Long-standing fans of Pete Brassett will be pleased to hear that his new detective series is topping the Northern European crime fiction charts. Here we ask him about his inspirations, his style and advice he has for budding authors.
TBF: What inspires you to write fiction?
PB: Anything and everything, it could be a single phrase overheard on the street or meeting someone for the first time but there’s invariably an element of personal experience woven into the tale somewhere or other.
TBF: You enjoy exploring different dialects, and your books often feature a character or two from a foreign land. Can you explain more about this interest of yours?
PB: Simple – a Celtic background and a love of language. Being of Scots-Irish descent I have always adored the turn of phrase used by the denizens of Scotland, Ireland and Wales. I also harbour a fondness for Spain and France, countries which, a fact many people may not know, have a Celtic heritage.
TBF: What advice would you give to writers looking to develop the way they present regional accents and so on? Apart from getting a good editor that is.
PB: There is only one way, you have to “live” it. To capture the phraseology and intonation of a dialect you must spend time with the locals not only listening, but mimicking too, until you’re able to almost have a conversation with yourself. It’s the same as being fluent in a foreign language.
TBF: What aspects of writing a novel come easiest to you?
PB: Building the characters, establishing their backgrounds and personalities, I inhabit them and visualise their every move and expression when I’m writing.
TBF: And what elements are most challenging?
PB: Not so much challenging but sometimes tediously monotonous – research. There can be nothing worse, particularly in crime fiction, than making a stupid, fundamental mistake with regard to the law and proper procedure. However, it can incredibly educational too, it’s amazing how much I’ve learned on the treatment of psychological disorders.
TBF: You often use innovative methods of presenting different points of view in your books. For instance, in She, the killer is only referred to in the third person – we get to know about her retrospectively, through a police interview with a suspect. How do you choose the mode of narration?
PB: It’s not just about the mode of narration, it’s about presenting the tale in an exciting way. I have an inherent trait, a complete and utter aversion to anything mainstream or popular so I’ve always approached things from a skewed point of view asking myself: “how can I make this different?”
There is nothing original in this world, just different ways of interpreting what’s gone before, so I apply that to my writing in the same way I used to apply it when answering a design brief.
TBF: What makes a good killer?
PB: Apart from the ones who don’t get caught? It depends on the scenario and the character. The ones to whom it comes naturally or unwittingly are probably the scariest.
TBF: What makes a good detective?
PB: Someone with a nose for trouble and a sense of humour.
TBF: Name three of the books that have influenced you the most.
PB: Well I read a wide variety of genres but I can’t honestly say if any have inspired me directly, with regard to writing that is, but there a few memorable ones which are hard to forget: The Red Pony – John Steinbeck; On the Road – Jack Kerouac; The Boy With No Shoes – William Horwood and Fup – Jim Dodge.
TBF: You’ve now had nine books published. What would be your advice to new authors, if any?
PB: Nine? No wonder my fingers are sore. Advice? Well, I would have to say, write, however loosely, on a topic you know something about, it will give you the confidence to plug on regardless because you know what you’re talking about.