Monday, 15 March 2010

An interview with debut crime novelist, Nick Quantrill...

Nick Quantrill's debut novel, Broken Dreams, is released by Caffeine Nights this week and I had the pleasure of meeting up with Nick at the Trafford Centre in Manchester recently where we chatted about crime fiction, our aspirations, Nick's road to publication and, of course, football! (I can hear the sarcastic comments already about my Caribbean blue jumper... and don't worry, am not squeezing Nick's hand too tight - that's the normal expression of a hardened Hull City fan!).

So tell me about this unassuming bloke, Nick Quantrill from Hull. How did you become a crime writer?

I think I became a crime writer first and foremost as a consequence of a being a big reader. As I child, I loved mystery stories and read anything I could get my hands on. As an adult, I worked my way through Steinbeck and Hemingway before moving onto more contemporary stuff like Roddy Doyle and Irvine Welsh, but the love of mystery had got under my skin. I was also reading the likes of Ian Rankin and Elmore Leonard and I could see links and overlaps between all these different writers, and joining the dots lit a path for me to follow.

Many people probably haven't heard of Hull, so please enlighten us and why did choose it as a setting for your novel?
Hull’s an isolated sea port out on the east coast of England. The reason people probably don’t know the city too well is that it’s not the kind of place you pass through by accident, or on your way to somewhere else. You need a reason to visit. What strikes me in terms of it being different to other cities is the curious inward looking mentality of the place. Sometimes it can be a strength, like during the floods of 2007 when the city looked after its own, but sometimes it breeds an air of cynicism and wariness of new ideas which really drags the place down. Why write about Hull? Because it’s home.

Tell us about your previous successes, be it short stories, articles and the progression up to writing Broken Dreams.
So why a PI and not, say a procedural or a straight crime novel?


Before writing novels, I tried a few different things. I started out by writing reviews of CD's, restaurants, anything I fancied, for a local website. Once I made the decision to write fiction, there was no looking back. My first short-story, ‘Punishment’, won the Harper Collins Crime Tour competition back in 2006, which really was the definition of beginner’s luck! After writing a fair few more shorts, I had a crack at a novel, ‘Black and White’, and although it had some elements I liked, it turned out to be more a vehicle for learning how to actually write a novel, rather than something I seriously thought I might get published. I’ve messed around with a few different characters, police, PI, assorted low-life, but nothing felt completely right until Joe came along. I wrote a proto-type PI story and the reaction to it was far, far better than it had been for the others, so I knew I was out onto something. Without the nagging doubt of trying to get police procedure right, I was able to get under Joe’s skin a bit more easily than with some of the other characters I’d created.

How did the acceptance from Caffeine Nights come about and did you try other publishers or agents first? And how did it feel to see your name on front of your own novel?

I’ve always posted short-stories on my website http://www.hullcrimefiction/ and had pages on MySpace and Facebook, so I was networking from day one. The pay-off was that when I was ready to punt ‘Broken Dreams’ about, I had a good feeling of what was out there. I had a wish-list of independent publishers I liked the look of and I was very fortunate to agree a deal with one of them. It’s taken about a year to get from signing the contract to publication, and there’s been some great moments along the way, but seeing the cover and holding the final product in my hands – brilliant.

Give us a quick Bio of Joe Geraghty.

Joe’s a former rugby league player, turned PI, once he learns the hard way that he has an aptitude for the work. He works in the Old Town of Hull in a small office with his colleagues, Don and Sarah Ridley, who are father and daughter. When Joe’s wife died in a house fire, it was Don who took him under his wing, and with Sarah’s help, he started to put his life back together. Joe’s an ordinary man trying to do a difficult job. He’s nothing special, he’s not hard, he’s just trying to make a living the best way he can.

Give us a quick blurb of Broken Dreams.

How about the blurb from the back of the book? I’ve also started to think, rightly or wrongly, that’s it’s the story of a neglected city’s past, present and possibly its future:

‘Joe Geraghty, Private Investigator, is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull. Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times. When Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death in her bed, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry. As the woman’s tangled private life begins to unravel, the trail leads Geraghty to local gangster-turned-respectable businessman, Frank Salford, a man with a significant stake in the city’s regeneration plans. Still haunted by the death of his wife in a house fire, it seems the people with the answers Geraghty wants are the police and Salford, both of whom want his co-operation for their own ends. With everything at stake, some would go to any length to get what they want, Geraghty included.’

Any tips for aspiring crime writers?

I have two tips, neither hugely original, which probably means they have some value. Firstly, reading is a necessity. I love crime fiction and I’m as likely to pick up a Lee Child novel as I am the latest from, say, George Pelecanos. The trick is not only to read for pleasure, but to work out what you like and what you don’t like about a particular author’s style. The other tip is to not hide your work away. Now’s a great time to putting stories out on the Internet and beyond. There’s great websites like http://thrillskillsnchills.blogspot.com/, http://a-twist-of-noir.blogspot.com/ and http://bykerbooks.co.uk/default.aspx, to name but three, and they’re all hugely supportive of new and emerging writers. It’s a great way to learn.

Do you think Hull City will stay up!!?

You’re asking me this on the back of a massive thumping at the hands of Everton! It’s always going to be tough for a small club like us to compete with the biggest clubs in the world, but I think we’re making a decent fist of it, despite what the detractors may say. I’d be gutted if we were relegated at the end of the season, but ultimately it doesn’t matter too much. I’ve been a pass-holder for a number of years, and like most sports fans, Saturdays are about the excitement of the game, catching up with friends and having a laugh. The opposition is secondary. What I’ve learnt over the last couple of years is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s Everton or Exeter who thump you 5-1, it still hurts the same. Will we stay up? I think we will. Just. But don’t quote me on that.

So what's next for Nick Quantrill?

The main aim is to get a decent draft of Joe’s next story, ‘The Late Greats’, in my hands over the summer. It’s coming on nicely, but there’s still work to do. I’m starting to think about the book after that and have a couple of things in mind, so I’m fairly happy with what I’ve got in the pipeline. I’ve also had some interesting offers come my way, so it’s just a case of working out what there’s time to do. I’ll also be doing my best to promote ‘Broken Dream’. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this stage and I don’t want it to stop just yet.


Thanks for the interview, Nick, and good luck with Broken Dreams. Let's hope it's the start of something big for you.

Check out Nick's cool website here and order Broken Dreams here.

I'll be reviewing Broken Dreams in the not too distant future on this blog.
Ps. Hull have sadly parted company with manager, Phil Brown (pictured)... but, hey, at least Nick's got his novel out!!!

6 comments:

Alan Griffiths said...

Good interview Col, asking all the right questions.

I always find these insights into a writer’s journey to publication and what happens afterwards really interesting, particularly when you have similar aspirations.

Congrats to NQ on his debut novel and I'm looking forward to reading Broken Dreams a lot.

Top stuff Col.

Regards.

David Barber said...

Great interview Col, and as Alan said it's always good to read about new authors and their journeys when it's what we are aiming for. Heseems like a decent, down to earth bloke.

I am genuinely gutted for Phil Brown. He was one of the good ones working hard for a club with no cash. Who'd be a manager???

Top post mate, David.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Top interview Col. Broken Dreams is a cracking book and should do very well.

Jeanette Cheezum said...

This was an excellent interview.
Both of you seem poised as if you've known each other for years.
I'm sure the new book will do well. Congrats!

Matt Hilton said...

Another book for the TBR pile (it's growing). Congratulations to Nick and to Col for an insightful and entertaining interview. I'm not a football fan (I know, I'm a wuss!)but I even read those bits ;)

Col Bury said...

Thanks for the kind comments everyone. Nick and I have been in touch for a year or so now and often chew the fat over football and writing, which is probably why it seemed a 'relaxed' Q & A. Long may it continue.
I firmly believe Nick has a bright future as a crime writer.
Regards,
Col