5WH Interview with: Stav Sherez

5WH Interview with: Stav Sherez

Today, acclaimed wordsmith Stav Sherez, author of the Carrigan and Miller novels – and a raft of other books, articles and thought-provoking pieces – joins us for his brutal beating in the police station car park 5WH interview over tea and buns.

A quick check of his antecedents on the Police National Computer shows that, as well as owning the best hair in the business, Stav doesn’t half keep himself busy…

Born in 1970, Stav Sherez attended Latymer Upper School and the University of Leeds.

Stav’s first novel, The Devil’s Playground, was published in 2004 by Penguin Books and was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger.

Stav’s second novel, The Black Monastery, was published by Faber & Faber in April 2009.

His third novel, A Dark Redemption, the first in a London-based police procedural series, was published by Faber and Faber in February 2012.
It deals with Joseph Kony and the legacy of LRA child soldiers now living in London. A Dark Redemption was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year 2013.

The second in the Carrigan and Miller series, Eleven Days, was published by Faber in May 2013.

From 1999 to 2004 Stav was a main contributor to the music magazine Comes with a Smile. He has also written for various other publications including The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, Zembla and the Catholic Herald

His new novel, and the latest featuring the brilliant Carrigan and Miller, The Intrusions, was published in January 2017.

 

On this occasion we decided to dispense with our typically barbaric handcuffing-to-a-very-hot-radiator technique – this isn’t the seventies anymore, people – and went straight for the more touchy-feely ‘falling down the stairs until you tell us the truth’ method. After the fourth time Stav, understandably, became remarkably compliant and chatty so we scooped him up, hosed down the blood, and got the interview tapes running:

Who out of your characters, DI Carrigan and DS Miller, do you enjoy writing about the most?

Wow, that’s a great question! Partly because I only recently realised that each of the three books in the series is slanted towards one or other of the protagonists and it’s not something I was at all conscious of as I wrote the books. A Dark Redemption was more Carrigan while Eleven Days is more of a Geneva book. My latest, The Intrusions, is perhaps the most evenly balanced of the series. I think I prefer writing Geneva – partly because she’s not a DI and so she can get away with much more unorthodox investigative stuff. Carrigan, as boss, has to stay within certain parameters. Geneva also feels a lot more like me but then, often Carrigan does too. I suppose we split and refract ourselves through multiple personalities as novelists. When I began the series, I purposefully wanted to have two lead characters as it’s the switching between two timelines that interests me most narratively while also, I believe, creating maximum tension for the reader.

What was the spark for the plot of A Dark Redemption, with its backstory of illegal immigrants and East African rebel groups?

Ha! That’s a funny one because A Dark Redemption came almost by chance. I was on my way to see my agent. I had three ideas written down for my next novel. They were all very dark and I knew she would say no – so, I thought if I added another idea, even darker, it would make the previous three seem more palatable. I said to her: how about three students going to Africa, bad shit happens to them and then 20 years later one is a cop and has to deal with the decisions he made in the past? And she said: that’s the one!
Admittedly, I was quite obsessed by the civil wars and bizarre cults coming out of Africa in the mid-1990s; the Lord’s Resistance Army in particular. I’m always interested in states where law and order has broken down, where chaos and disarray reign. These are great landscapes for a crime novel. But novels also develop as they’re written – and it was the fate of the child soldiers that began to interest me the most. Is there a way back after such acts? How does one resolve one’s past? These were interesting questions to me, as was the plight of immigrants, how it feels to be torn from your homeland, the yearning and constant worry.

When writing, music? And if so what do you listen to, or is it, as per your Twitter bio, ‘silence’ all the way?

It totally depends on which part of the writing process we’re talking about. For actual writing, silence is the only way I can work. If I have music on, even if it’s instrumental, it stops me hearing the rhythm of the sentences. But, in the evenings, when I’m plotting the next day’s chapter, I can only do it with music in the background. In silence, my brain wanders off, but the faint hum of jazz keeps me grounded and helps ideas develop.

Why do you think crime writing continues to be so popular with readers?

I think, of all the modern types of novel, crime fiction perhaps deals most with the pressing social and personal issues of our time. That’s one reason. Another is people like working out the puzzle of well-constructed murder. Crime fiction is always a dialogue between writer and reader, a game of show and hide. Also, it’s such a wide and broad genre that it can encompass nearly every other kind of book, from paranormal to romance to metafiction. And, finally, we like to be scared. Our lives revolve around personal hassles but we rarely feel that adrenaline jolt of reality (and thank god we don’t). Crime fiction (like horror movies) can provide a vicarious simulacrum of that.

