An interview with author, Sheila Bugler

To help celebrate the launch of When the Dead Speak, I’m delighted to welcome fellow Eastbourne author, Sheila Bugler, to Robservations. While we met several years ago at a book festival, and a few times since, I wanted to find out more.

So Sheila, please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m an Irish crime writer, living in Eastbourne. So far, I’ve published five novels – three books in my Ellen Kelly crime series, and two in my Eastbourne Murder Mysteries series. I am a huge fan of crime fiction and read as many crime novels as I can get my hands on. I write reviews for Crimesquad.com which means I get to read a lot of books before their publication date – my dream job!

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

Like most authors, I always wanted to write. In my case, I didn’t have the confidence when I was younger. It was only after my second child was born that I realised if I didn’t start writing, it might never happen. So I started writing and never looked back.

Early on in my writing career, I was lucky to win a year’s mentoring with crime fiction author Martyn Waites. It was a great experience and gave me the confidence I needed to believe I really could do this.

Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?

The first complete novel I wrote was a twisty psychological thriller called Ready to Fall. It never got published but was good enough to get me an agent. I still love that book, although I doubt it will ever be published because it still needs a lot of work and, at the moment, I don’t have the time to do that.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

Being able to write books that get published and that people enjoy reading. I also love doing live author events and meeting readers. It’s a real buzz and something I’ve missed a lot during lockdown.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

It’s such hard work! The biggest problem for me is finding the time to do it properly. I have a ‘day job’ and childcare responsibilities so I have to squeeze in my writing time when I can. It’s a constant challenge. I long for the day I’ll be earning enough money from writing to be able to focus on it full time.

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? Why?

For me, characters always come before plot. I love writing about all sorts of characters and really don’t think I have a favourite or least favourite ‘type’.

How has studying Psychology helped with your writing and the creation/understanding of characters?

The part of me that was drawn to studying Psychology is the same part of me that’s drawn to writing about people. I am fascinated by people – their motivations and interests, their likes and dislikes, the experiences that have shaped them, the dark secrets that lurk beneath the public personas…. I love all of it.

You travelled extensively before settling. How did the travelling and experiences you had influence you as an author and your writing?

It taught me that no matter where you go, people are still people. We all have needs and desires, we all love and hate and grieve. We eat, we sleep, we work and we build relationships with those around us. We are united by our similarities, not divided by our differences.

I believe you’re a creative writing tutor for the Writers Bureau. How did you become involved in this and what does it give you?

I was asked to become a writing tutor a few years ago. I love teaching and helping aspiring writers. The single biggest thing it gives me is the constant reminder of how important it is to learn the ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing.

Too many times, I see writers who want to be a writer but aren’t willing to put the time in to learn how to do it properly. Writing is hard work. It takes time and commitment to becoming a good writer.

What’s been the biggest influence on your writing so far?

All the other incredible writers I’ve ever read. I’m a huge fan of crime fiction and an avid reader. Reading other crime writers reminds me how tough the competition is!

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?

Crime fiction with strong female protagonists and plots with lots of twists and turns.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?

My last book, I Could Be You, was compared to a Harlan Coben novel. This was a huge compliment, as he’s the reason I started to write crime fiction.

Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?

Too many! Megan Abbott and Gillian Flynn are two of my favourite crime writers. I love their writing because their novels explore the darker sides of their female characters.

If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?

Johnny Cash – because he was a legend.
Leonard Cohen – for the same reason.
Maya Angelou – for her humanity, wit and intelligence.
My friend Alex – because she’s cool, clever and funny and the other three guests would adore her!

Please tell me about your latest project/plans for the future.

Last summer, I signed a four-book deal with a new publisher. I’m contracted to write a book every six months so I’m very busy!

The second book in my Eastbourne Murder Mystery series is out on 9 July. After that, I’m writing a stand-alone psychological thriller which will be published at the end of this year.

Thank you, Sheila, and good luck with When the Dead Speak. I’ll be reading I Could be You, the first Eastbourne Murder Mystery, in the next few weeks.

When the Dead Speak (Eastbourne Murder Mystery #2)

When the dead speak

Secrets can be fatal. But so can the truth.

When the murdered body of Lauren Shaw is discovered laid out on the altar of St Mary the Virgin church in Eastbourne it sends a chill to the core of those who have lived in the area for a long time. They remember another woman, also young and pretty, whose slain corpse was placed in the same spot 60 years ago.

Dee Doran is as intrigued as the rest but focused on her investigation of the whereabouts of a missing person from the Polish community. The police weren’t interested but Dee’s journalistic instincts tell her something is amiss.

But as she starts asking questions Dee finds the answers all point to the same conclusion – someone is keeping secrets and they will do whatever it takes to keep them safe.

When the Dead Speak is available on Amazon.

