What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
I was always pritty good at England at school innit!
Seriously, as a spotty teen, I used to meet up with fellow Mancunian writer and school-pal, David Barber, and we’d chat about the books we’d read and writers we admired (while I beat him at pool). It was mainly horror, back then; namely, the late great James Herbert, Dean Koontz and Stephen King. But then I read a novel called Switch by William Bayer that I’d picked up in a second-hand book stall up town for 50p (two murder victims’ heads were ‘switched’ to confuse the cops). This, er, turned my head to crime fiction.
Dave and I used to swap each other’s latest attempts at amateurish short stories and offer feedback, but we didn’t know what we were doing really. We went our separate ways, though, sharing that mutual love of reading and writing, over the years, we always picked up where we’d left off. Twenty years later, I published some of Dave’s stories via my role as crime editor at ezine, Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers.
In my early twenties I wrote two ‘half novels’, but hit brick walls, oddly, at the 40,000 word mark twice. I briefly embarked on a writing course to see if I could actually write, after fantasising about being a writer for so long. I had a few articles published and received enough positive feedback to realise it was possible… but then life took over: wife, kids, mortgage, etc. However, I continued to play around with writing projects spasmodically, as ‘the dream’ bubbled inside me. It’s only really in the last five years that I’ve truly focused and become more, dare I say, professional.
How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?
Firstly, and this is important if you want to move forward as a writer, to increase the available time, I made sacrifices. I stopped playing pool and football, which I do miss, a lot, but it was the right decision. I also only now watch selected stuff on TV, like debates, documentaries, crime dramas and films, and, of course my beloved football.
I write in frantic bursts in between shifts (and Man. City games) because I’m usually too tired mid-shift. It’s difficult, as I have to constantly turn the creative tap on and off, which is easier said than done. Since the kids have reached high school, they are less demanding of my time and understand what I’m trying to do, so they leave me alone more, once I go in the ‘back room’ and close the door. (I don’t shut them out completely, it’s just when I write, so don’t call social services because they are quite happy locked in the cupboard under the stairs.)
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
It’s crime all the way for me, sometimes sprinkled with horror and a dash of the supernatural, but it’s always crime at the core. Being included in the last two ‘Mammoth Books of Best British Crime’ not only was a great thrill, but served to make me feel more connected to the genre I love.
What draws you to write in that genre?
I’m drawn to it because I enjoy reading crime, plus, I was brought up in a city surrounded by crime, and now work with violent offenders on a daily basis. I’ve also always had an unhealthy fascination in what motivates some people to commit crime, especially murder.
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
I’ve just sent off the third rewrite of ‘novel two’ to my agent. I became somewhat carried away with a certain aspect that I’d introduced to the same characters in the first ‘novel’. So I had to cut 35,000 words and do a heavy bout of re-plotting, which was very tricky – it may have been easier to just start from scratch, but it’s done now and I didn’t quite crack up, so…
I may know the answer by the time this interview goes out. We got close with the first ‘novel’, gleaning lots of praise from top editors, which encouraged me to go back to the drawing (or writing) board. I’m more hopeful this time around, because I’m told that I’ve improved throughout what’s been a long, often gruelling, learning curve, but we’ll see, eh? I do have a plan B, C and even D, but prefer plan A.
What are your writing plans for the future?
Patience doesn’t come naturally to me, but going the traditional route of manuscript-agent-rewrites-agent-publisher, has certainly taught me patience. This was tested further, especially having watched many writer friends bringing out books, while I’ve been playing the traditional waiting game despite having many stories already written. Even though I’ve been writing for years, I really didn’t ‘feel’ like a writer because I had nothing out there book-wise. Subconsciously, this is probably why I brought out my two eBook collections – MANCHESTER 6 and THE COPS OF MANCHESTER – while I endeavour with the novels. I’m glad I did the eBooks because the feedback from readers has served to spur me on immeasurably, and has given me the confidence and energy to chase ‘the dream’.
Where can people find out more about you?
Thanks for having me, Ruth.