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 with Iain in the tearoom. Welcome. My first question to my guest is what drink would you like while we chat?
Thank you so much for the invite, Paula. Well, for my drink, I think I’ll introduce your readers to a particularly Scottish refreshing fizzy drink called Irn-Bru, best served chilled with a couple of ice cubes, bright orange in colour, but with a taste all of its own. The myth, which may be true, is that Scotland is the only country in the world where Coca-Cola or Pepsi is not the biggest-selling fizzy drink, both being out sold by our very own Irn-Bru, and the secret recipe is only known by two or three people in the A.G. Barr company who make the drink.
I’m sure it’s true, Iain. I know how patriotic the Scots are. So can you tell us about when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
An interesting question to start with. I’ve always struggled with the idea of only writing in one particular genre, and yet the vast majority of writers tend to stick to one thing. Of course, it’s recommended from a marketing and sales point of view to build up a readership in a particular genre, and authors often use a different name if they switch to a different genre. But I have always liked moving between genres. When I came to write my first novels – a trilogy set in the near future – I wasn’t thinking of writing a science-fiction or dystopian novel, but rather the trilogy is made up of a detective crime story in book one, a journalistic investigation in book two and a war novel in book three. The characters and location stay the same, but the tone shifts. It just so happens that the stories take place in a possible futuristic world. And having completed this trilogy, I wanted to write something totally different, so my next book is a literary drama set in the present day with no sci-fi, dystopian, war or detective elements!
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
A tough one to answer. I’m sure readers may have a different opinion, but I always feel like I am strong with plotting and pacing, and I enjoy writing dialogue. Where I could definitely be better is in my descriptive language – describing what people look like or the landscape around them or the room that they’re in. I think because I work in a visual medium in my day job (I’m a television editor), I take these things for granted. Or perhaps I should say I like the reader to imagine these things, so I deliberately keep my descriptions brief!
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
Well, like I said, after writing my futuristic ‘State Trilogy’, I turned to something completely different. I had the idea for writing this story a few years ago when I visited some relatives who lived on the semi-remote island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It always struck me as a great setting for a novel. I wrote a first draft a couple of years ago and have returned to it recently to complete a 2nd draft, and am now starting the editing phase. It’s the story of a man in his fifties returning to Barra, where he spent one formative summer in his youth, and remembering the events of that time, his first love and the dark secrets at the heart of a small community, and discovering some truths about himself and others along the way. I’m hoping to send it out to publishers and agents in the new year, or perhaps self-publish depending on the response it receives.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
I tend to only have a couple of ideas on my computer at any time. One nearing completion and the next idea ready to go. Quite methodical, I suppose! There are plenty of other ideas bubbling away in my mind, but only a select few ever make it onto the computer. There just isn’t enough time to write them all.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter?
I always start with the first chapter. Often I will have the idea for a scene or a character or a situation in my head and start to figure out who that person is and how did they get into that situation. Then a plot starts to form around those ideas, but I don’t plan it out in detail. I like to start writing and see where it takes me. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about writing novels – starting with an idea and watching it grow as you write, and that little thrill every now and then where you realise you’ve had a good idea, or where the plot takes a twist you hadn’t thought of, or when you resolve a problem with a satisfying bit of plotting and writing! It’s the small pleasures that make it worthwhile.6) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Do you set yourself a daily word count? How many hours in a day do you write?
I have a full-time job during the day, and two six-year-olds at home to look after, so having any sort of set schedule is a luxury. Having something like NaNoWriMo is good as it sets goals and targets to aim for and forces me to make the time to write. I will have my laptop with me wherever I am, at home or work, so when I get a spare hour or two I can take it out and write a page or two. The best times tend to be in the late evening when the kids have been put to bed, or during the day if work is quiet or I have a free lunch hour. I dream of being able to take a couple of months off every year to sit and focus on writing and produce a novel at the end of it, but that doesn’t seem like something that will happen in the near future! As a result, I don’t set hard daily word count goals or definite hours to write, but as a guide I reckon getting 1,000 words done in an hour or so of writing counts as a productive day.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
So far all of my books have taken roughly the same amount of time. I usually write a first draft over about two to three months, and then take another month or two to write a second draft and then another month to edit before I send it out to beta readers, or onto agents and publishers. So in total, about six months, but that can spread out to a year with some breaks and real life getting in the way. Since publishing my first book I’ve aimed to publish a new one each year, and so far I’ve managed to stick to that.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
None of my characters are inspired by specific people, but I like to take elements of people and use them and combine them to create believable characters. In my ‘State Trilogy’ books, the central character is a police detective called Danny Samson. Although he is nothing like me, I did give him a few elements that came from my own life – father of twins, cares for a diabetic child – and it helped to create the sort of person he was. In my latest book, I’ve leaned on my own childhood memories of life in Glasgow to inform my main characters background. Other times I will use people I know as the basis for the physical appearance of characters, which I find makes it easier to visualise them and describe them. With my latest book in Barra, I thought about the typical people that live in a place like Barra – it’s an interesting mix because a lot of children move away from the island to the big cities in the mainland for education or work, so you end up with an older population of retired or returning people, alongside tourists and some families with younger children. Okay, there is one person in my new book inspired by a real person, but I’m not going to reveal who that person or character is!
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
As I tend to write in the real world, the names I use tend to reflect that – everyday names, common names. Occasionally I might use a name with a bit of a meaning behind it – calling my main character in The State Trilogy ‘Samson’ was not accidental. In my latest novel I had a particular name I had to choose which had to be a Scottish name that was popular enough that the perosn could not be found by quickly googling them, as the plot point was that she could not be located easily! So ‘Laura Robertson’ was born! A unique problem for present day writers when anyone can be tracked down via the internet!
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?
Just five? That’s tough! Let me think about my bookshelves. Okay. In 5th place I have to put Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels. I don’t read a lot of fantasy books and I don’t write fantasy stories, but when I was a teenager, Terry Pratchett was the first writer that I really loved and he taught me the pure joy of reading a good story, with good characters. And he made me laugh. So for just inspiring that love of books, Terry Pratchett. 4th place, I’ll go for William Boyd. African-born, but with Scottish roots his stories are always engaging and he writes such complex and complete characters, and is also very entertaining. Plus, he’s still alive and I’ve realised all the other authors I’m going to mention are dead, so I feel like at least one of them on my list should be living! 3rd place is another Scottish writer – Iain Banks, and he is there because he wrote with such an authentic Scottish voice that is hard to find in literary fiction, characters that I could really relate to from my own life and situations, and he had that Scottish sense of absurd humour. 2nd place – going back to the classics. I love reading a classic book and from a young age (thanks to cartoons at first!) I was fascinated by The Three Musketeers – so Alexandre Dumas is my next choice. The Musketeer novels, along with The Counte of Monte Cristo, are just exquisite adventure epics. Finally, top of the list, I’m cheating with joint winners – both of whom wrote in my favourite genre to read – the spy novel – but with very different styles – Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, and the recently departed John le Carre. I love a good, complex spy novel with dubious morals and motives and lots of twists and back-stabbing! And these two were the masters. le Carre though, rose above writing mere spy novels and produced some of the best literature of the last century. I shall miss reading a new le Carre greatly.
I enjoyed that chat, and my Irn-Bru. Thanks for having me in the tearoom!
You’re very welcome, Iain. Just let our driver know when you’re ready to leave. If you would to know more about Iain’s books and his writing please click on the links below.
amazon uk author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Iain-Kelly/e/B07K327PC2 amazon.com author page: https://www.amazon.com/Iain-Kelly/e/B07K327PC2
instagram: with_two_eyesfacebook: facebook.com/iainkellywritingtwitter: @iainthekid
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.