Each week, we invite our Crime Cymru authors to tell us a bit about themselves and their writing. This week, Jake Ridge describes how, after twenty years of writing children’s fiction, he took on the new challenge of writing adult crime.
My transition from children’s fiction to adult crime
I’ve been writing for over twenty years and most of that time has been spent creating short stories and novels for children to teen under my real name of Colin R Parsons. I did originally start off by writing romantic stories for magazines, which I totally wasn’t ready for and got rejected by all of them. I learned my craft and found I enjoyed writing fantasy adventures in the children’s genres. But what I found surprising was the fact that my work was being read, not just by children, but also by adults too.
So, I continued on that route and it was very successful. The books were selling well and that’s a rarity these days. It took fifteen years before I got the yearning again to write something for an older audience. Well, what really happened was that I wrote a supernatural book for children called “GHOSTED” which was set around a cool protagonist called Killian Spooks. A friend of mine who was into the ‘Urban Fantasy’ genre said that Spooks would make a great character in an adult series. I was intrigued and now I had a vehicle to work with. That, I must say was a strange transition, but very fulfilling. Being constricted in the structure of the plot when writing for children – I now found that I could “let myself go” and write anything I liked. No longer were there any worries about the content. I could include graphic, violence, swearing and even sex scenes. I didn’t want my young audience getting hold of my adult crime fiction so I picked a pseudonym – Jake Ridge.
It may sound silly, but writing dialogue with the ‘F’ word felt kind of wicked, like passing around a dirty joke on a piece of paper in a class in primary school. Then, moving the violence up a level into bone-cracking and adding gory, blood scenes were may I say enjoyable. I could also add more than romance and get into the nitty-gritty of the sexual relationships between the main characters. Things really started to flow as regards to plots and background. And because this new direction was working so well, I knew there were going to be more books and it would turn out to be a series. I honestly didn’t know what ‘legs’ my writing would have to continue into more adventures. But, with a fictitious town called Windy Vale, the other parts began to fall into place. I was now familiar with the surroundings and it felt more comfortable to add different characters and places.
Writing for adults can bring up many things I would never have thought about when writing for children. So, the character Killian Spooks became – the Killian Spooks Mysteries. He turned from just a supernatural being to a sorcerer – a wizard detective. The background became more elaborate and as you have to believe in yourself as a writer – the town became real in my mind.
The next step was to see if my publisher had the same vision as me. I’d already written four books with them in the children’s genre, but would they take on my adult stuff too? They are a diverse publishing house and when I said I was writing an adult series under a pseudonym… I crossed my fingers and sent off the first manuscript. Suffice to say they liked it and replied by asking if I would be interested in a publishing contract. Since then I’ve sent a second and third and the contracts are signed for all of them. That in itself is amazing as I realise that a lot of authors struggle to get publishing deals in any climate. I count myself lucky because I know how difficult it is to get noticed and have your work put into a book.
It has been tricky going since the Covid-19 thing hit us all at the beginning of twenty-twenty and the publishing process has slowed down for a lot of authors. But I have found that I became a writing fanatic in lockdown and produced a lot of work. The first proof of the fourth book in the series is almost written but I haven’t stopped writing for children. In the meantime, besides the adult series I have penned short stories for children and I have a few more ideas on the back-burner.