Welcome back to another Ink Drop Interview. Each week, I try to mix it up a little. I reach out to authors of different genres and occasionally have the opportunity to add a poet or a short story writer, as I do this week. Patrick Martin is a crime and mystery writer. He lives in Northern Ireland but has spent a lot of time working and living in Chicago, Illinois. He has recently published two short stories as a collection on Amazon Kindle Two Shades of Grey under the pen name Martin J Frankson. Patrick was given the same list of 30 questions that I send to all writer’s and here are the answers to the 10 or so he answered.
IDI – Patrick, when did you know you were born to be a writer?
PM – That’s hard to say. I guess I was just born this way as the song says! I always wrote since an early age, essays, poetry, short stories and an aborted attempt at a novel at the age of 18! Since then I have had poetry and short stories published plus a short movie ‘Morten’s Fort’.
IDI – (Some) writers have been known to eccentric, from keeping rotting apples in a desk drawer to only being able to write while sitting or standing. Do you have any quirks or superstitions that have become as integral to good writing as plot and character?
PM – Since I am a noir-fiend, I need to create a suitable aural atmosphere and landscape around me. I listen to the music of Mazzy Starr, 16 Horsepower, Willard Grant Conspiracy for that atmospheric stone upon which I whet my noir nib with.
IDI – Something every writer is asked to the point of exhaustion – where do you get your ideas?
PM – I am a huge fan of Carnell Woolrich whose work dealt with fatalism, the ordinary man or woman who finds him/herself victim to a sequence of events that swoosh them down into a vacuum of despair, helplessness and loss. I find this fascinating and it serves as the basis for my work. We think we are in control but all it takes is being in that wrong store on that wrong street at that wrong time or having that conversation with a person we shouldn’t have had that sets off an unstoppable and irreversible chain reaction of fate. I then think of situations and extrapolate hypothetical worse-case scenarios from them. I am a cheery soul to be around!
IDI – When people ask, ‘why do you write?’, I reply, ‘I’m either creative or a pathological liar. I haven’t decided yet’, just for shock value. Actually, I think (in part) that writing is almost like being schizophrenic, but without the personalities coming out verbally. Seriously, we ‘become’ the people we write, at least for a time. We have to feel what they feel, think what they think, know what they know… so how can we not ‘be’ them? Agree, disagree? What are your thoughts?
PM – I agree with all of the above, but it can be to the detriment of the artist. The English crime writer, Derek Raymond, is on record as saying that he feared for his mental health when writing the novel, ‘I Was Dora Suarez’ when he put himself in the mind of the killer. This is an extreme example of course but true art needs the artist to put him/herself in the story, to feel the story, to feel what the characters are feeling, thinking. Otherwise, the characters won’t react realistically, they will become mere puppets. For the writer however, it would be akin to what mediums would describe the sensations of being taken over by spirit. Personally, I have to delve within the story and the minds and feelings of my characters and it does make me physically dizzy and I have to pull back. It can be scary but I see the worlds I create as opening a window to what maybe a reality that exists in some other dimension.
IDI – Who is your favorite author, and why?
PM – Strangely, for a crime novelist, my favorite author of all time is George Orwell. He said he wrote to expose the truth. His writing was lucid, educational, documentarian, controversial and at times hilarious. He saw the elephant in the room, the emporer’s new clothes at all times and was never scared to expose. His seminal work, ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ was an expose of the dire blight of poverty that existed in pre-war England. He described real people in real situations that connected and opened a nation’s eyes. In some ways, he exposed the crimes of humbug, hypocrisy and cant.
IDI – Everyone has their own dream. What’s yours, best seller, feature film adaption, fame, riches, Oprah’s club, Pulitzer?
PM – One step at a time! Firstly, my dream would be to be represented by a prestigious literary agent and then land a publishing deal. I have just returned from the Theakston’s Crime Fiction festival in Harrogate, England where the creme do la creme of crime writers gave talks and seminars and interviews. I would say that ultimately, I will see myself as having been a success if I ever get invited for an interview at this festival which is the biggest crime fiction festival in Europe.
IDI – I’ve heard argument for each side, but when writing, do you outline or sketch the entire book before you feel comfortable enough to begin your draft or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your jockey’s?
PM – I sketch the map out from beginning to end. However, along the way, I have to revisit my journey plan and revise. I leave enough room for diversions and fleshing out while still remaining true to my plan. My novels are plot driven and therefore do need a lot of careful planning of twists and turning points. I would find it difficult to write this kind of work unplanned and I don’t think I would do my readers much justice either. That’s just me. Other ways of writing work equally well for other authors. I wish I was able to construct elaborate plots on the hop as some do!
