Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Interview with crime author Clive West

Clive West is doing a couple of simultaneous book tours and today he's here to tell us a bit about his crime novel The Road.

Clive West was born in the West Country of England in the early 60s. He was educated at a traditional English public school before going on to university to study civil engineering. Over the years, he has worked as a civil engineer, tutor of maths and science, schools quiz-master, employment agency boss, and writer.

His work includes a collection of short stories with twists called Hobson's Choice (also available in print), the full-length novel The Road about the consequences of corruption on ordinary people and an accessible job hunting interview guide (based on his years of experience as the boss of an employment agency).

He has also written a book about lymphedema. This is a disfiguring, life-threatening, and incurable disease he now suffers from. His experience shows that most fellow patients have (like him) been abandoned by their respective health services.

Clive now lives in a rebuilt farmhouse in the Umbrian region of Italy along with Damaris, his writer wife of 22 years and their three rescue dogs. Apart from his fictional work, Clive also writes commercial non-fiction on a variety of topics but especially relating to business and employment. He and Damaris run an indie publisher called Any Subject Books Ltd – www.anysubject.com

You can also follow Any Subject Books on Facebook – www.facebook.com/anysubject

Clive is now disabled but, aside from his writing, he also enjoys playing the keyboard, listening to music, and reading.

Welcome, Clive. Please tell us about your current release.
The Road tells the story of the petty and not-so-petty corruption surrounding the building of a new ring-road around the small English town of Stockton. Seen from the eyes of different families, it relates the human tragedies which those who commit the acts of fraud and greed choose not to see.

The main protagonists are:

Henry, a town planner who one day spots an opportunity to escape from his humdrum life and loveless marriage

Sandra, his assistant who, despite being imbued with the work ethic, finds getting on the property ladder an impossible feat – unless she cheats, of course.

The Giddings family who moved to the countryside so that their children could benefit from a rural upbringing but who now find their chosen lifestyle being denied them one piece at a time.

John, an affable but ruthless developer who sees nothing wrong with looking out for his own interests in a dog-eat-dog society.

… and all the others who benefit from dipping their beaks at every opportunity and in open abuse of the positions of trust that they hold.

What inspired you to write this book?
I spent many years as an estimator in the construction business and I’ve witnessed a great deal of corruption and abuse of power in both the private and public sectors. It’s prevalent from the top to the bottom and every bit of the tree is rotten.

Just like every action has an equal and opposite reaction, every crime has its victim. The fact that the perpetrator can’t see the victim or know of the consequences, or even be aware of the victim’s specific identity, does nothing to change that. I wanted to write a book which brought this home to people in a realistic but understandable way.

There are a few other books of its genre but, in my mind, they dwell on the technical aspects and this makes it difficult for those without the relevant knowledge to get to grips with what’s really going on. I wanted to steer clear of too much ‘construction detail’ and concentrate on the characters.

The Road is realistic and, I hope, emotive.

Caroline and Stuart Giddings knocked on the door, and hearing a vague ‘Come in’ sound from beyond, opened it and entered. Sitting behind a large ancient desk was their member of parliament, Charles Milton, a tall, wiry-haired man of indeterminate age although probably in his mid to late forties. Stuart immediately thought that he looked the sort of person whom you could drop head first into a pile of manure and who would come out absolutely devoid of any trace of the substance while you and anyone around you would be completely plastered in the stuff. Still, he wasn’t there to befriend them, he was there to listen to their grievances and act on them.

Stuart had suggested that before Caroline get too involved with RIM, the two of them pay a visit to their MP and see if he had any power or urge to champion their cause. Deep down, Stuart was sceptical but he was pleased that Caroline had definitely brightened up when he had made the suggestion a few days prior. The children were at school and Stuart had arranged for a colleague to cover two of his lessons. This was important.

At their MP’s gesture, they seated themselves in two upholstered office chairs. Caroline crossed her legs which made her side-slit pencil skirt ride up. She didn’t seem the slightest bit self-conscious of the amount of leg she was showing but Stuart’s bum squirmed uneasily on its cushion.

“Thank you for seeing us at short notice. My name is Caroline Giddings and this is my husband, Stuart,” Caroline offered by way of introduction.

