Meet author Ian Wingrove

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Ian began writing a few years ago and self-published his debut novel, Dead Pool in 2015. The mystery, thriller series is set in a dystopian England in the near future and features private detective Tom Barlow.

The second in the series, Feel.it, came out in March and Ian is looking forward to the prospect of editing and publishing the next two novels in the series.

Born in London, he currently resides in Norwich and enjoys life with an extensive family.

Let’s get to know Ian. 

What’s the first book that made you cry?

 I didn’t learn to read until I was nine, but by age eleven, I was onto Lord of the Rings. It was the moment I realised I was a sucker for tragic romance; when the immortal, Elrond, tells his daughter Arwen about the terrible fate that awaits her if she marries the heroic, but mortal, Aragon. She will have glorious days of love, children and great grand children, but ultimately she will outlast them all and they will become a distant memory as she fades into the shadows. His bleak description of her long years of loneliness and despair is incredibly powerful. She knows he is right and it will be a horrible eternity, but she goes ahead regardless because the love and the joy of children are worth it – however brief it seems to her father.

My favourite film is Cyrano de Bergerac (with Depardieu), which is the greatest tragic romance I’ve come across.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’ve been around writers my entire adult life because of my brother, David Wingrove, who is a science fiction author. A lot of my early reading material was influenced by him. When I hit fifty and decided to start writing, he gave me invaluable feedback on the early drafts of my first two books.

I have my own local writers group in Norwich and we are always reading out chapters of our work and giving each other feedback. I think that kind of direct communication with a group of writers is essential, but you have to work at building the trust and being prepared to engage in a positive way. What I haven’t yet established is a large network of beta readers who will look at the whole book and whether it works. I think my books could have benefited a lot from that kind of feedback.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There is a huge back story that I have planned for my main character, Tom Barlow, and the first two books are littered with clues, but no one has picked up on it yet. The third book will start to open up Tom’s story a lot more and in the fourth book, his personal history emerges, which is expansive and strange. That is what worries me. I have written a couple of thrillers which are set in the near future, but the people are relatively straightforward. Do I want to take the reader into a very different world, which has been going on silently behind the scenes in the first two books? It’s a risk.

What was your hardest scene to write?

All the sex scenes. Thankfully, there are none in Dead Poor, but Feel.it is a ‘will they, won’t they’ love story.

I could have skipped over the sex, but one of the main characters, Roxanne, is on a journey of discovery. She can’t feel pain because of a teenage trauma involving her mother’s suicide. That makes her the mega star ‘Queen of Pain’ in the futuristic game show called The Tournament. However, she wants to leave both the game and the stardom behind her, so that she can be herself again – so she can feel again. It is the central theme of her story. A big part of that emotional and physical reconnection is with her own body and for a young woman, sex is inevitably wrapped up with that kind of journey.

I won’t be writing sex scenes again if I can help it. Everyone assures me that they turned out okay and they won’t be winning any bad sex awards, but they took weeks of editing to make them raunchy and intimate, without them being pornographic. I suspect that some readers will find them too much, others will simply enjoy.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Nothing, because the characters are more than imitations by the time they find their place in the story. Some of the characters are based on people I haven’t seen for thirty years and I doubt that anyone would recognise themselves in the story. Except one I used to play football with, postie Paul from Donnie (Doncaster), but I told him.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

It is a detective series and I have drafted four of them. The first two actually cover the same 18 day period, with both books including several of the same main characters. Tom Barlow will walk out of a door in one book and walk into a room in the other book. As with the sex scenes, I won’t write anything like that again.

There are even a couple more thrillers that I have sketched out, ready to be written. What worries me is that I can’t think of anything different to write at the moment. I did a short story for an anthology my writers group are pulling together and it ended up being about the crazy 13th birthday party of the sociopathic Alexandria, one of the other main character in my books. I’ve realised that for me the characters come first and then the story happens. I would have to ‘invent’ a new central character, in order to write a different kind of book.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

This is going to sound silly because this book has a Goodreads rating from over 53,500 people and nearly 3,000 actual reviews, but it deserves more. Ursula LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed” is one of the greatest books of the 20th Century. The reason it isn’t rated as highly as some mainstream literature is simply because it is labeled science fiction. People pre-judge and turn away. The Dispossessed has many layers, it’s a great love story and the pages are packed with humanity. I read it eight times before I was thirty. Even the structure of the book reflects the theme of the book, which is about the nature of time and space. It is brilliant. Please give it a go.

How long to write a book?

