I’ve decided to diversify the blog (slightly) to include author interviews. These will likely take place each Friday, but perhaps on other days too. In the words of Sheldon Cooper, what’s life without whimsy?
So I’m delighted to welcome Graham Smith to the blog. Graham is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. For the last fourteen years, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.
An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com for over six years.
Hi Graham, and welcome to the blog. You’ve had a varied and interesting career, from creating with your hands as a time-served joiner, to creating an experience as a wedding venue hotel manager near Gretna Green. Please tell us a little about your path to becoming a published author?
A chance encounter at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival saw me join the well-respected review site www.crimesquad.com as a reviewer. From my reviewing, I gained a much deeper understanding of the craft of writing. Not through any deliberate attempt to learn, just through a steady osmosis brought about by many years reading crime and thriller novels. Around the turn of the decade, I started work on the document which would one day become Snatched from Home. Once it was polished I started to submit to agents and publishers. Caffeine Nights Publishing offered to take me on and I snapped their hand off as I believe they have a massive future.
Although you’re on the receiving end this time, you’ve interviewed some big names in the word of crime and thriller fiction, including Lee Child and Dennis Lehane. Is there anything you’ve learned from these giants that influences your own writing?
I’ve picked up little snippets from every author I’ve interviewed but nothing that they haven’t shared publicly. I tend to credit my reading and reviewing as a greater source of learning than interviews because my questions are geared more to entertain those who’ll read the interview rather than me learning to write. I’m very lucky to have a wide circle of writing friends of all different levels and successes. Interacting and brainstorming with like-minded people always inspires me to raise my own game.
One thing I have learned from my interviews, is how to conduct myself as an author and how certain questions are better than others. (Never ask anything to which the answer can be a simple yes or no as the interview will make for very poor reading.)
Snatched From Home is your debut novel, but you’ve got a number of collections of short stories out there, as well as having contributed to some popular anthologies. Do you have any preference over the format?
I enjoy both equally. Longer pieces give you something to really get your teeth into, but shorter works are often much quicker and easier to complete. Sometimes I have to listen to the voices in my head. If they are telling me about character arcs, sub plots and lots of little quirks I know the idea will work as a longer piece of fiction. If there is less detail and I’m thinking of ways to pad the story to make it novel length, I know that it should be pared down into a short story or novella rather than expanded into a half-assed novel. Sometimes though, I’ll mix the two and use a short story idea as a sub-plot or different thread within the framework of a novel.
The next novel I’m going to start will feature a crime I first used in a short story which was just over 2,000 words. It will be properly fleshed out and will merely be the crime which draws the attention of my hero.
Tell us a little about DI Harry Evans – what makes him tick as a copper?
Alcohol and nicotine would be the trite answer. Joking aside, Evans is a complex character who has a mind of his own. He may be fictional, but he still dictates proceedings. All I do is put him into situations and write down what he does. He’s loyal, loving, abusive, quick with his fists, generous, decent, incorrigible, maverick, compassionate and contradictory. I’ve tried to raise him right, but he does his own damn thing.
Because he wrote books in ‘real time’, Ian Rankin ended up retiring Rebus, only to bring him back working on cold cases. You’ve started DI Harry Evans book 1 with Harry doing his best to avoid enforced retirement. Are you going to face the same problem, or is this going to be a short series?
While I’m the first to admit I painted myself into a corner with him facing enforced retirement, I have written the sequel to Snatched from Home and it starts less than 48 hours after Snatched finishes. I’ve also got the first draft of a novella which sits between Snatched from Home and I Know Your Secret. Harry Evans may or may not retain his current status, but provided I don’t age him in real time, I reckon I can keep him involved for at least a few cases more.
I fly by the seat of my pants. If I know a couple of characters, the crime, what the resolution should be and where the story is set that’s more than enough to get me started. I was three-quarters of the way through writing Snatched from Home before I worked out how to achieve the resolution I wanted. After that, it was a case of going back and seeding in a few clues to inform the reader and that was that.
Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on at the moment?
I’m actually between projects at the moment and am jointly plotting book 3 in the Harry Evans series and the second in another series which features a Utah doorman called Jake Boulder. Evans will be looking into the disappearance of wealthy businessmen while Jake Boulder will have to face off against a gang of white supremacists. Neither of the finished projects will be for the faint of heart.
What’s on your TBR pile?
Mount TBR is an ever-expanding entity in my house. Currently sitting near the summit are My Kind of Justice by Col Bury, Born in a Burial Gown by Mike Craven, No Name Lane by Howard Linskey, Tears of Angels by Caro Ramsay.
I’m a big fan of Twitter, but a bit of a reluctant Facebooker. Social media is seen as a must for the majority of authors nowadays – what’s your relationship with it?
I find it’s a good way to waste time. It’s also a great way to connect with people and find that as with everything else in life, you get out what you put in. I always have the book of faces open when I’m writing but I find I have to be strict with myself otherwise I get drawn into conversations when I should be writing.
Finally, give us a weird or unusual fact about yourself that not many people will know.
I have represented Dumfries and Galloway schools at under 18 rugby and played darts against Jocky Wilson. That was the first time D&G beat both Ayrshire and the Borders. Jocky Wilson soundly thrashed me but I have more darts trophies than rugby ones.
That’s great! Thanks for stopping by Graham – it’s been a pleasure to have you here.