An Interview for Wordup
1. Why and when did you decide to make writing your career?
I’ve always written, even as a child. It is something of a compulsion for me. I had various short stories published in magazines for many years and then about 1993/1994 I wrote Poet in the Gutter and once that was published, I decided to become a full-time writer.
2. How easy was it to get published?
Poet in the Gutter was not that difficult but with previous manuscripts, I had had a hell of a job.
3. Did you have an agent then or did you try to get published by yourself?
I didn’t have an agent for the first two novels, although I’ve got one now. It’s tough though, as it can be just as hard to get an agent as it is to get published! There is an element of luck about it that I find quite disturbing. I know some really good writers, and they just can’t get published.
4. Where do you get your inspiration from? Real-life , imagination or both?
Both. But having said that; although I read the newspapers and will often get ideas from there, the majority of what I write is imaginative.
5. When you start a new book, do you plan it all out first, plot, character etc. or just see what happens?
I don’t plan anything. I sit in front of a blank screen. It’s a voice I’m looking for, and if I can find it I carry on, if I can’t then I scrap it. To be honest I don’t want to know what’s going to happen, I might not write it if I knew.
6. What made you start writing crime novels?
I didn’t intend to. The first novel was supposed to be a sort of homage to Chandler, I never thought it would turn into a crime series. It was the Publisher’s idea really and it escalated from there.
7. So you weren’t particularly drawn to the genre?
No, although obviously now I really enjoy it. I don’t think it is a narrowly defined genre, not like romance for example. I really feel you can do anything. The plot or crime simply act as the skeleton, which you can then hang everything else onto, like relationships between characters, for example.
8. Why do you think fiction is important?
Fiction is the part of our culture that I can negotiate with. I get a lot of feedback from it and it means something to me, as a person. I think it is essential; people would become robots if they couldn’t find some kind of imaginative truth. Having said that, I think people who claim they don’t read fiction, because they like to read ‘about real-life’ are contradicting themselves, as so much of what happens in fiction is based on human experience.
9. Can writing be something of a lonely profession?
Definitely. I know some writers collaborate on novels etc. but at the end of the day it is the art of the individual. As a writer, I sit by myself and work alone. The only time I come into contact with other people is when I am doing research. So anyone who is thinking of becoming a writer has got to be the sort of person who gets a buzz out of that kind of loneliness.
10. There are so many creative writing courses and groups nowadays. What is your opinion of these? Do you think writing is something that can be taught?
I have been involved in some creative writing workshops and it is not possible to teach someone to write. You can pass on advice about technique but if there is somebody there who really can’t write, they won’t be able to afterwards. If some one is capable, then you can give them tips on structure, building up suspense, that’s all common knowledge. But the actual sense of writing is quite different. I think people who come to courses looking for the answer are going to be ultimately disappointed, there is no substitute for actually sitting down and writing.
11. What gives you the most satisfaction out of being a writer?
Just occasionally getting it perfectly right. As a writer you spend every hour, day, week striving for some kind of perfection and 90% of the time it doesn’t happen. But when it does and you write the perfect sentence or paragraph, then its pay day. That’s what I do it for.