Most Tuesday nights in my household are a bit dull. Normally I make a bit of tea, walk the dog, perhaps do a bit at the allotment if the weather is dry, then it’s persuading the toddler that it’s bath and bedtime. Not this week! This week I had the joy of spending my Tuesday night attending a local author event at Cockerton Library in Darlington to meet crime novelist C.J. Grayson.
Grayson launched his debut novel, Someone’s There in 2019 and followed this up with the Byrd and Tanzy Trilogy based in his home town, Darlington.
Chris’s talk was really inspiring, he happily covered everything from his busy home life, writing inspirations, the self-publishing process and aspirations for future books. I took some notes and thought I would share them here (any errors I do apologise, I was trying to do this both subtly and hastily so that I could keep up).
· What was the first thing you ever wrote?
Chris told us how he wrote a book as a teenager and then again in his early twenties. Looking back he jokingly confessed they weren’t very good but the drive to write his stories was there from a young age.
· What inspired you to write your book?
Chris told us how his wife is always forgetting his phone and how it sparked the core of his first novel. He tells how the main protagonist rings his wife’s missing phone, but when he remembers seeing it downstairs earlier in the kitchen, he goes to hang up, only for it to be answered by strangers who’ve broken into the house. The strangers are looking for something specific. He said from there the novel grew quite organically until it formed “Someone’s there” his debut novel.
All of his novels have started from that initial ‘what-if’
· Do you do a lot of research?
Chris told us that his books require a lot of research particularly the crime/police/procedural elements to his novel as this is not his background. He also said he uses a police officer friend to help proofread his books to try to keep them as accurate as the story allows.
· Are there any locations that have a special connection for you or the book?
Chris told us how all of his Byrd and Tanzy Trilogy is based in Darlington, with several well-known areas appearing. He said he had even used his childhood home as one of the locations used in the novel.
· Who do you enjoy reading?
Chris enjoys reading most crime novels although admitted he didn’t get as much time as he’d like to read (do any of us?!). His favourite genre to read is crime and he has been enjoying the novels by L.J. Ross.
· What’s next?
Chris is currently working on his 5th novel….HIDDEN PIECES with a new setting in Manchester and a new female protagonist DS April Fisher.
Big thank you to C.J. Grayson for a wonderful evening’s entertainment (and to Cockerton Libraries, the fantastic hosts). I have my signed copy of his trilogy eagerly added to my to-read pile and can’t wait to crack on with it.
Check out C.J. Grayson’s Amazon Author Page for more info and see his wonderful collection of publications. His books start at just 99p or are FREE to read for those with Kindle Unlimited subscriptions.
I can honestly say I was very excited to write this post. This is my first official participation in an author interview and wow – have I started on a good one. So without much further ado meeeeeettt (in my head at this point I am hearing a drumroll)….. Geoff Le Pard.
Many of you already know Geoff from his blog geofflepard.com, he’s also a regular contributor to the weekly #writephoto challenge and produces some phenomenal stories. He’s recently published a new book titled “The Art of Spirit Capture” (which can be found at the following links: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com ), so I sent Geoff a few questions to find out about the book, an insight into his writing process and to find out his favourite page-turners. His responses are (as you would expect from Geoff,) honest, brilliant and in places hilarious. I certainly had a huge smile, I hope you enjoy it too.
Tell us a bit about your book?
It’s a mix of mystery, a bit of magic maybe, a Christmassy setting and possibly some romance. It follows Jason who we meet at the start when he’s been made redundant and is having to meet his ex to divi up their things. His brother is in a coma after a bike accident and very soon Jason’s going to be homeless. While this is happening he hears from a firm of lawyers that he and his brother have inherited his great aunt’s estate. When he goes to see the lawyer he finds out he’s going to be represented by Lotte who he knew as children and of whom he has less than favourable memories. The story centres on a Sussex town of Mendlesham, and its cast of characters who want to know Jason’s plans for his uncle’s captures. What are captures and why are they going to cause Jason so much grief and joy? You’ll have to read to find out.
Where do your ideas come from?
Ah that old tricky one! This idea, you’ll be pleased to know came from a Writephoto prompt but they can come from anywhere. It might be a phrase (my first novel was based on the legal expression The Right to Roam, my first published novel on an incident in a hotel I worked in in 1976, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle). I’ve got ideas from: meeting a woman raising money for a soup kitchen in Union Sq, San Francisco; the first time I let our rescue dog off the lead; peering through a hoarding round a building site on my way home from work one evening. As you know, with a lot of short fiction, I am stimulated by prompts.
Do you start with a character or a plot?
I’d say mostly plot, but the story only has legs if I can find two or more characters who I want to write about. Character is essential if the book is to be readable and coherent.
Do you do a lot of research, if so, what is your ratio of research-to-writing?
I’m useless at research. My Harry Spittle Series are essentially historic in that they are set, variously, in 1976, 1981, 1987 and the one I’m in the middle of right now, 1997. That means a fair bit of research but mostly to check my memory or find something that happened at the relevant time to build in some credibility. Walking into Trouble is set mostly on the Cotswolds Way, a 110 mile long distance footpath so I needed to make sure I knew the settings (I have walked it but a while back so some things had to be checked). Otherwise I try to avoid it. Apart from forming Dire Straits two years early (I’ve apologised to Mark Knopfler) in my first book, I think I’ve gotten away with it mostly. I take my lead from Graham Swift who said he never did research when asked why he ended his Booker Prize winning novel Last Orders in Margate. Admitting he’d never been there, he said it just seemed right for his characters but he didn’t feel the need to join them.
Does sitting down to write a novel get easier now that you are on book no (12?)?
Both, I suppose. I’m not intimidated by starting, by the amount of time I know it will take, the fact that writing the first draft is probably the easy bit and finishing that is merely opening Pandora’s box to months, maybe years of editing. But I remain terrified I will not be able to make it work, that the ending will elude me, that the characters will take me so far away from where I was aiming that I have a totally different novel. When I started Walking Into Trouble (under a very different title), it was to be a light comedic tale. In the end it became dark, difficult, exploring fractured relationships and the damage that affairs can cause. There’s little humour. I wasn’t sure I wanted that and as a result two characters were written too flat with no nuance. Once I accepted what it had become, I concentrated on them and it lifted off the page.
Who do you enjoy reading?
Gosh. In terms of the genres I enjoy: humorous/fantasy has me reaching for Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Ben Aaronovitch, Marina Lewycka, Helen Fielding, Sue Townsend, Neil Gaiman, Fredrik Backman, PG Woodhouse, Graeme Simsion, Grant Naylor; Kim Harrison. Thriller/crime: Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart MacBride, Tess Gerritsen, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky. Jolly good literary fiction: Iain Banks, Lionel Shriver, Graham Swift, Eimear McBride, Rachel Joyce, Emma Healey. Classics: Dickens, Trollope, Wilkie Collins, Patrick Harrison, HG Wells, Harper Lee, Dorothy L Sayers. Non fiction: Bill Bryson, Adam Kaye, Tim Spector. Indie: Anne Goodwin, Phil Taylor, Ali Potts, Ruth Sutton, Don Massenzio. Whew…
What is in your to-read pile?
Matilda Windsor is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin, The Authority Gap by Mary-Ann Sieghart, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
Big, Big thank you to Geoff for agreeing to be featured and taking the time to answer all my questions. Also, a big thank you for your continued support with the #writephoto prompt. I’ve downloaded The Art of Spirit Capture and can’t wait to read it (especially in the approaching festive season, it just seems so fitting).
Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.
In this, the second book in the Harry Spittle Sagas, it’s 1981 and Harry is training to be a solicitor. His private life is a bit of a mess and he’s far from convinced the law is for him. Then an old acquaintance from his hotel days appears demanding Harry write his will. When he dies somewhat mysteriously a few days later and leaves Harry in charge of sorting out his affairs, Harry soon realises this will be no ordinary piece of work. After all, his now deceased client inherited a criminal empire and several people are very interested in what is to become of it.