Breathe… if you dare.
English countryside, 1958. The idyllic village of Olney St. Mary has stood in its peaceful location for over 900 years.
Until one day, when two teenage boys are struck by a mysterious illness. The newly arrived Doctor Hilary Newton suspects a common flu to be the cause of their malady. Before long, the doctor and residents of Olney St. Mary are plunged into a nightmare, as the disease ravages the local population. Despite the doctors employing the latest medicine available, the death toll keeps rising.
Someone in the village knows the reason behind the pestilence that has struck at the heart of the village, but can the medics learn the truth before it’s too late, or will they join the growing list of names that appear on the death roll in Olney St. Mary?
- Describe your experience dreaming fueling an idea for a story.
This began a few years ago. I simply woke up one morning and turned to my wife Juliet, and said, “I just dreamed a great plot for my next book.” I dreamed about the story in general, the opening, and how it would end. I decided to give it a go and once I started working on the book, the characters kind of developed a life of their own and they drove the story forward as I typed each chapter. I made a few changes to the original dream version of the story simply to add areas of drama and tension to the basic premise. When I completed the book, and read it through before went to my editor I was surprised at how closely the finished article coincided with something that came to me in my sleep. That book was A Mersey Killing, http://getbook.at/Mersey Killing which went on to become an Amazon #1 bestseller and my publisher loved it so much they asked me if I could develop the book into a series. That was the birth of my successful Mersey Mystery series and I’m currently working on the 9th book in the series.
- Which of your books/series have been done this way?
Once I learned to trust my ability to dream storylines and more importantly to retain them when I woke up, (sometimes in the early hours of the morning), I can honestly say that at least four more of the books in the series, A Mersey Maiden, A Mersey Mariner, A Very Mersey Murder, and The Mersey Monastery Murders can be attributed in some way to my dreams.
- How do you determine if the idea is viable enough to commit an entire novel?
Good question. The only way I can make that determination is by starting the process of writing the book. If I manage to get the first three or four chapters written and I’m confident that I can go forward with the concept, I will keep going until the book is completed. If I begin a book and immediately find myself struggling with the story or the continuity of the tale, I will stop writing put it into my pending file and leave it for another time, in case it eventually adds up in my mind and I’m able to return to it and complete the project.
- How long does it typically take for you to write a book?
One of my Mersey Mystery series will typically take between 6 months to a year to complete. The includes the research, writing and all checks and edits prior to submitting to my publisher.
- Describe your creative process for fleshing out an idea once it’s there.
As I said earlier my books are heavily character-driven, and the central characters of my series have grown and developed as the series has progressed, so I find those characters almost have a life of their own in my mind. So, I can create, a storyline and situations within that story, and ‘allow’ my characters to direct the way they will react to any given circumstances. It’s really a lot of fun, letting those fictional characters take over my thoughts so far, I haven’t been disappointed with the results.
- Do you have a routine when it comes to editing your books?
I have a great editor, and together we make a good team. Over the years we’ve developed a routine where, as I write, I will send one or two chapters at a time to her and she immediately checks and edits the work. Once I have agreed and made any changes those chapters go into a separate document which will form the final book. When completed, the finished book then undergoes a final edit which includes a line by line spelling and grammar check.
- Do you utilize beta readers?
Before I found my editor I used to have a small team of Beta readers but nowadays I find them unnecessary and generally just use one of them who I retained as a final ‘fail safe’ for checking the manuscript.
- How much are you influenced by feedback by others during the process?
My wife is one of my fiercest critics and she reads and comments on my work as the book progresses. The only other feedback I take notice of is that of my editor, researcher and sole Beta reader.
- How do you perform research for your books?
Most of my books contain some references to real events in the past so I spend a lot of time involved in historical research to ensure that any references to true events in the past are as accurate as possible.
I also have a terrific researcher, a lady called Debbie Poole, who lives in Liverpool. As my Mersey Mystery books are set in and around that city, it’s important that any and all references to places on the city are accurate and reliable. Nowadays, I live in Yorkshire and the Liverpool of my youth really has changed so much that my own memories of streets, buildings and roads are just not up to date, so Debbie’s knowledge is of vital importance to the books.
I can give you a good example of her contributions to the books. When I was working on Last Train to Lime Street, I needed to find a suitable piece of railway track, close to a road bridge, which could be used as a ‘body dump’ site. Debbie spent days driving around Liverpool, stopping the car, peering over the edges of various Bridges, looking for a suitable site, one which had to have hedges and trees close to the tracks. She found the perfect location which I used in the book. We had a laugh at the time wondering how she would reply if a police officer followed and approached her and asked her why she was looking over the parapets of various bridges. We could just imagine his reaction if she replied in all honesty, “Oh, I’m just driving around looking for a suitable body dump site!” She’s so committed to the books, that I simply couldn’t manage without her expertise.
- What kind of advice would give to new aspiring authors?
I’ve been asked that question many times. I think the best advice I can give is first of all, read, read and read some more. When asked how to be a good writer that was exactly what Charles Dickens replied. So yes, read as much as possible, your favourite authors if possible and try to learn from them in terms of writing styles, sentence construction etc.
When you’ve actually written a book, if it’s good enough a publisher will eventually show an interest, but expect to receive a few rejections once you start submitting the work to publishers. It happens to the best authors, treat rejections as an occupational hazard. It might take a while but if you’re confident you have a good product, don’t lose faith and maintain your self-belief. If it’s good enough, you will eventually find a publisher. Don’t give up and don’t be afraid of occasional harsh criticism. If it’s constructive then it can be helpful.
- What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on the ninth book in my Mersey Mystery series, The Mersey Ferry Murders. Convicted rapist/murderer Howard Blake has died in prison. Now someone appears to be viciously killing the members of the jury that convicted him of the crimes, to which he always pleaded he was innocent of committing. Detective Inspector Andy Ross leads his Specialist Murder Investigation Team in search of the unknown killer, as the body count grows!
A Short Biography