Interview with Tom Bryson, crime and thriller writer

Today I’m interviewing Tom Bryson. Tom writes crime novels and thrillers. He lives in the West Midlands and likes drama, sport (he’s a Wolves fan), an describes himself as a bit of a current affairs junkie.

Tell us something about your books.

I write crime and stand-alone thriller novels. My ‘cop’ books are set in Birmingham and the Black Country and feature DCI Matt Proctor – strong-willed, but sometimes weak-headed – with a penchant for upsetting his superiors, upending villains and an uneasy love-life.

There are three books in the crime series so far – Too Smart to Die, In It For the Money and No Way Out – more are planned.

Thrillers are Sarcophagus, The Zeppelin of Kinver Edge, Death by Proxy, Blood Red Rabbit, and ‘coming of age’ novel Loving Jeanie. The settings include Ukraine (Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk), Kinver, London,  Ireland – wherever the story takes me.

What inspires you to write? Who are your favourite writers?

Quite simply, to give my readers a good read. I also find writing fiction to be life-affirming. 

Favourite authors? Too many to mention but to name a few – Graham Greene, Lee Child, Margaret Attwood, Anne Tyler, Colin Bateman, Freddie Forsyth, Charles Dickens, Ian Rankin, Brian Moore…Ulster’s ‘Black North’ noir writers, Brian McGilloway, Claire McGowan, Adrian McKinty, Steve Cavanagh…I could go on!

How do you start writing? Do you have a process or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

Ahh, thePlanner or Pantser question? On that spectrum, I fall on the ‘planner’ side. And yes, I have a process. Here it is, but listen, it’s not a linear process, it’s iterative, back and forth, up and down, in and out.

First I get a nugget of an idea, next I write a short outline, then the main characters’ wants and motivations, next key scene summaries – opener, inciting incident, obstacles to protagonist’s goals, the ‘biggie’ climax, resolution.

I heard someone describe the first draft of a novel as ‘word vomit’. Ugly but apt. Get it out, let the story spill over – finesse and polish come with rewriting and editing.

How has your writing process changed since you started writing?

Mainly by better time management. I use a calendar and block out and schedule my writing time; guard it well! I find Google calendar with its Task list and Keep notes works well for me. I recommend writers try different approaches – find out what works best for you.

How long does it normally take you to write, and what proportion of the time is spent doing what?

I use a rough schedule to write a novel – one a year – but the timings are flexible. Some parts go better than others. 

In the first month or so I work on an outline – say four pages – then I flesh out the characters, their motives and wants. I spend about a month planning the key scenes. Then I  write my first draft fast – editing, polishing comes later. I aim for 1,000 words a day, this takes about four to six months. 

The remaining time is spent revising, editing (I do an initial structural edit and Jane then does a comprehensive edit). I try to get the book as near perfect as possible, however, complete perfection is impossible. Finally, I do a marketing plan and then indie-publish.  

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Finishing! Plus the thrill of starting the next book.

Do you involve other people in your writing, as collaborators or editors? How do you make this work?

Yes, I have my editor, Jane. She advises, guides, instructs, cracks the whip when necessary. We discuss progress regularly as the project proceeds (or stalls!). I share and learn with fellow writers and indie publishers in person and online.

Do you have any writing tips you’d like to share with readers?

Plan your book before you throw yourself into the writing – that way you save time and heartache in the long run. However, I appreciate some writers feel this affects their creativity – every writer must find their own way. Write your first draft fast and set targets. Rewriting is essential and editing is critical. 

Anything else I haven’t asked you about?

I plan my novel’s scenes using a scene planner – I aim to do this for each scene in about ten minutes. That means when I start to write the scene I know what I’m going to write. Avoids wall gazing, navel contemplation, glazed eyes.


Thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Tom’s writing on his website.

Posted in Writing and Plotting

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