Today it is the turn of Tony R Cox to answer my questions on what he writes, why he writes and how he writes! Thanks to Tony for getting the answers to me. I love getting these answers back from authors, as it really makes me think about my writing style and how different – but nevertheless effective – other writers can be. This is the first in a series of posts from writers from Fahrenheit Press. If you want to look at the previous interview in the author interview series, the posts are here. If you’re a writer and would like to be featured, send me an email here.
What’s your track record – what have you written?
- First Dead Body (self-published in 2014) – the first in the Simon Jardine thriller series
- A Fatal Drug – published by Fahrenheit Press in 2016
- Vinyl Junkie – published by Fahrenheit Press in February 2018
Shot stories in two anthologies:
- Bloody Minds – Bloodhound Books (all proceeds for charity)
- Home and Away – Dahlia Publishing
Why do you write?
Simply, because I cannot not write. I edited the school magazine in Buxton in the late 60s; became a regional journalist in Derby in 1970 and then moved to Nottingham, where I was appointed Business Editor; then followed 25 years in public relations writing articles for the media globally. I began writing books and stories in 2012 as a result of a chanced meeting with an old colleague who suggested I write a memoir of my days in Derby as a rock music reviewer. The 2,000-word memoir was probably libellous, but the idea was the start of a new career.
What makes a successful day’s writing?
I’m not a word count writer. My training and experience means I can turn out up to four or five thousand words in a day, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right ones and in the right order: self-editing and analysis is paramount. A successful day could be doing something entirely different from writing – maybe a pub lunch listening to conversations I’m not part if or reading a newspaper article that sparks my imagination. I tend not to rank ‘success’ in simple word count terms: success is in getting it right and that may be a single, pivotal sentence or a complete chapter; it may even be the birth of a concept that will eventually become an integral part of my book’s plot.
When do you feel most productive?
Mornings. I’m fresh. I’m not in my first flush of youth, so as the day progresses the brain slows down. Evenings are totally verboten. Unfortunately, ideas also intrude on sleep. I don’t have a notebook and pen by the bed, perhaps I should, but if an idea is good enough I’m not going to get back to sleep so I may as well go and work.
Do you have a writing routine? What is it?
When I am writing, it is a concentrated, bubble of an environment. The excitement of getting words in the screen and saved means I will start at about six o’clock, have tea and breakfast, and then carry on through to lunchtime. This may be a throwback from my working days when I was servicing clients in Finland and the rest of Europe, and I wanted to be at my desk at the same time they were, which was usually two hours earlier than most UK office workers.
What stops you from writing?
A social life! I love pub lunches and visits to my locations, especially Derbyshire. Sometimes I will have a word block, but I will not fight it. Fighting such blockages is hard work and the result is not of the right standard. I also beta-read friends’ manuscripts and, like authors with day jobs, this requires concentrated thoughts well away from my own work.
Say you’ve hit a slump. What do you do to get going again?
Nothing and everything. The damn or log jam will ease; I just have to stop and do something else. Out of frustration I will self edit the previous chapters and this often leads to a fresh feel for the work. I will also read something else. I am not going to beat myself up over something that is normal and human.
What advice would you give someone who can’t get their writing going?
Read more. Read work that is away from the genre you’re writing in (I’m exclusively crime fiction). Maybe even read garbage – perhaps this attitude of ‘I can do better than this’ is why you a writing now? Read authors who have mastered the art of writing in some way. I read Alan Sillitoe for his sense of time and place and the subtlety of characters; Ian McEwan for his power and brevity of description of locations.
Some of the beta-reading is also helpful in understanding cadence and flow, whether the writer has got it right or wrong. Reading out of one’s comfort zone, perhaps tackling James Joyce, for example, I believe gives my own work depth.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever had?
Write about what you know.
I am the son of a railway signalling man and a nurse mother. We lived in Greater London, north of Glasgow, Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire – with two years in Lahore, Pakistan. It’s given me a broad geographical base for my writing.
My career has been a rich and varied seam of material to draw on, so what I kow, what I have experienced first hand, is the basis on which I allow fiction to bloom.
I was also told firmly that I must not stop writing. They say everyone has a book in them; but an author only achieves when the second, possibly the third book has been published. I self-published my first Simon Jardine thriller and, while it was well received, vowed I would never go down that path again. I sought agents and publishers in my genre – not a difficult task as publishers are always named, and agents are often referenced in the acknowledgements of crime fiction books. It can be a very hard road, but believe that someone, somewhere is going to like your next book must be the driving force. I found Fahrenheit Press and I believe it’s a great fit.
Plus: writers cannot leave everything to their agent/publisher in terms of publicising their work. My third book, Vinyl Junkie, has just been published and I have a rough timetable of ‘events’, including:
- Interview and article in the local newspaper (it’s set in Derby)
- Interviews on BBC radio stations (Leicester and Derby)
- Poster design for the launch ‘event’
- Launch ‘event’ with a live band playing music of the 70s in a pub that’s mentioned in all the Simon Jardine series novels (March 24, from 2pm, at The Exeter Arms, Derby)
- Talks to Book Clubs
- Constant and repeated social media selling and presence
Where can people find out more about you?
I am on Twitter under my writing name – Tony R Cox (years ago I Googled ‘Richard Cox’ and found that almost every one with that name was a writer!).
I am on Facebook as Richard Cox (with the cover of my latest book, Vinyl Junkie as the thumbnail).
I have a website www.tonyrcox.co.uk that I try, and fail, to keep up to date.
On March 24, 2018, I will be launching Vinyl Junkie, but not in the staid, traditional mould of book launches in bookshops with cheap, lukewarm wine. There’ll be a party in the award-winning Exeter Arms in Derby (featured in all my Simon Jardine books), with a live group playing music of the 70s. It’s a party. Come along.