You can find out more about Sheila Bugler at

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Sheila-Bugler-author-page-1405242063026200/

Twitter: @sheilab10

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sheilabsussex/

Website: www.sheilabugler.co.uk

An interview with author Ross Greenwood

I’m delighted to welcome crime fiction author Ross Greenwood to my Robservations blog. Having recently read and enjoyed The Snow Killer, I offered Ross the chance to tell me a little more about himself and his writing.

Please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, I’m 46 and from Peterborough. I’ve been writing since 2015 and my eighth book is out in November.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I’ve always wanted to write a book, but suspected it would just be one. It’s snowballed since then, along a rather long, gentle slope with many hillocks as opposed to down a mountain!

Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?

Lazy Blood was my first and as with most people, it bubbled away in my mind for years, five in my case, before I wrote it. It was a joy to eventually hold.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

The screaming groupies, fast cars and pots of cash.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

I find it hard to turn off, especially mid book. My wife says i go ‘absent’, sometimes for weeks!

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? Why?

I like writing them all! If they don’t interest you, probably won’t interest the reader either!

I understand you worked as a prison officer for a number of years. How has this influenced your writing and novels?

Hugely. I was very wrong about what prison is really like. It’s a great place to set stories!

What’s been the biggest influence on your writing so far?

Definitely the prison. I met thousands of people over the four years, both men and women as Peterborough is a dual prison. Lot of writing fodder there! Lot of madness and a lot of sadness.

What inspired you to write the DI Barton series?

I just had (what I thought to be 🙂 ) a great idea to write a book about someone who killed when it snowed. A detective novel seemed the best way to exploit it!

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?

Serious with a sense of humour. A friend calls my Dark Lives books The Prison Misery series.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?

An eighty year old got in touch after reading Fifty Years of Fear and said he never expected to be surprised at his age, and thanked me for opening his eyes.

Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?

I’m a huge reader, but i really like variety, so I flitter between authors like a horny butterfly! I read quite a few of Bloodhound Book’s authors, both current and past for my crime fix, and I buy loads of books in the top 100 on kindle when they’re 99p.

If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?

Kelly Brook, JFK, MLK, and Nelson Mandela. Last three are sadly dead, but I’m sure me and Kelly will get on.

Please tell me about your latest project/plans for the future.

The Ice Killer is out in November. I always planned it to be a trilogy, but Barton has proven popular, so I will probably do at least one more if the demand is there, but I’m going to do a prison one next, with elements that have never been written about before… Duh Duh Durrrrr…

The latest release from Ross is the second in the DI Barton series.

‘Repent in this life, rejoice in the next…’

A murder made to look like suicide. Another that appears an accident. DI Barton investigates the tragedies that have shattered a family’s lives, but without obvious leads the case goes nowhere. Then, when the remains of a body are found, everything points to one suspect.

Barton and his team move quickly, and once the killer is behind bars, they can all breathe a sigh of relief. But death still lurks in the shadows, and no one’s soul is safe. Not even those of the detectives…

How do you stop a killer that believes life is a rehearsal for eternity, and their future is worth more than your own…?

You can find Ross Greenwood at

Twitter – @greenwoodross

https://www.facebook.com/RossGreenwoodAuthor

An interview with author J A Schneider

I’m delighted to welcome psychological suspense author, J A Schneider to Robservations. Her latest novel, What You’ve Done, is released tomorrow, 16th April 2020. I was lucky enough to read it recently and it’s brilliant, driven by a strong lead character in attorney, Mia Pearle, who feels a sense of responsibility and guilt when 16-year old Kelly is brutally murdered in a quiet town in Connecticut.

Having also read and thoroughly enjoyed Girl Watching You, I thought it was time to find out a little more about J A Schneider.

Please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

When very young, I’d hear complaints that I’d rather read the back of cereal boxes than “join in the discussion.” Ha! Well, small talk can be small indeed, right? Much more thrilling to escape the mundane and imagine exciting stories. So that’s me at the core: wild imagination, cooking up stories since forever.

And that led to being a reader, which led to being a French literature major in college/university, which led me next to working at Newsweek…where everyone dreamed out loud about writing the next “great American novel.” Back then, I never dared dream I could actually write fiction but I listened, and kept reading everything, pulp to Jane Austen.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

Maybe it was the moment I started timidly, not really serious but “what the heck, let’s see if I can string sentences together.” My husband Bob and I were living in Paris, I’d had two glasses of wine and was off – scribbling on the back of a paper menu in a café. He thought it was funny. Our waiter came along, looked curious, and tried to read over my shoulder. Bob told him I was writing a novel and he said, “Ooh, mais qu’est-ce qui se passe?” (What’s happening!?) Seeing him grin and his eyes light up was magic. It was the first time I had dared tell anyone not a loved one that I was writing fiction. Such a serendipity, but I started more seriously soon after.

Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?

