Name: Tony Black
Age: 39 … or, old enough to know better.
Where are you from: Scotland.
A little about your self `ie your education/family life etc:
I was born in Australia but grew up in Scotland and for a little while in Ireland. My old man was an engineer and we moved about a bit. My education is a bit erratic as a result, I did go to uni but dropped out in my final year without a degree. It was English Lit so go figure …
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I have a busy year ahead: German, Italian and Czech translations coming out. The second DI Rob Brennan novel, MURDER MILE, coming from Random House UK. A novella, RIP ROBBIE SILVA, for Pulp Press. A novella, THE STORM WITHOUT, for Blasted Heath. Oh, and there’s a movie adaptation of LONG TIME DEAD coming from the acclaimed director Richard Jobson. I must be mental trying to fit all that in …
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
A looong time ago. When I realised I wasn’t fit for anything else.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think you have to have the first book on the shelf before you can really call yourself that. It’s the first thing everyone asks you when you reply to the question ‘what do you do?’ …’I’m a writer’ ..’Oh, and are you, published?’ Hmnn … it seems to be socially unacceptable to make the claim unless you can actually back it up with the goods.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
There was no big road to Damascus experience where I said to myself ‘that’s my idea’ … I’d been writing novels, or trying to, for about seven years with an agent collecting armfuls of rejections on my behalf by the time I got PAYING FOR IT published by Random House UK.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
No. All the novels, novellas and short fiction have their own styles but I’m not tied to any one specific style. I think it might be easier if I was …
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Which one? My latest THE STORM WITHOUT is a line from Burns’s Tam O’Shanter. I grew up in Alloway (his hometown) so I rest my case.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
No. I’m with Hemingway: ‘If you have a message go to Western Union.’
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
All of it, I hope. There’s no point writing fiction that’s lacking in realism; you can stretch the boundaries, and the facts, but it has to ring true.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Sometimes. I don’t think any random morsel of experience is wasted in a writer’s life. It all goes down the same wormhole.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life?
Hard to say. I know the ones I rate the most in adulthood, but there was a lot of fiction from childhood that plugged me into the idea of story. I really rate Stevenson’s Treasure Island for example and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They were really influential to me as a young reader. As an adult I initially read a lot of literary fiction and my early attempts at writing followed that line; I had to train myself out of that when I started writing crime but now it’s a mash of influences from all the novelists I admire. I like Irvine Welsh, Jim Thompson, Ken Bruen.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
There’s a few writers I’ve been really lucky to benefit from their experience and wisdom: Ken Bruen, Allan Guthrie and Nick Stone helped me a lot when I was getting started. As did Cathi Unsworth, who still manages to make me laugh at this crazy business.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m not. I’m writing and I tend not to read when I’m writing but I have a pile of them to get my teeth into when I finish these final six chapters! Grrr …
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Damien Seaman has written a fabulous novel called THE KILLING OF EMMA GROSS for Blasted Heath. And there’s a new one coming from Michael Malone – another Ayrshire writer – that I’ve dipped into a little and looking forward to going back to soon.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
See the one about my busy year 😉
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Hmnnn…like financially? None. It’s a smart-arse answer, I know …
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It pays the rent, but I wouldn’t be recommending it to anyone as a career. You’ve got a better chance cracking Hollywood.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. You have to reach a cut off and say: it’s done.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think it was always there. Like hair colour. You can’t manufacture it, well, you can but the results are always very false.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here’s a random par or so from THE STORM WITHOUT …
As I pulled into Dunure Road the rain was subsiding. I located the house number quickly, parked up and got out the TT. There was a light spray on the breeze – a susurration from the sea – compared to the battering of rain and gales of late it felt almost a comfort. I flicked the central-locking and turned away from the vehicle towards the house. The garden was strewn with leaves, a bird-table had been upended – some more leaves had accumulated under the fallen eaves of the bird-table’s roof. They’d been there for some time.
I shunned the doorbell and knocked, gently.
A dark figure appeared beyond the frosted glass, seemed to stall for a moment or two, then proceeded towards the door. I heard a key turning in a Yale lock, a slim chain removed. As the door edged open a few inches a whey-faced man in his fifties thinned eyes at me.
The door widened some, ‘Yes, that’s me.’ He strode forward, stepped out onto the top step. ‘Are you from the police?’
I kept my eyes fixed on him, allowed a momentary silence to sit between us as I avoided a direct answer to his question. ‘I think it might be best if we went inside.’
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Sitting still for long periods of time.
Fiona: Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I can’t pick a favourite. I like too many, for too many reasons.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not really. Wish I did, I believe it’s tax deductible. Think I might set one in Mallorca next…
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Well the latest one – for THE STORM WITHOUT – was done by JY Lindroos I believe. He’s a talented bloke.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The commitment. Sitting down to write a 120K novel like MURDER MILE takes a long time and it’s so involving that a lot of other stuff – life etc – can fall by the wayside.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Each book teaches you something, I think. They all open new neural paths. THE STORM WITHOUT has taught me how much I really know about my hometown of Ayr, for a long time I thought I was ambivalent towards it but it seems I’m actually very connected to the place in ways I never imagined.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
These days, I think all the advice in the world is already out there and I doubt I could add anything.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
God bless you all. 🙂
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done ?
No idea. So not a clairvoyant then …