“I’ll be honest: what I wrote for years just wasn’t good enough.”
CRIME AUTHORS SPILL THEIR GUTS ABOUT WRITING. Every Thursday topnotch authors of psychological thrillers and crime fiction share their writing secrets – and the secrets to their success – with you and me.
This week: WILLIAM SHAW
Tell us about yourself…
I’m the author of several non-fiction books including Westsiders: Stories of the Boys in the Hood, about a year spent with the young men of South Central Los Angeles, and A Superhero For Hire, a compilation of columns in the Observer Magazine.
A Song from Dead Lips is the first in a trilogy of crime fiction books set in London in 1968 – 1969. It is followed by A House of Knives, set in the weeks following A Song From Dead Lips.
Starting out as assistant editor of the post-punk magazine ZigZag, I have been a journalist for The Observer, The New York Times, Wired, Arena and The Face and was Amazon UK Music Journalist of the Year in 2003.
A very senior agent once advised me to stop trying to write fiction. I was a moderately successful non-fiction writer and journalist at the time and he’d just told me that he wouldn’t be able to find anyone to publish what I’d just handed him. I still know him, and he’s a lovely and very clever bloke and the advice was very well meant. To be fair to him, the books I’d sent him weren’t very good at all. I was, however, unable to stop and my first book, A Song From Dead Lips came out in 2013.
How do you pick character names? Do any have special meaning for you?
Mostly I pick them from random searches or from the spines of books. People I don’t know who try to befriend me on Facebook sometimes too. But in The Birdwatcher one name’s special. As a boy growing up in Northern Ireland, my hero’s name was Billy McGowan. My dad was from the North, from a Protestant family, and McGowan is a family name. Anyone growing up in the North of Ireland would know that William, or Billy, is a name loaded with meaning. For better or worse, Good King Billy remains an icon for Unionists. I wanted to convey that sense of a very partisan culture you have there, out of which this boy had grown. He later hides his Northern Ireland origins, behind another identity, William South. North and South, see? It’s more important for me to know that, than the reader, though! TO READ THE INTERVIEW IN FULL, CLICK HERE