Nothing Else Remains by Robert Scragg
What led you into writing?
I’ve always been a big reader, Crime Fiction in particular, and found myself getting to plot twists thinking “Ah so that’s who did it, but what if this had happened instead?’ Not to say mine were any better, but it was fun working out alternatives, and it got to the point where I thought I’d give it a go myself.
How does a typical day look?
Like a lot of writers, I still have a day job, so there’s a 9-5 segment sandwiched in the middle of my day. My wife and I have two young kids as well – Jake who’s one, and Lily who’s all of three weeks, so free time to write is at a premium at the moment, what with morning and bed time routines. Most of my writing happens on an evening now. I’ll usually aim to get a few hours done any time between 8pm and midnight.
In what ways do your characters test your abilities?
I guess the main test is around my ability to keep them fresh, and evolving in a way that feels natural. Part of creating compelling characters for a series is to make them grow with the series, keeping the readers on board for the journey.
What’s your setup?
I’ve got a spare bedroom converted into an office, but probably get as much done at the dining table, or out in coffee shops these days!
What lasting effects have your favourite authors had on your writing and style?
There’s a few of mine that have definitely influenced the kind of characters I try and create. Harlan Coben’s Myron and Win partnership, and Robert Crais’s Cole and Pike, and two of my favourite pairings. Their relationships come across so real and genuine, that you really care about what happens to them and between them. As a reader, I’m as hooked, if not more so, by characters over plot, so my aim as a writer is to try and strike the same note.
What do you do for inspiration?
A lot of it comes back to reading, and not just in the crime genre, but wider – non-fiction news articles, etc. I’ve had some of those ‘What if…?’ moments reading other people’s books, where I’ve tried to predict their twists and failed, but in doing so have come up with an alternative of my own fresh enough to use as an idea.
What repeating themes do you find yourself pulling into your stories?
I don’t know if I’m far enough into my writing career to have themes just yet, but if I had to try and pick one out, it’d be around the idea of ordinary people being put in extraordinary situations, and the choices it forces them to make. As a reader, I love characters like that where you start thinking about what you would have done in their shoes.
How do you wind down?
Spending time with the family is the main one for me. Gives me an excuse to regress and be a kid again myself. Reading is still one of my big hobbies though. If I’m not writing or entertaining the kids, I can easily get lost in a book for hours. Luckily for me, my wife is exactly the same, so there’s no conflict there in terms of how we spend chunks of time.
What sort of challenges do you regularly overcome while world-building?
Some of it comes down to basic logistics. I like to make sure that everything is as believable and realistic as possible. For example, can my character make a certain journey in time to get from A to B and witness something. There’s then the element of consistency, and keeping track e.g. where did I say in Book 1 that my main character lived? If my location is real, and I’ve never physically been there, I take a stroll around on Google Street view, maybe read blog posts about it to try and soak in the atmosphere. It’s all about making that world as real as possible.
What’s the most useful advice you could give to an aspiring author?
I was at an event last week, and a few authors quoted something that I’d heard a long time ago, although not sure who to attribute the original quote to – ‘Don’t get it right, get it written.’ I work best when I just plough on and finish a draft. I don’t edit as I go, and rather than stop, and any minor roadblocks, I’ll often leave myself a note to refer back to, and won’t double back until I finish the full first draft. You can get so bogged down in the research and in-life editing, that you never get it finished otherwise.
Tell us about the book you’re promoting.
What Falls Between the Cracks was my debut. When a severed hand is found in an abandoned flat, Detective Jake Porter and his partner Nick Styles are able to DNA match the limb to the owner, Natasha Barclay, who has not been seen in decades. But why has no one been looking for her? It seems that Natasha’s family are the people who can least be trusted. Delving into the details behind her disappearance and discovering links to another investigation, a tragic family history begins to take on a darker twist. Hampered by a widespread fear of a local heavy, as well as internal politics and possible corruption within the force, Porter and Styles are digging for answers, but will what they find ever see the light of day?
Nothing Else Remains is my second novel, and picks up around six months after the events of What Falls Between the Cracks. It actually started out life as my first even book, but wasn’t picked up. Luckily for me, when I got my book deal, they liked the premise enough to ask me to re-write it as a sequel rather than a prequel. Jake Porter and Nick Styles return to help out a friend of Porter’s, Max Brennan, whose estranged Dad goes missing the day they’re due to reconnect. Max’s girlfriend disappears the next day. Porter’s main suspect turns up dead, next to a list of twelve names, Max’s dad being one of them, and it becomes a race to find him, and Max’s girlfriend, before they wind up as victims themselves.