Welcome to my stop on Jonathan Whitelaw’s The Man In The Dark blog tour, with Love Books Tours!
Many thanks to Kelly @ Love Books Tours for arranging the following interview with Jonathan Whitelaw…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’m a writer, journalist and broadcaster based in Glasgow. I’ve been writing professionally since 2015, with The Man in the Dark my third novel and second in the HellCorp series.
It sees the return of The Devil – who previously longed for a holiday, only to be challenged by God to solve the murder of a man who took 40 years to die. This time around he’s on the trail of a woman kidnapped by international terrorists. Only while he’s away, Brutus and Cassius (the infamous Romans) are plotting to overthrow him and steal his Underworld crown.
I started writing when I was in school and have pursued it ever since. I studied psychology at university along with creative writing before moving into politics when I graduated. And since 2012 I’ve been combining my writing work with being an online reporter and a reviewer for BBC radio.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I like to keep my eyes open everywhere and anywhere I go. It’s part of being a writer – your job is channel and capture the human condition.
But as much as I say I get my inspiration from real life – you don’t regularly get to see The Devil and God having an argument in the middle of the street!
The inspiration for HellCorp came about when I wanted to write a crime novel – but I knew I was nowhere good enough compared to some of the fantastic writers working in the genre. Then I thought – if I had an antihero, not just any antihero but the ULTIMATE antihero in the lead, would that work? And from there the story really was built around that idea.
And for The Man in the Dark it was, unfortunately, born out of the frightening and dangerous real world that we live in. It’s sad that kidnappings and terrorism are as much part of every day life for a lot of people on this planet. And I wanted to highlight that this can affect everybody.
TMITD also sees The Devil put on the backfoot for the first time in his lifetime. That was a lot of fun to see how a character like that reacts to those types of scenarios.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Now that would be telling!
I think all writers do in some way. We can’t help but be moved and shaped by the world that surrounds us.
Being a journalist I’ve been given the chance to meet some really interesting, fascinating people from all walks of life. It means I’m exposed to a great deal, good and bad, and I know that there have been times where I’ve let that influence my work and my characters.
I know there’s definitely some subconscious influence in characters that I create. But I’m okay with that, I think it makes for more interesting characters and creations.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
You know it’s not something I’ve ever given a huge deal of thought to. I normally go by feeling rather than spending a lot of time going through different options and things like that. I know writers who obsess over character names and will spend a great deal of time researching this.
But I’ve always been more of a tactile sort of person when it comes to this. I’ll have a couple of ideas and I’ll see how they feel, how they sit with the character’s personality and traits. And as bonkers as it sounds, I say them out loud to get to grips with how they sound. Does that make me a bit weird? Probably!
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
In a nutshell – it’s just simply to write! I’m not overly complicated as a person, I like to keep it as simple as possible.
I’m often asked what my best tips are for people just starting out their writing journey. And it’s always the same answer I give them. Just write. You can’t edit a blank page and nobody can read your work if it’s still stuck in your head. We’re pretty advanced technology wise but we can’t do that just yet!
As far as my writing process, I like to try and hammer out something every day. This can be 50 words or 5,000 words, I don’t really mind. If I’m on a deadline then I’ll be a bit more disciplined with what I’m doing and ensure I have a good chunk of work done. But otherwise I just love to write as much or as little as possible. For me I can’t force it – that results in bad writing. And as much as I say just write – I find it better to stop at 10 words of good stuff you know fits the bill than continue for 10,000 just for the sake of it.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Only 5? You’re cruel!
I guess, if I had to pick JUST the five they’d be as follows:
William Shakespaere – for still being taught to schoolkids and fuelling their imaginations
Iain Banks – for making me laugh and cry sometimes in the same sentence
Roald Dahl – for introducing me to a world of writing that doesn’t have to be super serious all of the time
Hanna Jameson – for being an exciting new voice that I’ve been lucky enough to review before she becomes a megastar
CJ Tudor – for being the single nicest person in the world
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Hear me out on this one, but I’d love to meet Ernest Hemingway. The reason I ask you to hear me out is that I know that may sound like a massive cliche, but I’ve always been fascinated by him, both as a writer and a character.
He is, quite rightly, held up as one of the great literary minds of the 20th century and arguably of all time. His work is so complicated, so precise and so important that I think I’d just be in awe if I ever got the chance to actually shake his hand.
And of course, his own battles with his demons are well documented. I’m always saddened when I read Hemingway to wonder just how different things could have been for him and the rest of the world if he’d lived in a time where he could have gotten more help. Thankfully writers don’t have to suffer in silence today and I think more awareness of mental health and issues can only be a good thing.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I was. I went through periods of reading all the time and then maybe stopping for a while. I had a weird love/hate relationship with reading. I adored reading sci-fi and fantasy, my shelves were stacked with Star Wars novelisations growing up and they were a staple of every Christmas and birthday. But I always struggled to get motivated to read for school reports and reviews.
I guess it all worked out in the end though. Now I do it for a living!
When did you start to write?
I can remember writing stories and little tales from pretty much as soon as I could write!
I grew up playing with Star Wars figures and Lego and, when I went on holiday, I wouldn’t be able to take all my sets and toys with me. So I used to come up with stories and write them down, acting them out when I got home.
While I didn’t realise it at the time, that was the start of what would become my creative writing career. It blossomed in my late teens, I studied it at Glasgow and Strathclyde Unis and it’s something I’ve carried on into my adult life. My writing has probably been the longest, most consistent part of my life for the longest time.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
I was once told “The first line of a book sells it to the reader. The last line sells the next one”. And it’s always stuck with me, particularly in my own work.
It’s a tough one because I think we all have our own interpretations of great novels and how they play out. A soppy, weepy ending might be great for one person but a cop-out for another. Same goes for a real downer that maybe should have been more positive. It’s all subjective I guess.
But if I had the chance to, I’d like to re-write 1984 by George Orwell. Sacrilidge I know. But I always felt that the reader deserves to have something a bit more “Hollywood” than we got. SPOILER: Winston ends up brainwashed and proclaims that he loves Big Brother – despite all the rebellion, all the unrequited, secret love, despite everything.
I get that it’s supposed to be a commentary on conformism and how the state always wins. But I would have had Winston and Julia go out in a blaze of glory rather than the damp squib we end up with. Orwell was a fantastic journalist so hopefully he wouldn’t mind my all-out thrills and spills ending too much.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
You know I was actually having a conversation about this the other day with a writer friend. We were talking about going back in time and what book we would write that hadn’t been written yet.
My answer is The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick. It’s such a clever, cerebral take on the alternate history sci-fi trope and executed so well. Thankfully it’s reached a whole new audience via the TV show but it’s actually a really enjoyable read too. So I think I’d have to go for that one.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
That’s a difficult one – mostly because I find coming up with titles one of the hardest parts of being a writer!
I always liked the veteran broadcaster Des Lynam’s biography title – I Should Have Been At Work – it’s a great summary of a man who never saw his career as a job as he loved it so much. I feel exactly the same. So maybe Des won’t mind if I pilfer his snazzy title.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
This is going to sound dreadful but I always sort of liked Lady Macbeth. That is weird isn’t it? I don’t care I’m sticking with it.
When I first read Macbeth as a teenager I was totally hooked. For me it’s actually a play about her – her obsession with power, rank and place in the world. She’s manipulative, malevolent and altogether marvellous. She’s a headstrong woman who knows exactly how to get what she wants in a world dominated by vain and violent men. And she is the archetypal arch-villain that so many writers have tried to copy since.
In terms of where we go, I supposed I should take her somewhere nice, seeing as she’s royalty. Maybe The Ritz for afternoon tea, somewhere like that.
What are you working on right now?
I’m always writing or at least working on ideas. I’m currently developing the early bones of the third HellCorp which is very exciting. Working on a series is completely new for me and a real eye-opening experience. When you start a new project you’ve normally got lots of freedoms when it comes to creating brand new characters. With a series, you have a central cast who, while still develop, are already there and ready to play with. So it’s been really exciting.
But I’m always on the hunt for new ideas and you’ll constantly find me filling up my ideas books and jotters.
Tell us about your last release?
HellCorp came out last July. Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime. But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…
Do you have a new release due?
The Man in the Dark is out on September 26. The Devil is back and he’s still not had his holiday! There’s another mystery to solve – a woman kidnapped by terrorists and the world trying to find her. While he hates doing God’s bidding, The Devil can’t resist trying to put one over on Him. But nothing is EVER that simple.
While The Devil helps the London cops crack the case, there’s trouble in the Underworld. And two of humanity’s greatest backstabbers – Brutus and Cassius – are sharpening their knives with an eye on stealing his crown. It’s a race against time to find the girl, be the bad guy and maybe stop the apocalypse.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
I’ve started a little tradition of going out for a nice meal with my wife before heading to the book launch. I’ve been lucky enough to have some great events over the years and it’s always nice to get something in your stomach before you get completely overtaken by the nerves. All of that goes away of course when you’re surrounded by friends, family and new readers too. It’s a really wonderful feeling to be published and one that I relish and am hugely grateful for every time it happens.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
You’ll mostly find me skulking about social media.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Only that it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking to you and a massive thank you for featuring on the Man in the Dark tour!
You are most welcome, Jonathan. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! 🙂
The Devil’s back – and he’s STILL not had a holiday.
There’s another mystery to solve – a woman kidnapped by terrorists and the world trying to find her. While he hates doing God’s bidding, The Devil can’t resist trying to put one over on Him. But nothing is EVER that simple.
While the Devil helps the London cops crack the case, there’s trouble in the Underworld. And two of humanity’s greatest backstabbers – Brutus and Cassius – are sharpening their knives with an eye on stealing his crown.
It’s a race against time to find the girl, be the bad guy and maybe stop the apocalypse.
happy reading 🙂
Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster. After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste with everything in between. He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV. ‘HellCorp’ is his second novel following his debut, ‘Morbid Relations’.
Social Media links:
FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JonathanWhitelawAuthor/