“My pleasure, my pleasure. Nice to meet you both. What can I do for you good people?” Stuart noticed that Milton’s eyes had addressed the question to his wife’s legs rather than to their faces. The man had a predatory look about him.

“We’d like to talk about this new road and the effect it will have on us,” Caroline continued. Stuart had decided he would let her do the majority of the talking – it might help her get some of it off her chest and at least if nothing came of it, she couldn’t say he hadn’t asked the right questions. Women could do that – sit beside you while you chatted away, not saying anything themselves. Then, when it was too late, they were perfectly capable of criticising you for not having said something important.

“Fire away,” Milton’s eyes had travelled up Caroline’s torso and he was now staring at her bust. Stuart already despised the man. Still, beggars couldn’t be choosers. He bit his tongue.
Caroline seemed oblivious – she was very clearly caught up with the matter at hand or perhaps she just enjoyed her figure being admired. “Well, we’ve just discovered that not only are we about to lose all of our trees, they are going to build houses right up close to our home.”

“Mmm, yes. I’m afraid there are always casualties when a new development of this size goes through.” Milton paused and reflected while they waited patiently for whatever pearls of wisdom he could lay at their feet. “I don’t mean to be negative but have you considered putting your house up for sale?” he eventually asked.

“Yes, and the estate agent told us that because of the high number of new houses that will be flooding the market and also because our house will be losing its view, we will struggle to sell it. He also said we will have loads of – what is it called Stuart?” Caroline turned to him.

“Negative equity,” Stuart chipped in.

“Mmm, yes. I see the dilemma. Perhaps you should try other estate agents – see if they view the picture differently.” Stuart noticed that his body language had changed. When they had first arrived it had been expansive and, supposedly, welcoming. Now Milton’s arms had folded across his chest and he was making outward movements with his hands. ‘Go away – it’s not my problem,’ in other words.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve several ideas in my head (which is where I do most of my writing).

Depending upon the outcome of the book tours I’ve got going at the moment, it’ll be one of the following:

A new collection of twist-in-the-tail short stories. These are really hard work to write but great fun.

A prequel or sequel to The Road picking up on the ‘family from hell’ and their antics

The ‘autobiography’ of a serial killer written in novel format

… but there are also other ideas kicking around in my noodle that I may run with instead, you never know!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Mathematics was my forte but the English language was quite close behind. I was reading by the age of two-and-a-half and I soon graduated to the sort of books I enjoy to this day.

My mother taught me to type before I went to primary school so that’s helped, too. I won’t say that I’m a fast typist but I can chug along at a reasonable lick all day and I think that’s the main thing.

With regards to writing as a job, my work as an estimator in the construction business entailed me writing countless letters, contracts etc and, since it has to be right first time, I think that induces a lot of basic self-editing skills in you.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Writing is my job and I spread myself between creative writing, commercial writing, and running a small publishing business with my wife (who is also an author).

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I do most of my writing in my sleep. I’ve always been able to control my dreams (as long as I’m not so exhausted that I just need to sleep come-what-may). I can go to bed with an idea but no solution, spend the night flinging it around, and wake up with an answer and also the guts of the dialogue, sub-plot etc.

I think the principal advantage of using sleep is that I’m no longer constrained by preconceived ideas. Obviously some of the initial solutions are fanciful but I soon find that my sleep-conscious rejects the nonsensical ideas in favor of a plausible and logical solution.

Working in my sleep does mean that I wake up feeling tired so it’s not a task for every night. I try to save it for when I need it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was asked just this question when I was 6 years old and I remember the answer. All the other kids were saying things like ‘Fireman’, ‘Lorry driver’ and ‘Train driver’. I said, “I want to be my own boss and have my own business.” Nothing’s changed.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I remember how (for me and I’m not saying this is everyone’s experience) English Literature lessons could easily take the magic out of a book with its constant navel contemplation of allegories and analogies. I’d hate to force that on anyone, but I do hope that my stories leave you thinking because, alongside entertaining you, that’s my intention.

Thanks for stopping by, Clive. I hope your tours go well!


Pj Schott said...

Wow. Terrific interview. Fascinating author.

Unknown said...

Thank you for hosting:)