Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and fifth, is of thriller, historical, crime novelist, non-fiction author, writing workshop coach and interviewee Harry Bingham. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Fifteen years ago, his plans nicely maturing, he left the City to write The Money Makers, his first novel.
Since then, he’s written novels and non-fiction, but has come home to rest in the happy fields of crime fiction – the only place where you can chop up corpses with impunity and get paid for doing it.
His Fiona Griffiths crime novels (Talking to the Dead and Love Story, With Murders) have been critically acclaimed, are published internationally, and the first book in the series is being filmed for TV.
Harry has also written two how-to books, one on writing and one on finding literary agents and getting published.
He runs the Writers’ Workshop and is one of the brains behind the creation of Agent Hunter.
And now from the author himself:
It’s strange being a ‘pro novelist’. In most professions, having an experience is proof of something. Senior lawyers get paid more than baby lawyers. A dentist with fifteen years of competent dentistry behind her is unlikely to suddenly find herself unable to earn a crust.
Yet writing is different. Put aside the small handful of mega-sellers, and most writers are never sure whether their next book will even be published, let alone whether it will earn them enough to live on. Since I make at least part of my living by teaching people how to write and helping people connect to literary agents, I’d feel like a sham if I weren’t capable of selling fiction myself. And yet, though I’ve sold books successfully for a decade and a half now, I still feel the worry that all this could rapidly come to an end.
And then I turned to crime. I did so, because I was approached as a possible ghostwriter by a celebrity with plans on writing crime thrillers. The project, as originally envisaged, came to nothing, but it did make me think about what a contemporary crime novel ought to be. Mystery novel, or thriller, or a bit of both? First person or third person? Should it feature a police officer, a private eye, or what? And set where? And what should the detective’s backstory be? Indeed, what kind of character should lie at the heart of the series?
These questions fascinated me and I soon realised that I wanted to write a crime novel on my own account. My character – Fiona Griffiths – was in some ways going to be the complete opposite of the archetype. So if the typical modern detective was middle-aged, male, hard-drinking, tough but not in perfect physical shape, reasonably senior, already grizzled and cynical and so on, then I wanted my character to be roughly opposite. Female, petite, junior, teetotal … and yet also a force of nature in her own right.
All that was good – it felt right – but I knew I hadn’t yet found the key. And then – well – I did. I won’t reveal that key, since it lies at the heart of Talking to the Dead, but suffice to say that Fiona is in recovery from a mental condition that is simultaneously deeply strange, genuine, and which places her psyche at the very heart of the life/death, truth/falsehood dichotomies which animate crime fiction.
When I knew how my character was, I more or less had everything. My literary agent gave me some very useful bits of advice about where the market stood at the time I was writing (encourgaing a splash of violence here, a willingness to be bold and literary there.) And then when I came to start writing, I wrote at a speed I’d never before matched: a whole novel flew off my pen in the space of little more than two months. For sure, my thinking time had been very long indeed (let’s say two years) and my revision time was at least as long as the writing. But that burst of hurling the novel down onto the page was as exciting a creative experience as I’ve ever had.
Readers and reviewers have been kind to Fiona Griffiths. The books have been selected as ‘books of the year’ by newspapers as eminent as the Seattle Times and Boston Globe. The first book, Talking to the Dead, is being televised for transmission later this year. All that is nice, but there are three things that give me most pleasure. First, it’s lovely to be part of a real community of writers and readers. The crime genre, I think, offers that more than any other – and ‘community’ is the right phrase too, not some polite fiction. Secondly, the Fiona Griffiths novels have performed well enough so far that they look well set to continue. For once in my career, my writing future looks settled rather than precarious. And last: I adore writing these things. Or, more simply put, I love my character. Love writing her, love voicing her, love shaping her destiny. Perhaps it sounds kooky to say it – but then novelists, surely, have to be a little kooky to do what we do in the first place – but the fictional Fiona Griffiths is one of my closest, dearest friends. And if she’s a friend who occasionally obtains illegal handguns, breaks into suspects’ houses, hurtles recklessly into danger and makes a total hash of even the simplest domestic chores – well, so much the better.
If you want his advice on literary agents, you can find it here.
If you want to hunt literary agents themselves, you can do so here.
And finally, if you want to get a manuscript assessment from the Writers’ Workshop, feel free to sample its wares.
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
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