1. How did you get started writing?
I’ve always written, ever since I could read I wanted to tell stories, and from the age of four or five I’d make little chapbooks out of sugar paper and stitch them together. They didn’t find a very wide audience, but it was an appreciative one – bless my mum and dad!
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
Initially I was more interested in horror and went through a cyberpunk period, inspired by early Neal Stephenson novels and William Gibson, but a chance comment by an early reader turned me onto crime and it made perfect sense because looking back all of those books were essentially crime novels in fancy dress.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
Like a lot of writers I went through phases early on when I aped the style of authors I admired – it’s an important part of finding your own voice I think and makes it easier to inhabit disparate characters – so I went through a phase where everything sounded like Elmore Leonard, very snappy and sharp, then Raymond Chandler-esque hardboiled prose.
There are writers I still have to avoid when I’m working because they’re so unique and strong that I find myself slipping into the rhythms of their prose. Cormac McCarthy is the main one – his long, hypnotic sentences tend to bleed into what I’m writing and it’s a style which I love but doesn’t really work in the genre; there’s a particular pleasure in crafting a page long paragraph, it’s a hallmark of excellent writing for me.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
This is a tough one to answer. Superficially I found it quite easy – signed with the first agent I submitted to, sold the second book I sent him within a couple of days of it going out to editors. Even the first book that went to market received very warm rejections. So it’s tempting to say I was lucky and I strongly believe that luck plays a big part getting published.
I spent a good ten years working away very quietly, racking up books at a rate of one-per-year, which I didn’t think were ready to be seen by anyone, learning as I went along. If I hadn’t done that ground work I suspect the agent-getting and publisher-finding wouldn’t have run so smoothly.
5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?
I love writing Zigic and Ferreira obviously but for pure authorly glee it’s the villains every time. I guess it’s because your heroes have to behave themselves, my coppers aren’t mavericks or loose canons because in reality not many coppers are and I wouldn’t want to glamorise the kind who think the law doesn’t apply to them. With bad guys there’s no such concern – we know these people are pieces of shit and finding ways of showing that is huge fun. Especially when they hold views diametrically opposed to your own, as has been the case in my first two books which focus on immigration, racism and far-right politics.
So in Long Way Home I had Clinton Renfrew, an English nationalist foot solider and ex football firm hard man, professional arsonist and all round aggro gobshite. I am vaguely ashamed how much I enjoyed writing him. He’s pure toxic.
In Tell No Tales it’s Richard Shotton, a smooth-talking, silver-fox politician who leads an emerging Ultra-Nationalist party. He’s Renfrew with a public school education and aspirations towards statesmanship, slick and informed and that’s what makes him so dangerous. Renfrew might head butt someone for having a skin colour he doesn’t like, Shotton would deport them and everyone like them. I can’t wait to see how readers respond to him.
6. What kind of research have you had to undertake for your Novels?
The research for Long Way Home was mostly talking to people who live in that world because I didn’t know very much about immigration before I started. So I spoke to migrant workers about working and living conditions, hearing about the perils of unscrupulous gangmasters and employment agencies, the ways they were exploited and bullied. I also went with a letting agent to look at a house that was being divided up ahead of renting, seeing the rooms being subdivided into what I can only describe as cells was a real wake-up moment, as was discussing the business with a legitimate gangmaster who gave me the inside track on the murkier end of that trade.
The storyline for Tell No Tales grew directly out of that research, where it touched on racism and the burgeoning far-right movement in the UK. I didn’t use much of that information in Long Way Home but the subject fascinated and infuriated me so much that I wasn’t ready to let it go and decided to put it at the centre of the next Zigic and Ferreira book. For this one research was more book-based, reading stories of people who had left Neo-Nazi organisations and histories of existing ones, Nigel Farage’s autobiography was a useful read, although my fascist politician is nothing like him – it gave me an excellent insight into the official face of ultra-right ideology and made me fear for what happens in this years general election.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
No, there are elements inspired by real people but lifting a character wholesale would be problematic for many reasons, it’s rude for one thing, legally dodgy and slightly undermines the point of writing fiction. I’ll often use a speech pattern or a certain mannerism gleaned from real life but that’s as far as it goes.
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Crime Fiction Novels out there
I hope they stand out because they’re set in a world which is often overlooked in crime fiction, exploring the life of migrant workers who live and work close by the ‘mainstream’ population but who we rarely see represented as anything more than prostitutes or a clichéd criminal ‘other’ for some reason. I set out to show a vibrant but exploited community who face challenges most of us will thankfully never encounter.
My favourite crime writers produce books with a strong social conscience and unflinching realism, if I’ve managed to do that with the Zigic and Ferreira series I’ll be very happy.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
When I started writing Long Way Home I didn’t expect it to get published so I put a fair bit of myself into Ferreira’s character. We share a taste for liquorice roll-ups and dark rum, she has my wardrobe and political beliefs and unshakable trust in gut instinct – she’s basically me with the filter off.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.
Tell No Tales opens with a hit and run which leaves one woman dead and her sister bent on seeing the driver punished. They are migrant workers so the case falls to Zigic and Ferreira but with a solid suspect they quickly turn their attention back to a more pressing crime; a series of brutal murders which appear to have a Neo-Nazi motivation.
I’m really superstitious about discussing works in progress, but the third book in the series is almost finished and this one is more domestic in tone, focusing on the murder of the woman whose tetraplegic daughter has been left to die as her mother’s body goes undiscovered for days. It’s about disability and neglect and the burden of caring.
11.What was your favourite scene to write in your Novel and why
The opening scene in any book is always my favourite one to write because it’s important to hook the reader from the very first line, so it has to be perfect and polished, engaging and compulsive, preferably with a big bang at the end to make the reader desperate to turn the page.
I also love writing interrogations – when they flow well it’s just like arguing with someone!
12. As a up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
Work hard and be lucky are good advice but I suppose every aspiring author already knows that getting published is combination of the two.
More practically I think it’s very important to network – social media has broken down the boundaries between the publishing industry and authors so make use of the platform. Write short stories and submit them to the more well-regarded blogs and magazines, agents do pay attention to them. For crime writers I’d advise entering the CWA’s Debut Dagger competition, it has launched many careers since it began and a short listing is guaranteed to make you stand out on the agent’s slush pile.
Tempting as it is to see publishing as an impenetrable citadel when you’re starting out the truth is every agent and every editor is on the look out for new talent.
OUT 8TH JANUARY 2015
The car that ploughs into the bus stop early one morning leaves a trail of death and destruction behind it.
DS Ferreira and DI Zigic are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to handle the hit-and-run, but with another major case on their hands, one with disturbing Neo-Nazi overtones, they are relieved when there seems to be an obvious suspect. But the case isn’t that simple and with tensions erupting in the town leading to more violence, the media are soon hounding them for answers.
Ferreira believes that local politician Richard Shotton, head of a recently established right-wing party, must be involved somehow. Journalists have been quick to acclaim Shotton, with his Brazilian wife and RAF career, as a serious contender for a major political career, despite his extremist views, but is his party a cover for something far more dangerous?
A man is burnt alive in a suburban garden shed.
DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to investigate the murder. Their victim is quickly identified as a migrant worker and a man several people might have had good reason to see dead. A convicted arsonist and member of a far-right movement has just been released from prison while witnesses claim to have seen the dead man fighting with one of the town’s most prominent slum landlords.
Zigic and Ferreira know all too well the problems that come with dealing with a community that has more reason than most not to trust the police, but when another migrant worker is attacked, tensions rapidly begin to rise as they search for their killer.
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