Mark Atley Interview: “As far as writing, I’ve always wanted to tell stories”

Mark Atley

This week I spoke to Mark Atley about his writing and the inspiration behind his books.

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

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard is the book that I am truly passionate about and it epitomises my writing style to me. That book was how I found Crime Fiction. Not mysteries. Not thrillers or suspense. Crime Fiction.

I re-read it every year, sometimes multiple times a year. It’s funny but I actually hated Get Shorty the first time I read it. I didn’t understand the book. Been writing for years. Started my novel writing with thrillers. Started there, because of Vince Flynn. Like me, he was dyslexic. Also, he had a dream and executed it. Then, I fell in love with Daniel Silva, and decided I can’t write a thriller like they do. So I decided to write smaller stories. I couldn’t do fantasy. Couldn’t get any of my Science Fiction to work. Figured, I know crime, because I grew up in a cop household—why not start there? For several years, I studied crime fiction, reading all the greats. Started with Raymond Chandler, and then progressed to current greats.

After college, I worked in sales but was told I’m too honest for it so I quit that job to be a cop. I figured there’s nothing wrong with jumping into research with both feet. Started in the county jail. That’s a great place to learn about crime and people. That year, I read a few of Leonard’s books, and didn’t connect to any of them. And then I did. They were good. I saw what he was trying to do, and it clicked. Behind Leonard came Ken Buren.

Then, in my writing, I made the transition to present tense and my mind opened.

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

Career wise, I’ve had a lot of “jobs”, but they weren’t really jobs. I went to school for journalism, because I wanted to write and do live-event production, like what you see on ESPN. I realized I’m too honest for journalism, but loved writing stories from the local crime blotter. I worked in live-event production for a decade producing small gigs around town. Best job in the world, because the production stuff taught me a lot about pacing and storytelling, while working the switchers and directing. After school, there weren’t any jobs in this area so I worked in sales for couple years and did okay. It wasn’t great. During all that, I waited tables and bartended. Except I’m not a great bartender, I can’t remember the drink recipes.

I don’t know what it is like for others growing up, but I wanted to do what my father did. He was a cop. He’s retired. I think he tried to get me to do something else. I don’t know if he wanted me in law enforcement. He’s always said if someone wants to be in law enforcement they need to go to school for something other than Criminal Justice, because everyone has a Criminal Justice Degree. He had several reasons why being different would be good. Journalism was a good choice for me, because gave me all the skills a good investigator needs to have.

As far as writing, I’ve always wanted to tell stories. I challenged myself to write and finish a couple novels. They sucked, but I finished them.

Please tell me about your books and what you think draws readers to enjoy them.

Recently, my novel The Olympian published. I want readers to enjoy it and I want them to be entertained.

The novel follows several people at a Mexican All-Inclusive Resort. It’s pure Crime Fiction. I call it an ensemble novel, because it’s told from multiple points-of-view. I wanted to write a novel based on Michael Phelps. I challenged myself to write a laconic good guy any Leonard fan would recognize and never be in his head. Both ideas turned into The Olympian.

Really, the novel’s setting could be anywhere; I just needed something I was familiar with. It’s not about the resort. It’s about the people. I hope that’s what draws readers.

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

I wrote a series character in a trilogy of mysteries that were in first-person. At one point, I had a contract with a publisher to have these novels published. But two things happened, one I can’t talk about due to NDA and I read Adrian Mckinty’s Sean Duffy series. I realized I sucked at writing in first person. I found it tedious and limiting, which made it very difficult to finish the novels. I felt exhausted. It wasn’t very fun. One thing I do to motivate myself to write is read author interviews. I read old interviews with Elmore Leonard. I realized writing should be fun. I wanted to read more stories like his, but didn’t feel like there was anyone out there doing that.

There are, but that’s how I felt. As such, I decided to write the stories I wanted to read, which included weird characters and strange situations. I like writing in scenes. Leonard said he would write from the best point-of-view for that scene. That worked for me.

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

I read everything. I love most of what I read. On Twitter, I like to write quick blurbs about what I liked in a book. Sometimes I put what didn’t work. I don’t mention books I didn’t like.

When I’m writing, I can’t read Elmore Leonard, Don Winslow, Lou Berny, William Boyle, Adrian McKinty and many others. I end up trying to sound like them. I wait and reward myself with reading them when I finish a novel.

