Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Author Interview: R.Thomas Brown

Tell us about your novel Hill Country

Gabriel Hill stumbles home to find a mutilated corpse on his porch. A man who had beat him earlier. After puking, he finds a makeshift animal sacrifice behind his house. The next day, his life got complicated.

His home is broken into. He's beaten by a stranger. Seduced by another. Threatened unless he can find the valuables his dead brother supposedly sent to him.

Ignoring advice to run, Gabe searches for answers. He finds a brother unlike the drug addicted young man he forgot. He finds new threats, new enemies, more dead bodies, a courage he didn't think existed, a love that he didn't expect and a truth that he feared.

What inspired you to write it?

It was a strange path to this novel. It started as what became my horror novella, Merciless Pact. But there were elements that weren’t working and the story evolved. In the end, I tried to tell a high octane story that held some of the charm of the Maltese Falcon. Not the story style, but the notion of people who would give anything, and betray anyone for a prize.

You seem to enjoy writing about the frailties and flaws in the human condition. Why do you think this is?

I try to create characters that feel real to me. I don’t much care to write the Jason Bourne’s of the world. I like that stuff sometimes, but it’s not what’s in my head. I am drawn to stories about normal people who are forced to deal with things that don’t make sense. Be it a gun to the head or a voice that no one else hears, it’s the reaction that I care about.

If you had to pick a soundtrack to your novel what songs would you pick?

I listened to several Texas artists while writing the book to keep my head in the place I was when I lived in San Antonio and my cousins had property in the Hill Country. Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keene, Pat Green, Stevie Ray Vaughan, some old ZZ Top, others as well.

Where can our readers find you online?

I blog about various fiction things, including my writing at Criminal Thoughts, I’m also the flash fiction editor at Spinetingler and occasionally do a review at Crime Fiction. I tweet as @rthomasbrown and you can find me on facebook and Google +. That seems like a bit much, but I pick and choose where I post and my activity on each of those can be sporadic. Twitter is most reliable.

What do you most like about writing?

It’s damn fun. I love creating characters from my imagination, doing horrible things to them, and crafting ways for them to succeed, or fail. It really is fun. I love telling stories.

What do you dislike about writing?

It’s isolated. Even doing writing at home means that I’m not doing something with someone else. That’s hard and is a tough balance for me to keep with a wife and three kids. I want to write, but it can feel like a selfish pursuit. And there’s so little feedback though much of the process that, at times, I doubt if the time is worth it.

What is the best piece of writing craft advice you have been given?

Do what works best for you, but try it all to be sure. Outline or don’t, but try it to see. Revise as you go, or blast through a draft, but be sure you’ve made the right choice. Chuch Wendig blogged about this once in one of his 25 things that are really important but I’m going to curse up a fucking swarm while I tell you lists. Others have as well.

Which author(s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

It’s common to say, but certainly Stephen King is one of the reasons I write, and there is so much I admire, and used to ape, in his writing. I find I am more influenced now by Joe Lansdale. His characters, and his setting for the Hap and Leonard stories are a nice mix of generally nice place, where some not so nice stuff still happens.

What are your strengths as a writer? What do you feel you do well?

I think I plot well. I think my longer works tend to move well and follow and arc that makes sense. That’s partly because that’s how I envision a story. First is what happens, second is what do the characters do about it, which leads to another what happens. I also generally have a feel for how the climax will work out, so I have that in mind.

What are your weaknesses? Where do you feel you could improve?

Oh gosh, everything else. And plotting. Seriously, I need to get better at all aspects of storytelling. Hill Country is a better story that what I had written before. Both because of good editorial work and my improvements as a writer. The book I am writing now, feels better as well. I think we always get better, and need to.

Describe for our readers the genre(s) you write in and why they appeal to you as a writer.

I describe myself as a thriller writer. Sometimes that’s noir. Sometimes crime. Sometimes horror. The uniting thread is that the stories are about characters who are forced into a situation that presents danger, and they must through their own actions find a way out. They won’t always succeed, and they’ll need help, but that is always the driving force behind a story I write.

