My guest today is author David Evans.
Welcome David, let’s start with you telling us a little about yourself including where you are from.
I am originally from Edinburgh and studied at Manchester University where I met my wife, before having a successful career as a professional in the construction industry. I have lived in Yorkshire and had a couple of stints working abroad but now live in rural Essex. I decided to leave the industry in 2012 and try and forge a career writing. I have regularly attended the Winchester Writers’ Festival since 2010 and been successful in their competitions. I was also delighted to have my second novel, Torment, shortlisted for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger in 2013.
Can you tell us about your books and how they got started.
Currently, I have a 3 book series (The Wakefield Series) set primarily in Yorkshire around 2000 / 2001. The first, Trophies, was published in May and introduces DI Colin Strong and his best friend from primary school days, journalist Bob Souter. The second, Torment, was published in July and the third, Talisman is due to be published on 24th October.
What made you decide to write books?
I’ve always enjoyed reading and loved English at school. Originally, I thought it would be good to write for TV but the more I looked into that, the more difficult I thought it would be to break into it. I then took creative writing nightclasses about 20 years ago and one of the exercises got me thinking about the possibility of creating a book. One exercise led to one or two more and the process began.
What was your inspiration for your books?
For the first one, Trophies, I had always wondered who had been the character known as Wearside Jack – the man who sent letters and a tape purporting to be the Yorkshire Ripper during that investigation. When Sutcliffe was caught in 1981, he did not have a Wearside accent. Having been in Manchester then lived in Yorkshire throughout those dark days, it was something I often wondered about. For that first creative writing nightclass exercise I imagined a detective observing ‘Jack’s’ funeral, knowing who he was but unable to secure a conviction. That developed into my creation of a character who fitted all the known facts and originally, he was that man. That changed after I had completed the first draft and the police actually caught the culprit. I had to re-write accordingly. After the first book, I loved the main characters I had created – Colin Strong and Bob Souter – so that they demanded a second outing with Torment. That became a third with Talisman, bringing some more favourites along the way.
How do you create your characters?
I think firstly, I have to have a name. If that fits then the rest of that character can begin to take shape. Next, I like to hear them speak. Along the way, they begin to flesh out until eventually they become totally 3 dimensional (I hope).
How do you get your ideas for writing?
It’s funny, but I’ve noticed since I began writing crime fiction, I look at news stories etc totally differently. I sometimes wonder about the whys and wherefores and don’t necessarily accept all that I’m told. I can be a bit cynical about things. But the best question you can ask yourself is, what if? However, I’ve mentioned how the first book came about but with the second, I worked from home for about 10 years. One day, I came in to my office and discovered an elderly gent had left a message for his son on my answerphone by mistake. That got me thinking … what if? And so one thread of Torment was born. With the third, I was told two separate tales by different people which I thought were interesting. Again, thinking about them and how they might work developed into two of the threads that weave through Talisman.
I have now completed the first draft of a 4th book which I hope will be the first in a completely new series and will give me the flexibility to choose which will be book 5. The idea for that just arrived one day but again was helped immensely by asking myself, what if?
If you have a publisher, what has it been like working with them?
I signed a 3 book deal with Bloodhound in May of this year.
What I have enjoyed with them is that I really feel supported I also feel that I can always contact them if I have any questions and they will answer in an honest and open manner. In talking with other published friends, that is not always the case.
Do you have an agent?
I do, although she had no involvement in me securing the deal with Bloodhound.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
When I signed with Bloodhound, I had all three books (so far) in The Wakefield Series complete.
With my current book, Disposal, it is set in 1976 and I had to do some research for that period (apart from my unreliable memory of those days). I am extremely fortunate that I have become friends with an ex- Detective Superintendent who acted as SIO on numerous murder cases and a senior SOCO who began his career in the mid 70’s. Their input has been invaluable.
What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
For the last two books, once I have the initial idea, I tend to get around 5,000 words down then pause and try to write a synopsis. This helps me to see if the whole project will ‘have legs’ and can act as a framework for the story as I progress. However, it is not rigid and I can deviate from it if my characters demand it.
Regularly, I will update this ‘outline’ (to use a screenwriting term) and it means when the first draft is complete, I should have the synopsis more or less written, subject to a few tweaks. This I find a better way of working than writing the book then having nightmares trying to write a synopsis from scratch. Both the last two books have taken around 12 – 15 months (although I have had some interruptions to this). I keep a log of word count and try and set myself weekly targets. But it’s probably important to not get too hung up on this. I find that I can have an initial burst of progress in the first few months then it steadies down before the most fruitful time over the last month or two as I know exactly where it’s going and I just want to get there!
How do you cope with writer’s block?
Two things I find help. Firstly, someone said to me quite a while ago now, when you’re writing, don’t put everything down that’s in your head at that time. If you save a bit, the next time you sit down you have something to start you off. The other trick I use is that if I’m stuck with something e.g. how do I take the action from A to B, I’ll go back and edit some of the work. Generally I find, by the time I’m back to the troublesome point, a solution has materialised. The other advantage of this I find is that my first draft is probably at most other people’s second draft stage.
And one other thing – thinking time – probably ten times more than writing time. And one of the best aids – a dog. Walk a dog and let your thought go and see what you come back with.
Which writers influence you the most?
I began writing crime fiction because that’s what I like to read. Initially, people like Ian Rankin with Rebus, Peter Robinson with Banks and a writer not many people mention – Ron Ellis who wrote a series featuring a Liverpool part-time DJ and property owner, Johnny Ace. His humour was great and I love to sprinkle humour in my work to give some light and shade which I think reflects true life.
Another excellent writer I discovered a few years ago is Gordon Ferris who’s Glasgow quartet set in 1946/7 is written so seamlessly.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks)?
I can write on my small laptop almost anywhere around the house (or even outside in the summerhouse). I need peace and quiet to write, I can’t write with any distractions like music. However, when I’m thinking things through, I do use music to aid that process – sad, tragic, happy, summery etc.
You have told us what you like to write, but to relax, what do you like to read?
Crime fiction and thrillers. In addition to those mentioned above, I really enjoy Chris Carter and a writer I regard as his English counterpart, Paul Finch. I also enjoyed the M J Arlidge series set in Southampton.
What plans have you got for future books?
At the moment, I haven’t decided if I will write a 4th book in the Yorkshire Series or the 2nd in my 1970’s series. I have ideas for both but I need to get Disposal polished up first.
What is the hardest part of being an author?
I am fortunate to have a great little band of other writers who support each other so well. That is so important. Writing might be solitary but it doesn’t have to be lonely.
Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?
Absolute delight. Pride. That feeling of, it’s finally out there.
Thank you for being my guest today and good luck with your book deal with Bloodhound Books.