It's heretical, I know, but I've never really been able to get on with Agatha Christie. She is, of course, a giant of the genre, but I never feel that she cared a great deal about the characters. Consequently, neither do I.
All writers I know are readers first and foremost, and that's why you become a writer.
It never ceases to amaze me that readers who are willing to suspend their disbelief when it comes to the motivation of a vicious serial killer get high and mighty because I have put a coffee shop where there isn't one. Er... it's a novel. I made one up. I'm allowed to make stuff up. I'd go as far as to suggest that I make stuff up for a living.
Whether your audience is in a sweaty basement club or nestled in a favourite armchair, good money has been paid, and attention has got to be grabbed if you are not to be heckled off the stage or find your novel discarded in favour of the latest volume of 'Fifty Shades of Whatever.'
Whether you do stand-up comedy or write a story, you have a duty to deliver. As a comedian, you walk out on stage, and you have a minute to hook them, or they'll start booing. As a writer, it's very similar. A reader doesn't have time to say, 'I'll give him 50 pages, as it's not very good yet, but I hope it'll get better.'
There are a number of writers who believe it is their duty to throw as many curve balls at the reader as possible. To twist and twist again. These are the Chubby Checkers of crime fiction and, while I admire the craft, I think that it can actually work against genuine suspense.
I think readers' imaginations are far more powerful than anything you can put on a page and, therefore, can conjure up graphic images for themselves, which I think you just have to nudge them towards.
I was never a fan of cozy mysteries of anything set in the countryside, you know.
When I began to write, I was surprised at how little London had been used in crime fiction. Places such as Edinburgh or Oxford or L.A. seemed to have stronger identities.
Ian Rankin's Rebus is the king of modern British crime fiction. He is dour, determined, and constantly falls foul of his seniors. For all this, we root for him. He is eminently loveable, a quixotic hero moving through the darker half of a Jekyll and Hyde Edinburgh.
Crime fiction has always been what I wanted to read, so when I sat down to write my first book, it was naturally the way that I was going to go.
In the 1970s, there was a trend for all detectives on TV to have some quirk or gimmick, and this was often physical.
My dad was a terrible father. Dreadful. But he had a very difficult childhood. He was fostered - he never knew who his father was. So he had a very different attitude to family and kids. I don't have any issues. I'm not suffering some secret angst.
Part of the reason why Scandinavian crime has been so popular is the landscape. It is just so strong and alien. Although without taking anything away, you should probably also never discount the fact that blood does look particularly good against snow.
Too much research can be the writer's enemy. You can spend days on end in the British Library or prowling the streets with a Dictaphone, and it's easy to convince yourself that you're working hard. Often, it can be an excuse not to work; a classic displacement activity.
I'm completely absorbed by Peter Guralnick's definitive, two-part biography of Elvis Presley: 'Last Train To Memphis' and 'Careless Love.' Meticulously researched, this is a compelling mix of history, myth-busting, and, of course, some timeless music.
While the subject matter of my novels could not be further removed from the stuff I used to trot out at the Comedy Store, the delivery of the material employs many of the same techniques.
I admire writers such as Elmore Leonard who can nail a character in three or four lines of dialogue, so he doesn't need pages of back story or clumsy exposition.
When you think of a great twist or a red herring or a way of misdirecting the reader, it is good, but you know that they are just tricks at the end of the day, and the way to keep interest is to write characters that people care about.
What I usually do is hoard money - I accumulate as much as possible in the fear of not having enough to pay tax.