I’ve read that you have a day job as an architect, but have you always had the writing bug?
No, although I have always been an inveterate daydreamer, my early history being one of obsession with design and architecture, until I hit a brick wall in my first recession – my practice floundered, I couldn’t sleep - “Get a hobby,” a Good Samaritan said. Now I definitely floundered, and stood in front of the Library Hobbies section with no inspiration until rescued by a Library assistant (pre-Big Society).
“Have you tried reading, instead of canal widening?” Well, I was coming up to forty and realised only then that I didn’t read books.
“Interests?” and all I could think was medieval history; where did that come from? 'Name of the Rose' was my first book and I was hooked; Ellis Peters, and then I was off, Paul Docherty... many more and as my enthusiasm grew, I took out more books than anyone could feasibly read in the lending term, and thus began my exchanges with the head librarian; why my books are late, which turned into what I thought about certain books, her recommendations and then her suggestion, write yourself, and over a very long period I mused on the subject, especially the fear of starting – I had built characters in my head, plot scenarios and then the fearful advice from people, “Mind maps”, “Key stages”, “Set out the chapters”.
I could do none of that.
I then heard a radio interview with Michael Connelly, an author I like, and the question he was asked, “Do you have a mind map of where the book is going when you start?” He replied, “No, I have an idea for the first chapter and then I start and it is as much fun for me as to the reader to find out what is going to happen next."
I came home that evening and started my first book... 'Cause and Effect'
...and now I also review books – something I love when I can find the time – you can see my reviews on my books Facebook page:
‘A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza’ (great title) is the third of your ‘Kind Hearts and Martinets’ series, involving DCI Jack Austin. Is each novel a complete story in itself?
Yes, each book can be read independently, but there are threads of an underlying narrative that extend in each book progressively. In 'A barrow Boy', the threads from books one and two are interwoven into the story so never is the reader left unknowing, and each book concludes tying up the mysteries pertaining to that particular novel, and leaves hooks that get followed up in the subsequent books.
In the series there are six books, all written.
Book 4, 'Ghost and Ragman Roll' is an adventure and introduces some additional characters that get taken on in later books – more of the mystery is unveiled.
Book 5, 'Merde and Mandarins' is where the whole of the five books are wrapped up – so what is book 6?
Book 6, 'The Duchess of Friesian Tun' - I stepped out of the novel framework and wrote this as a ‘stage-set’ narrative – certainly a challenge that I loved. In this the story of 'Kind Hearts and Martinets' is mulled over by a set of ‘off-the-wall’ characters (loosely based on 'The Canterbury Tales' but where the characters go nowhere) and the ‘play’ is contained principally in one set, with aside vignettes – funnily enough I have just read this through again in one of my interminable editing trips, and I am really pleased with it.
Is this your first book with Urbane Publications?
Yes, although Urbane are aware of my self-published first two, 'Cause and Effect' and 'Irony in the Soul', and the sequel to 'A Barrow Boy', 'Ghost and Ragman Roll', is tantalisingly trailed at the end... I am hoping that Urbane will take this on very soon as it takes some time to get a book out there. Certainly working with Urbane is a fantastic experience. Writing is a solitary experience and so it is with relief that Urbane embraces the collaboration of revealing what we create to the wide world...
...My dream - to have a box set published by Urbane of the first three books initially, as it was in the first instance, written as a trilogy – and then the full 'Kind Hearts and Martinets' series of six books, also in a box set – ambitious? I think you have to be... and, most importantly, I’m never going to stop writing, and long for the day when I can let the day job go and just write – bliss...
Your work is described as crime fiction with dark humour. What draws you to this genre/style?
This is an interesting question and is at the nub of ‘marketing’ the book. Not my words but those of Urbane. I marketed my first two books as comedies (mistake) – Urbane, when we first met, said my books were Crime/mysteries that make you laugh – and who said publishers know nothing? (answers on a postcard).
My books have been likened to Tom Sharpe (I am very flattered) and my books are especially character driven, and although there is a main protagonist, reviewers have quite correctly identified a series of strong ‘support’ roles especially played by women; each character for me is solid and key and I take time over them all and then knit them into the narrative so they each play a serious part.
What draws me to this genre/style? Who knows? But it is important to me that there is a very serious underlying thread of social justice and fairness – the good and the bad, the 'Kind Heart' and the 'Martinet'; some readers pick this up and some just like the story and having a laugh.
Would you consider writing in different genres?
Yes I would and frequently start; I have book 9 on the starting blocks, a couple of chapters penned. It started as an observation on bullying, but already I know that it is drifting into crime/thriller that will make you laugh – bullying isn’t funny, but I often quote Peter Ustinov at this stage, 'Comedy is a funny way of being serious' and it is for me, it is how I can make my serious observations – and that is the very essence of 'Kind Hearts and Martinets'.
Who are your favourite authors or influences?
My word that is hard, and in my case almost impossible as I am an eclectic reader by default, I am that sort of person who will pick up a book and not even look at the cover and start reading, and have a truly poor memory, extending back only as far as maybe one or two books.
I love Ian McEwen and then I also love Wodehouse, Michael Connelly... Nordic Noir, Mankell whose characters are written warts and all, and here the memory lapses, except I read and reviewed a Gothic novel recently, published by Urbane, 'The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb', not my preferred genre but thoroughly enjoyed it and now my mind is flirting with reading Terry Pratchett... who knows where this will lead?
My biggest nightmare is walking into a library and knowing I will never be able to read that lot before I shuffle off my mortal coil... the thing is, I don’t think any of these authors influence my writing, other than, I often study sentence structure and paragraphing, only don’t tell anyone – they already know I’m a dipstick – but I write for me, in my own way... if people see similarities it is because a log of books are processed through my brain – and you don’t want to go there.
What are you currently working on?
Book 7, 'Rhubarb in the Mammon', is finished but I can’t leave it alone because I love it, but also because it has a partner sequel in Book 8, 'Umble Pie'. New scenarios, new characters whom I love to bits, and the story travels from serious (but makes you laugh) to an edgy surreal conclusion. 'Umble Pie' is my hardest task so far – I have set myself the challenge of weaving the ‘real’ sequel/and a ‘surreal’ narrative, like a DNA spiral and I have this 80% done – I have the ending in my mind and now it is that most important part – making sense of it all... the link – I know what it is but how to phrase it - what a joyful pain it is, this writing lark.
And of course I have book 9, 'Larkin’s Barkin’' off from the starting blocks and currently passing from synapse to synapse as I walk my dog along the seafront.
Praise-be for the CDO amongst us as I have readers contact me feeling obliged to read from book one, which is good for sales but not absolutely necessary, but of course your enjoyment of 'A Barrow Boy' might be enhanced by creeping up on it via books 1 and 2... so what can I tell yer...
Book 1 – 'Cause and Effect' – Kindle Book 2 – 'Irony in the Soul' – Kindle
Thank you, Pete. It's been wonderful to hear about you and your work. I'm very much looking forward to reading Jack Austin's stories.
It's my pleasure to welcome, prolific writer and fellow Urbaneite, Pete Adams, to my guest page. His latest novel, 'A Barrow Boy's Cadenza', published by Urbane Publications, sounds like a lot of criminal fun. He tells us about his novels, interests and influences. Over to Pete...
Interview with Pete Adams