Tony Black was born in Australia and grew up in Scotland
and Ireland. Based in Edinburgh he is an award-winning journalist, editor, and novelist. His journalism has appeared in the UK national press and his short fiction in a variety of publications. He is the author of the novels: PAYING FOR IT, GUTTED, LOSS, LONG TIME DEAD, TRUTH LIES BLEEDING, MURDER MILE, THE STORM WITHOUT, HIS FATHER’S SON and the story collection LAST ORDERS. Novels Coming in 2014 are THE INGLORIOUS DEAD, THE LAST TIGER and ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD.
1. How did you get started writing
In one way or another, I think, I was always writing, from just about as far back as I can remember. But I suppose my first introduction to professional writing came in the form of journalism for the local paper, I went from there to work on bigger newspapers but was always writing fiction in my spare time. In those days the way to go was to find an agent and I landed a London agent quite early on, I was about 24, but took several attempts and a lot of rejections to get my first book deal with Random House.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
My first agent told me if I wanted to get published I’d have to write something a bit more commercial than I’d been doing, crime was starting to explode and she suggested I have a go.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing
So many. Hemingway is the main one, I suppose. I have little or no interest in his themes but the writing always seems to hook me. In crime fiction I started off with Ken Bruen and became a big fan of Jim Thompson along the way. Right now I’m going through a Raymond Carver phase and I’m continually returning to Carson McCullers.
4. You have written both standalone Novels and Series Novels, which do you prefer to write
I think of them all as standalone novels, I don’t think you have to read my series novels in any order, they’re all self-contained stories. Sometimes it can be comforting to catch up with an old series character and see where they are now and sometimes you just get so tired of their voice that you can’t bear to think of them. With new characters the challenge is to pin them down right away, find out who they are and what their story is. Sometimes you get that wrong and the book changes along the way or sometimes they turn out to be not as exciting as you thought; the writing is always tough, and so it should be.
5. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest
Next door to impossible. It took me the best part of ten years before I saw my books in print. Even when an editor really loves a book, that’s just the first hurdle. There’s so many other people who have to sign off on a book before it gets the green light, some with more clout than the editor. These days, of course, you can go straight to Kindle but I’m not sure which route is the biggest crapshoot.
6. There are many interesting characters in your Novels, do you have a particular favourite one
I suppose Marti Driscol from His Father’s Son is the one I still wonder about from time to time, probably because he was just a kid at the time of the story; it’s the Daddy in me.
7. You have set your Novels in different places, do you have a favourite place
Not really. I think you can set a novel anywhere, providing you know the place and understand the people well enough.
8. With the amalgamation of the Scottish Police Force last year, how has it changed your Novels
Very little. Except perhaps to put in the odd reference to cops being annoyed when the force gets called the service now. I think if a police novel is too much about the procedure it bogs down the story, changing letter-heads and the like would bore the backside off my readers.
9. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novels
Loads, sometimes, and much less at others. It really depends on the book. For The Last Tiger – which is out through Cargo in May – I think I read every book that was ever written on the Tasmanian Tiger. I literally took shelves of books home from the library and I was living in Australia at the time so there was a fair few. None of it felt like research though because I was so engrossed in the subject, but I was taking notes non-stop. Other books, like The Ringer for example, took hardly any research because most of the time I was just remembering people and events from the past and putting them on the page. I suppose my previous job as a night-club reviewer came in handy, though, can that be classed as research?
10. Are the characters in your books based on any real life
I think they’re a combination of real life and my imagination. I certainly take odd traits from people in real life but I’ve never done a cut and paste job on anyone I know.
11. Since you have started writing have any well known authors given you any advice
Yes, lots. That’s the thing about writers, some of them become your friends straight away and you make deep attachments to them. Ken Bruen told me to visualise a pint sitting on the bar before my first radio interview and when I was half-way through my first contract and ready to jack it all in Willie McIlvanney told me to see it through. The one who has given me the most advice, and I am massively grateful to for every bit of it, is Allan Guthrie. He’s been like a personal career consultant to me for so long that I’d be broke if I was paying him.
12. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa
Again, it’s a kind of yes and no answer. I see myself in Marti Driscol because a lot of those events he goes through actually happened in my life but at the same time he is another person altogether.
13. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned
There’s too many, I have notebooks full of ideas that I’ll probably never be able to write in what remains of this lifetime. I don’t think it’s a good idea for a writer to talk about work he hasn’t done yet, either -there’s the danger that it can be talked away.
14. Out of all the Novels you have written do you gave a favourite one that stands out to you
The Last Tiger, without a doubt.
15. As a well known crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
Persevere and be patient. Your work will find an audience when it’s ready.
Gus Dury Novels
1. Paying for It (2008)
2. Gutted (2009)
3. Loss (2010)
4. Long Time Dead (2010)
Long Way Down (2012)
Last Orders (2013)
DI Rob Brennan Novels
1. Truth Lies Bleeding (2011)
2. Murder Mile (2011)
His Father’s Son (2013)
Artefacts of the Dead (2014)
The Last Tiger (2014)
Killing Time in Vegas (2013)
London Calling (2013)
The Lost Generation (2013)
The Crime Shorts (2013)
RIP Robbie Silva (2012)
The Storm Without (2012)
The Holy Father (2012)
Ten Bells at Robbie’s (2013)
The Ringer (2013)
The Inglorious Dead (2014)
Hard Truths : Cross-Examining Crime Writers (2013)
Amazon Author Page