North East Crime Writer Robert Scragg has launched the second book of his Styles & Poter series. The first book What Falls Between The Cracks launched last year and his new book Nothing Else Remains is out now.
He is new to the world of writing, so I asked him what inspired him to start a career in crime fiction.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always been a big reader, crime in particular, and often got to the twist thinking “Ooh what if they’d done x, y or z instead?” Not to say my ideas were any better, just different. The more that happened, the more I started to think why not give it a go.
How did you get your books published?
I always had in mind that I wanted to try the traditional route first i.e. agent and traditional publisher. Once I finished my first draft, I Googled “Crime Fiction Agent” and sent my first three chapters out to around three dozen. That one didn’t get picked up, although did get a few interested.
My second attempt the following year was with the draft of What Falls Between the Cracks, and that got me a meeting with Jo Hayes, now my agent, and she secured me a two-book deal with Allison & Busby!
Have you always enjoyed writing?
I wrote a little at school – poetry and a few short stories, but nothing major for quite a while after that. The idea for Porter and Styles came along around 2007, but went nowhere past a few chapters for another 7 years or so!
What sort of books did you read when you were younger?
Absolutely loved (and still do love) the likes of Tolkien, Roald Dahl. I also had a set of mini-kids classics like 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Treasure Island and Moby Dick. Think I still have them upstairs actually.
What books do you like reading? Any favourite authors?
Most of what I read is crime, about ninety per cent. It’s genuinely hard to choose a favourites list, but I’d definitely include the likes of Harlan Coben, Greg Iles, Robert Crais, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville, Sarah Hilary, Mark Billingham, Howard Linskey, Luca Veste, Mari Hannah to name but a few!
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be an author?
A few bits that have helped me. Firstly, just crack on and write. I put it off for so long, and found so many reasons not to for years. Get a draft finished, then go back and polish it rather than constantly re-editing the same chapters.
Secondly is to get out to some live events. There are some amazing festivals where you can mingle with authors, hear them talk, and have a drink in the bar with them afterwards. I learned a lot from hanging around and picking their brains, and have yet to find one who wasn’t happy to share.
What did you do before you were an author?
I’ve still got a day job as we speak, working as an HR Business Partner for BT. I’ve been there since I left Uni 20 years ago, and very much still need them to pay my mortgage while I see how the writing pan out!
How did you come up with the main characters Jake Porter and Nick Styles?
They actually started out life as supporting characters in an earlier book I wrote and shared the limelight around 50/50 with someone else. The feedback I got though was that I needed one voice to really drive the plot, so I changed things around, picked Jake Porter, and found my agent with the new draft, so it was clearly good advice!
Where do you get your ideas for your stories from?
The best way I can explain it is to paraphrase one of my favourite writers, Harlan Coben. I went to hear him speak and he talked about the “what if” moments. I find myself reading something online, or watching the news and thinking “Ooh what if that had happened instead?” Once you start, your thoughts leap all over the place, and before you know it you’ve got the beginning of a story.
Are the characters fictional or are they based upon someone you know?
There are elements of people I know or have met, but not an entire character, not so far anyway.
Your second book Nothing Else Remains has been published, what can you tell us about it?
It actually started out life as my first ever book, called Faceless. Unfortunately, it didn’t attract an agent, but I liked the characters, so stuck with Porter and Styles and came up with the idea that became “What Falls Between The Cracks”.
I kept the first book though and ended up adapting it to become a sequel rather than a prequel. It takes place around six months after the first book and sees Porter helping out a friend whose father and girlfriend have gone missing around the same time. A suspect turns up dead next to a list of names, his friend’s father being one of them, and the case grows legs from there, taking them into some pretty dark places.
What will the future hold for Styles and Porter?
I’m pleased to say I’ve just signed the contract for book 3 in February, so currently knee deep in that, and it’ll probably be out around March/April 2020. In my head, I’ve got five or six planned in the series. There’s plenty to keep them busy, as well as looking at how things progress in their personal lives, and between the two of them as a double act.
Where do you see Porter and Simmonds ending up?
That would be telling 😉 You’ll just have to keep reading.
To find out more about Robert Scragg and his books check out his website here