When I’m writing, I do research, read whatever catches my fancy, and read Science Fiction. Because I’m a detective, I have to take a break from the crime fiction, and I have found a love for Star Trek novels. They are great to read before bed and some of them are master classes in character interactions. Think Spock, Kirk, and McCoy—doesn’t get any better than when they are bouncing off each other in a scene.

Check out James Blish’s Spock Must Die! As far as Trek lore, there are some issues, but as far as story. It really works.

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

With regards to dead writers, I would select Hunter S. Thompson, George V. Higgins, Chester Himes, and Elmore Leonard. I think the reasons are pretty obvious at this point. Thompson would just be fun. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a must read, and really captures a scene. Himes would just be plain cool. And Leonard, well because he’s the master and it’d be good to have his approval.

When it comes to living writers I would go with Lou Berney, Attica Locke, Walter Mosely, William Boyle, and J. Todd Scott. Berny, because he’s an Oklahoman, too. Locke, because she’s great. It’d be fun to do a different point-of-view novel with her. Mosely, because who wouldn’t want to work at with a master. Boyle, because he’s writing stories I want to read. J. Todd Scott, because he’s just a great guy. He’s been very supportive. I’d love to work with him. Or have a beer.

In fact, I’ll just have a beer with any of them, or coffee.

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

Right now, I am trying to find an agent. To be honest, I’m having a hard time finding someone that wants to work with me.

I have rewritten that series character in 3rd Person and hope to bring those characters to the world soon.

I finished two novels this last year: American Standard and Green County, and they are wonderful novels. I hope you get to read them soon. I’m trying to find representation for American Standard.

American Standard is a Crime Fiction ensemble novel, approximately 100,000 words, told in multiple viewpoints, about George Winslow, who steals money from a social media company that’s a front for a cartel, to make good on a gambling debt. The cartel hires Salvatore “Sal” Lambino (The Good Guy) to find George, because he’s the best at finding people. The FBI hires a hit-man, Maxwell—not Max, don’t call him that (The Bad Guy) to find George and quietly bring him in, because the FBI wants to run George against the cartel without tipping off the cartel. The cartel just wants George and everyone else involved dead, including the girl George falls in love with—Sal’s assistant, who has her own intentions—and the tough guy that’s in love with her. Current comparative titles to style and characters would be Lou Berney’s November Road or William Boyle’s A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself.

The other novel, Green County, is similar in structure and set in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s about what happens when an informant dies. The characters in this novel are based on several people I work with, which isn’t something I normally do, but really worked in this novel.

Check out Ink and Sword Magazine (on Twitter) December 2018 Crime Fiction issue to find two of my short stories, including one that stars Sal from American Standard.

As always, I’m working on the next novel and have several planned after that.

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

I’m excited to read J. Todd Scott’s next novel. I’m really looking forward to the last Alex Segura Pete Fernandez novel.

Anything you’d like to add?

I’d love for people to buy my book. What author wouldn’t?

But what I would like is to hear from readers what worked and what didn’t for them. You can find me on Twitter. Let’s talk about books. Also, I’d love for readers to leave reviews for books they have read, including mine. Reviews matter.

Also, if you find yourself on twitter, watch my feed for authors you should be following. There’s some great advice and interactions happening there.

Lastly, listen to WriterTypes Podcast. Those guys are doing some great work.

It’s been great hearing from you thank you for answering my questions and giving us an insight into your work!

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Keith Wright Interview: “I know that even in the heat of a drama sometimes humour can invade”

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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.

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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

Susan Sage Interview: “My favorite genre is probably Magic Realism.”

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Poet and Author Susan Sage provides me with an overview of her work and how it’s been influenced by a diverse range of writers.

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

My writing style has been greatly influenced by authors/poets I’ve enjoyed reading over many years. Due to my love of poetry, specifically contemporary, I’ve always enjoyed imagery – especially dreamlike imagery. My descriptions aren’t particularly lengthy, but they are often visual. Never was a big Hemingway fan, but I suppose I’ve been influenced by his writing style.

Authors like Zora Neale Hurston/Toni Morrison/William Faulkner are brilliant with voice, and have affected me most. I doubt whether you can see their influence in my writing, but I’m in awe of what incredible masters of the craft they all are. If you’re referring more to writing style in regards to genre, I don’t have a particular genre that I write in, though I especially enjoy character-driven writing, regardless of whether a novel’s a fantasy, mystery, or other. I’m currently working on a draft that I’m hoping is multi-genre. My favorite genre is probably Magic Realism.

