Thursday, March 1, 2018

Author Interview with Stevyn Colgan!

Last week, we did a book review of A Murder To Die For by Stevyn Colgan. We are going to kick off March Mystery Month with an author interview!

You can get it at Amazon



Author Bio:

Stevyn Colgan is an author, artist, songwriter, former police officer and oddly spelled Cornishman. He is the author of eight books and is a popular speaker at UK and international events such as TED, QEDcon, Nudgestock, the Ig Nobel Prizes, Latitude, the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, the Edinburgh Fringe and many more. He is also a visiting lecturer at several UK universities and colleges and has appeared on numerous podcasts and radio shows including ‘Freakonomics’, ‘Saturday Live’, ‘Do The Right Thing’, ‘Ex Libris’, ‘No Such Thing As A Fish’, ‘Little Atoms’ and ‘Josie Long’s Short Cuts’.

For thirty years he was a police officer in London and for more than a decade he has been one of the ‘elves’ that research and write the multi award-winning TV series ‘QI’. He was also part of the writing team that won the Rose D’Or for BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Museum of Curiosity’.

In ‘A Murder To Die For’, he brings his sense of humour and his policing experience together to create something that is definitely not your average murder mystery.



Author Interview:


Questions about the book:

1. Where did you get the inspiration for the basis of this novel?

It came from two or three places at once. The first was my love of comic novels. There simply aren’t enough of them these days. Just a decade ago the shelves were full of Tom Sharpe, John Mortimer, Sue Townsend, David Nobbs, George MacDonald Fraser, Helen Fielding etc. and sci-fi and fantasy comedies by Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Now who is there? John Niven, Jonathan Coe and plenty of Rom Com writers are, admittedly, holding the torch. But comic fiction is in decline. I wanted to get people chuckling on the commute to work again.

Secondly it was the fact that I’m a great fan of classic murder-mystery and I was a police officer in London for 30 years. I’ve been at many real crime scenes and it always struck me that the gulf between fiction and reality was fertile ground for comedy. All I was lacking was a scenario in which the two cultures could meet and clash. Visiting Comicon in San Diego provided that scenario; where better than a murder-mystery convention full of cosplaying fans?

2. Who was your favorite character to create?

Such a difficult question! Detective Inspector Blount was fun; he’s a kind of Frankenstein’s monster made from all of the worst bits of some of the senior police officers I worked for. But my favourites are probably the ‘Millies’ – the Agnes Crabbe (my fictional crime writer) fans. They’re all based on older relatives and teachers from my childhood. And I had tremendous fun looking out for old British surnames that had a nice antiquated sound to them: Handibode and Wilderspin, Tradescant and Berrycloth. I found that, quite unconsciously, my crime fiction fans had three syllable surnames while my other characters, like the police officers and townsfolk, had snappier names like Shunter, Jaine, Banton and Savidge.  

3. How long did it take you to finish? Did you have any unexpected obstacles arise?

I had the first draft knocked out in about two months. But I’m the sort of person who likes to fly by the seat of my pants – I’m a pantser rather than a plotter. So once the first draft is done, I do and second and a third and I keep going, making revisions and changes, until it’s just as I want it. The re-drafts and edits took about three months so five to six months in total. No real obstacles to report; the plot pretty much appeared fully-formed in my head.

4.  Did you have to cut out any material?

I did. I realised during the second draft that I had too many police characters so I cut one completely, which did necessitate a fairly big re-write as the fact he was hugely overweight had played a part in several plot points. But nothing is ever wasted - he’ll be recycled in a later book along with his scenes.

5. How many unpublished/half finished works do you have? Do you have anything going to be published soon?

The sequel – called ‘The Diabolical Club’ – will be in shops this time next year. I’m crowdfunding it with Unbound right now (https://unbound.com/books/the-diabolical-club/).

I do have 13 other unpublished novels sitting on my hard drive at home. You can track the progress of me learning the craft by seeing how they get better year on year! One day I may just revisit them and bring them up to my current quality level of writing.

6. You used snippets of your dad's unfinished work as the basis of one of Agnes Crabbe's works. What gave you inspiration to weave your dad's story into yours?

Dad was only 51 when he died and he’d only got four chapters of his first novel – a murder-mystery – written. Several family members and friends suggested that I finish it but we’ve never found Dad’s notebook so I have no idea where the plot was going or even whodunit. Consequently, if I did try to finish it, it would be my story and not Dad’s. If his notebook ever turns up I’d have a go.

In the meantime I thought it would be nice to include some of his book in mine; at least some of his words would get into print that way. ‘A Murder To Die For’ centres on the work of crime writer Agnes Crabbe and one of her books is integral to the plot. So it made sense to use Dad’s voice as her voice; whenever a character quotes from an Agnes Crabbe work, it’s Dad’s writing you read.

7.  How did you get involved with Unbound and how was your experience working with them?

I knew about Unbound before it was Unbound as I knew all three of the founders and worked with two of them writing the BBC TV series ‘QI’. I loved the idea from the start. It puts the decision about which books get published in the hands of readers rather than some faceless accountant. It means that Unbound can publish books – beautiful books – that other publishers might baulk it because they’re not ‘dead-cert’ bestsellers. That said, Unbound has had several Number One bestsellers, a Book of the Year and a Man Booker Prize longlisted nominee. Plus one book is being made into a TV series and another has had film rights bought by actor Mark Rylance. I love what they do. I must do; I’m just doing my fifth book with them.  

Personal questions

1.  When did you know that you wanted to write?

I can’t remember ever not writing. Or reading. I get through at least two books a week. At school I wrote essays, poems and song lyrics. I was editor of the school magazine. I’m just driven to write and always have been.

2. How much time/day do you spend writing?
These days it’s a good eight hours a day. It’s now my job and I treat it as such. It wasn’t always that way – when I was a policeman I had to grab every free minute I could. Plus I had a wife and kids. But the drive was so strong that I still managed to churn out 11 novels in those 30 years plus lots of magazine articles and competition entries. The downside is that I never had time for other hobbies or distractions. I’ve never played a videogame in my life and I don’t do sports (though I probably should). My hobbies these days are reading, painting and walking. I’m lucky to live in some beautiful British countryside and I’m out in it for several hours every day either on my own or with my dogs. It’s good thinking time.  

3. Who's your favorite author? What's your favorite book?

My favourite author is probably P G Wodehouse. Or maybe Tome Sharpe. I can never get enough of either and constantly agonise over which I like best. However, my favourite book is ‘Last Chance to See’ by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. I was lucky enough to meet Douglas several times and this book – his only non-fiction book – is an absolute masterclass in how to engage readers in a narrative. It’s utterly brilliant from start to finish. My signed first edition is my most treasured (non-human) thing.
  
4. What's your favorite Agatha Christie novel?

Probably ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’. It’s such a clever book. It’s hard to explain why without spoilers but I will just say that it’s written in the first person, which is a very tricky feat to pull off as th reader is utterly reliant on what the narrator experiences; there’s no ‘Meanwhile in an alleyway two miles away’. There’s no global view of events. It’s a brilliant book. Her masterpiece I think.

5. What do you do to get yourself in the creative mood to write?

I’m pretty much always in a creative mood. If not writing I’ll be painting, drawing, playing music … but it’s mostly writing. I go into my office at 9am and work until 6pm with frequent breaks for tea and an hour for lunch. Distraction is my biggest enemy. I have blinds that let in light but block the view (squirrels are so demanding). I don’t play music as I find myself listening or joining in. But silence is too … silent. It makes my brain look for things to distract it. Instead I have ambient noise in the background.

There’s a great website called www.coffitivity.com that Stephen Fry introduced me to. It plays the background noise of a coffee shop and it’s wonderful! There’s also a website where you can listen live to the various rooms of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. (https://www.ox.ac.uk/soundsofthebodleian/#radcam) It’s like you’re there. It’s perfect background noise for aiding concentration.  

Thank you to the author for his time.

#MarchMystery

13 comments:

  1. This is a great interview. I always love seeing more about the authors like this. The book sounds interesting too. Thanks for sharing this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bookworms Corner Blog SpotMarch 1, 2018 at 6:05 AM

    excellent interview

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great interview! I just love his author picture - shows a lot of personality that I bet is reflective in his writing. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I follow him on Facebook and love his posts! He seems like such a fun person!

    ReplyDelete
  5. The book looks fun and he sounds like a thoughtful writer

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great interview. I always love getting to know authors a little better.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great interview and a fun looking book.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love the idea of March Mystery Month. I'm a huge fan of anything mystery,crime,suspense, or thriller. I'll be following along all month!

    Great interview.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great interview and post. This book looks and sounds so much fun and very intriguing. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome post and putting this author and his books on my radar.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great interview! I like the author's photograph- I would never imagined him to look like that - LOL

    ReplyDelete
  11. I can totally relate to writing in between ever other responsibility. Great interview.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great interview! He looks like he would be fun to hang out with at a coffee bar and swap stories LOL

    ReplyDelete
  13. What a great start to Mystery Month! I am reading this one this month, too :) Great interview.

    Megan @ Ginger Mom & the Kindle Quest

    ReplyDelete

Featured!

Blog tour: A Recipe for Disaster

Meet Lucy, master wedding cake baker, idealistic school canteen crusader, and someone whose broken heart just won’t seem to mend… Lu...