Crime authors spill their guts about writing...

This week: Jake Cross

Tell us about yourself...

I have three kids, one laptop, one Xbox, one Netflix subscription, and that’s all I need. I’ve been in the same dead-end job for over fifteen years. I love watching and following the MMA world, primarily the UFC. At one time I wanted to try the MMA thing myself, but my knees will have none of it. 

How do you go about plotting your book? 

I plot in my head originally. I have many ideas for novels, but not enough time to write them all. Some are based on an idea for a start, or an ending, or a set of middle-scenes, or because I know it’ll involve pleasant research. Over time, various ideas for scenes or twists pop up, for different stories, and I’ll jot these rough notes down in notepads or capture something on my phone’s voice recorder. Basically it’s a case of one novel eventually standing out from the crowd because I have enough of a plot that I feel I can begin. So I go with that one.

How long does your first draft take you?

It can be years from first word to last, because usually when I decide to write a novel, I bash out the first page or two, just so there’s something concrete. But often this isn’t the novel I eventually decide to go with first. But at other times I get really into the flow and whiz through. My first published novel, The Choice, took me nine weeks for draft one, although it was only forty-three thousand words and the rewrite, which made major changes and doubled the length, took another nine months. My latest book, Untraceable, out in April this year, was begun in 2012, then set aside half-finished and not completed until this year. I have a detective thriller, unpublished, that isn’t yet fully finished and was begun over twenty years ago. 

What’s your favourite distraction when procrastinating?

Xbox. I love the new wave of 2.5D games, like Inside and 7th Sector, and things like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider. These games have absolutely nothing to do with why I miss the odd deadline for a book edit. Honest.  

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you tackle it?

The inability to write sometimes is down to indecision about what novel to start next, and sometimes I have days when I can’t be bothered to sit at the computer. But it’s not that often.

Research: do you find it fascinating or laborious? How do you conduct your research?

It can be both of the above words. Usually I can read anything because I take an interest in what I’m researching, no matter how obscure. My habit is to read about the subject first, because I might learn things that influence the plot of the book - in the past I’ve plotted and then discovered my research doesn’t back it up.  

Who are your writing influences?

Typing THE END isn’t nearly as nice for me as for some. My first draft is usually rough and it’s on the second round that I’ll get into the nitty-gritty, so THE END is more like an announcement that it’s time to get into the hard work. Editing is also tough, but there’s a portion of editing that I would say is my favourite. The makeover. This is where I change the title and the names of the characters. It adds freshness, like painting your house. 

What book do you wish you had written?

Aside from the obvious super-sellers, there is one I’ll list here, but for a specific reason. The book was CHRISTINE, by Stephen King. His idea about a car that could repair itself I just had to nick for a short story I was writing. I don’t rate the book as amongst King’s best, and it’s probably on nobody’s top ten, but it’s the only one I’ve ever intentionally robbed an idea from. I was twelve, though. 

Which book or character are you most proud of creating, and why?

Weirdly, it’s an unpublished novel about a guy who launders money for a Mexican drugs cartel. The format is loosely based on those pick-your-path adventure books. I was quite impressed by some of the trickery manoeuvres in it. I put it aside because the format isn’t really suitable for an electronic book. 

What’s the best and worst thing about being an author?

One of the best things is seeing one of my novels climbing the charts and receiving good reviews. Alas, these things, if they don’t go your way, can be the worst, too. But I’d have to say it’s simply being able to do what I’ve always loved. If I was alone on the planet, I’d still write.  

To find out more about JAKE CROSS…

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