This can be a subtle in short fiction, where at times I am just writing a scene or character. The short form allows that. But for the most part, that’s a constant in my writing.

What are you reading at the moment?

Far too many things. With reviews and story submissions, it can get a bit backed up.  I just finished The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn. Good stuff. I’m just starting Carpathia by Matt Forbeck. I’m also going through the stories in Julie Madeleine’s Stick a Needle in My Eye.

Opportunity Knocks & Beyond Reason by Craig Douglas

Opportunity Knocks
Dave Cresswell is old school. A brawler who knows his place and his standing within his social circles. Woe betide anyone who messes with him. Yes, of course, someone eventually does but is Dave in as much trouble as he thinks?

Craig Douglas once more impresses me with this well written character piece. A very strong voice from the outset Douglas has really gotten into the mind of his character which adds to the story greatly. A cracking short read.

Beyond Reason
George is disconnected from reality. We are given strong hints of religious fervour in George's character. His mother seems to also be a zealot. Craig Douglas uses short descriptive passages written by George to get us inside the characters head.

A fascinating short tale. Is it about mental illness? Is it about alienation? Is it about inspiration? I'll leave you to decide what the author's message is. However, I can promise you a great short read with a unique feel to it and some excellent descriptive writing.

Genre:  Crime
Publisher:  Indie
Format:  E-Book Short Stories
Price:  Both at 77p
Rating:  Both 5/5

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Author Interview: Malcolm Holt

Tell us about your short story collection Hard Drive and the inspiration behind it.
I had two new crime stories ready to release into the wild and following Trestlegate and my disassociation with TP, I wanted to find a way to get the three Crime Tyne Shots stories back on Amazon as soon as possible. I also wanted to hook up the first story featuring my character Slinger with the others, so I put the six stories together and ‘Hard Drive’ was born. It’s a mixture of old and new, with nothing borrowed and nothing blue.

Do you prefer to write about your home town? 
Newcastle, like most cities, has a dark side away from the tourist areas and the stag and hen parties and it’s easier for me to write about where I live. Ian Rankin was very successful writing the Rebus books based in Edinburgh, so I thought...why not? Having said that, I’ve got two books coming out soon that were not based in Newcastle.

Is any of your writing drawn from real experience?
I hope not. I would like to think that my life is very different from the people in my stories. My writing is drawn from my vivid imagination or is inspired by a real event or just a good headline in a paper.

What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished reading ‘Hit and Run’ by the talented Edinburgh writer Doug Johnstone. I recently re-read all the Rebus books in chronological order. Next up, all the books from my fellow ex-TP writers, of course.

Are you working on a new story or novel at the moment?
I am juggling with two books at the moment and I am planning a double launch at Easter. ‘27’ is a crime novella set in a fictional town. I started it before the short stories were first published. ‘Bulldozers and Dirt’ is a dark comedy that started out as a draft television script and I am adapting it for a book. It’s a story about two dysfunctional dairy farming families at war. Further down the line, I will be publishing ‘Boots, Chaps and Cowboy Hats’, a fun travel book about my quest to find and experience the old cowboy spirit in Texas. I am also writing a book over the Summer about getting up close and personal with nature. It’s another fun travel book called ‘Fishing for Gators’. That one was inspired by a real guy in Florida who I stayed next to. He used to go fishing in a lake full of alligators. 2012 is shaping up to be a busy year.

Where can our readers find you online?
I am on Facebook and Twitter (@Tynewriter) and I have my blog ‘A Bit on The Side’. The Side is actually a well-known street in Newcastle.

What do you most like about writing?
It gives me the opportunity to get all the imaginary people out of my head without medication. It’s a lonely world at times because you are on your own, but it can be quite cathartic. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll have someone killed in a story. It’s also a lot of fun.

What do you dislike about writing?
Nothing really. Now that I am self-publishing I am my own boss. No deadlines to meet, no contracts to negotiate and you get to meet a lot of other great writers out there. So, there are now no real negatives.

What is the best piece of writing craft advice you have been given?
Get a decent laptop. Being serious, I would say just write what is in your head. You can always edit it later. Your writing, not your head.

Which author(s) would you say have most influenced your writing?
I have been fortunate to have been able to share a pint or two with Ian Rankin in the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh on a few occasions. Allan Guthrie is also a favourite Edinburgh writer. I have all Kinky Friedman’s books. He once told me that you are never too o-l-d to start writing, so I did. He made me an honorary Texan. I’ve been to the Lone Star State a few times so I feel that I do qualify for the honour. I am hooked on the television series ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and like ‘The Shield’ before it, the writing for those series has been very sharp and inspiring.

What are your strengths as a writer? What do you feel you do well?
I have always had a vivid imagination and that helps. If people are happy to read my work then I must be doing something well. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

What are your weaknesses? Where do you feel you could improve?
Too many doughnuts from Greggs. I think most writers will agree that your writing improves with age, like a good wine. You develop your own style of storytelling. Hopefully it will continue to grow.

If you had to pick a soundtrack to your novel what songs would you pick?
Anything by the Drive-By Truckers. Their songs tell great stories, often with dark undertones. I have all their albums. I also like the White Buffalo who I discovered from watching my favourite television series ‘Sons of Anarchy’.

Describe for our readers the genre(s) you write in and why they appeal to you as a writer.
 I guess I now fall into two distinct genres. The crime fiction stories are one side of my writing and humour is the other. I’ve always valued the benefits of humour. It doesn’t have to be slapstick. Humour can be quite dark at times and it can work well, even in the darkest of stories. Maybe if I’m successful I will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Show No Mercy By Julie Morrigan

Julie Morrigan once again proving without doubt a that she is a stunningly versatile writer. This collection has something for everyone. There are tales of ancient curses - Black Dog. Old style wise cracking detective stories - Star, Wish Upon A Star. Gritty violent urban gangster tales - The Loan Arranger. There are even Christmas revenge tales – Cold, Cold Christmas, White Christmas.

I’ve come to expect a very high standard from Morrigan’s writing. As usual she delivered in spades. A great value five star collection.

Genre:  Crime Fiction
Publisher:  Indie
Format:  E-Book - Short Story Collection
Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Author Interview: Stuart Ayris

In the first few weeks of release the novel Tollesbury Time Forever by Stuart Ayris has had over forty five star reviews on Amazon.  See an earlier post on this blog for my review of this excellent novel. I hooked up with Stuart and interviewed him about his writing and inspiration.

Describe your novel Tollesbury Time Forever in 25 words or less.

The redemptive tale of a Beatles-obsessed alcoholic with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a love of cricket. It's a novel of love and hope.

Tell us about the inspiration behind the novel

There are several inpirations I think. Probably easier if I list them:

·      all the people I have met over the years who have had their lives taken from them by the mental health system

·       'Here, There and Everywhere' by The Beatles

·       The 1981 Headingly Test against the Australians

·       My three boys, Matthew, Daniel and James

·       Tollesbury

·       The King's Head, Jack Daniels and Mr Aspall

The novel has had some great reviews and seems to strike a chord within the readers. Why do you think that is?

I honestly don't know. The fact that it had been turned down flat by every publisher and agent I sent it too made me think that there just wouldn't be an audience for it. I knew it was the sort of book I would like to read, but that was about as far as it went.

The things people have been saying about Tollesbury Time Forever in their reviews (the fact that people are even bothering to review it still astounds me) makes me well-up every time I read them. It just seems everybody that reads it 'gets' it – and that is the most wonderful surprise because, as you know, it's a bit unusual!

I think perhaps is that everybody needs hope and to be able to see hope in difficult times.

How much of your writing is drawn from real experiences?

In Tollesbury Time Forever, the places I describe are real – The King's Head, the salt-marshes, the various streets, the Village Lock-Up and Mo's CafĂ©. In terms of the people, the characters are all based, facially and physically, an people I have seen in Tollesbury. The characteristics are based on people I have met over the years. And all Simon's thoughts come and views are mine.

