Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sorts of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today, I’m welcoming Stewart McDowall to the Clubhouse Tearoom on the release of his novel, The Murder Option. Welcome to the tearoom, Stewart. You have an exciting time ahead of you. So my first question what would you like to drink?
Thank you for the invite, Paula. Yes, it has been a tense few months leading up to the release of my novel. I would love a milky tea and lots and lots of it.
It is always a nervous time until the first reviews come in. Here our drinks now. Can I start by ask you when you first began your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
My fiction writing journey started 30 years ago and before that I was always interested in crime stories. Once as a kid I borrowed an Ed McBain, New York cop story from the library, which built up to a big reveal on the last page, but horrifyingly someone had torn the page out. (Who would do that?) The suspense I had to endure until I could get into town, find the book in a bookshop and find out what had happened struck me as a powerful motivator.
Which writing elements do you think are your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
I would like to do all of it better.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
My next project will be a follow-up to The Murder Option, and will have the same central characters, McQueen the ex-psychologist P.I. and Tracey, the police detective.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
Do you write a synopsis first, write the first chapter or do you let the characters lead you?
I write the first paragraph, then rewrite it twenty times. If I can’t get that right then I don’t have the foundation for a book.
Choosing only five of your favourite authors. Can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
I only need one. It’s Cormac McCarthy. I so admire his work. If you don’t know him, his prose has changed considerably over the years. It used to be poetic and expansive, and then he became clipped and minimal. He uses as little punctuation as possible, as he describes it, ‘why fill the page up with silly little squiggles?’. There are no quotation marks for speech, but to do that you have to be a very, very good writer. Nothing is wasted and the way he evokes emotions with the slightest of touches is incredible to me. He wrote a book called ‘The Road’ which has to be one of the bleakest and least enjoyable things I have ever read, but I was still compelled to stick with it. Meanwhile, ‘No country for old men’ has one of the best and most terrifying characters I have ever come across in Anton Chigurrha. The film they made was nowhere near as good as the book.
When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
No, not really. My story is separate from me. The mood of the story takes me with it rather than the other way around.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Elements of them, rather than the whole person. The dead father in my book has many of the traits of my own dead father, and the advice he gives is the same as mine gave to me. Which was? read the book and find out.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I researched quite a few of the things and places in my book, in as much as I checked that what I thought was true. My daughter is a Clinical Psychologist and my brother-in-law was a policeman, so I asked them questions.
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
That I used to be a stand-up comedian perhaps, given that this is a crime story?
Did you uncover things about yourself while writing your books? Whether that be a long forgotten memory, a positive experience etc.
It made me think about my father, who died when I was 12 and how little I know about him.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I have a day-job as a Copywriter, so I’m writing all day, and then when I finish I do an hour of fiction, and then work on it at weekends.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
I try to, but I’d rather have 500 good words than 1000 that need to be re-written.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No. I am terrible at thinking up names.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I use the first name of my friends and then make up the second name. I hate doing it, all names sound made-up and false to me.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Any scene where I have to join up two different ideas and make a seamless join so the story is smooth.
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
Varies. I start off thinking that I’m going to take a year over it, and then become obsessed and finish in 3 months.
Thank you for the chat, Stewart. Good luck with your sales. I really enjoyed reading your novel.
To follow Stewart, check out his Amazon Author’s Page by clicking Here
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.