When my children were young, I wrote first for our local newspaper – people interest stuff, historical stories about Colonial times in Connecticut. It was nice to see people react to them, less nice when people found fault – “Greenwich was not founded by the Dutch!” – so I decided, nuts to non-fiction, if you write fiction no one can argue, it’s your thing. Back to scribbling fiction I went.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

Feeling an exciting idea come to me.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

The marketing and promo part, since I publish independently.

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? Why?

Do you mean love but hate to write? None! I enjoy developing all characters, imagining their innermost thoughts. In a way the villain is the most fun. Peter Pan would be no story at all without Captain Hook.

Can you tell us about your time at Newsweek magazine and how it influenced your writing career?

It was the most writing-intense experience ever. Every Friday night was a deadline. We had to research and write fast but succinctly – no padding. I’d watch whole paragraphs I’d slaved over get cut…so there was that aspect. Also eye-opening were former writers who’d published bestsellers and quit, then come back to grin and tease: “What are you still doing here? Write a novel!”

I believe you keep a list of inspirational quotes. Could you share a couple of your favourites and how they relate to your writing journey?

  • “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov
  • “Every paragraph I write is a surprise to me. Ideas comes as I write.” Lee Child
  • “We’re not writers, we’re re-writers. Nobody gets it right the first time.” Stephen King

I write on my laptop, and for the first draft keep three documents open: In the centre, the growing story; to the left my “crutch” with lots of inspirational quotes, & to the right the story’s outline – which only goes down as I figure out the story…not before. I’ve tried to outline before I start, and can’t.

You’ve written two series and standalone novels? Which do you prefer and why?

Love ‘em both. It’s like deciding which of your children is your favorite. Series stories are somewhat easier, because I already know the main characters. Readers also enjoy feeling familiarity with the characters…but again, I do like mulling whole new standalone ideas, like a box of chocolates.

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?

High adrenaline romantic suspense thrillers often with police procedural.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?

“You’ve helped me. Helped me get through dark times just by being able to escape.”

Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?

Ira Levin: (Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys From Brazil, The Stepford Wives) I re-read him often, am still astonished at how he conveys so much with so few words.

Agatha Christie’s best (And Then There Were None, Death on the Nile, others) Same: her ability to say much with few words.

James Patterson: I love his pace, fast action; also his ability to say much with few words.

If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?

Smile…JFK was asked that question and he said, “I’d just want Thomas Jefferson dining alone.” J  But okay, four guests? How ‘bout James Patterson, Ira Levin, Don Rickles and Mel Brooks? What fun that would be!

Please tell me about your latest project/plans for the future.

The next thriller. Will probably feature Mia Peale and Jay Colter.

Thank you for some fascinating insights into the way you work and what motivates and inspires you to write fiction. Good luck with the launch and the book.

What You've Done

A small town divorce lawyer (“I know people’s secrets”) blames herself when a client’s teen daughter is brutally murdered. She investigates and finds herself the killer’s next target.

Grieving the loss of her NYPD detective husband, former defence attorney Mia Peale moves to Grand Cove, Connecticut, desperate for a sense of community and hoping to rebuild her life. Now, starting a family law practice, she’s finally found friends and peace – until the teen daughter of one of her clients is brutally murdered, and the girl’s boyfriend stands accused.

Kelly Payne was an adored high school track star. Brian Hall is a poor boy in a rich town, and the community is outraged. But Mia has known Brian since her arrival and can’t believe he’s guilty, despite strong circumstantial evidence against him. As his defence turns lacklustre, she asks Grand Cove police detective Jay Colter for help. Jay is also sceptical of the police and DA’s case and takes them on, especially when Mia’s friend from her former Manhattan law firm uncovers a frighteningly similar murder in the city. Secretly, Jay helps Mia investigate both murders, but his alarm grows as her life is threatened by a maniac hiding among them.

You can find J A Schneider on

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joyce.schneider.142?fref=ts (friends)

https://www.facebook.com/JASchneiderAuthor?fref=ts   (author)

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/JoyceSchneider1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832782.J_A_Schneider

Website: http://jaschneiderauthor.net

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/j-a-schneider

 

An interview with author Paula Williams

I’m delighted to welcome crime novelist Paula Williams to Robservations. The third novel in her Much Winchmoor series, Burying Bad News, is published on 17th March 2020.

Having enjoyed the first book in the series, Murder Served Cold, I thought it would be interesting and fun to learn more about Paula and her writing.

Paula, please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

I began my writing career writing short stories and serials for women’s magazines, which I still do sometimes, although it’s now a sadly shrinking market.  So I started thinking of a change of direction and decided to dip my toe in the murky waters of my first love, crime fiction.

A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be taken on by Crooked Cat Books and have recently moved across to their Darkstroke imprint, which focusses on crime and all things dark.  Darkstroke is about to publish Burying Bad News, the third in my Much Winchmoor Mysteries.

I live in Somerset with my husband and a gorgeous rescue dog, a Dalmatian called Duke.  My books are mostly set in Somerset and very much inspired by my friends, neighbours and fellow regulars in my local – although none of them, as far as I know, have murderous tendencies.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I wanted to be an author for ever!  I started writing stories as soon as I could hold a pencil.  Although my mother used to say that I was making up stories long before then, but they were of the ‘It wasn’t me, Mum, it was him’ variety.

Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?

I can remember writing an essay in school when I was about 12.  The topic was to discuss whether it was better to be the eldest or the youngest in the family.  I had very strong views about this, as I come from a large family and am firmly in the middle.  I got an A for my essay and Mrs Phillips (see, I can still remember her name) read it out to the class and called it an ‘excellent’ piece of writing.  I can still feel the glow of pride that gave me and it made me realise that writing isn’t really work when you’re writing something you feel strongly about.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

Oh my goodness, just about everything.  It still gives me a buzz to hear myself described as such.  It is the best job in the world.   I really love the actual process of writing, especially in the beginning when I’m still sorting things out and the possibilities are endless.  I love creating a world that I can control.  But most of all, I think, I love it when people take the trouble to read my books.  It’s quite humbling that someone will give up a bit of their precious time to sit down and read ‘the book what I wrote!’  And if they leave a review, well, that’s the icing on my happy cake.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

I know I’m not going to be alone in this when I say the thing I like the least is marketing.  Like many writers, I am an introvert and at my happiest when I’m on my own at my desk, talking away to the characters in my head… or, as if often the case, listening to them.

Putting myself ‘out there’ on social media is, quite simply, terrifying.  But it’s part of the job so I get on with it and spend a lot of my time studying how the successful authors (like you, Robert) do it.

(I don’t know about successful, Paula, but thank you.)

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? Why?

I love to write about feisty old ladies!  My mother in law was one and although she’s no longer with us, she certainly lives on within the pages of my books.  They are such fun to write.  I don’t have any characters that I hate to write.  I enjoy writing them all, especially the villains.

On your Amazon author page you talk about your first success being with short stories. Can you tell us a little more about what you wrote and how it led to writing novels?

The first short story I had published was an only slightly fictionalised account of a pageant I wrote when I was about eight and forced my younger brothers to appear in.  It was staged on our front lawn, to celebrate St George’s Day and everything that could do wrong did go wrong.  It must have been hilarious for the adults who’d been press-ganged into watching although I don’t remember anyone laughing.  So I read this how-to-write book that talked about writing about what you know and wrote about the pageant.  And, to my amazement, Woman’s Weekly bought it straight away.  When it was published, I bought each of my brothers a bottle of champagne and a copy of Woman’s Weekly.  They claim they’re still traumatised by the pageant and haven’t yet forgiven me.

I got into writing novels because I found I enjoyed writing crime as much as I enjoyed reading it.  In fact, the first in my Much Winchmoor series, Murder Served Cold, started life as a two part, 8,000 word serial for Woman’s Weekly and I enjoyed the characters so much, I couldn’t let them go. (Or, should that be, they wouldn’t let me go?)

In your blog you ask authors where they get their ideas. Where do you get your ideas?

I have lived most of my life in small communities, apart from a few years when I lived in Bristol.  I grew up on a farm in South Somerset and couldn’t wait to get away from the place – which I did when I was 18.  I married a Bristolian and thought I was set to live in Bristol for the rest of my life.  (I’d become a ‘proper townie’ by then).  But five years after we married, he was transferred to Somerset and I ended up living in the same sort of small community I’d been so eager to leave a few years earlier.

That was two children, four dogs and almost a whole lifetime ago now and I’m still here!  The difference is that now I love it and wouldn’t live anywhere else.  My family, friends and neighbours, even the lady in the queue next to me in the supermarket, are a constant source of inspiration to me.  Where would I be without them?

What inspired you to write the Much Winchmoor stories?

I was in my local pub one day and was, as is often the case, more interested in the conversations of others than listening to my husband and his friends bemoaning the sorry state of English rugby/cricket/weather or whatever their current moan was, when a voice rang out across the bar. “Well, everyone knows that Marjorie Hampton (not her real name) killed the Farm Shop”.  And that got me thinking.  (A) I knew the lady in question and she would never kill anyone or anything, least of all the local farm shop (Tesco’s managed to do that all on their own) and (B) why was that particular man so angry about it.  And then I started trying to answer that question.  The result was the 2 part serial I was talking about earlier.

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?

Hmm, that’s a tricky one.  I suppose the genre is cosy/cozy crime but, I like to think, with a difference.  It’s more like what would happen if Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum was transported to rural Somerset.  Kat, my main character, is feisty, with an answer for everything.  She’s also been likened to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Mahone and M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin.  So she’s in pretty good company.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?

I think the best compliment of all is that someone has taken the trouble to read one of them and I am grateful to each and everyone of my readers, particularly those who are kind enough to leave a review.  I treasure every single one.

But one of my most treasured compliments came from a story I wrote for Woman’s Weekly.  It was about a widow, struggling to come to terms with her husband’s sudden death,  who was persuaded to keep a journal to write down her feelings.  She did so quite reluctantly but gradually came to discover just how very therapeutic writing can be. (And there’s a lovely rescue dog in the story as well).  The magazine forwarded a letter they’d received from a reader, saying that she too had been recently widowed and that after reading my story, had tried keeping a journal.  And it had worked!  She found (as all writers know) that writing can be the best therapy.  That just blew me away!

In fact, while I’m thinking about it, I am going to put that story on my blog,  It can be found here.

Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?

I’m going to start with Agatha Christie because my mother introduced her to me when I was 12 and I’ve loved her writing ever since.  I also love Charlotte Bronte and reread Jane Eyre every few years.

I’m very lucky to be published by Crooked Cat/Darkstroke and have found some brilliant new to me authors there.  Another great way I’ve come across new to me authors is by joining the UK Crime Book Club on Facebook, which is where I came across you, Robert, as well as many other great crime writers.  It’s a brilliant group with a good mix of writers and readers of crime fiction.

If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?

I’d invite Alan Coren (because he was so clever and witty and I miss him, even now, after all this time); Inspector Morse (because I really enjoyed both the books and the TV series and I have never watched or read the last one where he dies! Also because I share his love of choral music and crosswords although I’m not nearly as good at them as he was) ;  Mrs Phillips, my English teacher from school to whom I owe so much.  I’d love to have met her as an adult – although I’m not sure what she would make of my books!  And finally, I’d love my mother to be there.  She died many years ago but instilled in me a love of reading that has never left me.  I would dearly love to see her face when I place one of my books in her hand.  I think she’d have been proud – although she’d probably tell me that Agatha Christie would have tidied things up better – and, of course, she’d be right!

Please tell me about your latest project/plans for the future.

I’ve just finished an 8-part serial for the People’s Friend magazine and am now working through the edits for my third Much Winchmoor book, Burying Bad News, which is to be published on March 17th.  I’m really looking forward to getting the edits out of the way, as the fourth book in the series in clamouring to be heard.  It’s a bit crowded inside my head at the moment.

Thank you for the glimpse into your world, Paula. It’s always a delight to talk to authors who love what they do as much as you. Your enjoyment and sense of fun shine through in your writing.

Good luck with Burying Bad News.

Social Media Links

Blog – paulawilliamswriter.wordpress.com

Facebook author page – https://www.facebook.com/paula.williams.author.

Twitter –  @paulawilliams44.

Website –  paulawilliamswriter.co.uk

Instagram – paulawilliams_author

Amazon links to the Much Winchmoor Mysteries

https://mybook.to/murderservedcold

Murder Served Cold

https://mybook.to/roughanddeadly

Rough and deadly

https://mybook.to/buryingbadnews

One severed head, two warring neighbours – and a cold-blooded killer stalks Much Winchmoor. There’s the murder made to look like a tragic accident, and a missing husband. Could he be victim number two?

The tiny Somerset village is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country, and once again, reporter/barmaid/dog walker Kat Latcham finds herself reluctantly dragged into the investigation.

Things are looking bad for Ed Fuller, the husband of one of Kat’s oldest friends. Kat’s convinced he’s innocent – but she’s been wrong before.

Has Kat come across her biggest challenge yet?

Fans of Janet Evanovich could well enjoy this “funky, modern day nosey detective” transported to the English countryside. The third Much Winchmoor mystery is, as always, spiked with humour and sprinkled with a touch of romance.

An interview with author, Barry Faulkner

I first got to know Barry Faulkner during an online Q and A session for the UK Crime Book Group on Facebook. Little did I know what an interesting life he led before publishing his Serial Murder Squad novels. From washing the cars of London gang leaders to contributing material for light entertainment shows, Barry’s experiences have all contributed to the fast-paced, no nonsense crime thrillers he publishes. As someone who likes something a little different from the usual, I can highly recommend the stories, which made me think of The Sweeney.

My grateful thanks to Barry for taking the time to answer my questions. Over to you, Barry.

Please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

My father, elder brothers, uncles and cousins were all on the wrong side of the tracks and sometimes ran with the notorious Richardson Brothers gang in South London in the 60s -90s. My mother was determined her youngest would not follow that family tradition and made sure I was kept away from it although I mixed with many of the ‘names’ as a kid and cleaned the Richardson’s rollers every Saturday for 10/- at their scrap yard in Camberwell as well as other members cars. The golden rule was never to go inside the cars or open the boots. I wonder why? I started writing at school and was encouraged to do so by a great English teacher called Mr Reid who saw something in my juvenile doodling. I owe him a lot.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I first realised I wanted to write when I read Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee, I must have read it twenty times by now. The descriptive writing is the best I have ever read and paints a picture in your imagination that no other writer has ever equalled for me.

Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?

The first significant piece was a fun piece describing a weekend away at the coast with the scouts. It made the local paper and the Scout Magazine. I was hooked thinking that everything I wrote from then on would get published. Sadly not so.

What do you most enjoy about being an author?

The most enjoyable thing about being an author for me is the power to let my imagination run free and see where it takes me. I don’t plan a book other than the basic premise and where it is set. Each one has a different setting. The Last one, Ministry of Death is set in the NHS Drug Procurement Department , the one before that in the take away meals environment, I’ve also done Television, The City of London Financial District, Rock Groups etc..so half the fun of writing is the research into the different settings. I like to get it right.

What do you least enjoy about being an author?

I don’t think there’s anything I don’t enjoy about being an author.

Burning Ambition by Barry Faulkner

I see from your Amazon biography, you worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency. How did this influence your writing?

Yes, advertising copywriter for Erwin Wasey Ruffrauth and Ryan in Paddington. A top US advertising agency whose boss lived in a suite at the Dorchester! I think some of  the characters I came into contact in that industry have stuck with me and surface in the books from time to time. My character Benji, the next door neighbour and nemesis of my DCS Palmer is definitely from that workplace.

You were also a script writer and editor for TV during the 1980s and 90s. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and what you think it’s brought to your novel writing?

Whilst at the Advertising Agency I was writing stuff and sending up to the television companies  and got lucky.( they won’t even look at unsolicited commissions these days which I think means they are missing out on a lot of new writers and we get the same old tosh all the time) Anyway I was called up and asked to contribute to various light entertainment shows during the 70s -90s and ended up as a script editor/writer on most of the Light Entertainment shows including Bob Monkhouse, Tom O’Connor, Russ Abbot, Not The Nine O’clock News etc. It broadened my outlook and way of writing as I spent a lot of time in the ‘writers room’ with other writers and we bounced ideas off each other as well as having my own work edited and on many occasions binned!

What made you want to move from TV scriptwriting to crime fiction novels?

The television job meant many days and even weeks stuck in hotel rooms at night and that’s when I started to put together various ideas for TV series, mainly of the LE format but all the time in the back of my mind I had this DCS Palmer character pushing to get out. I don’t know where he came from but I get quite a few emails and letters from retired ex Detectives and old South London criminals now in their 80s- 90s telling me they recognise various characters in the books  so maybe some of the people I met as a youngster, from both sides of the law, have stuck in the recesses of my brain and emerge as a character in a book, who knows? Anyway, Palmer kept insisting he be written and I really got into him and the Serial Murder Squad in those hotel rooms. He was written as a pilot for a TV series but never made it.

Tell me about the inspiration and motivation to write the Serial Murder Squad series.

I wrote three Palmers for TV and being rejected they went into the drawer with all the other reject slips and then three years ago when I fully retired and time became available I went back, pulled him out and gave reign to all the plots in my head and in various notebooks that I’d kept over the years. So like many writers I sent them out and started collecting the reject slips but with the birth of Amazon there was another route to publishing as an Indie. I realised that floundering away on your own as a new indie would lead to mistakes and probably very little sales so I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors which was the best thing I have ever done in my writing career, I attended, and still attend a local meeting of members of that group in Cheltenham where the fonts of all publishing knowledge, Debbie Young and David Penny guided me through the tricky road of wannabe author to published author with several thousand Palmers sold. There’s about forty of them in various notebooks so many more Palmers to come I hope.

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?

I think you have to have a USP (Unique Selling Point) or your books will get lost in the plethora of the police procedural genre  of thousands of books. Many authors use their own area like Scotland or Cornwall to capture readers who recognise the settings.  I use London as that’s my place of birth and I know it well,  but realising how many are set in London I also have a USP of humour. Coming from a light entertainment background in television my mind is programmed to add (hopefully) witty and humorous remarks between my principle characters and with the addition of Benji, Palmer’s nemesis neighbour, I am able to run a fairly light back story against the main serial killer theme. Readers seem to warm to that and the juxtaposition and banter between the irascible old school DCS Palmer and his young IT and cyber expert Detective Sergeant, Gheeta Singh, chalk and cheese. So the reader will be taken into the darkness of serial murder but now and again will laugh.

Takeaway Terror

Who inspires you and Why?

I’m not inspired much by books and authors these days, I get bored very easily and hate the current trend of every detective having an Achilles heel and family problems and pages and pages of back story not relevant to the plot but insisted on by traditional publishers to increase the book price and KU page read income. Not on. I recently spoke with a well respected traditionally published crime author who told me she had submitted her next book of 80,000 words to be told by her publisher to expand to 140,000!!! She wasn’t happy.

I do get inspiration from television. Television crime drama, especially the streaming channels of Netflix and Amazon are right up to date with their output. Forensics are state of the art and the characters well drawn, my all time favourite is The Sopranos, but currently I like Ray Donovan. I intend to start another series of books about a present day London Organised crime syndicate and having just watched The Irishman film on Netflix that is inspiring me to get going on it. That film is a classic, half true and half fiction but so well put together.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?

