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My guest today is an old friend and a fabulous writer of gay fiction.

I remember posting about his very first book – seems like yesterday, Hans, and I’m delighted to say that his writing has gone from strength to strength.

Welcome Hans Hirschi!!

~~~~~

Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?

Right now, and for the past five years, I’ve been lucky (?) enough to work as a writer full-time, interspersed with some consulting gigs for my own company, looking after our son when he’s sick and doing some parenting-light for my dad. Right now, I’m working on a side-business as tour guide here in Gothenburg, sort of custom made tours for visitors, to earn some money, because my writing isn’t anywhere near paying any invoices. Quite the contrary.

When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?

Great question. I wish I could say that I do. I’m useless at painting/drawing, my voice cracks the tiles in my shower and just about the only thing I’m good at is listening to music. My husband and I are regulars at our local opera house, and that is something I’ve written about in, tada, The Opera House. More from a construction point of view though, as my dad has a past as architect. I guess I’m stuck with writing. 🙂

What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?

Oh, I love to read mostly contemporary fiction, great stories who deal with the difficulties of life and how to deal with them. Not as an offer of solutions (I don’t see the point of self-help stuff except to rip people off), but to provide perspective. I like happy or at least hopeful endings in the books I read, simply because there’s so much misery in real life. I try to write what I read. I’m probably (ashamed to say) my biggest critic and fan.

There are a great many books I could recommend, but oddly, I don’t think there’s one I wish I’d written, too. Question never even crossed my mind until you asked me, Elin. It’s just a bit of a foreign concept. But in terms of recommendations I’ve come to think of a couple of Indian stories that really resonated with me, “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel being one of them, “Chef” by Jaspreet Singh another, and finally “Cry, the beloved Country” by Alan Paton. Martel’s story is about the inner struggle, and I loved the twists it provides. Singh’s and Paton’s stories deal with real-life conflict, Kashmir and Apartheid, and ways to deal with such adversity. It’s been a while since I’ve read them, which means I have to get back to them, but they always linger. Great books are like that.

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

Never plot, at least not for me. It’s always a picture (still or moving, “situation” as you call it.) That’s what it was like for each and every one of my novels. I never know where I’ll end up, even though I sometimes might know the ending (Disease could only end in one way), or I’ve decided early on what the ending should be (e.g. Jonathan’s Promise.) In the new book Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm, it began with that first chapter, and Martin chatting to the nurse on duty. It’s that image I had in my mind, an old man living in a retirement home. I had no clue it would take me all the way to Korea (literally!)

Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?


I think that depends greatly on the character and what role they play. But they usually develop, and as they tell me their stories, I get to know them better. I sometimes get questions about my characters, how they would react to this or that, what they’d feel about something, and my answer often is “I don’t know, they never told me.” As for their looks, I rarely know what they look like, with Willem from Willem of the Tafel being the one exception, but that’s due to the cover model, so that image developed long after I was done with the manuscript. But the model fit my image of Willem to the dot.

I remember when I first submitted my very first manuscript to some beta readers and one of them wrote back and complimented me for not fleshing out the characters in detail. He said that many characters were depicted as handsome or beautiful, that they were tall or muscled etc. In not doing that, I had made it easier for this fellow to picture the characters in his own image. He felt he wasn’t very handsome and that normally, books wouldn’t speak to him.

Ever since, I’ve tried to be as vague as possible when describing my characters. And therefore I have a fairly clouded picture of what they look like. I’d be of no help in creating a facial composite for the police for instance…

Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?

Hmm, that’s a difficult one. I’ve considered fantasy, but the whole world building seems like such a strenuous task, and I’d have to remember so many things. Not sure I could do it. I forget easily. As for avoiding? Probably romance. Not that there’s anything wrong with rattlesnakes, but the genre just doesn’t interest me. Oh, and crime. I tried the latter and failed miserably. LOL

