Monday, August 10, 2009
INTERVIEW MONDAY--Col Bury!
Today we have Col Bury--Co-Editor of Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, and active Crime writer on the road with all of us--seeking representation for our pride and joy novels. Col gives us a great look into this genre and I love his random question answer at the end, I laugh every time! He's also got some nice publications, which you can check out below. Enjoy!
1.First off why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
I live in Manchester, UK, with my wonderful wife and two beautiful children, so I’m an extremely fortunate person family-wise. They understand how important both reading and writing are to me, and for that I’m thankful as free time is limited when you’re a dad and work full-time.
Being Co-Editor of ezine, Thrillers, Killers N Chillers, does take up some of my ‘writing time,’ but to be honest it’s a pleasure to be part of reading, analyzing, and editing work from some truly outstanding writers and, as a consequence, others tell me my own writing has developed considerably this year, which obviously spurs me on.
In my spare time (what’s left of it!) I read, read, read - with a critical eye - mainly crime novels at every opportunity, and I’m a keen 8-ball pool player (County level) with a garage full of trophies! I also love football with a passion, both playing and watching Manchester City.
I’ve been writing very spasmodically for twenty years and have had a few modest successes with articles published in magazines, plus I was once on the editorial team for a book about unemployment. I have loads of stuff stashed on discs, in drawers and in my head! It’s not only crime, although this is now my forte. I used to read a lot of horror - James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Stephen King - because I love the suspense/tension and that feeling of not wanting to turn the next page, but you just have to!
Over the years I’ve written broadly. There’s a children’s series that’s done the rounds without success, an old novel (it was naff, but good practice), a half-written humorous non-fiction ‘How-to’ book, numerous poems (even won a poetry comp’ once - there was only me who entered!), and many ‘scrawlings’, including stand up comedy routines, speeches and reviews. I’ve been called ‘a versatile writer’ before, but I think to have that label confirmed you need to be published widely.
My focus now is firmly on crime writing with an unflinching desire to become a crime novelist.
Just realized you asked for ‘a little bit about yourself.’ Ooops. Forgive me, but writers do ramble!
2.Crime writing huh? Mind telling us about your current novel project?
I’d say it’s a fast-paced, mainstream crime novel with plenty of action and conflict, written in a gritty, no nonsense voice with the sprinkles of dark humour throughout. It feels a tad uncomfortable blowing my own trumpet, especially as it’s not on the shelves…yet! But the story is Manchester-based and is a balance of police procedure - whereby my Detective Inspector hunts a highly skilled, prolific serial killer - and ‘action’ from the viewpoint of the killer. It does tackle the motivational issues of the ‘bad guy’ and also has a strong moral theme running throughout as it deals with ‘problems’ within society of which the killer is somewhat peeved (to say the least!). I’d like to think my characters are as sympathetic and 3-dimensional as possible, and do drive the story along.
There’s obviously much more to the plot than that, but you’ve probably got the gist. My aim is to write a book to entertain the reader, who is at the forefront of my mind with each sentence I write.
I am hoping to gain the representation of an Agent later in the year…so if anyone’s interested…!!!
3.I hear that! Representation is every writers dream (okay maybe not every writers dream) but a lot of us are hoping we get there. You’re a passionate crime writer—do you have any previous experience with the law? What attracts you personally to this genre?
I’m fascinated as to the motivations of the perpetrator. As a young lad growing up in a suburban area of Manchester, crime was all around me, and I recall wondering back then - and still now - why certain people chose to do certain things and, as I’m naturally inquisitive, I began to research. I’ve read lots of books on serial killers and true crime, which I believe is crucial to develop one’s understanding
I do have direct dealings with violent offenders in my job, but I’ll not elaborate on that for now. It’s not quite, ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you,’ but now’s not the time. Maybe if my novel gets published…
4.Hmm…violent offenders through work? Interesting, I wonder if you’ll use any of their actions in your books. I think we can all agree on reading what we write because that’s what we like. It also lets you see how other authors execute that genre. So we know the basis of Crime Fiction, but I sometimes see ‘New’ Crime Fiction—is there a difference?
My blog is called Col Bury’s New Crime Fiction simply because I’m a newish writer of crime fiction. I guess that’s the main reason - a new take on things, a new voice in the genre. I assume that’s what this means elsewhere, too: please correct me if I’m wrong.
5.If any readers know otherwise, please leave it in the comment section. Not only are you a writer of short stories and working on a novel, but you’re the Co-Editor of Thrillers, Killers, ‘N’ Chillers (TKnC) with Matt Hilton, how did that all come about?
Knowing I was into writing, a mutual friend told me about Matt’s 5-book deal and I was intrigued (naturally inquisitive as I told you – or a nosey so n so: take your pick!) and my friend phoned Matt and put us in touch early in 2008. Matt’s been massively supportive of me for which I’m extremely grateful. We became good friends via near-daily emails, and the odd call, before we finally met up in Lancaster (half-way between Manchester and Carlisle) for a bite to eat and a non-stop chat about writing and life.
Matt has tried for years to get published, appreciating how difficult it is, and as he genuinely enjoys helping new writers, he started Thrillers, Killers N Chillers in January this year to do just that. I’d sent him a few stories on there to get the ball rolling as did a few other up and coming writers: Matt’s brother, Jim Hilton, and another writer called Amit Dhand. Then one of my Writers’ News Talkback friends, Bill Haddow-Allen joined us, but for the first three months that was it.
Unexpectedly, in March Matt kindly asked me to assist and I literally bit his hand off! Me…an Editor? A month or two later I recall Matt and I were debating via email the merits of accepting a certain submission and he made me laugh with a third email on the subject, saying, ‘Col, we’re becoming Editors …aaarrgh!!!’ I’m (we’re) so proud of how it’s taken off, though most of the credit should go to Matt for his foresight in creating the site: it’s his brainchild.
6.That’s wonderful to see the progress your both making, in fact next week I have an interview lined up with Matt. Thrillers, Killers, ‘N’ Chillers focuses on crime, thrillers, and mystery stories. Do you enjoy all of these genres? What are some plots you see all the time that new writers can try to stay away from the slush pile when they submit work?
Don’t forget horror, Sci-Fi, flash and micro fiction - anything that thrills, kills, or chills really. And, yes, I do love all of these genres.
But do you know what? The variety of submissions we receive from the many writing talents out there are so diverse that the different voices make the typical scenario - protagonist = problem with antagonist = kill antagonist - told in different ways, but sometimes with a twist from the obvious or an alternative take, still refreshingly entertaining to read.
Things to avoid when submitting: writing something that doesn’t fit the guidelines (which are actually very broad for an ezine) or poor grammar/plot. If it’s well-written and we’re not sure, we’ll have a brief ‘chat’ via email then usually agree. If not - which is extremely rare - we’ll let the readers decide.
7.It sounds like TK’n’C is very flexible, which is awesome for new writers to help get their work out there. I’ll be honest, I’ve never written a crime story because I’m more intimidated by this genre. I watch crime shows all the time, but it’s said over and over again these shows are complete fiction and the current technology does not allow cases to be solved that easily. In your writing do you have such fictional items to solve a murder or do you try to stay within the current technology for this time frame?
Crime writing doesn’t have to be like the old police procedurals where the reader is inside the head of a chain-smoking detective, seeing his every move, hearing his every thought. If this is the way you did want to write then it would need extensive research to make it authentic. There are other ways to write a crime novel (e.g. predominantly from the perpetrator’s viewpoint) where you’re somewhat freed from the shackles of the official viewpoint of a cop and your imagination can really kick in as oppose to worrying too much about police procedure. Nonetheless, it must be said, research is still required as most readers of crime will see right through you!
Obviously real crimes can take ages to solve (a novel can accommodate this better than a one-hour TV show), especially whether it involves forensics, fibres, DNA, etc, trawling through hours of CCTV or waiting for responses from witness appeals, but these TV shows, that you refer to, have to be hard-hitting and fast-paced otherwise they become boring. It’s like the Bill in the UK. It’s pretty entertaining, but cops actually write a lot. Imagine in one episode having them all doing their files for court! Riveting - not! And it makes me laugh when a call comes on the radio for a bloke in a red top carrying a package and, hey presto, there he is walking past! But I suppose the producers/writers have to do this otherwise their stories would drag.
8.I would need to do a ton of research if I planned to show the whole ‘murder case and procedure’ point of view, so maybe I’ll stick to the shows. So some shows inspire people, who/what has inspired you?
I think the first author to inspire me was horror writer, James Herbert whose books are easy to read, full of suspense and atmosphere, and sprinkled with humour. I’ve read three of Simon Kernick’s books recently – Relentless, Deadline, and The Murder Exchange – and have thoroughly enjoyed them, especially the fast pace and dry humour therein. The first actual crime novel I read that got me hooked was William Bayer's--Switch.
