Today I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for The Girl Downstairs. My post is shared with thanks to Zoe O’Farrell for inviting me on the tour and to Iain Maitland for answering my questions!
Have you always wanted to write?
Yes, it was always something I was going to do. I got into my early 50’s and thought if I don’t start writing creatively now, I never will. I then had 18 months of endless rejection by everyone. I finally got an agent who sold my memoir Dear Michael, Love Dad to Hodder the next day. I wrote a follow-up, Out Of The Madhouse with my eldest son Michael, for Jessica Kingsley Publishing and we then became ambassadors for the teenage mental health charity, Stem4. After that, I had a go at a thriller, Sweet William, which was picked up by Saraband, and it’s kind of rolled from there … Mr Todd’s Reckoning … The Scribbler … and now, The Girl Downstairs.
What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?
I’ve been a writer since my mid-20’s back in the late 1980’s. I wrote a lot of low-level business books – How To Write A Business Plan etc – but the internet killed those off. I then spent many years writing articles and newsletters on business and finance and property. This all gave me the discipline to write, stick to schedules and deadlines etc. It gave me the basics.
What was your inspiration for The Girl Downstairs?
One of my novels, Mr Todd’s Reckoning, was particularly well received and was picked up by Abbottvision for a TV series starring Paul Ritter. It featured an angry, middle-aged man who’d just been made redundant living with his unemployed son in a cramped bungalow during the longest, hottest summer on record and … something explosive was sure to happen. I wanted to go back to that set-up – two people trapped together in one place – and have another go at it but from a different direction.
How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?
The story – a middle-aged man, a young woman, a snowbound cottage – was easy enough to construct. I wanted the middle-aged man to be similar to Mr Todd so that readers of that novel would kind of know where I was going with the story. The young woman needed to appear innocent and vulnerable; again, so that readers know where we’re heading. I often take bits and pieces from people I know; based on my perceptions of them anyway. The main character is often an extreme version of me. A mad me, basically.
What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
At the start, I know roughly where I’m going – beginning, middle, end – but the story often takes on a life of its own as I’m writing. With The Girl Downstairs, the pivotal point was going to be the girl coming back with a baby she had stolen from a pram in a shop up the town – but that did not make it into the novel. And the ending, the epilogue – a real love or hate ending, I think – came to me as I wrote the last scene. It took me by surprise.
How did you research The Girl Downstairs? Did you enjoy it?
I hate research! I’m currently writing an Edwardian murder mystery novella, The Wickham Market Murder, set in 1907 and it’s agony. You write one short paragraph about a fellow sitting down for a smoke and it takes 15 minutes to research pipes and cigarettes and types of tobacco. There’s not a lot to research with The Girl Downstairs – the characters, their backgrounds, the location etc all came fully formed into my head.
Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?
Anne Tyler, Kent Haruf – family saga writers who tell big stories through the minutiae of life – are my favourites. I don’t actually read crime or psych thrillers not least because I don’t want anyone else’s plots, twists and turns and phrases etc in my head.
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?
I should probably name some really famous crime writers here, such as Agatha Christie, but, hand on heart, I would want it to be my Mum, Nan and Grandpa who were my family when I was young. They all passed away before this writing stuff started to happen for me. It would be nice to catch up. I’ve a movie coming of my thriller, Mr Todd’s Reckoning, and they’d be as thrilled as I am.
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?
Mr Adams, the lead character in The Girl Downstairs. I’d want to say to him “Don’t, just don’t.” – not that he’d take any notice of me.
Who would play the main character/s in a film version of The Girl Downstairs?
Ah well, when I first started writing it I was working on TV scripts with the actor Paul Ritter and I would have asked him to play the role of Mr Adams; a little bit of an in-joke as Paul’s real surname was Adams. For Rosie, in a magical, wonderful world, it would be the brilliant Rosie Day who, like me, is an ambassador the teenage mental health charity, Stem4.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spending time with my family mostly – my wife Tracey and my three children and their partners who all live close by. And we’ve a grandson, Jonah, one year old on 30 November 2021, and a new grand-daughter, Halley, born 7 October 2021, and every moment with them is very special.
What is next for you?
I’m currently working on three Edwardian murder mystery novellas featuring my detectives Bloomfield and Palmer and should finish these Christmas-ish. I’ve been invited to write three more pysch thrillers for Inkubator Books so they will take me through 2022. I have a movie of my thriller Mr Todd’s Reckoning being written and filmed in 2022 for release in 2023 and I will be heavily involved in that.
Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is probably the book I come back to most often over the years. There are shades of the brothers in my last thriller, The Scribbler.
The Shawshank Redemption. I wanted a cover like the classic Shawshank poster – arms open wide – on my first thriller, Sweet William. Instead, I got a toddler on a tricycle.
Um, probably Sparks. Always loved the quote attributed to John Lennon when he first saw them on Top Of The Pops and he rang Ringo to say, “Eh, Ringo, Marc Bolan’s on top of the pops with Hitler!”
Doctor Who. My late mum always used to say that, when I was small, I’d bounce up and down in my chair when the diddly-dee theme tune came on. It’s much the same today.
I’ve just turned 60 and I’m at that age when old men suddenly start wearing really bright colours. So it’s got to cerise pink for me.
My living room, Jonah on one arm, Halley on the other, jigging about to Disney music on my mobile phone. Life doesn’t really get much better than that IMHO.
Proper old Scottish shortbread with a mug of milky coffee – perfect!
The Girl Downstairs is available from Amazon.
You ccan follow the rest of the blog tour here: