman mystery series by Ken Elzinga, who writes under the pen name Marshall Jevons. Elzinga’s protagonist is an amateur sleuth who solves crimes by applying economic analysis. Other authors of interest are John F. Jebb, III, Alden Bigelow, Janet Martin and Mary Morony.
How important do you believe variety in reading material is for a writer?
That’s very important. There’s something to be learned from every writer’s style, even though in rare cases the lesson is how not to write!
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
I developed the basic theme of The Ticket from a newspaper article about an unclaimed lottery jackpot. I tried to imagine an interesting scenario to explain why someone might wait until the last minute to cash in a winning ticket. When I experience writer’s block, I often take a break and stop trying to force an idea onto paper. Sometimes it helps just to walk outside and watch the world go by.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
I think it would be fun to work with Charles Dickens. I love the rich imagery in the text of A Christmas Carol. It would be a treat to get advice from such a creative author.
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
I may try to write a screenplay based on The Ticket. The formatting and style of a screenplay are markedly different from a novel, so it would not be easy. But writing my first novel wasn’t easy either, so we’ll see how it goes. Many readers have encouraged me to write a sequel to The Ticket, but it’s more likely that my next book will be a stand-alone novel. I’ve been mulling over some plot ideas. Some of them involve buried treasure, but that theme is a cliché, so I may have to come up with something more imaginative.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I hope everyone who reads this interview will rush out and buy a copy of The Ticket!
Thanks to Fred for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Fred and his work HERE.