Writers Talking with Richard Grainger @maverickwriter

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Richard Grainger has worked as a teacher, personal trainer, restaurateur, and journalist. His specialty is finding interest in the mundane and making dull people and their narratives come alive. Losing the Plot is his debut novel and is the first in the Richie Malone series. He is working on a second novel, Saving Dave. His first book, The Last Latrine, is an account of his experiences in Nepal running the world’s highest marathon. Richard divides his time between Marbella, Spain, where he writes, and Wroclaw, Poland, where he enjoys Polish beer and teaches English part-time. His main interests are Rugby Union, cricket, history, and horse riding.


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Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you write when the inspiration hits you?


I adopt the same methodology I used as a professional Rugby coach: it’s called “Periodisation”, and I divide the year into certain “zones”. My intense writing zone is from mid June until the middle of September, when I’m living in Marbella. During this period I set myself a target of a minimum of one thousand words per day – any less equals no beer. Outside this, when I’m living in Wroclaw (Poland) and teach English two and a half days per week, I have a weekly target of three thousand words. Then there are certain “don’t even bother” zones such as the Christmas period or when I’m travelling. Oh … and as I’m getting married in less than three weeks’ time, not much is currently getting done!

Waiting for inspiration to hit me would be like a drunk waiting to sober up. He will do anything to ensure it never happens.


What/Who was the inspiration for Richie Malone?


It’s often said that every first novel is autobiographical, and I suppose in certain ways I’ve drawn from both past experience (although I’ve never woken up to find a dead girl in my bed) and from my observations. And there is certainly no shortage of strange things to observe in Marbella. There are parallels between myself and Richie, but in Losing The Plot – and throughout the RM series – the real conflict comes from the constant battle between Richie’s attempts to overcome his sex addiction, to gain recognition as a writer of non-pornographic fiction, and his simple desire just to be loved; this creates an almost daily struggle between him being the man he is and enjoys being, and the man he knows he should become.

And who was the inspiration? I just loved Californication; the dark humour, the pithy dialogue and of course the characterisations; so without a doubt, a large slice of my inspiration has come from Hank Moody. Take a bow, Tom Kapinos.


What have you learned from Rugby and/or marathons that has helped you be a better writer?


Yeah, I’ve already talked about some of the methodology from Rugby. With both Rugby and endurance running the two most important things are getting started in the first place, and then having the discipline to keep going, no matter how bad you’re playing and how much it hurts. Visualisation and drawing determination from previous success really helps. I set myself short, medium and long-term goals and keep in mind what it will feel like when I cross that finishing line.


If you could have a dinner party with any 10 people living or dead who would you invite and why?

RankName of GuestReason
10David CameronI would like to have the opportunity to punch him for his insane referendum that led to gullible, xenophobic people triggering Brexit. Whoa … controversial.
9Dame Mary PetersWon the gold medal competing for Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the 1972 Olympic women’s pentathlon. Ulster girl and a childhood hero.
8Edward John SmithCaptain of the Titanic. I think his inclusion would go down well.
7Adolf HitlerA despot but a despot with charisma. He had the ability to work a crowd. I would sit him next to Cameron. They deserve each other.
6Margaret ThatcherDitto the above.
5Katy PerryShe can’t sing, her songs are rubbish, but we’re short on eye candy.
4Eric ClaptonWe need music, so let’s have the best. Besides, he’s closely related to my next guest.
3Jesus ChristAnecdotally, Clapton’s son. And we need him to turn the water into wine for my next guest.
2George BestI hate soccer but I loved this guy. The greatest footballer ever to have played the game, and whose legacy as a “legend” isn’t – for once – overstated. He actually could walk on water.
1My fiancé Diplomacy dictates her inclusion and top of the bill ranking. Besides which, she’s cooking dinner.


What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? And what would be your answer?


Hmmm … that’s a good one; there are several. I like questions that provoke discussion and challenge my thinking, so I’m going to go for this one: why did I decide to write Losing The Plot in the first person?

Simple answer: because it’s Richie’s narrative; he is the main protagonist, there is a massive amount of personal information and backstory, and unless I tell his story through his own voice, I would have to rely on a box of tricks that I’d rather not open. And this would mean that his thoughts, emotions and past experiences would need to be conveyed through a narrator’s voice. This would distance the reader from Richie and I’d run the risk of creating something that reads like a history book.

But … there’s always a but – there are two main problems in writing in the first person: the first is that you’re asking your reader to stay inside Richie’s head for the duration, and unless she totally engages and empathises with him, you run the risk of her baling.

Secondly, unless you want to resort to the Bobby Ewing dream scenario – and I certainly didn’t – the reader knows from the get go that Richie survives his ordeal because he has lived to write about it.

There are ways around this of course. Take the brilliant biopic movie American Made. Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) goes on the run from a Columbian drug cartel and keeps moving from motel to motel where each night he records his past escapades on video. The whole film is told through his video narration, and you don’t know whether he survives or not until the very end. Look … no spoilers.

But if I were to write Losing The Plot again, I wouldn’t change anything, particular Richie’s voice.


What advice would you give someone working on their first book?


You probably won’t write a book that you feel comfortable with enough to publish until around your third attempt. But don’t worry about this – none of what you’ve written will be wasted; it’s all part of the learning process … part of your development as a writer, and this will serve you well in the long run.

I completed a novel called Compound 19 – a satirical time-shift narrative about an imaginary event that changed the course of the Irish “Troubles”, around two years ago. It took me six years to write – okay, I wasn’t devoting long hours to it – and so far it’s benefitted from two re-writes but has been mothballed for now. It’s not nearly good enough to put my name to it … yet.

However, I intend to come back to it after publishing my next two novels, give it a further re-write, polish it and publish. It’ll still be topical because unfortunately I don’t think we’ve seen the last of civil strife in my homeland. Particularly given that the current British PM appears to care little for the cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement.

Another piece of advice: write, write and write – never give up. And you must write because you love it, and not for extrinsic reasons. It is unlikely to make you rich, but it will ultimately make you feel better about yourself.

Oh … and one final point: do not over-edit as you write. One other rule I have: I always write sober but I re-read in the evening over a beer or three. This gives me a different perspective. But I don’t pull it all apart as I write – I only do this after I’ve crossed that finish line.


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The Book

Losing The Plot

by Richard Grainger

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

“Let me tell you about my day so far. I’ll begin by telling you about waking up in my Marbella villa to find a dead girl in my bed; about being interrogated by the Spanish police – or hombres purporting to be the Spanish police; about learning that I’m going to have my kneecaps shattered by the former Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA. That is, if he can find me before the godfather of the Andalucian Russian mafia hunts me down. And not only that; it’s not yet ten o’clock and I’ve taken up smoking and have drunk half a bottle of brandy before I’ve even had breakfast.”

Richie Malone is an old-school philanderer, misogynistic playboy and writer with an undeniable charm. Although he has yet to pen anything to attract literary acclaim using his own name, he has made a fortune writing pornographic novels under a female pseudonym. But now his troubles are just beginning. He needs answers, and he needs them fast. Just who is this dead girl? How did she get here? And why his bed? And, of course, did he kill her? Malone finds himself caught in the middle of a turf war between Irish racketeers, the Russian Mafia and a Columbian cartel. And so, he loses the plot. But can he get it back before he loses everything … including his life?

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