Plugged is a slice of modern noir fiction where I have tried to genre bend a little by introducing a Walter Mitty internal monologue and large sections of black comic humour. What I am trying to achieve is a sense of ‘pleasant surprise’ in the reader where they get a little more than they had expected. So perhaps the reader expects a straightforward ‘gorgeous dame walks into a P.I.’s office’ yarn and they get something slightly more frenetic. Of course what you don’t want to do is five the reader an unpleasant surprise where they really wanted the dame/P.I. yarn and you have ruined their day- so the humour is built around a standard noir skeleton where a guy’s girlfriend is murdered and the finger is pointed at him because of his past.
The idiom shift was not something I really considered other than acknowledging that the book might not be any good and I would have to wait for an editor’s opinion. Good editors tend to give it to a person straight which is why they are good editors. When I was writing Plugged I simply allowed it to flow and evolve, nothing was off limits in the first draft if I felt it was funny, or quirky or well put together. I never worried that being a childrens’ writer as such I would not be capable of writing an adult book. I was reasonably sure that I could do it and it was just a question of maintaining my own confidence until the end of the book. I find that I generally have a crisis of confidence in all my material about two thirds of the way through and I have to almost force myself not to abandon every project.
I have been inspired by many authors while writing Plugged. Chandler and Elmore Leonard might be obvious inspirations, but also Colin Bateman, Ken Bruen and Dave Barry. All of these authors inject a little dark humour into their crime novels and I have admired their work for years. I don’t try to be like these writers as such but I do see them as having set a standard that I would like to reach eventually.
I regard my writing peers as benchmarks that I have to reach. Whenever I am feeling a little cocky after a good review all it takes is a couple of pages from Roddy Doyle’s latest to calm me down again. I never miss Ken Bruen’s work or Patrick McCabe’s. I was especially thrilled when William Boyd did a kind of crime novel with Ordinary Thunderstorms which I loved. I don’t think so much about fields anymore as there is so much blurring around the edges, but I do love Peter Carey, especially what could be called his historical novels, and I am working through everything by Arthur Conan Doyle. My current favourite is Brigadier Gerard.
I think the issue of violence needs to be judged on an individual case basis. I am not a fan of spatter and gore anymore but that is a personal thing and I don’t object to people enjoying a good serial murder book. I have read hundreds and don’t feel scarred. My own books do contain violence, as they are essentially thrillers but I think that is clear from the blurb and the cover. I have no desire to inflict stomach lurching shocks on an unsuspecting reader. My own feeling on the vexed issue is that sometimes violence is an integral part of a story and if not ladled on too thick can add to the telling.
I have aspirations for my book. There are things I hope people will enjoy. Principally this book is about enjoyment. I want people to put this book down and have a little chuckle to themselves. I want people to be hooked on the characters and stay with them until the resolution. Plugged is pure escapism, I hope. There are some issues dealt with, but with a light touch.
My next book is the final chapter in the Artemis Fowl series. Artemis Fowl has been my most successful series and has run to seven novels over the course of the past decade. The eighth book will be his last as Artemis has finally learnt his lesson and become a decent guy. While this is nice for Artemis and family it is bad for me as the time has come to wrap up the series. Luckily he will continue to pop up in different incarnations in comic books, computer games and possibly a movie adaptation.
Plugged is published by Headline