10 Questions With… M. W. Craven

Hi everyone, today I’m delighted to welcome author M. W. Craven to the blog. Along with some really insightful and important advice for writers, he answers my questions on his writing process and what he’s been up to in lockdown.

Over to you, Mike…

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? Was there any turning point with a particular book that made you go ‘Wow!’

My early introduction to reading was Enid Blyton’sFamous Five and Secret Seven series, but it was Watership Down by Richard Adams that was the turning point for me I think. It blew me away. I read The Hobbitshortly afterwards and had a similar reaction. I’ve been obsessed with books ever since.

2) Did you enjoy English at school? What were your set books and did you like them?

I did enjoy English at school, both Lit and Language. The books we read ranged from classics like Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mocking Bird to more regional affairs like The Machine Gunners and A Kestrel for a Knave. I loved them all.

3) How did you find your experience firstly in the Army and secondly as a Probation Officer?

Both jobs shaped who I am today – the army through building character and, weirdly, encouraging my obsession with books. In those days, everyone read, and everyone discussed what they’d read. My 16 years in probation allowed me to see how criminals thought and how they justified their actions. When I was in senior management it also allowed me to see how a complex county like Cumbria worked. Where the real power lay, which agencies didn’t like each other.

4) What was your route to publication and how did you find your current agent?

I found my first publisher and my agent at the same place – Crime and Publishment, a crime writers residential workshop in Gretna. I met the CEO of Caffeine Nights in 2014 and my agent in 2015. Caffeine Nights signed me after I pitched to them and my agent signed me after I showed him the first book in the Fluke series.

5) Do you have any plan formed when you come up with ideas? How does your idea generation work?

I have a rough idea of how it will start and how it will end. I know the crime and I know who committed it. After that I trust my imagination will fill in all the gaps.

6) How many times, roughly, would you say that you polish a draft before you send it off to your agent?

I never edit as I write the first draft so the second draft is really a rewrite. The third draft is usually tightening up everything, often to get a more manageable word count. Draft four is me getting everything as I want it and draft five is when I change things that haven’t worked afterI’ve read the novel out loud. My wife and beta readers then get it and if I’ll make any amendments accordingly. So roughly six drafts.

7) Do you have any advice for writers looking to send their work to agents?

Same advice as my agent: get the book as good as you can get it. Don’t send something incomplete or too early in the process.

8) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly. And yes I did enjoy it, very much so.

9) On a Friday evening when you leave your desk, what’s the first thing you do? On a weekend, what do you do to relax?

It depends. Before the plague, on a Friday evening my wife and I would probably stay in and have a curry. Now during the plague, we stay in and have a curry . . .

To relax, I read or watch some of the decent dramas on TV. I walk the dog in some of the outstanding countryside we have here and, when allowed to, we go to the pub. Usually crime festivals are a big part of the year, as are going to gigs.

10) If you had to choose between Rod Stewart and Freddie Mercury, who would it be and why?

Either. I quite enjoyed Queen’s music and I saw Rod last year in Vegas. He’s the consummate showman.

Thank you for visiting the blog, Mike. It has been a pleasure to interview you.

Bio: Although he was born in Cumbria, Mike Craven grew up in the North East before running away to join the army as soon as he was sixteen. After training as an armourer for two and a half years (that’s an army gunsmith to you and I), he spent the next ten travelling the world having fun. In 1995 he left the army, and after a brief flirtation with close protection and bodyguarding, decided on a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. In 1999 he joined Cumbria Probation Service as a probation officer, working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later, he took the plunge and accepted redundancy to concentrate on writing full-time, and now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.

Between leaving the army and securing his first publishing deal, Mike found time to keep a pet crocodile, breed snakes, get married, and buy a springer spaniel named Bracken. He lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne, where he tries to leave the house as little as possible. Mike is also one third of Crime Ink-Corporated, a trio of northern writers who take writing out for the community and host events such as England’s first Noir at the Bar.

Mike’s first DI Avison Fluke novel, Born in a Burial Gown, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. He is a member of both the Crime Writers’ Association and the International Thriller Writers’ Association.

His first book as M.W. Craven, The Puppet Show was published by Constable & Robinson in June 2018.

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