Sources of Inspiration -Phil Rowlands

This week multi-talented Crime Cymru member Phil Rowlands gives us several examples of things which have provided him with the inspiration for his work

I get a lot of inspiration from real life, through newspapers, passed on secrets or passionate and moving words and the sparks and shadows of memories of other people’s incredible truths. My novel, TimeSlip, is set in the present and the past. The contemporary story came from something that happened to me over thirty years ago on a stormy walk across a rugged cove. But the parallel story, set in 1943, came from a plaque I saw on a beach about the death of a policeman at the hands of a German spy in the last year of the fighting. It was near Redcar I think but when I tried to find it again it had disappeared, so I started to research online the life of a policeman during the years of WW2 in and around the North Yorkshire coast. What were the reasons a relatively young man was not called up to fight, what were the pressures on life and family of day-to-day policing and how hard and life threatening were the battles with the black-market villains who found profit in the misery of war? Two stories set in very different times but each with a shocking and sudden twist at its heart.

If I could connect the two threads and the timelines of these worlds, then I had a story. And I did!

 Another time, on a long train journey, one newspaper report led me on a wild and deep exploration into another little-known place and time. It was about Iraq and, at its core, was the true story of two Muslim men, former Iraqi army colleagues, who end up on either side of the religious and ideological divide. In the face of bloody retribution and imminent death their lives are once again inextricably linked by a redemptive act of mercy.

It was shocking and moving and one of those deep truths that sit in the belly of the violence and compassion of war. After a long search, many phone calls and passed on messages, I met the journalist who had written the story and was given permission to develop a screenplay. It led me into a world where, even as the bombs were destroying the beauty of the great city of Baghdad, poets in a rubble strewn square recited their poetry and, with their books banned, their works were sown into the linings of coats and jackets to be passed around, read, and devoured by their fellow writers and readers.

Eventually, after trawling through many photo sites, I found a photograph of Tahrir Square, where the charred remain of books blistered and burned at the feet of those and their forbidden words and it gave me my title. ‘Burning Words’

The film almost happened but it still sits in a development solitude awaiting a time when it might be possible to tell the story. But perhaps, first, I will write it as a novel. A crime story that crosses the boundaries of the genre.

I also get inspiration from the words and stories of authors who have thrilled and amazed me with their skill at drawing me into their fictional worlds. Two I’m reading now, are Val McDermid’s ‘1989’ and Gerald Seymour’s ‘In at the Kill’. Different genres of crime but class acts of storytelling.

“Ian Chambers is in trouble and under pressure, guilt ridden and struggling to complete the first draft of his novel.

On a stormy night on a Yorkshire beach, he experiences something so terrifying that he questions his sanity.

In a desperate search for a rational explanation, he risks losing not only reality as he knows it… but his very existence.”

Phil is an author, screenwriter and producer.

His work has encompassed civil engineering, catering, acting, Moomins adapting, TV and film scripting, rap writing and animation. Originally from Pembrokeshire, he now lives near Cardiff. His first novel Siena was published in 2017.

A revised edition of Siena and his second novel Single Cell have just been published by Diamond Crime, an imprint of new Indie publisher Diamond Books. His third, Timeslip, is now available.

You can read more about Phil and his work here and here.

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