A chat with charming crime author Neil White

812qH1H8dJL__SL1500_As part of the blog tour for his new book (actually two, because he’s that awesome – The Domino Killer and The Death Collector) I’ve been lucky enough to interview Neil White.  I have to admit that Neil is a new discovery for me, and I was introduced by a lovely lady I’ve recently heard referred to as ‘blogging royalty’ (so true!) Liz Wilkins.  If his books are anything like as entertaining and intelligent as his Q&A answers I can’t wait to get stuck into my first one!  So, as they say, without further ado…

  • Which of your characters is most like you?

I would say that Joe Parker is the most like me. He is one of the brothers in my current trilogy; one a detective, one a defence lawyer. I’m a criminal lawyer in my day job, which I still do three days a week. It gets me out of the house, or else I would become a hermit.

He is the one I see as me, albeit a younger version. I like the “being younger” part.

  • If you could be friends in real life with any of your characters, who would it be and why?

Probably Laura McGanity, the female co-lead in my first five books. She had a certain weariness about her that would make for a good old whingeing session. She’d tell me straight when I’m being a silly arse.

  • Have you ever written a character that you’ve disliked so much you’ve scrapped them from a work?

More changed than scrapped. I can’t recall a specific one, but there have been characters that I thought didn’t work so changed them to make them different in some way, so as to make the story work better.

I’m not one of those writers who will say that the characters exist outside of the books. I’ll never say that I “discovered” the character. They are entirely mine. So characters don’t surprise me when I write. I just find myself writing something different from what I first intended. In other words, I changed my mind.

A character I dislike is just one I’ve written badly or is a bad idea. Or perhaps I’m just a curmudgeon.

  • Which of your characters would frighten you if you met them in real life?

Probably the villain in Cold Kill, my fifth book. He was based on Dennis Rader, a serial killer from Wichita in Kansas, and it was his utter ordinariness that attracted me to using him as a template. The biggest threats are the ones you don’t see coming.

  • Describe your latest book in one word.

Pacy.

  • Describe yourself in 5 words.

Tall. Grey. Noisy. Cumbersome. Oafish.

  • Do you ever consult friends when you’re stuck with a plot?

No. I don’t like discussing plots because I worry that away from the books they sound a bit lame. Books are about how a plot is written, not necessarily the plot itself. If I get stuck, I take some time out and think about it, sketch out some ideas. I get there in the end.

  • What’s your personal kryptonite?

Rice pudding. Foul stuff.

  • If you could converse, a la Dr Dolittle, with one type of animal, which would it be and why?

I would ordinarily say a cat, because I like cats, but I can’t help thinking it would just respond, “feed me or sod off”. A chat with a sheep would be okay. Laidback. I’d ask how it was, and it would chew some grass and respond, “not so bad”, then go back to chewing.

  • Tea or coffee?

I start the day with tea but usually move onto coffee to get myself going. Coffee is too harsh first thing, but at some point I need a kick.

  • Describe a typical writing day – where does it fit for you? Are you an owl or a lark? Do you write in short bursts or intense sessions? Do you write quickly and edit to death afterwards or write with more care in the first place

Sitting at a computer and then just generally messing around, and at some point I decide to write some words. I’m best in the morning, more efficient, but I tell myself that I’m a night owl, so I put it off until later, missing my best time.

For me, it is all about getting something down, moving the plot forward. Once I’m there, I like to really strip it down, try to make it something I like. Getting the plot down is like taking the limestone from the quarry. The editing is making the sculpture.

  • Which genre are you most comfortable writing? Is there any genre you haven’t yet written that you’d like to try? What’s your favourite age group to write for?

I’ve only ever written crime, but horror would interest me. I like the idea of frightening people, because I remember fondly the fear when reading the likes of Stephen King.

As for reading group age, adult. I suppose this is because I write for myself.

  • Can you tell us a little about your next project?

I’m starting a new series about a criminal lawyer and a private investigator. I like the idea I’ve come up and I can only hope other people do when it’s finished.

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Neil White was born and brought up around West Yorkshire. He left school at sixteen but studied for a law degree in his twenties, then started writing in 1994. He is now a lawyer by day, crime fiction writer by night. He lives with his wife and three children in Preston.  If you’re new to his work, perhaps you could start with his first book in the Parker brothers series, Next to Die. Check it out on Amazon here…

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The gang’s all here…

You may remember me introducing Luca, my little Italian stud-muffin. Well, now it’s time to meet Jacob and Ellen.

It’s taken six long years to get here. And there were times when I seriously doubted that Jacob and his friends would make it off my hard drive. But, finally, this weekend, I gave them their freedom and they sailed out into the world.

Sky Song started off as a little tale about a young girl whose dad watched the skies every night for something. The little girl didn’t know what but it soon became clear to her that whatever it was he searched for, it was something that didn’t belong to the world she knew. As I worked the story out in my head, the little girl became an older boy named Jacob and the thing that came from the skies became an unexpected destiny. I’m always fascinated by the thought processes that make a plot and, looking back, the ones that got me to this point must have made some pretty amazing leaps!

Despite the fact that Jacob came from my head, I find him a difficult character to sum up. He’s an academic high flyer, though he doesn’t want to be. He’s attractive in his own quirky way, though he doesn’t really know how to deal with the attention that it brings. Aware that he is one of life’s outsiders, all he really wants is to fit in. He has grown up not really knowing who he is. So when his destiny is sprung on him one fateful night, all these things suddenly start to make sense.

Once I had Jacob and Luca I knew I needed a girl to stir up trouble. So along came Ellen. With a tougher upbringing than either Jacob or Luca, Ellen is the anchor of the trio. She’s grounded, nurturing, loyal, perceptive, intuitive and unfailingly optimistic. When there is chaos (and where Jacob and Luca are concerned there usually is) Ellen is the one who cuts through it to the truth. But sometimes she lets her heart rule her head and it gets her into trouble.

I hope you get to know them all and love them like I do. As I do the final edits on the final book of the trilogy any time now, I might shed a little tear. After all, they’ve been with me for six years and they’re like members of my family. But, as a good friend once said to me, every time another reader gets to know your characters, they breathe on their own a little more. I think I know what she means. I just hope I don’t end up having to give them mouth-to-mouth…

My Little Italian Boy

When I was about five or so, I had a friend at school.  He was an Italian boy, a head of thick, dark hair and eyes like melted chocolate.  He was funny too, I giggled constantly whenever he was around.  I had a massive crush on him, one of those kiddie crushes where you feel some sort of attraction to someone without really understanding what it is you feel.  Then, one day I got to school and he wasn’t there.  He never came back and I never found out where he went.  It was a long time ago, and I still think of him surprisingly often.  But Time, as is its cruel way, has faded many of the memories.  To my shame, I can’t even remember his name. So what does a writer do to keep the ones that are still left? I made him into a book character.

For Sky Song I grew my little Italian boy up and called him Luca.  That’s Gianluca to his mum, of course, who adores him. He’s gorgeous, naturally, an outrageous flirt with a razor-sharp wit.  His enthusiasm for life is infectious, as is his humour. He’s the class joker who doesn’t think beyond his next gag.  But he’s a loyal and true friend with the heart of a lion and a hidden depth of keen intelligence.  A boy just waiting for the right moment to be glorious. Exactly the sort of boy you want on your side when you’re saving the universe.

So, ciao, my little Italian boy, wherever you are.  I hope you like your imaginary self.