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 sort 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 chatting to Jeff Warren. Welcome to the tearoom, Jeff. My first question to all my guests is what would you like to drink?
Thank you for the invite to your tearoom. The cream teas look delicious along with a cake stand stacked full of sandwiches, and cakes. Could I have some scones with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam! I prefer Assam tea, if it’s available?
Of course it is. Right now our refreshments have arrived could you begin by tell us a little about your latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
In recent years I’ve been reading crime novels set in Scotland, Yorkshire and the Fens, but I noticed that there aren’t many set in Wales. I know Pembrokeshire well as I visited its coast on family holidays as a child and, years later, I met and married a nurse who was born near Milford Haven.
I decided that a small coastal community would make a great setting for a series. The first of my Pembrokeshire murder mysteries, ‘A Final Regret:’, was published in November. It’s a ‘family-friendly’ read. There’s little or no graphic violence, gory detail, swearing or explicit sex.
I’m currently writing Book 2. Sgt Alys Carey and DI Matt Vincent will be investigating yet more murders in this otherwise peaceful corner of Wales.
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’ll have to say Rosemary Sutcliff, Dick Francis, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson and LJ Ross, although that is more a chronological order than anything else. I’ve excluded all of the action adventure and historical fiction authors that have influenced me too.
The Eagle of The Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff was the first book that I can specifically remember reading. I was about 9 years old at the time. It’s an adventure quest story set in Roman Britain. More recently I’ve moved over to police procedurals including Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks and LJ Ross’s is DCI Ryan novels.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
The setting for ‘A Final Regret’ is Pembrokeshire, where my wife was born and raised and where we were married. We’ve returned every summer to visit my wife’s relatives and childhood friends. There’s a much stronger sense of community there than where we live now. It’s inevitable that some members of the local community have coloured my character’s descriptions and behaviours.
My wife’s aunt and uncle ran a hotel in the area and I helped in the hotel’s kitchen when their chef unexpectedly fell ill one summer, so some of the characters are loosely based on the hotel staff I worked with back then. I’ve also taught in colleges not dissimilar to the one portrayed in the story.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I love research and I’ll happily spend hours seeking out background information on every aspect of my stories. I cringe when I read other authors’ work and they blatantly get their facts wrong.
For my latest novel I visited the websites of the local police force, historical societies, hotels and tourist sites, the Welsh government and county council, I even walked the Pembrokeshire Coast Path on Google Street View. I enjoy subtly weaving my findings into both plots and descriptions to enhance the realism of my stories.
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
Five years ago my wife and I joined Surrey Show Choirs. We sing songs from the musicals and we’ve performed at Disneyland Paris, the Edinburgh Fringe, at country shows and in theatres, about a hundred performances in total. We’ve even sung to Robbie Williams and Susan Lampard in the Loose Women studios! Some of our best experiences have been backing professional performances by ‘Beyond the Barricade’ and ‘Tenors Un Limited’. It’s brought an unexpected and new dimension to our lives.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I don’t really have a fixed work schedule. I fit in as much writing as I can around the other activities in my life. If I really want to push the word count, I’ll write every day of the week. Ideally I’d like to make writing a regular nine-to-five commitment, but I’m unable to do that.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
Not really. 2000 words a day is the maximum I can usually manage. I’m not a fast writer for two main reasons. I’m not somebody who can just sit down at a keyboard and start writing straight away. It takes me a while to get into the required mindset. I envy those authors who can dash off a few paragraphs whenever they have ten minutes to spare. Also I polish my work as I write. Much of what I write in the first draft will make it through to the final story. I’m reluctant to edit what I’ve written. But hey, 2000 words a day isn’t bad.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
It’s confusing to readers if they see that you write in different genres, which is why J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame writes her adult novels as Robert Galbraith.
If I had the time and upped my productivity, I’d write crime, action adventure and historical fiction using three different pseudonyms. I can’t see that happening. Life is too busy.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I choose the names of my characters to match the story setting, so many of my characters in ‘A Final Regret’ have Welsh forenames or surnames, or names that wouldn’t feel out of place in that corner of Wales.
I recently read a book where two characters had very similar names, and I constantly had a problem working out which character was which. I don’t want my readers to be distracted by such annoying irrelevancies. To avoid that I enter my character names in a spreadsheet and steer clear of similar forenames and surnames. I also check that my villains’ names and occupations don’t match those of real people in the area – I told you that I’m a glutton for research!
I certainly don’t know everything about my characters before I start writing. Their personalities evolve as I write. Characters also pop up to fill gaps in the plot as I write, so they definitely have to grow as the story progresses.
What was your hardest scene to write?
For me it’s always hardest writing a concluding chapter to round the story off after the climax and denouement. Readers want a satisfying ending that ties up the loose ends, but you need to leave a hook if the novel is part of a series. For me the worst types of ending are the ones that don’t actually finish the story, or that are a list of what happened to each of the main and supporting characters. I’m hoping that my epilogue to ‘A Final Regret’ will leave my readers feeling satisfied with a smile on their faces and a desire to read more.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
As I’ve only completed two full length novels and the first sat on the shelf for a long time before I went back to finish it, I’m not admitting to my average. Suffice it to say that my latest novel took a year from inception to publication. I’m aiming for half that time for its sequel, and that will have to include writing, editing, marketing and publishing. I hope I’m not holding myself a hostage to fortune. Watch this space, as they say!
Thank you for our chat, Jeff. If you would like to find more about Jeff’s writing and books please click on the link to his Amazon Author’s page:
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.