Books · Writing

Interview Series: Stephen Davis

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Stephen Davis is the author of The Tsar’s Banker an exciting historical thriller novel.

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Hi Stephen, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I began my writing career with my own business column in the South Wales Echo when aged only twenty seven. Since then I’ve worked in financial services and for the past seventeen years have been a business consultant. During that time I had articles published in twenty-eight business magazines, become an award winning writer, a broadcaster and the author of two business books, as well as a popular public speaker. When not working I enjoy golf, swimming, cooking and travel.

When did you know you wanted to be a fiction writer?
I began to write fiction as a distraction during a relative’s illness, never expecting it to be published outside my immediate family and friends. After completion of my first novel friends and family encouraged me to have the story published.

What were your ambitions when you started writing?
In business it was to inform. As a fiction writer self-amusement and as a distraction as mentioned in the previous question.

Have those ambitions changed over the process?                                                              Writing fiction has become more than a hobby. I had lots of encouragement from friends and when ‘The Tsar’s Banker’ was reviewed as ‘A thrilling novel with the real life conspiracy theory of Dan Brown and the Glamour of Ian Fleming at his best…’ I decided that perhaps I had a skill for developing a story.

Are you writing anything at the moment? Could you give us a little insight?
The sequel to my first book, The Tsar’s Banker, is completed and is currently being edited under the title ‘I Spy The Wolf’ and will be published in the spring. The third in the series is begun and with 12,000 words completed.

Are there any quotes or mottos that inspire your writing career or your life? Would you share it with us?
None I can think of.

Where do you find inspiration for your novels?
History and historical mysteries.

Do you consider yourself more of a plotter or a pantser? Do you outline thoroughly or see how it plays out?
I need to outline the story so that it fits into historical events and people. However, the fictional side of the story tends to be less structured. Characters, how they look act and speak, education, past experiences, ambitions and fears are carefully outlined before I start to write.

How often do you write during a week?
I try to write most days.

Do you have a set word count that you try to achieve each session?
No. I try to write a part of the story at one time. This can mean one chapter of a few thousand words or, on more than one occasion, a single paragraph that’s taken four hours or more to get right.

Do you have to do lots of research for your novels?
Yes. For ‘I spy the Wolf’ (latest novel out in spring) I read through six weighty factual books on the events running up to world war II and used the internet and watched hours of archive film.

What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
Determining who’s speaking, narrator, character etc that makes for the best story line. Sometimes I change this after writing and so might end up having two or more alternatives for a scene.

Do you ever get writers block? How do you overcome it?
Not yet!

What books are you reading at the moment? Do you have any favourites?
My favourite books include Anna Karenina, Old St Paul’s by Harrison Ainsworth and any book by PG Wodehouse.

If you couldn’t be an author, what other career do you think you would like to do?
Police Inspector.

Your book ‘The Tsar’s Banker’, where and how did you come up with the story line?
I read an interview by a retired Director of the Bank of England who stated to the newspapers “I am pretty sure there was never any money of the Imperial Family of Russia in the Bank of England, nor any other bank in England. Of course it is difficult to say ‘never’”.
I had information, now confirmed by the Bank of England that the statement was untrue.

In terms of traditional publishing vs self-publishing – which did you choose and why?
Both have advantages and disadvantages.  The Tsar’s Banker was published but since then I’m in the process of moving it to my own imprint and all future books will be under my own imprint having become unhappy with my publisher. I’ve concluded that I’d prefer to manage and have control of the marketing, rights on the books such as film, TV and the production.  

What sort of a routine do you have around your writing? Do you make coffee every time? Or write stream of consciousness before starting a story?
No routine. I might be up at three in the morning having thought of a great addition to the story or write all day…or not at all.
When writing I tend to miss meals and can end up very hungry. I then demolish the whole box of Jaffa Cakes that are always kept in the kitchen store cupboard!

Do you have any advice to the aspiring writers reading this?
1) Learn from others and read a lot to improve your own style and technique.
2) Join a writer’s group and attend events like Crimefest, the crime fiction convention 18-21 May 2017 in Bristol, which brings together hundreds of authors, agents and publishers.
3) Download a free version of SCRIVENER onto your computer to help design the storyline, characters and chapters.

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