David Cousland: Self-published writer of mysteries and more, is my guest author today
is my guest author today and I thought I’d ask him to tell us about his route to writing and self-publishing.
Do take a look at his work which is available on Amazon.
David, welcome and thanks for agreeing to chat to me and everyone.
Please tell us about yourself, your background and former occupation.
I see your Dad was a bespoke tailor and that due to colour blindness you couldn’t follow him into the business:
Thanks Jane, great to be here.
I was born in 1950 in the heart of the industrial West Midlands (The Black Country), my early life spent in Tipton and Dudley.
I was educated at Dudley Grammar School where in retrospect I was one of those pupils who “must try harder / does not apply himself” and so on.
Despite being partially colour blind I managed to achieve a Grade One pass in my Art “O” level, thank goodness for modern art back in the 60s.
My father was a craftsman, a bespoke tailor and would probably have liked me to follow in his footsteps but colour blindness would never have allowed me to do that.
However, I did have a part-time job for 18 months in John Collier Menswear when customers would often ask “does this tie go with this suit?” and so on.
My regular answer was “it looks fine to me”, in my world every colour goes with every other, it’s never been much of a problem to me but drives others crazy.
I joined Midland Bank in 1967 and worked my way up to the heady heights of managing a team within the plastic card world and took early retirement at 53 when our entire department was closed down.
I was a white van man for a year and a carer for my mum for two more.
Since then my golf has finally had chance to take more of my time and effort and my handicap is very slowly reducing.
Married for a second time after being widowed in 2005, I have two daughters and three grandchildren. They certainly add a different dimension to life.
Other than golf I love music although have no talent to play or sing whatsoever.
I’m an old rocker but happy to listen to most styles from rock music to classical and love Led Zep; Pink Floyd; Moody Blues and Rick Wakeman to Andrea Bocelli. Heather Headley and Cher would be at the top of my ‘ladies list’ and have been lucky enough to see both.
I love travel and have been fortunate to visit many different places from Hawaii to Hong Kong. Sharing a breakfast room in Hong Kong with The All Blacks must be a highlight.
Have you always wanted to write, and if so, have you written all your life – for your own enjoyment/with a view to publication? Were you a late developer and if so why?
I was very much a late developer, with work and family there was little time for leisure, for many years, other than football and cricket, my girls’ youth marching bands took all of my time.
I never harboured ambitions to be a writer and only started when I couldn’t sleep one night. My head was full of a story and I needed to write it down.
Despite revisiting and reworking that one a number of times it still remains on my “to do” list. Having worked in banking for most of my life, looking back there was never an opportunity to use my imagination. I’m catching up rapidly.
Describe your genre – or do you write in several?
I still consider myself a beginner and finding my feet, I have tried a number of genres and continue to look at almost anything.
Black Country Murders was ‘my patch’ the area I grew up in but everything else was fictional.
I have a 3 book series with a secret agent, Matt Stewart (Crack) – ready sometime soon; Wes Griffin in “The Water Carrier” is a private detective set in the 60s; “Faces of Ashwood Court” my first horror story and so on.
I’m part was through a sci-fi / fantasy story; another murder story set in Birmingham and will be planning a 4th Matt Stewart book soon. On balance I’m tending to favour the Agent – action type of story more and more.
I enjoy making my characters flawed, they may get the correct answer but may not always have a clue why or sometimes a team colleague will figure it out.
What/who inspires/inspired you to write in your chosen genre?
Alistair MacLean / Ian Fleming. I’ve always loved this type of story even Flint / Matt Helm films of the 60s. Loved watching Michael Crawford as Condor Man with my girls and there’s another inspiration.
I loved reading MacLean too, and enjoyed the Matt Helm and In Like Flint movies back in the day. Such fun David.
Who are your favourite authors and why?
MacLean because of his variety, action, suspense and his knowledge.
Thor Heyerdahl has been a favourite since I was a youngster. I loved reading about his back to nature and back to history adventures, Kon-Tiki; Rah; Fatu Hiva and so on. Cricket biographies are always of interest too.
I notice that some of your publications are 5 pages long and others over 100 pages long. Fascinating.
So you consider yourself a short story writer?
When I first started out, my stories varied in length so much. I enjoy writing a quick short story but have realised that a reader is looking for value for money as well as wanting to be entertained and gripped by a story.
Nowadays, I wouldn’t publish anything below 10,000 words.
Do you have plans to write a full length novel?
Although I still enjoy writing a short story of anything up to 20,000 words
I think I’ve found the right length for me to be between 40 and 70,000 words, Novella length.
I don’t know if your read James Patterson at all, but of late he has published several very short books – I think he calls them ‘Short Shots’ and they are available for about £1.50.
A relative has read them and she loves them, just long enough for a bus ride, or to read in bed before falling asleep apparently.
Is this what your shorter length intend to do, be a quick read?
The short stories I’ve written in recent years have usually been 1000 words or less and almost a distraction from whatever else I’m working on. Part way through one story, something else pops into my head and bingo. I may post it to Facebook or just hold on to it. Short stories are great for “reading” events.
I have been fortunate enough to attend several author events at my local library.
It’s a great opportunity to meet new authors and also those already established and when they also read from their books, that is special I always think.
You published your first book in 2013 – what made you decide to self-publish?
Had you considered submitting to publishing houses or was it your intention to do it yourself?
I had an expensive and bad experience with my first two books, I employed a publisher for my first story with no knowledge of the business whatsoever and paid out £500 for the privilege.
I used the same people to do the same work for my second (Face of the Viking).
The story was very much an English story and they translated the lot into American English. It took me a month to re-format and translate back during which time I attempted to self-publish one of my shorts (Faces of Ashwood Court) and discovered that I could do it all myself (with a little outside help).
Hindsight is great and so is talking to other authors for their experiences. I’m currently looking for a publisher as having ‘real paper books’ opens more doors and hopefully creates more sales opportunities.
Did you seek advice/help from other self-published authors? How did you go about the process? Did you use a specific programme to format and upload your work?
Initially – no as I didn’t know any at that time, but I do talk to many more these days. Having said that, quite a few of them are very secretive and will tell you – nothing. Others are much more helpful, thank you Jane xx
I’ve used Word until now but have just purchased a MacBook. It is so different, I guess I’ll understand more in the coming months.
Amazon is quite helpful with self-publishing but I do get so frustrated with technology and always want to finish before I really get started.
How do you work? Do you have an office/allotted space for writing?
Computer/typewriter/long-hand – how do you put your words down?
Always on my computer. Have you seen my handwriting?
I have the lap top / MacBook on an old tray of my mum’s and tend to work in the lounge or conservatory.
Do you have a favourite time of day and do you write every day and for how long?
I’m a morning person, often up at or before 6:00. Having worked in the plastic card business where deadlines were key, these days I never impose them on myself.
I love playing golf and will often go for days without writing a word and then put down four / five thousand per day for the next week.
Do you do a lot of research? I see you know the West Midlands well, and your stories are set there, such as The Black Country Murders, set in 1958.
The landscape and towns must have changed a great deal since then.
Do you use old photos to aid you?
And do you plan and make notes, elaborate graphs and write a rough outline of the story you are going to write, or do you fly by the seat of your pants and write at the keyboard – as it comes?
My locations are a mix of real and fictional.
Actual locations are based either on my own knowledge from my youth/travelling/holidays etc.,
but almost always with the help of Google Earth or Maps and fictional are often close to a real location.
Old photos are fabulous if/when you can find them.
The Water Carrier is set in 1960’s Norton Crest, a fictional village north of and near to York and Harrogate.
Ha, seat of my pants mostly.
I can start a story and have an idea of the ending but more often than not the middle part wanders and has to be brought back in to line.
My Michelangelo Legacy (Portrait of Francesca) was different, I knew where that was heading right from the start, loved creating the story and the mystery throughout.
I discovered that the number 13 fitted the story and used it as the base for my calculations.
The years in between given dates and events are all multiples of 13 – check them out, maybe Michelangelo already did.
Anastas is an erotic horror story and grew from the opening chapter but I always had a plan, albeit unwritten.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Do you get an idea and the rest follows or do you find your stories from Newspapers, News broadcasts, or from over-hearing conversations and so on?
“I Don’t Like Decaf” came from a conversation at a wedding.
A friend complained that her hubby always got her coffee wrong, she spoke those very words and I said – “That sounds like a book title.”
A good photograph or painting will portray a powerful image and yes, it can generate the beginning of a story. Michelangelo’s David was the inspiration for that story.
I guess my imagination took 60+ years to wake up.
Who is your favourite author and why?
These days I love Rebecca Branch’s work.
She writes lengthy stories in her “Art Historian” series, in “Summer of 71” she takes you on tours of Ancient and Modern Rome and develops her characters and the relationships between them, and when you least expect it she hits you with some of the most erotic passages I’ve ever read.
I became a friend through Facebook, so maybe I’m a little biased. She’s different and copies no-one.
If you had to liken your writing to a successful author, who might that be and why?
Crikey, a tough question and I don’t have a clue.
We all know people like to give writers labels/put us into boxes:
I would love to be a modern-day Alistair MacLean but those days are a long way off, I have neither his talent nor ability but I’ll keep trying.
Have you done any personal appearances?
I mentioned earlier how wonderful it was for me to have authors visit my local library and give talks and readings.
How do you get your own publicity or do you employ someone?
I’ve had five reading slots at Church/men’s/ladies groups and so on and have a booking at a Rotary Club function in a month or so.
On Sunday (29th Jan) I had an hour at the first Wolverhampton Literary Festival
and I am already working on getting an invitation to be there in 2018.
Publicity is tough, with relatively small numbers of book sales to generate income to cover costs, paying for publicity is yet another expense to add.
You have had some really great reviews and some 5* reviews too.
One or two have suggested your thrillers would make great movies. Pick one of your books and tell us who you would like to play your lead character and why?
I’m so grateful for the reviews, readers do not have to say anything but when they do, it is heart-warming. I do have a mental picture of “Black Country Murders” making a six part TV series (dream on) – my lead character needs to age by fifteen years, how about Neil Morrissey?
There’s no reason by you shouldn’t write the screenplay and send it to him!
“I Don’t Like Decaf” I can picture as a stage play, Rachel would have to be a sexy thirty year old such as Jenna-Louise Coleman.
Please list your publications and tell us something about each one:
Coming soon – Two more Matt Stewart stories:
The Portofino Incident
Carnage at Clifton Court
Barclay’s Losing Hand (Short Story)
In the end it was more straightforward than I had anticipated. I simply marched in, took the business from under his nose and finished him. The summary of a murder, revenge is sweet for the glamorous, sexy and deadly Cara Alessandro. Her father’s trial was a farce, those responsible would face her wrath, one man was wholly responsible and he was going to pay.
Anastas and the Black Rose (Novella)
Anastas is one of an exclusive family, the Serpentés – a family with many secrets and powers. She wants revenge to correct wrongs of a century ago. With her man and her beautiful but deadly nieces at her side she cannot fail but will she have the time to complete her tasks? A semi-erotic tale of tortured killings, horrible cruel deaths and fulfilment for all concerned. Join the realms of part human, part serpents and hiss your enjoyment and appreciation.
The Water Carrier: A Wes Griffin Mystery (Novella)
Wes Griffin a Private Detective hired by Melanie to find her father. A story of attempted murder, intrigue, family mistrust and a hidden past life. Rare and valuable antique vases stolen from the Emperor’s Palace in Tokyo along with a statue during the 64 Olympics. Arnie Cook building an empire in gangland London in 1966 and a blossoming affair make this a tangled web, but who is at the centre? Who’s waiting to pounce?
Sarah Marshall’s Double Quest (Short Story)
Sarah Marshall was a lady with a mission. She needs a man, a particular, special man and has £20million as the carrot to dangle in front of him. Will he take the bait, will she land her catch? Will they make it to Rio? What is the twist? Read their fascinating story.
I Don’t Drink Decaf (Novella)
Can bringing the wrong coffee be a reason for murder? It can if it is the final straw. Augusta and Diana have had enough of their husbands. The very deadly but sexy and glamorous Rachel can offer a way out, for a price. Rachel has had more sexual experiences than most, she has the body for every occasion and makes use of it. Will the men be able to resist? Follow them from conspiracy to plans to action. Can it really work out?
Black Country Murders; The Killer on the Canal (Novella)
Ruby Williams murdered on Christmas Eve, Barry and Anita killed after a dance, Willie Watson’s life taken at Dudley Zoo. What or who is the connection? How many more will there be before the murderer is caught? What will the final twist be? Read on ….
Scent of the Dragon Queen (Novella)
“You’re too slow etc” were the words Matt (Crack) Stewart did not want to hear from his boss. Within a week his life has changed, a gorgeous, sexy new boss and team, investigation, deception, a traitor or two. The search begins, taking them from London to Hong Kong, mainland China to New Zealand. The needle in the haystack has to be found, but who and where? Who or what is the Dragon Queen? What is the scent? The beautiful Sophia and her new team cannot fail on their first mission. A “Crack” in the orient, a giant of a man, could he be the key to unlock the secrets?
The Michelangelo Legacy: A Portrait of Francesca (Novella)
She could never have imagined that a simple glass of red wine would change her life forever. Her living portrait; David, a new man in her life; Florence; Arrezo; a sensuous and dramatic but all too brief encounter; impossibly making love at the bottom of her pool; twins. Her best friend’s revelations; it was nonsense or was it? Her world was out of control, turned upside down. What is the significance of the number thirteen?
The Wrong Man’s Ring (Short Story)
Crystal wakes as a married woman, but can’t remember anything about the wedding. Her husband is a multi-millionaire or more, but now he’s dead and Sgt Santos investigates. Who killed him, why? Read the story and discover the answers.
