Saturday, January 14, 2012

Murder, Mystery and God, Part II

Welcome back Philip. It's great to have you here again!  Since we last spoke, what have you been up to?

Hello again, Katheryn.

It is hard to believe that only two months have gone by since your last interview, yet so many exciting have happened. Shortly after the interview, I was approached by the American writer, Dennis Sheehan, (Author of the political thriller Purchased Power), who invited me to participate in The Writers Collection. Dennis has brought ten writers together and every week each posts a short story on a given subject. Yes, I did say every week, which makes this a demanding commitment, but it is fascinating to see how each writer tackles the different and diverse subjects.

I hope your followers will click the link below and enjoy these short stories. The Writers Collection has been published for five weeks now, and the subjects have been Brazil, Christmas, Henry VIII, The Horse, and most recently, Beaches. As I say, the contributors are given the title but what followers is a fascinating and diverse collection of entertaining short stories. This week’s title is “Brotherswater” which I think has been the most challenging to date. Still, my submission is in and by the time this interview is posted, it will be available. It would help if your followers would click the links at the end of the stories.

You have recently published, ‘C. V. A. A hard way back’.  Could you tell us something about it?

This is where my writing ambitions started. In your last interview, I mentioned that I had my first stroke at the age of 30 while serving as a policeman. I wasn’t expected to live 30 minutes yet 30 years have elapsed since! Originally, I intended to write a straightforward biographical account with the title, “A Step out of Stroke.”‘C.V.A. A hard way back’ is the same story, but instead of a day by day diary, the project underwent a complete revision. I now describe it as a bio-novel.It has all the ingredients that a novel should have. There are parts that I hope will make you laugh out loud; there are parts where you will need a tissue box. C.V.A. or Cerebral Vascular Accident was the way the stroke was described by doctors, and, as the story explains, these initials meant something entirely differentto the patient. The consequences proved to be humorously confusing! You are not meant to take this account of the illness too seriously, after all, at the time it happened, I didn’t!

Your books, Who Else Is There? and Suffer Little Children are part of the Mike Newman series.  Are you planning to write more books in this series?

Yes, I have to. Writing has become a bug, an obsession, an infection if you like. I wish I had started years ago. I have Mike Newman for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As far as Mike Newman is concerned, there are still bad guys out there. He seems to be having a hard time convincing those closest to him. Even if there is never another crime in Hartingham, Mike still has plenty to sort out. The poor guy can’t seem to get his relationships right, he still has to account for a missing wife, so if I felt inclined towards writing a romance, the material is there. One reader mentioned that she liked crime, paranormal, suspense and romance novels, but had never expected these diverse genres to be presented so convincingly in one book. That is until she read Who Else is There?

If your books are turned into a film or televised, who would you choose to play the lead role of Mike Newman?

Oh dear, now you have found out my weakness. I rarely watch contemporary television and haven’t been to the cinema since the third Harry Potter! I have no interest in the plethora of television soaps that are currently broadcast. Most of our viewing tends towards our collection of 1980s comedies on DVD. Yesterday evening, for instance, our television was dominated by recordings of the archaeological programme “Time Team” presented by Tony Robinson, (Baldrick in the Blackadder series) followed by an episode of “Only Fools and Horses” on DVD. Now there’s a thought. David Jason as “Frost” was the most convincing screen detective I’ve ever seen, whereas Rowan Atkinson in the Thin Blue Line reminded me of a real police inspector that I once worked with.By coincidence, as I write this, my wife is loading Agatha Christie’s “Body in the Library” into the DVD player, (Joan Hickson as Miss Marple). Despite having access to over a hundred TV channels, there is nothing else to watch!

Your Mike Newman books have received fantastic reviews.  What do you think is the key to writing a great story?

Again, Katheryn, this is a question that is difficult to answer. I was stunned by the first of the5 star reviews for Who Else is There? I was surprised to see the second, delighted by the third, intrigued by the fourth and they have kept on coming.  What seems to be a recurring theme in the reviews are remarks made about the realism of my characters. This is something I was careful to work on, even to the extent of using a spread sheet to chart their ages, mannerisms and peculiarities. Each person has unique speech mannerisms and realistic habits which are occasionally repeated in different settings.(Bearing in mind that the novels are set in the early 1980s, for example, you will get to know what happens every time Sandra gets near a trim-phone with its coiled cord!) This way, perhaps as the series progresses, my readers will get to know the characters personally. Several reviewers also suggest that the novel, “Grips and doesn’t let go!” That has to be the second key. Our readers need a reason to turn the pages or press the button on the Kindle. But 5 star successes aren’t everything. Sometimes, realism can be difficult to handle.

I have received some criticism for the level of violence in my books, despite the warning that I have placed on the Amazon sell page, but there is remarkably little descriptive contemporary violence in the novel. Instead, the violence is inferred by the normal process of medical examination and police investigation. I’m not sure why this should be more disturbing or effective than the traditional “blow by blow” narrative, but it is. Too many investigative crime novels make light of crime. Mine do not, nor do they glorify it.Having been a police officer myself, I suppose I have a greater awareness of the aftermath of crime with the devastating affects it has on victims and even the investigating officers. My novels do not offer escapism but, as are my paintings, the style is realism.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am just about to finish Purchased Power, which is an intriguing thriller by Dennis Sheehan, which I mentioned before. I will be starting a new novel by Jack Durish, Rebels on the Mountain. Jack is also writing for The Writers Collection. I would think, anyone who has served in the US forces, will be moved by his stories. My Kindle is rapidly filling with unread books, so I doubt that I will ever be stuck for reading material. If I were, then I would read my well-thumbed Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Even after a dozen or more times of reading, I am still intrigued by this story.

When you are not writing or reading, I recall that like me, you enjoy going to the ballet. Have you been recently?

Passionate about the ballet would be an apt description. I am fortunate to have married someone who shares my passion, so we attend every performance, class and rehearsal that we can. We live just 30 miles from the home of Birmingham Royal Ballet.This is amongst the best, if not the best ballet company in the world.  The Nutcracker is their traditional Christmas performance, and the scenery change as Clara shrinks to mouse sizeis breath-taking and utterly believable. This is achieved live on stage. Obviously, the dancer cannot shrink, but the scenery “grows”, usually to rapturous applause.

My passion for the ballet is reflected in some of my paintings. Marion Tait, who I first saw dance in 1982, and have seen on countless occasions since, was recently appointed to assistant director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Marion has assured me on more than one occasion that my painting of her in the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy still hangs on her wall. (I don’t know which wall. I dare not ask in case it’s the outside shed.)

What else have you been doing in your free time?

This question brings to mind my youngest daughter, (Sammy in C.V.A.). Sammy (this is not her real name of course) spent her Saturday mornings at Orchestra practice playing the viola and the rest of the weekend at our caravan in Wales, riding and grooming a horse with her friend, Monday evenings at the Girl Guides, Wednesdays, orchestra practice and a signing for the deaf class, followed by a youth club, Thursdays was Judo and Fridays, St Johns Ambulance. This left Tuesday evenings when we would get together as a family, play a board game or two before settling down to an evening of television. We called this “our free time.” We were horrified when her teacher called us into the school. We sat through a stern lecture about the need to “push” our bright and intelligent daughter. We learned that Sammy had been given an activity questionnaire.  In response to the question, “How do you occupy your spare time?” Sammy had written, “I curl up on the settee and watch television.”

I don’t know whether your readers will have seen the photographs I placed on FaceBook. Two show our garden with its Christmas display, the other, our table with its fourteen place settings ready for our family dinner. Christmas is a special time for us. It was twenty years ago this Christmas that I proposed and I thank God every day that my dear wife said “Yes”.  Family happens to be the most important word in my vocabulary.

At her choice, I stress that because it has never been mine, as did everyone else in my previous family, Sammy and I became estranged over twenty one years ago with the breakup of my first marriage. I have not seen her since. She was in touch a few years ago because she had heard that I was seriously ill, which at the time, I was. A few months later my first grandchild, a girl, came into this world through what I am told, was a difficult pregnancy. That is all I do know. In a few days, my first grandchild will be four. Despite the contact we had at the time, my daughter has refused to let us meet. Now, you will have to use your imagination, because quite simply, I don’t know what words I can use to describe the way I feel. The story is worthy of a novel in its own right. At various times in my life, I have said, “Believe whatever suits you to believe,” but nowadays I add, “but sometimes, what you believe can get in the way of the truth.”

I shall stress that I have never turned away from, or abandoned my previous family, but the gulf that separates us cannot be bridged from one side alone. That said, I live happily in the midst of a loving, close and supportive family, in which God has played a major part. Six others call me Granddad and in a few months, I shall see the oldest of them marry. If my previously family prefer not to share in my joy, that is their free choice. It will never be mine.

Do you have any parting comments?

Katheryn, what has amazed me most of all since my first novel was published just six months ago, is the  tremendous encouragement and overwhelming support that I have received from countless people that I have never met. You are first amongst them, but the list is growing daily. I hope and pray that I will never shirk from returning that support whenever and wherever possible. Thank you once again for choosing me to interview for your blog.

I am still hoping to find a publisher or literary agent to help me get the novels into print. Who knows what success this year might bring?

Thank you so much for agreeing to come and speak to me again, and for sharing what you’ve been up to recently.  Let us know when you find a good publisher or agent.  Let’s hope that 2012 is a great year for you and all of us!

For more about Philip Catshill see:

The Writers’ Collection A group of the world’s talented writers bringing you their new short stories every week, FREE!


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1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful and inspiring interview, Philip! Your success is well-warranted, and I know you'll continue to see positive things this coming year. I look forward to following your progress via Twitter and other avenues!