This month Alan Jones, author of a trio of hard-as-granite crime novels, was taken to the police station and
left to fester in a windowless cell for eighteen hours without food, water or legal advice treated really, really nicely in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, as we do with all our ‘customers’ who undertake our 5WH interview.
We ran his details through the Police National Computer and it came back with this…
Alan Jones started writing in 2003, but it took a few false starts over the next ten years before he completed his first novel, The Cabinetmaker.
His second book, Blue Wicked, took a year to write and he used the feedback from the first book, resulting in a shorter, more pithy novel than the first one.
His latest book, Bloq, was published on 1st April 2016. Although the lead character is Scottish, most of the story takes place in London.
Jones was born in Glasgow in 1960 and lived there for the first 22 years of his life. He now lives and works on the Ayrshire coast, in the animal health industry. He is married with four grown up children, and in his spare time likes to read, sail, make furniture, play football and watch films when he’s not writing.
Alan Jones is his pen name, as he needs to keep working to pay the bills…
As Theresa May told us we could ‘do more with less’, we sent just three hairy-arsed coppers into the interview room to give Alan a kicking, instead of the usual five. It went especially well, and Alan sang like a canary – as you can see from the following…
Who out of the characters in your novels would you most like to make a piece of furniture for, what would the piece be, and why that character?
Probably a coffin, for Jacko, the killer in Blue Wicked!
That aside, I do make and restore a lot of furniture, but it has mostly been for my own home. If I really was going to make a piece for one of my characters, it would have to be for one of the female characters in my books. An old fashioned travel chest for Sarah from The Cabinetmaker, perhaps; a lovely desk for policewoman Catherine in Blue Wicked, who would surely be a DCI by now, or a beautiful outdoor seat for Anna from Bloq, to sit in the sun on the other side of the world and think of the people she’d left behind.
What genre of films do you most enjoy, and do they feed into or influence your writing in any way? And if ‘Bloq’ was picked up by ‘the movies’, who would you like to play Bill?
I watch films from a wide range of genres, and my favourites reflect that – Trainspotting, The Godfather, Shawshank, Pale Rider, Silkwood, Mad Max, Apollo 13. I always think that readers prefer to imagine Bill in their own minds when they read the book, but if I’m pushed, and Bloq made it on to the big screen I think I’d go for an actor who could play ‘ordinary’ with great depth of character; someone like Gary Oldman, as long as he could do a decent Scottish accent. When I’m writing dialogue, I do play it out in my mind like a scene in a film, so I am probably influenced by some of the brilliant films I’ve mentioned, although my general writing ethos has been forged more by the writing of the authors who’ve inspired me the most over my lifetime.
When you started to write in 2003 you were in your early forties – why the sudden urge to take on such a big project?
I had a busy job, I’d set up my own practice, I had four kids, I was working on an old house that we’d bought, and I was making a lot of furniture so between all of these, there wasn’t much time. I was always an avid reader, with aspirations to write a novel one day, but it wasn’t until I read about three or four very disappointing books in a row, from authors whose books I’d previously enjoyed, that I thought to myself that I couldn’t do any worse. It also coincided with my midlife crisis, so that came in useful as a catalyst to get me off my butt and do something about it. 😊
Why the switch to a predominantly London setting for your third novel?
I did think of setting it in Glasgow, like my first two books, and have Bill and Carol coming from one of the Scottish provincial towns like Oban or Inverness, but I found that for me to write about Bill’s search for his daughter in a city that seemed dark and endless, I needed to go through a similar process of using a city that I didn’t know well, to feel the confusion and disorientation that Bill would have felt, and as I wrote, I realised that it had been a good choice. I felt by the end that it had truly worked, and couldn’t really have been set anywhere else.
Where do you do most of your writing? And is it straight onto computer or handwritten first?
I do very little handwriting beyond hastily scribbled notes in an old notebook I carry with me for plot ideas, characters and for small snatches of overheard conversation that may be useful as dialogue in future books.
A large percentage of my writing is done on my laptop in my house, or at work if there’s a lull – there’s also no excuse for not getting on with my much-delayed fourth book as I’ve learned to touch type since I finished Bloq. I don’t type much faster now than in my two-finger days, but because I can watch the screen, I can spot and fix mistakes immediately. I reckon now that I have my fingers finding the letters more or less automatically, I should speed up once I start to do a lot of writing.
I also do a significant proportion of my writing on my iPad. I’m a bit of an insomniac; if I wake up in the middle of the night I can sometimes lie awake for hours, so turning this time into writing time means that it’s not wasted. I also find that airports, planes and hotel poolsides are great for writing, so my books generally get a boost when I’m on holiday.
I have an old boat, and if I really need peace and quiet to write a particularly difficult bit, I’ll do that when I’m away on a sailing trip, miles from all the normal biz of life, with only the seabirds and seals to interrupt my string of thought.
How important was it to include ‘slang’ explanations and a ‘glossary’ in your novels?
My first two novels, both set in Glasgow, contained a significant amount of Glasgow slang, and I didn’t want any readers who were unfamiliar with it having the story spoiled for them because it was difficult to follow, so I thought it was only fair to include a slang dictionary. As far as a glossary goes, I always appreciated a glossary to explain any technical terms in the books I have read, so I include one in all of my books, although I always try and find some way of giving a brief explanation within the text of the book, for those who don’t want to look things up all the time.
The last train. A father’s anxious wait. A desperate search for his missing daughter. A London nightclub . Bloq.Glasgow man Bill Ingram waits in the city’s Central Station to meet his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas. When the last train pulls in, and she doesn’t get off it, he makes a desperate overnight dash to find out why.His search for her takes over his life, costing him his job and, as he withdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again…
For the rest of July the 5WH team are taking a break due to the publication of a really brilliant novel called ‘Unforgivable‘ *cough available July 27th cough*. We’re back for more in August, probably with the nefarious Chris Whitaker, author of ‘Tall Oaks‘ and the rather special ‘All the Wicked Girls‘. Look at him, smiling nicely over there on the left. He won’t be smiling when we’re done with him…