Monday, 4 July 2016

It's Always Handy to Have Another Hat - Paul Charles on the Writing Life

Pursuing this blog's interest in the writing life, I'm delighted to host a guest blog from Paul Charles, author of the Christy Kennedy series and a number of other highly enjoyable novels. His theme is one familiar to many writers - that of combining another job with that of authorship. It's not always easy, but the question of how to strike the right balance is, I think, of real interest. Over to you, Paul:

"Recently I bumped into a mate of mine, Martin Edwards, in the USA. Martin’s from Liverpool and I’m an Ulsterman currently exiled in London and our paths crossed in Bethesda, MD, USA at the annual Malice Domestic Crime Writers convention. Martin was on his award-collecting tour and I was out promoting my latest Inspector Starrett mystery, St Ernan’s Blues. It’s always great to see Martin but it’s somehow different when you meet up with a mate by accident on foreign soil. I suppose it’s due to the fact that the time and the connection are more precious or something. Anyway we ensured we’d time for a quick lunch and a catch up chat.

Apart from being crime writers the other thing we share (as Martin reminded me) is that we both have twin careers. He’s a successful solicitor and I’m very fortunate to be an agent in the music business. As Martin pointed out in a recent blog, the other hat we wear has certainly helped us both in various ways with our crime-writing careers.

Also having another “job,” as it were, certainly helps me in my writing in that it permits me to move amongst people unnoticed, while allowing me to observe people in their normal environment to my heart’s content. I’ve always felt that being a celebrity writer must compromise writers somewhat. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that when such a writer enters a room, it’s a bit like a TV camera entering a room. Everyone is very conscious there is a camera – or a famous writer - present and so, without even knowing it, they put on a face, even an accent sometime, and you lose the sense of the real them, of their spirit.  I enjoy nothing more than sitting in a restaurant, or a hotel lobby, or an airport terminal, drinking in the rich cast of characters and dialogue and, when I’m not close enough to overhear their conversations, trying to imagine, from their body language, what they are saying.

One of my favourite such scenes was one Saturday morning I was sitting in a Helsinki hotel lobby, minding my own (and other people’s) business when a group of glamorous and giggly septuagenarian ladies congregated on the nearby sofas. They were all dressed in various pastoral colours, with pumps (gutties rather than trainers) and bobby socks. With their energy, enthusiasm, obvious love of life, not to mention, their air of devilment it would have been very easy to have mistaken them for a bunch of teenagers were it not for the 70 years of Finnish weather they’d endured. I obviously hadn’t a clue what they were talking about but (even without subtitles) it was one of the most enjoyable foreign “movies” I’ve ever seen.

Another enjoyable hotel scene I recall is a Liverpool one. I was in Liverpool for an Elvis Costello concert and staying at the very famous and still extremely elegant Adelphi Hotel. I spent a few hours drinking endless cups of tea (I’ll also confess to eating a few scones) while these wonderful scenarios unfolded before me.  I used some of those scenes pretty much as they happened in The First of The True Believers – my Beatle themed novel.  

The Adelphi is also a hotel I imagine Harry Devlin infrequently visiting. Harry Devlin is one of Martin Edwards’ great characters – coincidently Harry is also a Liverpool solicitor. I’ve always been a big fan of the Harry Devlin series and was very happy to hear over my lunch with Martin that it may not be as long as I first feared until Mr Devlin makes a return. I’ve always felt the Harry Devlin series of books are perfect for the small screen and I’m hoping that the next time Martin and I bump into each other again on foreign soil we’ll be discussing, over our lunch, the success of Harry Devlin on TV.."


Clothes In Books said...

I enjoyed this thanks - particularly the mention of the Adelphi Hotel. I'm another person with a Liverpool connection with Martin, and know the hotel well. I haven't been there in a while, I hope it's still going strong. As a child I was terribly excited to see Harold Wilson walking out of it once, and the whole place seemed impossibly glamorous and out-of-reach. Later in life good Liverpool egalitarianism came into play and I realized I could go there too!
Will look out for your books, which I haven't come across yet.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Moira. It's a long time since I attended a Law Society dinner at the Adelphi but it is indeed still going strong. Paul's books are most definitely worth seeking out.

Mike Morris said...

As soon as I read this I wondered whether this was the same Paul Charles who managed Irish prog rock band Fruupp back in the 1970s, and now I've visited his website I can see that it is. Great band - shame they never made it big.

Martin Edwards said...

Good to hear from you, Mike. Paul's had an amazing career in music, that's for sure.