Colin Galbraith FAQsHow do you come up with your ideas?
How much research do you do?
Do you write on computer or longhand?
What writers have had the most influence on you?
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, who?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write?
Do you only write crime and paranormal fiction?
Q: How do you come up with your ideas?
A: All over the place. I get ideas from people I meet, stories I overhear, things I see in the media, dreams... you name it, thereís an idea somewhere!
To give you an idea of the random nature of idea development, HUNTING JACK came from seeing a young homeless lad on the streets of Edinburgh during the fringe festival, SLICK was based on a story I heard from someone I once knew, STELLA was based on the music of an album Iíd built moving pictures of in my head as I listened, and BACCARA BURNING grew from its predecessor, STELLA, to which it is the sequel.
The important thing is to note down every idea you have along the way. Some you use, some you donít and some are just plain rubbish, but as long as you can spot them theyíll always be there. Itís a bit like ghost hunting; you have to know what to look for and open your eyes to it all...
Q: How much research do you do?
A: I used to do a lot beforehand but unless I know thereís something I really need to know to get through a book, Iíll leave it until the end. Only at the end of the book can I look back and see the full picture and get a better handle on what I know will need to be dug into.
One of the negatives to affect my writing when I do research beforehand, is that I develop pre-conceived ideas. By avoiding any real and meaningful research, one can avoid reality constricting imagination. So I use the process of research now more as a means of filling in the cracks and confirming if I can use what I have.
This is of more importance in my paranormal stories, where I can really let my imagination fly the way it wants, but in my crime fiction very often the type of research revolves around places and historical events.
Q: Do you write on computer or longhand?
A: Iíll write a novel on the computer but a lot of the plot ideas, characterisation and general thoughts that go into a novel will be found in my notebook before and during I start writing it.
Writing into the notebook is a much more free process with little restrictions, and I will more often than not do this kind of writing away from my computer entirely, usually off-site outside or in a coffee shop. When it comes to the actual writing of the novel Iíll sit at the computer until itís done.
Editing is another thing altogether. Iíll print off what I have and take it away somewhere to work on as I like to do read-throughs in the one go, marking with my red pen as I work. This means I need to be somewhere where I can work for a lengthy period of time undisturbed, so Iíll either go to a library or sit at the kitchen table if I know I have the day to myself.
Q: What writers have had the most influence on you?
A: Thereís been a few: Paul Auster, William McIlvanney, Devon Ellington, Ian Rankin, Candia McWilliam, Val McDermid, Allan Guthrie, Stephen King, John Cooper Clarke.
Musically, Iíve been influenced by a great deal of artists through their song writing. This is a vast list, but I would say the top influences on me from a musical perspective would be Madness, Ian Dury, Pink Floyd, Yello, Arab Strap, Mogwai, The Smiths, Adam and the Ants, The Beta Band, Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash, Arctic Monkeys and The Pixies. This is a list that could go forever, though.
Q: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, who?
A: More often than not, yes. I write in two places: at home in my office or in a coffee shop (which can vary in location). At home, Iíll be on the Mac and generally find Iíll listen to the same album on repeat while working on a story. This way I can let it settle into the background as I work and it also acts as a permanent reminder of what book I was writing when I hear a particular song.
Mogwai, Yello, Pink Floyd and Dungen are all favourites, mainly because either the music sits well in the background and doesn't distract or because it is purely instrumental. It has to match the speed and mood of the book, though; thatís quite important.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write?
A: Reading a lot definitely helps, especially if you want to focus on a particular genre.
There arenít many ďself helpĒ books I would read, in fact I wouldnít really recommend most of the books you can buy that promise to help you write a novel in 30 days. I would recommend the following two books, however:
Word Painting by Rebbeka McLanahan
On Writing by Stephen King
Both of these will set you on your way, but nothing will help you more than just sitting down and writing, experimenting with it, trying out new things, reading, and writing...
Q: Do you only write crime and paranormal fiction?
A: No, I also write poetry and have had several collections published. Iíve also had a few poems published in ezines and online publishers. My poetry is published under a pseudonym these days (it never used to be so you might see some cross-over). If you want to know more about Chas Stramash, you will find him here: www.chasstramash.com