The Faces of Ashwood Court (Short Story)
The Wainwright-Smiths’ home at Ashwood Court was not a place for the faint-hearted. For more than two centuries, family evil piled upon family evil, mysterious and horrendous deaths. A blood dripping sickle hung in the barn. Heads roamed at will, their faces would stop at nothing until …. A very funny tale of abuse of power, greed, murders and death.
Snake Eyes Allison (Short Story)
A western with a difference. One hot dusty afternoon a stranger walks into Mama Rita’s bar carrying a sack. Ridgeway needs to know what it contains; one hell of a shock and his last breath is what.
Face of the Viking (Novella)
Freya Campbell had often dreamt of becoming a model but had always been too shy or timid to try, the arrival of Stefan, a tall, good-looking, blond-haired Viking on a motorbike at the office door could change her life forever; her first real man and a love life perhaps, bright lights, fortune and fame with her face on the cover of magazines; the world was at her fingertips if she only had enough courage to go for it.
Overture for Revenge (Short Story)
Friends and neighbours, Lucy Turner and Anna Henderson put all of their energy into music, their local festival featuring bands and orchestras from the south of England, was to be the final performance of the school year and they were determined to enjoy themselves. They could never have foreseen what was to follow their performance of the 1812 Overture, this was to be a night they would never forget.
What plans do you have for future books? Anything in the pipeline?
Plenty of work in progress.
The Portofino Incident – A Second Matt Stewart Story is currently being proof read.
Carnage at Clifton Court – Third in the Matt Stewart series has just been finished.
The Highwayman and The Princess An 8-year-old black girl rescued from the horrors of the slave trade in 1700 and brought to London. A chance encounter with a highwayman years later, he holds a passion / lust for her as well as his trade, can they have a future together?
The Valentine Murders. A young couple, (white solicitor married to a black nurse) the guy is murdered in the street, the court case is a shambles leaving Josie and Grandpa Valentine to take action of their own.
Contrastes and the Capture of Time – my first attempt at Sci-Fi / Fantasy and proving a challenge but an enjoyable one.
I have a vague outline of a 4th Matt Stewart story but nothing written yet.
Do your stories feature the same detective and partner?
Matt Stewart yes in three books, his boss Sophia is a major character in The Dragon Queen but a minor character in the two (above). She may be back in book four.
Would you consider contributing towards an anthology at all?
Yes – sounds like fun, anything in the pipeline?
Just keep your eyes open, people are always looking for contributors here and on Facebook David,
I’ve found Social Media a great help for getting my work included.
Would you consider writing with another author – co-written book?
Yes – I’ve co-written a lengthy story over some three months on Facebook with a Texan lady.
I appreciate it’s not the same but we worked well together and created a popular serial.
There you go, Social Media can introduce us to new people and opportunities.
Do provide a short segment/example from one of your books for our readers to enjoy which will give us a flavour of your writing and style:
“Anastas and the Black Rose”
Anastas plans to acquire her former family home , nothing or no-one will stop her. S short spell cast on a second viewer will be the end of him, the agent is distraught.
“May I use your phone please Miss? I don’t have a signal and I’m afraid the old gentleman has had either a stroke or heart attack, he’s collapsed.”
Anastas took her phone from her handbag and handed it over after keying in her password – VESPA. As he dialled a number, she raised her body towards him a little, sliding her fingers in and out of her lace, patterned stocking tops and touching a suspender clasp. Although he could not fail to have noticed her womanly charms, the agent appeared too busy or shocked to look closely. She sighed, stood and placed her fingertip delicately below his chin, lifting his face to look at her.
“You won’t need it, it’s too late now,” She casually remarked, “and by the way, you should secure your phone, you have no password protection and I suggest you never let your wife read those text messages. Karen is rather delicious though I must agree, I can see the attraction.”
“What? How do you know anything about my phone?”
She smirked once again, raised her left eyebrow and ran her fingers along the side of his neck.
“He’s dead Charlie, very dead. You are wasting your time. Why don’t you just run along to Karen, she’s desperate for you to have her again– is that not so?”
Wow, that is going to whet some appetites to read more I am sure.
Finally, David, please show links to your Facebook Author Page, Twitter, and Amazon Author Page with links to any other Social Media you use.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/david.cousland
Although I have a Twitter account, I don’t like it and never use it.
David, thanks so much for being my guest and for telling us so much about yourself and your writing.
Do leave a comment for David after reading this. Every little helps and we all need feedback. Thanks.
I’ve really enjoyed having him as my first guest for 2017.
For anyone interested in reading David’s books, here are the links to where to buy them.