The Dorset Book Detective – Interview

Hannah, aka The Dorset Book Detective, has just been kind enough to interview me by e-mail for her blog.  I thought the questions were very good.  I hope some people will like the answers.  Here is the interview, showing her questions and my answers in case you are interested.

  1. Tell me about how the books you write. Why do you have such a passion for crime fiction in particular?

I am working on a story about an accountant who is looking into some financial goings-on and that leads on into investigating a murder.  I hope this will be the beginning of a series, Accounting for Murder.  This first one should be out by Easter.

  • Money is often the motive for all sorts of crimes and an accountant’s skills are often very similar to a detective’s.
  • I am trying to make him a fairly ordinary man whom readers will be able to relate to. It is set in Cardiff, a place where I lived for several years.  Like me, he is an Englishman who loves Wales and the Welsh.  We both love animals too.

I have always had an enquiring mind.  Also, crime fiction has to have a structure.  The murder.  The investigation.  The solution.  Some other fiction writers can ramble a bit.  I think I would, if I did not have that structure to help me.  Within that, there is plenty of scope for variety and innovation.

2. What was the first crime fiction novel you read and how did it draw you into seeking out more books of this genre?

Probably an early Dick Francis one.  I love horses, although I do not follow racing.  I have now read most of his works.  I like the combination of mystery and thriller as well as the background detail.

  1. What is your career background and how did you get into writing full time?

I worked as an accountant in local government for most of my career.  Before you all go to sleep or leave this site, let me say that, although everyone thinks accountancy is boring, most people like talking about money, and it was a good preparation for writing crime fiction.

  • For years, I did a lot of auditing, investigating wrongdoing as well as sorting out mistakes, which made a change from making them.
  • I spent most of my later career dealing with insurances. That involved looking into claims against the Council, most of which were… dubious.  If they had all been genuine, you should have seen someone fall on the pavement every time you looked out of the window.
  • I have always done a lot of writing: reports, memos, letters. We accountants do use words as well as numbers.
  • For the last few years, I have been self-employed, meeting a lot of people in business, which has taught me a lot.
  • It was to help grow my business that I started a blog and then wrote a few non-fiction books. I enjoyed that a lot and discovered self-publishing.  Some people enjoyed my writing.  That made me think writing fiction might be possible.

4. Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

I am not sure.  Perhaps my readers will spot some that I was not aware of.

5. What books/ authors do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I am sure everything you read affects your writing in some way.  These are the ones whose influence I am most conscious of.

  • Val McDermid explains a lot about the psychology of murder, but I have enjoyed some of her earlier works which were more basic whodunits.
  • Ruth Rendell, especially in her Reg Wexford stories, makes her hero credible and normal. Not all detectives have to have damaged personalities and dysfunctional relationships.  I also love some of Wexford’s passing observations about life and how things have changed.
  • Reginald Hill, apart from writing great stories, has a marvellous way with words. He writes most eruditely, but his characters speak in earthy Yorkshire or Cumbrian.  There is humour in the way he expresses himself, without detracting from the seriousness of the story.  He also evokes the feeling of the places where his stories are set.
  • Speaking of words, PG Wodehouse could really use them and could create lots of plot strands, which he would bring together brilliantly in the end. A must-read for any writer.
  • Most recently, I have been enjoying some of the works of Peter James. His knowledge of police procedures and of the location, Brighton, is great.  His hero is another normal person, although one with an issue in his private life.
  • Finally, all crime writers owe a huge debt to Arthur Conan Doyle. Everything can be traced back to him.

Well, I hope there’s enough writers, but I know I am missing a lot out.  I do not claim to bear comparison with any of these, but have learnt something from each of them.

Apart from novels and stuff on the Internet, I read the Bible quite a lot, for many reasons.  As a writer, I commend it, because:

  • It is full of great stories and also contains some memorable quotes.
  • Reading different versions shows how you can say the same thing in different ways.
  • It is interesting to see how Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell the same story but with different styles and emphases and they all include and exclude different bits.

6. If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Any of the above.  However, I would be too in awe of them to collaborate much.  Perhaps writers are better on their own anyway.  You need to be yourself.  Great writing is seldom achieved by committees.  Meeting any of them would be a privilege.

7. Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

  • I hope Accounting for Murder will become a series. I have several ideas for more stories involving the same hero and his family.
  • I am likely to produce another non-fiction book next year, either about business or something to do with faith. Perhaps Things the Devil Doesn’t Want You to Know or A Sceptical Look at Atheism.

8. Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year/ early in 2017?

I have received several suggestions but I would like to wait until I have read the books in question.  I would not want to say anything rash.

9. Do you have anything to add?

There are four things I want to say.

  • My faith affects all my writing, and probably most things I do, but I try not to ram it down your throat. It is part of who I am.
  • I chose to make my hero an accountant because I would be writing about something I know and because I think it is time for another amateur detective. There seem to be so many police detectives around.
  • I also write historical crime fiction under a pseudonym. Let me know if the Dorset Detectives are interested in that.  I could do an interview in my other name.
  • If anyone has not got enough of me, there’s more at johnharveymurray.co.uk and for my professional life, see www.jhmriskmanagementservices.co.uk

Want to know more about The Dorset Book Detective?  Go to https://dorsetbookdetective.wordpress.com

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