Where in a work in progress do you hit what lots of authors refer to as ‘the writing wall’? 30 thousand words? 40?

Maybe 10 words in? No, I’m joking. Normally, for me, it’s about 60,000 words, though this has been different with each book. My first drafts are awful, an utter mess, with several different plotlines crashing over each other, characters dropping in and out and no ending. These days I try to be a little less hard on myself, knowing I have ten or so drafts to correct anything that needs it.

How many words a day? And the novel: plan it or blag it as you write?

I wish I could plan. It’s my biggest regret in being a writer. I’ve tried it with every book and it never works for me. I normally only know the initial situation – in The Intrusions, it revolves around backpackers going missing from a central London hostel – and then I start writing. The plot unfolds, partly as it must due to the logic of a police investigation. There are certain steps that have to be followed and others that would totally break the suspension of disbelief. And, once the Zero draft is done, I go back to beginning and redraft, maybe ten times over the course of 18 months. So it’s hard for me to say how many words a day as maybe 85% of the time I’m not writing but re-writing. When I am writing the first draft, it tends to be 3000-4000 words a day, but, you know, they’re terrible words and normally only about 10% of this draft survives into the finished book.

 

 

Thanks for taking part, Stav!
We’ll release you on conditional bail in the morning. Honest.

 

 

 

The Intrusions, Stav’s excellent return to the lives and investigations of DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller – dubbed by Ian Rankin as ‘A Silence of the Lambs for the internet age’ – is out now in paperback and eBook. Take a look:

‘Utterly riveting and truly terrifying.’ Laura Wilson, Guardian

When a distressed young woman arrives at their station claiming her friend has been abducted, and that the man threatened to come back and ‘claim her next’, Detectives Carrigan and Miller are thrust into a terrifying new world of stalking and obsession.

Taking them from a Bayswater hostel, where backpackers and foreign students share dorms and failing dreams, to the emerging threat of online intimidation, hacking, and control, The Intrusions explores disturbing contemporary themes with all the skill and dark psychology that Stav Sherez’s work has been so acclaimed for.

Under scrutiny themselves, and with old foes and enmities re-surfacing, how long will Carrigan and Miller have to find out the truth behind what these two women have been subjected to?

Want to find out even more about Stav? He’s over here – and great fun – on Twitter. And please, please take the time to read his wonderful, moving piece titled ‘Why I Write Crime Fiction‘, just to give you a flavour of how talented the man is…

 

Next month it’s Rob McCarthy being hauled in for questioning about his writing, his character Dr Harry Kent, and his novels The Hollow Men and A Handful of Ashes.

If you’re an author or blogger and fancy joining me for your own 5WH, get in touch

5WH Interview with: Nick Quantrill

5WH Interview with: Nick Quantrill

Today, formidable Nick Quantrill, author of The Dead Can’t Talk, the Joe Geraghty trilogy and a heap of fantastic short stories joins me for his 5WH interview.

A quick background check reveals that Nick is a man of many talents – as his bio attests:

 

Nick Quantrill was born and raised in Hull, an isolated industrial city in East Yorkshire. His most recent crime novel, The Dead Can’t Talk, was published in May 2016 by Caffeine Nights. The Joe Geraghty trilogy, Broken Dreams (2010), The Late Greats (2012) and The Crooked Beat (2013) are also published by Caffeine Nights. His gritty standalone novella, Bang Bang You’re Dead (2012) is published by Byker Books.

A prolific short story writer, Nick’s work has appeared in Volumes Eight, Nine and Ten of The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime alongside the genre’s most respected names. In 2011, Nick became the first person to hold the role of Writer in Residence at Hull Kingston Rovers, contributing sports-based fiction to the match day programme and assisting with the club’s literacy programme. His first story for children is included in the Toad Tales anthology published by Wrecking Ball.

With a growing reputation as an event chair at prestigious showpieces such as Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and Iceland Noir, Nick has interviewed a series of writers on stage including Lee Child, Martina Cole, Val McDermid, Peter Robinson and Mark Billingham.

