I’m delighted to be hosting best selling crime fiction author Neil White today. Neil is chatting to us about the first book in his new series, From the Shadows which is available in Kindle format now with the paperback publishing 10th August.
Find out about his inspiration for the new series, the scenes he enjoyed writing the most and much more. I really like Neil’s tips for new writers, especially the last sentence! I hope you find the interview as interesting as I have.
Neil White was born and brought up around West Yorkshire. He left school at sixteen but returned to education in his twenties, when he studied for a law degree. He started writing in 1994, and is now a criminal lawyer by day, crime fiction writer by night.
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Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise From The Shadows in 20 words or less.
A woman is murdered. No one will say what happened. A twisting tale of secrets and lies and courtroom battles.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I wanted to write thrillers that were more legal in setting than my previous books. Although I’d had lawyers as characters in previous books, I hadn’t had any courtroom dramas. I wanted more of that, with the law as more than a backdrop.
In writing From The Shadows, I was influenced by a case I was involved in as part of my role as a Senior Crown Prosecutor, which is what I’d done as a day job for eighteen years, a defence lawyer before then. I still appear in court regularly, but I am self-employed now, which gives me the freedom to write but gets me out of the house.
I don’t want to give too much away about the case, because I don’t want to give away too much of the book, but it involved someone who liked sneaking around houses when the occupant was out. In the book, the occupant isn’t always out. I’m sure you get the idea.
That is only part of the book though, but that was the seed that grew the idea.
Please tell us about the characters in From the Shadows.
I have two main characters, a defence lawyer called Dan Grant and his investigator, Jayne Brett.
Dan is a bit rough round the edges for a lawyer, the son of a trade union activist who feels that Dan has betrayed his roots by opting for the shirt and tie and the courtroom.
Jayne Brett started out as a client of Dan’s, who was accused of murder after her abusive boyfriend ended up dead and Jayne had been holding the knife. Dan got her acquitted and she escaped to Dan’s hometown, where she works as a private investigator.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most Neil?
The courtroom scenes were the most fun to write because I hadn’t written many of them before. They are a joy to write because they are based entirely on conflict, the lawyer and the witness going at each other, tempers fraying. Courtroom dramas are that by their very nature, dramatic. I find dialogue easier to write than prose, because I can imagine the conversation more easily than I can come up with fancy descriptives.
What inspired you to write?
A combination of things, really.
Firstly, I read a lot as a child. I can remember going into Wakefield city centre as a young boy and gravitating towards the bookshop more than anywhere else, and it was there that I spent a lot of my pocket money. On Dr Who books, or the Three Investigators, the Jennings books, and this turned into horror books as a teenager. It was the one thing I missed when I was at university, because it felt like an open book should be a study book, but my love of reading was a major factor.
Secondly, I always thought it was something I could do. It was what I was best at when I was at school, and because I thought I could, I wanted to prove that I could.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
It’s always impossible to predict. I sit down to write every day, and sometimes it flows, and sometimes it doesn’t. There have been times when I’ve felt completely in the mood but ended spending all of my time refreshing the online newspapers, and other times I’ve thought I was tired and fit for just a couple of hundred words, and then written a couple of thousand words that turned out to be crucial for the book.
The fundamental thing about creativity is that it is based around knowing where the creativity is going. I struggle to write when I don’t know what is going to happen.
Panster or a plotter?
A mix. I have to know what lies ahead but I don’t have the time to plan a whole book. I tend to know what a book is about and often how it ends, so I plan out the first twenty thousand words, and once I’ve written that I’ll plan the next.
The advantage of this approach is that the plot evolves in my head over a longer period of time, and I can adapt the ending to fit ideas I’ve had as I’ve written it. I know it’s time for some more planning when I’m stuck.
Which authors have influenced your writing Neil?
Different authors have influenced different parts of it.
The first writing style I tried to imitate was that of W.P. Kinsella, who wrote the book Shoeless Joe (which became the Kevin Costner film, Field of Dreams). I liked the mid-western vibe, all the cornfields and farmhouses with verandahs, all written quite poetically, almost whimsically.
In terms of crime fiction, Lee Child’s first book, Killing Floor, was a big influence, purely because I loved the way it was pacey from the first page and never stopped being a page-turner. I decided that I wanted to write a book like that.
Are there any tips you could share with new writers that have worked well for you?
Stop writing short stories.
A lot of people disagree with me on this, but my take is that the hardest part of the book to write is the beginning, because the characters or the idea might not be fully-formed. It’s the rustiest part and the part that I edit the most. If I wrote a short story, I’d feel like I was stuck in the part that I find the hardest.
Also, start it, push on, and finish it. Don’t be a forever-editor, putting off the moment when you call it finished, because you fear that it’s the time you realise you’re not a writer, because all you get is rejections. Well, every writer I know has a pile of rejections letters behind them. Don’t be the greatest undiscovered writer, a legend in your own study. Be discovered, and catch the bricks as well as the flowers.
Finally Neil, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
My fifth book, Cold Kill, was a number one bestseller in ebook, and across all genres, not some subcategory. To see it on the opening page of Amazon and in the newspapers alongside truly great writers was a real thrill, and it remained at number one throughout July 2011. To be able to call myself a number one bestseller is still a real thrill, something to retire on. That can never be taken away from me.
Thank you for being my guest Neil.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 980 KB
Print Length: 379 pages
Publisher: Zaffre (9 Mar. 2017)
He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .
Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.
When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.
But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.
Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost . . .