Welcome David …
What is your genre? Why did you choose it?
I write crime fiction as that is what I enjoy reading and watching on television. I’m a firm believer in writing the sort of book you would want to read and writing a book for yourself and not for ‘the market’. Trying to write for a market will result in work that will be transparent; the readers will see through you.
What has been your proudest writing achievement?
Having my second novel, Torment, shortlisted for the 2013 Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger.
Is writing your full-time job?
I write part-time but it is my only occupation.
Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
I haven’t, in the same way I can’t really read two books at once. I know some people who can read 3 or 4 simultaneously but I like to enjoy my reads. Having said that, at the moment I’ve completed the 3rd novel in my Yorkshire crime series and I decided I wanted a break from it. Although I’ve made a nominal start on a 4th, I’ve set that to one side and am excited about a new book I’m currently working on. This is a completely unrelated book which I hope will become another series. I’m hoping to complete the first draft later this summer.
Do you track and plot your novels?
Certainly with the first book in my Yorkshire crime series, Trophies, I started the first draft with no real plan and wondered where it would take me. After a while, I began to see where it would end up and worked towards that end. Despite that, it did change direction several times. With the second one, Torment, I began with three different story strands and had a rough idea where things would end up. With both of these, the synopsis proved difficult to construct. With the third in the series, Talisman, I approached the task more like a screenwriter would. Again, I had three strong story strands and began with a one paragraph statement of what the book would be about. That summary was expanded to one page then two. This gave me a rough framework of the book which I followed loosely and let the writing take me where it felt best. On completion, I found the synopsis of Talisman so much easier to write, using my two page treatment as the basis. I’ve followed this way of working with the new work too.
Do you work with a writing/critique group?
Way back, I signed up for a creative writing nightclass, which was stimulating. After a while, a group of about six of us realized we were doing all the work and critiquing our own projects so we formed our own little writing group and met up regularly for a few years. After a lull of some considerable time, I discovered writer’s conferences and workshops and met some great like-minded writers (as well as published authors). Now I have a group of close friends from all over (including overseas) who write seriously and we share our work for critical purposes. Writing is a solitary pursuit but that doesn’t mean it has to be lonely and having people you trust who will give you ‘warts and all’ feedback is so important. We also try and meet up in person a least once a year if not more.
Have you ever based characters on people you know?
Not specifically but you can’t help using little traits of people you know for characterisation. I also observe people when I’m out and about and if I spot something interesting, I might use that to give ‘flesh to the bones’ so to speak. I find it interesting that you can say so much about a character by some small habit or action they perform rather than going into a whole paragraph of description.
Can you remember your first reading book?
Apart from my Famous Five series as a child (so hate the word ‘kid’!), I can remember my first ‘adult’ book I took from the school library when I was about 10. Many years later I’d ask people if they’d ever heard of it or read it because it made such an impression on me. I’d scour the shelves in second-hand bookshops to no avail. Finally in late 2010 I was driving home from work and actor Mark Strong was being interviewed on the radio about his latest film about to be released. When he started telling the story, I realized it was my favourite book from all those years ago. The Way Back made a pretty good adaptation of The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz and I was able to buy the edition published following the film’s release and enjoy the read again.
I have recently used music to inspire a scene … Do you listen music while you work?
Unlike some authors, I don’t write listening to music; I need silence. If I want to invoke a certain mood with some of my writing, eg. sadness, tragedy, good nature etc. I’ll listen to certain music that inspires that, whilst thinking about what I’ll write.
Tidy desk or a bombsite? Describe your writing area with us.
Generally, a bombsite. I’ve never been particularly tidy where I’ve worked (in my previous career) – I always think if a desk is pristine then the occupant isn’t really working; has too little to do or isn’t doing what they should. But I write in a number of places around the house on my small laptop; sitting in a chair in the sitting room, sitting up in bed, in my shed, in my office or now, in the writers’ summerhouse in the garden.
Are you published in the traditional manner or self published? Share your journey.
A few years ago, I became frustrated, as many writers do, at the lack of progress as far as obtaining publication was concerned. One of my good writing friends (a published author) suggested a website who facilitated self-publishing (not to be confused with vanity publishing, which is totally different). The end result was the publication of the original version of Trophies. I got myself out there and persuaded various bookshops to give me book signings. Waterstones were, for the most part, very accommodating but special mention should be given to my local independent bookshop, Caxton’s in Frinton, who have been very supportive. I learned a tremendous amount about how the industry works through this.
