Monday, 3 June 2013

HARD TRUTHS (Cross-examining crime writers)

WRITING, as everyone knows, is a tough business. Just when you think you've got on top of the tricky craft aspects along comes the even trickier feat of finding an agent. Then a publisher. Then the industry changes and you find yourself doing the agent and publisher's job too.

If I was to track the bumps in the road to calling myself an author, I wouldn't know where to start. I had about ten years in the wilderness and five novels gathering dust before I got a break with Random House. Six novels later, the only thing I'm sure about is that it's a constant learning process ... and, nothing like what I thought it might be.

I've spoken to dozens of writers about the business of putting words on a page and always found that it's a familiar tale; no-one (well, precious few) have it easy. It's filled with face-slaps and rejection. We all have our horror stories, my own personal favourite is being told by two separate London publishers, on the same day, "We're not looking for a Scottish writer ..." and "We have a Scottish writer". There was also an American agent who wanted to turn my breakthrough novel's protagonist, Gus Dury, into a "bonnie Scotch lassie" but I simply stored that away in the 'insane/hilarious shit' file.

Writers trade this stuff like football stickers. At a gig with Russel McLean once he regaled the audience with a tale of one manuscript coming back covered in crayon and a note attached saying, "As you can see my child didn't rate it much either". Appalled? You should be. But in an industry where the upheaval has been seismic recently - giving everyone with an internet connection a voice - writers get used to it; opinions are like arseholes etc ...

I like Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh's attitude to critics, which he outlines in one of three interviews I've conducted with him, all featuring in Hard Truths ...

"If they were any good they would have done it themselves and be selling truckloads. But they ain't, and I am. I know this, they do too. Enough said."

Another Scottish author, William McIlvanney, recounted the halcyon days of gentlemen reviewers, who thought twice about "annihilating an author" because they generally had a book of their own on the way.

Their wisdom - and that of many more like them - is gold. And crime writers like to share, it's said they're the nicest of the writing bunch because they get all their angst out on the page, for the opposite reason, romance writers are the ones to watch, allegedly.

When I started interviewing the crime writers in this collection, about five years ago, it was a way of providing content for the nascent Pulp Pusher site. That was it, plain and simple; the idea of gathering their collected wisdom wasn't on my mind. But, slowly, I found myself quoting back the interviewees' responses to reading groups, students, my own interviewers and just about anyone else who would listen. So, I asked myself why? The answer was obvious, and I thought, well worth sharing.

Hard Truths (Cross-examining crime writers) features my interviews with the likes of Ian Rankin, Andrew Vachss, Allan Guthrie, Ken Bruen and a long list of others. The book clocks in at about 85,000 words - and I can vouch for the quality all of them.

:: HARD TRUTHS is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.