As some of you will no doubt already heard, Crimesquad.com ace reviewer Graham Smith has recently had a short story anthology published with Trestle Press. Graham was kind enough to take time away from his writing, working, reviewing and family time to answer a few questions for me.
PG - You review books for Crimesquad. How did that come about?
I attended the Harrogate Crime Festival for the first time in 2009 and when I was outside chilling with a beer and a cigarette I got talking to a guy who was with crimesquad.com. As an avid reader I’d scoured the papers for reviews but had never found a good place to get regular reviews. As I was aware that the festivities were getting a good grip of my senses (I was half cut) so I sent myself a text to remind me of the website. And cheekily asked ‘any jobs going’ I was then asked to write a review of a book I’d recently read and let them see it. Then next day I begged a sheet of paper and a pen from the hotel receptionist and wrote a review of Pig Island by Mo Hayder between panels. I then sweet-talked said receptionist into typing it up for me and handed it in. Luckily it was accepted as was I and then it was a case of waiting for books to arrive. My first review was of Val McDermid’s Fever of the Bone. Talk about in at the deep end! While I receive no payment for my reviews, being involved with crimesquad.com has seen me receive a constant supply of excellent books and access to authors that I’d never dreamed I’d get to meet let alone interview.
PG - Have you always written, or was it something that developed as you reviewed other people's work?
For the last eighteen months or so I’ve slogged away distractedly at my debut novel. About three months ago Col Bury got me into short story writing and here I am published. I cannot believe how quickly it’s happened for me and am really grateful for the support and opportunities I‘ve received. The reviewing has definitely useful in writing terms, as I now read with more of an eye on the technical side of things and have a much greater understanding on the mechanics of writing.
PG - Who was the most interesting person you ever interviewed?
That’s a tough and unfair question to ask as every interview was a great experience for me. I didn’t just get to meet my heroes; I got to ask them my own questions in a private one on one setting. I’ve talked Bond with Jeffery Deaver, questioned Lee Child about Tom Cruise, discussed Harpo Marx with Dennis Lehane, Grouch Marx with Jeff Lindsay, asked Joseph Finder why he let himself be locked into a coffin and so on and so forth. The Craig Russell interview I did last year was a particularly enjoyable one as what should have been a half hour interview turned into a two and a half hour discussion on crime writing when we sat in the sun drinking, I learned a lot from him that day. Stephen Leather also gave a great interview at Harrogate this year and when he told me a forthcoming plotline the hairs on my arm stood erect. Add to that the fact I got to interview friends such as Sheila Quigley and Matt Hilton and you’ll understand why I’ve rambled on instead of giving a straight answer.
PG - What genres most attract you to write them and why?
Being new to writing, I don’t think so much of genres as stories. If I have a story in my mind I’ll write it regardless of which pigeonhole people will place it. I always try to have a crime element and something of a mystery in what I write although some would say that Lonely Nights (which is included in 11 The Hard Way) is a psychological horror. Basically it was written because I wanted to try and create tension for both reader and character.
PG - You've just released an anthology named "11 the hard way" on Kindle. Tell us a little bit about the stories it contains.
It is a cross genre collection of stories featuring a gumshoe detective, a missing bride, prostitutes under threat from a rapist killer and cops hunting a seriously twisted killer. There is also the tale of a camping trip gone wrong, a light hearted look at the work of an assassin, the couple who took a wrong turn on honeymoon, the night school attendee who fears a stalker, the aforementioned Lonely Nights where a lone woman hears noises in the night and the tale of the man whose wife was killed in front of him.
PG - What other projects do you have on the go?
I have a Bogart style gumshoe detective called Harry Charters who has had a couple of blog outings. I plan to add a few more stories to his portfolio and bring out a chronicles style EBook quite soon. I also have my novel which needs finished although I’m half minded to try for print publication with that one first.
Where do you stand on the E-book versus print book argument?
Each has their virtues and failings. Personally I’m at a crossroads. I’m e-published but I don’t own a kindle and have no desire to by one. Yet I have Kindle for PC on my laptop. I prefer to hold a book in my hands when I’m reading but at the same time I am the first to acknowledge that without e-publishing I’d never have a short story anthology published within three months of writing the first story.
PG - Who is your favourite author?
That’s like asking my favourite arm. I have friends who are authors and to choose one would offend others. Can I say a fantastic new Scottish author called Graham Smith?
PG - What book is on your bedside table right now? (Keeping it clean, of course).
Blood Falls by Tom Bale. His books are fine old fashioned thrillers like Alistair MacLean wrote.
PG - So you work full time, have a wife and child, review books and still manage to find time to write. What's your secret?
Little sleep. I’m rarely in bed before midnight and read when I do go to bed. I often wake up early and get an hours reading in before the rest of the household wakes up. My days off work tend to be midweek when my son is at school so I can often get a good five or six hour’s uninterrupted writing before collecting him from school. Daniel and my wife will always get first refusal on my attention, but both allow me time to write.
PG - Do you find yourself checking Amazon fifteen times a day to check your ratings? I know I would.
It’s hard to…….sorry just popped across to check my rankings……resist but it’s only been a few days and after the initial surge when I really pushed it on Sunday things have plateaued somewhat. The reviewer in me has me checking to see if anyone has reviewed it. Hint. Hint.
PG - How do you feel about the current state of the traditional publishing industry, and do you think that E-publishing with publishers like Trestle will become more popular with authors frustrated by the current situation?
It is no secret that few publishers and thus agents are taking a chance on new authors. Stephen Leather has come up with the best idea I’ve heard. Namely a publishing house releases a group of authors digitally and the ones who sell well get a book deal. Simples!
Thank you Graham for taking time out from your busy schedule, and best of luck with 11 The Hard Way, which is available from Amazon for download. Once again my links seem to not be working but if you fancy taking a look then cut and paste the link below into your address bar.