Frequently Asked Questions

I frequently get asked lots of questions about my writing – what my writing day looks like, how I plot, how I come up with the ideas and psychological twists for my books, do I have an editor and so on. I do not waste time following anyone else’s advice that doesn’t work for me , because people’s writing journeys are different. Although we might share the same passion for writing, we are still on a different path that we should embrace.

I’ve tried to answer the most frequently asked questions I receive on a daily basis but if you have a question that isn’t covered below, please feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to answer them for you. 

“What does your writing day look like?”

I am usually up at 5am and go for a morning walk. I try and get in 12000 steps a day and getting out about in the fresh air first thing on a morning not only keeps me active, but also keeps me focused and I’m ready to dive into work when I get to my desk. Also walking helps me create new ideas and character development. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve dictated a murder scene into my iPhone, gaining odd looks from passers-by. 

I treat my writing as a job and stay there all day, barring lunch, peppermint tea breaks, taking our little dog for a walk, and sneaking onto social media every now and again.  I aim to write 2000 words every day, which is very doable. Even if they are rubbish, it doesn’t matter, it’s something to work on. I have an Editor and Proofreader in Australia which works very well with the time difference, as first thing in the morning the edits have been updated. I write to the point in the book where I know what is going to happen next and then stop. It makes tomorrow’s writing much more fun and focused.

Evenings are spent with my wife answering emails, doing social media, marketing my books, and having an hour or so of downtime watching a Scandinavian crime thriller, anything murder related on Netflix or binge watching Naked and Alone on Discovery +

I always take some time off every once in a while, doing things other than writing, because inspiration can be found in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times.

“Do you plot?”

Getting an idea for a story is the straightforward part. Developing that idea into a satisfying plot that keeps the reader turning the pages is where the challenge of writing a book begins. I don’t typically plot much, I don’t plan out scenes or character development I generally just write and see where the story goes. I have an idea of the characters and their back story, the antagonist and the psychological elements I want to put in place to keep the reader guessing.

When you head into a piece of writing without the plotting, my job of being a writer is to create. My best writing happens when I am discovering what happens as I am creating the story.

The less you know before you start, the more you stand to uncover as you write.

“Where do you get your ideas from?”

Inspiration is everywhere. From the articles I read, conversations I overhear, meeting new people, my life experiences,  or simply just people watching. I just have to take the time to see it and understand it, then I can use it to write a gripping storyline. I may not use it straight away, but it will always be there whenever I need it. You can also ask my wife about my Google search history. If something ever happened to her, I’m not sure I could explain the searches about how to dispose of dead bodies to the police! But as a matter of interest did you know if you killed someone, punctured their lungs, and threw them into the ocean, then langoustines can strip the body in less than 48 hours! Keep reading my books to see if that one makes an appearance.

I am also endlessly fascinated by the what if’s and why’s and the would you rather sorts of strange predicaments and dilemma’s. It’s these sorts of hypothetical questions that drive my writing as well – walking characters through these moments where they’re faced with these sorts of monumental dilemmas and the outcome of them.

I don’t just sit around and wait to be inspired – as I’ll be missing out on so many rich seams of ideas.

 

“Do you read your reviews?”

If I have just released a book then I may look at a few reviews just to get an idea of what people think, after that I tend to just look at the average ratings. Reviews aren’t meant for authors, they are meant for readers and their opinions about the good, the bad and the indifferent. My job is to write and I don’t obsess over the ‘bad reviews’. As long as I go into it knowing that my book will not be for everyone–that some people will find it boring, or the protagonist annoying, or the ending frustrating–then I can take the bad ones with a grain of salt. Because for a lot of readers, my books will be the best thing they have read in a while and will brighten their day. 

Getting reviews of any kind means that people are reading my books. 

 

“How did you get your first book published?”

I self published my first book (under a pseudonym) on Amazon in 2020 during Covid-19 lockdown. As my day job work dwindled due to the restrictions in place, I suddenly had the time to do what I have always wanted to do – write. I had the freedom and the time to finish my first book, then it was a roller coaster ride as before I knew it, I had self published 19 books, won 2 literary gold awards and my childhood dream of being a writer wasn’t just a dream anymore. I had made good income with Amazon and with the support of my wife I gave up my day job and became a full-time writer. She designs my websites, and together we do the book covers, blurb and marketing.We really do make a good team. My romance books can now be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and many independent book stores in the US and the UK.  

Turning readers into fans is the hardest part of being an author.

 

“Why did you switch genres?”

I am not alone in wanting to write in different genres, to play around with different styles, forms and narratives. Writing romance books is so different to writing a psychological thriller that messes with your mind.  The best psychological thrillers live and die on the authenticity of the protagonists. The capacity for evil and darkness in an individual, along with the familiar settings provides excellent opportunities for twists and turns of the plot and I love writing about them. I enjoy creating stories where my readers question the reliability of the characters- Who can be trusted? Who is telling the truth? Who thinks they are telling the truth? All these things you have to think about whilst providing a backstory that explains who the characters are and why they are acting the way they do. You have to make the characters authentic and compelling so that reader keeps turning the pages. Writing thrillers is so much more fun but much more complex and I love it. If I can create stories you can’t wait to finish, but don’t want to end, then all the hours of writing will be worth it. 

I plan to keep writing romance books under my pen name to keep the distinction from my thriller writing, I rather enjoy having another persona too. I also want my thriller writing to be received on its own merit. I also decided to write under my real name as I didn’t want to confuse my readers -When readers get to know an author’s name, they expect a certain type of book. I didn’t want the success of my pen name to be associated with crime thrillers, my readers would be so frustrated with that.

This experience of stepping out of my comfort zone into unexplored territory of psychological thriller writing has not only given me a new perspective on writing, but a new energy as well.

I will continue to listen to my muse and write what I love.

“As a writer, do you worry about everyone in your life thinking the characters are based on them?”

As a writer, I am inevitably going to borrow ideas from real life, both consciously and unconsciously.  The majority of characters in my books walk into my imagination like strangers I pass by on the street.  I am pretty careful to never completely base a character on somebody I know, especially not a family member. It’s just not worth the grief! 

I tend to put pieces of myself in different characters and imagine how I would have turned out if I had been dealt their cards. However I do believe that the story of people you know is undeniably woven into your own story; you’re formed by the people around you, their tendencies, their lessons, their impact on you. As long as my characters are believable, then the reader will understand why that character does things the way they do. I also think it is a responsibility to be inclusive with regard to gender, race and sexual orientation, so I may change a character to fulfil a particular role.

Sometimes the draw for the book isnt necessarily the characters themselves but a more broader picture of how all the different pieces in the plot come together.

 

“What advice do you have for aspiring authors?”

You need to write – to find out who you are as a writer, what excites you, what drives you, what you want to say. Let the voices in your head develop into words on the page. Though we may only have 26 letters in our alphabet, the number of unique combinations of words in a sentence is so large it is immeasurable. Also, read everything you can get your hands on, as this will deepen your knowledge. The end goal for me as a full-time writer is to write the book that you’re desperate to read. Writing well depends on maintaining your passion. If you ever feel overwhelmed or have the dreaded writer’s block, take a break for an hour to reinvigorate your love of writing. 

The hardest part of writing a book is starting it.  Success isn’t always guaranteed – but the first step to success is always simply – to start writing.

 

“What books or authors inspire you?”

Writing is like anything – to improve at it, you have to learn from people who do it better than you. So to become a better writer, you need to read books by authors who are better than you. You need to read their books and say, “OMG, this is so much better than what I can do.”  For me, a few of these authors are Angela Marsons, Gillian Flynn, Stacey Willingham, Charlie Donlea and John Marrs. Actually it’s a very long list!

Reading great books made me realise that these were the kind of books I wanted to write too – one that a reader would find it impossible to tear themselves away from. Books are primarily a form of entertainment and escapism, and to write a truly addictive read is a very special thing.

“How do you come up with the titles for your books?”

With difficulty!! I’ve just written a 90,000 word novel and coming up with 2 or 3 words to sum up the book and hook potential readers is so hard! And when I think I’ve got it, I find out it has already been used by another author. Sometimes ideas will come to me whilst I am writing a chapter in a book, other times I can be watching a thriller on TV and a piece of dialogue will just fit my book perfectly. The book’s title is the most important marketing strategy I have, so in general I procrastinate as I want to get it just right.

Your title is the reader’s first impression of your writing. It should never be an afterthought.

 

“How do you celebrate ' The End' ?”

‘The End’ – to any writer, those words at the end of a novel are truly magical. At this point, nobody knows if your book that you’ve spent hours working on locked away with just yourself for company will turn out to be a bestseller, or if it’ll make you rich and famous. As an author, you are aware that there are days when the creative juices flow like high waves and fill the pages, and you can accomplish and achieve many things. But, there are times when writing a sentence can be exhausting and tedious. You could be staring at that same page for several hours having the dreaded writer’s block. However, each day plays a significant role and is a stepping stone towards the goal of finishing the book! So we should celebrate this accomplishment. I tend to do a celebratory dance – obviously alone in my office so no one can see me! Then I excitedly whatsapp my wife and tell her I’ve finished and ask “If I’m allowed out of my room yet?”. And if she says yes (lol) then it’s off to IKEA we go! It’s my guilty pleasure and I love their plant balls!

I do believe it is important to celebrate ‘The End.Why?’ Because it brings closure and I get plant balls and a bottle of Barefoot Jammy Red!

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