Crime authors spill their guts about writing...
This week: Daniel Cole
Tell us about yourself.
Hi. I’m Daniel Cole. I’m thirty-four and live in sunny Bournemouth. I wrote a book called Ragdoll, which is out on February 23rd and am currently hard(ish) at work on book 2.
How do you go about plotting your book?
I always start with just a beginning and an end. I then work on a chapter-by-chapter basis with some major set pieces in mind. I find that there isn’t much point in me planning everything out because everything changes as soon as I actually start writing and letting the story play out in my head.
I did end up drawing an enormous spider diagram at the end of writing Ragdoll though to ensure that I had sewn up all of the loose ends.
How long does your first draft take you?
I’d say the first draft of a book takes me approximately 9 months but then the endless rewriting and editing process begins. And it is endless. Just before Christmas I was in the weird situation of discussing the rewrites on book 2, writing the opening chapters of book 3, and going through last minute edits to Ragdoll all in the same week… That was a bit confusing.
Where do you most like to do your writing?
I can only write if I’m really in the mood. But, when I am in the mood, I’ll do it obsessively for weeks at a time. I tend to work best relaxing down at the beach or working all through the night at home on a laptop.
How easy/hard was it to get your first break?
Overall, it was incredibly hard, and I almost gave up several times. I genuinely think I would have if Ragdoll had been rejected like everything else I’d ever written. You do start to worry that you’re deluding yourself when you’ve been writing screenplays for six years and have nothing to show for it but rejection letters.
Ragdoll was my first attempt at a novel however, and has been surprisingly smooth sailing in comparison. I was very fortunate that the right people happened to read it at the right time.
What is the best writing tip you have ever been given? How has it influenced you?
I’m more influenced by television and movies than anything else. I remember hearing one of my heroes – writer/director Joss Whedon talking in an interview about minor characters. Although it seems obvious, he was saying that no one exists just to be cannon fodder for the main characters – everyone good or bad has their own story that led them up to that point. If you watch his films (Shane Black is equally as brilliant at this) even the tiniest characters are memorable/entertaining in some way.
That’s something that stayed with me and that I try very hard to emulate.
What book do you wish you had written?
I’m going to go for the Conqueror series by Conn Iggulden. Like Ragdoll, they are very cinematic, have a large ensemble cast, and dashes of humour, which is probably why I love them so much.
How much do your own life experiences appear in your writing?
I don’t think you can avoid populating anything you write with experiences, people, interests, and relationships from your own life. Jobwise, my time working on the ambulances certainly helped when writing some of the more gruesome scenes and in setting the tone of the book – that world weary, dark sense of humour held by those in the emergency services runs throughout the entire book.
What scene in your latest book did you most enjoy writing? And why?
I think it was actually the scenes that I was dreading writing – the dull, office based investigation work that needed to be in there to move the story forward. These ended up being the pauses for breath in which I had free reign to let the characters interact with each other, inject some humour, and go off on little tangents in the narrative.
What’s the best and worst thing about being an author?
I think the best thing about getting Ragdoll published was just the relief that I wasn’t completely deluded after all and hadn’t wasted years of my life chasing something that was never going to happen.
The worst thing is editing. I love writing – hate editing so, so much.
Describe your current work in progress in five words.
Entertaining. Funny. Twisty. Twisted, and Cinematic.