Welcome to the four hundred and twentieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with crime and thriller author Colin Llewelyn Chapman. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Colin. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Colin: Hi Morgen with an E.
Colin: I live on Canvey Island in Essex, which now seems to be the butt of so many jokes, but how many can boast the tranquillity of a wildlife reserve yards from their doorstep! I love it here. I came to writing only about two years ago and quite literally on a whim! I have always favoured true crime or autobiographies for my own reading pleasure, but fell into ‘The lost symbol’ by Dan Brown because of its masonic connections (we usually get bashed in the press or media!). I was instantly drawn by his imagination and lyrical prowess. After I managed to eventually put it down I boldly announced ‘I want to try doing that’ and set about eeking out a plausible storyline.
Morgen: What genre do you mostly write and have you considered other genres?
Colin: CRIME CRIME and CRIME…with a bit of thriller thrown in for good measure. I haven’t really thought about any other fictional genre, but I would love to write true crime too.
Morgen: Ah, then you should speak to my friend Lae Monie. What have you had published to-date?
Colin: I have just published my debut fictional piece called ‘Tom’foolery.
Morgen: Yay, congratulations. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Colin: I have had a few rejections to-date, but I try to focus on the positive aspects of their comments. Constructive feedback is vital to hone your skills and find that edge that sets you apart from the thousands of other credible writers.
Morgen: It is, absolutely, and it being not right for that person may not mean it’s not right for the next one. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Colin: As yet I am un-entered! But I really should have a crack, shouldn’t I?
Morgen: Not necessarily. A lot of writers do perfectly well without them. I do find the themed ones get me writing something new but I could do that and not send it off… in fact I do, I have been writing a short story a day since May 1st for Story a Day May then 5PM Fiction. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Colin: I don’t have an agent, but really do want to get on-board with one. I was very close recently, but she felt that my work suited TV and film, an area in which she had no in roads… sadly! Chin up though and keep plugging away.
Morgen: If you have that in writing it might be worth finding an agent who specialises and use that as an opening tool. The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is a good place to start (or Writers’ Handbook, Google search etc). Is your book available as an eBook? How involved were you in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Colin: My first book is only available as an eBook at the moment, but when I find my agent…! I have done all the uploading and formatting myself, which was quite daunting to start with, but mastered it quite quickly. I tend to only read eBooks now myself, unless there is a juicy one and I have no choice but to buy a paper copy!
Morgen: eBooks are the way forward really although pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to still also wants to read paper (as I do). How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Colin: I do everything myself and desperately need help, it is a minefield in which I am admittedly very lost I only really do the basic Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn so it’s all slow going.
Morgen: I’d say 99.9% of all the authors I’ve spoken to have said the same. You have to be in it to win it and more and more people are being picked up because they have a presence online. Hopefully it’s an enjoyable necessary evil. Do you have a favourite of your characters? Who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Colin: My favourite character has to be Vincent Llewelyn, the policeman! He would be either Gerard Butler or Tamer Hassan and Robin Bradford would have to be Geoff Bell! Not sure about Elizabeth Fenwick though, maybe Kierston Wareing?
Morgen: I’m clearly so behind the times; out of that list I only know Gerard Butler but I’d go and watch him. Presumably you picked the title / cover for your book? How important do you think they are?
Colin: As an eBook publisher, I had carte blanche in picking covers. The cover is very important as it is the first thing anyone sees when they look at it… it has to lure them in! Funny thing is with mine, everyone wants to know if it is me on the cover of ‘Tom’foolery!
Morgen: <laughs> I bet your wife would be pleased if it was. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Colin: My next project is ‘Skull’duggery, a twist on something I have gleaned from my true crime reading. It is very different from the first book!
Morgen: Great titles. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Colin: I don’t manage to write every day but I do try to scratch out as much as I can when I get the chance. Writer’s block! Yes, but it is usually because something is going on around me which draws my focus… like life!
Morgen: I know that feeling. I got hooked on writing fiction seven years ago but it’s only the past couple that I’ve lived and breathed it. Having left my job in March I do little else but blog-related emails… it’s quite ‘sad’ really but great that so many people want to get involved. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Colin: A bit of both usually. I get a start, middle, and end, then everything else seems to slot in neatly around it!
Morgen: I love it when that happens – for me it’s the not knowing what’s going to come out and then (hopefully) loving whatever does. You mentioned a couple of your characters, do you have a method for creating them and what do you think makes them believable?
Colin: Hmm… not really, they just sort of come to me and try to make them fit their role. People-watching is the best tool for creating characters and making them work for you.
Morgen: Isn’t that great. We can legitimately stare at people all day. Whenever I’m walking the dog past a couple talking (especially juicy when they’re arguing), I pretend to turn up the volume on my iPod but I’m really pausing it so I can earwig. Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Colin: I have dabbled in poetry, but purely for my wife’s enjoyment!!
Morgen: I dabble with poetry too but say I don’t ‘get it’ – I’ve never studied it and don’t read it so that doesn’t help. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Colin: I have a system… write it out by hand as fast as I can, while it is fresh in my head. Then I edit and reform sections as I type it into the computer.
Morgen: I’d always recommend just writing it because you can’t edit a blank page. Do you have to do much research?
Colin: I do some research, but not a lot. I do want to get more in-depth with some of the crime scenes though, but worry it is too fashionable at the moment.
Morgen: I wouldn’t say it matters. You need to give enough detail so the reader can understand what’s going on but not so much that it’s like you’re showing off. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Colin: Now that is easy… the long drawn-out wait for agents and publishers to come back to you! Favourite part is definitely the positive feedback… you can’t beat the buzz of a good review!
Morgen: Absolutely. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Colin: Just keep on and on… if you have it, someone will find you!
Morgen: Indeed. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Colin: Maggie Thatcher, Steven Gerrard and John Bishop… and it would have to be a takeaway as my cooking skills are somewhat lacking!
Morgen: It would mean you could concentrate on the conversation. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Colin: ‘You’ll never walk alone’ has to be my favourite, especially sung by the kop!
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
Colin: I love sea fishing and spending time with my wife Michele. As for party tricks, I’m partial to a bit of fire-breathing!
Morgen: Wow. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Colin: There is only one must have book and that is ‘The Writers and Artists Yearbook’.
Morgen: Ah, yes, I mentioned that earlier. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Colin: I dabble with Twitter and LinkedIn, but that is about my limit at the moment. Once you have worked out a system, they can be useful if you are dedicated to them.
Morgen: And that’s the time-consuming bit. These posts are set up to automatically appear on both of those (plus Facebook, Yahoo Groups and Tumblr, but I only do occasional comments above that, usually where people have ‘mentioned’ me. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Colin: eBooks all the way I’m afraid!
Morgen: Mostly, I’d say, yes but as eBook-only self-published I’m not complaining. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Thank you, Colin.
I then invited Colin to include a synopsis of his book Tom’foolery…
Centered around the dark and seedy sex industry of Essex’s most prominent seaside town, Southend. ‘Tom’foolery follows Robin Bradford and his family in this well paced crime thriller. His actions not only reverberate around the local towns, but also that of his family and friends causing carnage wherever he goes. Surely the counties finest police officer Vincent Llewelyn, must get his man?
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