‘My guest blogger today is Paul Anthony from Cumbria’s Lake District in the UK. Paul chatted to us back in March when he was a guest on Authors' Corner. Then he told us about his books and how he came to be a writer. As you may remember, Paul is a retired counter terrorist detective and published author. His latest project has been working with police writers in the UK and the USA (some of whom have never published work before and some of whom are well known). Paul and his colleagues have produced an anthology which I'd like to tell you about; it is called UNCUFFED and is a collection of short stories, poems and miscellaneous writings. Proceeds from the anthology are to be donated to COPS (Care of Police Survivors) – a charity dedicated to supporting police families following death on duty. To discover more about the anthology, the charity, and the police writers involved please visit this link http://paulanthonys.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/uncuffed_16.html .... Alternatively, you can visit the amazon.com site at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LUD03T4 .....
I have always been a reluctant blogger. I often feel that I am searching for things to write about that are not that important and would actually prefer to spend my writing time working on my novels. Not that blogs can't be interesting and worth reading - many of them are, especially when they are written by someone who knows what they are talking about. Others, however, can be repetitive and time-wasting. Nevertheless I have come to realise that if I want to let people know about what I write and why I write it, there is no better way than to write a blog. So I was pleased to get an invitation from Lorraine Mace, who also writes under the pen-name of Frances di Plino, to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. The idea is that each participant invites two or three other writers to join the tour and everyone answers the same four questions about their work. It's a bit like pyramid selling but no money changes hand. You can read Lorraine's blog here.
I have invited the following two authors to take part next week: Paul Anthony, a well-known writer of crime thrillers and Welsh writer and photographer,Jean Gill. The questions they will answer are:
WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
So now it's my turn to answer:
WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
I have just finished writing a novel entitled THE SHINING CITY and I'm at the self-publishing stage.
The novel is the story of a city, a city that is now in ruins and lies five kilometres outside of Cordoba in Spain: MADINAT AL ZAHRA. The story is set in the 10th century, a time when southern Spain was under the rule of the Moors. The ruler, Caliph Al Rahman III was rich, powerful and cultured. His caliphate was, at long last, at peace and the capital, Cordoba, was considered to be not only the most beautiful city in the civilised world but also the seat of learning and culture. Against this background we meet the artisan Qasim - he and his family have moved to Madinat al Zahra to make their fortune as potters.
Qasim is a good husband and father. He works hard, says his prayers and keeps out of trouble. But Qasim has a secret; his past is not what it seems. When a stranger arrives asking questions about him, and his youngest son falls in love with the caliph’s concubine, he realises that all he has worked for could be destroyed. He has to take action.
I have just finished putting the final touches to the book cover and published it as an ebook on Kindle. The paperback version is with the printers and I have other ebook versions to do, for Smashwords, Kobo etc. While I am waiting for the proof to come back from the printers I will start the marketing process again - and probably more blogging. I have a great idea for a new novel but that will have to wait for a bit. If only I had a marketing agent!
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
It's always difficult to categorise things exactly, especially something as wide-ranging as a novel. Some of my work could slot quite easily into Historical Fiction, but that in itself is a very broad category and doesn't tell you very much except that the story is set sometime in the past. If there is one thing all my books have in common it is their approach to women - they all have strong, female protagonists and the stories are about how they overcome adversity.
For many years I was a lecturer in Behavioural Studies and I am fascinated by the interactions between people of all ages and from all walks of life. My characters do nothing without a reason - I like to imagine what drives them to take the actions they do and show it to the reader.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
This is an interesting question. When I bemoan my lack of sales, my husband says that I should start writing books that sell: crime fiction, stories about vampires and time shifters, fantasy. I just shake my head. I write what I write because I enjoy doing it. I write about women because I know women; I know how their minds work; I know the problems women face daily; I know the discrimination that has shaped women's lives and still does, to some extent, today.
They say that you should write about what you know and that is one reason that many of my books are set in Spain - a country I have come to love.
I also write about history because I enjoy it. I love doing the research - in fact I sometimes have to curtail my reading because I could spend all my time researching instead of writing.
"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
There is a lot to be learnt from history that applies to the present day and I like to write books that say something meaningful.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
My writing process varies according to the stage that I am at. For example, once I have an idea, I make a draft outline of how I think the book will be then I list the characters and start creating them. Then, depending on the story, I may break off and start doing some research into the background. For example, when I wrote THE ONLY BLUE DOOR, I got the idea from an article in the newspaper about child migrants who were trying to trace their families. I was fascinated and began to read as much as I could about what had happened. In that case, it was only when I had fully researched the history of these events that I began to sketch out my story. That's the point when I try to adopt a work routine: start writing at 10am and keep going until 2pm. The morning is the best part of the day for me to work creatively. I prefer to monitor my progress through hours rather than a word count. I am not a writer who starts at the beginning and goes right through to the end; I am constantly rewriting, editing, rereading, cutting out characters, bringing in new ones. For me a word count does not reflect the amount of work that I've done. Until the book has been professionally edited and proof-read, it is not finished.
