Morgen Bailey’s Blog interview no.26 with crime/thriller author and playwright Tom Bryson
Welcome to the twenty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found at http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/blog-interviews.
MB: Hello Tom. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
TB: I was born and grew up in Northern – the North of – Ireland, in the historic city of Derry – Londonderry aptly coined ‘Stroke City’. (Ah, the subtleties of cultural identity).
MB: I presume that’s more ‘oh dear’ than ‘ooh er missus’.
TB: I’ve lived and worked in the West Midlands of England in engineering, local government and public transport. My specialisms are HR, training consultancy and writing.
MB: Ah ha, ‘writing’.
TB: I live and write in the attractive village of Kinver in south Staffordshire.
MB: Not a county I’ve had much experience of (like a lot of people with mine) but it sounds nice.
TB: I write novels, plays and short stories. I’ve always enjoyed making up yarns, writing them, telling them, since I was at school. Then life and greater things came my way; a wonderful wife, a young family, chasing a career, paying a mortgage – you know, those kind of incredible life forming adventures.
MB: I do, except for the wife/family and the only career I’m chasing is this one.
TB: So, isn’t life just grand!
MB: You know Tom, actually yes it is.
TB: And I still kept on making up yarns, writing stories.
MB: Yay! What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
TB: Mainly crime/thriller novels. My playwriting and short stories are more eclectic – or to put it another way; I write about what comes into my head at the time!
MB: That’s a good plan and I’d say that eclectic keeps it from being mundane. What have you had published to-date? How much of the marketing do you do?
TB: My crime/mystery novel ‘TOO SMART TO DIE’ is now published in print (available from Lulu.com) or as an e-book on amazon for the kindle and other e-readers. I’ve had short stories published in anthologies, some radio broadcasts and plays professionally directed and performed in English West Midlands theatre/arts venues. (Details are on my website www.tombrysonwriter.co.uk).
MB: Ah ha, that answers my next question as to whether your are books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?
TB: Available? Yes. On Amazon.com as an e-book and on Lulu.com as a print book. (Publisher TJB E-BOOKS). Check out Tom Bryson and TOO SMART TO DIE on both websites. The experience was good. However, you must work at the detail. Layout, margins, indents, fonts, formatting, decisions about HTML, Text, Word, RTF, pdf, epub, et al have to be thought through. If you don’t get this stuff at the start DON’T WORRY but you must be prepared to learn the SPECIFIC STUFF that applies in your case – not all of it does! In fairness it’s not high tech, but depending on what route you go you will have to face these nerdy terms – and take the learning curve. I’m no techie geek – but it’s doable.
MB: That’s good to hear. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
TB: Yes – an article in a magazine about negotiating pocket money with my kids. Thrills are forever.
MB: Ah that’s nice. ‘Nice’, sorry a bit insipid but ‘nice’ gets a raw deal sometimes so I’m going to use it. On the other side of the literary coin, have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
TB: Many. Get over – get on.
MB: I love that. So I will. What are you working on at the moment / next?
TB: My latest novel is nearing completion – once again featuring Birmingham-based DCI Matt Proctor from ‘TOO SMART TO DIE’ – whose murder investigations now take him into the deadly world of sport’s spot-fixing gambling syndicates. Provisional title ‘IN IT FOR THE MONEY’. I’m also developing an e-book publishing venture with the support and encouragement of my (‘long-suffering writer’s’) wife Jane and various offspring expertise.
MB: Very, very important. My hound is 100% behind me (unless he’d rather play with a toy or go to the park).
TB: The support and encouragement I get from my beloved Wolves football team’s performances is another matter! (Mick McCarthy – talk to me, please – hey, Mick, I’ll sell you a copy of TOO SMART TO DIE for a player’s hourly rate!)
MB: I don’t follow football at all so I can’t help you but are you talking Wolves or Premier League (or are Wolves in the Premier League?). See, I did say I knew nothing about the sport, so back to what I know… Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
TB: Try to, don’t always succeed. When in my novel writing schedule I aim for 1000 words a day. Best? 3000.
MB: What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
TB: Don’t understand it. Just write. It’s like work – get on with it.
