Thank you for the invitation, Joan.
You have a lot of successful novels, a collection of poetry, screen plays and film scripts to your credit. Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
I believe many of us are shaped as writers as we grow up. Work, and the environment in which we live, probably help define why we all become writers of some kind. I’ve written poetry since my early teens but moved into writing novels in 1994 when I finished 6 years of study with the Open University. One Sunday morning I woke up with no assignment to work on as I’d finally accomplished my degree. My wife suggested I should start work on the novel I’d been threatening to write all my life. So, like the down-trodden disciplined husband I am, I complied and sat down to write ‘The Fragile Peace’. It was published two years later and I’ve been scribing away ever since.
I see that you used to be a detective with the Cumbria Police Department. In BELL, BOOK & CANDLE is the detective, Boyd, based on your personal experiences?
I was a police officer for 33 years. I began walking the beat before becoming a police motor cyclist and then a motorway patrol officer in the Lake District. Eventually I moved into the finer arts of criminal investigation at local level and began climbing the career ladder. As time went by I worked with a regional perspective in mind before specialising in counter espionage and counter terrorism at the national and international level. I was always a Cumbrian officer but I worked with numerous police forces and agencies including the Metropolitan police anti-terrorist branch, the Security Service, and others. My stories are not based on true personal experiences as I am still subject to the Official Secrets Act and I am very well aware of the often fine line between truth and fiction. I’m afraid I have no secrets to divulge in the fiction that I write so the spies out there are going to be awfully disappointed. That said, when a doctor or surgeon writes a medical thriller they might use their background and knowledge to populate their story. Similarly, when a lawyer, barrister, teacher or scientist writes fiction then they too often use their experiences and professional knowledge to give authenticity to a tale. It’s completely correct to state that I use my background to give credence to the stories I write and you will find that is quite common amongst writers of my ilk.
Does this same detective reappear in other books? Or do you invent a new detective for each story?
The Boyd series is a stand-alone quadrilogy about a detective based in Cumbria who joins the police as a young man and works his way into the nation’s Special Crime Unit. Here, he works with various intelligence agencies and counter terrorist organisations. Boyd doesn’t always win – he’s a realist – but followers of the series will also be familiar with Boyd’s wife (Meg) and his elderly boss (Commander Herbert). The books are not just about a lone stereotypical male detective who always wins. They also bring to bear his second in command, Anthea, and an MI5 officer of equal standing called Antonia, as well as an ever-changing group of characters that populate the stories. So, the main characters are omnipresent, the supporting characters are constantly evolving, and each tale has a totally different background. The series is defined more adequately on my blogsite at http://paulanthonys.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-boyd-series.html
But I also feature a trilogy – soon to be a quadrilogy – about a south coast detective called Davies King. Davies works between Southampton and Brighton from a place called Crillsea. He is head of detectives in the area. A widower, Davies is also a chess-master who shuns his office and runs his police operation from the Anchor pub down at the harbor. He runs a network of criminal informants and professional contacts that range from the head of MI6, to the head of the Flying Squad via a market trader who has a finger in every pie ever baked. Again, the main character – Davies King – is surrounded by a selection of interesting characters. His best friends include a bomb disposal officer, a time-served detective from the RUC, and a female detective inspector, the chief constable, an elderly female administration officer, and a bunch of locals in the Anchor – some of whom have dubious backgrounds. Davies flies by the seat of his pants and gets involved in all manner of occurrences – from plain and simple murder to attacks on the nation’s infrastructure to international chases involving megalomaniacs. This series is much newer than the Boyd series and represents my current workload. I’d class this series as ‘thrillers’. The series is explained here.
How would you categorise your books – crime fiction or thrillers?
That’s probably one of the best questions I’ve been asked over the years. Your unspoken observations are spot on. I certainly don’t write ‘True Crime’ for reasons previously explained – and the fact that the administration of justice, practice, procedure and technology relative to ‘criminal investigation’ changes so often that it makes ‘True Crime’ a difficult genre to constantly master if you are planning to write multiple novels in that area.
Neither do I write ‘crime fiction’ in the strict genre of ‘murder/mystery’. I’ve been described on a number of occasions as a ‘multi genre’ writer in that I blend a mixture of history, crime, and adventure – sometimes a twist of romance – into the same work to deliver something unique to the reader. I would argue that much of my police work involved delving into the history of events. Murders usually involve a personal history of some kind. Terrorism and espionage have historic bases that can be quite complex and deeply rooted. For me, the most important part of the work is the characters and the relationships between them. They make the plot work. All I do is provide a unique realistic background to each book. I’d probably suggest my novels are more ‘thriller’ than ‘crime fiction’ and would plump for ‘crime thriller’ if I really had to choose a genre slot.
A lot of your work has a historical background. Which appeals to you most, writing about history or writing detective fiction?
I enjoy reading and researching history but take much more enjoyment from crafting and writing fiction.
Tell us about your working day? Does your schedule vary when you are writing or do you keep to a strict routine?
I don’t really have a schedule as far as writing goes. For example, I usually have a mug of coffee in the morning when I’m promoting my work on social media. Then I do the same again in the afternoon or early evening. I have accounts across multiple social media platforms and websites and tend to service them on a regular basis for between one and two hours a day depending on the day of the week and what else is going on in my life. Two days a week I don’t use social media at all. I write something every day – usually an article, poem or short story for one of my website partners (it’s part of my promotional activity) but when I’m writing a book or script I go into lockdown. By that I mean I write for as long as it takes – whatever it takes. I often write well into the night but my main writing is always done whilst on holiday. Beside the pool you’ll find me crafting stories, creating, destroying, recreating, carving out characters and describing their various traits as we build the story around them. The work is completed when we return to England. I’m very lucky in that my wife is an avid reader across many different genres and an editor of substantial experience. She is my sounding board but I also have two other editors who dissect the work for me. If the plot doesn’t work, we don’t use it. This philosophy works for me and proves the team.
I particularly use twitter, linkedin and facebook to promote my work every day and regularly service other social media accounts across the internet. I write articles for broowaha and the linkedin pulse magazine, as well as a few more online sites. I’ll also occasionally deliver a blog about a specific subject that interests me and I enjoy hosting other authors on my site just like you do. Delivering such writing achieves two things – one, it keeps my mind and writing skills honed, and two, it allows those reading my work to decide whether or not they are interested in the content and whether they might try one of my books. I believe in using my writing abilities to promote myself as a writer and author so I don’t really have a problem with working on social media. For me, it’s part of the writing challenge. I enjoy facebook particularly because it works very well for me and I can mix business with pleasure. Indeed, I decided long ago to be a truly independent publisher and author so I write when it suits me and market in a manner I enjoy. Securing a work-life balance is important even in retirement.
In the present climate, an author has to spend as much time marketing their books as writing them. It sounds as though you have found a balance that works for you.
I use my writing style and abilities as a promotional marketing tool by writing across multiple social media platforms and websites. I don’t have a problem with either element. Over the years I’ve noticed how numerous sites have moved from being ‘book recommendation’ sites to ‘event notification’ sites. I’ve retired from many such groups because they no longer function correctly for semi-professional committed writers like myself and are more useful for those seeking short term marketing opportunities. It is far too easy to get bogged down in such groups and forget what your real objective is. A long term commitment – over many years – relative to writing and consistent marketing is my preferred and proven strategy.
Which particular marketing tools have you found the most useful for your books?
I’ve tried many website providers over the years but prefer ‘blogger’. It’s easy to use and allows me to share my work with numerous other social media platforms – and the work of all my fellow authors on the site – to a wide audience that enjoys reading. Being able to ‘share’ content with multiple social media sites in an efficient and speedy manner is crucial in marketing in the digital age.
What are you working on at the moment?
I crafted and plotted ‘Breakwater’ at the end of last year. I bedded it down as is my usual practice – for a couple of months – and will very shortly bring it out of mothballs, dust it down, and write it from start to finish with a fresh mind before handing it to my editors. The work is #4 in the Davies King series and is set on the south coast of England. Ironically, the work begins near Barcelona in Spain just before the Second World War and unravels through time before exploding into a murder or two on the desk of Davies King – and there’s quite a bit of mysterious political intrigue in this one. I enjoyed crafting it and developing the plot but I shall shortly treat myself by writing it properly.
So where can readers find out more about you and your books, Paul?
My blogsite and a list of my books can be found at http://paulanthonys.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/the-paul-anthony-book-shop.html
I’m on twitter @paulanthonyspen and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PaulAnthonysPen
I can see that you are a very busy man, Paul, so thank you very much for taking time out to talk to us. I’m sure there are many fans eagerly waiting for the publication of the latest Davies King novel. Good luck with it.