SO ON TO THE OTHERS:
Paul Anthony is the author of a dozen books which include the Boyd series and the Davies King series. Specialising in crime fiction thrillers, Paul is a retired British counter terrorist detective who populates his stories with a variety of very intriguing characters.
HE WILL BE HOSTING HIS PART OF THE TOUR FROM ... http://paulanthonys.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-blog-tour.html
Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a very big white dog, a scruffy black one, a Nikon D700 and a man. She taught English in Wales for many years and her claim to fame is that she was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is the mother or stepmother to five children so life has been pretty hectic.
JEAN WILL BE HOSTING HER PART OF THE TOUR FROM www.jeangill.blogspot.com
This week Authors' Corner chats to the crime thriller writer, Paul Anthony.
Good morning Paul, welcome to Authors’ Corner.
Thank you for the invitation, Joan.
You have a lot of successful novels, a collection of poetry, screen plays and film scripts to your credit. Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
I believe many of us are shaped as writers as we grow up. Work, and the environment in which we live, probably help define why we all become writers of some kind. I’ve written poetry since my early teens but moved into writing novels in 1994 when I finished 6 years of study with the Open University. One Sunday morning I woke up with no assignment to work on as I’d finally accomplished my degree. My wife suggested I should start work on the novel I’d been threatening to write all my life. So, like the down-trodden disciplined husband I am, I complied and sat down to write ‘The Fragile Peace’. It was published two years later and I’ve been scribing away ever since.
I see that you used to be a detective with the Cumbria Police Department. In BELL, BOOK & CANDLE is the detective, Boyd, based on your personal experiences?
I was a police officer for 33 years. I began walking the beat before becoming a police motor cyclist and then a motorway patrol officer in the Lake District. Eventually I moved into the finer arts of criminal investigation at local level and began climbing the career ladder. As time went by I worked with a regional perspective in mind before specialising in counter espionage and counter terrorism at the national and international level. I was always a Cumbrian officer but I worked with numerous police forces and agencies including the Metropolitan police anti-terrorist branch, the Security Service, and others. My stories are not based on true personal experiences as I am still subject to the Official Secrets Act and I am very well aware of the often fine line between truth and fiction. I’m afraid I have no secrets to divulge in the fiction that I write so the spies out there are going to be awfully disappointed. That said, when a doctor or surgeon writes a medical thriller they might use their background and knowledge to populate their story. Similarly, when a lawyer, barrister, teacher or scientist writes fiction then they too often use their experiences and professional knowledge to give authenticity to a tale. It’s completely correct to state that I use my background to give credence to the stories I write and you will find that is quite common amongst writers of my ilk.
Does this same detective reappear in other books? Or do you invent a new detective for each story?
The Boyd series is a stand-alone quadrilogy about a detective based in Cumbria who joins the police as a young man and works his way into the nation’s Special Crime Unit. Here, he works with various intelligence agencies and counter terrorist organisations. Boyd doesn’t always win – he’s a realist – but followers of the series will also be familiar with Boyd’s wife (Meg) and his elderly boss (Commander Herbert). The books are not just about a lone stereotypical male detective who always wins. They also bring to bear his second in command, Anthea, and an MI5 officer of equal standing called Antonia, as well as an ever-changing group of characters that populate the stories. So, the main characters are omnipresent, the supporting characters are constantly evolving, and each tale has a totally different background. The series is defined more adequately on my blogsite at http://paulanthonys.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-boyd-series.html
But I also feature a trilogy – soon to be a quadrilogy – about a south coast detective called Davies King. Davies works between Southampton and Brighton from a place called Crillsea. He is head of detectives in the area. A widower, Davies is also a chess-master who shuns his office and runs his police operation from the Anchor pub down at the harbor. He runs a network of criminal informants and professional contacts that range from the head of MI6, to the head of the Flying Squad via a market trader who has a finger in every pie ever baked. Again, the main character – Davies King – is surrounded by a selection of interesting characters. His best friends include a bomb disposal officer, a time-served detective from the RUC, and a female detective inspector, the chief constable, an elderly female administration officer, and a bunch of locals in the Anchor – some of whom have dubious backgrounds. Davies flies by the seat of his pants and gets involved in all manner of occurrences – from plain and simple murder to attacks on the nation’s infrastructure to international chases involving megalomaniacs. This series is much newer than the Boyd series and represents my current workload. I’d class this series as ‘thrillers’. The series is explained here.
How would you categorise your books - crime fiction or thrillers?
That’s probably one of the best questions I’ve been asked over the years. Your unspoken observations are spot on. I certainly don’t write ‘True Crime’ for reasons previously explained – and the fact that the administration of justice, practice, procedure and technology relative to ‘criminal investigation’ changes so often that it makes ‘True Crime’ a difficult genre to constantly master if you are planning to write multiple novels in that area.
Neither do I write ‘crime fiction’ in the strict genre of ‘murder/mystery’. I’ve been described on a number of occasions as a ‘multi genre’ writer in that I blend a mixture of history, crime, and adventure – sometimes a twist of romance – into the same work to deliver something unique to the reader. I would argue that much of my police work involved delving into the history of events. Murders usually involve a personal history of some kind. Terrorism and espionage have historic bases that can be quite complex and deeply rooted. For me, the most important part of the work is the characters and the relationships between them. They make the plot work. All I do is provide a unique realistic background to each book. I’d probably suggest my novels are more ‘thriller’ than ‘crime fiction’ and would plump for ‘crime thriller’ if I really had to choose a genre slot.
A lot of your work has a historical background. Which appeals to you most, writing about history or writing detective fiction?
I enjoy reading and researching history but take much more enjoyment from crafting and writing fiction.
Tell us about your working day? Does your schedule vary when you are writing or do you keep to a strict routine?
I don’t really have a schedule as far as writing goes. For example, I usually have a mug of coffee in the morning when I’m promoting my work on social media. Then I do the same again in the afternoon or early evening. I have accounts across multiple social media platforms and websites and tend to service them on a regular basis for between one and two hours a day depending on the day of the week and what else is going on in my life. Two days a week I don’t use social media at all. I write something every day – usually an article, poem or short story for one of my website partners (it’s part of my promotional activity) but when I’m writing a book or script I go into lockdown. By that I mean I write for as long as it takes – whatever it takes. I often write well into the night but my main writing is always done whilst on holiday. Beside the pool you’ll find me crafting stories, creating, destroying, recreating, carving out characters and describing their various traits as we build the story around them. The work is completed when we return to England. I’m very lucky in that my wife is an avid reader across many different genres and an editor of substantial experience. She is my sounding board but I also have two other editors who dissect the work for me. If the plot doesn’t work, we don’t use it. This philosophy works for me and proves the team.
You are obviously a very active blogger, Paul - does the time spent on social networking detract from your time to write?
I particularly use twitter, linkedin and facebook to promote my work every day and regularly service other social media accounts across the internet. I write articles for broowaha and the linkedin pulse magazine, as well as a few more online sites. I’ll also occasionally deliver a blog about a specific subject that interests me and I enjoy hosting other authors on my site just like you do. Delivering such writing achieves two things – one, it keeps my mind and writing skills honed, and two, it allows those reading my work to decide whether or not they are interested in the content and whether they might try one of my books. I believe in using my writing abilities to promote myself as a writer and author so I don’t really have a problem with working on social media. For me, it’s part of the writing challenge. I enjoy facebook particularly because it works very well for me and I can mix business with pleasure. Indeed, I decided long ago to be a truly independent publisher and author so I write when it suits me and market in a manner I enjoy. Securing a work-life balance is important even in retirement.
In the present climate, an author has to spend as much time marketing their books as writing them. It sounds as though you have found a balance that works for you.
I use my writing style and abilities as a promotional marketing tool by writing across multiple social media platforms and websites. I don’t have a problem with either element. Over the years I’ve noticed how numerous sites have moved from being ‘book recommendation’ sites to ‘event notification’ sites. I’ve retired from many such groups because they no longer function correctly for semi-professional committed writers like myself and are more useful for those seeking short term marketing opportunities. It is far too easy to get bogged down in such groups and forget what your real objective is. A long term commitment – over many years – relative to writing and consistent marketing is my preferred and proven strategy.
Which particular marketing tools have you found the most useful for your books?
I’ve tried many website providers over the years but prefer ‘blogger’. It’s easy to use and allows me to share my work with numerous other social media platforms – and the work of all my fellow authors on the site – to a wide audience that enjoys reading. Being able to ‘share’ content with multiple social media sites in an efficient and speedy manner is crucial in marketing in the digital age.
What are you working on at the moment?
I crafted and plotted ‘Breakwater’ at the end of last year. I bedded it down as is my usual practice – for a couple of months – and will very shortly bring it out of mothballs, dust it down, and write it from start to finish with a fresh mind before handing it to my editors. The work is #4 in the Davies King series and is set on the south coast of England. Ironically, the work begins near Barcelona in Spain just before the Second World War and unravels through time before exploding into a murder or two on the desk of Davies King – and there’s quite a bit of mysterious political intrigue in this one. I enjoyed crafting it and developing the plot but I shall shortly treat myself by writing it properly.
So where can readers find out more about you and your books, Paul?
My blogsite and a list of my books can be found at http://paulanthonys.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/the-paul-anthony-book-shop.html
I’m on twitter @paulanthonyspen and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PaulAnthonysPen
I can see that you are a very busy man, Paul, so thank you very much for taking time out to talk to us. I'm sure there are many fans eagerly waiting for the publication of the latest Davies King novel. Good luck with it.
Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.