How would you describe FATHER AND SON?
It’s about a man who tries to find the killer of an old family friend. But as he delves into the man’s past, events spiral out of control. It’s a crime thriller with some elements of a police procedural, and deals with both the aftermath of former crimes and a new wave of terror that hits the investigation.
Who is John Ray?
John Ray is the son of Antonio ‘Tiny’ Ray, a local crime boss in Leeds (northern England). Tony Ray is Spanish, and arrived in the UK in the 60s. He built up a thriving business in fake/stolen goods and counterfeit money. John is the ‘white sheep’ of the family; he always refused to join the family business, but he’s a bit of a maverick and events have a habit of drawing him back into the world of crime.
You’ve written in a variety of genres. Why crime thrillers?
HOPE ROAD was my first serious crime novel. The response was a lot better than I’d expected, and I found that I immediately wanted to write another. I like the mix of strong characters and tight plot in writing crime. With such a well-known and popular genre there’s nowhere to hide; you can be as artful as you like, but whatever you do to be distinctive, you have to make sure the novel delivers the kind of experience that crime fiction lovers expect.
Did you enjoy writing FATHER AND SON?
Yes. And what I enjoyed most of all was that the plot developed organically as I wrote. Characters seemed to fall into place, and the whole thing started to move with its own momentum.
Will there be more in the John Ray / LS9 series?
Most definitely. The original plan was for nine novels. I have a broad series outline, but nine is a lot of novels, so whether I’ll get there I don’t know.
What interests you apart from books?
I very much like food! OK, so I’m basically greedy. But I also like learning more about food, how it is produced and prepared. I write articles for a food magazine, which essentially means I get paid to travel around and eat. What could be better? Other than that I like travel, music, and I am currently obsessed with American TV drama.
Some writers use music to help them work. What about you?
No. I can’t work with music playing at all. I have a condition called ‘musical hallucinations’, which means that I constantly hear music in my head, a ‘playtrack’ that my brain refuses to put on pause. For some people this can be irritating, but I don’t mind. If I’m really, really concentrating on something, the tune currently playing in my head might drift off into the background; but it’ll still be there, and as soon as I relax it comes back. The nice thing is that I have fairly wide musical tastes, and all sorts of things appear on the ‘playlist’ in my head.
What is the main premise of FATHER AND SON?
It begins with John Ray being called in to murder scene. An ex-associate of his father (Tony Ray, a local crime boss) has been killed. There are no leads.
Who’s your favorite character in FATHER AND SON?
There’s a secondary character called John Steele that I have grown to like. He’s a police detective, and he hates John Ray (the main character in the book, and quite a charismatic figure). Steele has a relatively minor role in the book, but I think his presence adds a good dynamic to the investigation, which is both a police investigation and a separate one carried out by John Ray. Steele is a bit of a thug, but he’s smart and he hates criminals. I reckon he might crop up again in Book #3.
What or who is Storm Books?
Storm Books is a micro-publisher run by Sam Bridges, a friend of mine. At the moment it only publishes my work, so it’s really a form of self-publishing. It’s an experiment. I didn’t want to find myself left out of the self-publishing revolution, but neither did I want to spend all day being a publisher.
Who designed this cover?
Start Bache. He does the latest editions of Stephen King’s books in the
UK. I think he’s great.
Do you now consider yourself an ‘indie’ writer?
Well, not exactly. I self-published the first John Ray novel, HOPE ROAD, as an experiment: it was my first serious crime novel and I had nothing to lose. My agent then wisely pointed out that, since the first book in the series was self-published, we couldn’t really sell the second book to a traditional publisher. So for the moment my crime novels are self-published. But I have another project coming out soon, a collaboration, which will be published in a more traditional way.
You’ve been on both side of the publishing divide, first with HarperCollins and Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, now as an indie. How do they compare?
I love being published by a big house. They’re full of really bright people who adore books. Doing it on your own means you have to find an editor and a proof reader and a cover artist, all of which costs money. However, for commercial fiction these costs are not too onerous, and if you can be disciplined and thorough in how you go about things, I think it turns out pretty much the same. In any case, 99% of the time you’re just writing, so there’s no difference at all on a day to day basis.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m researching the background to Book #3 in the John Ray series. I’m also just finishing up on a collaborative novel that has taken six years to write (!) and also finishing a ghost-written novel for someone else. If I can get all that done by July I’m going to take a few weeks off...
Where can your readers stalk you?
Mailing list: email@example.com
Facebook page: facebook.com/john.barlow.319
Goodreads Author page: http://www.goodreads.com/JohnBarlow