Welcome to Mark L. Fowler’s Blog Tour! As mentioned in my interview with him last March, I’ve known Mark L. Fowler for a few years now. We both joined One Stop Fiction Authors’ Resource Group (on Facebook) when it only had a few members. Of course I said ‘yes!’ when Mark asked me to be a beta reader for his new book, Blue Murder, book 2 of the Tyler and Mills series. As I’m part of his blog tour, I’d love to give him another boost 🙂 .
Mark L. Fowler
Mark L. Fowler has five published novels under his belt, and he recently contributed one of his many short stories to the Dark Minds charity collection. Mark’s most recent book, Blue Murder, is the second in a police detective series featuring DCI Tyler and DS Mills. The first book to feature the detectives, Red Is The Colour, was published by Bloodhound Books last year and shortlisted for the 2018 Arnold Bennett Book Prize. Mark is also the author of The Man Upstairs, featuring hard-boiled detective Frank Miller, and Silver, a psychological thriller. His first book, Coffin Maker, continues to defy any attempts to categorize it. All of his books can be read as stand-alone works.
Who is the most famous author you have ever met?
Peter James. I met him at the Winchester Annual Writers’ conference many years ago. I attended his workshop and was lucky enough to have a one: one session with him, during which he looked over the opening chapter of my first novel and gave me some sound advice.
What do you love most about the writing process?
I love setting off on new adventures, not always certain of where they will take me. I love exploring new characters, watching them develop as I work on them, and finding what makes them tick.
Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
For me, being a writer is absolutely a gift. Yes, it is hard work, yes there are frustrations getting your books out there, but the creative part of the job, the putting pen to paper, developing storylines, creating settings, sharpening dialogue – I just love the whole business of writing.
Do you outline or just write?
A little of both. I like to have a strong idea of my main characters, and a vivid sense of place, of where the story is happening, before I begin writing. I will usually have a clear idea of the primary situation or conflict that will need to be resolved before the story can reach its ending. But detailed plotting is not something that I like to do before beginning the writing. If I had too much plot before I started the book, I would feel constrained and my characters would not have sufficient room to develop. I know writers who plot intricately before they begin a book, leaving little or nothing to chance, while others just go for it. It is whatever works for the individual writer. I’m somewhere in between.
What is your favorite genre? Why?
I read more crime fiction than any other genre, and my writing has increasingly moved that way too. I have always loved detective stories, both on the page and on screen. Most of my published work so far has been in the detective genre, one way or another, most clearly in my Tyler and Mills books and The Man Upstairs. Whilst Silver is more a psychological thriller than a classic detective novel, the main character, the writer and journalist Nick Slater, is effectively playing the role of detective, trying to get to the heart of a baffling and intriguing mystery.
What genre do you consider your latest book and have you considered writing in another genre?
Blue Murder, like its predecessor Red Is The Colour, is a British police detective novel. But the books are also historic crime, set in 2002-2003. Part of my reason for doing this was my interest in a style of policing that is a little less dependent on technology, and more about detectives going door to door, face to face. The action takes place on the streets of a North Staffordshire city, not in forensic laboratories and on computer screens. I have also written in other genres, Coffin Maker being a good example. It’s just that no-one, including the author, can quite nail the elusive genre that can define it! A lot of people really love that about the book.
What is your book about? Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?
The sub-title of Blue Murder is: Fame. Fortune. Murder. And here lies the first clue to what the book is about. Johnny and the Swamp Seeds are a local band on the cusp of success when the singer Johnny Richards goes missing. Then the body of a young man is found in the local canal. The detectives, DCI Tyler and DS Danny Mills, not only find themselves trying to solve a baffling mystery, but at the same time their efforts appear to be doing nothing more than catapulting a now singer-less band to fame and fortune. What a lot of people most enjoyed about Red Is The Colour was the relationship, strained at times, between Tyler and Mills, and in Blue Murder I have worked hard to develop these two characters further. So the book is as much about the detectives, and also about the city in which they live and work, as it is about finding out what happened to Johnny Richards.
What gave you inspiration for your book? How did you come up with the idea for Blue Murder? Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
I suppose that the inspiration for Blue Murder initially came from being in a band many years ago, though I have been careful to write a work of fiction and not an autobiography. I had the initial idea about the singer going missing at the point at which he and his band were about to break into the big time. Then I began to ask questions about why this might happen, and who might stand to gain. But once I had the basic ingredients, I didn’t want to plot any further. I wanted my detectives to do the work for me. I wanted Tyler and Mills, rather than the author, to dig into the mystery and find the truth. As far as possible, I handed the investigation over to them. After all – they are the detectives!
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I wouldn’t say ‘hijack’ exactly. While giving the story over to my detectives, in one sense, I still retain the last word. This is why I like to have some idea of the shape of the story from the outset, and why theme is important – to stop the book from veering off course. Some plot developments would seem inappropriate to the story I want to tell, and this comes through experience. The more I write about Tyler and Mills, for example, the more I know when I’m on track. If characters start to act in bizarre ways that give no meaning to the story and for no good reason – if their behaviour ceases to support the theme of the book – then I know I’m getting off-track and need to pull things back. For me this would be one of the dangers of just writing a book completely from scratch, without first getting to know my characters a little bit, and where they come from and where they are heading.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Have you written any other books that are not published?
I have at least half a dozen completed, unpublished novels and quite a number of partially completed books too. In some cases I am simply still not satisfied with the books, and need to return to them afresh to bring them to publication. Others may never see the light of day for one reason or another. In some cases I may have set off writing them too early, without thinking about the characters, the locations and/or the basic plot sufficiently, and then getting into more of a mess than I know how to get out of. It’s all experience though, and I have learned a lot from writing some books that I know may never be read. But these days I would rather set off on my writing adventures with the knowledge that I have enough to get me through to a satisfactory ending. As a writer you never stop learning.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Publishing my books has made me think differently about the whole writing process. I am more aware these days of writing for a readership, an audience. It has made me more disciplined in my approach, asking more questions at an earlier stage in the development of an idea, and a lot less self-indulgent. When I began writing short stories, a long time ago, I used to just let my imagination soar. These days I only allow that once I have a solid base beneath. I do the groundwork first and then allow the imagination of my characters to soar. And on good days they always seem to do just that. Bless them.
Thanks again, Mark, for sharing more about your writing with us. I loved reading Blue Murder and can thoroughly recommend it to anybody looking for a good crime story to read during the holidays!
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