Back in March I received a copy of this book from the author and simply couldn’t wait until closer to publication date to read it – yes my strict scheduling was broken for this author who also wrote the prequels to the Inspector Frost series, which he executed with the spirit of R D Wingfield.
You can read my review to Blackwater here and even better it’s published today!
I’ll start with the obvious question:
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? Did you write stories as a child?
I never thought about writing until the opportunity presented itself (with First Frost), and then it was more to see if I could, rather any burning passion to do so.
What were your five favourite childhood books?
Richard Scarry’s The Great Pie Robbery, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Fantastic Mr Fox, Comet in Moominland, Moominland Midwinter.
Oh yes! All of those were in our house too!
You wrote the three excellent prequels for R D Wingfield’s Inspector Frost series: Were you asked to or did you volunteer?
Thanks. I volunteered. I am a fan, the TV had drawn to a close and the author had sadly passed away. It is a rare privilege to be associated with the great R D Wingfield and his fantastic creation, Jack Frost.
Blackwater is set on the Essex shoreline particularly around Mersea Flats and your writing really evokes the sense of place. Is it somewhere that you have spent a lot of time?
Yes, I love it there. I have been windsurfing off West Mersea for over twenty-five years, but also visit on still days to walk on the sea wall at Cudmore Grove.
Where did the inspiration for DI Nick Lowry come from? Is he based on someone you know?
He’s not based on anyone I know (though like Lowry I keep my sherry in the fridge, but that’s where the similarity ends). His name is borrowed from the writer Malcom Lowry, a favourite of mine.
How would you introduce Nick Lowry at a party?
He’s not the party type!
Being a teenager in the 1980s I particularly enjoy stories set at this time so what one thing best evokes the 80s to you?
The music. A lot of it was truly dreadful, but on the other hand it was undeniably a varied decade, if you think about it.
It was indeed and there are some bars of music (good and bad) that instantly conjure up that time for me.
I felt quite sorry for WPC Jane Gabriel at the beginning of the book since she really is subject to the male whims of her colleagues who either dismiss her or see her as a sex object? This aspect of the book really did hammer home quite how far attitudes have changed. Was it a deliberate choice to make her quite so attractive to highlight this?
Yes – that and I wanted a new recruit from another industry/environment. Gabriel was a model and so was familiar with the drawing stares – the fact that she cannot escape this even behind a uniform made it an appealing attribute to her character.
Which book set in the 80s would you recommend to me?
It would have to be A Touch of Frost.
The pace of this thriller is far faster than Frost’s more meandering way at solving a case; which is easier to write?
Frost was easier to write, as there are (very good) precedents. Although the prequels aren’t by any means the same, the originals provide a guide to follow, with regard to structure.
Do you have a writing schedule? Perhaps you have a target of a set number of words per day?
In a way – I know how much I need to do in a month…and have deadlines (which I consistently miss).
With Colchester being a garrison town some of the members of the armed forces are under observation in relation to suspected drugs smuggling. How much research did you have to do to get the scenes where the Police force and the armed forces have different priorities right?
I didn’t research too deep, as that would have affected how I drew the characters and how they might interpret situations. That said I did get a general overview from people who were there at the time, and the whole book is influenced by stories I picked up on by dint of living in the area. For example in the 1930s Colchester Police had a boxing team that won the European Championship. The team was run by a Chief Constable who was keen to recruit sportsmen like Sparks in Blackwater. Whether they actually sparred with the army, I have no idea, but it seems feasible from a fictional point of view.
Where do you write?
On the train when I commute into London, and in very untidy room in Essex.
Are there any more books in the pipeline and do they feature DI Lowry?
There are. I’m just about to start…
The information I received with Blackwater says you work in publishing and enjoy long lunches? What do you do? Are there any openings as I like long lunches too!
Ha, yes I do work in publishing as an editor. The long lunches are infrequent now, but enjoyable when they occur… shout when you’re in town and we’ll what we can do!
Thank you James for answering my questions with such good humour, I wish you every success with Nick Lowry and look forward to that book you are about to start…
The Frost Prequels