Welcome to the one hundred and first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with crime novelist and autobiographer Andy Malloy. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Andy. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Andy: I’m a father of four and live in Central Scotland. I got interested in writing through a relative who was a member of the local writers’ circle although it was about twenty five years before I eventually did anything about it!
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Andy: I read somewhere that you should write in the genre that you know best. I’ve always been an avid reader of crime fiction, so it was an easy choice to make. Having said that, my father was quite a famous footballer in the fifties and early sixties and I am currently working on a biography of his life. In truth, the book will be autobiographical as it’s written in the first person. After that it’ll be back to grisly crime!
Morgen: I think reading and writing often go hand in hand (unless you’re like my sci-fi writer Anna whose never read a word of it!). I read crime and humour and it’s the two extremes that I like to write. Good luck with the biography, that should be fun to do. What have you had published to-date? How much of the marketing do you do?
Andy: I’ve had two novels published this year – Frantic! in January and, more recently, Bible John Closure. To be honest my wife has done almost 99% of the promotional work, from hawking the book around the local bookshops to arranging interviews with radio stations and sending emails to libraries, newspapers, supermarkets and the like. I know I really should have a website and presence in Facebook / Twitter etc. but I just don’t have an interest in them. I know that they would help immensely with the ongoing book promotions so I’m definitely going to look into it. Promise!
Morgen: I think the jury’s out on exactly how much Facebook and Twitter help an author sell books but I’d say it certainly wouldn’t hurt. And kudos to your wife for being so supportive… that sounds like a full-time job in itself. It’s great when you have supportive family but even better when they’re unpaid staff. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Andy: So far I haven’t entered a piece of my work in any competition. It’s something I’d like to look into as I think a listing for any award would be useful in getting the word out. You only have to look at Tan Twen Eng’s novel The Gift of Rain which was turned down by all of the mainstream publishers. Incredibly, the book was longlisted for The Man Booker prize after being picked up by a small independent publisher.
Morgen: And just look at JK Rowling’s rejections. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Andy: I had an agent for a previously written piece of work called Only the Strong. Unfortunately, she was unable to convince a mainstream publishing house to take a chance on an unknown author. I think that if you’re serious about making a living as an author you really need to have an agent in your corner.
Morgen: I think it helps if you want to go the mainstream route, definitely, but it’s great now that we have the option to go it alone with eBooks if the agent route doesn’t pan out (yes, speaking from personal experience). Speaking of which are your books available as eBooks? And do you read eBooks?
Andy: Not at the moment. I hope they will be available in eBook format in the near future. Personally, I’ve never read an eBook but my wife has an Amazon Kindle and does read from it. I prefer the real thing. I know, I’m a dinosaur!
Morgen: That makes two of us. I have an eReader but have so many paperbacks (or ‘pBooks’ as they’re now being called) that I think it’ll be a long, long time before the eReader gets a look in – great for travelling though. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Andy: Last year, a New York based publisher took on my first book, Frantic! The cover design and editorial process took an age as I can be a right pain when it comes to getting things just so! It was well worth it to see and feel the book in my hands when it finally arrived, though!
Morgen: What a feeling. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Andy: Loads of them. But then, almost all authors, even the bestsellers, experience rejections. I think that many of the agencies and publishers are so busy with their current list that they genuinely don’t have the time to read new material. Consequently, I used to convince myself that it was their loss and this would spur me on to do better.
Morgen: And it is. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Andy: My dad’s footballing escapades as I described earlier. Re-the next crime thriller, I’m looking at a full re-write of my unpublished novel, Only the Strong.
Morgen: I like that title. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Andy: I do try to write every day but don’t manage it for one reason or another. The most I’ve written in a day? Probably around 2000 words.
Morgen: Tush, life getting in the way… it does have a habit of doing that, doesn’t it. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Andy: I don’t get writer’s block as such. Some days things are a little slow in coming. I switch telly off and sit in a quiet room until some ideas start popping into my thick head!
Morgen: I love that image… like popcorn in a microwave. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Andy: Firstly, I set out a kind of loose general framework of the story. A kind of start, middle and end. Then I try and work out how the first, say, ten chapters will pan out. I’ll run with that for five chapters or so before I sort out chapters eleven to fifteen and so on. I will say that the final result often bears no relation to the original outline! In fact Frantic! ended up with a completely different main character to the one originally scoped!
Morgen: My goodness that sounds organised but yes, I do find that plans tend to go offwards which is (usually) the great thing about writing fiction. How do you come up with the names of your characters?
