Today I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for Mongkok Station. My post is written with thanks to Emma Welton of damppebbles Blog Tours for inviting me on the tour and to Jake Needham for answering my questions!
Have you always wanted to write?
No. I was a heavy reader from the time I was a child, but I never had any real interest in becoming a writer myself. This has all come about almost entirely by accident. It’s as big a surprise to me as it probably is to you.
I had practiced law for a couple of decades doing mostly international work, and I found myself involved in a complicated and unpleasant corporate merger that involved companies in half a dozen different countries. To get the deal closed, I ended up buying a piece of the target company myself, mostly because no one else wanted it. It was a very modest little Hollywood production house that was making movies for cable TV in the United States.
Since I was stuck with the company, I did my best to make it profitable and I tried to focus it more tightly on what I thought it could do well. I dashed off an outline of the sort of movie on which I thought the company ought to be focusing its efforts, and a copy of that outline accidentally got sent to one of the cable TV networks the company worked with.
Several weeks later, the development people at the network called up and asked me to write it for them.
‘Write what?’ I asked.
‘The movie you sent us that treatment for,’ they said.
‘That wasn’t a treatment,’ I said, ‘that was a business plan.’
‘That’s okay,’ they said, ‘we want you to write it anyway.’
And that, girls and boys, is how I became a writer.
What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?
I was in television news for a while after graduating from college, then I went to law school and became an attorney working internationally. Has any of that found its way into my writing? Of course it has. All novelists are the sum of their experiences, even if those experiences might appear to have little or nothing to do with the writing process.
What was your inspiration for Mongkok Station?
All my books tend to be small-scale, human-sized stories set against the background of large-scale international events. The street riots in Hong Kong were a perfect context in which to set the kind of novels I write. I love Hong Kong and seeing it ripped apart by riots was heart wrenching. I thought the time and circumstances really cried out for a novel.
How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?
You know, I don’t really come up with characters that way. I start out with a single characteristic on which to base a character, maybe a profession or a set of circumstances, and then I let the characters grow themselves from there. That seems to work out fine.
What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Every single book I’ve written has begun with me saying something like, okay, this time I’m going to start with a proper outline. But I haven’t done it. Not even once. It just seems to be something I can’t do.
So instead, I begin with a scene I like and a few characters, and I let them lead me from there. There’s an old joke about screenwriters: they’re guys who sit in a corner, talk to themselves, and write down what they say. Yeah. Like that.
How did you research Mongkok Station? Did you enjoy it?
I’ve been in and out of Hong Kong for forty years, even lived there for a while, so I didn’t really need to do any research. Still, I wanted to see what the riots felt like, so back at the beginning of the year before the virus panic shut down travel I spent a couple of weeks there going out in the streets with the kids and breathing a little teargas. I’m probably getting too old for that kind of thing, but I did it anyway.
Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?
I read so widely, particularly in the mystery-thriller genre, that it’s really impossible for me to say that one writer has influenced me more than another. All writers are also readers, and my experience is that we take something away from everything we read. In the end, we become, as writers, very much the accumulation of our experience as readers.
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?
I never know how to answer questions like this without ending up sounding like a complete dolt. Honestly, I have nothing intelligent or interesting or even a little witty to say here. Would you let me off the hook on this one? Please?
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?
Any politician from anywhere.
Who would you like play the main character of Mongkok Station in a film or TV series?
Back when my agent sold the film and television rights, that was a subject that was widely discussed. The consensus was for a British actor we all liked. Did you see the series ‘Judge Deed’? Martin Shaw got almost everyone’s vote, and it was mostly because of ‘Judge Deed,’ I think.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I read a lot and occasionally my wife and I might watch a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Other than that and writing, and working hard to keep my books visible to readers, that’s pretty much it for me. Gosh, that really makes me sound like a dull fellow, doesn’t it?
What is next for you?
I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing, probably adding a book to my Jack Shepherd series next.
I like what I’m doing. I’m damned lucky to be doing it.
Book? – no way I’m going to answer that and piss off a lot of writer friends
Film? – Orson Wells’ ‘The Third Man’
Band/Singer? – Bach
TV show? – Inspector Morse
Colour? – seriously?
Place? – wherever I am
Biscuit? – my mother’s chocolate chip cookies
Mongkok Station is available from Amazon.
You can follow the rest of the blog tour here: