I am delighted to welcome Graeme Cumming back to Chat About Books today! 🙂 Graeme’s second book, Carrion, was published yesterday (check out my previous post if you missed it).
Today I have the pleasure of sharing this interview with the author himself.
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your books please?
After many years of ‘not getting on with it’, I started writing properly (i.e. reasonably consistently), about fifteen years ago, though it took five years for me to finish the first draft of a novel. Ready for a break from it, I decided to focus on another, which I completed in eight months (I’d learnt a lot in those five years), and took another year to get it into shape and ready to publish.
That book was Ravens Gathering and I decided to publish it myself after a lot of thought. Partly because of my age – I was fast approaching fifty – and the realisation it could take years to get an agent on board, let alone a publishing deal. Also the fact the book wouldn’t neatly slot into a genre meant I’d have to be exceptionally lucky to get a break. Besides, having worked for myself for twenty years, I liked the idea of keeping control.
Carrion was the first story I’d started and I have returned to it at different times over the years. It’s a story I felt I needed to tell, but have struggled to get right. I’m delighted, though, with the final outcome and feel the time and effort I’ve put into it has finally paid off. Now it’s available for the public to read and I’ll be interested to see what people think.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
Ideas come from all kinds of places. You spot something and your imagination takes off as you wonder why it happened and what led up to it. But you can also be inspired by things you read or watch on TV or at the cinema. I remember reading the blurb for a book once and thinking it sounded like a great idea. I didn’t read the book, but I picked out an aspect from the blurb and included it in Carrion. Similarly with songs. I’m a massive fan of Thin Lizzy, and saw them live many times in the 1980s. Something that struck me is how many of their songs have their influences in pulp fiction. It’s a bit of a leap, but my thinking took me to the idea of a book series about an ex-cop living and working in the borderline between the law and the criminal underworld. I’ve already outlined the first four books in the series – and there will be more.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Not consciously. Some of my own traits might show up occasionally – though it’s probably better if I don’t declare which ones. But aspects of others put in an appearance sometimes, and I won’t realise it until I’ve written about the character for a while. It was only a year or so ago that I began to recognise something of my son in Salin, a key character in Carrion.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
It will vary, depending on the story. Carrion was an interesting one because I needed a lot of made-up names. The period I’ve written about is fictional so the names had to be different. Some of the characters have names specifically linked to the natural world – Flint, Beck, Sorrel – while others, as far as I’m aware, have no basis in reality. Even so, with a relatively large cast, it was important to make sure they can be distinguished from one another. As new names appeared, I made sure there weren’t many that sounded alike or started with the same initials.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
Plot it and plan it, including chapter plans. It doesn’t work out exactly how you intended, but it does make the process easier to follow. I did it with Ravens Gathering, but I didn’t with Carrion. I’ve no doubt at all that Carrion would have been published a few years ago if I’d planned it.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
This changes all the time, but at the moment the authors I go to when I want to be sure of a good read are:
Robert B Parker
Robert (but I call him Bob now, because I’ve met him) Crais
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Mark Billingham. And the question would be: “What are you drinking?” I wrote a blog post about not getting on with his first Tom Thorne book, Sleepyhead, but trying again later with the second, Scaredy Cat, and really enjoying it. In the post, I said I’d try to pluck up the courage to offer him a drink when I saw him at the Harrogate Crime Festival next time. He read the post and tweeted me to say he’d take me up on it! Just a shame I’ll have to wait until next year now.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes, but only when I dragged myself away from the TV.
When did you start to write?
I’ve been writing stories since I was a child, even getting a series published in the school magazine. But I’ve only really taken it seriously for the last 10 years or so.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
I don’t think I’d dare. I’d hate it if someone else rewrote the end of any of mine.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Only all the ones still going round in my head…
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
Cumming By Name…
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
As I can’t stand the taste of coffee, nobody – though it’d be interesting to meet Flynn Patrick O’Flynn from Wilbur Smith’s Shout At The Devil. He was portrayed by Lee Marvin in the film, and I suspect there was some typecasting went on there, and we’d have to meet in what the great Phil Lynott would have referred to as a sleazy bar.
Tell us a random fact about yourself
I once walked across twelve feet of burning hot coals and it felt like walking on newly cut grass. So I did it again the following year, but wasn’t concentrating properly, so ended up with some minor burns on my feet.
What are you working on right now?
I’m just debating what to do next. The Thin Lizzy inspired series is calling to me, but I also have a crime trilogy vying for my attention. I’ve outlined all of those and done a first draft of the first one. Now Carrion has been launched, I know I need to make a decision and get on with one of them.
Tell us about your last release?
Like Ravens Gathering, Carrion is a blend of genres. This time, the setting lends itself to fantasy – and there are some fantasy-like characters in it – but it’s also a thriller, with lots of action, and a very dark villain in it.
Here’s a little teaser:
Cordane, Willow and Vangor had thrown themselves to the ground. As they began to sit up, Cordane looked across at Salin.
“All right, now I’m convinced about the sword!” he shouted.
“It wasn’t the sword!” Salin called back as he ran towards them.
“Well if it wasn’t the sword,” Willow demanded as she climbed to her feet, “what was it?!”
Salin had reached them now and was helping Vangor up, his head twisting and turning. “There!” he yelled.
And suddenly the troll didn’t seem very scary at all.
Do you have a new release due?
Not any more! Carrion was released on the 9th May, so it’s out there for all to see and read.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
I’d love to think I had enough books out for publication day to be an event that I generally did something for. This time, though, my day was full of sharing stuff on social media so I could get the word out. These books don’t sell themselves, you know!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
They can follow me on my website and blog, Facebook page, or Twitter
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
These are interesting times, unprecedented for most of us, but most of us aren’t as isolated as we could be. We still have phones, social media and other ways of connecting we didn’t have in times gone by. There are also some good things happening. People are exercising more, air pollution is falling, and more books are being read, according to some reports. As writer – and a reader – that’s great news. Buy a book. Read it. Escape from this world for a while. (If you’re feeling careful with your money at the moment, Carrion is only 99p until the end of the month.)
Whatever you do, though, look after yourself and the people around you.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Graeme! 🙂 Keep well and stay safe.
CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY. WORDS HAVE POWER.
A sheet of black filled his vision as hundreds of birds dived at the cottage, pointed beaks thrust forward. From this angle, he couldn’t see many of them striking it, but the few he did see held nothing back as they hammered into the shutter. The scale of the attack was beyond anything he’d seen or heard of. And bloodied casualties littered the ground: skulls shattered, wings broken, innards spilling from them. The fact that so many of them continued with the onslaught in spite of this filled him with even more dread.
Salin has always wanted an adventure and, when the opportunity presents itself, he grabs it with both hands, taking his friends along for the ride – whether they want to or not.
With strange lands come strange creatures that stand between them and their goal. And that goal is the same for someone else, a man who believes the prize is worth every sacrifice – especially when the sacrifices are made by others.
The future is about to change. But who for?
happy reading 🙂