Fiona McVie interviews crime writer Graham Smith

Graham Smith, crime writer

Name: Graham Smith
Age: 39

Fiona Where are you from?
Smith Gretna Green, Scotland.

Fiona A little about yourself, i.e., your education Family life, etc.
Smith I left school with 8 O grades and 2 higher grades. (I failed English twice before being given a pass mark when the school appealed on my behalf.) I’m a time served joiner, and I now manage a busy hotel and wedding venue. I’m married with a 6-year-old son, and when I’m not working I enjoy to spend time with him and my wife. Otherwise, I’m usually found reading, writing, or socializing with friends.

Fiona Tell us your latest news?
Smith I have sent off submissions to several different blog sites and have had pieces shown at http://thrillskillsnchills.blogspot.com.

Fiona When and why did you begin writing?
Smith I first started writing about 18 months ago. I have been an avid crime fiction reader for many years and have reviewed books for the well respected website crimesquad.com for over two years. I always thought to myself that one day I should have a go at writing something myself. My looming 40th birthday was a shadow which prompted me to re-evaluate my goals in life and I started on my buckets list. Top of which was, “try my hand at writing.”

Fiona When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Smith I don’t actually yet consider myself a writer. I won’t ever consider myself to be a writer until I can hold a book in my hand which I have either wrote or contributed to as part of an anthology. This does not mean that I frown or look down upon the modern eBooks. It is merely an ideal held on tightly by my Luddite and pessimistic values.

Fiona What inspired you to write your first book?
Smith A combination of peer pressure, the feeling that I had a story to tell and naked ambition coupled with an understanding of what makes the difference between good books and great books.

Fiona Do you have a specific writing style?
Smith I thought I did until a friend invited me to write a noir piece. Then I found I could assume the mantle of the character in the specific genre and just let go. I found this to be greatly empowering as without her urging I would never have spread my wings and learned how things looked from above. I urge all aspiring authors like me to try something different, go out side their comfort zone and see what happens. It has worked for me and if you don’t try then you’ll never know. My first attempt at noir was fraught with uncertainty and personal anguish yet received rave reviews. With the ego boost from compliments comes the confidence to try new things. Some will work, some won’t. Until you try something you’re always in the failure camp as far as I’m concerned.

Fiona How did you come up with the title?
Smith This has two answers. Firstly, for the forthcoming anthology (get the plug in like a seasoned interviewee), 11 The Hard Way, my publisher sent me a couple of ideas for the title and I chose the one which I thought was best. For the individual stories I tend to write a working title and revise it as the story takes shape. I’m flaky up to a point and then something just clicks in my head and I know what the piece or the book should be called but I love the title ideas my publisher put forth as I had never thought of a title for the anthology as it all happened so quickly.

Fiona Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Smith My novel The Ironmongers Error (working title) has no real message although I am trying to show the synergy and differing values associated with feminine sexuality.

Fiona How much of the book is realistic?
Smith While I try to keep the book realistic there has to be a certain element of suspension of disbelief lest the story be bogged down with mundane details like driving to work or toilet habits. (In a good exiting book, the hero never has to stop for a pee or pick up his wife dry cleaning.)

Fiona Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Smith I have based aspects of characters on friends and family as certain traits are amazing and worth the word count. Experiences are weaved in gently and anecdotally, as is the dialogue which is gleaned from listening to people talk in the real world. Most of the best lines are throwaway comments heard in a pub or an argument and embellished to make sense on the context of the story.

Fiona What books have most influenced your life most?
Smith That’s a tough one as I could credit so many books with having an influence. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein was the first book I was given at school which I read ahead of the required amount. A Famous Five book (I forget which one) I was given at the age of eight really gave me a taste for crime fiction. I read the whole series followed by the Secret Seven before progressing onto other Blyton books and eventually the Hardy Boys and so on.