MB: Again succinct; something tells me you’re good at editing. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
TB: I get a nugget, a germ of an idea, expand that. I do a short synopsis, expand that. Then I try to focus on the central character and the other main characters, then I outline the story. The main bits – start, key scenes, climax, resolution, end. Then I write a short summary of the major scenes, a few sentences. But I leave a lot of gaps! I need that kind of structure and space to get me going – and I need the gaps – believe me, what happens then when I start to write doesn’t follow the ‘script’.
MB: Same with me, and I’d say most writers. Speaking of which, do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
TB: Yes. Unless someone turns on the (day) light.
MB: Ha ha. Do you write comedy Tom? What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
TB: Best: just flying.
MB: Ooh not me, I don’t like flying but it gets me to where… ah, you mean… sorry, too early in the morning. Yes, absolutely, get an idea and run with it.
TB: Worst: a) feeling guilty about being a selfish recluse; b) feeling proud about being an arrogant egotist.
MB: The recluse is the bit I like (see earlier references to no family / patient dog). Arrogant egotist? Presumably through your characters of course Tom. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
TB: Enjoy – and find your voice. Read.
MB: I think new writers worry too much about how to find their voice. Just write and it’ll come. We all speak differently don’t we? And you’re unlikely to copy anyone else unless you have their book in front of you and copy specific sections. Just have fun. What do you like to read Tom?
TB: Novels, some newspapers, well-argued social/political analyses, sports articles, arts/music/innovative ideas.
MB: A healthy mixture for a healthy brain.
TB: I avoid celeb books and cooks, their PR shit, war history (nobody learns).
MB: Some people like that stuff; we have a war window in the Red Cross shop every autumn and it’s hugely popular, as are celeb books but I’ve not seen the appeal either.
TB: I read a lot of other stuff as well.
MB: Me too. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
TB: Yes, see my website. (www.tombrysonwriter.co.uk)
MB: And http://www.tombrysonwriter.co.uk/links lists three other recommended websites. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
TB: UK: It’s a great help living here in terms of writing – but UK publishers/agents need to rethink their approach. (I stand to be corrected, please step forward, guys).
MB: Hee hee. Let’s hope they’re reading this.
TB: Listen – the UK industry is sleepwalking into crisis with the explosion of e-books and the kindle and other e-readers. All hail the writer!
MB: I’m so glad you think that, some writers are worried (especially when they realise how many of us are trying to do the same thing).
TB: US: I envy US based crime writers who have so much more help and access than we do.
MB: I’d not thought of it like that but I guess being in a bigger country helps? Someone, feel free to correct me with specifics here. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
TB: Interesting how you pose the question!
MB: You’re not the first person to say that, not sure why I said ‘invaluable’ rather than ‘valuable’ but glad I did now.
TB: Now what I find ‘invaluable’ (i.e. priceless, above value) is what brings me book readers first then buyers. I’m ‘goal focused’. Listen – there are sound reasons why people do social networking – I’m not knocking it. But ‘invaluable’? I’m on LinkedIn – good writer links there and discussions – good for professional people – but no great help yet in selling my book!
MB: Lots of people are there to tout so maybe people are too used to glazing over as soon as they see a link? I think the best thing for any writer to do is keep up with discussions and when asked, tout.
TB: Wary of Facebook – think it’s for the very young, but hey I may be wrong, how young is young and what’s it for anyway? Twitter – will it bring my books to a wider audience, sell them? You tell me – seems it’s for 140c celebs desperate for publicity and …well, perhaps that’s all they can manage. (Valuable – invaluable?).
MB: My site stats say about a tenth of my blog views are from Twitter and Facebook so not huge but for me I like the interactivity as well. Connections will be important when I have something to say but building the audience, for me certainly, is the important / fun bit.
TB: I’m a member of Bridgnorth Writers Group whose feedback and advice I much appreciate.
MB: Aren’t writing groups great? My Monday nighters and I have been together about six years and although they don’t hold back (which is vital) they explain where something’s going wrong or right as point out things I’d never either guess or thought about because I’m too close to the story. Where can we find out about you and your work?
MB: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
TB: Probably…next time.
MB: Absolutely. Happy to have a re-match.