Sue Barnard - novelist, editor, poet, RNA member, lady of letters. Believes that an immaculate house is a sign of a wasted life.
With the exception of guest posts, all work on this blog remains the copyright of the author. And, quite frankly, it's very noble of her to take the blame for it.
Today I have a very special guest on my blog - fellow Crooked Cat author Seamus Heffernan, whose amazing novel NAPALM HEARTS was published yesterday.
Welcome, Seamus! What prompted you to
first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
I have a clear memory of being in second grade and writing a story
about a young boy going on an airplane for the first time for a fun-filled
family vacation - and the plane falling out of the sky and plummeting into the
ocean. I thought it was great the way my family stared at it (and me) like
there was something very wrong.
Can you summarise your
latest work in just a few words?
NAPALM HEARTS is a detective story about a P.I. trying to find a hard-partying young
woman, the trophy wife of a member of high society, who is in big trouble
somewhere in London's seedy underworld. He's trying to be a real detective and
do the right thing - but he's also trying to find a bit of meaning in what is a
What was the
inspiration for this book?
I was always going to
write a crime book and I lived in London for a long time. That, and a few lonely
months in my own life, plus a bit of time spent on a those seedy London streets
gave me ample material to work with.
Did you do any
research for the book?
Yes, a bit. Mostly
little things, though: police officer rankings, what British naval intelligence
was called, some stuff about the Russian mafia and their tattoos. If you mess
up the small details that can sometimes derail it for the reader who will then find
it harder to trust you.
That said, it's a
novel, not a dissertation, so there is always going to be some suspension of
disbelief required and a few liberties taken by the author. All mistakes are
mine and mine alone.
Typical writing day?
like the gym: I carve out time and force myself to do it. I have a theory that
a lot of writers actually hate the process. I'm lucky in that I like the
writing part, especially when you get going and it all starts to click. But the
whole getting started part… well, that's always a lot trickier.
I'm working, I will often have music on or play movies in the background, if
only for the company and occasional distraction. Silence has always been
off-putting to me, which comes as exactly zero surprise to any of my friends.
Do you plot your
novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write? Bit of both, I suppose. My original outline for NAPALM HEARTS was much different than the final version I wrote. Lesson learned: Sometimes you have to trust both your characters to guide you, as well as your own instincts when you're in the moment.
Yes, I know - that's happened to me too!
So for the second in the series I'm definitely taking a less structured approach. I read something wonderful George Saunders said recently, about not overthinking everything before you sit down to write. He said to do so was to cheat your subconscious from what it give you when you get going. I love that.
Which writers have influenced your own writing?
I think we're inevitably influenced by anyone we read, regardless of the medium. So I must acknowledge those whose work I appreciate, whether it's in books, TV, film or comics: Dennis Lehane, Richard Price, Douglas Coupland, Bret Easton Ellis, David Milch, David Mamet, Nic Pizzolatto, Warren Ellis, Mike Schur, Tibor Fischer, Ed Brubaker, Michel Faber.
Finally, any of us who dare put "crime
fiction writer" anywhere near a résumé must willingly genuflect to Chandler and
Hammet, of course. And they totally deserve it.
What has been the best
part of the writing process…and the worst?
The best part is creating a story that resonates with people. It's probably the most
human thing about us, to share stories. We all do it, all the time. Oh man, my boss reamed me out today. Hey,
did I ever tell you I was in a band in college? Listen, I'm doing this cleanse
and I'm literally gonna die if I don't get a burger. Watch anybody at a
party, mingling. We swap tales to get to know each other.
is the natural extension of our need to share stories. That's why I write. This
thing where we make up stories and throw them out into the world is just this
wonderful, precious thing we get to do. I've personally decided to use that
gift to write trashy detective novels, but what the hell. We don't all get to
win a Nobel for Literature.
The worst part is writing a scene that's genuinely well-written, something
you love - then realizing it adds nothing to your story, so you have to kill it.
Every writer feels like Abraham standing above Isaac in that moment right
before you hit 'delete.'
the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?
Tired. Slightly anxious. But cautiously optimistic.
Do you have any advice
for new writers?
Decide if you are
willing to put a lot of time and work into something that you may never get any
credit for, let alone make money from. If the answer is 'yes,' start. Hell,
start small. Aim for a page a day. It adds up fast.
can we expect from you in the future?
In no particular order:
follow-up to NAPALM HEARTS.
TV pilot script, a dramedy about the day-to-day grind of working in government
from the point of view of the people who serve the public every day. A somewhat
kinder, gentler The Thick of It,
·Getting by with a little more exercise and a
little less sleep.
than that: NAPALM HEARTS may be ordered here.
please get in touch with me through any of these: