No Comment was on the blog yesterday - here.
Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?
I’ve been the manager of a busy Gretna Green hotel and wedding venue since Xmas 2000 despite being a former farmer and a time served joiner. In the past I have lambed sheep, calved cows, built bridges and dug drains.
What’s your typical writing schedule?
I write or do something writing related most days. My shift pattern gives me three days a fortnight where I’m off work while my son is at school which gives me some good writing time. When I’m putting down a first draft, I aim for a minimum of 1,000 words per day, which is generally done after family time. When it comes to the editing process, I tend to throw myself at it as I believe that editing should be done in the least number of days possible to maintain the author voice for the character I’m writing about. This process sees me work silly hours on the edits because despite wanting to do them in the shortest time frame possible, it’s not something that can be rushed.
Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?
When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?
Are there any subjects off limits?
I always know what the end “should” be: for instance if I’m writing about a serial killer, they have to be caught or killed. What I don’t know is how I’m going to put the baddie and the hero in the same place at the same time. As I don’t plot too far in advance – more on this in a moment – it can be nerve-wracking to get three quarters of the way through a novel and still have no idea how to get to the final scene that I know has to be achieved. However, I’ve learned to trust my subconscious and I just keep following the story until the answer shows itself to me. This may seem a little conceited, but to date, I’ve written six novels where I’ve had no idea how the hero would identify the villain and each time the solution has come from the story. The most I’ve ever had to go back and alter to make the solution work was 100 words in my debut novel Snatched from Home.
My plotting is haphazard at best but the more I write, the more I find myself plotting. Alongside my manuscript I have another document I call Chapter Info. This is used to keep a track of events, key details and whose point of view I’m telling each chapter from. It’s also a great help when editing as I mark the timeline against each chapter. Where I used to add to the Chapter Info after writing each chapter, I now find myself mapping out up to five chapters ahead. This allows me the freedom of freestyling while also having enough structure to always know what comes next. It also means I am never stuck for something to write. If I get an idea for something that needs added in like a twist or revelation, I’ll mark that down at the bottom of the Chapter Info document and leave it there until the story gets to the relevant event.
I don’t believe any subject should be off limits, but there are certain ones I chose not to write about as I want to entertain readers not depress them with subjects like paedophilia. Other, better writers than me can tackle these subjects with the sensitivity they demand.
I’m intending to read No Comment and When the Waters Recede shortly. I’ve not encountered DI Harry Evans before, is there anything I should know about him before I start? (Subsequently read No Comment.)
There’s plenty you should know about him and plenty you shouldn’t. All I’ll say is that he’s a good man hidden inside the body of a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, renegade who does things his own way with very little consideration for those around him.
How long from conception to completion did they both take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?
There’s quite a difference between the two, as No Comment was written in a month and edited in another month. When I sat down to write it, I had no idea of what was going to happen beyond the opening scene. I just put my bum in the seat and followed the clues as they were laid out in the story.
When the Waters Recede was very different as I’d been chewing over the idea in my head for almost a year as I wrote the first two Boulder novels. I often think about the next book as much as the one I’m writing and this meant that for the first time ever, I knew how I was going to put the killer and the hero together at the end when I started writing. Because of this foreknowledge, I was able to put the novel down very quickly.
I don’t tend to have many bumps along the way, and those I experienced were minor ones which were easily fixed with a spot of research or a couple of cigarettes and a good sweary rant.
Is there one of your books you are more proud of than the others? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader?
I couldn’t possibly say that any one of my books makes me prouder than another as it’s like choosing between children. What I will say, is that each series should be started from the beginning and I feel that each book I write is better than the last.
Your page on Fantastic Fiction separates a couple of your books into a Harry Evans series and a couple into a Major Crimes series, I’m puzzled – is there a distinction between the two?
The only distinction is that the Major Crime series is made up of a short story collection and novellas which feature DI Harry Evans and the rest of the Major Crimes Team. Each book in the Major Crimes series precedes a novel and they all fit together to provide a collection of bite-sized and full length fiction. The novellas also allow me to try different ideas and tell shorter stories that wouldn’t work as a full novel.
Jake and Harry have a fight – who wins?
The reader would be the winner because they’d get to witness a great fight that would be too close to call. Both men would refuse to quit and they’d fight until they were unable to throw another punch.
What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?
There have been so many satisfying moments it’s impossible to choose just one. It’s a several way tie between launching my first book alongside my friend and mentor Matt Hilton, seeing Snatched from Home adapted into a stage play, being selected to be the very first Crime in the Spotlight reader at Bloody Scotland, reading all the flattering reviews and those times when I’ve been approached by readers who tell me how much they love my books.
Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?
I’m very fortunate in that everything I have written has been deemed good enough to publish.
What’s the current project in progress?
I’m currently working on Jake Boulder 4 which has the working title Die Cold. It sees Boulder working at a ski lodge which gets overrun by terrorists.
What’s the best thing about writing?
I love throwing down the first draft and seeing where the story goes. Because I don’t plot too far in advance, it’s like I’m a reader as I’m following the events in the same way readers do.
The editing process is the part I like the least, As I work long hours at it to maintain author voice as mentioned previously, I find that I get irritable. I put this down to the fact that editing is basically spending time looking for examples of your own stupidity.
What are the last five books you’ve read?
I don’t get to read as much as I like, but these are the last five books. I’m currently reading The Puppet Show by M. W. Craven and finding it to be excellent.
The Satyr’s Dance by Gary Dolman
This is How it Ends by Eva Dolan
The Midnight Line by Lee Child
Now We Are Dead by Stuart MacBride
Fox Hunter by Zoe Sharp
Who do you read and enjoy?
I read lots of authors and enjoy all the different sub-genres of crime and thriller fiction. Authors whose books are automatically placed at the summit of Mount TBR are Craig Russell, Matt Hilton, Stuart MacBride, Zoe Sharp and Tom Cain.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
It’d be easy to choose a book like The Da Vinci Code or a Harry Potter for the money they’ve made, but I’d love to have an idea as clever as the theory in Tom Cain’s The Accident Man
Favourite activity when not working or writing?
I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends.
What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?
The latest in the Maze Runner series almost rocked me to sleep.
TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Smith household?
I’m not a huge fan of TV and spend most of my free time reading or writing, but everything stops for The Grand Tour & Game of Thrones.
|The Grand Bell Ends|
In a couple of years’ time…
I hope to be selling enough books to allow me to become a full time writer.
Many thanks to Graham for his time.
Graham Smith links
DI Harry Evans
1. Snatched From Home (2015)
2. I Know Your Secret (2016)
3. When the Waters Recede (2018)
Major Crimes Team
1. Lines of Enquiry (2015)
2. Matching the Evidence (2016)
3. No Comment (2018) reviewed here
1. Watching The Bodies (2017) reviewed here
2. The Kindred Killers (2017) reviewed here
3. Past Echoes (2018) reviewed here