I think it’s safe to say that the gay heroes we most usually see tend to be buff twenty-somethings. What inspired you to write about an octogenarian?

Oh my. I had been asked to write a short story about a fifty plus year old person in the LGBTIAA++ spectrum for an anthology my publisher wanted to put out, and I quickly wrote a story about a fifty year old woman who’s asexual and a-romantic. But the way the story was structured made it a bad fit for the anthology, so I wrote a story about a gender-fluid elderly woman, Clara, which became a critics’ favorite. After that, I simply wanted to continue to explore the lives of the elderly and I had this image of this ‘really’ old (older than Clara) African-American man in a retirement home in upstate New York. Somehow, Martin didn’t shut up, and the short story grew into a novel.

Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?


What an awful thing to compare alligators (and muggers) to fundamentalists… ROFL And a difficult question. I think I’d let Lucifer Morningstar, his favorite demon Mazakeen, and Lucifer’s mother from the TV show Lucifer deal with the fundamentalists. And I’d want front row tickets to that show. As for the alligator? What about Peter Pan? He seems to be into charming that sort of beast and feeding them appropriately. 😉 The mugger? My friend Debbie McGowan has a character in her Hiding behind the Couch universe who’d be able to take care of him, DCI Gray Fisher. I really suck at crime… I never read that genre, except under duress.

Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?


The human ones. I think my books include some pretty awesome villains. Self-praise, I know. But look at Jonathan’s dad, or the pedophile Charles in The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, or even Eugene’s (one of the characters in the new book) sister. I try to stay clear of painting them as pure evil, because it’s not realistic. Sometimes I even go as far as to provide them with redemption. But yes, I also see society, or a government as the villain. Certainly the case in the new book, or a disease such as Alzheimer’s, in Disease. Very rarely have I let a villain be ‘pure’ evil, or not flesh them out enough. Those are usually tertiary characters who don’t really matter other than to act as catalysts in the story for a moment before they disappear into the background. Casper’s mother in Last Winter’s Snow is a good example for that. She’s modeled after my husband’s aunt… There just wasn’t anything to redeem her with. LOL I killed her off. So readers, don’t you piss us off…

Inner demons also work wonders. I think Haakon, Charles’s assistant, is the best example. But even in the new book, Martin, the main character has quite a few of them, even though it’s a fairly easy-going story. I gather from early reviews and comments that there is a lot of growth in him, despite the fact that he’s eighty-five.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

I’m working on a children’s story. I just don’t think there are enough books about LGBT characters out there, and I want to provide our son with a bit more meat on the bone. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried. Three pages of text, but I’ve already edited it countless times and I’m still not happy! I may never finish it.

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

Here you go:

When Martin got to his room on the seventeenth floor, he was exhausted. He stepped up to the window and looked out over the city. The sun had set, and the city lights brightened the sky in the twilight hour before complete darkness fell over Seoul. He could barely believe he was back. He hadn’t said anything to the others, but the ride had been nerve-wracking, to say the least.
It wasn’t until they’d reached the inner city that he had recognized anything, and even then, it was only when he saw Mount Namsan that he felt they’d actually arrived in the right place. Even that hill looked different, with the tall television and communications tower on top of it and all the skyscrapers at its base. Yes, he’d recognized an ancient gate and a statue here and there as they’d approached the hotel, but it felt as if he were in a dream somehow, or was it a nightmare?
He remembered being told that, traditionally, no house in Seoul was to be taller than the king’s or, later, the emperor’s palace buildings. Those were hardly higher than a three-story house. Lots of them, lots and lots of them, but they were not very tall. To see modern Seoul with all the concrete, steel, and glass skyscrapers was a shock, and Martin was acutely aware of the physical impact it had on him.
He felt as if he had aged a decade, and he desperately clutched his cane for support. The long trip, as comfortable as it was in their big business-class seats with all the wine and food served by attentive flight attendants, it was still tiring, not to mention walking through the huge Incheon International Airport. Yet it was the cab ride to the hotel that had taken the biggest toll on him. The endless images, the countless visual impressions crushing down on him in wave after wave had exhausted him.

