Like many writers I knew I wanted to write from an early age, and read voraciously as a child. As I grew older I was drawn to crime fiction but it was the African-American writer Walter Mosley who inspired me to begin the DI Jack Brady series. It was a combination of Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series and his non-fiction book This Year You Write a Novel that gave me the confidence to get started.
When I began the first DI Brady book I was advised to write about what I knew which is exactly what I did. I set the series in the small, run-down seaside resort where I lived (and still live despite my bleak depiction of the place) and coupled it with my interest in the darker side of humanity. The town of Whitley Bay offered me the ideal setting for a crime series – and still does. It has a dark element to it and, like any other small town, has its fair share of serious crime which is regularly reported in the local weekly paper. In its heyday Whitley Bay was a popular family seaside resort. Now stag and hen weekend breaks make it a close second to Amsterdam as a party destination.
The fact that I live where I write about makes it easier to bring the location to life. Admittedly, I embellish and darken the setting but the stretches of wild beaches and boarded-up buildings along the Promenade make Whitley Bay one of the most atmospheric and inspirational places to write. It offers a dramatic, gritty backdrop for my series and is a continuous source of inspiration. However, I’m not sure that the Whitley Bay Tourist Board appreciates my portrayal of the town, nor some of the residents.
I knew from the outset that I wanted to write a series and not a stand-alone. With a series the writer gets the opportunity to build and develop the characters with each book. DI Jack Brady is the archetypal maverick male cop who is typically flawed and the series begins with his personal life in shambles and his career in jeopardy. Ultimately Brady is a good man, albeit a very damaged one with a dark and troubled past. Through the continuation of the series he can be seen to be slowly rebuilding both his private and professional life.
I tend to start the day early with a run along the coast and if I can manage it, a horse-ride along the fields and farms beyond Whitley Bay before I start writing. When I am not writing, I immerse myself in the crime genre by either reading or watching something connected to it. Walter Mosley suggests writing for at least three hours every day which I think is a very sensible rule. However, when I am completely submerged in a book then that can change to as much as ten hours, if not more, until I have the first manuscript written. The ideal for me is to work in isolation for at least a month. This is understandably hard to achieve as ‘life’ has a habit of interrupting. Then the hard work begins of editing the manuscript and rewriting it until both myself and my editor are happy with it.