Blog Tour: Q&A with Neil Richards & Matthew Costello, authors of A Shot in the Dark (Mydworth Mysteries #1) @RedDogTweets

Hi and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A Shot in the Dark! Today I have a Q&A for you with the authors of this cosy mystery: Neil Richards and Matthew Costello, who joined the Red Dog Press doghouse team very recently. But first let’s take a look at the blurb:

Sussex, England, 1929.
Mydworth is a sleepy English market town just 50 miles from London. But things are about to liven up there considerably, when young Sir Harry Mortimer returns home from his government posting in Cairo, with his unconventional American wife – Kat Reilly.
No sooner have the two arrived, when a jewel robbery occurs at Harry’s aunt’s home – Mydworth Manor – ending in one of the thieves being shot…and killed.
The local police are baffled by the case. But Harry and Kat have an edge in the hunt for the second thief: not only do they have certain useful “skills” they’ve both picked up in service of King, President and Country, they also have access to parts of English high society that your average bobby can’t reach.
Because this Shot in the Dark…could have come from anywhere.

This is the second instalment in a four-part conversation with the authors, be sure to head over to Sarah @ Lost in the Land of Books for the first instalment. Tomorrow, part 3 of this Q&A will be available from Lacy ace Book reviews and the final instalment will be up on Yes More Blogs on Saturday.

But now, without further ado, let’s chat:

Do you read your reviews? How do you cope with the good and the bad?

NR: I rarely read reviews. I enjoy coming across them by chance if they’re good. I always feel miffed if they’re not. I don’t know any writers who can ride above the bad reviews. With Mydworth for instance, I certainly will notice the first reviews if only to find out if we’ve built the world right, and if people like the characters. With a series there is always the opportunity to tweak things as we go along…

MC: Well of course I enjoy the accurate ones! You know, five stars, gushing and all that! Fortunately, with Cherringham we have been rewarded with faithful and supportive fans. That said, a negative review can sting… but I do remind myself people have different tastes.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

NR: Travel, always travel. My wife and I went to live in Venice for six weeks to research a book Matt and I were working on. It was worth every penny – the experiences continue to inform so much work I do. Next stop maybe somewhere on a Greek island for two autumn months… There’re not many advantages in life to being a writer – but being able to pitch up somewhere with your laptop is one of them.

MC: Yes, travel to be sure. It’s a must. Moleskine notebooks…indispensable. Museums of all kinds. Plays, opera, concerts. A solid Mac Book Pro. The great thing about being a writer is that, well, outside of your laptop, you don’t need much in order to do the work. Save for the imagination and words…

Who were the biggest influences on you growing up that led you to be a writer?

NR: In all honesty – TV and movies as much as books led me to writing. We were a reading family – in fact I look back to some meal times and I believe we were all at table reading. That’s weird, isn’t it? No elbows on the table, but paperbacks allowed!

MC: For me, the world of comic books and b-movie horror and SF films were key. Coming from, ahem, a dysfunctional family, they all helped me escape. Twilight Zone, with its host of fantastic writers, was such a great inspiration, especially for short-form storytelling. And then the authors I discovered…from Lovecraft to Fowles to Christie to Bloch to Bradbury. It’s the club I wanted to be in. (And maybe…had to be in.)

What do you want your readers to feel at the end of your books?

NR: I want them to feel they’ve had a satisfying read, a great story and some surprises. And if, in some way, they’re happier for the experience – terrific!

MC: I guess… I want that sense of surprise — not seeing where they have ended up. Also that twinge of sadness that the ride is over. The feeling that they want more of the same. And maybe, whatever their real life is like – and we have heard from readers in difficult circumstances – how it took them away. To do that is a gift.

Do your characters always do what you tell them?

NR: They can be pesky, those characters. Yep, they really do have a life of their own. One Mydworth chapter I needed our hero Kat to interview a young girl – but the girl insisted on a motorbike ride first. I couldn’t stop her. Kat fired up the bike, the girl got on and the two of them rode off out of the chapter. Damn!

MC: While Neil and I work from a pretty developed outline – must make sure the mystery holds together – when I write, I let the gaggle of characters pretty much take over. Suddenly they become real, and as Neil points out above, they can act in surprising ways. Sometimes – to be honest! – it’s like there’s a movie running in my head. I’m watching, fingers in motion…and all I need is the popcorn to go along with it.

What are your writing routines? Are you disciplined or freeform?

NR: I’m disciplined both in terms of process and time-keeping. 8.30am to 6.30pm pretty much every day at my desk. And I always like to know the shape of where I’m going. I used to need to map out chapters, but these days – under the malign influence of Matt – I do free-form a little more and see where it goes.

MC: Discipline is key. Up. Run. Think on story. More coffee, and to keyboard. Write full-out for three hours. Then – this is important –  stop…when both story and characters are still chomping at the bit. Make them wait. Then spellcheck. I’m not a typist so you can imagine all that red on the page! Then onto the first edit and revisions. Absolutely vital. And that needs be done two…three times. Later afternoon, hit the kitchen to work wonders with pork medallions and apples. Or maybe a killer Bolognese. Martini before dinner. Most days…all the above making for quite a good day.

How many drafts do you tend to do of each book?

NR: Hmm, hard to tell. We write in 25 page bursts: eg, I write pages then I send to Matt to be edited, he edits then writes the next 25, sends to me and I edit etc. By the time we hit the end we’ll have maybe done half a dozen general edits. Then we have two editorial passes after our amazing editor – Eleanor Abraham – has done her work.

MC: Hmm…think I’d need to count. But we edit each other after we edited ourselves, then there are the passes by our great editor. So…the final text has been well-honed and reviewed.

That concludes my part of the Q&A, thanks for joining me today and do have a look at the other stops on the tour:

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