1 – First up. What are you having, David? Name your poison, or in this case the hot beverage of your choice and seeing as how the weather is so awful out there, I think an extra portion of cake is on the cards.
DM - I’d like a flat white coffee, please. I first discovered these in Australia where the name for a white coffee with hot milk is a flat white. They do them in Costas here now which has broken my addiction to cappuccino. I don’t see the point of a latte – too much milk. And as for cake, can I have a slice of lemon cheesecake, please? I don’t often eat cake but that’s my poison when I do.
2 – Okay, mini bio time -Let’s get to know a little bit more about how you ended up here on my sofa, David. Are you a full time writer or do you have an additional occupation or interesting hobby that drags you away from the keyboard?
DM - I would really like to be a full-time writer! I’m certainly doing my best to work towards that. In the meantime though I teach English to foreign students, mainly Russian teenagers from a school in St. Petersburg. Normally I go to Finland where they take the kids to activities camps and we teach English each morning. Some of the camps are deep in the forests and I’ve been greatly inspired by these places. In summer it doesn’t really get dark which is a nightmare for trying to sleep, but for a writer it’s like heaven. My short story collection ‘Kind of Woman’ which largely written there over a four week period in summer 2012. As for hobbies, well I don’t know if I should describe it as such, but I’m a member and volunteer activist for the Labour party.
3 – How did you get into writing? What was the first thing you had published and how did you go about it?
DM - I always knew I wanted to write but for a long time I didn’t really know how to go about it. I’ve always written stories since I was a child but when the company, British Airways, where I’d been working for 24 years, offered a voluntary severance deal in 2009, I decided to take it and therefore throw the cards in the air. I went from earning a very good salary to earning nothing overnight but I had to take that risk. I felt compelled to. My first book was called ‘The Wild Heart’ which is a thriller about a love affair set against the background of the Northern Ireland troubles and someone whose identity was changed when he gave information about his paramilitary comrades. I published it initially through a vanity publisher but I wouldn’t do that again. ‘The Wild Heart’ is now published through Amazon and I’m much more comfortable about that.
4 – I’m a terribly disorganised writer. I write when the mood takes me and usually have two or three projects on the go at the same time. How about you, David? Do you plan your novels out in advance or just go where the characters take you? Do you have a particular musical influence while writing? If so, you can either hum it...or I’ll pop the track on and we can all get in the zone.
DM - Babs, I am totally disorganized! I scribble on the back of bus tickets, train tickets, the front pages of newspapers, napkins in restaurants, anything I can lay my hands on when the spirit moves me! But I also have a couple of notebooks that I use to write stuff down and then when I’m at my laptop actually writing I have all these scribbles near me and they almost all end up in the book somewhere. I never fully plan a novel. I have the basic idea, the basic plot when I start out but I then let the characters lead me through it. I let them put the meat on the bones. I also don’t write several drafts. I correct things every three or four chapters and keep going until I feel instinctively that the story is now told.
Do I have a particular musical influence? Oh yes I do. Her name is Stevie Nicks and she has a thirty years solo career as well as being a member of the legendary rock band Fleetwood Mac since 1975. I call her the ‘poet in my heart’ and the ‘voice of my inner world’. I listen to her songs at least once every single day and in fact, I name all my books after the title of one of her songs and there’s always an oblique reference to the lyrics of the song on the dedication page of the book. The book is never about the meaning of the song but somehow the title seems appropriate. As for popping a track on, I was going to be cheeky and ask for several! Ha! The Fleetwood Mac tracks are amongst those that Stevie has contributed to the band. Fleetwood Mac ‘Sara’, Fleetwood Mac ‘Sisters of the Moon’, Fleetwood Mac ‘Landslide’, Fleetwood Mac ‘Gypsy’, Stevie Nicks ‘Edge of Seventeen’, and Stevie Nicks ‘Moonlight’. The link I’ve chosen is the video for the Fleetwood Mac song 'Gypsy', written and performed by Stevie Nicks of course, and it really captures the emotional ebb and flow of Stevie, her poetry and sheer magic.
5 – I love to genre hop, how about you? Do you write in a specific genre? Which is your favourite and why?
DM - I write in the crime genre because I find it’s the most fascinating and the most interesting for me. I can write about historical events that come home to roost in the present day or about purely contemporary issues. I can go into people’s motivations and I like to see what ordinary people are capable of doing when they’re pushed into extraordinary situations. I also like to see people get their own back on those who’ve done something against them. Forgiveness is an over-rated virtue. I don’t see why people shouldn’t get their revenge if they can.
