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!

 

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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!

 

 

 

Vicki Goldie Interview: “I would say that without reading it would be impossible to be a writer”

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Golden Age crime fiction fan and author Vicki Goldie talks to me about how this seminal era shaped her work!

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

I grew up reading Agatha Christie, she was my mother’s favourite and then I progressed to the other golden age authors especially Dorothy L Sayers. I then came across a local Dorset writer Gladys Mitchel in the 1980s. They all influenced me and made me a little obsessed with Art Deco and that period in time. Just as I was thinking about trying some more writing I met Peter James. He was very generous with his advice and he has greatly influenced my style and form of my books.

How has your time working for libraries influenced your writing?

My job was to organise author events and promote libraries to the reading public. So over nearly twenty years I met an awful lot of authors and quizzed them on writing. We also ran writing workshops and that was fantastic help. Of course, I also read a huge number of books! Libraries are invaluable for research and also save a considerable amount of money though borrowing their books for free.

Please tell me about Blind Witness. What defines your writing style?

Blind Witness is book one of a series of books featuring Alasdair Charters and his wife Melissa. Alasdair is a blind World War 1 veteran. I have been married to a blind physiotherapist for over 40 years and I wanted to examine the prejudices that surrounded disability then, and found they still persist today. His wife is an aristocrat but is also a socialist, and I have some fun with that. The story line is pure golden age, a country house weekend party where a murder occurs. Rather than gritty crime it is more fun, although as Alasdair has PTSD, which of course was not understood then, but can be very serious.

I am part of a writers’ circle in the New Forest and they have been very helpful in helping me define my style and remove bad habits.

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

I am beginning each book with a flash back to the war. This was a great suggestion from the excellent Kate Rhodes who came down a few years ago and did an event and a workshop at Westbourne Library.

I took the Jericho Writers’ writing course and followed all his advice. It made me analyse the book and it is amazing to find themes in your drafts that you were unaware of when writing. Having found them it is good to develop them. It makes the book richer.

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

I do read a huge amount of crime both modern and old fashioned. I love discovering new authors especially ones that have been out of print for years. All books have something to teach you as a writer. I love reading Santa Montefiore, it is important to vary your genres.

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

Well sadly the fantastic Sophie Hannah is already doing this with Agatha Christie to great success! Jill Paton Walsh is writing Lord Peter Wimsey and they are super too. So not someone dead I think. As for someone living I am not sure I am at that level of expertise yet!

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

I am completing my second book in the series called Blind Pool, it is set in the Somerset Levels and a house party are caught up in the floods and cut off and then murders begin to happen. I am also researching book three, which will be set in the south of France.

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

Far too many to mention, but I do buy Peter James, Christopher Fowler, Charles Todd and of course Sophie Hannah the day they come out. I am a huge fan of Louise Penny and her new novel is out on 27th November.

Anything you’d like to add?

I would say that without reading it would be impossible to be a writer. And without libraries it would be impossible to read the amount necessary to achieve that goal.

Many thanks for answering my questions Vicki- it’s great to meet another Golden Age fan and a lover of Peter James’ work!

John Bowie Interview: “As far back as I can remember I’ve written”

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This week John Bowie, from the beautiful city of Bristol talks me through his gritty crime fiction and how he came to write it.

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

I started out writing dirty realism, which evolved a crime side to it. The noir has always been there: the atmosphere tying it together. A shout line ‘Classic Crime Noir Full of Dirty Realism’ was used for my first book. I think it still works. There are many layers for book lovers, writers and music fans to discover beyond its pigeonhole though.

I wasn’t sure of crime fiction originally. I always loved dirty realism, the Beat Generation and noir and they flowed to and from my semi-autobiographical pieces I was working on.

Then I read a Robert Lewis book on a beach in Malaysia. Realising it was set in the same city and timeframe as my work, and with a really similar tone, my wife and I almost wondered if I had some Fight Club style alter ego. I referenced this in my themes of identity in Untethered. Paul Auster, who I’m a big fan of too, and Robert Lewis both get honorary mentions in Untethered as well as quite a few other writers, bands and artists who I’ve been inextricably interwoven together with by creativity over time.

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

As far back as I can remember I’ve written. I had a short story published, Milburn’s Last Class, with Storgy this year. This was a dark fiction piece reimagining a story I’d actually written and read out in school. It was my revenge through storytelling after being repeatedly berated by my teacher.

My writing took a more purposeful vocation as I started writing what I thought was my version of Bukowski’s Post Office in 1998. I worked for a corporate hellhole of a bank at the time and it was good therapy to drink, write, paint and anything else besides what I was meant to be doing. It built up into four outlined books over time and sat on a virtual shelf in my head and in lots of sketch and notebooks. They were semi-autobiographical noir pieces but lacking a momentum somehow. Later I discovered hardboiled P.I. and crime fiction. The mechanisms I discovered in these were such an important springboard to move my works off my shelf and onto other peoples’. It gave my writing a vehicle beyond the cathartic poetic rants I was used to.

Tell me all about your books. Why do you believe readers enjoy them?

I feel the semi-autobiographical elements give a depth that can only come from reading something that has already or is maybe going to happen. With the lyrical atmosphere, it’s a believable hard fiction with a killer soundtrack. I use metaphysical tools to place the reader in my past and present.

What books do you like to read and how do they impact on your own writing?

I try to master the art of saying complex things in a simple way. There are so many good writers to discover and old favourites — true masters at it. I’ve been lucky and discovered some great new ones through my writing.

Is there anything else that influences your writing (places, people, films etc)?

Ghosts and future memories of the cities, music, people and life I’ve encountered all wrestle round in my head, waiting to be written out.

I always have a notebook for short story ideas and another for my novels to make notes with me. These notebooks are written into each story. They’re as real as the characters and places in them.

I listen to music and revisit it and the towns and cities my stories are set in, to add to the atmosphere too. This gives the words a lyrical feeling; like notes. The music and words weave together, pushing me on. It feeds the flow of it all as I go. Factory records, the Hacienda and the music of my time in Manchester (mid to late 90s) are at the heart of Untethereds’ follow-up, Transference. All four books in the series (so far) have intentional Joy Division feeling one-word titles with multiple interpretations.

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

Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me and 24hr Party People films made me think he’s passionate about the same music and themes that surround my stories; maybe I’ll send him a copy of something…

Ian Curtis, Sally Potter, Mary Harron, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Mark E. Smith, Charles Bukowski and David Cronenberg are all just wistful thinking; to bring them together for a drink fuelled brain drop of ideas.

What’s next for your writing? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

I dabbled playing with horror tropes recently. I applied my semi-autobiographical elements, music and questions on identity. It’s just come out with Dead Man’s Tome in the U.S. I’d like to try the same with other genres as short story exercises. I saw some great old Western covers in an old bookshop at lunchtime and thought a dark and dirty Brit-Western-Noir would work for me: ‘A Weston-Super-Nightmare’.

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

Anything by Paul D. Brazill, Paul Heatley, Julian Barnes, Paul Auster and all the others I keep finding: there’s not enough time to quench the thirst they create. 

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you so much for the interview- I’m chuffed to be asked!

It’s been great to hear your thoughts and learn more about your work, so thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

 

Martin Ungless Interview: “Crime is such a great vehicle for driving forward a story”

Martin Ungless

Crime writer Martin Ungless explains his work and how he has created a unique novel in his book Duck Egg Blues.

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

I like a nice plot, me. Crime is such a great vehicle for driving forward a story and putting characters in tricky situations, it’s got the potential to be page turning and fantastically entertaining, and in my case, so I’m told, laugh-out-loud.

I’ve always written, but had a brief interlude, a decade or so, as an architect. That’s a great education for a writer; disciplined creativity and learning to critique ones own work. It was also in my case an exercise in narrative and on producing something that pleased the public, and these days of course that’s the reader.

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

Perhaps I’ve already half-answered that, but I do think when I designed buildings that the stories they told were important. At that same time, I was continuing to hone my practical writing skills with articles in the architectural press. I do feel that writing is another outlet for the pleasure of creation, just with a different brief, and requiring a whole other set of skills. I have written a fair few short stories, and as well as refining technique these can also be usefully entered in competitions, even a long-listing can keep a writer going through the long dark self-doubt times, and sometimes you even get to win!

Tell me all about your books. Why do you believe readers and critics enjoy them?

I think readers enjoy genre fiction because we all like more of the same but different. Sometimes for me that difference comes in blending the genres themselves. I write fiction that surprises, always, regardless of whether I am genre-blending or not, and I can pretty well guarantee that you will not have read anything like one of my stories before; though (more of the same but different) my books are full of crime and detection and peril and complications and characters who suffer and win through. It’s not that my stories are so far out there, I just have a vivid imagination. Not a bad trait for a writer, I guess.

What books do you like to read and how do they impact on your own writing?