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

I have an undergraduate degree in English from Wayne State University in Detroit and have taken several graduate English classes from the University of Michigan-Flint. I took several creative writing classes when I was an undergraduate. Also, I’ve been an active member of a writing group for several years. I’ve taught creative writing to all ages of students and have been an editor of a student creative writing magazine. While I write fiction and some poetry, I’ve always worked, too. Since I don’t spend most of my day writing, I’m certainly not as professional as many.

Tell me about your books. What do you believe draws your readers to your work?

I’ve published two books. My first book, Insominy, is a contemporary fantasy. It was self-published back in 2010. I was clueless about how to promote it, and to be fair, there weren’t as many online opportunities. Local promotion drew readers interested in fantasy. A Mentor and Her Muse, published by a traditional publisher, Open Books, has definitely sold more copies than my first. It’s classified as both psychological and women’s fiction, so I guess readers, particularly women, who are interested in psychological fiction, are drawn to it. Two of the three main characters are writers, so it has a literary bent, as well, so female authors might be the ones most drawn to it.

When choosing books to read, what style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

Interesting question because I think it’s true that we do write what we tend to enjoy reading! I’d have to say, I most enjoy psychological fiction and also some fantasy and science fiction. I’m interested in writing and reading novels that make social statements, as seen in the work of Margaret Atwood or George Orwell. There are too many present day novelists to list, though my among my favorites from the 19th Century include Tolstoy, Proust, and Dickens. I’m a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez due to his use of Magic Realism. I keep meaning to re-read One Hundred Years of Solitude.

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

It would have to be Margaret Atwood because of her superb imagination. Also, she seems like she’d be easy going and would have the right amount of humor to make a collaborative project possible.

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

I’m currently working on a draft of a novel, which is proving to be an interesting challenge, not only because it’s multi genre, but also because it’s main character is a guy – an older guy. I’ve never written from a male perspective before except in a few short stories. It’s tentatively entitled The Ringo Tales and it’s basically about a near End Times community coming together in search of Ringo, a lost golden retriever.

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

Just recently, I began enjoying books by several authors I’m acquainted with on Twitter. Ones I high recommend include: Kevin Ansbro, Susan Rooke, C.A. Asbrey, Milana Marsenich, Iris Yang, and Mark Ozeroff. There are many others whose works I’m curious about but haven’t yet read. This group includes Gemma Lawrence, Ellie Douglas, Karl Holton, Millie Thom, and M. Ainihi. There are many others, as well!

Anything you’d like to add?

Thanks SO much for giving me this opportunity! I’m looking forward to reading your blog.

Huge thanks to Susan for answering my questions, it’s been a pleasure.

 

 

 

Jason Beech Interview: “I fell into writing at a much later age”

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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! 

 

David Hewson Interview: “I wanted this to be a story driven by character, atmosphere and the extraordinary culture of Calabria”

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To celebrate the launch of Black Thorn Books, a new publishing imprint dedicated specifically to crime fiction, I interviewed one of their authors, David Hewson, whose book The Savage Shore, part of his Nic Costa series, is being published by Black Thorn. David talks me through his latest novel and how he came to create such an engaging series through his love of reading.

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

To be honest I never set out to write crime fiction. I just wanted to write original, mainstream fiction that told big stories with bold narratives. It was only a few books in that I was told I was now a crime writer – not that I mind. And of course many books are now classified as crime which may not have been years ago. And maybe even plays too – is Macbeth a crime story? Possibly. Labels don’t really trouble me. It’s the story that counts.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I left school at 17 to work as a reporter on a little (now vanished) local newspaper in Yorkshire. A few years later I’d graduated to The Times, then the Independent and Sunday Times. But I always wanted to write fiction so gradually I eased back on the journalism and started trying to write fiction. It took a while but in 1996 I came out with my first book, now republished as Death in Seville and after a while I was able to give up journalism altogether.

Please tell me about The Savage Shore. What do you think sets it apart from your other work?

The Savage Shore is the tenth instalment in a series of books based around a young detective, Nic Costa, who works in the historic centre of Rome. There hasn’t been a Costa book for nine years but readers have been nagging me for once constantly. So I decided to bring the old team back but this time in a new place and with a new challenge.

Usually they’re on home ground in Rome, and in charge of events. But here they’re in the foreign ground of Calabria in the south and having to pretend to be something they’re not. They’re trying to engineer the escape of a crime gang lord who wants to turn state witness. But no one knows who the man really is or how they can get him out safely. Nic has to pretend to join the gang to make contact with him, while the rest of the crew have to sit around on the coast struggling to make escape plans while staying undercover.

I wanted this to be a story driven by character, atmosphere and the extraordinary culture of Calabria. There are no car chases and very little in the way of violence. It’s about how difficult it is for people to pretend to be something they’re not – and the price that can make them pay.

Having written books set around the world, what is your favourite place to set a novel and why?

It’s always the one I’m working on at the moment. It has to be that way otherwise I’d get distracted. But somewhere I come back to time and time again, both for stories and for peace for editing, is Venice. It’s such a magical place and with every book I finish there with a read through and an edit in an apartment I rent. It’s almost a superstition by now.

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’m not sure I’d call it anything as fancy as inspiration. A lot of writing isn’t about intellectual stimulation. It’s about practicality, craft, sweat, labour. The kind of things a painter thinks about when he or she sets out on a canvas. What kind of colours will I use? What brush? What sort of paint? What’s the perspective? The time of day?

When I set out to create a story I try to find a location, some characters and an inciting incident – in this case the gang lord who wants to defect. Then I place all these players on the board and see how they want to approach events. A writer should be in control only up to a certain point. You have to let your cast be true to themselves in order to find the solution.

Following on from that, what do you read yourself and how does this influence your work?

I try to read widely. I don’t think it’s healthy for a writer to read only in the field in which they work. In fact I think that’s unhealthy on occasion – you subconsciously pick up styles or ideas, and worse you miss out on a lot of good writing in other fields. So I read a lot of fiction – mainly but not only history. The past is such a good mirror of what’s happening today, to a startling degree at times. I’m a sucker for anything about ancient Rome and Greece and follow Mary Beard, Robert Harris and Tom Holland avidly. I also like obscure foreign works which take a bit of tracking down. Most recently a fascinating novel set in Ferrara just before World War Two, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani.

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

I’m not a natural collaborator, I must say, but I would love to have worked out how Robert Graves went about writing I, Claudius and how long it took him. There were so many sources for that book and they were all in Latin.

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

My next book with Black Thorn will be a real departure – the first novel set somewhere I’ve never been. I’m usually big on local research – I signed up for language school to write the Costa books and spent ages in Italy. But you can work straight out of your imagination too. So next year my you’ll meet Devil’s Fjord, a mystery set in the fictional wilds of the Faroe Islands about a couple who retire there thinking it’s paradise, only to discover they got things very wrong.

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

No names or titles – as always with books I wait to be surprised.

Thanks to David for taking the time to answer my question. You can find out more about The Savage Shore and Black Thorn HERE.

 

 

Nicola Avery Interview: “I can’t tell you exactly where the ideas for my stories come from”

nicola avery

As a follow-up to my review of her brilliant novel Within The Silence I interview Nicola Avery to learn more about her work and how she came to start writing it.

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

I think my writing style developed from a need to create a dialogue with my readers. I tend to write about what I know, think, believe, or have been told. I explore subjects that make me cry, make me angry, make me question, hoping that my voice is always honest and open. Some of my subject matter is brave or controversial and requires the reader to listen, watch and engage with an open mind, exploring their own emotions and views, allowing the plot and characters to develop. I don’t judge in my writing, I leave that to my readers.

Both my books are very different – Whispered Memories is a mixed genre, multi-dimensional love story where a tragedy in the past (the premise of a past existence) and present day collide, as repeating patterns threaten lives once again.

Within The Silence is also a mixed genre, but a darker thriller with a paranormal twist, a race against time to stop an atrocity, where a love so powerful crosses even the ‘ultimate boundary of death’ to keep a love one safe.

As a reader I have always been drawn to thrillers, not frightening horror type, but more psychological, dark, ‘bad people’ led thrillers. That’s possibly why both my books are littered with murders, intrigue, hidden agendas, sadness, brutality, and tragedy… but lifted with the truth that ‘love’ is the final answer.

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

My father is a published author, my mother a ballet dancer so the artistic seam runs deep within my psyche. I travelled extensively, in and around Australia, returning back to the UK as a divorced single mother and carving a professional career in the corporate world of finance.

As soon as my daughter reached eighteen I began to follow my own interests, studying and qualifying as a professional hypnotherapist and past life/regression therapist in order to understand the impact that the past has on an individual in their lifetime. The subject matter on past existences was fascinating, the findings although chiefly unproven – persuasive. I needed to share, hence my first published book.

I write now about things that inspire me, move me or allow my mind to literally ‘free-fall’.   Whether these latest stories will go to print remains the question, but as long as there are readers that like my writing, I will find the time to create and put pen to paper.

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 can’t tell you exactly where the ideas for my stories come from. They are in my head and grow in the telling, becoming more layered, more intricate, and more involved as the stories develop. My editor has to cut chapters and pages from each finished manuscript with the cry of ‘too much!’ I’m also asked how do I know about some of the things I write about, especially the more ‘unusual’ or ‘unpleasant’. Research is essential, a vivid imagination and the courage to tackle something that might be seen as sensitive, unbelievable, unnatural, or unexplainable, hoping I will always convey the darker or difficult with compassion and sensitivity.

I treat ‘writers block’ like a virus. We will all get it one day – for me its natures way of saying enough – take a break – breath again…

I ‘word dump’ if I feel the guilt to write during these periods, work on an alternative project. I normally have two on the go so I can dip in to one on the back burner when I feel pressure from another. That way I always have an outline for the future, for another book (guilt is one of the writers curses, the need to write, whatever). Sometimes a break from your work is beneficial as it also allows you to take a step back. Also, ‘life’ does get in the way of writing and we should understand this. When this happens to me – I read – a lot. It’s my chance to go into another author’s world, soak up their wording, plot and characters, and enjoy their ‘place’, like a perfect holiday: it works for me.

Nicola avery books

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

Amelia Mary Earhart would be my first choice as a collaborator. I’d like to write her story, her life from her perspective. She was an American aviator pioneer and author, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Married, but with no children of her own, she disappeared in 1937 flying with her navigator Fred Noonan over the Pacific ocean en route to Howland Island from Lae, Papa New Guinea, in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

There is still a mystery as to what really happened to her, her navigator, the plane, where she landed or crashed, and how she met her fate. The mystery of her disappearance would be a fascinating detective story, but weave in her views and past battles as a woman in a man’s world, the choices she had to make, the risks she took, the fear she had to conquer, her experiences as a nurse’s aid during WW1 in a Canadian hospital, her experiences as an author, and her own personal lessons in life, her loves, her hates, then the project takes on real colour.

Spin that with fiction and conspiracy theories then the book takes on a different edge, a fiction book with several potential endings. Her capture by the Japanese for spying, the unknown bones found on an Island, the sunken plane, the mystery woman with a new life and new face, her murder, or the truth; what really happened to Amelia Earhart?

Sadly we may never uncover that, but if she allowed, I could add a twist to the book project and add in a paranormal element-perhaps she could then tell us!

What do you read yourself and how does this influence your writing?

I read as much as possible and can be wooed by a beautiful cover. I love thrillers, mysteries, crime, psychological thrillers and books that cross and mix genres. A ghostly twist to a love story is a bonus for me. As a result of my reading needs I’m writing the kind of books I want to read; mixed genres, murders, crimes, mysteries, thwarted love, reincarnates, ghosts, justifiable retributions, rather like a box of chocolates with no sweet index, where there’s something in it for everyone, and each bite is a surprise.

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

Yes, a children’s book – but with a difference – going back to the days of Hans Christian Andersen where story telling and children’s tales were filled with love, beauty and pain, where morals are taught and all actions good or bad had consequences. This is a challenge for me as I’m finding it very emotional to write and the intended age group keeps growing – to date it’s for children aged 9 to 90 years! Have quite a following and its not finished yet!

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

I read at least three book a month and have on occasions been surprisingly disappointed by a ‘well known’ author’s much publicised book, so now tend now to wait for the buzz to die down before purchasing and reading. I always finish a book whatever my opinion and never give a bad review, after all there is no ‘one size fits all’ in the world of books; readers views are varied and personal.

I do now have copies of Kate Mosse’s The Burning Chambers to read and Kate Atkinson’s Transcription..

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yes – a huge thank you to Hannah for inviting me to take part in this interview and to all the other amazing book bloggers out there, that are throwing authors a ‘life raft’ in this bumpy sea of book publishing and supporting us as we paddle.

Thanks Nicola it’s been great to hear your thoughts!

 

 

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.