The Gold Coast swelters in record temperatures, and car salesman Gary Braswell’s hot under the collar. With sales at rock-bottom, and up to his neck in debt to loan shark Jocko Mackenzie, Gary’s sweating on a fat commission from a mysterious Russian couple.
If the loan is not repaid, there’s more than Gary’s kneecaps at stake…
Welcome, Blair Denholm, crime writer, to my guest author interview. Pull up a chair and let me fire questions at you under this ultra bright light bulb. *Switches on light bulb – glares in his face.*
What is your writing Kryptonite?
If you mean what distracts me from the task at hand, then it could be one of a million things. But the one thing that will make me get out of my writer’s chair and onto the couch, aside from a medical emergency involving family and/or pets, would have to be sport on the TV. Anything with people chasing a ball around. And, of course, the bloody Internet. I’m seriously thinking of getting one of those “antisocial” type blockers so that I can just write with abandon and not be constantly checking for updates that right now are so fascinating but will have absolutely no meaning tomorrow. Or in an hour’s time, let’s be honest.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
There are so many traps for inexperienced players, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s run with some of the obvious ones – obvious to me, that is.
Firstly, many newcomers entertain the false notion that quality work automatically equals success. Newbie writers sometimes think all they have to do is write a masterpiece in their genre of choice, the books will fly off the shelves and they’ll be rich and famous in no time. Sadly, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I talk a little bit about the need to embrace self-promotion in a blog piece I wrote a little while ago.
Another huge mistake is not getting your work checked or edited properly. This is particularly true in the world of self-publishing. I see so many e-books on Amazon that look like they were put together by a toddler – not just weak formatting, but elementary errors of language, grammar, style. It’s sad. People often have great stories to tell, but inattention to detail technically lets them down big time. And if you’re thinking of submitting to a traditional publishing house, your submission will be tossed in the bin or deleted from the inbox in a nanosecond if it obviously hasn’t been seen by an editor. Get your work checked! Preferably by a couple of people.
Thirdly, I’d have to say that lots of writers don’t read enough. A good writer must be a voracious reader. Those who read across different genres will have the most rounded and mature styles that appeal to a broader section of the community. Read the classics, the latest best-sellers, biographies and other non-fiction. Turn off the TV. Choose life … Oops, drifting into Trainspotting there. Sorry.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
A bit of both. If you start to enjoy some success, then you may be asked to do interviews on TV, radio or for a newspaper. You might get asked to give a talk. If you’re a shrinking violet, these tasks – essential for any writer who wants to make progress – are non-negotiable. You simply must front up. So in that sense, a big ego can be a plus. On the other hand, nobody likes an arrogant so-and-so who can’t stop banging on about how good they are.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’ve made friends with some writers in my publisher’s stable who, although not as well known as Steven King or J.K. Rowling, are nevertheless talented and highly-skilled writers. These include Narrelle Harris, Ruth Wykes and Barry Weston. Well-known writers who have helped me with advice include Nick Earls, Emma Viskic and Heather Rose. All of these have been only too happy to answer any questions I’ve had about the writing process and the business of being a writer.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Read more books. Particularly books about the craft of writing.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I’ve self-published a children’s book called Escape from Passing Winds that features a young girl, Catherine, as the main character. I wrote the book many years ago but only put it out into the wild this year. I modeled Catherine on my step-daughter, so in that sense, I had some raw material to work with. There are also pivotal females in SOLD. Many authors write protagonists of the opposite sex (Agatha Christie’s detective Poirot springs to mind). I don’t see it as a huge problem if one avoids generalisations and stereotypes, most of which don’t hold much water these days anyway.
What is your favourite childhood book?
I adored a series called Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. It was about three teenage boys who solved mysteries. Like Scooby-Doo minus the dog. And the van. When I was about 10 or so I read Peter Benchley’s Jaws and thought I was so grown-up. I actually credit Jaws as the book that got me into reading.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes, but I’m not saying. People think it’s about exploding ibises and their secret meaning, but…
How many hours a day do you write?
When I’m on a roll, up to six hours. But with the millstone of a day job around my neck and other hobbies (like stuffing my face full of chips while watching the Broncos on TV), it’s usually only between one and two. I’m making a New Year’s resolution to increase that in 2018. I have a sequel to deliver, after all!
Tell us about your latest projects and where we can find them?
I’m working on the second installment of the Gary Braswell series (there will be three in all, fingers crossed) and I hope to have the first draft completed in the next six months. I’m not one of those writers who like to flaunt their WIPs (works in progress); I keep them shielded from the harsh light of criticism until it’s time for the big reveal. Apart from that, I have plans to write a crime novel set in Moscow in the 1980s that will be much darker than SOLD. It’s the one I’ve always wanted to write, tentatively called Revolution Day.