Q. Steve, what was your inspiration for setting New York as the backdrop for you novel with your Irish connection? Does Eddie have an Irish Lineage?
Good question. I suppose that a lot of my literary influences are American writers or at least, books set in the US. I’m sure that had a lot to do with it. Also, I knew I wanted to write a legal thriller and for me, I think it’s more difficult to set a legal thriller in the UK or Ireland for a number of reasons. Firstly, UK and Irish courts have a lot of formality and tradition attached to them which doesn’t sit well with a fast paced thriller. I would’ve been too tempted to make the book funny in order to prick the pomposity of that world. The other difficulty is that in the UK and Ireland the role of a lawyer is split into two schools – Solicitor and Barrister, whereas a US lawyer performs both of those roles so it would be more difficult to write a novel set in the UK with a single main protagonist. Having decided that the books would be set in the States, I quickly decided that New York, with its strong Irish heritage would be the place for Eddie Flynn. It’s one of the great cities of the world and so I wouldn’t necessarily have to take up a great deal of time describing the city. Everyone can immediately conjure up a strong mental image of New York without me, although, I have endeavoured to capture the essence of the city, and its people, in the book. Eddie’s father was Irish, so he does have Celtic roots.
Q. How do you come up with the characters in your books? Are they based on real people or are they people that populate the dark recesses of your mind?
I don’t base any characters in my books on real people, with one exception. There are some real stories from my past that appear in my short story, The Grey, which will feature in the Belfast Noir Anthology. A solicitor character in that story has the same voice mail message on his phone as a friend of mine and some of the petty crimes in that story are loosely based on real events. I should say, all of the persons who were involved in those events were extended family members, now sadly deceased. Other than that, all of the characters in the Grey are entirely fictional. I don’t have a dark recess in my mind – it’s too full of rock music, law, beer, useless facts and action movies.
Q. I’m really inspired by your story, what’s your advice to young aspiring writers out there on getting their work noticed?
I’ve discussed this over on my blog – so do check it out for a fuller answer, but the secret is hard work. There’s no Golden Ticket in this business, you have to work and work at your manuscript to get it as polished as you can possibly make it. Work at it until you’re confident you can sell it, and yourself, to an agent. If you can’t sell your novel to an agent, an agent isn’t going to be able to sell it to somebody else. Then get ready for rejections – a lot of them. I only know of one writer who got an agent on his first try – that’s Lee Child. So, unless you’re Lee Child, you’ve got to work at it and don’t give up. You do however need a bit of luck, getting your work in front of the right agent at the right time works wonders, but you can’t change your luck. Of course, nowadays, you don’t have to go down the traditional publishing route. I know of several brilliant writers who self-publish their work online or publish through ebook imprints. The hardest thing I’ve found is being able to critique your own work. The best advice I can give you is to put a lot of time and distance between drafts, in order to separate the book in your head from what’s actually on the page.
Q. Who are your literary influences?
I think that every book you read is somehow an influence, for good or bad. Thomas Harris has to be pretty close to the top – The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon are still the best serial killer books ever written. And before you ask, I didn’t mind Hannibal but I prefer to pretend that Hannibal Rising doesn’t exist. I have a similar view of Rocky Balboa – that series finished at Rocky 4. When I was growing up I read Tolkien, Roald Dahl, Alexander Dumas, Conan Doyle, Wodehouse, John Mortimer’s Rumpole Series and a lot of comic books. As I got older - David Gemmell, Tibor Fisher, Spike Milligan, Stephen Fry, Oscar Wilde, Dickens, John Grisham, Stephen King, Brendan Behan etc.
About fifteen years ago I fell in love with crime, thriller and mystery fiction. My influences in that sphere are Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Harlan Coben, Colin Bateman, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dennis Lehane, Val McDermid, John Connolly and more. I suppose my writing is more influenced by mystery writers than strictly ‘legal thriller’ writers, although if it wasn’t for Grisham and Scott Turow, I wouldn’t have written THE DEFENCE. John Connolly was a big influence on me because his books are based in America yet he’s from Dublin (where I lived for 3 years). He paved the way internationally for a lot of writers North and South of the border. If I had to choose I would say John Connolly, Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver and Michael Connelly would be my biggest influences.
Q. What do you like to read? And what’s your favourite biscuit?
Ah, at last, all of those years of painstaking, selfless biscuit research will finally pay off. Trio. No, Breakaway. Now that I come to think of it a Blue Riband is hard to beat, but on the other hand a Viscount is your Rolls Royce of the biscuit world. All I can say is that my favourite biscuit is definitely not a Jaffa Cake – because it’s a cake, not a biscuit. Know the difference? If both are left out of the cupboard a biscuit will go soft and a cake will go hard. See! I knew all that research would come in handy one day.
In terms of what I like to read, see Amanda’s question above. Although, I will tell you that probably my favourite books are The Rumpole of Bailey series, by John Mortimer. Reading a Rumpole story is like settling down with a mug of sweet tea in front of the fire on a cold, stormy day. The world is a slightly darker place without John Mortimer.
Q. I love stuff like this and I’ve pre-ordered. Please tell me what makes this one bigger and better than my favourite authors?
Well, I'm not sure who your favourite authors are, Nicola, but I can say that The Defence is no bigger or better than any other book. I try to be a better writer each time I sit down at the keyboard. I'm not in competition with any other author, so you should definitely read you favourite authors and The Defence. Thanks for ordering the book, and I hope you enjoy it.
Q. Any plans for The Defence to come out as an audiobook? and when’s the next one out?
My UK publisher, Orion, are producing an audiobook - and I hope that will be out this year. Book 2 in the Eddie Flynn series should be appearing on shelves sometime in 2016.
Q. When it comes to crime/detective fiction my favourites would probably be Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels and Connlley’s Bosch. As you’re no doubt aware, the former is written first person, the latter third. May I ask, is The Defence narrated in 1st or 3rd person? What we’re your reasons for choosing that type of narration?
I think there is one Bosch novel which is in first person, but you're right, those novels are mainly Third Person and the Robicheaux books are First Person. I chose First Person perspective because there is a strong claustrophobic feeling in The Defence; Eddie is trapped in this terrible situation and I felt it would be better to write using First Person because then the reader is trapped in that same nightmare with Eddie. They only hear his voice and so the reader connects more easily with Eddie and his plight. Good question - thanks for that.