~~~~

Blurb:
Martin is eighty-four years old, a Korean War veteran, living quietly in a retirement home in upstate New York. His days are ruled by the routine of the staff, but in his thoughts and dreams, Martin often returns to the Seoul of his youth, and the lost true love of his life. Two close friends urge him to travel back to search for his love. What awaits Martin in Korea, more than six decades after he left the country on a troop transport back to the U.S.?

Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a story of friendship, love and family, in all its many shapes, across time, generations and cultures.

book title

Available from the publisher, from various Amazons, from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBooks.

You can follow Hans on his website, on Facebook, on Youtube, on Instagram and on Twitter.

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Snippet!

I’m ping ponging between tasks today, because I have a child unexpectedly returning to the nest for a couple of days before he goes to see a friend. I’ll have to feed him up so he can build up his strength before the two of them spend 72 hours straight playing Skyrim, or whatever the cool kids are playing now.

Anyhow, though he’s most welcome, my mind isn’t really on my work. But I am trying so, to show good faith, here’s a little bit of Midnight Flit:

“Have you a light?” Falk leaned against the window at Briers side. He withdrew a cigarette from his silver case and tapped the end on the edge of it. Briers grinned at the familiar affectation and offered a box of matches.
“Thank you,” Falk said and lit the gasper then continued in smooth unaccented Serbian. “I hope your young lady has taken no harm from her experience?”
“None at all,” Briers said. “Though I believe she may be a little more wary about whom she allows into the compartment in future.”
“That’s hardly fair,” Falk’s protest was quiet but earnestly meant. “He was lying in wait for them. I’d heard someone enter the compartment before they did and I thought it was you.”
“Ah, yes, well.” Briers grimaced. “Possibly I’m being a little over-protective.”
“You?” Falk snorted. “I don’t believe it. No truly.” He snorted again. “And your companion is chafing at your concern? I can imagine how galling it might be to be with someone who treats one as a child.”
“That’s not fair!” Briers scowled at him, then whispered, “And she’s already given me a right ear-bashing about it. Bless her. And how are you getting on with the other people in your compartment?”
Falk grinned. “The young Russian reminds me of a weimaraner I had when I was a child. The least graceful creature I have ever met but filled with boundless and genuine goodwill. The musician … interests me.”
“I what way? Professional or personal?”
Falk met his eyes with the smallest of smiles. “In every way. He is wary, I feel he has something to hide. I would like to find out whether it is the same secret we share or something more reprehensible.”
“And what do you plan to do?”
“Cultivate an aquaintance, of course. ” Falk blew smoke towards the window.

It’s nice spending time with old friends.

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Communication

 

They say communication is key but all too often in daily life our communication skills let us down. We can’t find quite the right words to express ourselves, or we find we’re talking at cross purposes with the other person or the emotional barometer of the other person suggests that we’d best go along with what they want because, at that moment, their needs are more important than ours. Language doesn’t help. I remember my feeling of the world turned on its ear when I discovered that in America a frown is this facial expression:

Whereas for us frowns happen above the nose and can signify anything from extreme displeasure to puzzlement to concentration. It’s perfectly feasible for someone to frown and smile at the same time, on this side of the pond. Put this in a book and Brits will understand but you’ll have loads of confused American readers. Now I understand about American frowns when I see it in a book rather than a dignified little crease forming between the eyebrows I’m imagining this sort of expression:

 

Probably not what the writer intends, but how do I know? Human interaction makes misunderstanding inevitable and it’s a very useful weapon in the writer’s arsenal.

How many books have you seen that have, as the major crisis, a miscommunication between the protagonists? Perhaps due to a misunderstanding or just, as one reviewer put it, “because they just can’t talk to each other like fucking adults”. I like my characters to communicate like fucking adults, maybe because it’s such a hard thing to achieve in real life, but it can be fun to let themselves wind themselves up a lot first. I’ve been winding up Briers and Miles like nobody’s business and, while they are prone to talk through their problems, conditions aren’t ideal for a heart to heart. Eventually,they have to grab their moment:

