Author Keith Wright talks to me about his work and the influences behind it this weekend!
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.
I think my writing style comes from reading an author called Ed McBain, who was a master of the crime novel in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. These were the first crime novels I had read, many of which were before my time. I read them retrospectively, when I was about 14 or 15 years old. They blew me away; I couldn’t get enough of them. They were gritty, fast paced and seemed to be honest.
The key elements of my writing style seem to be well-paced, gritty, painfully truthful and good use of epigrams. (I had to look it up too, when a reviewer mentioned it).
I guess my experience in the subject matter also fuels my style, as I like to think that I know how things evolve in that seedy world. I don’t have to guess. I know that even in the heat of a drama sometimes humour can invade. I know how criminals and cops tend to talk to each other, and it is not always the way it is portrayed in books and films. This gives me a confidence, I think, which may not be evident for others dealing with a genre that they have not experienced personally. I was listening to an eBook recently and an arms dealer was showing resistance to a proposal; he used the phrase ‘I should Coco.’ I’m not sure that would have been the phrase used by such a man. Books don’t have to be true, and there is an element of escapism, but for me at least, within that escapism we have to believe it, or we become self-aware of the fiction.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing?
I come from a working-class background. As a child we lived in a two bedroomed pre-fab, which had been built for the war as temporary accommodation until they were pulled down and we moved in 1970. My Mum and Dad were in one bedroom and five kids were in the other. I don’t mind disclosing that my Dad was a functioning alcoholic, he’s long since dead and he left home when I was 10. Maybe escaping some of his shenanigans in my mind helped grow a fertile imagination? I went to a comprehensive school and our ‘careers’ advice, consisted of being given a list of about thirty jobs, and we had to choose three.
I ticked: Postman / Journalist / Policeman. The fact I picked journalist perhaps indicates a love for the written word. My career teacher told me I had no chance of becoming a policeman. So, in 1979 I left school and joined the police force. Within a few years I was on CID working the area I was brought up in, and was eventually promoted to Detective Sergeant.
I had always thought about getting into writing and when I was about 26, I began to write a book as an experiment. I wrote a manuscript out longhand with a pen, and I realised that it was pretty good. I then hired (yes, hired) an electronic typewriter and typed it up. I sent it to various agents and was eventually accepted by a terrific old guy called Jeffrey Simmonds, whom I met and he was so insightful. He found me a publisher with Constable (now Little Brown) and the rest is history.
What books do you read yourself and how do they influence your own work?
I don’t read as much as I should. I tend to read autobiographies, as I love people and their stories. Good crime fiction is a rare treat also. I like Peter Robinson and Ian Rankin, as well as the American author Ed Mcbain, of course. I have had dinner with all three, bizarrely over the years. It’s a strange world.
I don’t like to let others influence my work too much, and I am much too critical; too much description, bad speech patterns, nothing is happening etc. I’m sure other authors may well say similar things about my work. We don’t read books as readers; we read them as writers, if that makes sense.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
My inspiration for plots come from active thinking; what sort of plot is meaty enough to get into? I just invent it. Sometimes a life event could trigger a scene or a theme, but rarely an entire plot.
I have been both pantster and plotter with my novels, but I much prefer pantster. I need a general circumstance or a handful of story arcs and set off on the journey.
Usually particular scenes are influenced more from experience rather than the whole book itself. Even little episodes I will tap down in my phone to prompt me. An example of this happened recently, when I was visiting a relative who had just had a baby. The woman from the hospital catering arrived at her bedside.
‘Would you like a sandwich, my love?’
‘Yes please. What is there?’
‘Cheese, Ham or Tuna.’
‘Do you do cheese on brown?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘OK, well, can I have cheese then please, on brown, or if not, on white?’
‘So, you want a tuna sandwich.’
‘No, I don’t like Tuna.’
‘Okay, my love Ham it is.’
Now this sort of conversation is too bizarre to be made up. I think sometimes writers may miss opportunities by writing about, in this instance, a woman ordering a cheese sandwich, and it would be flat, yet these sorts of conversations are happening around us all the time, if we only happen to notice.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
I would love to collaborate with Ed Mcbain, but as I have mentioned him a couple of times, I would also love to work with Charles Dickens. That Dickensian truthfulness, and despair wrapped around humour and characterisation. A man who clearly loves the themes he is writing about, and hypnotising all who read them.
What’s up next for your writing? Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
I am in the process of re-writing my third book Addressed to Kill. Set at Christmas time. (Charles Dicken would be pleased), I have new characters and scenes I am adding as well as giving more depth to the existing characters and narrative. It gives me the opportunity to deal with things like anxiety, through my characters, and being set in the 1980’s it gives me the opportunity to address issues such as racism and sexism, so long as it flows naturally and does not become the main theme of the book, rather adding some thought provoking moments than preaching.
I am also preparing to put my first novel One Oblique One on to Audible and have taken the decision to narrate it myself. I am also doing promotional work on both One Oblique One and Trace and Eliminate, my two latest books, which are currently available on Amazon and Kindle and KU. I am doing some interviews on radio and magazines, as well as writing articles for magazines here in the UK and in the States.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?
Trace and Eliminate the second book in the Inspector Stark series has just been released, and as I have touched on – Addressed To Kill should be out in the next month or two.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
For my final comments I’d just like to discuss my books. Firstly, One Oblique One is about the Marriott family, who are discovered murdered in their own home. The daughter; 19 year old Faye, seems a good girl, but DI Stark and his team discover there is more to her than meets the eye. Tragedy strikes before they capture the true killer.
Next is Trace and Eliminate, about a young solicitor who lies on a mortuary slab having been brutally murdered. Within a short space of time there is another killing. It appears that a group of former college friends are embroiled in the multiple deaths. 6 of them are left. One is the killer, and one is the next to be killed. But who is who?
Finally, Addressed To Kill is my upcoming book about a disturbed sex attacker is tearing Christmas apart. His psychosis is so entrenched, that each crime appears to be getting more and more grotesque. Death being the only outcome. The killer is not caught before DI Starks own family become wrapped up in this maniac’s diseased mind, with tragic consequences.
Thanks very much to Keith for taking the time, it’s ben great. You can follow the author on Twitter @keithwwright. Visit his website for free short stories and samples of his books: keithwrightauthor.co.uk