I’ve got pretty eclectic tastes. Right now I’m working my way through a whole history of C20th classic Crime, reading and rereading, trying to understand what works so well for them. I don’t know if your readers have come across They Shoot Horse Don’t They? I read that quite recently and it’s a cracker, that and the astonishing The Postman Always Rings Twice. Both feel like they were at least half a century before their time. I utterly love the energy of something like Fight Club, and the exceptional dialogue of Elmore Leonard. Outside of Crime, I’m a huge fan of Murakami.

Is there anything else that influences your writing (places, people, films etc)?

I’ve got wide interests hence the multiple-genres, but in particular I’m a fan of technology, and this passion gave rise to PArdew, my robot-butler-detective from Duck Egg Blues, and is also the reason why I’m currently working on a high-tech hacker thriller.

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

I think I mentioned him already, but I do think Elmore Leonard had an utterly extraordinary ear for dialogue. I think it was based on his deep understanding of character, and if they could rub off on me, boy would those be some nice skills to learn. Sadly he has passed away.

What’s next for your writing? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

My high-tech international crime thriller is called Orange612. The opening section was listed for a Debut Dagger by the Crime Writers’ Association this year, so I’m pretty buzzed to be working on that.

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

I haven’t read Melmoth yet, that looks a cracker and The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, well, you just know that’s something else!

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for inviting me to talk about my work, I think it might be almost as fun as writing it.

Thanks you for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been great to hear your thoughts.

 

Bob Mayer Interview: “writing is a very personal experience”

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Bestselling author Bob Mayer talks to me about his writing and the experiences that led him to writing such incredible work.

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

I’ve been writing for a living for 30 years. My style has evolved over time. Initially I was very plot oriented and outlined quite a bit. The last couple of years I’ve shifted more to what I call streaming—which is setting up my characters in a setting and throwing obstacles in their path and just writing. I feel I’ve written enough that I can do it more ‘on the fly’ although that requires more rewriting and thinking than outlining does.

I started writing just to write. I didn’t think about getting published. I’d read so much it just seemed a natural outgrowth of that.

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

I served in the Army for a number of years in the Infantry and Special Forces. After I resigned my active duty commission and was in the Reserves, I moved to Asia to study martial arts. I had some time on my hand, the original 512k Mac, and just started writing. I finished two manuscripts without thinking about selling them. Then someone read one and said, “This is like a real book!” And then I went through the long, arduous process of getting published.

Please tell me about your books and why readers enjoy them.

I write across a range of genres so some of my books should appeal to everyone. I’ve hit bestseller lists in thriller, romance, historical fiction, nonfiction, suspense and science fiction. My bestselling series are The Green Berets (military thriller) and Area 51 (science fiction). I’ve tended to write in areas that interest me. A lot of my focus is on history, psychology and the evolution of the mind. I also enjoy delving into myths and legends, which I did in the Area 51 and Atlantis series. I plumbed history with the Time Patrol books.

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

Not particularly. Point of view has been a struggle but I’ve settled in omniscient voice. My latest manuscript, which I just completed, is omniscient voice but following one character for the entire book which is something new for me.

I do like to move in time and place. For example, each Time Patrol book features six missions on the same day, such as Independence Day, but in six different years. So each book is essentially six short stories inside of an overall novel, which was hard but great fun to research the history and ask “what if?”

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

I enjoy reading writers better than me. Some favourite of my authors are Kate Atkinson, Richard Russo, Michael Connolly, Larry McMurtry, and Pat Conroy. I read a lot of nonfiction because history fascinates me. Also, I lean toward reading books for research rather than the Internet. With the Internet you have to know what questions to ask. With books you find the questions (and answers) you never thought to ask.

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

I have collaborated and it is an interesting experience. Jenny Crusie and I wrote three books together with our best being Agnes and the Hitman. I learned a tremendous amount about writing from her. Much of which I put into this most recent book, New York Minute.

Ultimately, writing is a very personal experience. What I focus on these days is a writer’s process. I study other authors for how they create. Not just authors, but screenwriters—in essence storytellers. That’s our job. The oldest profession.

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

New York Minute launches a new series for me featuring a special character, William Kane. I’m pitching it as First Blood meets Breaking Bad. The first book is set in New York City in the summer of 1977, during the long hot summer of Son of Sam and the blackout. I grew up in the Bronx during that period. My character is also a graduate of West Point and Special Forces veteran (both of which I’ve done). So it’s rather personal.