Briers expression was tense and there was a crease between his brows that made Miles frown in response. He didn’t feel any need to ask what Briers was talking about but this was a bad place and a bad time.
“I don’t feel it’s appropriate in present company,” he whispered with a nod towards his sleeping mother.
“No,” Briers shook his head. “We need to clear the air and this is probably the only opportunity we’ll have. Miles, I love you like a rat loves Cheddar but I’ve got an inkling that, right at this moment, the feeling isn’t reciprocated. What have I done to upset you.”
“Done? Nothing,” Miles drew a deep breath. “Nothing in particular. I’m horribly on edge. This whole situation is very uncomfortable, and frankly I’m worried sick. So when you talk over me, or patronise me or – in short – behave like most men do with their wives – it is a little … irking.”
Miles became aware that Briers jaw had dropped. “Talk over – I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. Think about it. When we were at dinner–”
“That’s just playing a role!”
“See! You did it then.”
Briers rocked back in his seat. “Oh heck. So I did!”

See I used frown there. >:| Lets turn one upside down

 

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Snippet!!

It’s a while since I’ve posted one of these.

I’m just finished a rewrite of The Lunar Imperative, which first appeared in the Foolish Encounters anthology, making it a LOT longer and adding back in all the fun world-building stuff I thought people wouldn’t want. That’s with my betas and there will be snippets of that another time.

 

But for now I’m trying to get my head back into the 1930s with Miles Siward and his mother, Emily, wife of the British Ambassador to Bucharest. Miles is visiting the Embassy:

“Since you are without dear Pritchard,” she said, “I thought I would come to see how you are getting on. I see you are having problems with your cuffs. Please allow me.”

“You’re a life saver, Ma.” Miles offered her the box with the cufflinks.

“Platinum?” Ma said. “And dark nacre. I don’t remember these, dear?”

“A gift from a friend,” Miles said, and couldn’t help smiling. Briers had presented him with the small package after a fleeting but mutually satisfying meeting in Paris. Miles hoped that Briers had been equally pleased with the gift he had hidden in his bag before they had left their hotel.

“A friend?” Mother raised her artfully darkened eyebrows – odd how Miles had never noticed the little tricks used by females to enhance their beauty until he had to master them. “I must hear more about this friend at some time. Such good taste Now, give me your hands.”

After so many years helping his father achieve the effortless elegance required of members of His Majesty’s diplomatic service, it was the work of a moment for Ma to fit the links through the stiff linen cuffs.

“Thank you.” Miles shot his cuffs and inspected himself in the mirror. “Will I do, Ma?”

“Beautifully.” Ma linked her arm through his and guided him towards the door. “I don’t know what I did to be blessed with two such handsome sons.”

“We don’t know what we did to be blessed with such good genes.” Miles squeezed her arm gently and opened the door for her.

More later 🙂

 

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My guest today isn’t just a blinkin’ good author but also a dear friend and mentor, a fellow UK Meet Committee member, a stalwart of the writing community and an all round good egg.

Charlie is here today to celebrate her brand new release – In the Spotlight. a bundle of two stories about men who tread the boards.

Charlie, what inspired you to write these stories?

My love of sport and the theatre. In the case of All That Jazz, I was once going to a rugby match at London Irish and I saw two blokes having a row in the club car park. My mind went into overdrive and by the time I’d considered all the possibilities why they’d been arguing, I had the makings of a character. At a similar time, the all-male productions at the Globe made me wonder if an all male Chicago would be a goer – so when these two ideas conflated I had the germ of a story. (Any more detail would give it away.)

If Music Be came from another mixing of ideas. I love Will Shakespeare’s work, especially Twelfth Night; the sexual politics and gender bending in that play are mind boggling. It’s something I’ve explored before and no doubt will do again. When hubby got given a Military Wives CD, it made me wonder about military husbands and – again – these two seemingly disparate things came together to make a tale.

Have you tackled the theatre in other stories?

Oh, yes. The Cambridge Fellows found themselves embroiled with an all male production of “The Scottish Play” and “Awfully Glad” concerns a WWI officer who appears in a concert party dressed as a woman (do I detect a theme here?) I guess it’s a matter of writing about what I enjoy watching or reading about!

“The Roosters”, an army concert party started in 1917 with the donation of a 100 drachma note by a Surrey wicket keeper and continued to perform for over 30 years

There’s something comfortably camp about the behavior of theatrical types, including the straight ones. They certainly seem happy touching each other when being interviewed on the television. Any thoughts?

Plenty! Cultures develop around professions and settings, so the language and interactions in the theatre will be different to those in accountancy. I’m sure the fact that actors spend a lot of time pretending to be someone else in an artificial setting must have an influence, too. Perhaps it loosens the inhibitions or something.

Mind you, that relaxed physicality can be seen in my beloved rugby, too. One of the factors must be the close contact on the pitch (hands and heads go places in scrums and rucks that they don’t go in other sports). But it isn’t just during the game – the lads are very tactile when celebrating a try, or after the match. I also see tweets from them along the lines of, “In bed with my pal x, watching TOWIE”. They’re clearly sharing a bed in the way Morecambe and Wise platonically shared a bed, as has been customary through time, but you can’t imagine a footballer making that sort of tweet, for fear of snide comments. I wonder if it’s because rugby players have nothing to prove in terms of their masculinity? After all, the world’s top rugby referee is “out” and nobody bats an eyelid.

What are you working on at the moment?

Something rather different and a bit daft, about which I’m giving no more details as I don’t want anyone else to nick the idea. J

Can we have an excerpt?

Of course! Here’s a bit from All That Jazz:

“Are you looking for someone?” An incongruously quiet voice sounded beside him.

Hardly the most original chat up line. Francis eyed the stranger warily. He’d got past the point of being impressed by smooth lotharios sporting smarmy clichés although this bloke didn’t seem like one of them. If Francis had been a betting man he’d have put twenty quid on the remark being genuine and heartfelt.

“Not really.” Francis used his huskiest tones, ones belying the clothes he wore, tones intended to impress. Whoever or whatever the bloke with the clichéd lines was, he had a stunning smile to accompany them. And an honest fresh face—as complete a contrast to Rhys fucking don’t trust him as far as you can throw him Mannering as you could get.

“Sorry, you just looked a bit lost.” The stranger turned face on, his smile now shy and losing some of its lustre.

“Maybe I am. Not sure I know anyone here.” Francis couldn’t believe he was uttering the words, and in such a bashful manner. He was used to being the confident, pushy one in these sort of joints. Or at least he’d been good at acting that part once Mannering had gone. He’d had to learn to make the running, determined not to let that poncy sod ruin any more of his life than he already had done. So why was he now admitting to some beddable bloke that he was anything less than Mr. Confidence? Especially tonight when a beddable bloke and a bottle of beer were top of his shopping list.

“You do look a bit out of place.”  Another devastating smile. Why the fuck did beddable bloke make you feel like you’d never been in a bloody gay bar before?  “It’s not your average pub, this place. Most of the team hang out here and it’s coloured the atmosphere.”

“The team?” Francis cast a quick glance around. The rainbow flag over the door might well have been false colours, given the butch, well built appearance of the bar’s clientele. It looked more like your average suburban local than a haunt of the spenders of the pink pound. Perhaps the flag had actually been flying over the Brasserie next door and he’d missed it in his foul temper? No, the looks and nudges he’d had were genuine enough, and he wasn’t so dragged up that he could really be mistaken for a bird.

~~~~~~

In the Spotlight

Blurb:

All That Jazz
Francis Yardley may be the high kicking star of an all-male version of Chicago, but bitter, and on the booze after the breakdown of a relationship, he thinks that the chance for true love has passed him by. A handsome, shy rugby player called Tommy seems to be the answer to his problems, but Tommy doesn’t like the lipstick and lace. Can they find a way forward and is there still a chance for happiness “nowadays”?

If Music Be
Rick Cowley finds himself taking up am-dram once more, thinking it’ll help him get over the death of his partner. He’d never anticipated it would mean an encounter with an old flame and the sort of emotional complications the Bard would have revelled in. Still, old Will had the right word for every situation, didn’t he?

Link: Amazon UK Amazon US

Bio and links: As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes.  Romances, mysteries, sometimes historical and occasionally hysterical. Rumours that she has written about weresloths are true.

Charlie’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, and regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.

You can reach Charlie at cochrane.charlie2@googlemail.com (maybe to sign up for her newsletter?) or catch her on Facebook, twitter, goodreads, her website or her blog.

 

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I really don’t know how short story writers manage it. They must have incredible focus.

I was recently offered the opportunity to write a piece of short fiction for a blog event – “Just use your own characters, whichever you like, and oooh, anything over 500 words would be great” – so yeah, between 500 and 1000 words would probably be enough.

Can I? Can I heck as like! But it’s fun anyway. Id forgotten how much I enjoyed writing Briers.

office

Early February and things were pretty much dead on the espionage front. It was bitterly cold and there was a lot of snow, just the time to steal the march on one’s opponents, one would have thought, but the reports that came in from outlying agents were sadly lacking in action. Briers Allerdale could only assume that his various opponents were doing what he was doing – following orders to sit in an office pretending to work and be bored out of their minds. He had even sunk so low as to tackle the filing.

“God, what I wouldn’t give for a nice juicy assassination attempt,” he muttered as he slammed the filing cabinet. He shuffled over to the fireplace and made more fuss than necessary over adding a few lumps of coal to the already blazing hearth.

“You’ll set the chimney on fire.” Basset muttered. He was rocking in his chair, balanced on the two back legs of it, and had given up all pretence of looking busy in favour of making paper aeroplanes. “But then we’d be warm and have something exciting to do, so go ahead.” He launched his missile and missed the waste paper basket by inches. Briers picked it up and threw it back.

The phone rang and they both lunged for it, Basset beating Briers by a short head.

“Hello, International Trade and Exchange,” Basset said. “Oh – right. Allerdale, it’s for you.”

“Hah!” Briers grabbed the handset from him. “Yes, what?”

“Politeness doesn’t cost anything, you know.” The bureau chief sounded harrassed.

Aaaaand the game is afoot. Watch this space for more info on the blog event. I think it’ll be a really cool one.

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comfy chairMy guest today is an author that I first met at this years UK Meet, and I most most intrigued to hear about his first release, The Necessary Deaths, which came out on the first of November and which I, for one, am gagging to read.

Please join me in welcoming David Dawson.

~~~

Hello, David. Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?

I work as a documentary film maker. I was with the BBC for about twenty years, firstly as a trainee journalist then in television making documentaries, before going freelance. I’ve filmed all over the world, as a director and a producer, most recently making educational and charity videos.

I’m still producing videos, but my son is steadily taking that over from me, although I do some camera operating for him sometimes; it’s great being directed by your son!

When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?

I sing bass with the London Gay Men’s Chorus. They’re a great bunch of guys and they’ve been my strength and support over the last few years. We’ve sung in all sorts of places including: at Sandi Toksvig’s wedding to Debbie, at the West London Synagogue for World Aids Day, in St Paul’s Cathedral for Age UK and outside the House of Lords when the House debated the Equal Marriage Bill. Next year we’re off to New York and Chicago to sing alongside the Gay Men’s Choruses there. No, I’ve not written about the Chorus – yet. Look out for their appearance in a future mystery!

What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?

I’m re-reading Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave. I’d read it a few years ago, and when I saw they’d made a film of the book, I worried they’d spoil it. Not at all. If you see the film, or read the book, be ready to weep buckets!
I aspire to the beautiful prose style of Armistead Maupin. He just gets better and better. His more recent books surpass the early Tales of the City books. Those early books were great fun, but it’s clear that with maturity, comes reflection and insight.

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

Oh that’s a tricky one, because they’re like Siamese triplets. They’re inseparable. I suppose for me the plot and core characters are born pretty well simultaneously. That is, I know who’s going on what journey and where they’re going to end up. Once I’ve fleshed out the characters in my head and on paper, I invent situations for them to deal with, on the journey through the book. Then the supplementary characters evolve, as the plot evolves. Sometimes I’ll experience a situation with someone in real life, then I’ll work out how to write it into a book.

Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?

I like to spend time on developing histories for all my characters, I use pictures a lot for that, and names are very important. Once I set those, I’ll go for a ride on my motorbike, or cycle somewhere, and think about the character and about what has already happened to them. It helps so much in creating their motivation for doing things, or explaining why they react in a certain way to new situations. Once I’m writing the story, I’ll add to that back-story as events unfold. I have a spreadsheet full of character descriptions and images, to remind me when I forget what colour their hair is!

Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?

I’ve got an idea for a series in the science-fiction/supernatural genre, which I’m developing at the moment. There was a BBC drama series many years ago called “Out of the Unknown” which had a huge influence on me.

It took ordinary everyday circumstances, and then twisted them slightly, creating daytime nightmares. I think they’re far spookier than the usual night-time stuff.
I don’t think I’m cut out for historical drama/romance. My son’s the historian, not me! That said, I’ve been thinking about a thriller series set around The Chilterns during the Second World War. The Ministry of War had some very interesting places tucked away in this countryside, including what was called “Churchill’s Toyshop”, where boffins invented all sorts of amazing devices to defeat the enemy.

Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?
Pretty well all decent novels are relationship driven. Even Tom Hanks, the lone survivor in Castaway, had the inanimate volleyball Mr Wilson to talk to!

The Necessary Deaths has a strong romantic plotline in the developing relationship between Dominic and Jonathan. The extraordinary circumstances that they’re plunged into test their relationship and develop it further, in a way that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I give the romantic story plenty of room to breathe, because it’s integral to the thriller. The romance between Dominic and Jonathan is what motivates them to react in the way they do.

When writing series, what measures do you take to keep track of those annoying little details – eye colour, car type, name of ex-spouse’s dog – that are so easy to drop into text and so easy to forget about?

Yes, I have acute OCD on this! I have a spreadsheet full of detail and photographs about every character, even the minor ones. As soon as I write a new piece of description in the story, I add it to the spreadsheet. Photographs of people also help me imagine their back-stories, and how they might react to situations. One of my favourite tasks is to spend an evening scouring the internet for photographs of gorgeous men who might fit certain characters! It can be very distracting…

Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?

George Clooney can come to my rescue! Every time. He’s been a hero of mine ever since he rescued the boy from the storm drain in episode seven, season 2 of ER. In fact, I’m such a big fan, he’s a major character in a short story of mine that Dreamspinner Press is publishing in its Love Wins Anthology for Orlando this December.

But you want a team? Well, I think Dame Maggie Smith would stand up to any mugger, any day! She and George would make a fabulous team. In fact, I wonder why they haven’t been paired on screen already!

clooney-smith

Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?

Villains have got to be credible, so they need reasons for being bad. No one is all good, or all bad.

In The Necessary Deaths, the principal villain is motivated by ideology, and is very bad. But they still have a seductive side, which makes them intriguing and even appealing. Everyone has the capacity to be a villain, circumstances and back-story dictate whether the transformation to the dark side happens or not. In the second Dominic Delingpole Mystery I’m tackling this whole issue, which I think is fascinating.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

The Dominic Delingpole Mysteries will unfold over five books. I’ve plotted the overarching story, and I’m just finishing the second book in the series. I’m also working up the World War Two science fiction tale in the background, it’s quite a juggling act I can tell you!

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

From The Necessary Deaths:

“Mrs. Gregory,” said Dominic. “I would be very happy to have you as a client, but I’m not sure in what way I can act for you.”

Samantha smiled. “And neither am I just at the moment. Let’s call you a professional friend. I have no one else who I can turn to, and your legal mind will help me to see things a little more clearly. As you can tell, I’m a little emotional just now.” She turned away to wipe a tear from the corner of her eye. Then she looked at him steadily.

“Simon and I are very close. Ever since Richard, his father, died in a climbing accident, we have been a very tight family unit. I’d like to think Simon and I can tell each other everything.”