My problem is finding the time to write (and to promote the finished product) while earning a living, looking after the kids and sharing good times with family and friends. The first two books were mostly written between 5am and 6am, over a three year period. I would think about plot, sections of dialogue and settings, while I cycled to and from work. I would then spend five minutes writing notes on my phone when I arrived and those hastily mis-typed lines would be my starting point (along with coffee) the following morning at 5am.

If you read Feel.it, you will notice that Roxanne, the heroine of the book, also cycles a lot, as it represents freedom and her own head space. This is not a coincidence.

 Catch up with Ian on social media:

Ian Wingrove’s blog

Get the books: Amazon

FeelIt (Medium)

Dead Poor 110915 (Medium)

Do you prefer bent, straight or blended?

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of an author round table on International Thriller Writer’s on air forum—Author’s on the Air ( blog talk radio ), talking about next steps in a debut author’s path. It was an interview of four other thriller writers for an hour long sharing of personal journeys.

With fellow debut authors, Matt Brolly, R. K. Jackson, H.A. Raynes, and Brendan Rielly as guests, I was among impressive company. I’ve since scoped out their books and have added all of these debut novels have to my TBR list.

What an opportunity it was to share our books with thriller readers. It was interesting to hear about the varied experiences on writing, publishing, and what comes next for a new author. There were some similarities among the group but as I listened to each writer talk, it was obvious my novel was slightly different from the straight thrillers featured. The line that kept running through my head was, one of these things is not like the others.

My debut, STILL LIFE, is listed as a romantic suspense novel. As a mixed genre with offbeat comedic wit among the pure thrill reads it seemed like a rose among more ominous corpse flowers. The comparison brought me back to an interview I’d heard about a month before where the author of a dark romantic suspense project had a difficult time selling her project to a publisher because of the genre blended concept.

Fast forward a few months and I have come to learn that it is challenging to market a genre-blended or genre-bent project. It neither fits neatly into the romance nor thriller categories and some readers have a problem with that. I consider my book a suspense mystery with a story thread that is romantic. I call it my kitchen sink book because it has a little something for everyone.

This blending of genres is challenging for some purists. They just can’t get past the mix. I’ve had readers think I missed the mark of writing a good romance, while still others don’t understand the quirky humor of my characters, strange plot twists or the need for graphic violence and profanity. Some have complimented my ability to nail a deep POV, while another opined my failure to flesh out a fully romantic character.

All of this has me shaking my head and wondering, can a novel with a hybrid storyline find a solid foothold in the book market? Me personally, I’m not opposed to reading romance novels, they’re just not the first books I turn to. My tastes run along a darker bent. I am first a fan of thriller and mystery fiction with page-turning suspense and influences from writers such as Blake Crouch, James Patterson, Stephen King, and Jeffery Deaver. However, I’m also a fan of Tami Hoag, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Lisa Jackson. As such, it’s understandable that my writing may reflect some of the traits of both genres. I think that’s okay and based on these reviews of STILL LIFE I’m not alone:

“The last 10% of this novel is wicked intense, as our heroine runs for her life from a psychotic killer.” “But it was also surprisingly funny, sweet, and sexy as hell. Everything builds towards a suspenseful climax which will keep you on the edge of your seat.” ~ROMANCE4THEBEACH

 “The first title in the “Randi Lassiter” murder mystery series paints a grisly picture of a deranged serial killer and the grotesque capabilities of a twisted mind. But romance readers don’t despair! Sparks fly between the jilted Randi and her hunky detective, and not even gruesome murder scenes can stop this pair from igniting.” ~Library Journal

According to Writer’s Digest genre-blended books have been around for a while now and can be successful when done right. Marketing and sales may be a challenge for the publisher trying to slot and sell your book, but the bigger issue is meeting audience expectation. Readers take great comfort in knowing that their latest book isn’t going to surprise them too much or leave them disappointed.

It’s important that the base genre be at the forefront or that the blended genres are equally balanced, with crossed lines nearly invisible so that fans are not distracted from the story.

Entertaining readers and meeting their expectations is the same. Romance fans want to be swept up in a steamy relationship, mystery fans want to try to solve the whodunit along the way, and genre fans in general want standard outcomes to still be met by the end of the book. Added elements or crossover should enrich the storyline, not throw it out of balance.

Again, I ask, can genre-blended fiction find a foothold in the book market?

Absolutely!

It may be a challenge to find the right placement and there will always be readers who prefer their fiction to run to the traditional only and that’s fine. But let’s embrace those adventurous souls who want to mix it up and have a little fun. In fact, check out the unique favorites Lincoln Michel chose to talk about in Publisher’s Weekly last November (  10 Best Genre-Bending Books ). Now there’s some bent genre reads to add to my TBR list.

Keep reading. And for goodness sake…try something new!