IDI – Pen and paper or computer and Word. The bustle of a cafe or the quiet of your study. Tell us, what is your most productive/inspiring setting?
PM – Funnily, when constructing a plot, I prefer pen and paper. I like to hear the scrape of the nib on the page and seeing my story unfurl itself in my scrawl which only I can probably read. My handwriting is atrocious by the way. However, when it comes to writing my novel, its laptop and Word. I joined the library of a local university where I can sit at a desk in peace and go into the zone and write and write and write. At home, I sit at the kitchen table. I need my music though and use headphone. I have to write alone. I never go the ‘let’s study together’ thing! Surely you would just sit around and talk? I sometimes write in Starbucks but their music sucks sometimes and it puts me off. Bang goes my free coffee for life deal!
IDI – Online cafe’s or writers groups (aside from social networking). Do you belong to any and if so, help or harm?
PM – I don’t belong to any but I certainly think they’re a good idea only if the other members share not just your passion for writing but you ambition too. If you’re the only person in a writer’s circle who wants to be a published author as opposed to being a hobbyist, you will have problems. You need to be with other writers who can peer review your work and be critical. I found writing circles in the past to shirk from critique. Critique is not the same as being critical. If you are in such a group of shared ambition, then you are a tomato in a greenhouse and you will ripen!
IDI – What advice would you give to new/unpublished writers?
PM – It sounds corny but it’s true: just keep writing. There’s no substitute. And keep at it.
IDI – What’s the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?
PM – My father. The only advice he ever gave me about girls was to make sure they liked animals. “Anyone who doesn’t like animals, son, isn’t worth a light”. I think he was right.
IDI – Everyone has their own style/voice, but what author would you say your work most resembles?
PM – It would be injudicious of me to say but I HOPE my work is reminiscent of Cornell Woolrich, David Goodis, Jim Thompson, Derek Raymond.
IDI – I know I have ideas for stories that cross over the lines of my usual genre. Do you have any such ideas wandering around and if so, what’s your outlook on genre-crossing?
PM – A good novel is a good novel. It’s just a matter of doing your research into who else is cross-dressing genre-wise and target their agents for representation. If none exist, well, you may be a trail blazer in which case target the agents most likely to appreciate your genres. Write what’s true to yourself.
IDI – As a writer, what is the one thing you would most like people to know about you?
PM – That I love smoked paprika and I hope my readers can taste it on every sentence.
IDI – What do you do when you’re not writing?
PM – I read a lot and visit forest parks and the coast of the Atlantic ocean in the north of Ireland close to where I live. I love the elemental.
IDI – When reading another author, do you find yourself able to enjoy what you read without critiquing as you go? And if you critique, what is the one thing you see most?
PM – I do tend to mentally cross reference their first three chapters with the feedback I get from my growing number of rejection emails and wonder where I went wrong or how they got away with it!
IDI – Define a great book.
PM – A great book makes you want to jump right in and be a character in it. A great book makes you feel angry about the world. A great book changes your world view. A great book opens a door to an unlit room and let’s you look inside, giving you the feeling that you’re the first person in the world to see it.
IDI – What is your all-time favorite book?
PM – ‘Blue Highways’ by William Least Heat Moon. The most seminal piece of travel writing ever. It’s more than travel writing. It’s the autobiographical account of the author’s 3 month trek over the USA in the 1970’s in his camper van, reaching deep into the soul of himself and small town America. Every sentence is resonance of both concepts vibrating against one another. And enigmatic book in every sense. each page conjured a heady atmosphere of the real meaning of liberty.
IDI – What are your thoughts on the ever-changing publishing industry? What do you see for the future, as a writer?
PM – I don’t know what the future holds for the publishing industry as it’s in a state of flux but as a writer, I will always write. The width, materials, make-up, destination of the highway may change, but my car will still ride it as best I can drive it.
IDI – Very well said!
Patrick has written a crime novel set in Chicago, ‘Black Champagne’ and is currently seeking agent representation. He is working on a second novel, also set in Chicago. Please follow the links below if you would like to contact Patrick or purchase his work.
I would like to thank Patrick for taking the time to join me here this week and wish him success in his future writing endeavors. Please join me next week when I talk with D A Graystone, author of ‘The Schliemann Legacy’ and ‘Two Graves’.
Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of ‘Lily White Lies’ and ‘Missouri in a Suitcase’.
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If you are a published author and are looking for a chance to get your name and your work out there, why not consider and Ink Drop Interview? I’m easy to work with :)