© 2013 Clive Eaton
Alan lives in the south of England and is married with beautiful twin daughters. When he's not creating clinical software for the NHS he writes short stories for his daughters and thrillers for everyone else. In his spare time he wishes he had more spare time...
Book title: Gray Justice
When a killer walks free from court, the victim's father sees just two options: accept the judge's decision; or take on the entire British justice system. Tom Gray chooses the latter and his crusade attracts instant worldwide media coverage. It was just what Tom was hoping for, but it brought him a lot more than he bargained for. Gray Justice is more than just a simple tale of revenge: it’s a rollercoaster ride that will have you questioning your own views on the justice system.
What do you do to relax when you are not writing?
I used to spend vast amounts of time on Twitter but that was instead of writing. I now spend about twenty minutes online each day, and once a week I allow myself a couple of hours to really catch up with my friends. The rest of the time is spent with my family, and to get some ‘me’ time I got to bed early and spend a couple of hours with my Kindle.
What, or who, inspired you to become a writer?
My children. I’d been trying for a few years to make a little extra money so that my daughters could have the things I missed out on as a child (such as school trips abroad). I built a couple of websites that had the potential to make money, but was let down by my marketing skills (or lack thereof). About three years ago a colleague at work said she was writing a book for kids and I showed her one of my old stories. She loved it and said I should get it published, and the writing took off from there. I’ve since discovered that no matter how good (or bad) the book, marketing is still the key.
What or who inspired you to write your current novel?
Gray Justice was inspired by a TV cop show where I saw a repeat offender drive like a maniac for twenty minutes, endangering pedestrians and fellow road users. When caught, it was revealed that he had around forty previous convictions, yet for his latest crime he received just a community order. I saw that as no deterrent, and decided to write a book about a victim who felt the same way.
Tell us three interesting facts about your book which aren’t covered in the synopsis?
1) There’s the occasional swear word, a few scenes of violence and a rape scene, so the sensitive among you have been warned.
2) It has a sub-plot, where Al-Qaeda try to take advantage of Tom Gray’s situation. A couple of reviewers have suggested the book is racist because of this, but I think it is valid to write about a real, active terrorist organisation.
3) It isn’t your typical good-guy-wins-bad-guy-loses tale.
What research did you need to do for this book?
Plenty! I based the location of Tom Gray’s fortress in Sussex and used real roads and lay-bys in the story. I also had to find out about the guns used by certain forces, and a lot of time was spent learning about MI5. I wanted the security forces to use just the technology at their disposal without all the James Bond gadgets. I didn’t really want them to come across as the win-every-battle-just-in-time heroes, which is how they are often portrayed on TV.
Are any elements/characters of your book based on real life experiences or people you’ve met/known?
Not really. I used the surnames of some people I know for some of the characters, but none of the character traits are based on a particular person.
Tell us a little about your current work-in-progress.
I’m currently working on Gray Redemption, the final part of the trilogy. Having been spirited away to the Philippines against his wishes, Tom (with a new name and face) tries to find his way home after being betrayed by his handler. Gray Redemption picks up just after he has managed to escape his jungle captors. His journey home is going to be a long one, but there is plenty of action and intrigue to keep the reader occupied until Tom makes a reappearance.
What process did you adopt from inception through to the finished book?
I started out with the basic premise: A man loses a loved one to a serial criminal. After that, it was just seat-of-the-pants writing. I would plot out the story a few chapters in advance, then promptly ignore the notes as new opportunities opened up. Even with just a few pages left to write, I still didn’t know how it was going to end.
What do you need (or not need) around you whilst writing?
Peace and quiet would be nice, but that is very rare. I get up uber-early in the morning to get an hour of quiet time before the family wakes up, and this is my most productive time. Unfortunately, that limits my word count for the day. I try to get some done in the evening when I get home but the words tend to trickle onto the page as I only manage a few minutes on the laptop between my daughters’ battles.
What prompted you to self-publish your current book?
When a friend said I should publish my short story I had no idea that self-publishing existed. A few minutes on Google led me to Smashwords and I put Recidivist up for sale. It has had exactly zero sales, but it did give me the idea to try a full length novel.
What were the three biggest challenges you faced when writing your book?
1) Being the breadwinner of the house. It isn’t easy finding time to write when you work full time and come home to young, twin daughters who want their Daddy time.
2) Impatience. When I neared the end I couldn’t wait to get the final word on the page and then upload the book. This meant it went live with scores of errors, and that cost me dearly. It has since been proofread, as has Gray Resurrection, and I will be having a few people go over Gray Redemption before it is release into the wild.
3) Motivation. As my first work, I had no idea how people would react to Gray Justice. Was I wasting my time? Would I spend a year getting it on paper only for people to hate it?
Every author seems to suffer with writer’s block at some point. How do you overcome it?
Due to the fact that I write as I go, I often get stuck. With the first book I simply left it for a few weeks and came back with fresh ideas. However, at the time I didn’t have people eagerly awaiting my next work, and that is a luxury I can no longer afford. Now, I just write anything. I put down a few lines and it immediately gets me thinking about how I could do it better. I also think about the story all the time. When I’m in the bath or cooking, I’m constantly thinking of the next step.
What single piece of advice would you give to any aspiring writer?
Be original. Try to give the reader something they’ve never come close to reading before. With so many new films being remakes of classics, it amazes me that the film studios don’t spend more time on Amazon looking for ideas. Rather than simply bring Top Gun into the twenty-first century, why not go and find something new in the world’s biggest slush pile? Amazon has over a million books, and surely there must be a gem or two among them that would translate well onto the big screen. If you can write that unique novel, you’ve got less chance of your work being dismissed as ‘just another thriller’.
What genre does your book fall into?
Gray Justice started out as a thriller, but I guess there’s a good slice of action in there, too.
How did you get interested in this specific genre?
You as a reader
Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?
1) Tom Clancy. I love the way he takes multiple threads and intertwines them to bring a realistic, action-packed read.
2) D. G. Torrens. I read Amelia’s Story after meeting Dawn on Twitter and couldn’t believe that anyone could go through such a traumatic childhood, yet turn out to be such a success. Despite years spent in the British care system, Dawn always had great plans for her life and has already achieved a lot of her dreams. She has travelled the world, bought her own house and is happily married with a wonderful daughter she calls her Princess.
3) Russell Blake: This guy knows how to write an action-packed thriller, and I’m surprised that he hasn’t been snapped up by one of the big publishers.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Somehow I ended up with an entire set of Enid Blyton books, and I would read them for hours on end.
What is the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months?
What was the last book you recommended to a friend, and why did you think it was worthy of recommendation?
Kindle (or other e-reader) or paperback, and why?
Kindle. When I find a great book, I read it at every opportunity: On the way to work; at the dinner table; in bed. With a Kindle, I don’t have the problem of the book trying to close when I’m using a knife and fork, and I can carry an entire series around with me.
Hollywood is calling
You’ve had the call from Hollywood and they want your opinion on who should play the leading roles in the film based upon your book. Who would you choose, and why?
I’m torn between Michael Sheen and Paul Bethany. Both could pull it off without turning Tom Gray into some kind of macho hero. I would really like the actor to portray him as I envisaged him: just a normal man — misguided, fallible, but with a strong sense of purpose — pushed beyond his limit.
The film of your book is now going to need a soundtrack. Which musician(s) would you want to write and play it?
I haven’t really listened to any of the music produced in the last 20 years. I guess it would have to be something catchy, with a quick tempo. Perhaps Some Billy Idol and a couple of 80’s punk tracks.
Drink – Beer
Meal – Sinigang – a Filipino dish made with pork and vegetables in a tamarind soup base.
Holiday destination – I’m not one for holidays –I much prefer to stay home and just relax. Best place I’ve been, though, is Las Vegas.
Film – Top Gun (the original version)
Method of travel – Car
Sport – To watch, football. To play, pool.
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