Today I am delighted that Nicky Black author of The Prodigal: A gritty thriller set amidst Newcastle’s organised crime scene. (Valley Park Series Book 1) Has dropped my blog to take part in my Q&A interview……so without further ado I would like to welcome the lovely Nicky Black
Good morning Nicky welcome to Chelle’s Book Reviews.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and background?
Nicky Black is a combination of two names: me, Nicky Doherty, and my pal, Julie Blackie. Julie was commissioned by ITV to write The Prodigal as a two-part drama back in 1999, but after several years of the script being passed from one producer to another it never made it to the screen. Julie and I met in the 90s when we both worked on estates in the west end of Newcastle. I didn’t know she was a writer until she showed me a movie script she’d written set in the 80s rave era (that’s the next book BTW). I absolutely loved that script – still do.
I’m a proud Northumbrian and whilst I’ve lost my accent, there’s still a little twang that most people recognise (though sometimes they think I’m from Liverpool…)
When did you know that you wanted to become a writer? and how did you go about it?
I used to write terrible poetry as a teenager (didn’t we all), but never thought about writing until I met Julie. She is the sort of person who will give anything a go, so when I said I might try entering a competition she said, ‘Nicky, man, just do it.’ I was runner up in the competition, and then won a place on a year-long programme for new writers at New Writing North back in 2000. During that time I wrote a monologue and two plays (one about the break-up of Wham! – gotta love the 80s), all of which were staged. So I guess that’s how it started, but when I moved away from Newcastle to London for work, I didn’t do any writing at all. I did do a little creative writing course in Hackney and the tutor really liked my prose. I decided then that dialogue wasn’t my strong point so no wonder I found writing stage plays so stressful.
When I mentioned to Julie back in 2011 that the Prodigal would make a great novel and could I have a go at it, she said I should just go for it, and so I did. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer.
Can you tell us what genre your books are and the audience you write for?
The Prodigal and Tommy Collins (when it’s ready) are cross-genre: crime and urban fiction. They don’t fit neatly into the crime / mystery / thriller genres. I didn’t write The Prodigal as a crime novel per se, but since the protagonist is a detective it fell into that genre. It’s a love story really – star-crossed lovers on a Council Estate. I didn’t know anything about genres back then, but now that I do, I know that if I want to make a living out of writing, I’ll need to hone down to a specific genre. My audience is anyone who’ll read it, but probably not suitable for people who don’t like swearing.
What is your writing process? and how long does it take?
Right now it takes as long as it takes. I’m still learning how to write, how to structure, how to write dialogue, and if it takes a year or two years to make sure it’s as good as it can be, then so be it. As an indie author I can take my time and learn my craft. The Prodigal took four years, start to finish – I had a full time, demanding job, and it was something I did as a bit of a hobby – a day here, a day there. I took a three month sabbatical in 2015 to get it all sorted and published. After taking a redundancy package from work last year, I started Tommy Collins in August 2016 and I’m around 80% done. (Although, I tend to delete thousands of words and start again every week – that’s my learning curve).
I’d like to think that, once I’m done with Tommy Collins, I can produce a book a year, working a couple of days a week to pay the rent and writing the rest of the time.
My process is to write on days where I feel I’ve got the next scene straight in my head, and if I’ve no idea what to write next, I edit what I’ve done already. I get told off for doing that but I can’t help myself.
Are your characters based on anyone you know or are they just fictional?
I think for both Julie and I, the characters are based loosely on people we’ve met (or combinations of those people) and our experiences of working on estates like Valley Park. I wouldn’t dare say who those characters are in The Prodigal, as they’d probably bash my head in.
I’m not sure any character in a novel is ever purely fictional. We don’t live in a bubble and it’s people we meet, even in passing, that inspire stories. Feel free to debate that one.
Have you wrote about a personal experience in your novels?
For me, not really, not yet. For Julie, yes I think so.
What research do you do?
I research a bit up front for a few days, then do a lot more as I go along. I like things to be factually correct as far as possible. Yesterday I researched the types of Pot Noodles available in 1989, Vesta curries and Rover biscuits. I’m still researching that whole rave era for Tommy Collins as I want to make sure it’s authentic and that I can describe it as it really was. I’ve never been to a rave as I hated the music back then, but I’m really quite getting into it now. I can see what all the fuss was about: it was so much more than a dance scene – it was about freedom, unity, youth culture and, of course, ecstasy.
Who would you like to co-write with and why?
Anyone who can write sharp dialogue – I really struggle with it and I sometimes get so down about not being good at it. If Jimmy McGovern is free and wants to write a book, please let him know I’m available and that I make a mean cup of builder’s tea.
What’s your favourite book?
The Woman Who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle.
What’s your favourite food?
Why chips, of course. With gravy.
What’s your favourite film?
Arrghh! So many – can I choose one per genre? No? Ok. Probably West Side Story.
What’s your favorite song?
Now you’re being mean. I really don’t think I have one. If I was on death row and could choose one song to listen to? I’ll go for Belfast Child, Simple Minds (forgive me, Annie Lennox). Or the opening strings to Faure’s Requiem, or Wild is the Wind, David Bowie. Oh the list is endless…
How can readers find out more information about yourself and your books?
Loads of places:
Thank you so much for taking part in my Q&A interview
Thank you for having me on your blog Shell, hope to see you again soon.
(P.S. can I change my favourite song to Breathe by The Prodigy?, Or The Reflex, Duran Duran? Goddammit…)