Interview with Sunday Times bestseller Daniel Cole

Copyright Ellis Parinder

Copyright Ellis Parinder

I am thrilled to be able to interview Daniel Cole – author of the amazing debut novel RAGDOLL for my newsletter and blog. I absolutely LOVED this book and raved about it in an earlier post. Daniel and I are going to be speaking at a number of locations in the North West of England later this month, so check out the EVENTS post for more details.

What is the most important element of fiction to you, as a reader – plot, character, location?

It’s all about characters whichever medium you’re working in.

Not a very high-brow example but quite relevant to me as writer/director Joss Whedon is one of my heroes:

The second Avengers movie was enormous. It probably cost a gazillion dollars to make. An evil robot tries to blow up the world by dropping an eastern-European city on it from a great height… and yet, the best part of that three-hour film, by far, was the scene at the party where the characters just sit around getting drunk together.

…There’s a lesson in that somewhere.

Of course, if you can get everything (plot, characters, and location) all working together in perfect balance, you’re onto a winner.

On the subject of plot, where do you get your ideas from?

I wish I knew. I always begin with just an intriguing beginning and a shocking ending and start filling in the gaps from there. I tend to be able to vividly imagine the book playing out like a movie in my head. When an exciting set piece comes to me, I’ll tend to make a rough guess as to where it should fit into the plot so that I have something to aim for, and then I’ll continue building up the story around it.

Are your characters based on people who you know or have met?

Only Baxter really, who was originally based on my little sister, Melody. She is absolutely hilarious, can be a bit moody at times, makes constant social faux pas, and outright refuses to suffer the fools that the rest of us must – she’s also completely adored by the handful of people lucky enough to really know her.

Is there one location that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, or that fills you with happiness?

I don’t think there was one particular location that stood out above the others when writing Ragdoll, rather it was the idea of London as a whole. Ragdoll is such a larger than life story, while retaining its quintessential British-ness, so I felt that I had to set it on the largest stage that Britain had to offer. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in London over the past year, yet I still get that buzz every time I cross the river, attempting to avoid photo-bombing tourists’ selfies or getting swept up in a sea of matching rucksacks.

Do you need any fixes when you’re writing? My editing fix is definitely chocolate biscuits!

It really varies on my mood but music is probably the most recurrent fix to aid the writing process. Music is my main passion in life, and I have an incredibly eclectic taste – so some days I’ll write to classical music, some days embarrassing pop songs, and others it’ll be the screamiest bands imaginable.

What is your writing environment like, or can you write anywhere?

I only ever write in two places, and I’m not one of these people who can just pick up their laptop on the train for half an hour and carry on from where they left off. I either write relaxing in the sunshine down at the beach or at home all through the night. That latter bad habit came from my years of shift work and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake it now.

What’s the best thing about being a writer? And the worst?

As cheesy as it sounds – the best thing about being a writer, and more specifically about Ragdoll being a success, is having a reason to carry on writing. I’ve finished a second draft of book 2 and I really do love it. It feels a very natural continuation to the first that only enhances the story. I never would have written book 2 had Ragdoll not received the support that it has.

The worst part about being a writer is editing. I loathe editing.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Don’t do an HND in Audio & Visual Technology – You know it’s just a dressed-up name for Media Studies! There are about ten people in the whole country working in recording studios, and you’re not ever going to be one of them – You’ve got a better shot at being a writer.

What, or who, is your biggest inspiration?

I am far more influenced by film and television than anything else, which is why I think Ragdoll came out so cinematic in both scale and pacing. Both True Detective and Se7en certainly influenced the book but screenwriters like Joss Whedon and Shane Black taught me how to handle an ensemble cast, inject humour at every possible opportunity, and make even the smallest characters memorable in some way.

Do you read any other genre outside crime and thriller?

I am in no way loyal to the crime genre. I really enjoy some historical fiction such as Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom books and Conn Iggulden’s Conqueror series. I love some of the Ken Follett wartime/spy books, and I adore a good magical realism story, all the better if it’s by either Ali Shaw or Jess Kidd.