But then, when Torment was shortlisted, I managed to obtain agent representation. My agent worked with me through both Trophies and Torment doing great editorial work. On her recommendation, I withdraw Trophies from sale, which allowed her to pitch to publishers. Sadly, that didn’t work out and we parted company very amicably. I am now represented by an agent in Dublin. Another round of pitching has taken place. This again has been so frustrating as all the rejections have been positive with two or three so close I could weep. I might take a leaf out of J K Rowling’s book and publish those. She is keen to pitch the new book when ready but, in the meantime, we decided to go back to self-publishing with the Yorkshire series. TROPHIES has now been released and the plan is that TORMENT will follow in a few weeks time with TALISMAN coming later in the summer.
Who would you say have been the three most influential authors in your reading/writing life?
Ian Rankin was the first crime writer I discovered and have now read all of his novels. It helped having his books set in my home city of Edinburgh and I can relate to the city as a character in itself, as well as Rebus and the other individuals he describes.
The second writer I discovered a good few years ago was Ron Ellis whose protagonist is Johnny Ace, a private detective who rents out flats to students and has his own radio programme in Liverpool (not quite Eddie Shoestring). What I loved about his books was the humour. His descriptions of some of his characters are great.
Ron is one of only four writers who have made me laugh out loud whilst I’ve been reading their work on my own. (The first was David Nobbs – Second From Last In The Sack Race etc; the second, Spike Milligan in one of his Second World War autobiographies (don’t ask which section – you’d be banned from the internet!) and the other is my writing buddy Sarah Wagstaff (as yet unpublished).
My third choice would be my latest favourite I discovered a couple of years ago – Gordon Ferris, who wrote a quartet of crime novels set in Glasgow in 1946/1947. His writing is so seamless and smooth and you’re there with the narrator all the way. The first is The Hanging Shed and I can’t recommend his work highly enough.
What advice would you like to share with other writers/authors with regard to preparing a manuscript?
Try and get the manuscript as perfect as you can possibly make it. Remember if you’re submitting to an agent for representation, they are looking for the quickest reason to say ‘No’ (their default response). So you have to minimise that. You can address items within your domain – number one – only submit to those who are willing to accept unsolicited submissions. Give them what they ask for – if it’s the opening three chapters and the synopsis, then don’t fire off ten chapters, or only the first. Also, make sure spelling and grammar are correct, formulate an interesting and relevant cover letter or email – all the usual aspects covered in numerous writing books.
Also bear in mind that there are influences that are outwith your control – the person you are submitting to may have recently taken on a similar project; they may have just been dumped by their boyfriend/girlfriend; have a massive hangover; generally be in a bad mood. Conversely, they may be in a good mood and will look more closely and favourably at what you’ve submitted.
Basically, there is a fair smattering of luck involved too. But above all, you must have the determination to carry on after rejection.
If the movie rights to your novels are purchased, who would you like to play your main characters?
Before he took over the Barnaby role in Midsomer Murders, Neil Dudgeon was in my head as I wrote DI Colin Strong. Interestingly, he’s also from Doncaster. As for other characters, I haven’t given that much thought. But it would be a great place to be if a TV company wanted to produce a dramatization of the series. Readers have said my novels read very televisually. I’d also love to write for television so can you imagine my push to write the screenplay too.
I was on my way to the supermarket, when … Do you have a tale to tell relating to an everyday, boring event?
My first job in construction after leaving university, was with a well-known contractor based in South Yorkshire. A life-long interest for me has been railways and models thereof. In Sheffield there was, and I believe still is, a model shop which I used to like to visit from time to time. One day, early lunch-time, I parked in a side street and made my way along the main road to this shop. I’m talking around 1978 here and about five or six shops away from my target was a branch of a chain you don’t see these days.
Radio Rentals existed then because most people rented their televisions. Later, when video recorders came on the market, they rented them too. For those who can’t remember, they would have a display of different models along the back wall or in the front window, nearly always all on the same channel.
As I walked past Radio Rentals, I glanced in through the big window. Sitting at a desk facing out was a bored looking girl of about 18, head down, reading a paper. Behind her were about 27 televisions on the back wall. I stopped dead in my tracks then looked around the street. It was unusually quiet with nobody else walking by.
I looked again into the shop. The girl was oblivious to what was being shown behind her. Every TV screen had the image of an erect male member.
I looked up and down the street, expecting someone to approach with film equipment. Surely this was a stunt for some adult Candid Camera programme? A double-deck bus approached. I looked up, trying in vain to attract the attention of any of the two or three passengers on board. A couple of cars drove past – same result.
Another look back inside – the girl continued reading, the images still on the TVs. I couldn’t bring myself to open the door and ask her to look round. The really frustrating thing was, there was no one else to share the experience with. For something to be funny, it needs to be shared. I can only think that they were broadcasting some sex education or biology programme for schools – this was in the days of only three channels and certainly not all-day broadcasting.
TROPHIES, the first of the Yorkshire Crime Series is now available in paperback and Kindle download at: