Paula Williams Interview: “It was the proudest moment of my life when I was accepted as a full member of the Crime Writers’ Association!”

paula williams

Murder mystery writer Paula Williams shares some insights into her work and the influences behind it.

Tell me about the books you write. Why do you have such a passion for crime fiction in particular?

At the moment I’m writing a series of murder mysteries, set in a small Somerset village called Much Winchmoor. The village is fictional but bears an uncanny resemblance to the one I live in, although as far as I know, there are no murderers among my friends and neighbours.

I do, indeed, have a passion for crime fiction. It’s my favourite genre and they do say you should write the kind of story you like to read, don’t they? I don’t like too much graphic violence and am not comfortable being inside a serial killer’s head. So my books are in the ‘cosy’ category, although that makes them sound a bit pink and fluffy which they are not.

My heroine, Kat, is young and sassy. She’s one of the ‘boomerang’ generation, forced by financial problems to return to the village in which she grew up – and feeling as out of place there as ‘a canary at a cat show’ (her words, not mine!). She would leave tomorrow but for two things. Firstly, she can’t afford it. Secondly, her on/off romance with her childhood friend, Will, a farmer whose family have been in Much Winchmoor since the days when Judge Jeffreys scoured the West Country looking for rebels to hang, draw and quarter after the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685. Will is as much a part of Much Winchmoor as the village duck pond and this is part of Kat’s dilemma. Should she give up on her dream of a proper career in the media… or give up on the man who, she sometimes thinks, is the love of her life? My Much Winchmoor series can be summed up as murder mysteries, sparkling with humour and sprinkled with romance.

What was the first crime fiction novel you read and how did it draw you into seeking out more books of this genre?

My mother introduced me to Agatha Christie when I was about 12 and I have loved her books ever since. I then went on to discover Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers and all the writers of that golden age of crime fiction. I’ve been reading and enjoying a wide variety of crime fiction ever since.

It was the proudest moment of my life when I was accepted as a full member of the Crime Writers’ Association! Imagine me, in the same company as the likes of Ian Rankin, Peter James et al! I still have to pinch myself – although I remind myself that while they are top of the Premiership, I am probably lurking around the bottom of Third Division South.

Please tell me about your background. How did you get into writing and publishing your work?

I have always written but I began selling my work about 12 years ago when I started writing short stories for women’s magazines. I really enjoyed writing the ‘twist in the tail’ stories, where the writer deliberately misleads the reader and they sold so well that I realised that the same misdirection technique could be used to write crime stories. So I started writing longer stories and serials and soon found I enjoyed writing crime fiction as much as I enjoyed reading it. During that time I sold over 400 stories and serials in the UK and overseas.

But the world of women’s magazines has changed hugely in the last decade. When I started writing for them, there were 14 different magazines in the UK that published fiction. Now, it’s a mere handful, and so I started thinking about branching out into full-length novels. I’d already sold several ‘pocket’ novels, which are now in Large Print so it was just a small step from that to writing a full-length novel.

After a bit of Internet research I found my present publisher, Crooked Cat Books, who were accepting unsolicited submissions at the time. They published the first in the Much Winchmoor Series, Murder Served Cold in October 2018 and the second, Rough and Deadly, is coming out in April 2019. I am currently writing the third, with the provisional title of Burying Bad News. And have plans for more.

I also write a column in the UK magazine Writers’ Forum. Called Ideas Store, it focuses on where writers get their ideas. I have been writing this column for over eleven years now and still enjoy asking the question that every writer is said to dread.   ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ So far, no one has refused to answer it.

Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

The Much Winchmoor series are written in the first person. This does not make it easy as it means that every scene I write has to be from Kat’s viewpoint, which can be a bit restricting. But when I started writing Murder Served Cold, I just couldn’t ‘get’ the tone of it to start with. It just didn’t feel right. So I switched from third person to first and as soon as I did, Kat began talking to me (and at me) and hasn’t stopped since.

She has such a strong voice and her snippy comments are so much an integral part of her personality that I’m afraid I’m stuck with it. Although I do have a few scenes from the murderer’s viewpoint sometimes – and yes, I know I said I didn’t enjoy being in a murderer’s head but they are very brief scenes! And they really help to ratchet up the tension.

Setting also plays a huge part in my Much Winchmoor stories. Kat is living in this pretty, chocolate box village that has more holiday homes than affordable housing. It looks, and sounds, lovely but the reality of living in a small rural community is far from idyllic, particularly for young people.

What books/ authors do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

Where do I start? I have always read very widely and one of the things I’ve enjoyed since becoming a Crooked Cat author is reading books by my fellow ‘Cats’.   I am now a huge fan of Alice Castle, Joan Livingston, Val Penny, Catherine Fearns to name just a few.

I also enjoy Michael Wood’s Matilda Darke series, Angela Marsons’ Kim Stone series (although I have to skip through some of the scary bits!) and anything written by Ann Cleeves. Then there’s Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway and Damien Boyd’s Nick Dixon series which are all set in my lovely corner of Somerset.

I also love MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series and was very flattered when one lovely Amazon reviewer said that Agatha Raisin fans would enjoy my books. I really, really hope she’s right. I’m not sure if these authors influence my writing. Except to make me want to work hard at my craft so that one day I might become as good as they are.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Goodness, this is a tricky one! I would learn such a lot from Agatha Christie about plotting but I think I’d be so overwhelmed by her that I’m afraid wouldn’t contribute much to the process.

Then I thought about my twelve year old granddaughter who has the most fantastic imagination. The story lines she comes up with are way better than any of mine. She is also a very accomplished (and dedicated) ice skater and is up several mornings a week to be on the ice before 6am! I would love to use her knowledge to set a story in the incredibly competitive world of figure skating. Maybe I will one day – if she doesn’t beat me to it first.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

At the moment I am working on the third book in my Much Winchmoor series. Looking ahead a bit further, I would love to write a new series set in West Dorset. I grew up on the Dorset/Somerset border and West Bay was just a cycle ride away (I was a lot fitter in those days ) while, for many years, my dad had a boat which he kept at Lyme Regis – one of my favourite places in the world.

We came within a whisker of selling our present home and moving to West Dorset a few years ago but had to give up on that particular dream. Writing a book (or, better still, a series of books) based in the area would be the next best thing to actually living there.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I wait eagerly for each new Elly Griffiths and Angela Marsons. They both have really strong yet vulnerable women at the heart of their stories and I love seeing how they develop as the series progress. I would love to think that one day someone would be saying the same about my Kat. Who knows?

Do you have anything to add?

Just a very big thank you for such an interesting set of questions. I have really enjoyed working my way through them. I blog about my writing (and, sometimes, my beautiful rescue dog, a handsome Dalmatian called Duke) and often feature other authors at paulawilliamswriter.wordpress.com

My Facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/paula.williams.author. Twitter. @paulawilliams44. Website. paulawilliamswriter.co.uk

Murder Served Cold is available to buy at mybook.to/murderservedcold. Rough and Deadly will be available to pre-order shortly and will be published on April 30th.

Thanks ever so much Paula for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been a real pleasure.

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Patricia Earnest Suter Interview: “True events are almost always my inspiration”

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This week Patricia Earnest Suter, non-fiction writer and author of the fiction Dash One: Dark talks me through her work and how she came to start writing about an array of topics.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.

My writing style is adaptable and casual. I have written primarily nonfiction, so far. In it, I exhaustively research the subject while taking care to not insert myself. An author’s beliefs or modern sensitivities should not influence historical narrative.

Currently, however, I am working on a science fiction tale. In both, I write casually as opposed to scholarly and prefer a friendly tone. The fictional work, Dash One: Dark has a little quirkiness too. Fiction allows the author to insert a little of themselves.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I graduated from the University of New Mexico with a BA (psychology/sociology) but my husband and I transferred to Europe before I developed any career footing. After my oldest was born, my mom and I spoke about the lack of interest kids had in genealogy and history.

Together we created Kids and Kin, a book designed with activities to get children involved in researching their family history. That was in the 1990s.

Later, Mom and Dad followed the grandchildren to Delaware, where we lived. I joined Earnest Archives and Library. We were approached and asked to write The Hanging of Susanna Cox: Pennsylvania’s Most Notorious Infanticide and the Legend That’s Kept It Alive.

As I researched Cox, I found records of Anton Probst’s horrific murders of the Dearing family in Philadelphia. I could not interest anyone in the story and dropped it and continued on to write about Pennsylvania German, Peter Montelius.

The Dearing’s story kept digging at me and I decided to finish it and self-publish. By then, my original idea changed. It was no longer a tale of murder but became a comparison of monsters. The Face of a Monster; America’s Frankenstein was born. After FOAM’s release, I began working on Dash One: Dark. Now, I have too many ideas and too many other stories to quit.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

True events are almost always my inspiration. Even in Dash One: Dark, the science fiction aspect is based on real events. People never cease to amaze.

I am incredibly lucky, in that I have never suffered writer’s block. A difficult section might prove problematic but if I take a break and sleep on it, a solution will come to me (usually in the middle of the night).

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I would love to say Mary Shelley. Was I correct about my few suppositions in FOAM? But I have long been fascinated with Ambrose Bierce. He had the acerbic tongue but was made of many layers. It would be fascinating to watch as they were revealed.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

You are going to regret having asked that question. Yes!!! Mom was well known in the field of Pennsylvania German fraktur (illuminated manuscripts). She wanted to finish her flagship book, Papers for Birth Dayes 3rd edition before she died. It wasn’t meant to be, so dad and I are finishing for her. Hopefully, we will have it completed by the end of 2018.

