Writing Process Blog

11 May 2014

 There’s a game of internet tag that has been doing the rounds, with writers tagging each other to answer a series of questions about the processes behind their work. Nick Quantrill, the man behind private investigator Joe Geraghty and author of some delightfully gritty Humberside Noir, tagged me to take part in this and you can scroll down for my three willing victims I’ve tagged in turn. But first, the questions.

What am I working on?
Right now I’m between books. The latest Gunna book, Cold Steal, was published a couple of weeks ago as a Kindle-only effort and I don’t yet have a contract for another book. However, there’s a novella called Summerchill I started working on last year that’s ready to go now and I’d imagine it will be available sometime later this year.
I’m working on the beginnings of a few stories, hoping that one of them will show the promise to develop into a full-sized novel. There’s some Gunna stuff among this, plus something different. This is a story that has been at the back of my mind for a while, demanding attention. It’s set very firmly in Iceland, not in the present; so there's no Gunna, although I could maybe put her Grandad in there.
As it’s something new, it’s a challenge – and I like a challenge. On the other hand it’s also an unknown quantity in that I have no idea if anyone will want to publish it, assuming I can pull it off to start with.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not sure that it does… Scratch that, of course it does. When I started writing about Gunnhildur, my rotund heroine, I was determined to make her a little different in that I consciously made sure she wasn’t an alcoholic or a junk food addict, and carefully didn’t give her more emotional baggage than she could cope with. That’s changed gradually as the character has developed and her children become increasingly awkward, but she still wouldn’t look twice at a McBurger.
One of the things that had niggled me for a long time about Nordic crime fiction is that in general there isn’t a shred of humour in there. That’s not a universal rule, but you get the picture and it bugs me because people aren’t like that in real life. So I was determined not necessarily to produce a funny book, but at least to try and portray as well as I could some of the bone dry humour of Icelanders that can pass you by if you’re not looking out for it.

Why do I write what I do?
I wish I knew. You have to write, at least to some extent, what you know and having lived there for so long, I know about Iceland. It has become a compulsion. I’m like a bear with a hangover if I don’t have a book in progress, like now.

How does your writing process work?
Normally each story starts with an incident, generally involving a peripheral character rather than one of the regular main characters. From there it works in both directions until I have the shape of it and go from there. Normally I don’t know quite how it will end until I get there, and although I have some waypoints to touch on during the process, I don’t plan things in great detail in advance. So I’m somewhere halfway between a careful planner and a seat-of-the-pants writer.
Somehow I’m also Mr Thousand Words. I don’t set out to write in blocks of this size, but 1000 words seems to be my natural habitat. Want an article or a blog post? It’ll be 1000 words. Chapters of the books I write? Again, they’ll mostly be around 1000 words. The stuff I write for the Reality Check every week? It’ll be somewhere not far either side of 1000 words. I’ve no idea why, maybe I think in blocks of 1000 words?

I’ve tagged Nick Sweet, author of Flowers at Midnight, Switch and Only the Lonely, and you’ll be able to find his answers to these same questions on his blog this time next week.

Next up is Karl Vadaszffy, author of The Missing and his new book is On Guard, which is now approaching the top of my to-be-read pile and I’m looking forward to it.
Karl’s web page is here: www.karlvad.com

Then there’s a handsome devil called Martin Saban-Smith, who happens to be my cousin, and this is a step aside from crime fiction as Martin is the author of a rather chilling supernatural story called The Veil, which is full of imagination and surprises.
Martin’s web page is here, so check in a week for his answers.

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