6 – Is there a particular genre or type of scene that you would avoid and if so why?
DM - Not specifically but I do avoid being too graphic about situations of sexual or physical abuse. I don’t think you need to be too graphic about these situations and not only would I be uncomfortable about writing those kind of scenes, I actually think it’s more skilful as a writer to suggest horrific situations and therefore it has a more powerful impact on the reader. You know what I mean?
7 – As a child which was your favourite book? Were you read to as a child and did that develop your love of books? Do you have a favourite book and author now? What are you reading now?
DM - I didn’t grow up in a very ‘bookish’ family, no. In fact, I don’t remember anyone around me reading books when I was a child. But my father who sadly I never met was apparently an avid reader, particularly of poetry. So it must be in my genes.
8 – Promotion and marketing is the bane of most writers’ lives. How do you reach your readers and promote your work.
DM - Marketing is the thorn in the side of the indie author as we all know. I could spend all day on it but I’m a writer and I want to write. So I’ve now brought it down to doing interviews like this and using facebook and twitter to ‘spread the word’. I may try different things this year but I haven’t decided yet.
9 – Tell us a little about the books you currently have published.
DM - Well, I have the DCI Sara Hoyland series of ‘Fall from Grace’, ‘Beautiful Child’, and ‘Outside the Rain’. Sara is a Manchester-based detective who is single, likes men and wine, and I’ve given her crimes to investigate that have a very political flavor to them and tackle big issues like the support of the British upper classes for Hitler during WW2 in ‘Fall from Grace’, the forced migration of orphaned children to Australia in the 1950s and 1960s in ‘Beautiful Child’, and the definition of just who is a terrorist in ‘Outside the Rain’ which involves an attack on Manchester’s Piccadilly station. There’ll be a fourth Sara Hoyland book over the next year or so. I’ve now started another series featuring a Manchester detective called Detective superintendent Jeff Barton. Jeff is a single Dad after his wife died and I wanted to explore the work of the single working father as he investigates some pretty vile murders across the city. The first one is ‘Sorceror’ for which there are links here and I’m busy writing the second one which is called ‘Fireflies’. These are ‘straightforward’ murder detective cases and I have high hopes for the series. Then there’s my collection of short stories called ‘Kind of Woman’ which are all about women in various situations and all have a macabre twist at the end like Roald Dahl’s ‘Tales of the Unexpected’. Then there’s ‘Gypsy’ about a middle-aged man who returns to the small country town he grew up in to try and finally solve the murder of his best friend thirty years ago, and ‘The Wild Heart’ in which love leads someone into a very dangerous and exposed situation and questions how far you’d go to protect the one you love from those who are trying to kill him.
Don’t ask me to choose a favourite. I have my own personal favourite but I’m not telling.
10 – Can you give us a little hint at what you have planned next?
DM - The next release will be the second in the Jeff Barton series called ‘Fireflies’ and will be out about April/May. I’m also working on a second book of short stories called ‘The Highwayman’ and they’ll all be about men and the situations they find themselves in and all, of course, with a macabre twist at the end to companion ‘Kind of Woman’. I’m also developing the third ‘Jeff Barton’ book and the fourth ‘Sara Hoyland’ plus two more ‘stand alone’ books, both in the crime genre but with little twists that take me in a slightly different direction.
11 – And tell us even more about the one you’ve brought with you. I did explain about reading an excerpt later didn’t I? Oh good. Don’t think you get coffee and cake for nothing.
DM - Well ‘Sorceror’ introduces Detective Superintendent Jeff Barton who is a Manchester based detective investigating murder across the city. The story begins with the discovery of three bodies, including one of an infant, in a house that used to be a care home for teenage boys. Jeff is a widower who has to balance a highly demanding job with being a single Dad to his son Toby and he relies on his brother for childcare because of an estrangement from his parents. Meanwhile, as the investigation proceeds it comes down to one former manager of the home and his wife who are not only involved in a paedophile ring right across Europe but have some devastating family secrets to expose. Jeff begins to work out that a former resident of the home who was a victim of the abuse is seeking to get his revenge against those who abused him but once he’s cracked that Jeff and his team need to run fast before justice is taken out of their hands.
