By Peter CarrollI came to writing novels relatively late in life. As a kid I was a book-worm, excelled at English in school, and loved creative writing. But, as I got older, science, rock n roll, alcohol, work and other such delights distracted me. I lost my fascination with literature and never seriously considered being a writer. Then, about four years ago, a friend let me read a novel they’d written. It was really good and we chatted about what had inspired her. She believed lots of ideas for books are lost to people because they don’t write them down when they are struck by that Eureka moment. I thought she might be right and found my interest in writing re-ignited; an ember of my childhood obsession began to glow.
One Saturday morning in 2010 I awoke at 6am, sun streaming through the curtains, surprised by how alert I was. I didn’t want to get up that early on a weekend and I tried to doze off. It didn’t work. However, as I lay there a scenario began to play out in my head; the interaction between two characters returning from the pub and a pivotal phrase. I remembered what my friend said about ideas and I got up, went downstairs, grabbed a pencil and a notepad, and began to write. At eight-thirty my wife and daughter came down to find me still writing. I’d knocked out about three thousand words. No structure, no plan, no idea where the story was going but I was buzzing. I was up and running as a writer and the ember burst into flames.
Fast forward to 2014 and I’ve had five novels published by a small independent called Raven Crest Books. I mainly write what’s often described as Tartan Noir. I prefer realism; if that means profanity and violence, then so be it. I enjoy taking the places and people I’ve known and exaggerating or embellishing them and, so far, I’ve had a pretty good reaction from readers.
None of my output has troubled the upper reaches of the Amazon bestseller chart, and I haven’t been able to give up my real job, but it has been a brilliant experience. I write as and when I can fit it in. Sometimes, when work is slow (I’m a self-employed ecologist), I can hammer down great chunks of a book but in (Stark) contrast, when I’m busy with work and chauffeuring my ice-skating daughter about, I might struggle to get much done at all. In any case, my working method is probably more than a little against best practice. I write in bursts, allowing ideas to ping pong back and forward, letting the story evolve organically, adjusting and re-editing as I go when a new idea scuppers an old one. I rarely have a plan or a set structure. My novel Pandora’s Pitbull arose from a single line in my debut novel In Many Ways for instance. I think this is in part a symptom of not being a full-timer and in part a reflection of my personality.
Despite this apparent chaos, as I’ve gone along, I think I’ve become a much better writer. I’ve learned so much by reading others – Tony Black included – and by absorbing as much advice and feedback as I can. My latest novel is called Drivers and I’m really proud of it. It’s a tale of unrequited love and murderous revenge, set in gangland Glasgow. My publisher and I have decided to use it as a shop window to the rest of my work and offer it for free for the foreseeable future, allowing a risk-free introduction to my writing. I hope some of you might give it a go and maybe even spend some of your hard-earned on my other stuff. I’m always grateful when folks do.
I would like to thank Tony for being so generous to an up and coming rookie and giving me this platform to tell you all a bit about myself. The support and encouragement of fellow authors like him has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this adventure so far.
And what of the future? Well, I’m currently working on Stark Reality - the third instalment of a police procedural series featuring an Alloa-based cop called Adam Stark. With the flame burning brightly in me again, I intend to keep writing; searching for that elusive key that unlocks the door to big sales. Maybe one day I’ll even be able to give up that day job.