Dominic wondered if she was keeping up a brave front, or whether she really believed Simon told her everything. Her comments clearly contradicted what Simon’s housemate Jay had said an hour ago. Dominic decided that, as she was his client, he owed her the duty of honesty, and he should tell her about what he had learned in the last few hours.

“Samantha, I’m afraid I believe Simon may not have confided everything in you in recent times. I went to see John this morning before coming here. He told me about their relationship and how Simon was not yet ready to tell you.”

Samantha smiled.

“Dominic, I’m his mother. Do you think that I didn’t know?” She sighed. “I knew he was finding it difficult to tell me, and I was waiting for him to pick the right time. I didn’t want to rush him.” She paused. “But yes, you’re right, and I am wrong. Simon hasn’t confided everything to me; I merely know and am waiting for him to tell me. John is a lovely boy, and I was just pleased to know that Simon is happy.”

Samantha narrowed her eyes slightly as she asked, “But why do you think that means he must have kept other secrets from me? Surely you of all people must know how difficult it is to come out?”
Dominic blushed briefly. “Everyone’s circumstances are different, of course, and for young people it really is much easier….”

“Oh nonsense! Can I just say that I think it’s a bit rich for you to judge Simon when you’re so secretive about yourself? We spent nearly three hours in the car together last night, and I still don’t know whether or not you have a boyfriend!”
This time Dominic’s face turned crimson.
“Samantha, could we just get back to—”

“Well, do you?”

Dominic sighed. “I think it’s my turn to acknowledge that I am wrong. Yes, I do have a partner, and no, I am not very open about it. In this day and age, it probably is unnecessary for me to be quite so discreet. But after a while, it gets to be almost a habit.”

Samantha giggled. “Oh, Dominic, how delightfully bashful you are! I imagine that it’s rare you have a conversation like this with your clients.”

Dominic smiled. “Samantha, I can tell you truthfully that I have never had a conversation like this with my clients. You must meet Jonathan some time. I think you two would get on like a house on fire.”


A young journalism student lies unconscious in a hospital bed in Brighton, England. His life hangs in the balance after a drug overdose. But was it attempted suicide or attempted murder? The student’s mother persuades British lawyer Dominic Delingpole to investigate, and Dominic enlists the aid of his outspoken opera singer partner, Jonathan McFadden.

The student’s boyfriend discovers compromising photographs hidden in his lover’s room. The photographs not only feature senior politicians and business chiefs, but the young journalist himself. Is he being blackmailed, or is he the blackmailer?

As Dominic and Jonathan investigate further, their lives are threatened and three people are murdered. They uncover a conspiracy that reaches into the highest levels of government and powerful corporations. The people behind it are ruthless, and no one can be trusted. The bond between Dominic and Jonathan deepens as they struggle not only for answers, but for their very survival.

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BIOG:

David C. Dawson is an author, award-winning journalist and documentary maker, living near Oxford in the UK.
He has travelled extensively, filming in nearly every continent of the world. He has lived in London, Geneva and San Francisco, but now prefers the tranquillity of the Oxfordshire countryside.
David is a Mathematics graduate from Southampton University in England. After graduating, he joined the BBC in London as a trainee journalist. He worked in radio newsrooms for several years before moving to television as a documentary director. During the growing AIDS crisis in the late eighties, he is proud to say that he directed the first demonstration of putting on a condom on British television.
After more than twenty years with the BBC, he left to go freelance. He has produced videos for several charities, including Ethiopiaid; which works to end poverty in Ethiopia, and Hestia; a London-based mental health charity.

David has one son, who is also a successful filmmaker.

In his spare time, David tours Europe on his ageing Triumph motorbike and sings with the London Gay Men’s Chorus. He has sung with the Chorus at St Paul’s Cathedral, The Roundhouse and the Royal Festival Hall, but David is most proud of the time they sang at the House of Lords, campaigning for equal marriage to be legalized in the UK.

You can follow David at the following sites:
Facebook | Twitter | Website | Blog

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