I got to know Derek through those two crazy kids Clare London and Liam Livings. Am dead chuffed to have him as a guest.
What inspired you to start writing?
Writing – story telling – isn’t really something I was inspired to do. It’s just something I have always had to do. Like breathing, or smiling at kitten videos.
My first memories were of the library my dad used to take me to. I learned that stories were magical things that could help transport you to another place, or make sense of the place you were in.
And I’m Irish – my whole family are story tellers. We talk to, over, around and into each other. Even a trip to the butcher could – when my mother told it – become something funny and exciting.
So writing was just a way to record the stories my head was filled with anyways, and the fact that so many other people have enjoyed those stories has made me very happy.
Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?
Yes, I am not J.K. Rowling, and thus am required to have another job.
So how do I go about juggling time? Well, it’s all about organisation and discipline, I’m told. I wouldn’t know, as I have neither, usually, but with me, once I have a story, I have to be pulled away from it and into the real world, otherwise I’d stay there forever.
I work in finance, and life is insanely busy, with a lot of travel, but I have a very understanding husband who accepts that he’ll see me when he sees me, and that dinner will be sandwich based for the next few years.
I write for an hour before work each day – usually on the commute to the office – and an hour each evening. I’ll also pull the odd weekender if I’m really on a roll, but for me the key is little and often.
Then, when I’m into redrafts and edits, I’ll lock myself away for a couple of days and do nothing else. This is the bit where I go neurotic and obsessive, but I don’t stop writing ever, and wherever I am.
Death of a Diva was mostly written in London and West Sussex, but had parts written in Berlin, Malta, Tel Aviv, Dublin New York and halfway across the Atlantic Ocean.
The second Danny Bird mystery was partially written in Hong Kong and New Zealand as well as New York, so I’m now on the look out for somewhere glamorous to work on Dany Bird 3…
What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?
“Death of a Diva” was accepted for publication at possibly the worst time in my life.
My mother had just died, and I was unable to understand joy or hope, and then this thing – this Dream Come True – happened, and I was simultaneously overjoyed, guilty, terrified, excited, and heartbroken that my mam wasn’t here to share it with me.
I was very lucky to have the support of a great publisher in Fahrenheit Press, and of a Network of publishing passionistas in an amazing group called BytetheBook, who reminded me constantly that the book is the thing.
And now, the book feels like a child of my own.
Parents love their children with all their flaws, and every time I re-read it, I think “Oooh, I’d change that,” or “I wish I hadn’t said / done / hinted at that,” but it is what it is, and it has done the one thing that makes me happier than anything in the whole world, and that would have made my mam beam: It has found an appreciative audience, it is loved, and it now has – if it isn’t too poncey a thing to say – a happy life of it’s own.
And what could any parent ask for beyond that?
Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
Danny Bird came first. I wanted to write about a character who was honest, decent, not always perfect, and – almost incidentally – gay. He’s happy with his life, and all seems well.
Then, in the space of a single day, he loses his boyfriend, his home, and his job.
And I wanted to know, once I’d done that to him, what would happen next, so from that desire, the plot sprung.
I believe that Genre fiction has to have a brilliant plot, but what amazed me was the characters that came to surround Danny and to weave their way through the story. There’s Lady Caroline (“Caz”) his best friend, Ali the bolshy barmaid, Nick the too-pretty policeman, Ray and Dash (The ASBO twins) Danny’s nephews, who will do anything to help him, from a spot of topless bar manning to a bit of breaking and entering.
And half the time I don’t even know where the characters come from – they just arrive.
So, I’m plot driven, but what elevates the plot to somewhere amazing is the characters, who make it all feel even more real.
Not really an answer, but that’s all I’ve got.
And if characters start going off on a tangent? I let them. I always have a rough map of where I want to start and end, and how I intend to get there, so a few tangents don’t worry me, cos I can always get back to the road eventually.
Sometimes, the tangents result in really great ideas forming. And if they don’t? There’s always the edit…
If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
I can’t pick one.
Danny is loyal and true and honest, and a decent boxer, so he’d be good in a physical fight.
Caz has the unshakeable confidence in her own right that the aristocracy has, and a sharp tongue, so she’d be good if I needed to intimidate someone.
But Ali – the bolshy barmaid with the crew cut and the permanent sneer – has had decades of dumping drunks out of pubs, so there’s probably not much she couldn’t handle.
Can I have all three?
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
The ones I’m writing now.
I wrote Death of a Diva for my own entertainment, with no expectation of publishing.
I loved it so much, I started plotting and preparing #2 before I’d even been offered a publishing contract by Fahrenheit Press, and I’m already plotting number three, so – even if I hadn’t been published – I think I’d have wanted to write these stories, because they feel organic and they pull together some of my favourite things: Crime, mystery, humour, plotting that keeps moving and that is fair and satisfying at the end, London, romance, and pubs.
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?
“The mystery of Edwin Drood,” but I found out later that I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t finish it. (Charlie’s note: groan.)
What’s your favourite gay mystery/crime book? And why?
Just one? That’s impossible.
Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan: Not strictly a mystery novel, but it’s about a scam to perform a marriage of convenience for the hugely expensive wedding gifts, and how it all unraveled – slowly at first and then in cascades – and it is the first book I was ever asked to stop reading on a bus, so hysterically did it make me laugh. Keenan went on to script edit Fraser, but he has never been sharper, wittier or more brilliant than here. If you haven’t read it, you have to do so. Now. Go on…. I’ll wait
Fadeout by Joseph Hansen (or any of the Brandstetter series). A proper noir gumshoe series that features a very Butch Gay Detective. Very much of their time, but that, in a way, makes them even more important, as we should never lose sight of the struggles that brought us from “The Twilight World of the Homosexual” to a point where a Gay detective is a cool thing to be.
Any of The Burglar series by Lawrence Block (which feature a wonderful Lesbian sidekick who runs a dog grooming parlour). The plotting, humour and style in these is just brilliant. More so if you’re a book lover as they often have references to, homages on, or pastiches of classic genre styles.
A Slow Death by James Craig. ThIs is a gritty, violent and gripping crime novel that just happens to have a detective who’s gay. Brutal, brilliant and bolshy. I loved it.
What’s your next project?
“Death of a Diva” comes out in print this summer, which is hugely exciting.
The second Danny Bird book will follow soon after, and the initial buzz is that people think it’s even better than the first, which is brilliant, as I wrote it at a very difficult time, so it will be nice if it succeeds, as it will bring some thing positive out of the darkness.
I’m working on the plotting and ideas for DB3 and also on a stand alone Psychological suspense story that I’m enjoying.
Other than that, the patio needs power washing, the hall needs painting, and the garage needs clearing, so they’ll be near the top of the list.