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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing features an author from Scotland who has just recently published his second novel, Hellcorp with Urbane Publications.  I am delighted to welcome Johnathan Whitelaw to join me today to share a little about himself, the ups and downs of being an author, and making time to write.

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Description:

Sometimes even the Devil deserves a break!

Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.

But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…

This is a perfectly-pitched darkly comic crime novel that is ideal for fans of Christopher Fowler and Ben Aaranovitch.

You can buy a copy of Hellcorp via:

Amazon UK


Author Feature:

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Author Image & bio courtesy of Urbane Publications

Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster. After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste – with everything in between. He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV. HellCorp is his second novel following his debut, Morbid Relations.

 

 

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

This is a really difficult one – and to start off with too! You’re cruel!

Being an author is a real privilege – and I truly mean that. Just being able to call myself that is a huge reward for all the hours, days, months and years spent crafting characters, settings and terrible things to do to them. So being part of a collective that dates all the way back centuries, eons even, truly is a joy and I’m immensely humbled and proud to call myself an author.

Another part of the job that I love is the creativity. Not everybody can say at the end of a working day that they’ve catalogued a conversation between God and The Devil about holiday plans. HellCorp, in this case, gave me that opportunity and allowed me to say it to people without sounding completely bonkers!

You never really know what a new day or writing session will bring. I love that and I know it’s something I don’t acknowledge enough. So thank you for making me appreciate just how creative, vibrant and sometimes whacky my job can be. I love it!

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

Another tough question! That’s a one, two punch. I think I might feel like I’ve gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson after this!

In all honesty, I don’t think I have a least favourite part of being an author. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do from pretty much as soon as I could think. So to be able to do it really is wonderful.

There’s no part of being an author I don’t enjoy. Whether that’s editing, promotion, speaking about my work or giving advice, I enjoy it so much. And I’ve been lucky enough in my career so far to be able to do all of those things. I mean, how can you not love being able to say you opened for Christopher Brookmyre and were the first speaker EVER at a book festival. Or that you’ve had people all over the world send you pictures of your work and say how much they enjoy it. Really, that’s very special.

But I know that’s a cop out of an answer. And as a journalist, I know how infuriating it is to get a cop out answer.

So if I had to pick a least favourite part I would say the indecision.

With HellCorp,its characters and overall mood – there are a lot of different genres and styles at work. From sci-fi to fantasy, crime to thriller and a little bit of romance in there too, I found there were a great many avenues I could go down, almost at every turn. Deciding what to do, when to do it and who to do it with and to can be an infuriating and liberating experience.

I can also thank the wonderful people at my publisher Urbane for making this a whole lot easier. Matthew Smith and the crew have been so supportive with HellCorp, always happy to answer questions and offer advice – it can make a big difference for a writer. To know there’s a team who believe in you and your work as much as Urbane do really is an honour. And I can’t thank them enough.

In the end, and I’m not sure how other authors do this, when it comes to indecision I go with my gut. But it can be a long, hard wait until the very end before you realise you’ve made the right decision.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

Now this is something I CAN answer.

When I was about ten or 11, my mum brought home a copy of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13.75 by the late, great and much missed Sue Townsend. My parents both worked for a national newspaper so they would often bring back press editions, previews, all kinds of stuff that was sent in. And it really was all sorts, from video games two months early to videos and of course books.

This would have been the mid-90s so I’m not sure if it was a re-release of the novel. But regardless, I was hooked from page one. I don’t know what it was, it still gives me shivers today – I’m 32!

While I’d always been a keen reader before, Townsend’s style, her knack for putting down on page almost exactly what I was feeling and going through as a young lad, and above all else her humour, meant I fell in love with the novel and reading in general. And I can safely say that I wouldn’t be the writer, or maybe even the person too, without it as a companion.

So if I got the opportunity to write any book, it would be that one. Really capturing lightning in a bottle the way Townsend did time and time again is something very special. But I know no matter how hard I tried, I’d never match her opus.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I love sport, the theatre, cinema and all aspects of pop culture really. I guess it’s a byproduct of my generation.

Writing is a huge part of my life and I like to get something down every day. But when I’m not doing that I always like to stay up to date on the latest news, reviews, TV shows and happenings. It also comes about from being a journalist – being a right nosy bugger.

And of course I love to read. As I mentioned before, this is a pastime that’s been with me all of my life. My P1 teacher told my mother that I should be encouraged to read more. It could be anything, even The Beano she said. And it worked. I even still get a Beano annual every Christmas!

I love to read almost any and every genre of fiction and more recently I’ve branched into political and ancient history. It helps that research is a big part of my writing so it always feels a little like a busman’s holiday.

I adore football and I’ve been a long-suffering Everton supporter for all of my life. My dad and step-mother are from Liverpool so I’ve got a strong link to that fantastic city.

And this year I’ve also been planning for a wedding! HellCorp is dedicated to my partner Anne-Marie and I’m delighted to say that we’re looking forward to our big day in the autumn. That’s been a fantastic experience of course and, along with HellCorp coming out, it’s made 2018 really a wonderful and special year for me.

But writing is still a huge part of my life. The enjoyment I get from it really does mean that it’s never very far away from what’s going on in my life. Inspiration comes from quite literally anywhere and everywhere. So I’m always on the lookout.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I used to. I used to have a very intense, rigid routine that I stuck to religiously.

For my debut novel Morbid Relations (2015) I completed the first draft in just six weeks. What would end up the final edition was done in about two months. I’m a fast worker but I admit there was a bit of a cheat for this.

Myself and Anne-Marie had moved from Glasgow to Edinburgh but I was still commuting for work. That meant an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening on the train – uninterrupted, focussed. I’m used to noisy, busy newsrooms so rush hour trains were no problem at all.

My circumstances changed not long after Morbid Relations came out and I didn’t have that two-hour window every day. And in hindsight, I don’t think I would go back to such a concentrated, intense style of writing. I think it worked really well for Morbid Relations but I know now, in terms of my writing style, my approach and what I know works, it wouldn’t do.

I don’t really have any set routines when it comes to writing. As I mentioned before I like to write SOMETHING every day. It can be 50 words, it can be 5,000, it doesn’t really matter. Making progress, making time for whatever I’m working on is important. I get to write all day as a journalist so the transition to my fiction work is normally very smooth and easy.

And I pride myself on being able to write anywhere and everywhere. It’s a byproduct of being a  journalist, where you’re ALWAYS up against the clock and often not in the most comfortable or amicable scenarios.

For HellCorp I was able to work on this at a more relaxed pace. That didn’t stop me from going on huge five, ten, sometimes twenty thousand word marathon sessions. What I found with HellCorp, and in particular the character of The Devil, was the enthusiasm that I threw myself into it with. Unlike any other project I’ve worked on before, I really couldn’t wait to get back into that world and it’s characters.

It’s a novel about relationships, about growing, about acceptance. And being able to explore those themes through a great story, some fantastic characters and setting meant that it never, ever felt like a chore to work. And I’m glad to say that’s carried over into the next adventure. But no spoilers!

Sat down at the laptop, a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit (the single greatest biscuit of all time I should add) suits me just fine.

What’s on the horizon? What can your fans look forward to next?

I’m always working. I’ve got a notebook filled with ideas of novels, novellas, comic books, scripts, you name it that I want to write. It just depends on what’s on the go.

As I briefly alluded to, I have a couple of ideas for more adventures with The Devil and the HellCorp cast. I don’t want to give too much away because it’s not fair on those who haven’t read the book yet (even though I love being a big spoil-sport! Wicked I know)

What I will say is that if there was ever a case of proving you can do something well you’ll get asked to do so again then The Devil is that. What that is, who it involves and whether he’s up to the challenge, well you’ll just have to wait and see!

 

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be? 

And a nice tricky one to finish with. Lovely!

Whenever I’m asked to offer some advice or wisdom, I always go back to the best I was given.

When I was in university (I studied psychology before going on to creative writing and journalism) I got a tidbit from a lecturer that barely a day goes by where I don’t think about it.

“You can’t edit a blank page.”

On the face of it, it’s pretty handy for authors and writers. Get something down on the page – even if it’s absolute tosh, you’ve at least got something to start with. Sit down, write it and take it from there. By the time you’re finished that initial scribble might be absolutely unrecognisable. Or it’s the start of something really special. Regardless, it’s a start and it gets you started.

And I suppose it’s a mantra I’ve used in the rest of my life too. If you just get started with SOMETHING, then you’ve gotten over the hardest part. Everything from then on in is a learning curve and that, ultimately, will get you where you want to be.

The best advice, I’ve found, is usually the simplest. And that usually makes it the easiest to forget. So sometimes all you need is to hear it from somebody else.

It works for me. And hopefully other people too.

 

A huge thank you to Johnathan for joining me today and being so open and entertaining.  There is some extremely good advice in here for aspiring authors, and some wonderfully chuckle worthy answers to some tricky questions, and I doff my hat to you planning a wedding whilst writing and publicizing a novel!  Good luck to you and Anne-Marie for the Autumn, and yes, rich teas are awesome biscuits!!

 

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @JDWhitelaw13
Facebook: JonathanWhitelawAuthor

 

 

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