People who have read TTF may want to know your views on "mental illness". Would you like to share them?

I guess the best way to answer that would be to quote a passage from the book. It's a first person narrative, so these are the words of Simon Gregory:

There is no schizophrenia and there is no depression; no bi-polar disorder, personality disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is just life and trying to get through it. That is all. Look past the drugs and past the diagnosis, look deeper than the despair and higher than the highs - and what you have is a soul that needs embracing, a mind that needs cradling and a heart that needs to beat it’s beat without condemnation

What are you reading at the moment?

I'm reading Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carre. I have always loved his books and would urge anyone to read them. His prose his beautiful, his characters haunting and his plots wonderfully complex. If you're not sure, start by watching 'The Spy Who Came in From The Cold' – 1966 film with Richard Burton!

Are you working on a new story or novel at the moment?

I have three things on the go at the moment. Currently I am revising my first novel, A Cleansing of Souls. I wrote it when I was twenty-two and, although it certainly has merit, can stand some gentle revision. I'm about a third of the way through that at the moment and when I'm done I will be releasing it as an e-book in March.

After that, I will get cracking on the novel I started last summer called The Bird That Nobody Sees. I'm about thirteen thousand words in but haven't touched it since about October 2011. I hope to finish it by August and release it as an ebook in September.

Then finally, I will be writing four short stories for young teenagers, about a girl called Tremble. The first of these will be called Tremble, Peanut and The Boy.

Where can our readers find you online?
UK Kindle Forum
Dagenham and Redbridge Unofficial Forum

What is the best piece of writing craft advice you have been given?

Jack Kerouac:

1. Wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Be in love with yr life
4. Something that you feel will find its own form
5. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
6. Blow as deep as you want to blow
7. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
8. The unspeakable visions of the individual
9. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
10. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
11. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
12. Believe in the holy contour of life
13. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
14. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
15. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
16. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
17. You're a Genius all the time

Which author(s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

 John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac

What are your strengths as a writer? What do you feel you do well?

 16. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better

What are your weaknesses? Where do you feel you could improve?

I am entirely undisciplined and rely entirely on intuition – I have tried to plan a book but it just hasn't felt right. I guess that may trip me up one day. Also the feeling that I write better after a few drinks. That too may one day be my undoing.

If you had to pick a soundtrack to your novel what five songs would you pick?

Fine question! Perhaps, in the order the story progresses, that would be:

1. Train Song by Tom Waits
2. One Too Many Mornings by Bob Dylan
3. Strawberry Fields by The Beatles
4. Here Comes That Rainbow Again by Kris Kristofferson
5. Blooming Heather by Kate Rusby

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dead Money by Ray Banks

Les Beale is a ticking time bomb. His best friend Alan Slater is his personal bomb disposal unit. When Alan fails to accompany Les to a poker game all hell breaks loose and Alan finds himself at the centre of the blast radius.

Ray Banks excellently deconstructs Alan’s life one body blow at a time. In his usual straightforward fashion Banks tell the tale of a cocky double glazing salesman whose choice of friend will cost him dear.

Like all of the fiction that I have read thus far by Ray Banks Dead Money can be summed up in three words: Simple and compelling. I highly recommend this riveting read.

Genre:  Crime Fiction
Publisher:  Blasted Heath
Format:  E-Book Novel
Price:  Amazon UK - £1.99
Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Author Interview: Rosalind Smith-Nazilli

What can you tell me about your short story collection Fourteen Flashes of Fiction?

It really is just a random gathering of short and flash fiction from my files.  Although I have written for a great number of years I have never actually done anything with the results and thought if I was going to take the plunge then this was as good a way as any to test the water. There will be five collections in total bringing together new and old stories alike.

What inspired you to write it?

Taking up social networking on a much larger scale than I previously was gave me an almighty kick up the butt.  Suddenly I was interacting with people who were putting out ebooks on a par to what I knew I was capable of, and sadly, in some cases I observed some very inferior efforts that helped prompt me to give it a go.

What or who inspire you?

When the muse kicks in my inspiration is just there.  Give me a word or two and I will give you something back.  Quite often a sentence comes in to my head which I know will make a great opening line.

What are you reading at the moment?

Have had quite a lot on the go of late and have just finished 'A Scattering of Ashes' by Craig Douglas and 'Tollesbury Times Forever' by Stuart Ayris.  I have a list as long as my arm and next will be 'The Office of Lost and Found' by Vincent Holland-Keen.

Are you working on a new story or novel at the moment?

Currently I am collating further collections of FOURTEEN and at the same time working on a longer piece with the working title 'Tread Gently in my Blood'.  This basically is a tale of betrayal that results in kidnap and a not too pleasant outcome.

What do you most like about writing?

Well I love the expression it brings and the scope to use language that would never normally pass my lips.  I am very fond of dialogue and really enjoy creating characters who quite often don't need a physical description, you can picture them by what comes out of their mouths.

What do you dislike about writing?

I hate to feel pressured.  Deadlines are a pain (just missed an important one)  I don't really dislike anything about actually writing, but I do dislike interruptions when I am.

What is the best piece of writing craft advice you have been given?

Over the years I have scoured everywhere for advice, taken courses, followed blogs and so on.  At the end of the day I think the best advice came from a tutor who told me to always be true to myself.  To write what I wanted and not bow down to any conventional form if it didn't fit what I was trying to say.

Which author(s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

Oh where to start.  There are many that I aspire to, my all time favourite being Sidney Sheldon but I don't really think they greatly influence my style.  Thriller/Mystery/Psychological genres are the ones that do it for me but I am not naive enough to think I could ever emulate any of the greats.

What are your strengths as a writer? What do you feel you do well?

Dialogue and twist endings.  I do think I am able to take you down a path that doesn't lead where you expected it to.

What are your weaknesses? Where do you feel you could improve?

Grammar.  Every time.  Even when I know I have it right I still have to check it..

What is your opinion on the rise of the ebook and ebook publishers?

Now I know that some traditionally published authors find the concept a huge bug bear but for me, and the likes of me, it has opened a door that would never have been there without it.  Maybe in time readers will become over saturated with second class writing which is slipping through because there is of course, no net to catch it.  For now though it continues to be an exciting journey.

Describe for our readers the genre(s) you write in and why they appeal to you as a writer.

I am not totally sure I write in any one genre but I do enjoy an element of mystery in my stories and I really do aspire to becoming a great thriller writer.

If you were to suggest a soundtrack for your book what should people listen to whilst reading it?

OK.. No laughing.  I gave this a lot of thought over the past couple of days and the one soundtrack that keeps coming back to me is Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield.  The reason being that it carries a lot of highs and lows, gentle and crashing rhythms that reflect the stories in FOURTEEN really well.

Where can my readers find you online?

My blog 'Nazilliville' is at this link -  and my other work is scattered around cyber space.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

With Love And Squalor by Nigel Bird

With Love and Squalor is a great introduction to the dark fictional world of Nigel Bird. The author’s fiction has featured in such places as The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Volume 8, A Twist of Noir and Pulp Metal Magazine. This collection features stories from a range of these publications and serves to give the reader a good idea of what he’s about. This also includes a sample from Nigel’s novella, Smoke. Bird’s style is indefinable. He is drawn to the quirk and different aspects of life. He takes a sidelong view at things and then puts pen to paper.

Some tales like Fisher Of Men will leave you with more questions than answers. A Whole Lotta Rosie, I suspect inspired by the AC/DC song, had heart like much of Bird's fiction and a sad almost melancholic edge to it.

No Pain, No Gain took the interesting concept of siblings that can't feel pain and ran with it. Yet again we have the darker aspects but interwoven that sense of emotional depth that makes you care for the characters even in short fiction. This makes for compelling reading. He has that rare talent of great characterisation in a limited word count. This gives his stories more punch and an extra dimension.

If this is this first title of Nigel's that you read I have no doubt that you will explore more of his work.

