WHY DO WE WRITE?
Bud Craig, author of the crime thriller TACKLING DEATH talks about writing with NSNB
Q. Bud you’ve written much in the past, what drives you to write?
A. Writing has its frustrations, but when it all starts coming together (usually after I’ve written and rejected lots of stuff) it’s very satisfying. I can’t imagine not writing. And it’s a solitary occupation, so it suits a miserable bugger like me!
Q: What made you write this particular book?
About 5 or 6 years ago I resuscitated an old idea. I wanted to set it in Salford, where I was born and bred. For most of my adult life I have lived in a village near Darlington, quite a contrast with my early life. I barely recognize my home town now. This distance probably made it more interesting to write.
The basic plot has remained unchanged throughout the writing process, so I suppose the urge to tell the story was a strong motivating factor. It was slow going at first - I was writing other things as well and it was hard to get it right. I’d almost given up on it a couple of times. In the end it was sheer determination that made me write it. After several drafts I did some drastic pruning and made the style more direct. I kept telling myself, ‘You can make something of this.’
Now Not So Noble Books say it has ‘good cohesion, narrative flow and a natural style’. Who am I to argue? Those are the things I’m constantly striving for. I’ve never been all that keen on hard work, but believe me I worked on this.
Q. Name your favourite crime writers. What is the best crime novel of all time and why?
My favourite crime writers at the moment are, in no particular order, Simon Brett, Laura Wilson, Kate Ellis and John Dean. They all tell a good story but I particularly like their believable central characters.
Simon Brett was judge of the Steyning Short Story Competition in 2012. He chose my entry as one of the highly commended ones and said nice things about it so now I like him even more! The contest was judged anonymously so he doesn’t know my name. Perhaps we should tell him!
My favourite non-crime writer is PG Wodehouse. I recently read Pat Barker’s latest book, Toby’s Room, on my Kindle. It’s fantastic. Another writer I like is Deborah Moggach - I’ve read most of her books and have been catching up on her back catalogue.
I haven’t got a best ever crime book, I’m afraid.
Q: Your daughter is a successful novelist, tell us a little about her books.
Her first book, Northern Soul Revival by Claire Moss, was published a couple of years ago. It’s a modern romance and it’s brilliant. (I know I would say that - if you don’t believe me read it!) It is set in Sheffield, Tasmania and a fictional North Yorkshire town.
I was drawn into it from the first and soon forgot my daughter had written it. It has some very funny passages, good dialogue and strong characters. It is marketed as a ‘woman’s book’ but the male protagonist is particularly good, I think.
Claire has recently signed a two book deal with Carina UK. Her next book Who Do You Think You Are? will be out as an e-book, probably in November 2013. It is set in the present day, with flashbacks to the miners’ strike of 1984 and 1985.
Q. Is yours a literary household then? Where did you get the bug?
I don’t know about literary, that sounds a bit grand. We certainly have a lot of books - there are some in every room in the house. Thank goodness for e-books, otherwise we’d be overrun by now!
All the family are avid readers. I’m sure my 4 grandchildren will grow up to be book lovers.
My younger daughter, Ruth was runner up in the Sid Chaplin Short Story Competition when she was about 14 and when she has time she may get back to writing.
My wife, Ann, concentrates on arts and crafts, for which I have absolutely no talent.
How did I get the writing bug? I suppose I wanted to do something creative. I like words and people have said I’m good with words. Maybe that’s it, but really these things can’t be explained.
Q. How important was success in writing competitions to your progress as a writer?
I would say two things in particular have helped me progress: writing competitions and joining the Inkerman Writers, a Darlington writing group.
Competitions first. In 2005 I was shortlisted in a novel writing competition in Writers’ Forum. A few months later I got a rave review - no exaggeration- when I was shortlisted in Opening Lines on Radio 4. This was with The Final Test, a short story set during the 2005 Ashes series. (I’m a big cricket fan. I heard about Not So Noble Books’ interest in publishing Tackling Death the day Durham won the county championship. Does it get any better than that?)
Things went on from there. In all I have done well in competitions on about 20 occasions. This includes being shortlisted in the Kenneth Branagh Windsor Festival Drama Awards 2 years running.
I haven’t made much money from competitions, but this is the sort of thing that has helped keep me going.
I joined the Inkermans in 2003. We attend writing classes run by crime writer, John Dean. Three of us have been members for 10 years, many for 5 years or more. I have learned to write short stories while I have been with the group and have benefitted from my fellow writers’ feedback. It’s not a question of being told how to write (that’s impossible anyway). It’s more subtle than that. Learning to write is a gradual, incremental process and is mainly up to you. And you must practice!
Q. How has your career as a social worker informed your writing?
I first got published in Community Care, a social work magazine more years ago than I’m prepared to admit. They paid me what seemed like a lot of money at the time for The Adventure of Ivor Problem episodes one and two. These satirical stories were called It Doesn’t Matter Any More and Mama Weer All Crazee Now. I have recently written updated versions. They’re still getting laughs.
Tackling Death is partly set in a social work office, but I don’t think the book’s about social work. The setting, and Gus’s occupation, are things I have experienced. In social work, “All Human Life is Here”, as a newspaper said of itself in the old days. So I reckon it must have influenced me, even though I’m not always aware of it. As with Salford I am more distanced from it now. On a personal level this is quite a relief, given the current headlines about social work.
The titles of the Ivor Problem stories show how pop music has inspired my writing. Most of the work I have had success with has mentioned Elvis, though I’m not sure what that means. The King of Rock’n’Roll can’t tell us as he has left the building.
Sport gets the occasional mention too, for example in The Final Test. The best short story I’ve ever written is called Marching On, partly set at the time of the Munich air crash. One of the plays shortlisted in the Windsor Awards is based on this. And of course Rugby League features a bit inTackling Death.
Q: Sum up your book in tweetable length.
I’ve never tweeted in my life but here goes:
Gus finds boss’s body. Becomes Private Eye. Investigates murder and that’s just the start of it!
Q. When are we going to see the sequel?
No pressure, I suppose? It’s too early to say at the minute, but I’ll be giving this priority above other writing. I’ve made a start and know who gets killed and whodunnit. All I have to do is write it!
Read Bud Craig’s crime thriller TACKLING DEATH here: