Today I have the pleasure of showcasing my interview with author Jason Beech, who uses his passion for great crime fiction and thrillers came some truly awesome examples of the genre that he created himself. He talks me through his work and his inspiration.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?
I read a lot of Ellroy, Rankin, Hiaasen, Banks and a lot more when I was young. Out of that pulped mass crawled my writing style. I loved the first book I wrote but I should never have published it – a mess of adverbs, typos, passive voice, and too many flashbacks that went on forever. I still tinker with it because it has a good core and a great cover, but it might never see the light of day again, or will take forever to chisel it into shape.
After that, I read a lot of Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal Magazine, and started on independent authors like Paul D. Brazill, Ray Banks, Ryan Bracha, Keith Nixon and the likes – just to see where you could go with independent fiction. They all spurred me on and helped refine my own style.
I love crime fiction because it digs deep into society’s ills, the stakes are high, and it’s not always black and white. The great stuff, such as Ellroy’s American Tabloid is so grey it thrills as well as kills a bit of you inside. Not necessarily a good thing, but definitely interesting.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?
I’m from Sheffield, England, but now live in New Jersey. I did a bunch of crummy jobs before I got my act together and went to university. After I got a degree in history I put it to good use by coaching football in America (round ball variety). I now run nine teams and take them round the state and country to compete.
English and PE were always my favourite subjects at school and I remember telling my English teacher at secondary school, Ms Clarke, that I’d write a book. I don’t think she believed me because I was such a lazy student, but she encouraged the thought. Loved that woman.
I fell into writing at a much later age. Went to university later in life, thought my writing might hinder any success I’d have in getting there, so, inspired by American Tabloid I tried my hand at writing a novel. It was rubbish, but I finished the beast and tried again. Improved my writing, organising, and critical thinking. Made a much better effort on the second book, but sat on it for years. Eventually published it, got better, cringed at the effort, and forced myself to improve, which I think I have. But there’s so much good stuff out there that you’re always learning and it all pushes you on to greater things.
Please tell me about your books and what you think draws readers to them.
Moorlands and City of Forts are both noir-ish crime tales, and though one is set in England and the other in America, they’re both based around family. The website CrimeReads might call them Family Noir. The protagonists in both have a similar love/hate relationship with their families and put a lot of stock in friends, but events in both novels rip the seams of their familial and friendship bonds.
The main terror in Breaking Bad for me was Skylar and Junior finding out what Walt did to get all that money. That breakdown between them, Skylar’s walk into the pool, Walt’s warped idea that he did it all for the family – the stakes don’t get higher than that. Anybody who enjoys that kind of thing will, I hope, enjoy my books, along with the violence and writing style.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
It might be something from my past, added to something I’d read for extra drama, combined with a lot of what ifs? My home city, Sheffield, pops up a lot, even if I’ve set a story in America. City of Forts is set in a nameless town in industrial America, but the images often come from the sea of bricks from demolished factories I remember as a kid. It’s amazing how often they smash into my head when I batter the keyboard. I outline the chapter if I get writer’s block. Solves everything.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
I’d collaborate with Iain Banks, the great Scottish writer. Again, he has a family thing going on in a lot of his books, especially the warped Wasp Factory, which showed me how demented you could go in a story. I love how you can swim in the meandering The Crow Road, a book more about characters than plot – which often annoys me, but not Banks.
For a living author – I’d go with Kate Laity. She has this strange real-not-real thing going on in her stories, which get under your skin and sit in the back of your mind for ages afterwards. You should read her Unquiet Dreams collection. The one about a murdered girl who’s now a ghost will haunt your days, I’m telling you. However, how the hell do writers work on a joint project? That sounds unworkable to me.
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
Yes. I have a new short story collection coming out, Bullets, Teeth, & Fists 3. Some you might have read online, others will be just for the collection. Then I have a new novel out in November, Never Go Back, all noir.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?
I need to get my hands all over Paul D. Brazill’s Last Year’s Man, Aidan Thorn’s Rival Sons, Kate Laity’s Love is a Grift, Tom Pitts’ 101 (and American Static), Tom Leins’ Boneyard Dogs and Matt Phillips’ Countdown as well as others. There’s too much, I worry I’ll never get through it all – just like my Netflix queue.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Just a big thanks to all those writers who see the good stuff outside their own work. I’d never have read Kate Laity if it wasn’t for Paul D Brazill. I wouldn’t have read Paul D. Brazill if it hadn’t been for somebody else (sorry, can’t remember who) hadn’t eulogised him.
A big thanks, too, for Ryan Bracha, who gave me (indirectly) a kick up the backside whenever I thought I was wasting my time (this was on an FB group a ton of writers belong to.)
David Nemeth is great at highlighting great independent fiction (and brutally honest at the work he doesn’t like, which makes him a crucial). All the readers who dive into my work: thanks all.
Thanks to Jason for answering my questions! It’s great to hear from a Paul D Brazill fan!