Thanks to friend and fellow-writer Sharon Bidwell for lassoing me and plonking me in the relay race that is the My Writing Process blog tour. I hope I won’t drop the baton half way round.
Q1 What are you currently working on?
I usually have about six things on the go at once, although I don’t physically work on them all at the same time. Currently I’m editing a couple of short stories for submission calls – making sure they fit the guidelines, word count and so on – and actually writing one longer piece. This is a novella partly inspired by a Pink Floyd track, which follows the actions of six or seven different victims of a serial killer, trying to get inside their heads and find out what if anything in their personalities led them to their fate. Light-hearted it ain’t, but I’m hoping it will be something a little different.
Q2 How does my work differ from others in my genre?
Well, there are plenty of crime writers, slightly fewer who concentrate on noir, but I think where I really veer off is that I hardly ever focus on the detective, police officer or other crime-solver, but instead write from the criminals’ point of view. My stories are littered with the has-beens and the “little people”, often challenged or unsuccessful, who make the great criminal world go round without ever really benefiting from it.
On top of that, I weave some fairly dark, “gallows” humour into my stories – think Keystone Cops, Frank Spencer, or (if you want something a little more up to date) the Coen Brothers – yet at the same time all my work has a distinct “Brit-grit” feel to it, which is a fairly unusual combination.
Oh – and then there are the elephants…
Q3 Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always had an interest in what makes people tick, what makes people do the things they do, and go on doing, even if it leads to disaster. I grew up watching the gritty British tv fare of the 70s and 80s – Softly Softly, Z Cars, The Professionals, The Sweeney – so that dark, violence-soaked, rain-soaked, back-alley style of drama is in my blood. And I’ve always enjoyed stories where there is no happy-ever-after, where people veer from one crisis to another or bring about their own very personal downfalls. I guess I’m just weird.
Q4 How does my writing process work?
Quite often, it doesn’t. I can sit and stare at the computer screen for hours, with thoughts jangling round in my head but nothing filtering through with sufficient lucidity to put down on paper. Once I catch hold of the loose thread and give it a tug, though, the ideas unravel, spill out and I can rattle off an entire short story in two days flat. Then I’m back to screen-staring again.
I find it almost impossible to plot, plan or work more methodically. The loose threads come when they will; listing characters or chapter headings in a notebook achieves nothing for me. In fact it can be counter-productive, because if I spend all my creative energy on an outline, I have nothing left to write the actual story. And letting the characters write their own story can lead up some very interesting blind alleys!
Q5 What’s new from you?
I have a short story coming up in the Drag Noir anthology, edited by K A Laity. This is a serious look at drag in all its manifestations: the masks and disguises that people take on, the things they’re hiding from, the events that cause them to turn to such extreme measures. My own story, ‘Wheel Man’, is set in the gender-obsessed world of car theft, which Stephen Fry recently described as “the last bastion of sexism in British crime”, and examines the lengths one woman is prepared to go to, to keep doing what she loves. The book is due from Fox Spirit in October, but if you can’t wait that long you could do worse than seek out Exiles: An Outsider Anthology from Blackwitch Press, which also contains one of my short stories, ‘Dead Man Walking’. It’s available as either a print or e-book, it’s nice and cheap, and all proceeds go to charity (the Marfan Foundation) so you can donate to a good cause in the process.
And now it’s over to the next sacrifical victim, crime-buff Lucy Cameron, for the next step in the blog tour. Thanks for listening!