Monday, 16 May 2011

INTERVIEW: Will Carver

Here at Falcata Times, we just love the chance to chat to new authors, so after getting the bejesus scared out of us with Girl 4, we were a little apprehensive as to what we were letting ourselves in for with this creative mind.

Here Will chats to us about writing, about music and his pride and joy...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Will Carver: I think there is a romantic notion that writers are afflicted with a talent they feel almost obsessively driven to use, in the same way that people often talk of suffering for their art. I like to think of the ability to express your thoughts clearly and interestingly through the written word as a gift. If you have it, you will want to use it.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

WC: I thought I wanted to be a painter up to my mid-teens until a teacher suggested I had a particular aptitude for poetry. I started to write a poem every day and found I could express myself more clearly than I ever could with paint.

Things changed after reading Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. It was the first time I’d read a book and thought, ‘God, I wish I’d written that.’ From that day, poetry took a back seat to my new love of the novel form. By the end of university I had written my first novel. I keep a copy of Fight Club on my desk whenever I write.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

WC: I don’t believe that is true at all. I do not set out to write a poem in the same way that I write an essay, neither would I prepare in the same way for a novel as I would for a blog post or online article or screenplay. They are entirely different disciplines. Just because someone can play the piano it does not mean they could keep time on the drums.

The short story is a notoriously difficult format. I have some ideas that I think would suit it well and I will get around to trying them at some point but I realise my approach will have to differ from the way I develop a full-length novel.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

WC: Girl 4 is a psychological thriller that I hope will excite fans familiar with that genre, but it also breaks a lot of boundaries and challenges reader expectations. So hopefully it will please both regular and new readers of Crime & Thriller novels. I like to think it shakes up the genre a little and dares readers to put their preconceptions to one side and experience something fresh.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

WC: When my editor first read Girl 4 it scared him so much he was afraid to answer his door at night.

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

WC: I think everybody should own a copy of The Great Gatsby: that is how you write the perfect book. Also, anything by Hemingway. I am working my way through every word he scribbled onto paper at the moment. Going back to the short-story question, The Old Man and the Sea must be the greatest of all; there can’t be an editor in the world who is brave enough to suggest that a single word of that could be changed for the better.

With regards to the author who will have me camped out on a bookshop doorstep, it has to be Chuck Palahniuk. He is so original and his voice so distinctive.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

WC: I start with the ending, the pay-off.


I don’t think chronologically and this is reflected in the structure of my books. I won’t start writing until the ending and the beginning are firmly planned in my head. Then I make up the middle as I go along. Taking the same journey as my characters. Finding out about them as I write.

If someone in my book has walked a certain path, eaten in a cafe, visited a library, stood on the edge of a building, strolled across a bridge, I have done this myself. To develop the character profiles I will visit the places that my characters visit, I write their journey as though I am that character - whether this be detective, killer or victim. This is usually part of my research and is the most planned aspect of my writing.

Because I write in the first person for every character in Girl 4, giving them each their own voice in the story, it was important that I experience situations as they would.

So, in short, I know how a novel will start and end. I know my individual characters in detail and how they will succeed, fail or die. The rest is a join-the-dots journey for all of us.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

WC: There aren’t many things more relaxing to me than sitting in a corner on my own with a guitar - and a whisky if possible. Before I was paid to write novels it was my perfect antidote for a stressful day in the office. Just half an hour as soon as I got home. Now I tend to intersperse my day with short bursts of finger-picking.

I tend to read a lot more when in the research period of a book but I am currently immersed in writing the third January David novel. However, I recently finished reading The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, which I really enjoyed, and the next on my list will be another from my pile of Hemingway.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

WC: In this world of online social networking there isn’t a lot we don’t all know about each other.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

WC: I love animals but I don’t have any pets.I have a sixteen-month-old daughter who requires my time and attention; if I also had a dog or cat I would undoubtedly forget to feed one of them at some point.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

WC: Probably Eames. It is great fun to write a serial killer, particularly if you write him in the first person as I do - and you research in the way that I do. He’s very plain-speaking. He’s knows what he is and he makes no apologies for that; he doesn’t blame anyone or any circumstance for the way he has turned out. I always find the dislikable characters more interesting to write. It’s even more fun if they are supposed to be detestable but you find yourself sympathising with them in some way . . .

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

WC: I enjoy whisky and so does January David. We are both a little scruffy but that’s about it. You can’t help but put parts of yourself into your writing but I’d never base a person completely on myself. I am not just one of the people I write, I am all of them.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

WC: Film is a huge passion of mine. I own thousands of films. I used to have a rule that I had to watch three films each day but I have cut that down a little over the last year or so. This has a huge influence on my work. I tend to picture everything as a film before I write and I try to instill that visual aspect into my prose.

Music is very important too. I taught myself to play the guitar and I am dabbling in a bit of piano. The only influence it has on my work though is to remind me that I should be a writer and not a musician.

FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

WC: Ideas can spark from so many places. It may be the emotion towards a piece of music or a certain lyric. A news item or article. It could simply come from conversation with another person. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact place that an idea begins - a lot of things come to me in the shower, for some reason. I’d love to tell you how I came up with the idea for Girl 4 but I feel it may ruin the ending.

I jot ideas down all the time on scraps of paper that get lost for months or years. I like to believe that these scraps will find me when it is their turn to come to life as a story.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

WC: I’m very fortunate to have not sat down at my keyboard and been unable to write. There are days when I am happier with the words I have written than others. Sometimes I will reach the end of a writing session, read back over it and delete in its entirety, but I am yet to experience a day where nothing comes out.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

WC: This has changed with each book for me. I have suffered with insomnia for a long time because I find it difficult to wind down at night with ideas buzzing around my head. I used to use this time to write. Girl 4 was written mostly at night, often into the early hours of the morning, on my laptop in my office. This office became a nursery and I found myself writing at very odd hours in cafes or at the dining table while my daughter napped.

I have a had a little getaway built at the bottom of the garden now which houses my books, computer, whisky, guitars, coffee machine, and I generally write early in the morning. Sometimes this can be for a few hours, sometimes for the entire day.

I try to fit my writing around my family so that I get to spend as much time with them as possible. I can write at any time.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

WC: I find it quite difficult to listen to music while I write, particularly if it has lyrics. It gets a bit distracting - I don’t even have a window in the room I write in for the same reason.

Sometimes I will listen to a little Gershwin, something instrumental, but that is about it.

When I research locations - all my novels to date are set in London - I will close myself off from the world with a large pair of headphones and listen to Elliott Smith’s Either/Or album. Only this album. For some reason it gets me into the frame of mind I need to write in the style that I do. I can often be found wandering the streets of London wearing huge headphones and scribbling inside a leather notebook.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

WC: I still feel as though I am getting started. I don’t believe I ever thought about the publishing side of things, I just knew I wanted to write so I got on with doing that. I’m learning something new every day about what is required as a published author.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

WC: Writing is the drug of self-loathing. It feels great while you are doing it. There is a buzz or euphoria that comes with the sound of fingers tapping against keys and producing something new that you created from nothing. Afterwards, there is a come-down as you read back what you have written. I often have to take myself away from the screen for the evening because I think it is sub-standard. The only way to feel better is to write again the next day.

The fuller you are on writing the harder it is to digest the self-loathing, the more you then have to write. One cannot exist without the other.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

WC: My second book is called The Two and will be released on 10 November, 2011 (although it is available now for pre-order on Amazon). It continues the January David series and sees him enter into another high-profile case searching for a killer seemingly using Pagan ceremony when slaying their victims. The problem our detective faces is that the killer he seeks has already been captured by a vigilante who goes by the name V. It is told in the same style as Girl 4.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

WC: Twitter and Facebook, obviously.

Amazon because the Kindle version of Girl 4 is now available and I wanted to take a look. because I made some changes to the website and wanted to check that they were working properly.

Google. I googled myself to check that my website ranking was moving up after doing some Search Engine Optimisation. Also, it can throw up some surprising links occasionally . . .

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

WC: No. Never taken any writing classes or courses. In fact, I slept through the final exam of my English A-Level. I have learned so much from working with my agent and editor, though. Having a fresh pair of eyes and the feedback that comes with it is absolutely invaluable; I’ve learned more about writing from the editing process than I think I would sat in a class listening to someone telling me how I should write.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

WC: I got past the criticism and rejection of my first book by writing a completely new book, Girl 4, which was picked up by Random House very quickly. In terms of my initial rejections, I would just tell myself that Harry Potter was rejected too or that Fitzgerald was told his book would be much better if he just got rid of that Gatsby character. I knew my book wasn’t going to click with every single editor. You have to be realistic and I always was. Also, constructive criticism is always useful. I never went into it thinking that I knew best.

I’m telling myself that I won’t allow myself to get bogged down with reading every review of Girl 4, that there will be people who like it and people that do not, but perhaps you could ask me this again in three months.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

WC: The best part of my job is that I can dictate my own hours. My wife works for half of the week and I take care of my daughter on those days. I’m very fortunate that I get to see so much of her growing up. I can write when she naps or in the evening when she goes to bed. I can choose to have a day or week off from writing without consulting a boss and ensuring it fits in with everybody else’s holiday entitlement. I can write for two hours one day and eighteen the next. I suppose it is the freedom that is the best part. (I do try to write every day, though.)

I suppose the worst aspect is telling people I am a writer while my book isn’t even out yet. The first question someone asks when you tell them you are a writer is ‘Anything I would know?’ You find yourself having to justify yourself a little. I’m sure this will change after May 12th . . .

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