Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Thank you for the opportunity, Fiona. I think I am going to enjoy this!
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Ah, that depends. My name is Austen Gower but I write as Ryan Stark. I answer to Oz and increasingly to Ryan.
I am a youthful 58 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I come from Redditch, Worcestershire in the UK. It used to be the centre of the needle making industry and birthplace of Royal Enfield motorcycles.
I still live there.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I attended Moseley Grammar School in Birmingham in the 1970s. At the time, Birmingham was pivotal to UK music, several famous people attended my school. For example, Jasper Carrott and Anton Lesser (Game of Thrones). Also, the Electric Light Orchestra, Roy Wood and Wizzard, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, all had their origins around where I lived. Hence my love of music.
I have a real career in IT, as a Business Analyst, which is a little humdrum but pays the bills. For many years I was bass player in a band called FishHeads but I gave that up to concentrate on my writing.
I am married with two grown up daughters who have flown the nest. I am extremely proud of my daughters.
Oh, I have a Blue Peter badge awarded by the dream team of Singleton, Purves and Noakes. Readers outside the UK may need to look that one up.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Daughter no. 2 is getting married! I have to buy a new suit.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
There is a left and a right side of the brain. As a child I was always very creative, artistically and musically but that sort of dwindled when I started working. As I have mentioned, IT is quite humdrum so the right side of my brain was not taxed and I became quite frustrated with life. So, in the ‘90s, I took up took up writing as a hobby. After several half-hearted attempts, I got my act together and published ‘Killing by the Book’ in 2015 and then ‘The Farm’ in 2017.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The very first time someone came back to me and discussed the plot of my first book. About 3 months after it was published, a colleague, who had bought the book unbeknown to me, cornered me in a corridor and said ‘You can’t kill XXXXX. They are the murderer!!’. I knew then, I was doing something right.
Weirdly, for a writer who uses a pen name, I was once stopped in the street and asked to sign a paperback copy of my book. How did they know it was me!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Long car journeys down slow, crowded motorways, and bored daughters. At first, we played ‘Spot the ugly truck’ where we picked a particularly ugly truck and had to monitorit’s progress in the long queues. A less violent variation on Punch Car.
The girls soon became bored, so we changed it to ‘Where, along the side of the road, could you dump a body (yes, I know) and it would not be found?’
Over time, that became ‘How could you obviously murder someone and get away with it?’, the theme behind ‘Killing by the Book.’
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It’s sort of obvious if you read the book but only once you are half way through. Still, I have a notebook full of rubbish alternatives.
The title of ‘The Farm’ will keep you guessing though.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write as I think. Fortunately, I have a small office in the spare room, as I can be heard talking out the dialogue and arguing with myself. I also keep the words commonplace. People do not think complicated words.
In crime writing, the challenge is understanding the motive of the criminal. Often they know what they are doing is wrong but do not appreciate the gravity, so my antagonists often have to operating as if it’s all perfectly normal – even the dripping blood.
I find emotion challenging, especially the emotions of my female characters. As a husband and father of girls, I know a fair amount about the female psyche but, as my wife constantly tells me, not enough!
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are traces of my daughters and traces of myself. Characters are an amalgam.
The antagonist in ‘Killing by the Book’ is modelled on a friend who shall remain nameless (because they are very alike).
Inspector Scott Daley is impulsive but he suffers from insecurities, despite his obvious talents. He doesn’t realise how good he is. People say, that’s me all over.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Yes, both by the power of Google Street View and physically. My work is set in West London, which is 100 miles away. I think it is important to understand the sights and smells of a place, as well as the people.
I am planning a new series of stories about a contract killer with morals. He lives abroad. I am travelling to Greece later this year and will be researching a plot in between drinks!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I do all my own artwork and production. Sounds grand but just an Apple Mac and imagination. My elder daughter is a Fine Art Graduate. She has a trained eye.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really. I just hope readers escape for a while and enjoy the story.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favourite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
L.L. Thomsen (Linda) writes the ‘The Missing Shield’ series. It is a totally different genre to Crime Fiction but her imagination and descriptive powers are immense.
I have two favourites: Mark Billingham with his Tom Thorne novels and Peter James, author of the Roy Grace books. Both are crime writers who impart a gritty realism.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
No-one has supported me directly but I have not asked. My Facebook friends have been and continue to be very helpful.
At the outset I was supported by Tracy Tonkinson, who writes the fantastic ‘Diamond and Doran Mysteries’. She gave me advice on the process and how to manage my expectations, which has been very useful.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No. To pay the bills, I need a job. Writing has to be second to that. I have to fit my writing in around a 40 hour working week, Also I cannot market as much as self-publishing needs due to time pressures.
However, I am looking long term. I retire in two years or so. Then it can be a career.
That said, I never expected it to be a career and I am pleased with the way my books have been received.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Like anything, writing is an evolving art. It requires practice.
I would revisit ‘Killing by the Book’ and make it shorter and more dynamic, less passive paragraphs. I may yet do that.
‘The Farm’ is much better. I would not change that.
I am excited about my latest book ‘Unnatural Selection’. It promises to be better still.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes. I can strip down a Heckler and Koch USP 9mm semi-automatic pistol now.
Also, the Mayor’s Office Police and Crime Plan for 2013 (MOPAC) is a boring, dry document and difficult to make the subject of a novel!
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Maybe Tom Hardy or Clive Owen could be Scott Daley. When I think of Deborah Whetstone, I think of agreat actress called Chloe Howman.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write for yourself.
Don’t expect anyone to read it.
Reviews, good or bad, are subjective.
Famous authors, even the good ones, got lucky.
When it goes well, enjoy it. It’s lonely, long hours and you have done it. Many haven’t.
Lastly, stop beating yourself up. You’re better than you think.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Just remember that word of mouth is important when selling books. Please review and tell your friends.
Oh, and never trust a BMW 520i, especially a dark blue metallic one (reference to my next book ‘Unnatural Selection’).
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
‘Not Dead Enough’ – Peter James
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
‘The Treasure Hunters’ – Enid Blyton
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh at my own one-liner dad jokes – well, someone has to.
I am a big softie. I blubber when finally true love prevails. I always well up at the end of Sleepless in Seattle and occasionally in Love Actually when Andrew Lincoln shows his feelings in cue cards on Kiera Knightley’s doorstep.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Phil Davis, the award winning actor. People say Ryan Stark, award winning author (I should be so lucky) and he are the spitting image of each other.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Music. I write and record my own songs.
I also love to travel with my wife.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I binge-watch box sets. The last ones were Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead.
I don’t often watch films twice, as I remember the dialog and repeat it back. That can get annoying.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My wife’s spaghetti Bolognese.
Anything by Mozart, 10cc and Pink Floyd. I love Supertramp. They were my specialist subject on Quizkid ’76. Readers outside the UK may need to look that up!
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would travel and read.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Winding the clock backwards hopefully, sitting in the sun, telling everyone ‘I told you something was wrong’.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I consider myself a survivor rather than a thriver. Everything I have done is down to determination and hard work. So I think my epitaph above my grave would be:
As in life, it’s all down to me
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yes, I do.
My Web site : http://ryanstarkauthor.co.uk/
My Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RyanStarkAuthor/