Fiona If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Smith I have spoken to so many authors about the mechanic of their craft and cannot pick out a specific mentor. I have attended workshop classes led by Allan Guthrie, Stuart MacBride and Joseph Finder which were very informative and really helped me. Sheila Quigley and Matt Hilton are good friends of mine and I have had great support from them both. Craig Russell also deserves a mention as a short interview I did with him turned into a near three hour discussion on writing and books while we sat in the sun and drank beer.

Fiona What book are you reading now?
Smith Blood Relative by David Thomas. I have followed his career avidly since his first book under a pseudonym. He really is one of my favorite authors.

Fiona Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Smith Earlier this year I read The Hunter by Tom Wood and was blown away by the cinematic value of the writing. By page twenty five there were nearly a dozen people dead by the hand of the hero. It was akin to being the first to see the latest Bond Film. I knew something others didn’t and I got to tell them when Tom was made Author of The Month over at crimesquad.com. I was also lucky enough to spend time in his company at the Harrogate Crime Festival in July.

Fiona What are your current projects?
Smith I have 11 The hard way out on the 16th of November, ideas for a follow up anthology featuring my gumshoe detective Harry Charters, and I’m two thirds of the way through my debut novel The Ironmongers Error.

Fiona Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Smith I’ve been lucky enough to have too many friends supporting me to single out any particular one person. Col Bury the editor of ThrillsKillsnChills has given me great support as have Matt Hilton, Sheila Quigley, and Colin Patterson.

Fiona Do you see writing as a career?
Smith It’s a nice idea I hold onto when times are tough.

Fiona If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Smith I’d change the author picture to one where I have more hair and less waist. Realistically though, as it’s still a work in progress, I’m changing things all the time.

Fiona Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Smith Through reviewing for crimesquad.com I gained a much greater understanding of the mechanics of a story. I was lucky enough to have a couple of my reviews quoted in blurbs on books and this gave me enough confidence to try writing myself In my own mind, I thought that if publishers liked what I had to say about other people’s books then perhaps they would like to hear my own story. We’ll see if that rings true when my own book is finished and sent to a few publishers and agents.

Fiona Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Smith I’m just plodding away at The Ironmonger’s Error (writing a book is a marathon not a sprint), throwing the odd story into a ”for later” pile while sneaking in the odd short story when the ideas and feel come together.

Fiona Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Smith I have never yet had a writing challenge I couldn’t find a way around although I do find it tough to write from a female’s perspective at times. Having said that when the woman is threatened then I find it relatively easy to write about her fears and feelings. Emotional angst and sex scenes are a different ball game altogether though as I feel my wife looking over my shoulder wondering why I don’t understand her or recognize her needs.

Fiona Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Smith There are too many authors occupying my bookshelf to single out one person. Alistair MacLean is a big favourite as are Wilbur Smith, David Baldacci, Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, Peter James, Michael Connelly, etc. I could go on for hours about all the authors I admire and would turn your site into a list of authors.

Fiona Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Smith I prefer to send my assistant Mr Google to do my research unless there’s a good pub where I can have a bite of lunch and a couple of pints of inspiration.

Fiona Who designed the covers?
Smith I only have one cover to date and it was designed by my publisher Trestle Press.

Fiona What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Smith Cutting out what I thought were great lines which needed to be in when they didn’t. A process known in the trade as killing your babies or friends.

Fiona Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Smith How hard authors have to work for their money. After a hard day at work you have to discipline yourself to write something everyday or else the project never gets anywhere. That takes dedication and no author is ever handed a book deal without putting in the hard graft first.

Fiona Do you have any advice for other writers?
Smith Write daily, believe in yourself and read what others have written in the genre in which you are hoping to write. Learn from there good points and try recognize their tradecraft.

Fiona Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Smith Just a massive thank you for the wonderful support that they have shown me in my fledgling writing career.

Fiona If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Smith I get a great deal of job satisfaction in my current job and I appreciate the vale of that. I could say that I would like to be a rock star or a premiership footballer but that would be something of an understatement even if it is a cliché.

Fiona Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it?
Smith It is http://grahamsmithwriter.blogspot.com/

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