I suppose the best one is one I get quite a lot, ‘these books should be a television series’. I’d love to go back in time with them to the BBC commissioning editor who said ‘no’ and push them into his face and say,  ‘see what you missed, I could have been a millionaire Rodney’

Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?

My favourite authors?  Laurie Lee for his use of descriptive words whilst moving the story along at pace, a complete master.  Ed McBain, the all-time number one in the pulp fiction genre that I reside in.  Robert Crais and his Cole and Pike novels, I rate them above Jack Reacher. His use of words and sentences is unique. Do try him.

If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?

Four dinner guests?  My great grandfather and my grandfather both of whom I never knew so I could find out the truth about a family business fortune gambled away in the 1800’s. Probably all make believe but it would be an interesting chat anyway as I know nothing about the family before my dad. Fred Karno, the UK’s first impresario who ran concert halls in the late 1800s and 1900s. He took Charlie Chaplin and his understudy, Arthur Jefferson, who later changed his name to Stan Laurel, to America and worked with Hal Roach on silent comedy film shorts for Buster Keaton and the rest of the silent comics. His life went from poverty to millionaire back to poverty ending up running an off licence in Dorset. And my fourth and last guest, Leonard Ernest ‘Nipper’ Read, DCS Read, the detective who nicked the Krays and many more top criminals whilst head of the Murder Squad in the late 60s-70s. He also helped clean out corruption amongst detectives at Scotland Yard with Commissioner Sir Robert Marks when close to 200 were sacked or took early retirement.

Please tell me about your latest project.

My current work load, and I don’t look at it as work as I enjoy it too much, I’m getting paid for having a lot of fun and meeting a lot of interesting people, however my current projects are finishing DCS Palmer book 10 ‘The Body Builder’ (there’s a clue!), getting my London Gang series underway and hassling Literary Festival organisers for a spot (unpaid) in there programme next year for my illustrated talk on ‘the Heists and Geezers of UK Crime from 1930 to Present Day’ or any other ‘crime’ spot they’d like to offer, I just love meeting writers and readers.

 

Thank you, Barry, for some fascinating insights into your life and writing. Good luck with ‘The Body Builder’. I look forward to reading it.

 

The Met’s Serial Murder Squad investigate the unusual deaths of three staff working at the Ministry of Health Drug Procurement department. Are all three deaths from natural causes or had the deceased stumbled on something that senior management and the pompous head of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons want to hide away at any cost, even murder?

How does a Romanian drugs company fit into the jigsaw and can Palmer and the team uncover the facts before more deaths occur? DCS Palmer needs hard evidence to convince his boss that there is a serial killing going on so the team start to dig and are surprised at what they find.

(Read my 5 star review here.)

 

For details of my reviews of Barry’s thrillers, please visit my review page.

An interview with author, Colin Garrow

I’m delighted to welcome author, Colin Garrow, who writes the entertaining Terry Bell murder mysteries and a glorious spoof of Sherlock Holmes, The Watson Letters. He’s also written plays, books for young adults and always has several projects on the go.

Colin grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland. He has worked in a plethora of professions including: taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate. His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Word Bohemia, Every Day Fiction, The Grind, A3 Review, 1,000 Words, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine. He currently lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes novels, stories, poems and the occasional song.

 

If you were to go back in time before your first book, what would you do differently?

The first novel I finished writing was ‘The Devil’s Porridge Gang’. Originally, I was thinking about it in terms of a screenplay but didn’t get further than the title and creating the main character. Then, about twelve years ago I had a go at the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and managed to write ten thousand words in a month but didn’t do anything else with it for ages. By 2013 I’d moved to a small village in Aberdeenshire, was living alone and struggling to make ends meets, so decided to try and finish the book. I’d always intended it to be a story for children, and that’s partly because I didn’t think I could write seriously for an adult audience (despite the fact I’d been writing plays for adults for years). Anyway, I finished it in three months and immediately started on the next one, ‘The Architect’s Apprentice’, another book for kids, followed by yet another, called ‘The Hounds of Hellerby Hall’. I realise now that if I’d pushed myself harder and started writing for adult readers instead of middle grade, I could have established a solid murder/mystery series, instead of all those kids’ books. Then again, maybe I needed to go through that process in order to get to where I am.

How has writing plays influenced the way you write novels?

It’s interesting hearing your words being spoken aloud, but the really interesting thing is when someone else interprets your words. I’ve written plays where I’ve had very specific ideas about a particular speech and what I think the character is saying, but seeing actors bring their own ideas to the words would often bring themes and nuances out that I didn’t know where there. Years ago, I ran a couple of writing courses (at Newcastle and Hull Universities) and used to encourage people to write monologues to explore what their characters were thinking.