12 – Pick one of your characters and sell him/her to us in twenty words or less.
DM - Detective Superintendent Jeff Barton – A devoted father, an effective police officer and a good bloke.
13 – While I top up your coffee would you like to read a short excerpt from your book?
DM – An excerpt from ‘Sorceror’.
Pembroke House had once been a care home for boys until it closed in 1993. Since then the building had fallen into what local people thought had been terminal decline until a local property developer had recently bought it having seen its potential in a prime location close to the main Manchester university campus. They sent a team of builders in to excavate it and turn the twenty rooms into apartments for the student market. But the work had been abruptly stopped when the house gave up some grisly secrets.
Detective Superintendent Jeff Barlow of the Greater Manchester police received the call and dropped his son Toby off at school before driving straight over to what had now been closed off as a crime scene and where he met his deputy Detective Sergeant Rebecca Stockton.
‘Morning Becky’ said Jeff after he’d got out of his car.
‘Morning, sir’ said Rebecca. She didn’t let many people call her Becky but Jeff was one of them. ‘June Hawkins is waiting for us inside’.
‘The builders must’ve started early’ said Jeff as they headed for the front door. ‘It was just before eight when I got the call’.
‘Well I was staying over at my Mum and Dad’s last night and they only live at the other end of this road so I was able to get here quickly’.
‘How are they?’
‘They’re good, thanks’ said Rebecca.
‘And how’s Toby?’
‘He walked into school holding hands with his little friend Emma this morning’ said Jeff, smiling. ‘It was so sweet’.
‘He’ll be breaking hearts one day’.
‘Yep. That’s my boy’.
The pathologist June Hawkins had a phenomenal reputation amongst the Greater Manchester force and worked with many of Jeff’s colleagues. She was decked out in her usual plastic zip-up suit covering her normal clothes. She’d set up a temporary laboratory on the ground floor of the building with large square bright mobile lights illuminating a long table. What was on the table wiped the smiles off Jeff and Rebecca’s faces instantly.
‘This used to be a little baby’ said June, her voice more solemn than usual and looking down at the skeleton that was clearly that of an infant. ‘It was found by one of the builders and he’s still in shock. He said it reminded him of his grandson who’s only a few weeks old’.
‘Why couldn’t they have left it where it could’ve been discovered alive?’ wondered Rebecca in a mixture of frustration and sorrow. ‘Why did the poor little sod have to die?’
‘Well that’s for you to find out, honey, but I estimate it’s probably been here a while’.
Rebecca flinched. ‘Where was … it found?’
‘In the same place as the other two skeletons that have already been sent over to the lab’ said June.
‘They’re not babies as well?’ asked Jeff.
‘No’ said June. ‘Although one of them is a child of only about seven or eight years old. The other is an adult male. Now come with me’.
The remains of three bodies, one of them an infant, one of them a child, are found in an old house close to Manchester University. The house used to be a care home for teenage boys and Detective Superintendent Jeff Barton and his team uncover a horrific period of brutality and abuse that took place there. Their investigations lead to the former manager of the care home and his wife who are traced to a villa in Spain. The secrets and lies of the family are exposed and the line of victims starts very close to home but Jeff, who is a single Dad following the death of his wife and balances a demanding job with the care of his five year-old son Toby, begins to see what nobody else can. A determined and audacious plot by a former resident of the home, a former victim of the abuse, who is now hellbent on revenge. And if he's right then Jeff and his team have to act quickly before justice is taken out of their hands.
You can catch up with David on:
Twitter - @ifanyonefalls
By email - email@example.com
14– And finally a little game that I hope all my guests will contribute to. David, can you give me 100 words of your choosing to follow on from this? your last line will be picked up by the next guest... and so on:
‘You found me,’ said the greyness, wrapping the girl in soft fur...
'Yes' said the grey fur with one hand firmly on his hip. 'I mean, what did you expect? I don't clip and I don't wax so if you don't like men with fur on them you'd better read Martina Navratilova's autobiography and see if the other side of the stamp is more appealing to your tender tongue. Anyway, it's that Marcus I want to see. Let's just say we had an intimate encounter at a wedding. He was the groom but he had issues and I tried to help him work them out in the gents toilet. Wait a minute though, weren't you the bride? Oh my God nightmare!'
Thanks so much for coming, David. I wish you much success in all you do. Please drop in again with your next book.