Im pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for A Numbers Game today. My post is written with thanks to Zoe O’Farrell for inviting me on the tour and to RJ Dark for answering my questions!
Have you always wanted to write?
Yes and no. I think books were always my first love but the idea of a working class kid from Leeds becoming an author never even occurred to me as possible when I was growing up. My school definitely didn’t encourage that sort of nonsense. Kids with their heads in the clouds and dreams of creative stuff like me were expected to go and do a sensible job in a sensible place, sensibly. I think that’s why I went toward music first of all, because in that I could see people like me doing it so it seemed far more reachable and realistic than being an author.
But after playing in bands for ages and getting nowhere I started to realise I really wasn’t very good at music, even though I loved doing it, and I still love music. But I wanted to do something creative, so I went back to my first love which was words. Even when I was in bands I always had a book with me. But I’d found school wasn’t a great fit for me and though the reading gave me a jump start I really had to teach myself to write more or less from scratch.
What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?
Everything helps with the writing process. I love people, and I’ve done quite a few things that involve people. The more people you meet the more realistic you can make characters because the more you have to draw on. Life experience in general is helpful, being able to draw on real people and real situations when you’re writing is always helpful so yes, I hated the dead end customer service jobs but I talked to a lot of people in them and that was useful. But most of the work I’ve done has been that sort of awful Mcjobs in call centres and places like that. The more interesting things I’ve done, like bands and running clubs have been things I’ve done on the side.
What was your inspiration for A Number’s Game?
Well…I’ll talk about books further down but Blades Edge, the estate the books are based around existed before the books did. It’s both a real and not real place which is why the books never quite say what city they take place in. It’s a place I grew up adjacent to and is how that place existed in my mind growing up, from the stories people would tell about it. Then later in my life I’ve spent a lot of time in less than fun places and I think all of this was sort of stored away. Jackie and Mal came later, Mal first. I liked the idea of a fake medium and thought that opened up a lot of options, but I never quite got Jackie right. He went through various versions and it never stuck or felt right until I got this version and he just clicked. I could hear him.
Also, growing up and going out I was kind of the smart mouthed kid who would have been in a lot of trouble if he didn’t have friends who knew how to look after themselves. It’s genuinely remarkable I didn’t get smacked in the mouth more.
How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?
I am not a great thinker. I kind of have an idea and go at it and then the people turn up as needed. There definitely ARE real people in the mix, especially with Jackie, who takes traits from people I’ve known. But it’s all very unconscious and the ones I tend to like the most often come out of thin air. The Twins, for instance, Trolley Mick was always planned to be there but the Twins just appeared as I was writing. Sometimes I will see someone and then I’ll imagine a story for them and put that version of them in. I’m a lot more likely to steal a look from someone than a character trait, I think. Though I may well do both. All authors are thieves.
What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Oh, generally making everything up as I go along. I tend to know the end before I start, that’s always useful so you know the place you’re aiming at. But the path used to get there is often as much of a mystery to me as (hopefully) it will be to the reader. I think that’s why I manage to write relatively quickly, I just let the story unfold, so it’s all a lot of fun.
How did you research A Number’s Game? Did you enjoy it?
I don’t generally do research. I’m lucky to have quite a wide knowledge base so I don’t have to do much. And I think what I do is very character based, so it’s about people rather than things. When I am doing research it’s often very specific things, like I know nothing about cars and Jackie loves high end cars so I had to find out about them.
If anyone reading this wants to give me some hands on experience of supercars so I can do a bit of practical research then by all means get in touch.
Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?
I have a few and I am very influenced by them. They tend to be American. One reviewer called A Numbers Game a British version of Hap and Leonard by Joe R Lansdale which was a huge compliment as I love those books. There’s also a lot of Robert Crais in there and Robert B Parker. Part of the thinking behind A Numbers Game was to do a British version of that very American wise cracking P.I. with a dangerous partner, and I think I succeeded. Reader reaction has mostly been that it’s both funny and thrilling, which is what you want.
Then there’s Mick Herron and James Lee Burke, who I are two writers I am in awe of really. But there are so many, a lot of writers I like have become friends so I’m wary about starting to name them as I always leave someone out.
Then there’s Agatha Christie who remains peerless. Miss Marple is probably my favourite detective.
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?
Big believer in never meet your heroes. Maybe Agatha Christie, I love Sherlock but I think Conan Doyle might be a bit difficult. Maybe William Hope-Hodgeson whose Carnacki books mix crime and the supernatural and he seemed interesting. The Hog and The Whistling Room by him remain the only stories that have ever genuinely frightened me. Maybe Iain M banks last, just so I can tell him how much I loved his Culture books.
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?
Any member of the current government.
Who would play the main character/s in a film version of A Number’s Game?
You get asked this a lot as a writer and it’s a question I can never answer. Jackie and Mal could walk past me in the street and I wouldn’t recognise them. I know exactly who they are and how they would act in any given situation, but as to who the TV or film people are likely to cast as them I have no idea. And I think that’s a good thing, cos it means you’re less precious. Titus Welliver is not Bosch as described in the books, but he absolutely is Bosch and I always thinks that;s what is brilliant about a good casting director. They find who is the character, but as long as Jackie is Asian and Mal is white the dynamic of the book is in place. I’m pretty easy on the faces.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Write. Grow and accidentally kill Bonsai trees. But mostly write.
What is next for you?
Well, two more Jackie and Mal books are written. And I recently finished a new project so that’s with my agent. Maybe more Mal and Jackie, depending on how well it does and if any of the TV people go with it. More writing generally, I like to write.
Book? LA Requiem by Robert Crais.
Film? A Muppet Christmas Carol.
Band/Singer? The Afghan Whigs. (My god this one is hard, so many bands I love and it changes daily.)
TV show? I’ve really enjoyed Bosch.
Biscuit? Plain Chocolate Digestive.
A Numbers Game is available from Amazon.
You can follow the rest of the blog tour here: