Welcome to my latest author interview in the series. This afternoon I am delighted to welcome the outstanding novelist, SR Garrae, author of the romantic thriller; Death in focus. It has been fascinating to discover her journey to publication and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in a smallish village in Scotland, but spent all my working life based in London, with a year in Russia, dealing with international finance. I read for work, I read for a hobby: basically my life revolved around reading. Then one day I was diagnosed with an incurable, but manageable, eye condition, and I re-evaluated my life and started to write. I wrote fanfiction (and still do); then I was asked to write a screenplay for a major international sector conference, which was professionally filmed, and after that and a couple of bouts of eye surgery I retired to write original works full time.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Now, I’m retired. I go to the gym, I still read a lot, I do cross-stitch and embroidery, jigsaw puzzles, travel, and deal with my small family. I have a lot of friends all over the world and I write to them, too. I have a garden, which has more weeds than flowers, so I’m trying to tidy it up a bit.
3. Do you have a day job as well?
Not now. I did have, when I began my book. It was pretty full on, but I retired in March 2018.
4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started writing (fanfiction) about 5 or 6 years ago. I finished my first original book in January 2018.
5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
It was a natural choice, as I’d been writing romantic crime fiction in fanfiction for a while. However, I wanted to use my own characters, not someone else’s. The case ideas in Death in Focus came from my own experience when doing a science degree – I didn’t personally see scientific fraud, but we all knew that it existed – and in finance, where I did see fraud and the significant temptation of lots of money. The first character who came to me was O’Leary, who simply dropped wholesale into my head on a business trip. The others took longer to develop. None of them are taken from real life, though Casey Clement has taken elements from every successful professional woman I’ve known, myself included.
6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes. But when my original work is blocked, I go back to fanfiction, which generally clears my head.
7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
When I start, I only have a very broad outline – key plot points of character, relationships, and the case. Then I start to write the story, and as I go along I expand the outline so that it’s a summary of all the key points, colour coded for case, each relationship, and team. That way I can pick up plot holes and knit them back together by using the outline to find where they should have begun, and I can make sure that I don’t leave case issues hanging. The outline is as dynamic as the full manuscript.
8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
No. I’ve read pretty much every genre from slush romance to outright horror; classics to very modern. I reread many authors, and I’d say that you can’t be any sort of a decent author if you haven’t taken time to read widely as well.
9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (self-published or traditional)?
I tried to find an agent, and failed. Self-publishing with Amazon was surprisingly easy: the biggest challenge was formatting the cover for the paperback.
10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would edit harder, and make sure that there was more dialogue.
11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I mainly market through Twitter and Amazon advertising, and there’s a certain amount of word of mouth. I could do a lot more, but I’m taking it fairly slowly.
12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
No, but that’s the benefit of self-publishing.
13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Death in Focus is a romantic police procedural set in Manhattan. Casey Clement, a driven detective, leads a team of misfits: giant, gay O’Leary; ex-Army Tyler; technogeek Andy. All of them have secrets in their past, and none of them play nice with others outside the team. When obsessive photographer Jamie Carval, searching for a new theme, stumbles across the team and their latest corpse, he’s found his new exhibition – and he’s found Casey. As he tries to follow the team, the team are more interested in solving the murder of a top-class scientist, and following the multimillion dollar trail of motives to the door of billion-dollar business. However, Carval won’t give up his exhibition no matter how much Casey pushes him away, and as he begins to discover why she hates photographs he also begins to be accepted.
14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The science and the financial elements are all based on real life, though the shenanigans in the lab are not. The fraud isn’t directly taken from real life, but is a composite. The setting is real (there was a lot of wandering around Manhattan using Google Street View) as are such things as the police Academy and the CSU lab. The story is all imagination, as are all of the characters.
15. What project are you working on now?
I’m working on a sequel to Death in Focus, which will feature the same team as they delve into the ugly underbelly behind the modelling world. Past history will return to haunt the team and Carval.
16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
I’m about 2/3 through the first draft, so it’s unlikely that my next book will be ready before March/April 2019. I’ll need to edit it and get it independently read once I’ve actually finished and done my editing.
17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I want to stay with Carval, Casey and her team. They’ve got a lot of issues to explore and interesting cases to be solved. I’m especially fond of O’Leary, as my first really big original character.
18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism was that my writing was naïve. The best compliment, though, was that the reader couldn’t stop turning the pages.
19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Read everything you can get your hands on – even if you think you’ll hate the author and the genre.
Get a good spelling and grammar check.
Two things I learned from writing the screenplay which translate to novels: (1) have a bio for each of your notable characters – not just your main character but the subsidiaries as well. It really helps with visualisation and continuity; (2) read your dialogue aloud to ensure it’s what people would say, not a “novelised” version of speech. Real people rarely use names in conversation, for example, and they almost always use contractions (isn’t, don’t). It really, really helps.
20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you! I hope you enjoy reading Death in Focus and I’d love you to join me on the next one. I take questions and comments on Goodreads and Twitter, and they will be answered.
Please join me in thanking SR Garrae for engaging with me and opining up with some revealing insights into the life of an author. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact her via the following links.
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