Blair Denholm author of Sold answers a few questions on the blog
Sold was up in the blog yesterday, a few thoughts here.
Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job? (Maybe a brief bio?)
I'm not writing full time at the moment. Of course, I'd love to become successful enough to abandon my job and make writing my one and only pursuit. I'm working my arse off to achieve that and, with a bit of good fortune, the dream just might come true. But I’m under no illusions about how hard that is.
In the meantime, I work as a translator for an international conservation organisation with a long and cumbersome name: Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The Commission operates in four official languages, one of them being Russian, a language I've learned to a degree of fluency that allows me to translate and interpret at the highest levels. I also do private translation work, mainly in the areas of business and immigration.
I believe Sold is your debut book, how long from conception to completion and publication did Sold take?
SOLD is my debut novel through a traditional publisher, although I did self-publish a kids' book in the middle of last year. The idea for SOLD came from my partner, a real estate agent here in Australia. We were driving somewhere one day, to the hardware store I think, when out of the blue she said, 'You've always wanted to write a novel. Why don't you write one about a real estate agent?' She'd told me plenty of fantastic tales about her life in the industry, so I thought, yeah, why not? That was at the beginning of 2015. From that point it took until mid-2016 to finish the first draft. The book was published in November 2017. Not a rapid process, but the sequel is coming along much faster, thankfully.
Did the end result resemble the book you envisaged when you set out? Were there many bumps in the road along the way?
Good question. I have to admit my vision for the book changed considerably as I wrote. New characters emerged that weren’t in my plan, others discarded. Others still were given more prominent roles beyond the cameos I had in mind for them. The published version of the book is about 27,000 words lighter than my first draft, so you could say most of the bumps on that particular road were plowed over and obliterated.
How difficult is it blending comedic elements into a mystery? There was one scene in Sold, where Gary meets the vendor of a property he’s trying to sell which had me laughing like a drain.
Comedy is such a personal thing, and it can be hit and miss with your audience. Often I’ll be watching a movie or TV show and be chuckling away and my partner, Sandra, will look at me askance and ask me what the hell’s so funny. With SOLD, there are comedic elements I thought would only be appreciated by men, but to my surprise many female reviewers have said they get it. Even in the USA, where the style of humour is so different to what we relate to in Australia and the UK. I’ve always appreciated ridiculous writing, Spike Milligan for example. I enjoy writing funny stuff, but it’s hard to sustain the laughs over an entire novel.
Are you a plotter, or is it all making up shit as you go along?
Plotter? What’s that? I tend to start off with a vague idea, a theme, a nebulous plot, and then my strategy becomes even looser. For the follow-up to SOLD, I wrote an outline with a list of characters and their bios. But once I got to writing, the whole storyline changed by the second chapter. It doesn’t worry me in the slightest, though. I’m happy for the characters to take over and tell the tale for me. I feel a bit like a medium, channeling their thoughts.
What’s your typical writing schedule?
I don’t have a schedule as such. I need to be better at this sort of thing but self-discipline isn’t one of my strongpoints. I try to get in at least an hour a day, five days a week, and extra on weekends where possible. However if a big chuck of free time opens up, I’ll do my best to devote it to writing.
Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?
There are no completed, unsubmitted work lying in that proverbial drawer. It’s all out there – both of them.
Is there a current work in progress? How’s it going? Any hints as to what it’s all about? (I’m only halfway through Sold so far, so I’m unsure if Gary survives his trials and tribulations – a second with him would be one to look forward to.)
I’m working on the second installment of what I pompously call the “Gary Braswell Franchise”. It’s called Sold to the Devil. Gary’s been living with me for the last couple of years so I’ve got a good handle on exactly who the prick is. And that makes the writing easier and more fun. I can tell you this much: the action has shifted to the island state of Tasmania, away from the hot sun to a much colder environment. There are more crazy characters, including a dysfunctional cop who’ll do anything to keep out of trouble, a steroid-fueled body-building businessman with a penchant for kink and a tenacious journalist trying to uncover the truth behind a horrific murder. Plus some surrealistic goings on with abnormal weather and wildlife.
I’ve also written the first chapter of a thriller set in Moscow in the late 1980s. The novel, Revolution Day, is based on a real event, a racially motivated hate crime (a murder) that shook the community of foreign students living there at the time. I was one of them. This is the novel I’ve always wanted to write.
What’s the best thing about writing?
For me it’s when motivation is high, the muse has come to visit and the words just flow. I love the freedom of being able to say what I like, no restrictions. As a new writer, I get an amazing feeling when I read positive reviews from people I’ve never met. One said bluntly “Denholm is a master storyteller”. I could barely fit my head through the door the day I read that.
I’d have to say rewriting and editing. It can be difficult ditching large chunks of text you agonized over, but if it ain’t moving the story ahead or it’s just plain confusing for the reader, it’s gotta go.
The Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Theroux
Calamity: Being an Account of Calamity Jane and Her Gunslinging Green Man by JD Jordan
Intoxic by Angie Gallion
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr
Who do you read and enjoy?
I like Scandinavian noir in general, Camilla Lackberg in particular. She sets a nice brooding atmosphere. I’ve also become a big fan of Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels. I have to say, though, my tastes are eclectic. As long as a story engages me, I’ll give it a go. From the classics of Dostoyevsky and Dickens to James Patterson, as well as unheralded indie writers.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. I read it late last year and was completely captivated by the outlandish story and the bizarre characters.
Favourite activity when not working or writing?
I’ve always enjoyed running and have recently stepped that up to high-intensity training. And reading anything and everything, especially at a leisurely pace when on holidays.
What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. A stunning dark comedy in the tradition of many Coen Brothers’ classics.
TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Denholm household?
I watch more television than I should, although I’m cutting down on the hours. I’m a massive fan of Father Ted, Black Books and other comedy series in that vein. The whole world’s gone crazy for Netflix and the like, but I’m wary of getting on that bandwagon and wasting more of my life watching TV. For me there’s nothing better than watching a good game of rugby or Australian football. There’s as much drama packed into an hour or two of football as there is in an entire series of Homeland.
In a couple of years’ time…
I’ll be sitting in a cinema watching the premier screening of SOLD, the movie.
Many thanks to Blair for his time and Lindy Cameron of Clan Destine Press for connecting us.
Blair Denholm has his website here http://www.blairdenholm.com/
He's on Twitter https://twitter.com/blairdenholm
Clan Destine Press website - https://www.clandestinepress.com.au/