Short,Sharp Interview: Jay Stringer.

PDB: Can you pitch OLD GOLD in 25 words or less?

Social pulp fiction, a mystery novel for the credit crunch era, featuring a Romani detective working for the wrong side of the law in Wolverhampton. 

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

I’ve recently caught up on BREAKING BAD. It’s a great show, carried by two compelling lead actors and dome great writing. At the same time, there’s something about the show that I’m uneasy about, and I won’t know for sure until they’ve completed the story; it feels like there is a firm moral hand guiding the show, sitting in judgement of the characters. There is very much a set idea of right and wrong, and it seems that the writers want to show ‘wrong’ getting punished. We’ll see, maybe I’m wrong. 

The TV show LOUIE is something I’ve fallen for, hard. I think its full of heart and it feels real, even when it’s reaching for the bizarre. 
I’m currently re-reading the Christopher Hitchens book on George Orwell, and next up will be BLACKBIRDS by Chuck Wendig. I started to read that, but his voice is so good that I had to put it down; I don’t want to absorb his voice while I’m writing. 
PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

Good question. I find it very difficult. I think everyone likes to play “what if,” when they’re watching a film or reading a book. We like to talk about how else the story could be told, or how problems could be fixed. I think as a writer that can be worse, because we live in that part of our brains, constantly writing and re-writing. 

That said, I read SAVAGES by Don Winslow recently, and I was too busy being blown away by its voice to think about how it could have been done differently. I’m probably better at being an objective reader of my own work than anyone else’s, because I don’t have a problem taking a few steps back and seeing when my writing isn’t working, or which bits need to be cut. 
Objectivity is something I think about a lot as a writer as well as a reader. I think to write honestly about crime fiction is to write about people we may not always like or agree with, unless we’re going to create a false white-knight like Chandler did with Marlowe, but we need to embrace those characters and try and do them justice. 
That means we have to try and remove ourselves from the story and let the characters talk for themselves; my second novel is full of actions and opinions that Are not my own, but I needed to write them as honestly as if they were. 
PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

All three -and comic books- but I need to have story and character first. I was a film student for a while in my early twenties, and a lot of my early writing was in script form. I think of all the ones you mentioned, the idea of writing for theatre is the one that intimidates me the most, so that’ll be fun to try. 

PDB: How much research goes into each book?
It’s varied so far. The most consistent element is dialogue; I want to try and make my characters sound like real people and you only really get that by spending time talking to the kind of people that you’re writing about. 
As far as facts and history, the first book was written based on what I already knew, and then I did some fact checking later. I did more for the second book, but little of it shows up on the page because I put all the facts to one side once I’ve found my story. 
I’m writing the third book now, and that’s involving the most research out of the three because it’s influenced by news stories that have gotten under my skin over the past few years.  There are issues buried away in each book that are things i’ve been angry about as I wrote them, but if i’ve done my job they are buried quite deep. 
I have an idea for where I’ll go with my next project, and that will need a lot more intensive research.
PDB: How useful or important is social media for you as a writer?
One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I first started pushing this boulder up the hill was, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” You need for your name to come up in conversations where you’re not present, and if you have a project that you’re shopping around it helps to get your foot in the door if your name is familiar.  Social media, blogs and webzines have played an important role in my development as an author. Most of the contacts I have in the publishing world today have either come through social media, or have been strengthened by them. 
That said, it needs to be kept in perspective. It is a valuable tool for an author, but it doesn’t help you all that much as a writer. The writing is the most important thing and all the social networking in the world won’t cover for that. As for the marketing side? We’ll see. My first novel comes out this month, and I’m trying a few different ideas on twitter and websites to spread the message, so I’ll have a better idea of how important it all is after that. 
PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?
My first novel, OLD GOLD, is on sale from Thomas & Mercer on July 24th. It’s the first in a trilogy, and the second book should be out in the winter, though I’m not sure yet whether it will be this side of 2013. 
One of the things i’m very aware of, especially given the current financial situation, is that it’s an investment of time and money for people to try out a debut author. I’m quite a slow reader and I understand the gamble you’re taking when you commit to giving your time to a writer that you’re not familiar with. 
I’ve put together an ebook prequel, a collection of four short stories that tie into the novel, and my publishers have given me permission to put it out on Kindle as a sample of my voice. It’s called FAITHLESS STREET, and can be ordered for less than the price of a cup of coffee (which, I think, is the universal measuring tool.)