Friday, December 14, 2012

Interview 07: Neal James

Greetings humans, half-breeds, and everything in between. A while back, I had the pleasure to interview my new friend, Neal James. He has been visiting the ECS as a guest and sharing loads of interesting insights into his work. Be sure to look around and see what he has to offer. Here are the results of our interview. A good time was truly had by all, and here’s how it went down.
Hi there Neal! It’s so awesome to have you here at the ECS Universe. Don’t worry about the darkness, your eyes will adjust.

 So tell me, who is Neal James?
I am Neal James, UK crime writer with three novels and an anthology already in publication. I began writing in 2007, found my publisher in 2008 and have my fifth book due out in early 2013. I have been married for 36 years and have two grown-up children. By day I am an accountant working for a power company in the East Midlands, and thirty plus years in the accountancy profession has provided me with a wealth of data for my fiction.

Well doesn’t that just sound pleasant; I mean it. It’s nice to know of someone having two careers and enjoying both. Maybe you don’t enjoy accounting as much as writing, but the former does gives you data for the later and that sounds pretty cool to me.

So whacha got for me today?
Two Little Dicky Birds’, my third novel, was published in 2010. It tells the story of a serial killer, operating all over England, who was responsible for 18 murders between 1975 and 1992. In 2002 he returns and gives the Metropolitan Police 28 days to stop him embarking upon a fresh killing spree. The book charts the careers of several members of the New Scotland Yard force as they pull out all the stops to catch the perpetrator.

I can definitely sense the professional in you. This description is one of the best I’ve heard and it actually sounds compelling, as opposed to being told that it is.  I don’t know how old this killer is supposed to be, but with 27 years of terror behind him and can’t wait to find out what conspires over those 28 days.

 So who’s starring in this 2 dimensional script read of ‘Two Little Dicky Birds’?

Colin Barnes is the Detective Chief Inspector at the centre of the plot of ‘Two Little Dicky Birds’, and the story tracks his humble beginnings in London’s East End, his suffering at the hands of a brutal father, and the fortunes of him, his mother, and the two women who shape his future life and career. His ambitions and tragedies are laid bare as he overcomes a succession of hurdles in his pursuit of the infamous serial killer, ‘Petey’.

Talk about a strong well developed character. This guy sounds like he has enough problems, yet he still takes on the burden to solve this mystery and bring down this killer. He sounds like the kind of hero who’d rather not be, but is just doing the right thing. I love these kinds of heroes and write about them myself. I have a feel that his determination probably puts a strain on his relationships, but I guess I’ll just have to read it to find out.

 Past, present, future, is there a rhyme or reason to your writing?
I write when the mood takes me, otherwise my stories will merely appear ‘forced’. I tend to have more than one book on the go at any one time, and this gives me an outlet should one of them come up against a brick wall. I use spreadsheets to organize my plots – that way I can see at a glance what is happening to each of my characters and plot lines.

I will take characteristics of my ‘cast’ and the stories which involve them from a variety of sources. These may or may not include real life, pure imagination, hints and clues from TV and film dramas, and snatches of conversation.

All of my writing takes place in my study, and in complete silence. I can’t have background noise from the radio or TV, as this is too distracting. A mug of tea or coffee is always in attendance. I am currently working on two novels. ‘Three Little Maids’ is the sequel to this year’s book ‘Full Marks’ – a detective novel featuring DCI Dennis Marks, who finds himself at the centre of an IPCC investigation. ‘Dreamer’ is the paranormal tale of a young man with the power to make his own dreams come true.

Wow, you are so methodical and I love it. I may have to try spreadsheets. I usually keep a running entry of plot points to see where I am when writing. Like you I also like silence, but find that if I need inspiration, I go looking for just the right soundtrack. Even now you keep yourself busy and creative. I’m much the same, always writing something. To be perfectly honest, as much as I’m now looking forward to ‘Two Little Dicky Birds’, ‘Dreamer’ is more my type of tale. I’m so into that.

What author(s) has most influenced your writing? Why or how?
James Patterson – his short, punchy crime chapters are real page turners, and my style emulates his.

Isaac Asimov – my 2015 novel ‘The Rings of Darelius’ is set very much with his style in mind, and also takes inspiration from ‘Star Trek’.

Thomas Hardy – his descriptive text in the Wessex Novels has a masterful touch, and I am a great admirer. I have all of his novels.

It’s true that avid readers make the best writers. It’s easy to see that you’ve learned quite a bit from reading great authors…and what a selection this is. Very nice.

