There are times in your life when you come across writing that is exceptionally rare, unique, and causes you to laugh so hard you’ll blow snot all over your computer (gross, I know, but it can happen with this guy).
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve just written a load of old twaddle to answer this question and not told you a thing. The fact is, I don’t talk about myself, but as it’s you…I seem to be a rarity on the Internet. A happily married, 48 year old, heterosexual male, who doesn’t broadcast his life on the interweb. Married, three kids, three dogs (who are frankly better behaved and loving than the kids), and a whopping great mortgage on our café. Yeah. A café. That’s the day job now. I used to manage a Creative Arts resource (translate that as a bunch of arty farty types sitting around having meeting about the tea rota). So after twenty years of trying not to kill any Creative Artists, I quit and bought a café. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but if any readers would like a wonderful lifestyle change… just let me know.
Oh yeah. And I write books about a detective called EM. Faustus. Just don’t ask what the EM stands for. It upsets him.
Tell us your latest news
Latest would have to be that I’ve bought a Mandolin. It’s not exciting, nor anything to do with writing, but it’s a compromise. My wife doesn’t want me to have a Banjo, because she can’t stand the noise it makes, nor a violin, for the same reason. So I’m teaching myself to play the Mandolin, and after a few days, I sound dreadful.
When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing when it turned out Creative Artists can’t finish a job you give them. I found I had to complete, rewrite or write from scratch, scripts for the actors to perform. So I hacked out about a script a month for best part of twenty years.
I began writing for myself however about two years ago. I had read and re-read every book I could find that was enjoyable, but couldn’t find anything new. All the books I picked off the shelf were following formulae. I commented to my wife, possibly more than once, that I could write better. That’s when she told me to prove it. So I bought a laptop and between customers wrote my first novel. DOG.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As pretentious as this may sound, I don’t. I tell gags and tell stories. It’s something I’ve always done. The only difference between me talking and writing is that I try to structure some kind of plot around it. I do remember being told that a Writer (why do ‘professionals’ always insist upon the capital letter?) ALWAYS has to plot out his story before he writes. I don’t. I break all of the rules people insist upon. Many consider me a hack. So I’m a hack that tells stories and gags. If that’s a writer, then I’ve been it all of my life.
What inspired you to write your first book?
As I said earlier, nothing really that I wanted to read on the shelves. So I wrote something I wanted to read. Filled with characters I knew and loved, from old horror movies to film noir. As my books are classified as Fantasy, I can put in anything I want.
Oh… and the prospect of cold hard cash. C’mon. I can flower it up any way you want, but at the end of the day, who wouldn’t want to be paid for doing what they love?
How did you develop your specific writing style/genre? How would you describe it?
I have always had a problem in describing my style/genre. For some, it’s Thriller, others Fantasy, and others still, Horror. Some call it Humour. Frankly, it’s all of those things.
I never set out to develop a ‘style’. I simply write and when I come to a point that has a logical step forward into a predictable new phase for the characters… I take a right turn and go in a totally different direction. You can’t predict where one of my stories will go, because I don’t know. I have a loose idea of an ending. My job is to get there, and along the way, I try to take in anything that will raise a laugh or set the blood racing. Not one of my characters is safe. I will kill any of them off with no warning, and bring them back later if I miss them. It is chaotic and strange, but people like the characters I create. I just try to give them a world to live in.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a particular routine?
My routine is simple. Six in the morning, I turn the computer on in the café, and between customers, I write. After eight hours, I turn the machine off. Occasionally in the evening I edit and promote the novels and my website. Quite boring really.
How does your writing process look? Consistent with regular amounts of word counts daily/weekly… or more sporadic with a gush of words all at once and then a dry bed for a while?
I write what I can, when I can… unless I’m on holiday. About once a year. Then I write about fifteen pages a day. I’m fortunate never to have had a dry spell.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what are must-have tools for writers?
Good writing for me, it must engage the reader. It needs to take you into the world the author creates, just for a little while, and must make you a part of it. Simple as that. But as for tools? Imagination. That’s it. Everything else is just window dressing and toys. Yeah. A word processor or typewriter helps, but I’ve scribbled ideas down on envelopes, receipts, cigarette packet. It’s the imagination that pulls it all together.
Also…. somewhere along the line… Good writing makes you smile. For whatever reason, a good writer will always put a smile on your face.
What motivates you to write?
The sheer fun of it. Plus, I love developing a relationship with readers, finding out what characters they like and, to a degree, trying to give them some treats by using the short stories to give them the laughs they want.
And the cold hard cash.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding the time. When we hit the Summer and we are swamped with customers, finding the time to write more than a sentence is a challenge.
Which character speaks the loudest, to you? Do any of them clamor to be heard over the others?
OK. That’s a tough one. I have so many. Because I write about extreme characters, some are just more fun to write than others. Faustus is someone I never tire of putting through grief. I beat him up, blow him up, set him on fire, shoot him, stab him and much worse, but because he’s a tough guy, he just keeps coming back for more. But then there’s Pete. Half Angel, half Daemon (yes that’s the right spelling) and half human. Wonderfully naive. I love to put him in embarrassing situations. And poor Nelly, one of the thickest men I write about, based on one of the smartest.
But I’d have to say Humphrey is the most fun. There isn’t a single thing I can’t do with Humphrey. A six inch tall, sex-obsessed Homunculus. One second he’s a tough guy hero, the next he’s trying to get a lady to give him her underwear for his ‘special collection’. A hero/pervert/moral/degenerate/wee little….. well, the rest is unprintable.
Do your characters try to make like bunnies and create ever more convoluted plots for you? Or do you have to coax them out of your characters?
Because of the way I write, the plots are more convoluted than Chandler. Not only do I not know who did what, or why, but I don’t know who’s going to be in a story until they put in an appearance. I just start writing and see which way the story will take me. Sometimes, what I thought was a throwaway gag a hundred pages earlier will turn out to have great significance. Sometimes I spend an entire ten minutes trying to make sense of it at the very end. The characters lead the story and what they see, hear and talk about leads to the conclusion. I am also happy to leave loose ends. Life has loose ends, so there’s no reason my story needs to have everything tied up at the end. The only rule I have is that the loose ends don’t come back in another book. I don’t write soap opera and each book is a stand alone. That way you should be able to pick up any one and enjoy it without reference to the others.
What sort of Starbuck’s coffee would your characters order? Simple coffee, complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare?
Faustus would never touch Starbuck’s coffee. He’d rather suck a used filter from the bin of a greasy spoon than touch it. He drinks proper coffee. Strong, black and in a mug, ideally, that’s never been washed. With extra espresso…. and a smoke. Yeah. I know. Smoking’s bad for you, but he smokes.
Considering the amount he gets shot at, smoking is the least of his worries.
I’m honored that I was a “bad-girl” character in a few of your books and I’m excited that my character will be appearing in a new one soon! Can you tell us about the upcoming book?
Well, you feature in two books. A dame with a mysterious past, who may, or may not be a Vampire… or worse. I’ve kept you back so far from the Novels and short stories because you are just so much damn fun to write. As tough as it gets, with unusual feeding habits and morals. And look great in Killer heels and lingerie. Hey. These are not Kids books.
In the Fourth Faustus novel you’ll be coming back with a vengeance. Hard and heavy. Bigger heels, tighter costumes and hotter lingerie. And that’s all I can say. It’s called ‘Zombie’, so no real guess as to what it’s about. Only difference is my Zombies tend to be nice people. None of this wandering around and eating people. They are Doctors, Nurses, Therapists, are real good at Interior Design and give common sense advice.
I am getting a new novel ready for publication on Kindle and Ebook though. It’s called ‘Girl’. A nice straightforward story about protecting a child from some bad guys. The Dame’s are Hot. The Violence… gratuitous and the property damage… I actually received a letter from the local Diocese asking me not to do what I did.
Like most of my work it is a parody. In this case of the fiction where a tough guys heart melts because of a young child’s influence. With Girl, though, Faustus just gets tougher, meaner and nastier and becomes the only male in noir fiction to give birth.
What books/authors have influenced your life and writing?
Simple answers here. Raymond Chandler, Dashielle Hammet, Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, Conan Doyle and Bard Constantine. Each one of them, in anything they write, is producing a ‘How To…’ manual. They show you how easy it looks, but as you strip away the layers of a story and look closer they have such complexity of language and ideas that absolutely nothing is wasted.
Of all of their writings, two books stand out. Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Big Sleep’ and Ray Bradbury’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’. I could rave about each for pages, but if anyone wants to know how to write any kind of thriller, forget Stephen King, CJ Box, James Ellroy… read these two books. At worst, you’ll love them.
But… if you are talking about more independent writers. There are quite a few on Writers Café who have shaped the way I write now. To name just a few, Roarke, Sam Dickens, Emma Joy, Shelley Hotl-Lowery, and (DON’T YOU DARE EDIT THIS) YOU. Wonderful writers who leap from the page and straight into the brain. All of them worth a look.
E-reader or print book?
Personally, I only read a print book. Ironic as I publish on e-readers. It’s not just the print. It’s the feel, the smell, the look of a printed book. You have to make an effort with it. You don’t download, you have to buy. Ideally from a bookshop. Never a supermarket. You can establish a memory with a printed copy of a book, one you just can’t have with a download. That’s why I’m going into printed copies. Just not the same.
What are your current/future projects?
Currently, I’m working on getting Girl ready for print and e-book. At the same time, I’m pulling together a lot of the short stories for release. I’ll give those away free on my website, but for cold hard cash on Amazon. Then I’m editing book Three of the Faustus series, writing book four and working on a wee pet project of mine. ‘Dracula: Prince of Dark Chocolate. Adventures in the world of Confectionary.’ A swashbuckling love story… with chocolate.
What is best writing advice you can give?
Write. Simple as that. When someone tells you that you should do it ‘this way’ or ‘that way’, remember it’s just an opinion, and opinions are like bum holes. Everyone’s got one. And don’t give up. Make contact with other writers. There are loads of us out there. Writers Café, Facebook, Twitter. Don’t be shy. Some of us are A-Holes. Some are just normal men and women who write. You’ll figure out who’s who soon enough. If I can help, call by and see me. I’m still fairly new to this, but I’ve made enough mistakes to point you in the right direction if I can.
But most of all… write.