In the imaginings of many a reader, we authors recline in our pristine offices overlooking an inspirational vista, drawing upon our muse in order to write some literary phrases which, when strung together, coalesce beautifully into a novel which we profess to have sweated blood and tears over. We then retire to our drawing rooms to sip dry sherry and discuss prose and dialogue with our fellow wordsmiths.
Well, not me, that’s for sure.
In reality, my writing life is chaotic at best. I am what’s known as a ‘pantster’, in that rather than spending days plotting each and every scene, I work from a roughly sketched storyline and build the momentum around the characters in the hope that my instincts will eventually lead me to a resolution. On occasion this will require a great deal of back-filling when you come across an end you had not foreseen but then have to go back and make sure you foreshadow in some way, dropping in hints and clues along the way. That in itself can even lead to other avenues you had not considered exploring.
Characters can surprise me. In Scream Blue Murder I had two tough guys called Rhino and Haystacks who were little more than bit part players during the first draft. They enabled me to service the greater story going on around them. But the more I wrote them the more they insisted on their parts becoming larger, until they ended up weaving in and out of the entire book. They are fearsome men, so perhaps I subconsciously wilted beneath their glares, believing they might set about me if I dropped them. However it transpired, their characters grew inside my head without any firm decision being reached that I am aware of.
My first drafts tend to look like something close to curate’s egg. This is because I tend towards a habit that has me editing as I go for about a third of the story, slightly less so for the second third, and then not at all as I reach the final lap. When I return to it, therefore, the first section reads pretty smoothly, the second will cause me to wince every so often, and the third appears to have been written by a monkey. But the story is there, and all it needs is to be honed and polished and pruned and swept up behind me. It genuinely has the appearance of having been written by three different people, yet somehow I manage to smooth off the sharp edges, remove the parts that are so woeful they would embarrass a child, and eventually sculpt the whole sorry mess into a cohesive story.
People tell me they love my characters, which thrills me. Mainly because I love creating them, but also because none of my leads are exactly straightforward types. Mike Lynch from Scream Blue Murder was a huge risk. Action-Adventure books usually feature a lead who is a hero from the outset. Not so Mike. I deliberately made him someone you would not immediately take to, but that as the story unfolded he would evolve and become the man he had once been, emerging from his grouchy pupal sac as a heroic butterfly – or something like that. I took a real chance, but with very few exceptions my readers have followed his evolutionary path and have ended up completely adoring him.
My nonlinear style is also seen by many as an exciting way to piece together a book. Essentially, what I often do is leave a chapter perched on the edge of a cliff, only for the next chapter to take the reader somewhere else entirely, frustrating them and – hopefully – captivating them at the same time. You can’t please everyone is something I have learned along the way. I can get a dozen 5 star reviews on the spin and then one will drop in that refers to it as a piece of trash or something along those lines.
I have been extremely lucky this year. I have been able to devote a lot of time to my writing, and as such was able to both complete Scream Blue Murder and start and finish The Scent of Guilt, which is the follow-up to my Peterborough-based crime novel Bad to the Bone. Which leads me on to something else that is less than orderly. Producing two or three books in a series before moving on to something different would have been the smart move. But not me. My first three books are very different from each other, although they are all from the same general ‘crime-thriller’ genre. Then I reach my fourth release before reintroducing ‘series’ characters. Also, both Degrees of Darkness and Scream Blue Murder were written as stand-alone novels. Now, I’m nine chapters into a follow-up to Scream, because I could not let go of the lead, Mike Lynch, and I really want to write more about Frank Rogers, the lead from Degrees. So much so that I’ve drafted out some notes on a potential storyline for him. Chaos reigns inside my head.
I do now have a desk to sit down at, rather than balancing a laptop on my knees. I do have a relatively structured writing day, although when you work from home that can always go sideways on you pretty fast. The one thing I am is disciplined. I put in the hours, I am conscientious, and I produce the very best work I am capable of at that time. I know I am far from the finished article. I have a thirst to learn, to improve, and I do feel that with each book I write it comes more naturally to me and I am getting better at it. I always have several ideas at any one time, often two works in progress, with a third simmering on a rear hob. It’s not exactly a natural life, nor is it orderly, but it’s far and away the best thing I’ve ever done to earn a living.
(c) Tony Forder
About Scream Blue Murder:
Do you love fast-moving and utterly gripping crime thrillers? Pick up this breathless, action-packed thriller today!
Mike Lynch is going through hard times. But things get much worse when he witnesses a murder in a lay-by. Snatching the victim’s car in order to get away, Mike soon makes a shocking discovery – the victim’s young daughter and her nanny are hiding in the rear footwell. This is when the real trouble begins.
Mike wants to go to the police, but the nanny, Melissa, wants to delay until the daughter, Charlie, is somewhere safe. Mike agrees to this request before finding out the seriousness of the situation, and just how much danger they are really in.
Who exactly was the man he saw murdered? And who is the man he saw pulling the trigger?
In a situation where nothing is what it seems, Mike will have to fight for his life to protect a woman and a child he doesn’t know. And when the death count rises, he will discover what kind of man he really is.
When you can’t identify the victim, how can you find the killer?
Order your copy online here.