Every week we feature a Q&A session with one of our Crime Cymru authors. This week, Nigel C Williams talks about his writing life and the embarrassing moment that gave birth to his middle initial.
Give us a brief introduction to you.
I’m rapidly approaching my 60th birthday in November and live in Ystradgynlais in the Swansea valley. I was born in Abercrave in the shadow of the Sleeping Giant and spent my innocent formative years exploring the mountains with school friends.
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment/incident? What happened?
I had to add the initial C in my name because I was born into a family where things were hard and my parents couldn’t afford a middle name for me (I chose the initial ‘C’ because it’s my wife’s name – Caroline). I realised I needed the extra initial when I was invited to Coventry Library to talk about my books. When I arrived, I was taken into a room where ‘my books’ were laid out for me. Being the coward I am, I said nothing and hoped the audience wouldn’t realise I didn’t look like the other Nigel Williams (author of The Wimbledon Poisoner) and that they wouldn’t pick up on my Welsh accent (no chance of that happening). Anyway, the librarian was apologetic when no-one turned up for the talk. I rang Arthur to tell him and was drowned by his laughter. I then called my wife and I too began to laugh because I realised they hadn’t turned up for the OTHER Nigel Williams.
How much of yourself is in your stories?
The protagonist in my first solo novel, “Eden Relics,” was perhaps too close to me. He too was a retired police firearms officer with a passion for flying light aircraft. I think I exaggerated his good looks though.
If you were not an author, what would your chosen career be?
As I get older, my outlook on life has changed. I’ve spent all my working life either as a police officer or lecturer. I build guitars in my spare time and love to fly, even though I haven’t done that for a few years now. I think I’ve been very lucky to have achieved most of my ambitions.
If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I am currently finishing a solo supernatural crime thriller called “Dead Legacy,” set in the former gold town of Dolaucothi. That’s been great fun to write and might spawn a series in the future.
What would you say are the secrets to a happy life?
Do everything you always wanted to do, and don’t get to an age where you wish you could but no longer can.
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I sat next to Ed Thomas the poet, writer, and producer of Hinterland. We played rugby together and that was my way of avoiding the honest answer of NO. I often think I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m getting there.
What makes you happy (thing, person, abstract, animal, activity)?
My dog is diabetic and blind but still loves to find his way onto my shoulder – thankfully he’s a Bichon Frise and not a Great Dane.
Do you read other novels while you’re working? If so, what is your preferred genre?
I read every night until I fall asleep and my book or Kindle smacks me in the face. I mostly read crime thrillers or anything with a bit of pace. I cannot read any book that doesn’t grip me on the opening page.
What’s coming up for you this/next year?
Writing the Terry McGuire Crime series with Arthur Cole has been fantastic and, prior to lockdown, we travelled around Wales and England talking about the books. I hope we’ll be able to do that again soon to promote the new releases.
Could you tell us about your writing routine?
I rise early to feed and inject my dog with his insulin, and try and fit an hour or more in before my teaching duties. I have to write at least two hours a day, and often for much longer. If I have a day off, I’ll write between six and eight hours.
How do you keep yourself motivated when your writing doesn’t flow?
That has been rare. Working with my co-writer, Arthur makes it easy. We call each other most days and send chapters via email. If I’m not writing a chapter I’ll be editing.
How many times had you gone over and redrafted your book before sending it out? Betas? Edited?
The McGuire series typically takes half a dozen edits. My solo book, “Dead Legacy” has taken at least a dozen re-writes and as many edits.
Most writers think getting an agent is the golden key to traditional publication. Would you agree?
I think I agree. There are so many agents, and some are better than others. I don’t have an agent. Arthur and I won the publishing deal on sales of the self-published series. My experience of agents is not positive, but I recognise the best of them can make a career for an author.
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people?
I think it’s inevitable that characters are, at least in some part, influenced by those we know. Some of the Terry McGuire series readers have asked to be included in the books. That’s good fun.
If you were encouraged to write/create – who encouraged you and how?
I was encouraged to write by the late playwright Ewart Alexander. He was the geography teacher at Maesydderwen Comprehensive School and I was friends with his son, Steve. Steve went on to be a musician and played drums for Brother Beyond, Duran Duran, Jeff beck and many more. Ewart invited Caroline and I to see Steve play for Duran Duran in Cardiff. We went back stage later and I had no idea that the can of lager I nicked from a crate in the back room was actually part of the band’s rider. Don’t think they were happy.
Why did you pick your genre?
As a former copper, I guess it was something I knew enough about. Thankfully, Arthur is a thirty-year detective sergeant, so he fills the many blanks of anything I don’t know. During my service I saw and did many things that cannot be imagined. The smells, the fear, the sights that often shouldn’t be seen. Whilst I would never directly use the incidents in the books, I certainly call on parts of each to build the picture.
Can you tell us about your work in progress/next book idea?
While the McGuire series is being republished by Wordcatcher – book 5 (Nest of Vipers) should be out soon, Arthur and I have written book 9, and book 10 is more than half finished.
Do you like to reflect a sense of place in your stories? If so, how/where?
A sense of place is very important. Like many authors within Crime Cymru, I always felt Wales was under represented within the crime genre. Now, with Crime Cymru actively promoting Wales and writers in Wales, there’s been a massive shift towards the acceptance of Wales as a genuine and highly intoxicating setting for writers.
Who are your main characters in your book(s): can you tell us something about them?
Terry McGuire is a detective in South Wales Police. We first meet him when he is tasked with investigating allegations of police corruption. Terry is a straight-talking, reliable copper. We tried to avoid the clichéd drunk. Whilst I’ve known a few of those in my time, no senior detective keeps their job if they can’t keep sober. Just doesn’t happen these days.
Which 3 items would your character bring to a desert island … and why?
Terry McGuire would bring his handcuffs – he carries them everywhere. He’d also sneak a bottle of Jameson’s and a photo of his long-suffering wife Molly.
Does your character prefer animals to people?
McGuire has no time for pets, but ever since the sudden death of one of his detectives, he thinks he’s being followed by a robin that appears whenever he thinks of her.
If your character reads crime, which author would he or she choose?
I rather shamefully had Terry read Eden relics in one of the books. Mind you, he did say it was a load of nonsense.
Do they believe in ghosts?
McGuire is a lapsed Catholic and lost his faith after his father’s murder decades ago. Only the robin has begun to challenge his cynicism. However, in Dead Legacy, there’s no way any of the characters can deny the existence of something beyond the grave.
Read more about Nigel C Williams
To discover Nigel’s books, follow the link here to his Amazon page
3rd July 2020