There’s a game of tag going around on Twitter for writers who are passing from one to another a set of questions about their writing process. I was contacted by Jason Dean, author of the James Bishop series, to ask if I would be interested in taking part.
I’ve loved reading how others writers work and have found it fascinating as a reader, too. At the time of writing, Jason has just had a new short story published, but it comes with the bonus of a free copy of his debut novel. If you enjoy the work of Lee Child and Matt Hilton, you’ll love this. Grab it now for 99p:
On with the questions…
What am I working on?
So far, I’ve had three Joe Geraghty novels published. Geraghty’s a Private Investigator working in his home city of Hull, so the challenge was to create a modern-take on the genre. I started to wonder how many time a man like Geraghty would put himself in the line of danger before walking away and finding an alternative way of making an income? I’m not sure what the answer is, but my instincts told me it was time for him to take a rest before the series became jaded. As such, I’m working on what I hope will be another Hull-set series. I wanted to create a duo with different relationships to the city and different outlooks on life. She’s a former journalist looking for a new direction, he’s ex-Army and fresh out of prison. The backdrop to the story is the city’s first ever Mayoral Election campaign.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
With Geraghty I very much wanted to avoid the classic framing points of a PI novel. He doesn’t keep bottles of whiskey in his desk, he doesn’t have femme fatales walking into his office every other day and he doesn’t work alone. With the new novel, I’m creating characters that operate on the fringes of criminal activity. They’re not law enforcers. Along with their backgrounds, I hope that makes them sufficiently distinctive. Like the Geraghty novels, the heart of the story is in Hull, and although writers like David Mark are expertly exploring the city, too, it’s still very much under-represented with much to look at.
Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always loved crime fiction. I started young with The Famous Five and Sherlock Holmes before moving on to Rankin’s Rebus series as an adult. The majority of my reading still falls in the genre. For me, crime fiction helps me make sense of what I see around me. I studied for a degree in Social Policy and Criminology, so that gave me a theoretical background and the necessary open mind to think widely around the causes of crime. Without realising it at the time, my studies were aligning with my reading, and I could see that writers like Rankin were taking what I was reading in textbooks and turning it into page-turning, thrilling novels. I wanted to do the same to make sense of how I think Hull ticks.
How does your writing process work?
I suspect like all writers I’m always trying to streamline and improve the process of writing in the hope of being more productive. In terms of generating ideas, I collect a lot of newspaper cuttings which appear interesting. Invariably, it’ll be something else that gives me the initial spark, but I like to generate lots of different possibilities. An advantage of writing a series is that the characters develop and start creating their own plots. Once I have the basic idea and I can get down to planning, I find I need to know the beginning, end and the key scenes. I’m constantly trying to force myself into mapping out more in advance, but it doesn’t come easy. To a certain extent, I like to discover the story as I write it, but to do that I break down my thinking into blocks of about 10,000 words, always knowing where I need to be at each key point. There’s room for improvisation and creativity, but there is something approaching a structure to work with. In some respects it’s like trying to nail jelly to the wall. I think all writers have to work out what gets the job done for them and simply get on with it. You’ll never find two writers who work in the same way.
I now pass the baton on to these two fine writers:
Howard Linksey. http://howardlinskey.blogspot.co.uk/
As well as being a long-term suffering supporter of Newcastle United, Howard has written a brilliantly gritty trilogy set in his home city following reluctant crime boss, David Blake. Optioned for TV, Howard’s work would fit neatly alongside “Get Carter” and “The Long Good Friday”.
Quentin Bates. http://graskeggur.com/blog/
I first met Quentin at Crimefest in Bristol when we bonded over a shared interest in Hull’s lost trawler industry before discussing it further at last year’s Iceland Noir festival in Reykjavik. After spending several years living and working in Iceland, Quentin sets his work there.