Saturday, October 17, 2015

Terry Newman, author of Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf

Welcome, Terry Newman, author of Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf (Harper Voyager U.K. to It's All About Story.

Blog: Website:

1) Describe Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf in one paragraph.

Hardboiled detective, noirish, comedy, fantasy, (with steampunk overtones)--a subgenre I hope to make my own--ha! It features hat-wearing Nicely Strongoak, the coolest dwarf detective this side of New Iron Town, who has now taken up residence in The Citadel, a thriving inter-racial metropolis in Widergard where dwarfs, elves, men, wizards, goblins, and gnomes have to rub along as best they can in a modern era of shooters and steam wagons. This is Nicely's first published case and it takes him deep into a murky underworld of corrupt politicians, surfing elves, gangster goblins, and a dead elf nobody seems to want to claim. Crime never went away, you see, and down these mean, cobbled streets a Dwarf just has to walk tall.

2) What inspired Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf?

An 'elf' service petrol station, an extensive hat collection, a very bad electron microscopy conference in Hamburg, a childhood of SFF reading, but most of all a question. The question is this: What exactly did happen in those medieval fantasy worlds that we all love so much after the Big Bad Guy was defeated? Everybody still now has to get on after all and you can't commit genocide. So how would democracy go down there, and the industrial revolution, and as for race relations?! Give it a few thousand years and certain worlds could end up something like Widergard. With pixies of course, why did the pixies never get a mention before?

3) Is this your first work of fiction?

I am tempted to admit that my first work of fiction was when I said it was an alien spacecraft that broke the window of my parent's greenhouse and not my football, but that would be a lie too. As I have been a scriptwriter for a number of years, for stage, radio, TV, and film, prior to A DEAD ELF'S publication, you'd probably expect me to say, 'no, it's not my first work of fiction'. However, A DEAD ELF did really kick all my writing off many, many years ago. I just happened to try the story out for radio first, but the nice BBC producer suggested it would work better as a novel. Cue: Calendar Pages Being Ripped off--One hell of a lot of pages!

4) What song or music piece would you put on a soundtrack for Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf?

This one is easy, because Nicely actually has his own theme song! You can hear 'Nicely's theme' behind the book trailer here It may not be what you were expecting, but that's kind of 'Nicely' for you.

Please note--certain other dwarfs (e.g. Ginger Oliver Groundstroke) would like it to be known here that they have not time for anything without very loud drums and a lot of brass and large ladies singing in leatherwear. More contemporary than that? Try 'Attack Music' by These New Puritans or 'We Want War' by same

5) Which character was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?

I'm mostly taking dictation from Nicely, so that's all pretty easy. Some of his words are strange to me, especially the slang--but it becomes easy to keep up with after a while. Hopefully, there will be a glossary coming soon as well! Difficult? No, sorry--not an elf, wizard, goblin, or pixie was hard.

6) What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?

I have a summerhouse in the garden and it is lovely. You can see it amongst the tweets @adeadelf and on the FB Detective Strongoak page. I am surrounded by flowers there, and fairies play at night. Unfortunately, it is just a summerhouse, and not suitable for less clement weather. Luckily, I also have a study for writing in during the aforementioned less clement weather. My view is of a C14th monks' house with another lovely garden. They have to look at me staring out at them. Who has the best deal?

I can actually write anywhere. I bought a Toshiba Libretto the size of a large paperback years before Netbooks were invented. I wrote on the train, on the bus and while selling houses (don't ask). It ran a proper version of Word and I am forever indebted to it. I count my blessings; 645 if you're interested.

7) Any odd writing habits?

My handwriting is terrible. I say that this is because I am a doctor, but that is another lie (not the doctor bit--the excuse). My handwriting has always been terrible, as is my speling (ha!) and I never took to typewriters. I needed word processors so badly I could taste them (lime and mango). It finally meant I could get the words down at something like the rate they pop up in my head. For me then writing has become a process something like sculpture, the material goes down and then I chip away until I have the finished item. Is that odd?

8) Do you outline?

Argh! Tricky one that. As a scriptwriter one is obliged to work to a very structured step outline, basically because five hour long films get frowned upon, and also because the requirements of film are different. This is why books are adapted, not filmed 'straight off'. I therefore love the greater freedom that novel writing provides, the opportunity to go on a 'journey' with your characters, rather than having to decide what their journey will be beforehand. But having said that I probably outline novels more than I would like to admit, I just do it slightly differently.

9) What are some of your favorite fantasy books? Why?

Is there anything new to say about The Lord of the Rings? How it defined a new standard in world building? How it stimulated the imaginations of generations? Plus how many doors it opened for other writers? How it made it all real? It's the Daddy.

Currently I am enamoured of Harry Dresden. Thank you, Jim Butcher! When I first heard about a Wizard PI my heart sunk, but fortunately Harry lives in the real world, not Widergard. He does live in the real world doesn't he? That is what Chicago is actually like? Well, it is from now on, thank you.

And how much did my heart sink when I first read Terry Pratchett? Not as much as you might think, because Strata was the first of his books that I read and this is science fiction, very different from the sort of thing I had in mind at the time. Of course when the Discworld came along I loved it and, seeing how we had a lot of targets and humour in common, I put A DEAD ELF away in a cupboard (well, an Apple IIe sort of cupboard). However, Nicely kept on at me and when he materialised again there was less critiquing of the fantasy idiom itself and a lot more hard-boiled action fun. I think this helped make A DEAD ELF a better book in the end, so thanks for everything, Sir Terry!

10) What is your favorite fictional world, one you'd want to visit?

I don't know! Panic! I really don't know! The whole of everything ever written or filmed or broadcast? Blimey, I need a lie down! Right, I've collected myself and put thoughts of 'Barbarella' aside in favor of 'Pandora'. As long as I'm blue, 9 foot tall with a tail as well.

11) What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

A very senior, multi-award winning, comedy producer once told me to take my sketch away and to 'put some more melons in it'. That's advice I'll never forget, obviously.

12) In Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, places you've lived, favorite writers etc;

That is all there is: the whole thing; even the title has a secret meaning known to few. There are some jokes so 'in' even I don't get them because I'm not included in that crowd. It's also a love letter to JRR and Raymond Chandler too, yet you can read it and enjoy it completely without knowing any of these things! I'm thinking of offering a prize for the first fully annotated copy, but nobody would ever be that mad, surely?

13) Can you tell us what we have to look forward to after Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf?

Nicely Strongoak's next case is completed! Well, at least I know know who-done-it and boy was I surprised! I can't give any details away as yet, but do keep a look out for information on the website. I can say that it takes us even deeper into the world of Widergard and the society that has developed in the modern Citadel and there's more steam of all sorts!

There is also a very different fantasy novel completed for a slightly younger audience, which has got some animation chums excited. And talking visual media, I have been working with a production company on a fantasy action TV series that just might now have received the green light! Plus, with another hat on, I've been involved with a documentary, for theatrical release, about one of the greatest sportsmen of all time! Exciting times, in Widergard and beyond.

Thank you, Terry!

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