23 Review Street:
Q&A with Ed James
Hi Ed, Thank you so much for being on 23 Review Street today, I am very excited to have you as the first crime author on my blog. So without further ado, let’s get down to the thrilling questions! (Pun intended)
You have written seven crime novels so far, what made you write a crime novel in the first place?
I’ve been a fan of crime stuff since I was very young – I used to watch The Bill and NYPD Blue with my dad, and a lot of my favourite films have a strong police presence – stuff like Heat or Se7en, for example. Or crime in general, e.g. Pulp Fiction, Usual Suspects. But my reading habits were more sci-fi or mainstream fiction, Iain Banks, Irvine Welsh. I got into reading crime when I was home from university for a long, boring summer (1998 or 99, I think) and I picked up my mum’s copy of Ian Rankin’s Black & Blue. And that sucked me right into that genre. My first novel was about being in a band, as I had been, and the second was a sort of white-collar crime thing, which wasn’t very good. Neither were, to be honest. Then, one morning in December, thinking it was an Iain M Banks, I accidentally picked up a Mark Billingham hardback from my beside table. And I thought, “I can write this”. And what I wrote became the first Cullen book.
Are you planning to add more books to your DC Scott Cullen Series?
Absolutely. Number eight, HEROES & VILLIANS, will be out in January next year. I’ve got a solid idea for it and set it up at the end of the seventh, COWBOYS & INDIANS. At the moment, I’m focusing on a few other projects, primarily the DI Fenchurch series for Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint. The challenge for me with my self-publishing hat on is that you need to have a few series out there. I’ve got one and a few bits and pieces – don’t get me wrong, Mr Cullen pays my mortgage and bills but there’s a real law of diminishing returns sales-wise as you go through a series, so I’ve been trying to focus on getting more series out there to attract more readers and hopefully rewarding the long-term fans with something else they like.
Do you get inspiration for your books from stories you have heard or from pure imagination?
My main source of inspiration when I’m coming up with ideas is to think in terms of themes, rather than stuff happening. So, I’ve written books about football hooliganism and animal-rights terrorism, for example. Once I’m clear on that, I’ve got a pretty good method for getting my story down, usually focusing on the criminals and why they’re doing things. That all tightened up, it’s then quite easy (I’ve written eleven police procedurals now) to get the plot from the start going, but there’s always bits where I’m banging my head off my desk…
What is a day in a life of a crime author like?
Mine is very boring. I generally wake up about half seven, then have a cup of tea and some cereal. Three days a week I go to the gym at nine a.m., as the endorphins really help with getting through the rest of the day. The first thing I always do is look at my sales stats for my books and see if there are any things I need to fix – run promotions, change prices, refocus my writing priority, that kind of thing.
When it comes to the actual work, it’s just sitting there for eight hours getting through when I’m trying to get through. The last three months have pretty much been editing for the first two Fenchurch books, which has been a great learning experience but very painful, with not a lot of creativity. I’ve done three outlines in the last three weeks for the next projects I’m working. Most days, I’ll walk my two retired greyhounds in the afternoon – we take them to the beach so they can run around. I’ve always lived within a couple of miles of the sea and can’t imagine not.
When I’m writing writing, I’m usually full on with it until I finish that draft, not taking any days off. That said, I can get through a first draft in two weeks, the shortest was six days. I was speaking to Chris Brookmyre and he takes four and a half months. Horses for courses, I guess. But most of the other time, I’m taking weekends off and like to go for a drive or watch the football.
If you could sum up your writing style in three words, what would they be?
Direct, sensual, visceral.
And I don’t mean sensual as in erotica, I mean as in of the senses. ;-)
Thank you so much for joining us on 23 Review Street.