Friday, 10 April 2020

Interview with bestselling author Malcolm Hollingdrake

I’m delighted to welcome back to the blog Malcolm Hollingdrake, the author of the bestselling Harrogate Crime Series of books featuring DCI Cyril Bennett. Hello Malcolm!
Hello, always my pleasure. How times have changed since we last chatted about my books.

You’re releasing the latest in The Harrogate Crime Series, “Threadbare”, today. Can you give me a flavour of what’s happening in this one? What does DCI Bennett have to face?
Indeed, as you know DCI Bennett proposed to Dr Julie Pritchett at the end of the last book. ‘Threadbare' begins with that proposal and for Cyril things move from there. However, his team have other things on their minds. Finding an elderly man and his carer dead by what they believe to be snake venom brings its own confusion. This is swiftly followed by another death, originally thought to be suicide. An old photograph, a link and the collection of disparate people seem to have a connection. David Owen and April Richmond come into their own leading the chase to find the murderer before the death toll rises.

Can readers dive straight in, or do they have to have read the previous books in the series?
They can dive straight in. I have given any information they need in the prologue. I do try to make all of my books, standalone reads.

What inspired this book?
The story was inspired by seeing the benches that you find throughout Harrogate, especially on The Stray and a painting I have long admired in the Atkinson Gallery, Southport. I visited the Frith exhibition at the Mercer Art Gallery and was so moved by his work I had to place Cyril in there to begin the story proper.

Who is your favourite supporting character in the book? Why are they your favourite?
What a lovely question. Leonard’s mother. It might seem strange but both Leonard and his mum were modelled on a family who lived close to me as I was growing up. I have always been a people watcher and I still take characteristics or the things people say and add them to my books. I’m a bit of a magpie to be honest. These true elements of life help make the written words live.

Writers often have to ‘kill their darlings’. What did you have to edit out of this book?
If anything, Cyril. It has been thoroughly enjoyable developing Owen’s character and building the partnership with April. A different dimension and an alternative perspective. Great fun.
I always cut when writing. What I thought worked on one day, on a read through it doesn’t seem as exciting or relevant and so the delete key plays a major role … key role in fact. It’s when you cut five thousand words through being dissatisfied where it becomes more daring and important.

A little bird tells me that you’re working on a new series at the moment. Are you able to spill any beans? What can you tell me about that?
This is so exciting for me. Nine Harrogate books and I know my characters so well and so creating a new series has been wonderful. The original idea came when I was commissioned by my then publisher to write a new series. I liked the idea of creating something new but I didn’t feel I was ready. However, now is the correct time to produce this trilogy. I have a working title, ‘A Decent April’. The others might be ‘A Decent Murder’ and “A Decent Death’. You can guess the name of the DI … yep, Decent. They are set in north Merseyside and the surrounds. It has been great fun to find new streets, new sights, sounds and smells and develop new characters. I will be sending the first out to see if I can attract a publisher. I want to keep the Harrogate Series independent.

You’re now independently published. What’s the hardest aspect of that? What do you wish you’d known before you went independent?
Advertising and marketing. Once you become an indie author/publisher you have to wear many hats, develop many skills and keeping all of the plates spinning takes time, support and money. Even with ten books published, five audiobooks I could not make a living from writing. It’s a hobby. If anyone is going independent here are two things: Make the manuscripts the best you can. Invest in a good proof reader and editor. Invest in a quality cover design and if you’re thinking of writing a series, have that in mind from the start.

What have been the high spots about being independent? What has come as a pleasant surprise to you about it all?
Controlling when your book will be published. If you are with a publisher you might wait twelve months. I decide when my book goes out. I control the book's design from page to cover. It rests on my shoulders and although that can be worrying, it’s also exciting.

How do you measure ‘success’ in writing? Sales? Reviews? Personal satisfaction? Something else?
To receive a positive comment from a reader whom you’ve never met is the best feeling in the world. To chat to people who have become friends, found through my writing, brings great pleasure and finally, seeing people take the trouble to come and hear me speak and read at literary events … that’s humbling.

What would you give up, in order to be able to be more successful (if anything)?
Success is relative. Give me positive comments and I’m happy. If people buy one book and then another, I’m happy. Success, I’m sure brings its own pressures and demons. Where I am is fine.

And now a few questions that aren’t about writing!

We’re all in the middle of a lockdown with covid-19. Are you naturally an introvert and finding this relatively easy? Or naturally an extrovert and finding this tough? What’s helping to make it more bearable?
I’ve not had a TV for many, many years and I am comfortable with this. Obviously, I’m concerned for those on the front line but if I can help by staying at home so be it. I can write, paint, make stained glass windows if I need further distractions. Music is a huge part of my life and there’s endless amounts I still need to discover.

What’s your favourite meal to make?
Risotto – strangely enough it’s Cyril Bennett’s too.

What’s your favourite meal to eat that someone else has made?
My wife’s Yorkshire puddings. However, I now do all the cooking but she would make them if asked.

What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading at the moment which is strange for me. It was a requested birthday gift. ‘A Race with Love and Death.’

I know you don’t have a TV, but are there any box-sets you’ve binge-watched? If so, what?
Black Adder WW1 and Band of Brothers. That’s it!

Thank you so much for letting me bombard you with questions!
Thank you very much indeed. As a final note may I just thank readers for supporting my books, it means a great deal to me. Please keep safe.

You can catch up with all of Malcolm’s news at the following places:

Twitter at: https://twitter.com/MHollingdrake
Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMalcolmHollingdrake/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/malcolmhollingdrakeauthor/
His website is at: https://malcolmhollingdrakeauthor.co.uk/

The Harrogate Crime Series:

Also by Malcolm:



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