I still think monologues are a great exercise for writers and consequently I always read my work aloud to hear where the problems might be, like if a certain passage doesn’t flow or I’ve used too many clunky words. I’ll often try to bring a sense of performance to my reading too, in an effort to hear the different ways a piece of writing might be understood.

You usually have several projects on the go. How do you juggle all these projects and what challenges do they give you?

I hate being tied down to one thing, and I also think it’s important (for me, at least) to have something else to turn to when I get a bit stuck. This works especially well if I go from working on a Terry Bell book to a Watson Letters book, as the writing style is quite different. I’m not sure about the juggling – it’s more like trying to keep each one going in the right direction while staying motivated and interested. And no, I don’t know how to do that.

Demon of Devilgate Drive

Why should people read your books?

There are some writers who can truly claim to influence people, but I think of my books like movies or stage plays, so all I want is for my readers to go away having been entertained for a few hours. Other than that, I’d never expect anyone to feel enlightened, enriched, or (for readers in Springfield) embiggened.

Do you write for yourself or your readers?

When I first started writing short stories, I studied women’s magazines, thinking it’d be a way to make a great living. Pretty soon I realised the reason I kept getting rejection slips was that I wasn’t interested in the people I was writing about (aside from the fact most of the stories were crap). When I changed to writing about things that interested me, I found it was a lot easier, so essentially, I write to entertain myself, after all, if I wouldn’t read them, why would anyone else?

In terms of writing and being an author, what was the turning point in your life?

Great question. There’s been a few, but the major turning point was in the early nineties, after I’d moved back to my parents’ house following a couple of really crappy relationships. While looking for a job, I heard about a course in Community Drama. It was a six-month course and explored all sorts of things like writing, storytelling, mask-making, puppets and acting and it changed my life – I realised I was good at creative stuff and so continued my learning curve at the University of Northumberland with a Drama degree.  I gradually noticed there’d been a massive shift in my confidence and found I was able to get up in front of people and perform, without feeling incredibly vulnerable.

The next turning point related to writing and my struggle to get down on paper the stuff that was in my head. While I was at uni, we studied various theatre practitioners, including Brecht, Stanislavsky and Mayakovsky. This allowed me to see how different styles of writing and performance worked in different ways, and more importantly, why some of my writing worked and some of it just didn’t. By the second year, my writing improved dramatically (no pun intended) and I started to write short plays and monologues that audiences liked.

Finally, going back to what I said about my first book, I think being able to finish that first novel was a major step forward. I didn’t quite understand how I’d been able to do it (and sometimes still feel that way on finishing a book), but I realised if I could do it once, I could do it again, and that felt amazing.

Something Wicker this way comes

What are your plans for the future?

At the moment, I’m working towards establishing the various book series I’ve been thinking about for a while. These include the Terry Bell Mysteries and The Watson Letters, of course, but I’m also planning two new series: one is about a nightclub singer in 1950s Newcastle, who gets involved in a kidnapping plot (tentatively titled ‘Blood on the Tyne’), and, because I like a bit of horror, the other is a 17th century tale of witchcraft and malevolence set in London. I also have an unfinished novel called ‘Terminal Black’ that I’ve been fiddling around with for about six years. It’s set in Inverness and Aberdeen and features a dodgy hero and a bent cop.

Along with all the middle grade books in my creative pipeline, I’m aware that sounds like rather a lot, but I’m getting much better at spending time writing, rather than finding excuses for not writing, so I think in the next couple of years, there’ll be a lot of new books coming out of the House of Garrow.

Can you tell me about your current project?

The next two books published will be ‘The Watson Letters Vol 5: Murder on Mystery Island’ and ‘The Curse of Calico Jack’, the second in my Skeleton Cove middle grade horror series. After that, I’ll be busy with the next Terry Bell and the two new projects I mentioned.

When you’re not writing how do you like to spend your time?

I started learning to play the guitar when I was about seven years old. This naturally led to trying other instruments, so I currently have four guitars, two ukuleles, a bouzouki, a mandolin, a five-string banjo, a saxophone and a clarinet (though with the latter two, I’m very much at the beginner stage). I’ve also got a digeridoo, but let’s not go there.

Colin Garrow author

A Long Cool Glass of Murder

When taxi driver and amateur sleuth Terry takes on a new client, he doesn’t expect her to turn up dead. With echoes of his recent past coming back to haunt him, can he work out what’s going on before someone else gets killed?

‘Charis Brown’s elfin-like smile was, like the footsteps on the stairs, noticeably absent. She looked at me, looked at the dead woman and let out the sort of sigh I knew from experience meant it was going to be a long night.’

‘A Long Cool Glass of Murder’ is book #2 in the Terry Bell Mystery series.

If you love mysteries and amateur sleuthing, ski-mask-wearing villains and the occasional bent copper, this’ll be right up your everyday seaside-town street.

A Long Cool Glass of Murder

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