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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O is for ‘On Readers and Writers’

the standI recently met Liz Wilkins via Twitter and am quickly finding her to be funny, intelligent and lovely to chat to.  I am also discovering that she has an immense passion for books.   So when she said that she was thinking of writing a sort of essay to analyse the way she feels about the author/reader contract, and how she views the world of publishing from the point of view of someone who is a consumer, rather than a creator, I jumped at the chance to post it on my blog.  When she sent the piece to me, I was blown away by just how much books mean to her, and how precious her relationships with her favourite authors are.  It reminded me that sometimes I’m so wrapped up in my own writing that I forget the reason I started to write in the first place, which is to try to draw people into my worlds in the same way I have been drawn into others.  Being absorbed into a book so wholly that it feels like nothing outside it exists is something I don’t do nearly enough these days.  It seemed fitting that, as the piece is titled On Readers and Writers I should share it with you as my O:

Random Reading thoughts and the Authors that inspire them….

I have been pondering lately, the relationship I have with my favourite authors, and considering in a bit more depth, how I pick and choose which novels to read from the plethora of choices available to me.  Am I too insular in my decisions?  I most often go for the “easy” option of staying within my comfort zone, that of Crime Fiction and Stephen King novels – and once an author has captured my attention I will stick with them to the bitter end. And in some cases that end is indeed bitter…as I will come to.

Firstly, lets take a look at my “top 4” if you will – those authors who have burrowed their way into my heart so completely that the idea of letting one of their novels pass me by is inconceivable -perhaps if other readers ever see these blatherings, they will recognise the symptoms – any prolific reader will have their own list and their own reasons, as close to their heart as these are to mine.

At the very top of my list is Stephen King, as anyone that knows me well will be very aware of. My relationship with Mr King started when I was a mere teenager – “The Stand” uncut version was on offer in my local bookshop and the story seemed vaguely interesting so I bought it, went home and was not seen again for three days. Anything he had ever published soon followed and to this day he has never let me down. I cherish those times I spend with his stories, I create time no matter how busy when a new one arrives to immerse myself totally in his world without interruption. Not all of his books are of the same standard, but I love them all to one degree or another. “Lisey’s Story” quite literally saved my life during a time of life threatening illness and for that reason alone as long as he writes, I’ll read.  I could write a whole book on what each of his novels has meant to me but perhaps another day…lets move on.

candlemothA fairly quick word on the other three, or you really will be here with me all day and I’m sure you have better things to do!  Mr Roger Ellory writes Crime Fiction. But not really. He writes stories. The type of stories that creep into your subconscious without you noticing and end up staying there in your peripheral vision forever. The only other author perhaps for me, that does this as well as Mr King does but in a totally different context. “Candlemoth” still is, and will remain ever so, the first book to make me realise that the telling of a good story can touch your soul.  Then there is one of my favourite people as well as one of my favourite authors, Mr Neil White. A few years ago my love of reading had faded somewhat  – I was finding the new “Crime Fiction” jaded  with nothing new to be found and no characters that lived with me during the time spent reading the book. I am thankful to this day that “Fallen Idols” was given to me as a gift – it turned out to be the best gift I had ever been given – that of faith. A rediscovery of my faith in the fact that a good book can make the worst day in the world seem like the best. “Jack” and “Laura” may not be real but they are realistic. And now for better or for worse (there hasn’t been a worse yet, even when Jack and Laura are absent) they are mine. Finally a new addition – Elizabeth Haynes. If you haven’t read “Into the Darkest Corner” then why not?! Go and do it. Ms Haynes writes people. Real people, with real situations, sometimes horrifying sometimes seemingly bland but always, always heart wrenching and unforgettable.

So there you have it. You find your people and you stick with them through thick and thin, a bit like a marriage really in a lot of ways. And like some marriages it can go horribly wrong. I used to have a top five.  Sometimes however, a writer can seemingly begin to misjudge his/ her target audience and suddenly that series that was a must have, becomes a definitely won’t have even if it is free.  Such was the case with my reading relationship with Patricia Cornwell. Ms Cornwell  was a pioneer when it came to Crime Fiction and the creation of a strong, independent,  successful  female character who not only kept up with her male counterparts but was often superior to them.  Along with Dr Scarpetta  you also got interesting and involving mysteries and a real insight into how Pathology works. For many  years one terrific novel followed another then something started happening. Slowly but surely Dr Scarpetta lost her edge. A downward spiral into suspicion and gloom started to invade every page. Every book had a “Conspiracy ” in play against our well loved protagonist and the previously intimate and well rounded supporting characters became cardboard cut outs of their former selves. Marino lost all his redeeming features, Lucy is still a petulant teenager and Dr Scarpetta herself became annoying in the extreme. Whether this was/is a reflection of things going on in the author’s own life was something that was concerning me more than the story I was reading. It was intrusive and no longer fun.  I continued on in the hope that there was redemption in Scarpetta’s future but after “The Bone Bed” I can no longer justify the expense of continuing.  And I cried at making that decision. Actual tears. I felt like I had lost a friend – such is the power of the writer to invade a readers life and to make them feel a real loss when things are not going well. I wish Ms Cornwell luck with all her future novels, but it is highly unlikely that I will be there for the ride. However it must be said, she wrote many AMAZING stories that have baffled, ruffled and tussled my mind, and for that I will forever be one grateful ex reader.fallen idols

The love of a good book is one of the most amazing things you can pass on to your children. My eldest, now 21 years old, loves reading as much as I do. Her favourite author list would be many moons away from my own, but she loves hers as I love mine – with a passion and heartfelt gratitude that will never leave her, and something we will always be able to turn to in times of trouble to lessen the daily burden of life. My youngest children, 2 and 5 respectively, are being brought up on “Green Eggs and Ham” “The Gruffalo” and “Hairy Mclary” to name but a few and they are demanding more and more bedtime stories at times other than bedtime – So I know they are going to follow in the footsteps of their mother and sister. My Husband also is a great book lover so they have no choice really – but hey, isn’t that great?  I love reading. I love the authors that provide for me that which I love. They are the unsung heroes of my generation and if reading this has inspired you to find your “people” and become part of their literary world then my job is done.

So there you have it. I’ve shown you mine, how about you show me yours? Whether it be one book that changed your world or one author your reading heart is married to, we want to know. Reading cannot ever be allowed to become a lost art…and as long as readers like us keep sharing our experiences, that will not be the case.

Follow Liz on Twitter @Lizzy11268 .  If you’re a reader, writer, blogger, or just a plain interesting person, it’ll be worth your while.