Today I’ve got an interview with Barry Crowther. Barry has been voted the Indie Author Rockstar for December over on IndieAuthorRockstar.com, with his novel “Missing” being picked as the winner from a very strong field. You can find out more about Barry, and the novels he has written, over on his site at barrycrowther.com
JGA: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Barry. To start with, can you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got started writing?
BC: I’ve wrote about this a couple of times on my blog. I wasn’t a natural writer and took a long time working on craft. Joined a writers group (back in the UK) and received my (large) share of poor reviews until one day there was a silence. Nothing critical. Wrote a ton more in the short story form, got a little praise, then got a couple of shorts published.
That was the encouragement I needed to start on my first novel. It didn’t have legs but it was a great start and I snagged an agent right away. We didn’t continue to work together and I moved to the USA (California) then decided to try the Indie route. I had faith in my own ability and have a little sales and marketing chutzpah. The rest is history.
JGA: How do you go about the actual process of writing?
BC: I work really hard in my consultancy between 7:30am and 1pm. As soon as the clock strikes one, I’m outta there and into the same Starbucks every day. The staff know me, same drink, earphones in (a solo Noel Gallagher is my latest inspiration) and I blitz the words. I don’t leave until I have hit 1500 words, usually around 3:30pm.
Scrivener is a big help with all this stuff. It’s a (British) piece of software that is incredible for fiction writers. I didn’t believe in software but as an IT consultant I can’t ignore it. I tried just about everything and most were crap or almost there – but not quite. Scrivener is the real deal and for the price I think every fiction writer should grab a copy.
JGA: I use Scrivener myself, and couldn’t imagine going back to a standard word processor for the writing process! Changing focuse from writing to reading, how do you personally like to read books you buy these days?
BC: Slowly and begrudgingly I am moving to iPad using the Kindle app. I’ve been an iPad user from the start (Gen One) and got a couple of books including my own to see how they formatted on the screen. Now it’s just too damned convenient. This weekend for example I was looking for a book I refer to occasionally and I just couldn’t find it. Maybe I lent it to someone, can’t remember, so I looked it up on Amazon and was referring to it in minutes on my iPad. Saved myself a ton of time.
Yes, the experience is different but it’s not bad. I’m a compulsive gym rat and let me tell you it’s easier touching a screen to turn a page when you’re doing an uphill run than trying to grab at pages.
The only thing about this style of reading is the disparity in pricing. I still don’t get it how publishing houses think they can charge almost the same price for an electronic version of a book? We (the general public) know the margins in eBooks are massive compared to the physical product so where do these price gouging fuckers get off charging $12.99 for a Kindle version? They are just taking the piss!
JGA: Hmm, I think you might be holding back on telling us what you really think! 🙂 Which authors (or books) have had the most influence on your writing style, and why?
BC: Two stand out for me. The first is Harlan Coben. I read ‘Tell No One’ about ten years ago and it was the first book that made me say ‘Coool’ out loud, l was on my holidays in Spain. This guy has a specific style that is very easy on the eye and never let’s the pace slacken. That’s a difficult balancing act.
The second is James Frey of Million Little Pieces fame. James semi-autobiographical novel was so stylized that it was mesmerizing. An amazing story told in an amazing way. If you read Missing you’ll see the Coben influence, if you read Nothing you’ll see the Frey influence.
Those are the two that have had the most effect on me. Julian Barnes is the author that I read and groan at just how good he is. This is when jealousy is a good thing. It makes me want to burn my own stuff while gnashing my teeth. The guy is just too good.
JGA: How do you go about planning your writing?
BC: Again this is something that I’ve discussed at length on my blog. Should we plan a novel or just discover it organically. As I’m a mystery/crime writer the plot is important. I tried to go the organic route when I was younger but too many deadends made me go back to plotting. I just painted myself into too many corners if I didn’t know three things: the beginning as in the inciting incident, the middle or major twist and the end – whodunnit.
This all said, for the novellas I write completely organically and grow the words each day in writing sessions that reveal a little more about what is going to happen next. I suppose the answer to this is that if the work is a novel length crime drama then I plot and if it’s shorter then the writing flows organically. I don’t think either way is right or wrong, it just depends on the writer and the story, like they say ‘the book is the boss.’
JGA: Why did you decide to write your novel, “Missing“?
