Tuesday, October 14, 2014

9mm interview with indie sensation Ed James

One of the goals of Crime Watch is to highlight a broad variety of interesting crime and thriller authors, from all around the globe. Given that, I've always tried to include lesser-known, up-and-coming, and overlooked authors in some of the news, stories, and interviews here, not concentrating primarily on big, brand-name bestsellers (And when I interview the latter, I hope I'm bringing you something a little different to what you've seen elsewhere.)

In keeping with that motivation, today I'm pleased to share with you my recent interview with bestselling Scottish crime writer Ed James, whose story underlines some of the shifts in the modern publishing world. James is the author of the DC Scott Cullen series, which he started self-publishing after having his stories roundly rejected by literary agents and the traditional publishing houses. His self-published debut, GHOST IN THE MACHINE, earned him comparisons with Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, and Chris Brookmyre, has been downloaded almost 300,000 times, and James has now left his well-paying corporate job and long commute for life as a full-time author.

But for now, he becomes the 90th author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
It's got to Ian Rankin's John Rebus. He's such a fascination character with real depth and some cutting dialogue. Over the years, he's become the archetypal 'cowboy cop', rushing off doing things his own way but still getting results. These books got me into crime fiction.

For reality, Stuart MacBride's Logan McRae is a very well-conceived character. You can almost smell the sweat of the research undertaken to make it as plausible as possible. Honourable mentions go to Mark Billingham's Thorne (less of a cowboy than Rebus) and James Ellroy's Dudley Smith, as pure an embodiment of evil you're likely to get possessing a badge.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to reading, to be honest. I read a lot of American comics and played a lot of computer games (yeah, I'm of that generation) so books were those boring things you got force-fed in English classes at school. I think it was when I was heading to the local library in my home town to get the latest volume of SANDMAN or something, I bumped into a friend who was just returning THE CROW ROAD by Iain Banks and was raving about it. I snatched it off him and took it out. That was really the start. I loved that book. It opened my eyes to the whole world of literature, which wasn't stuffy as all the books we read at school.

The only other thing I can remember fairly early was being seriously bored one summer at university (think it was 1998 when I was 20) and leafing through my mum's to-read pile, finding Rankin's BLACK AND BLUE (Rebus 8) in there. I had a go at that and just could not put it down. It was astonishingly good and showed literature could be as electric as the best of film and TV. And computer games and comics, ahem.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Before GHOST IN THE MACHINE, I wrote two novels. The first, BECOMING VISIBLE, was pretty awful. I just wrote and wrote, discovering my story as I went. I came across a notebook with some revision notes on it last spring and it formed the basis of the crime in the sixth CULLEN novel, BOTTLENECK, so it's been recycled quite well.

The second was more of a crime thing, BEFORE THE FALL. I'm actually planning on revising that as one of my next projects. It wasn't that bad but my storytelling skills were a bit raw - the first 40% of the book were backstory and needed to be cut, plus it had lots of stuff I just didn't know enough about. Nowadays, I've experience a lot more of that world and I'll pouring that into the revised version.

Other than that, it's more ideas than manuscripts. I've got some good short ideas, but they tend to be more in the sci-fi vein. Yeah, I'm a geek and I've got Iain M Banks to thank for that. I tend to look to the stuff for ideas for future crime novels - BOTTLENECK, for another example, grabbed a protagonist from an aborted novel and turned him into a minor antagonist.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I've only been doing this full-time since January and my touring/promotional commitments have been fairly minimal, though they're starting to get more hectic. I like to read a lot and I'm a voracious watcher of football. I've just started back at the gym now I've got more time in my life - writing kind of took a lot of my free time when I was working - and I've started getting back into playing computer games.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I'm a big fan of walking around cities to get to know them. When I moved to Edinburgh sixteen years ago, I used to love just wandering round other bits of the city, places like Leith, Gorgie, etc, that people wouldn't recommend you go. When I worked in London over the last few years, I spent time walking the city instead of jumping on a sweaty tube. It let me connect the city up and see the bits you'd miss out otherwise.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Someone overweight, tall and dour!

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why?
I'm most pleased with SNARED, currently unpublished, which is a police procedural set in Dundee, near where I grew up. I love it because it's a culmination of everything I've learnt trying to write over the last nine years, and the first one I think I got really nailed on with the first draft.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf?
Sadly, I've not had the big publisher's advance thing, but I've had my books out there in a kind of word-of-mouth way for the last two and a bit years. When things started kicking off with my books last September is probably the closest I can think of - my first book was in the top 100 free on Amazon and the others started shifting serious volume. I treated my other half to a nice drive down the Northumbrian coast and a nice meal, I think.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Not really had much, I'm afraid.

Thank you Ed James. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


You can read more about Ed James and his books here:


Have you read any of Ed James' books? Have you tried many self-published authors? Comments welcome. 

No comments:

Post a Comment