Hello Diana thanks for the invite.
I am really excited to be talking to you Tony. I am also reviewing your book, the Delivery Girl, here for the Review Blog page later in the week. The Delivery Girl is without doubt the best published book that I have read so far this year - and I am a prolific reader!I am sure that you are tired of being asked the usual questions that would be interviewers ask authors, so hopefully this interview is an interview with a difference and I have come up with some unusual questions!
Well let’s hope I can come up with some unusual answers.
First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!
A question from me to me? Ok.
Will you marry me?
Yes of course. I thought you’d never ask.
(Laughing loudly here!! Hmmmmm..... if you want to ask me the same question?????)
If your latest book The Delivery Girl was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
The Delivery Girl herself would be a difficult search but I daresay a public casting call would weasel the right young girl out. The other lead character Mikhail, um, perhaps Richard E. Grant - if he’s up to the more athletic scenes of course. I wouldn’t want him to bust a hip or something. Anyhow why not him? If Liam Neeson can be turned into an action hero then why not Richard? Fantastic actor. He has a million candle charisma and even when he smiles his eyes still retain a certain sinister quality which is just what’s called for in the role. (What a perfect person for the role!!)
What made you choose this genre?
Do you know I didn’t choose a genre Diana. Never gave it a thought. If I’m honest I wrote Delivery Girl and then it was more a case of finding a genre fit for it. Personally I think it’s a contemporary urban fable but my agent says it’s literary fiction and my publisher says it’s fiction with teeth. Genre can be fluid and opinions differ which is how it should be. (I say it is a future classic!!)
How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
Ideas quite literally can trigger from anything. Something I see, hear, read, an event, a comment, a joke, an injustice particularly, a silly fact, a conversation overheard. I’m very fortunate and grateful the list is endless; for the time being at least.
Characters likewise. With one or two exceptions they invariably, and rather weirdly, turn up fully formed. The main character in the novel, Anna, is one exception being perhaps twenty percent based on a child I met during my career. Mikhail on the other hand merely stepped in through the back door of my mind and introduced himself, very politely.
If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
I think a full on horror-thriller - and yes as it happens I do.
Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
I’d always wanted to write but never found the time. A feeble and well-trodden excuse I know. On reflection I wonder if I would even have been capable when I was younger, yet yes, thinking about it, as you say, there was an element of compulsion involved. That, a re-location to South Wales, semi-retirement and the great inducement of suddenly having some spare time was the kick up the backside I needed. Now dammit I can’t stop!
Marmite? Love it or hate it?
I like it but could easily live without it, unlike a young guy I know of who eats it by the teaspoon. (Even I don't do that - now!)
Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
A spot of Tai chi, you mean? Some deep breathing exercises, lunges and splits? That sort of thing? No, not really. I don’t have set times to write either and can even tolerate some background noise; if I did put on some music it would only become just that. Once I start writing I tend to block everything out. By the way how did you know I have a favourite cup? (Um...Mikhail told me?????)
I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
My characters tell me they are.
Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Other than writing? Well I was lucky enough to have had a great career as a paramedic; very rewarding. Difficult question. Ok. I suppose something entirely altruistic, noble and worthy. Off the top of my head I can’t for the life of me, think what that would be, but just something that makes people downright happy. If that sounds nauseatingly twee I would, however, set aside one day a year and a bottle of claret to gloat over the misfortunes of others too.
Coffee or tea?
Both. Fresh black coffee at industrial strength anytime and tea via intravenous drip throughout the day, white no sugar. My wife says I’m far too bitter to sweeten anyhow. ((Smile))
Red or white?
Again both. Oh, and everything in between. Breakfast of champions.
How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
I think it’s perhaps a combination of the two with a lot of mulching thrown in. The theme or story springs from the original idea. I always know the end first, quite often the beginning too, and many of the milestones between. The arc of the story develops around them and quite often goes off in directions I hadn’t initially thought of.
If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I’ve always liked the quaint look of Old English but I imagine it could get tiresome. Best stick with Times New Roman. (Yep. Ditto!)
Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
I’d love to spend time with the original handwritten manuscripts of past writers the calibre of Defoe, Swift, Stevenson, Dickens, Austen, Melville, Shelley, Wells and Twain to name but a few. To see the doodles, changes, the bubbles and arrows, the crossings out; all the side notes, smudges, marks and comments. Technically how they worked. How they did it. No spacing, automatic page numbering; no delete, cut, paste or copy for those boys and girls. True genius.
Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?They try all the time. As you write you begin to think, hey, this character or these characters could, as you say, have adventures of their own in another story and you end up tilting it a little in their favour. Sometimes it enriches the overall novel but it can be a dangerous distraction and unbalance things. Best to read the ungrateful swine the riot act, slap them around a little and always be prepared to “kill your darlings” if you have to. And let them know you will.
How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
The research for Delivery Girl was minimal really, mostly extracted from my experience. A second novel I’ve finished but still editing, a Young Adult ghost story, required a fair bit of reference work but nothing requiring location trips. I’m also midway through writing a prequel to Delivery Girl set in sixties Alabama which is challenging but there is a great public archive of that era. (I really feel I cannot wait! Hurry, Tony, hurry!)
Historical fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?So far I’ve not had to deal with any “real” characters sticking their oars in. I’m sure if any do in the future I’ll gladly bump them off pronto. Come to think of it, there are one or two ghastly “real” characters around at the moment I might invite in just for the sheer pleasure of killing them off in as grizzly a way as possible. Any suggestions? (Ohhhhh yes!!!)
Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
Sure, if it makes for a better read yes. Getting around it is easy. A novel is a two way trade, as a writer you put your trust in the reader. Writers of fiction are just longwinded liars with ISBNs, tellers of tall tales, spinners of yarns. Readers, and I’m one too, get this. Just trust them.
Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
Oh yeah. To the point I sometimes have difficulty telling which is which anymore. I mean who’d have thought that… no let’s not go there. (Aw....go on! )
Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
The majority of characters in Delivery Girl I have to say are pretty loathsome, and some I truly despise everything about them. Great fun to write though. Fallen in love with any? No. Felt protective of? Yes very. Odd when you consider they don’t exist in a physical sense. I think I need to get out more.
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Anything and everything in novel form, with short stories, essays and polemics the vinegar in the salad. The only genre I don’t care for is wands and dragons. That’s not a criticism of the genre in any way. No it’s me. I’d love to join in the love-fest but however often and hard I try - I just don’t get it.
What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading The Delivery Girl?
Whatever your favourite tipple is, cheers. And a large belt of scotch on standby for a few of the scenes might be a good idea.
Last but not least... favourite author?
That is tough! There are so many, all the usual suspects, from Dickens to Orwell, Philip Roth, Wodehouse is an absolute treat, Steinbeck, Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Saul Bellow, I like Christopher Hitchens and Alan Bennett too, Stephen King, Ian McEwan – but personal choice? Top of the heap?
For me, Martin Amis.Thanks Diana, it’s been a pleasure.
Reading your book was an amazing experience Tony, so I am delighted to have the opportunity to chat to you too.
Having what little education thrashed into him by nuns caned out of him by grammar school, Tony kept a promise to himself to begin writing when he finished doing tedious stuff like working full time. After a wander through psychiatric nursing, the Met Police and almost thirty years as a frontline paramedic the time seemed about right. He still works now and again in Primary Care somewhere in Wales and lives happily on the Gower indulging in writing, reading, talking, drinking beer and floating in the sea with his wife.
The Delivery Girl is his first novel; anunapologetically dark and brutal story, part wish fulfilment for,and part homage to, all the abused children he saw fall through the cracks. And still fall.
He is currently working on a prequel after finishing a lighter second novel – Mad Cat, Franz and The Bomb.
Tony is one of the exceptionally talented authors from the Wild Wolf Publishing literary stable.
© Diana Milne January 2017 © Tony McAndrew 2017