BC: I had been working on something novel length and nothing was really working but I had some great scenes. I tried man-in-jeopardy, woman-in-jeopardy, dog-in-jeopardy plot lines but nothing really went anywhere and I ended up throwing a ton of work in the garbage. One day I came up with a hero idea. What if an ex-cop who is now a debt collector was press ganged into finding a missing girl. A few of the characters I threw in from the good scenes I had previously written so I had a cast of characters just needed to see how they would behave.
With Missing I plotted every detail right through to the end. Wrote the whole thing into a very rough first draft. It worked as a whole, but I still didn’t want to do anything with it. I put the MS aside for around a year and worked on some other ideas I had (one was Nothing which I wrote by hand) then came back to it. I still liked it. That was the green light.
So I gave it a good edit and passed it on to a real editor. By this time I had linked up with a few Indie Writers and they were making money and building a fan base. I got a couple of agents interested but they panned out to nothing and that was a 6 month forward and backward relationship. Even an agent in the UK wanted the whole thing then finally decided against it as she considered it a ‘boys’ book? That’s when I thought this industry was some kind of fuckup and I went Indie (self-pubbed or whatever anyone wants to call it.)
JGA: Can you tell us a bit about the main character, Matt Spears, and some of the challenges he has to face as the story progresses?
BC: Matt has a lot going on. This is one of the hardest parts about writing a series, the first one is where all the juice has to get spilled and you still have to leave enough room for a good story as well.
He’s an ex-cop and ex-con. Spent time in prison for the murder of a drug dealer (I’ve never revealed whether he did it or not, only me and Matt know that). Released on a technicality he goes into his fathers business collecting money for street cash lenders. You can imagine the dregs of the earth he has to encounter just in daily life. His girlfriend is about to leave him and a notorious gangster has heard he’s good at finding people. He wants Matt to find his niece who went missing two years earlier.
I threw a lot of characters into the story to keep the reader on their toes. Maybe too many -shrugs- who knows. Local politicians, celebrities, TV personalities, gangsters, bent coppers, private investigators, very fat people and a homicidal forensic accountant.
If you guess the end then you’re smarter than me. I had it all plotted then changed it at the last minute as it made sense to me that this other person was behind all the various crimes involved.
JGA: Who are the readers would enjoy “Missing” the most?
BC: Readers who enjoy a puzzle. This is more along the lines of Pulp Fiction than Agatha Christie but the clues are there. This can be solved and there a few twists along the way.
Also readers who like to learn a few things. I’ve had amazing feedback in the US that a lot of the British expressions (slang) that are used they have had to research those. Which added a dimension to the work I didn’t expect. A lot of readers compare this to Lock, Stock and Snatch where the viewer had to work on some of the dialogue after the movie was over. It’s an interesting side effect of writing in your own vernacular.
JGA: What other items are you working on at the moment?
BC: The main thing I’m working on at the moment is the sequel to Missing. The first draft is complete and it’s going through a grammar check next week. The provisional title is Summers End, but I know already it won’t be published under that name. Once a novel length work is complete I find the Title in the final edit. The theme of the story becomes more obvious to me when I read as a reader and not a writer.
JGA: If you could somehow change reality and become the author of any published book instead of the person who originally wrote it, which book would you make your own and why?
BC: James Frey’s: A Million Little Pieces. I would make this book my own and would have loved to defend it on Oprah. I thought Frey choked on that show. Okay, she was overbearing and bombastic in her exposure of a pseudo-autobiography but Frey knew it was a fake up front. No surprises for him there that he might be found out.
It didn’t matter that he was about to be exposed on national TV. It mattered that he still tried to portray a magnificent story and even better writing by making out it was real. Ask Stephen King, all writing is about the truth, even when it’s not the truth. If Oprah Winfrey (or anyone else for that matter) thought this amazing piece of prose was written by some self loathing, drug addled alcoholic with a death wish then the joke was on them. I read that book totally unaware of the controversy, only finding out afterwards when trying to find another book by Frey, and he didn’t have me fooled for a minute. I know how difficult writing is. The mentally incapacitated would have a hard time with it. Some drunken druggie writing this novel/memoir would be like Hobo Charlie drinking Draino down the street winning the World Chess Championship. Possible? Yes. Likely? Fucking forget it.
JGA: Is there anything else you would like to mention that I haven’t asked?
BC: I don’t think so my friend. My brain is pretty much fried and I’ve got another five chapters to edit! I love it really 🙂