Ian Rankin’s work is, to me, much more serious and clearly well-researched and I admire him for this. I also like Mark Billingham and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris is a must read for any aspiring crime writer. I really enjoyed Matt Hilton’s, Dead Men’s Dust, too, and can’t wait to read the rest in the Joe Hunter series.
However, just last month I began my first Lee Child novel, Persuader, and the end of the first chapter gave me that ‘wow’ feeling. I’m really loving this book and I can see why many people admire him so much. I’m hooked on Jack Reacher now so job done by Mr Child.
There are numerous crime writers on my ‘to read’ list and, to be honest, I will definitely get round to reading them all.
9.I have countless books on my reading list. Right now I am finally getting around to Suzanne Collins ‘The Hunger Games’ from all the reviews I’ve read on blogs. Let’s get to the Writing Platform, agents love seeing this on a query, but do you think writing short stories benefits the writer when composing a novel?
I wasn’t aware of Suzanne so there’s another for my list – thanks!
I agree that it’s almost expected for a writer to have some kind of ‘writing platform’ so an agent can see that they do have some marketing potential.
My writing was very ‘flabby’ when I first submitted to TKnC, but from the feedback received I know I’ve definitely tightened my work, which I feel has also hopefully improved my novel writing. The downside, perhaps, is at one stage I was in ‘short story mode’ (writing my own, plus reading and editing lots of others) and couldn’t get back into the novel. However, I finally overcame this by just writing scenes (a bit like short stories really) from the novel as the ideas popped into my head, which got me back into the flow.
10.I have to say being the Publishing Editor of FMM (Flash Me Magazine) has helped improve my own writing a lot. It allows you see some common mistakes to help you identify your own. You’ve had some short stories published, mind telling us a short blurb and how you develop your ideas? Can we read them online and if so where?
There’s a list on of my online stuff on my blog. To date I’ve got a dozen shorts on TKnC, one on Six Sentences, three over at A Twist Of Noir and I’m branching out a bit now and submitting to other ezines. A new piece of micro is due on Blink-Ink as we speak. Most are crime oriented, invariably written with a splash of humour and a twist. Some are particularly violent and a few have a supernatural theme, mainly mixed with crime (probably stemming from reading horror as a spotty teenager).
As you may have gathered, humour is important to me in writing: I feel it adds a further dimension and can offer a break from the tension, if your ‘comic timing’ is right and if used sparingly, while also adding to the characterization. Over-use of humour can become ‘author intrusion.’
I’ve only been submitting since January this year and was amazed when one of my stories, Forum of Fury, was selected for review at Eastern Standard Crime. I think this is arguably my favourite. It received a helluva lot of positive feedback that left me with an afterglow!
Encouraged by the positive feedback from the ezines I’ve started sending stuff out to magazines, other markets and competitions. I think I’ll always write short stories as I’ve definitely got the bug, but the novel takes precedence – it has to, otherwise I’d never finish it.
11.That’s great about all your accomplishments and I love the afterglow comment. I know I am radiant when I get an acceptance letter. Out of curiosity, do you really believe there is such a thing as “The Perfect Crime?” Why or why not?
Yes, I do. Programs like Dexter are good, and if forensically aware then you’ve got a chance. How many unsolved murders are there? Throughout history you could say that each unsolved case is arguably the ‘perfect crime.’ On a lesser level, a crime could be stealing a block of cheese from the corner shop. If you’re masked up and rush in and out at the right moment, then there’s a fair chance you could be scoffing away your cheese on toast watching Dexter without chastisement! Sadly thousands of crimes go undetected every day throughout the world, so the answer has to be a resounding ‘Yes,’ whether it may be by luck or meticulous planning on the criminal’s part.
12.Very interesting, I have to say I’ve never heard an answer like that before. Lastly, my random questions! I love these ones. You get a mysterious letter in the mail from someone claiming to have evidence that falsely accuses you of a crime, what would you do?
Kill them…only joking…I’d just torture them…again, just kidding. It wouldn’t be possible…I’d suss ‘em in the end and fight for justice. After all, I am a crime writer!
Haha! I love that above answer! If you would like to know more about Col Bury here are some personal links:
Col blogs and interviews crime writers here:
To read or submit a story to Thrillers, Killers N Chillers go here.(Don’t be shy - Matt and Col are very approachable chaps!)
Thank you so much Col for taking the time showing us readers a life in crime! Your answers have been great for giving us a glimpse into a genre I don’t hear a lot of writers writing, that may be a good thing when you’re targeting agents. I do wish you the best of luck with your writing journey and the success continues to grow for TK’n’C. It is an awesome read that I enjoy checking out and recommend it to anyone interested in these genres.