Interview with Steven Dunne
I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Steven Dunne’s fourth novel, ‘The Unquiet Grave’. To me it was crime fiction at it’s very best. I asked Steven if he would be willing to take part in an interview for my blog and he very kindly said yes.
What made you decide to become a writer?
I’ve written since university when I became more interested in the expressive arts. I wrote sketches and stand-up routines for myself then moved on to comedy pilots and even wrote the book for an award-winning pantomime version of Hansel & Gretel. It was when a Channel 4 pilot fell at the final commissioning hurdle that I decided to move into novels because it was a form that required no-one’s approval to bring to completion.
Does it take you a while to research for each book?
Research tends to get done on an ad hoc basis as and when the story needs it. I don’t have a big list of research topics when I set out, rather at any given point in the story some unchecked fact will glare out at me and I will either research it there and then or make a note, usually in CAPITALS, in the MS if I don’t want to disturb the flow. I won’t leave it too long to do the work because the results may change the direction or tone of what you’re writing from that point.
How long does it take you roughly to write each novel?
I still have a part-time teaching job in Derby so my turnaround is about fifteen months. Without the job it would take a year. And it’s only just enough time but these are the demands of a publishing contract. Wouldn’t want it any other way.
You’ve done it, your new book has been published. Do you celebrate in any way or buy yourself something nice?
I honestly don’t reward myself with anything other than really mundane things that I will have missed during the final frantic days of meeting a deadline – a couple of days staring at a wall to uncouple my thoughts from the myriad plot points that I have tinkered with in the final week. Exercise is another treat. A walk in the Peaks as antidote to fourteen hours a day confined to a chair and a laptop. A week later, I’ll shake my head and realise I have to start the next novel soon.
On publication day I’m usually too wrapped up in the next novel to go overboard on celebration. Honestly it’s more a time to worry about whether people like what you’ve produced.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to try their hand at writing a novel?
Sit in a chair and do it. Take pleasure from the lack of deadline and enjoy what you do. Writing is its own reward; don’t write with a view to publication. Only when you’ve finished and read it and rewritten it should you show it to someone else. If it passes that test then start thinking about the process. But don’t set out to do anything other than please yourself.
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
It pains me to do so because a writer’s life is soooo boring. An early start if possible, all the better to hit a word target – yes, you must have targets and generally you must stick to them – endless cups of tea and saunters around the house mulling things over. If I reach my target, and am loving it, I’ll keep going. If I reach my target and I’m not, I’ll stop and go to the gym, do some chores, go for a walk. Life and your mental health take precedence sometimes.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Being stuck behind a desk means exercise is important. I swim, walk, read, cook, watch TV. All the normal things, not forgetting Twitter, of course. I’m not the best tweeter. I find any remote communication problematic as I prefer face-to-face conversation which means I don’t breeze around all the small-talk that flies around on Twitter.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading 1Q84 by Murakami. It’s a very interesting book and I’m enjoying it immensely. I don’t actually read that many thrillers, unusually. Possibly because it’s a bit of a busman’s holiday and possibly because I love top quality literature, usually American.
When can we look forward to your next book?
I can give you my deadline which is April 1st 2014. I’ve only missed one deadline and that by only three weeks for my first book written to order – The Disciple. Having said that, it was three weeks well spent when I found my killer ending. After delivery it’s up to Headline when The Companions is released.
Is DI Damen Brook still going to be the main character or are you planning to work on something completely different?
DI Brook is the main character in The Companions, yes. As for the future I’m always exploring different possibilities and storylines for Brook in my head. When they dry up – and I’m always expecting them to – then I may come up with a new lead character.
I would like to say thank you to Steven Dunne for agreeing to this interview and providing me with the pictures. I’m really looking forward to your next book.