When not writing fiction, Nick pens reviews and essays for a variety of football and music websites. He lives in Hull with his wife, daughter, cat and the constant fear Hull City will let him down.

So, with the interview tape running and the formalities dispensed with, let’s get on with the 5WH interview:

 

Who on earth are you?

Good question! Essentially, I’m an idiot from the much-maligned, post-industrial outpost of Hull who thought nick-q-geraghty-coverswriting crime novels would be a good idea. Of course, like all other writers there’s other stuff going on. I’ve fallen into chairing events at literary festivals, and more surprisingly, have grown to really love it. I’m also co-producing a crime festival for later this year, doing a bit of freelance journalism and dabbling with a real (part-time) job, so keeping out of mischief…

What do you prefer writing in – first or third person?

I’ve tried both. My first three novels feature a small time Private Investigator, Joe Geraghty, and are all in the first nick-q-book-coverperson. More recently, the first novel featuring Anna Stone, a disillusioned cop, and Luke Carver, an ex-Army drifter fresh out of prison, is written in the third person. Having two protagonists meant I had to mix it up. First person is great for being inside one head all the way through a story, really getting to the nitty gritty, so it suits the loner PI. It was never really going to work when faced with two protagonists. If I had to choose, I lean to first person. I like the immediacy of it. The novel I’m working on is back to it.

When did you realise you first wanted to be a writer? 

There was never really one defining moment. I know a lot of authors speak of a life-long passion and desire to write, but art never figured that highly for me as a child in 1980’s Hull. I was very much encouraged to do well in more traditional areas. But I was always a big reader, moving on to crime novels in my mid-twenties. I was studying for a degree in Criminology with The Open University at the time, so I could see that what I was learning about in theory was being presented in a more engaging way in the crime novel. The idea that maybe I could give it a go started to nag at me from that point, as I wondered just how hard it could be? Turns out, it’s rock hard.

 

Why on earth do you want to write about Hull?

nick-q-hull

I suppose the short answer is that Hull is my home city, so it felt like the natural thing to do. I do want it to be known that I started writing about the place well before it became trendy and all cultured. Writing about the city helps me make sense of it, too, which felt important when I started. In fact, I never considered writing about anywhere else. That said, the novel I’m working on is set around Yorkshire and The North and largely avoids my home city, so it’s a different challenge.

Where is the best place you’ve done an event?

Events really are one of the joys of the job. As you know, Michael, we spend most of our time working in our pants and are largely feral beasts, so it’s a privilege to get out and meet readers and other writers. I’ve been more than fortunate, really – I’ve shared the stage with Lee Child in Harrogate and flown out to Reykjavik, but I genuinely love going to an unknown town for the first time, especially if it’s a place I wouldn’t normally have a reason to visit. It’s a great way to roam this green and pleasant land.

How do you go about sifting good ideas from bad? 

I think all writers have to be open to ideas, so that means you get to legitimately earwig on conversations, be nosy and steal character traits from people you know. I’m also a big fan of Ian Rankin’s method of keeping a cuttings file. Newspapers can be a great source of ideas and can help tease plot ideas out. Stories are everywhere. Weighing up which ideas can sustain a novel is the tricky part, but I figure if something sounds interesting to me a day/week/month down the line, I might just be in business.

 

 

Thanks so much, Nick!
And yes, perhaps we should stop wandering around in our underwear so much…

 

 

The Dead Can’t Talk, Nick’s punchy, thrilling novel featuring his new protagonists Carver and Stone is out now in paperback and eBook. Here be the blurb:

A CITY CAN’T KEEP ITS SECRETS FOREVER.
How far will Anna Stone, a disillusioned police officer on the brink of leaving her job, go to uncover the truth about her sister’s disappearance?

Approached by Luke Carver, an ex-Army drifter she’s previously sent to prison, he claims to have information which will help her. As the trail leads from Hull and the Humber’s desperate and downtrodden to its great and good, an unsolved murder twenty-five years ago places their lives in danger, leaving Stone to decide if she can really trust a man who has his own reasons for helping.

Want to find out even more about Nick? Check his Website or Twitter

 

 

gjminnettNext month it’s the turn of G. J. Minett to be pounded into submission during interrogation  asked some very nice questions, just in time for the paperback launch of his novel Lie in Wait.

If you’re an author or blogger and fancy joining me for your own 5WH, get in touch