 Whose brain are you just itching to scratch?
James Patterson. I love the Alex Cross character and Patterson has the ability to MAKE me keep on turning the pages. I’d like to know how he builds up the strengths and flaws in the character.

I must admit that I haven’t actually read Patterson, except for his ‘Middle School’ book (research for my niece), but have seen movies based on his work. I know shame on me, there’s one more author I need to add to add to my TBR list.

Who is so you and why?
I’ve been told by friends in the States that my writing reminds them of that of John Grisham. Having read several of the author’s books, I am completely blown away by the comparison. As for fictional characters, my own Dennis Marks carries many of the character traits which I have myself, and that is probably why I find him so easy to write about.

There are a few actresses I was told I looked like when I was younger, but I don’t really get compared to others much. A comparison to John Grisham sounds pretty sweet. I too find that I’m like my character Mira or that she’s like me, but she looks more like my sister.

What’s your ideal reading spot for your next highly anticipated read?
I am, or rather was, sitting with a coffee, reading ‘Dune Messiah’ – the second in the ‘Dune’ series written by frank Herbert. I have the radio on for background noise when I am reading – I can handle that. The book is paperback (I find them easier to handle), and I have read it before. This, for me, is never a problem, as there is always something that I will have missed on the last occasion. This series compares to Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ collection, and the characters within its pages stand out in three dimensions – a real tribute to the writer.

Now that sounds lovely and cozy. I love to hear of the ways others appreciate a good read. I very seldom re-read a book, but I do every now and then. For convenience, I read a lot of ebooks, but I always have a paperback or hardcover around for when I just need to feel the pages in my hands. 

What was your favorite book or story, pre teen years?
Pre-teen, I was a fan of theBiggles series of books, simply because of the nature of the adventures that he went through. It’s hard to explain why that should be, some 50 years later and I haven’t read any of them since.

I’m not familiar with ‘Biggles’, but now I have to check it out. Not that there’s any reason to be ashamed, but sometimes I don’t like to admit that I still read Peter Pan stories; J.M. Barrie left a mark on me …Now this where the questions get a little kooky; are you ready?


Alright then, here we go.

If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Roman Polanski’sTess. This is the screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ and is beautifully shot in a perfectly true portrayal of rural life.
I’ve heard of this film before, but have never seen it. I usually try to stay away from controversial directors, but if I really did that, I’d hardly have anything to watch.

What makes you geek out?
Science Fiction – I take it all in, and am constantly amazed at the concepts explored by the likes of Asimov and Herbert, writing many years before their time. I look at series like Star Trek TNG’ and marvel at the gizmos which are in common use – tools about which Asimov wrote in the 1970s and 1980s

I too have a love for sci-fi, but only because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. May father is the true Science Fiction authority in our family.

 So what’s testing your patience right now?

‘Full Marks’ will be coming out in 2013, and is currently being typeset by my publisher, Pneuma Springs. The patience angle will come in with the checking of the proofs, and I’m really excited about this book as it will contain illustrations for the first time.

‘Full Marks’ sounds very exciting and the addition of images is sure to be interesting.

When the soundtrack of your life is playing in your head, what songs express your glee and what songs bring out your rage?
So many, but I suppose Simon & Garfunkel must be right up there at the top. Homeward Bound’ <=listen takes me back to my student days and the trip home at the end of term. I’m also a fan of Puccini, and have leaned several of his operatic solos – this brings in the likes of Pavarotti and Boccelli.

This is so cool. I’m no expert, but I too have an appreciation for opera. I actually have a vinyl album of the 1956 stage presentation of La Boheme.  I’m even less of an artist than I am an authority on opera, but I have several Simon & Garfunkel records, including an instrumental, which I like to listen to when I paint.

What’s the most fun experience you’ve ever had, to date?
I suppose that would probably be going to Disneyland Paris with the entire family, for the first time, in 1996. Three generations all having the times of our lives over the course of four days.

That does sound fun and endearing. I’m sure it will be a cherished memory for years to come.

 Remind me again how I was lucky enough to meet you?

It was a few weeks ago, and on one of the reading and writing groups on Linkedin, where we are both members.

Oh yeah, that’s right. I just keep on making new connections from there.

Not that you can see into the future, but in your opinion, what does the future hold?

The future holds a further six books and a host of enjoyment in getting them out there, and doing the promotional and marketing work. I love standing in book shops at signings, and just talking to people about fiction.

What I great outlook. I truly hope it comes to pass and with the way you’re going now, it’s sure to.

Ok humans, half-breeds, and everything in between, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next. For more from Neal James, check out these great links:

Amazon book links-
Two Little Dicky Birds, Threads of Deceit