Nearly complete is Patent no. 1054 (working title only). It is a true story about the William Stoy family. They experienced changes met by the colonists and Americans. They faced the soul-searching experienced by people in an emerging country. The Stoy family challenged issues such as religion, women’s roles, immigration, and education. Meanwhile, Stoy held the “cure” for the bite of the mad dog. Even George Washington sent a servant to Stoy for aid. After William’s death, his wife Maria Stoy continued the family business in spite of challenges to the cure. Theirs was an incredible journey.

Dash One: Dark is now with several beta readers. Their responses have been terrific. I will fix any incongruities and soon begin looking for an agent. Dash One has huge potential as it provides a new look at a familiar concept. Its premise could continue for years without becoming boring and it will easily lend to a visual medium such as television or movie.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I have to be honest, a friend dragged me kicking and screaming to Twitter. I had been unable to figure it out but she got me to a point that I was able to navigate. Somewhat. I still do not know what I am doing half of the time.

As luck would have it, I stumbled into a writing group. Some use traditional publishers and others are independently published but I am having a fantastic time talking with them and then reading their work. It is like having additional insight from authors that have not been possible in the past.

Like, a professor asks, “What did Mary Shelley mean by this?” Anyone can take an educated guess, but no one knows the reality. In this case, talking with authors allows true engagement and introduces an entirely new reading experience. I have bunches of new works from new authors, and old favorites, that excite me.

Thanks for taking the time! You can find out more about Patricia HERE.

 

James Hayman Interview: “Writing was the one thing that came naturally to me”

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James Hayman, former advert writer turned bestselling author talks me through his books and how he draws on his previous role when writing them.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and thriller writing?

Before starting to write fiction I spent over thirty years writing advertising copy, mostly for television, for one of the world’s largest ad agencies. Writing TV advertising trains one to write fiction in a couple of ways. First, you have to write tightly. You can’t waste a word. After all, you can’t cram more than 120 words into a 60 second TV commercial but very often those words have to tell a complete story.

I’ve brought that discipline into my fiction. I try very hard never to use any words that don’t move the story ahead. Writing advertising is also a wonderful training ground for writing dialogue. Anyone who’s read any of my McCabe/Savage thrillers know that they I use a lot of dialogue to tell the tale. Finally, writing for television trains you to think cinematically. Capturing a scene as a camera would allows readers to actually “see” in their minds the scenes I am describing.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

Writing was the one thing that came naturally to me back when I was in school. After leaving university I looked for some job, any job that would pay me a living wage to do what I do best. As I said before, that turned out to be advertising. However, the whole time I worked in the ad business I had an itch to write fiction. After 30 years I finally got a chance to scratch that itch. My first thriller The Cutting quickly attracted one of New York’s top literary agents and she quickly sold it to one of the major publishing houses. The Cutting subsequently became a bestseller both in the US and the UK as well as several other countries. It is currently being translated by an Israeli publishing house into Hebrew.

Now, nine years after The Cutting there are six books in the McCabe/Savage series.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

All six of my McCabe/Savage thrillers weave topics of social importance seamlessly into the story. For example, in my latest, A Fatal Obsession, I introduce readers to a villain who kidnaps a young actress who he brings to a remote house. Same old, same old? Not exactly. Turns out the so-called villain suffered multiple concussions as a teenager at the hands of an abusive father and his criminal actions are the result of an advanced case of CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. As you probably know CTE is a disease that afflicts the brains of many men ranging from professional football players who have suffered multiple concussions to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan whose brains were damaged by proximity to explosions. When the disease is not driving his actions, the villain turns out to be a loving and caring young man. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Kind of but not quite.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

There’s no way I could ever collaborate successfully with any other writer no matter how talented. My books grow organically out of my brain and out of my unique relationship with my characters. It’s no exaggeration to say Michael McCabe and Maggie Savage are the closest friends I have and I’m happy I get to spend a lot of time with them. I suppose in one sense you could say McCabe and Maggie are my best collaborators.

What do you like reading yourself and how does this influence your work?

I have pretty broad tastes in reading. Naturally I read a lot of both thrillers and what they call literary fiction. Among the Brits I particularly like are Kate Atkinson and Ian McEwen. I also read a fair amount of non-fiction. Most recently a fascinating biography of war correspondent Marie Colvin who worked for the Sunday Times in London. The title is In Extremis for those who’d like to dip into it.

What’s next for your writing? Are there any new releases or projects your doing in the future that you are particularly excited about?

I’m currently working on my first stand alone novel which is about a woman who is convinced her husband is planning to kill her. When that’s finished I may come back to McCabe and Savage. Or maybe I won’t

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I’m currently reading a John Grisham book called The Reckoning. After that I’m not sure.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just to say thank you for liking my work enough to want to interview me.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been a pleasure.

 

 

Carol Wyer Interview: “My first novels were comedies encouraging people to enjoy life to the maximum”

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Another awesome interview for you as I speak to Carol Wyer about her dark comedy and crime fiction novels.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

I started my writing career back in my thirties when I penned a series of educational books for children that taught French through cute, funny stories. They were highly illustrated and had titles such as Noir and Blanc -Two Naughty Cats. The books ended up being used in schools and were a stepping-stone to what happened later, when I decided I wanted to write for the adult market.

My first novels were comedies encouraging people to enjoy life to the maximum and laughing at the ageing process. My humorous non-fiction book, Grumpy Old Menopause was a chart-topping success and I found myself on radio shows in the UK and USA and New Zealand, writing articles for national magazines and on BBC Breakfast sitting on the red sofa discussing my writing with Susanna Reid and Bill Turnbull. The book went on to win The Peoples’ Book Prize Award. I was finally making a name for myself.

In 2016, Bookouture (part of the Hachette group) took on my madcap comedy called Life Swap and I was signed to write further comedies. It was about that time, I realised each book was becoming darker and the genre wasn’t suitable for my developing style. I wanted to add twists (which I’d managed to do brilliantly in Life Swap, but romantic comedy didn’t allow me to surprise the reader as I wished. I also yearned to write about human nature in more depth and although I love making people laugh or feel good about life and themselves, I also wanted to chill them and surprise them.

I sent in a pitch for a psychological thriller that had been bubbling about in my brain for a couple of years and my editor loved it. I wrote the book and no sooner had I submitted it than my editor suggested I write more. She saw potential not as a stand-alone but a crime series, and so the DI Robyn Carter series came to be. Little Girl Lost shot up the charts and earned me acclaim as a crime writer.

What is your background and how did you get into writing?

It’s too long a story to tell here but as an only child and a lonely one at that, reading was my escape. Following a second prolonged period in hospital where I underwent major spinal surgery in my twenties, I communicated with my friends and family through a series of lengthy letters that charted the daily crazy events in a hospital ward. Using stories that nurses recounted to me and my observational skills, I put a humorous slant on events. Everyone loved the letters and asked for more. After my recovery and while working in Casablanca as a teacher, I began writing stories for children – purely for fun. Writing became my release just as reading had been before that and I wanted to provide the same escapism, raise spirits through humour and basically entertain people.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

My parents were both avid readers and we’d all troop down to the library on a Friday to select books for the coming week. While my father enjoyed light-hearted reads such as the Don Camillo series by Giovannino Guareschi or Dennis Wheatley novels, my mother would read absolutely everything and anything. If she enjoyed it, she’d insist I read it after her. So, one week I’d read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, about the Italian artist Michaelangelo, the next, an historical romance from Georgette Heyer novel or something very different like Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest

At the age of seventeen, I had a major health setback that saw me bedbound in hospital for several months followed by more months at home. I read and read and read. I think I probably read almost every book available our local library during that period along with a whole bunch of Mills and Boon books my friends brought along to keep me occupied.

My literary diet was varied to say the least but my penchant was always for thrillers and crime, especially Agatha Christie’s works. I couldn’t get enough of them.

I studied both English and French Literature at university and it was there I picked up a penchant for humour. Chaucer’s works amused me enormously as did Voltaire, especially Candide.

Once I completed my studies, I began to read contemporary, ‘lighter’ reads and that was when I got heavily into thrillers. I am a speed-reader so I’ll get through a book in a few hours, much to the chagrin of my husband who insists I read any book I receive as a gift more slowly.

I absolutely adore thrillers – the darker, the better. The complexity of the human mind fascinates me and although I only studied psychology as a first-year module at university I often wish I’d delved further. I suppose, in a way I do nowadays. I spend a lot of time researching murderers and reports on those who’ve committed heinous crimes. I try to give my readers the experience of being inside the mind of my fictitious killer in most of my books. I don’t want them to feel sorry for the murderer or applaud their actions but sometimes life and unfortunate circumstances can make people behave in dreadful ways and that’s what I try to exploit.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author to help them succeed in today’s publishing industry?

My husband gave me the best advice ever when I told him I wanted to be a writer. He said if I was serious and really wanted a career out of it, I’d have to work hard and never give up. He was right. I have worked – day and night, almost every single day for the last 10 years. I have written books while on holiday, stayed awake night after night to meet deadlines and taken every knockback, bad review or disappointment on the chin. Success doesn’t always come with the first book or even the second, or the third. You might have to plug away at it for a few years before you find a publisher willing to take you on but I think that’s fine. You are honing your craft all the while and building a presence online and gradually making a name for yourself. You are improving all the time. In brief my advice is: be patient, stay positive and never give up.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

This is so tough! I’d love to collaborate with Janet Evanovich. She inspired my early writing and when I sent her an email to tell her, she answered it. She also congratulated me on Twitter when Last Lullaby came out in December – I had a complete fangirl moment and ran about the house screeching. I’d also like to work with the queen of crime, Angie Marsons, who is a fellow Bookouture author. Not only is she an incredible writer but an absolutely hilarious person. She keeps all our spirts up when we are flagging as a team with her funny posts.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to discuss?

This year is a busy one. Not only do I have two romantic comedies coming out but three more crime novels all in the DI Natalie Ward series. The first of those will be released in April, so expect news about it soon. I’m working on Book 4 at the moment and it is a really exciting book to write. I keep holding my breath writing some of the scenes and have to remind myself to release it. I have one last DI Robyn Carter book to pen. My fans keep emailing or messaging to ask if The Chosen Ones is the last book. Book 6 is waiting to be written, so hang on folks- I’ll get there. I’m also considering a stand-alone thriller for next year but I have a mountain of work to do before I can work on that.

 Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to going forward?

I just let out the biggest groan. You’ve reminded me that my TBR pile is a veritable mountain of books and I am so behind with my reading I need a year off to catch up. I am desperate to read all of them. Really desperate. I have a backlog of Jeffery Deaver and Jo Nesbo novels, a large number of Scandinavian Noir books, Lars Kepler’s entire series to read and a Kindle stuffed full of Bookouture authors’ works. However, there are far too many great books that I definitely want to get my hands on: Alafair Burke’s The Wife, Belinda Bauer’s Snap and CJ Tudor’s The Chalk Man, Steve Cavanagh’s Th1rt3en: Aargh, too many, stop me!

Thanks for taking the time- its been a pleasure hearing from you!

 

Andrew Thompson Interview: “I’ve spent most of my life living inside my own head and writing has given me an outlet to create something that is entirely my own”

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For my first interview of 2019 (how exciting!) I spoke to Andrew Thompson, author of dark comedy Pettifyr on the Rocks.  

Tell me about your books. What drew you towards writing dark comedies?

Pettifyr on the Rocks is my first novel and (getting this out there up front) it is supposed to be a funny book. I never intended it to be a ‘serious’ thriller and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The plotting here is so wafer-thin that you’ll get a paper cut from the Kindle edition…

That said, it is a warm-hearted little story from someone who has always had a deep love for the so-called ‘golden age’ of English crime thrillers (especially Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham) and the old black and white Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan movies that I adored sitting in front of on TV when I came home from school. I remember sitting in the dark watching the old Miss Marple movies with Margaret Rutherford and the Basil Rathbone Holmes films. I love all of those old movies, plus the James Bond and Humphrey Bogart films. Hitchcock too.

I wanted to write something that reminded me of those old books and films I loved as a kid, but with a twist and something of myself in it. Something that had the feel of a classic old paperback Leslie Charteris or something that you might pick up from a hotel bookshelf. I wanted it to be uncomplicated, funny and, perhaps most importantly, warm and engaging. Mainly I needed to get Jennifer out of my head. She’s been banging away at my frontal lobe for a long time and it is nice, finally, to have her out in the world and doing something quasi-useful. By ‘quasi-useful’ I obviously mean drinking too much, swearing like a docker with a bee-sting and basically blundering about.

If I had tried to write a ‘straight’ thriller it would be rubbish. I don’t have the brain for complex plotting or the interest in creating a world of pain and suffering for a psychological thriller. I’d rather try to create something that made someone laugh on the train and then tell their friends that ‘it’s utterly stupid, but quite funny’. If this book (and Jennifer) makes people smile then I will have achieved my goal.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing?

Most of the time I’m just a dull little office worker, staring out across an ocean of an open-plan room populated by banks of humans with computer screens. I’ve started writing, I think, as a bit of a reaction to that. Don’t get me wrong, large organisations are not inherently dull places because they are, at the end of the day, populated by people and people come in all shapes and sizes. It is easy to look around, though, and feel that your life is passing you by.

I’m also a musician and played in a band in the mid-noughties, so I’ve done a few different things and have moved around quite a lot geographically. The most honest answer is that I’ve spent most of my life living inside my own head and writing has given me an outlet to create something that is entirely my own but also stands entirely apart from me. The idea that you can create a world, and characters, that other people can enjoy when you are not there is extremely compelling. In short, I guess these books are about my need to create something. Jennifer has been knocking on the front door of my head, with increasing persistence, for a long time.

Please tell me about your books. What sets them apart from other similar novels?

Pettifyr on the Rocks is the first in a planned series centred around flame-haired, foul-mouthed investigator Jennifer Pettifyr, whose primary skill-set revolves around drinking, swearing, punching people and generally making a nuisance of herself. As to what sets my books apart from others- apart from the weak prose and poor plotting, obviously- that’s not really for me to say. Jennifer does pop to the toilet on a reasonably regular basis (my mother first pointed this out, so I deliberately put more pit-stops into the books now just to wind her up). Surely that’s a bit of a breakthrough in British crime fiction? Does it interrupt the narrative flow? I think it’s integral. The flow, you might say, is integral.

Jennifer herself is an investigator of the unexplained whose services are used occasionally by the Government as and when they have problems requiring a bit of unofficial nose poking. She is in her very late-twenties, does like a bit of a drink (who doesn’t?) and loves a good board game. The stories are set, very loosely, around the very late 1980s but are deliberately vague about this. I want them to feel quite timeless in terms of setting. She’s a strong girl, very sporty and well capable of looking after herself. She gets stuck in and gets stuff done. Despite some emotional frailties, I hope that Jennifer is a good role model for young women everywhere. That is what I wanted her to be, above all other things. Other than for her language, of course. Her language is bloody dreadful.

Tell me about the books you personally write. Where do you find your inspiration?

Jennifer Pettifyr, who is occupying all of my writing, is a horrible little hybrid of various different people. Her flame hair is pure Amanda Fitton. I loved those books. Her outlook on life, sadly for all of us, is closer to Romesh Ranganathan.

She drinks too much, swears too much, has a first-class honours degree in sarcasm and a heart as big as a pork pie on steroids. Her ability to veer off at random into chatting shit for Britain (and insisting on a ‘final wee’ despite only being five minutes from wherever she is going) is entirely my wife. She does this ALL the time. I’ve mentioned my love of old film noir, thrillers and potboilers already and those are a massive influence and inspiration for me, as are comedies such as Withnail & I, The League of Gentlemen and Blackadder.

On a more serious note, I am also drawn to the more romantic style of mystery fiction for its pure escapism. I do find it depressing that so many thrillers and masses of suspense fiction seems to revolve around physical and sexual violence towards women. The serial killer performing increasingly horrific acts in order to generate tension. There are dark scenes in my books but, fundamentally, that isn’t what I want to write about and others are far better at it than I could ever be. People suffer and die every day in real life. With a book, I can do something about it. I can stop it happening to someone. You can do anything at all in a book. I’d rather use my time to attempt to create someone who, although flawed, tries her very best to help people and always to do the right thing. That’s Jennifer. She may pop to the loo, but she’s definitely got your back. When she’s not in the loo. She’s like an awkward Simon Templar. That’s who she is.

As for Jennifer’s annoying sarcasm, that’s just me after a few G&Ts. A work colleague called me ‘sassy’ last week on a night out. I don’t know many 6’ 4” males who get branded as ‘sassy’. I was inordinately pleased. As for Jennifer’s swearing, just spend an hour in the Essex Arms in Brentwood and you’ll realise that, in fact, she hardly swears at all. Seriously, that pub is an education in the use of the four-letter word. Also, they show the footie and the train times. Great off-licence across the road too (big shout out to Elaine here).

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I’d love to buy Adam Diment a drink and thank him for the Philip McAlpine books. If I could ever write anything even 10% as perfect as those I’d die a happy man. As for collaborating, I’ll just sit back in an armchair with a nice glass of red and let him crack on. He wouldn’t need my help. I took The Dolly Dolly Spy on holiday for six summers on the bounce. Just re-read it over and over. It never got old. The pages fell out eventually; I read that book so much. At the end, only the suntan lotion was holding it together. 

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m working on the second Jennifer Pettifyr book right now and it’s entertaining me immensely. The idea for it came to me from watching an old episode of The Avengers and it gave me the perfect idea for getting into Jennifer’s family and a bit more of what makes her tick (which is hinted at in the first book but not really explored at all). I’m very excited about it, as it is shaping up to be (a) much funnier than the first one and (b) almost competently written. Almost. If you scrunch up your eyes and squint at it.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I’m quite dreadful for the lack of diversity in my reading habits! The trouble with having a full-time job (other than people giving you stuff to do… I mean, what’s that all about?) is that I don’t have a lot of reading time. To be honest, I generally end up reading a mixture of big-name authors (if they aren’t up their own backsides) plus anything random, unusual or interesting, which could be anything really. I read a lot of old thrillers when I can (my guilty pleasure is old second/third/however many-hand paperbacks from authors I’ve never heard of). I really loved the Glass Books trilogy. I loved Magpie Murders (Anthony Horowitz). The problem is, when I read other books it reminds me that, well, I’m just not up to the job…

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Pettifyr on the Rocks is available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle now. Link through the website www.pettifyr.biz. Paperback option through Amazon to follow shortly.

Also, and this is very important, thank you so much for asking me! If you want me to expand on or clarify anything please just let me know.

Thank you for your time, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hearing your thoughts and learning more about your writing!

 

Sergiu Lazin Interview: “Ever since I was a kid, all I ever wanted was to tell stories”

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Up-and-coming Sci-Fi author Sergiu Lazin gives me an insight into his work as his first novel is launched on Amazon Publishing!  

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards science fiction writing?

Ever since I was a kid, all I ever wanted was to tell stories. I still have my very first attempt at “creative writing” from when I was 8 or 9 years old. “The man who saved nature” – the story of an eco-warrior fighting poachers and polluters around the globe (a kind of mix between Captain Planet, Indiana Jones and Chuck Norris). I only managed to write about 10 pages before my older brother discovered it and ridiculed it to pieces (there were scenes of gratuitous killings, but in my defence, this was around the time of the Rambo movies). In any case, his criticism hit really hard and I abandoned the idea of telling stories with words, focusing instead on drawings. I decided that since he was the better writer, I would become the better artist.

Throughout my entire youth, these two creative outlets have taken turns in absorbing my attention. Whenever I would experience something profound in my life, the urge to capture it would always manifest, either in written or in visual form. When it was time to make a career choice, my heart was still oscillating between the two. My two college options were film school where I would study screenwriting and directing and art school where I would study graphic design and advertising.

I chose what I then considered to be the safer option: art-school, which was closer to home and easier to get in to. I still wonder what my life would have been like had I made the bolder choice.

While my head and my hands were learning how to be an artist in the digital age, my heart was longing for new stories to tell. With each new attempt to revive my passion for the written word, the stories were becoming less and less anchored in reality.

When did you really start writing? What really drove you to put your ideas into a story?

In college I started to write a novel vaguely inspired by that lifestyle. The final chapter that I wrote before abandoning it described the protagonists chasing after the ultimate high – a perfect chemical balance that they perceived as building a space ship. Every ingredient in their drug-cocktail was like a new module in the craft that was to transport them beyond their world.

Once complete, the main character enters a dream-like state where he envisions himself at a rave in a giant capsule orbiting around the Earth. The moment is captured and beamed into infinity at the speed of light. And that comes with the absolute certainty that someone, somewhere and sometime will receive the transmission and will know that humans existed and they relished being alive.

This idea that what we do in our lives can reverberate across infinity was so strong that, from that moment on, I knew that if I was ever going to write anything again, it would be science-fiction.

How does it feel to have your first book published online?

I was honestly expecting it to make me feel much more vulnerable. I have quite a few reasons to be nervous about people’s perception of my work. For one thing, English is not my native tongue (as you can probably guess by my name) Then there’s the fact that my education in literature extends only to the high-school curriculum of Romania (where I’m from). And lastly, this is the first body of work that I’ve taken to a level that I feel comfortable enough to showcase in public. All things considered, I prepared myself for the worst when deciding to self-publish. That was, in my perception, the risk of being ridiculed to pieces again (like what happened with my brother in my childhood) but this time at a global scale.

But I quickly realized that receiving overwhelming criticism is not the greatest hardship. The greatest hardship is getting criticism at all. Ever since I have published, all the time that I used to spend writing my story I now spend trying to get people to read my work.

The scale of the internet is like the scale of the Galaxy. Picture someone starring at the night sky on a clear night with no light pollution around, gazing through a telescope at The Milky Way in full, glorious display. They have to choose one celestial body to study and observe closer while the conditions are favourable. And you are one of the billions of stars within the spiral’s arm (and that’s if you’re lucky and you have star ratings on your book, otherwise you’re basically a piece of moonrock adrift in interstellar space, impossible to detect in this metaphor) That’s what it feels like to have your first book published online.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

Because this is my work of passion, I am not bound by the need to complete the work within a certain timeframe in order to generate revenue from it. This basically allows me to take my time. I actually had the first idea for this series over 5 years ago and have started writing it in one form or another several times. It was only 2 years ago that I decided to really put an effort into finishing a project for once. During this entire time, I have developed the story arc in great detail. So I know precisely what needs to be written next. The first Volume of my story will have three parts out of which the first part is completed and published online. What’s really exciting for me is knowing that the interesting parts are coming next. The first part is more about outlining the universe of the story, introducing the characters and setting up intriguing plot lines for each of them. I genuinely cannot wait to write what will happen next.

That being said, I still very much struggle with tone, phrasing and voice. I consider my writing style to be very lyrical and full-bodied (not a light Sunday read) so I often find myself wrestling to put down even the most basic of sentences. Whenever I sit down to write, I immediately know if I am in the mood for it or not. And if I’m not, I never try to force it. This would have to change if my first novel would become successful and people would want to read more. But if that were the case, I’m convinced that people’s enthusiasm towards my story would clear up any blockage for me.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Unfortunately, I’m very much not a team player. Even in my professional life as a graphic designer, when I used to work in advertising agencies and was part of a creative team, in every brain-storming meeting I would keep quiet and let everyone else talk, and then work on my own ideas alone. This formula has worked well for me in my profession. But, as always, when doing client work, you have to make compromises and ultimately change your work to suit your client’s fancy.

This is something I do not want to do in my writing. I want to tell the story of Miracle Saga alone and in my own way. I’m not interested in writing anything else or with anyone else. That being said, it’s impossible not to recognize the influence of writers and books that I cherish (or worship) in my own writing. Here are some of the books that I know have crept up into my novel, despite my best efforts: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, The Pandora Sequence by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom, Diary: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk (perhaps my favourite book of all time) and Solenoid by Mircea Cartarescu (sadly not yet translated from Romanian but an absolute treasure of a novel). To even stand in the turbulence of any of these forces of creation would make me crumble in reverence.

What’s next for your writing? Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Parts 2 and 3 of Miracle Saga – Volume 0 are going to be an incredible writing journey for me and as I am typing these words, I feel my fingers tingling with the anticipation of getting back to my story and my beloved characters.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

Between my day job, home-schooling my kid, trying to complete my own creative journey and struggling to promote my already published work, sadly I have little to no time left for reading. I’m also trying to keep my style as free from influence as I can, so right now I’m on a reading strike 😊

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Well, I guess in the end there’s only one thing left to say. I would be humbled and grateful to anyone willing to discover the first part of my saga – how it all began. I truly believe that my novel is unlike anything people have ever read before and that’s what I wanted to do since I was 8 or 9 years old. To tell a story that’s never been told before. Thank you.

It’s been a real pleasure finding out about a fascinating new author, so thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

 

 

 

Alison O’Leary Interview: “I always knew that I wanted to write”

 

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Another awesome interview for you today as I chat to Alison O’Leary about her novel Street Cat Blues.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

Like most writers, my writing style has evolved over time so that some of my early efforts are completely unlike anything that I might produce now – thank goodness! Looking back at things that I wrote a number of years ago, they seem quite cringe making, but I think that’s all part of the learning process.

I discovered crime fiction via Agatha Christie when I was about twelve and was totally drawn in to the world that she created. I had nothing in common with it (and let’s be honest, who did?) but I found it totally fascinating. I guess it was a form of escapism but none the worse for that. From Agatha I progressed to writers such as P D James and Ruth Rendell and have enjoyed crime fiction ever since.

As well as being very fond of crime fiction, I am also interested in true crime. Of all the crimes, murder is the big one and I was always interested in how very ordinary some murderers are and sometimes how trivial their motive.

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing crime fiction?

I always knew that I wanted to write but, of course, like everybody else, I had to earn a living. I taught law for a number of years but in the background I was always scribbling away. I had more than my share of rejections and learned, like many writers, to live with it. As time went on I began to attract some interest from agents and publishers, which at least told me that I wasn’t completely wasting my time.

It finally dawned on me that the key to success is persistence. I think that some potentially very good writers give up too early. Of course, there are always the stories of the lucky few who land a massive publishing deal plus film rights first time round but that kind of scenario is rare. For most of us it’s a question of keeping on keeping on. And, of course, in the digital age there are increasing opportunities to see your work in print. Apart from the possibility of self-publishing (which has been made much easier now) there are also quite a few smaller independent presses who may be willing to take a chance on a new author because they publish eBooks.

I’m a law graduate and studied Criminology as part of my degree. I also later taught it so I guess I kind of knew that crime was always going to be my genre.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

Without wishing to sound too pretentious, inspiration can come from anywhere – it could be a news story or an overheard conversation. Sometimes it comes from real cases. I always keep a notebook or scrap of paper handy because sometimes a plot development or an idea for a character can suddenly come to me at odd moments; on a train for instance or even sometimes in a meeting when I’m supposed to be concentrating on something else! However, I suspect that, in common with many writers, if I waited until I was in the mood for writing I doubt I’d get much done! The thing about writing is that you just have to do it, whether you feel like it or not. But the joy of it is, once you’ve made yourself sit down at your desk and stop surfing the internet or sending text messages, the thing takes over and you find yourself immersed in the story again.

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I like murder mysteries and also psychological thrillers but I’m not keen on too much blood and gore. I’m also probably not a great fan of police procedurals, but having said that, if they’re done well then they can be a great read. These days I think a lot of books cross genres so a romance might also have a crime within it. I’m also a bit of a fan of non-fiction, particularly biographies and autobiographies. I guess when all’s said and done; a good book is a good book, irrespective of genre.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Although he’s not a crime writer, one of my favourite all-time authors is P G Wodehouse but I’m not sure we’d get much work done. I think we’d be wasting too much time laughing. He wrote such perfect prose that always seemed to exactly capture the mood. One of my favourites is when he describes his aunt Agatha as having the demeanour of one who, picking daises on the railway, has just caught the down express in the small of the back.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Street Cat Blues and I’m pleased at the way some of the old characters are interacting with the new ones. It’s in the early stages so I’m not sure yet where it’s going to take me – the ideas are coming thick and fast.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

I do read things other than crime and have recently discovered Lisa Jewell. I really admire her ability to tie the characters in so well with the plot. I also enjoy Erin Kelly and Claire Mackintosh.

Many thanks for answering my questions- I always love hearing from an Agatha Christie Fan!