This is a breakout book as I have a unique cast of characters inhabiting the world. I’m at work on the second book, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. My agent will be marketing New York Minute when I send it to her and I’m very excited about it.

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

Kate Atkinson has a new book out, Transcription, I will read as soon as I finish this biography of William Tecumseh Sherman.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thanks for giving me this opportunity. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and am more enthused about writing today than I have ever been. I’ve been compiling experience, craft and expertise and continue to strive to become a better storyteller.

Thanks for taking the time Bob- you can find out more about Bob and his work on his website HERE.

 

 

Desmond Ryan Interview: “My readers like the books because they are reading authentic stories filled with believable characters”

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Former Police Detective Desmond Ryan talks me through how his time in the force has influenced his writing.  

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

Crime fiction lends itself well to the type of writing I have been doing for the past thirty years as a police detective. I used to joke with my colleagues that I would be that guy who sits in the corner of the pub and tells police stories to any poor soul who has the misfortune of sitting down anywhere near me. And then I retired. Sensing that a semi-permanent seat in the pub wouldn’t serve me well (on so many levels), I decided to take some of those stories, give them a bit of a twist, and write crime fiction instead. I love noir and the classic sleuth novels and try to incorporate a bit of that flavour into my work.

How do you draw on your experience as a detective when writing?

A lot of my storylines are loosely based on bits and pieces of events that I’ve been involved in either directly or indirectly. I find that the characterizations of both my protagonists and antagonists are where I really draw upon experience. My characters tend to be a compilation of the people I’ve worked with or had dealings with. This makes writing so much easier, doesn’t it? Especially for crime fiction. I mean, at the end of the day, a crime fiction novel tends to be about someone murdering someone and then getting caught. Not much fun in that. It’s the juicy bits that make it fun, and I think those juicy bits are the characters. 

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

The six books in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series are police procedurals that follow the life of Detective Mike O’Shea over a number of years on and off the job. My readers like the books because they are reading authentic stories filled with believable characters. The dialogue, the little details, the plot twists and turns- all bang on because I know what I’m talking about. I have lived that life. And, as a writer, I assume that my readers are not only crime fiction fans, but also clever readers who enjoy complex characters, a gripping storyline, and reading well-written material.

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

As I mentioned earlier, I expect my readers to be intelligent and informed. I know that they don’t want to be spoken down to or presumed to be incapable of understanding the complexities of a police investigation. I use dialogue to create an authentic experience and direct engagement between the characters and my readers. I use a lot of police jargon, but not for the sake of it. Every piece of it is intentional and establishes the mood of the scene. I also use a lot of profanity because that is what I have heard and said (but don’t tell my mother!) as a real police detective. As a reader, I enjoy novels—regardless of genre—that draw me in completely. As a writer, I believe that it is my obligation to provide that experience for my reader, who has given up however many hours out of their busy day to read my books.

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

I kind of binge-read. I will find an author and read as much as I can from that author and, regardless of the genre, will draw some clever bit out and apply it to my own writing. For example, I recently went through a slight Peter Temple phase. I loved one of his books and did not enjoy another as much, primarily because I didn’t like the protagonist in the second book. Both books held my attention and I would recommend them, but I much preferred the first over the second. What I learned from that as a writer is that it’s okay for your reader to not love your protagonist as long as the story is strong.

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

I have just discovered Simon Brett (I know, what rock have I been living under, right?) and absolutely love his writing style. I seriously doubt that he and I will ever co-author a project, but I’d gladly settle for sitting down with him for a few pints!

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

I am so glad you asked! As well as an outrageously rigorous writing and publishing schedule for the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series (Book Two will be out in February 2019, followed by Book Three in June 2019) I have a cosy series on the go. I know. Who writes police procedurals and cosies? And, the main character of the Mary Margaret Mysteries is Mike O’Shea’s mother! There will be some crossovers of characters and dialogue (and room for so many inside jokes referencing the series). I am really looking forward to it and am anxious to see how it all comes together.

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

My bedside table at home often looks like a game of Jenga. Ivan Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide, Catherine Hernandez’ Scarborough, Aldofo E. Ramirez’ The Purple Cloud Project…the list goes on and on and on. I’m looking forward to a book by a friend of mine, Christine Newman, a debut author, later this year (I hope!).

Anything you’d like to add?

I’d just like to thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers. It is a privilege to be a writer who is read by others. And I hope that you enjoy reading 10-33 Assist PC as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thanks for taking the time, I’ve really enjoyed hearing from you!