HATS OFF TO EXPERIENCE.
Teasingly, I wrote in last week’s blog that I’d reveal more about ‘Game Over’. Having already written extensively about the novel on D. H.H. Literary Agency’s website, it seems an unnecessary duplication to repeat it here. If interested, check out: dhhliteraryagency.wordpress.com For those aspiring to write, there’s also a thoughtful article on ‘Rejection,’ written by literary agent, Jennifer Muller. It provides cheer, food for thought and encouragement for those who are struggling to find an agent, get their book published, or noticed.
Writers will often say that they spend months in isolation, scribbling away, or more likely clacking on a keyboard, as they craft their novels. All true. But it’s also true, and I’ve mucked about with the well-worn phrase, ‘all work, no play makes for a dull read.’
Perhaps crime/thriller fiction, more than any other genre, is reliant on a writer ‘getting out there’. For me, this is the fun part of writing. For ‘Game Over’ I had extensive conversations with a senior fire officer to ensure that the cellar scene was as authentic as possible. For my current novel, I’m bending the ear of an experienced detective, someone I’ve not liaised with before. My address book reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of police officers, military contacts and forensic scientists. In my time, I’ve communicated with a nameless individual working in intelligence in the States and a senior adviser at the United Nations. I’ve flown in helicopters and talked to those who risk their lives in the pursuit of a passion that, one day, might kill them. It’s not so much the knowledge, as vital as it is, that stands out in my mind but the people with the knowledge. They are always approachable, generous of their time, often seemingly ordinary, and yet quite extraordinary underneath the surface. Frankly, I couldn’t write without them and they are the heroes often mentioned in acknowledgements.
Characterisation is an essential aspect of writing. We talk about ‘getting under the skin of a character’, of walking in their often extremely uncomfortable shoes. To do this, writers need to draw on every bit of life experience that they have as well as ‘borrowing’ from aforementioned others. In this regard, age is an asset. This is not to say that you can’t write a cracking thriller in your teens or twenties. Tom Rob Smith wrote the sublime ‘Child 44’ and had it published by the time he was twenty-nine, but he is more the exception to the rule. A recent trip to Crimefest a couple of weeks ago rather proved the point that age, wisdom and experience count for something. I wouldn’t want to wish to give the impression that we are all doddery old geezers, but most had other lives, families and professions, or ‘day jobs’. The point I make is that writers who have been around the block turn out their best work. They’ve lived a little. They have a smattering of understanding of the human heart and the reason people do what they do and why people stray so far into criminality, all essential for writing a decent crime/thriller. In an age of celebrity where ‘yoof’ is highly prized, the fact that maturity is an advantage, frankly, is a bit of relief.