Genre:  Crime Fiction
Publisher:  Sea Minor
Format:  E-Book - Short Story Collection
Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Author Interview: Graham Smith

Tell us about the Harry Charters Chronicles

The Harry Charters Chronicles are a collection of short stories and flash fiction featuring a 1950’s gumshoe detective who is haunted by a case which went terribly wrong. Each story sees him climb out of the bottom of his self pity bottle to mete out his own brand of justice.

What inspired you to write it?

Kate Pilarcik invited me to submit a Noir piece for her blog and I wrote the first Harry Charters story Detecting Malicious Murder. In my naivety I thought Noir was exclusive to the old black and white movies which is why whenever I write Harry Charters I have Humphrey Bogart doing the voiceover in my head. This is very cool and as soon I hear that voice I’m ready to fly at the keyboard.

Unlike writers such as Nick Quantrill and Ray Banks who write about places they know you favour a US setting for much of your writing. Can you tell us why?

I tend to be undiscriminating when it comes to locations. I will set the story wherever it feels best for the characters. Most of the stories in 11 The Hard Way are without named locations. They would fit in London, Canberra, Paris, New York or Leighton Buzzard. The one I did set in my home town of Gretna Green is called There Goes the Bride and location is very important to the story.
With Harry Charters I have striven to create a nameless, faceless and locationless character. Kate Pilarcik bullied me into giving him a name but he is not getting a face or a fixed location. He lives, drinks and occasionally works in an American city called Mariscoper which has a river, docks and a college. Mariscoper does not feature on any map (I’ve actually checked on Google maps) Mariscoper was created because I needed to name the college that Sarge’s son attended when I was writing The Smell of Perfume. I was too enthused with the story to stop and do proper research so a quick look at Google maps gave me ideas for the name of his city. This also allows me to do whatever I want both to and in the city without ever getting it wrong, provided of course I don’t contradict my previous references to the city.

How much of your writing drawn from real experience?

Very little is drawn from my real life although the story Honeymoon Hassle which is in 11 The Hard Way is a based on events which happened to my wife and I on our honeymoon. Watching her read if for the first time was fantastic as she realised it was our story. The characters have our middle names. As for all the rest of it, I’m a writer, I make shit up!

What are you reading at the moment?

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson. It’s the first of his I’ve read and I’m loving it.

Are you working on a new story or novel at the moment?

I’m finishing off draft one of my novel and then I’m gonna have a month away from it and then go back and start on the massive edit it needs. In the month off I plan to knock out a number of short stories which I’ll share around the interweb. I also plan to write a Harry Charters novella at some point fairly soon.

Where can my readers find you online?

I have a few pieces up at places like the ones listed below and a blog or website of my own will be coming soon.
Shooting Stars
Lonely Nights
The Mourning After and Pursuit
The Whine Cellar
Mathematics of Humanity
Detecting Malicious Murder + All A Broad

What is the best piece of writing craft advice you have been given?

Knowing that I write by the seat of my pants, Zoe Sharp advised me to write a short synopsis after writing each chapter so that I would have notes about events, characters etc.

Which author(s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

None especially and all of them collectively. Whether the book has been good or bad I’ve learned something from it, even if it is what not to do.

What are your strengths as a writer? What do you feel you do well?

I think my strengths of my writing are the twists I put in and the little details which flesh things out. I also think that I am fairly good at creating tension for both reader and character.

What are your weaknesses? Where do you feel you could improve?

Editing is my biggest weakness and I have to be really strict with myself to not give it a quick once over and consider it done. Dialogue is an area where I feel I could do with improving along with the whole general I want to write better feeling every writer has.

If you had to pick a soundtrack to your novel what songs would you pick?

I would have a bluesy jazz soundtrack for Harry Charters Chronicles as it fits the era and the atmosphere.

Describe for our readers the genre(s) you write in and why they appeal to you as a writer.

I write mostly crime fiction from the hardboiled / noir end of the spectrum. Sometimes I dip my toe into the murky waters of psychological thrillers and I’m quite comfortable with ironic or satirical pieces so long as there is still a crime element in there somewhere.