Andy: The names just pop into my head! Sometimes I’ll see a cracker in a newspaper or magazine and I’ll just have to use it.
Morgen: Which is where the “any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental” comes in handy. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Andy: I have a half-written novel that I just got fed up with, so yes!
Morgen: But maybe come back to it at a later date and realise it wasn’t that bad? What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Andy: I love watching TV but if I want to write it just has to go off. When I get a bit of inspiration from somewhere and manage to transfer it from my head to the computer, I’m happy!
Morgen: If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Andy: That I’m able to sit down and write anything at all! I procrastinate!
Morgen: Oh me too, although it’s usually writing-related so I don’t feel too guilty. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Andy: Don’t procrastinate! Try and write most days, even if it’s just a few words – you’ll feel better, I promise. When you eventually get to the end and begin to think, yes, I like it, take a few weeks to go over and over and over your manuscript. Edit, edit and edit. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the agent or publisher who is going to look at your work. Remember, first impressions! Don’t let the rejections get to you – everybody gets them at some point. Keep going!
Morgen: Absolutely. What do you like to read?
Andy: As I mentioned previously, I like crime fiction (Patterson, Montanari, Deaver) but I can appreciate any well-written book or article. I also enjoy biographies, depending on the subject.
Morgen: Football? Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Andy: I like to peruse the websites of the bestselling authors. Often, I’ll pick up a gem from one of them. Remember, you’re always learning in this game.
Morgen: You are. I’ve heard that from authors of all levels. Presumably surgeons still read up on new techniques etc. You mentioned you live in Scotland…
Andy: I do, Bonnie Scotland.
Morgen: It is bonnie. I’ve only been once (Edinburgh-based, some car travel) and loved it. I plan to go to Edinburgh Book Festival next year and see a bit more. Do you find living where you do a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Andy: It can be difficult spreading the word when you live in such a small country but, apparently, with the power of the web you can do anything!
Morgen: Apparently so. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Andy: There’s a link to my book, Bible John Closure at http://www.pneumasprings.co.uk. I really need to look at further avenues like Facebook and Twitter. What did I say about procrastination?
Morgen: And what did I say about writing-related procrastination? Where can we find out about you and your work Andy?
Andy: For Frantic! it’s Raider Publishing International (http://www.raiderbookshop.com/product.sc?productId=493&categoryId=-1) and for Bible John Closure it’s Pneuma Springs Publishing (http://www.pneumasprings.co.uk/Featuredauthors.htm#Andrew%20Malloy).
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Andy: The industry is going through major changes since the invention of the eBook. I read recently that a self-published author had sold over a million eBooks.
Morgen: Yes, John Locke was the first Brit – and he’s written a book about it so that will probably up that figure by a fair few.
Andy: There is no way that could possibly have happened with a normal printed book. Even the way we are buying printed copies is changing. Amazon now says that 40% of all printed book sales are made online. Maybe it will become much easier for unknown authors to break through. Hope so!
Morgen: I’m going down that route so me too. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Andy: I’d just like to say many thanks to you, Morgen, for the chance to spread the word about my writings and I wish you well for the future.
Morgen: Ah thanks Andy. It was a pleasure having you take part and I wish you all the best too. I then invited Andy to provide an extract of his writing and the following is an excerpt from his (as yet unpublished) first novel ‘Only the strong’.
Zagreb, Croatia – July 1992
‘In the basket. Uh-uh! Wait! On the move! Out!’
‘Maintain radio silence. Observe. Just observe.’
Five foot four. A look of malnourishment. Wire rimmed spectacles. Pigeon chest. His whole being screamed insignificance.
The Serb’s many victims would disagree – if they hadn’t been dead already: fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, whole families – whole towns of families – had felt the icy blasts of this murderer’s unrelenting hatred.
Victor Salhazar oozed pure evil from every pore. Every rotten muscle and sinew in his body ached violence. Graphic visions of Croatian genocide and oppression of his kind constantly looped around his brain, the result of twisted bedtime stories proudly handed down from generation to generation. He had already begun the process with his own son, the fables of hate intensifying with each telling.
Salhazar was brought up in an environment where the general view was that Croatian people existed to be tortured and exterminated. It was payback time and Victor was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The head of the Serbian Liberation Army’s desire to cause havoc in a place such as Zagreb was perhaps understandable: the city was ninety four percent Croatian, had long since proved to be a strong aphrodisiac for mayhem.
Morgen: I like that.
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