Monday, December 22, 2014

Interview with Terry Newman, author of Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf - December 22, 2014

Please welcome Terry Newman to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf was published on December 18th by Harper Voyager.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. You've written for film, TV and radio and more. How does all that influence (or not) your novel writing?

Terry:  Thank you very much for the invitation, Sally. And can I just say that I love what you’ve done with the place. I’ve never seen so many swan feathers in one place.

That’s a very good question and I should probably explain that the only reason I initially pursued writing for radio and stage, then TV and film, was to get some contacts to help find a home for my book. I blush at my naivety, but I sort of assumed all these people lived in the same world – one that was just labelled ‘non-scientists’. Of course, the ‘other writing’ then became more important after I hung up my microscope and this definitely fed back into the novel writing. I’d have to single out radio and TV comedy writing as having the most influence, mostly because this craft teaches you about word economy – make each one count if you can.

TQ:   Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Terry:  I do a lot of scriptwriting and a lot of good scriptwriting is about structure. Maybe it’s my science training but that side of it does really appeal. However, when it comes to book writing, part of the joy is the freedom to be led by your characters, so I enjoy the pantsing side there enormously. I guess I always know where I am going though, which would make me a pretty pantsy plotter.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Terry:  Stopping. Stopping is very tricky. I usually take the bruised fingertips and the bleeding eyes as a hint; otherwise I might overdo it. Actually I can write anywhere, trains, buses, you name it. I always carry a notebook – you have to don’t you? However, my writing is appalling and my typing is poor too. I would never have got anywhere without the Word Processor. Let us praise the Word Processor and the Toshiba Libretto. Before Netbooks this little gem ran Word and was the size of large paperback book. I wrote just about everywhere on my Libretto, especially the N49.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Terry:  Hmm, my favourite things, eh? I feel a song coming on!

Heinlein and Hammett and Chandler and Butcher
Most Douglas Adams and some Arthur Koestler
Lloyd Biggle junior Lord of the Rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Forward and Pratchett and Kerr’s Bernie Gunther
Patricia Highsmith and lyrics by Lerner
Then Robert Holdstock and Easy Rawlings
These are a few of my favourite things

Asimov’s robots and Dalziel and Pascoe
Shardlake and Sam Spade and Umberto Eco
Dragons that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favourite things

When the orc bites
When the blade swings
When I’m bleeding bad
I’m simply remembering my favourite things
And so I don’t feel too bad.

TQ:  Describe Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf in 140 characters or less. 

Terry:  Tolkien meets Chandler in a seedy underworld bar run by a defrocked Wizard.

TQ:  Tell us something about Detective Strongoak that is not in the book description.

Terry:  Nicely makes an excellent 5-egg omelette (it’s the nutmeg). The book is actually a real who-done-it so ‘No Spoilers’ please.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Detective Strongoak?

Terry:  I was broke in Hamburg without a return ticket. It focuses the mind somewhat. (Not as exciting or intriguing as it sounds).

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Detective Strongoak?

Terry:  I read non-stop from the age of five – often when walking. I’m surprised more people don’t walk and read. Not recommended so much if you live in a big city, but anywhere with decent pavements, and not much traffic.

TQ:  In Detective Strongoak who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Terry:  The easiest to write was, of course, Detective Nicely Strongoak as he had been talking to me for so many years. After him all the other characters sort of did what they were told. He has that type of personality.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Detective Strongoak.

Terry:  Special 3 for the price of 2 offer this week on favourite lines:

“The elf was dancing the full length of the surfboard, poised between the wind and water. Despite myself, I couldn’t help but be impressed. If only the whole exercise wasn’t so, well, wet.”

“She stretched like some large cat. She was wearing a dinner dress that was cut by a master. It must have been magic that held it together, because there was little enough material. She filled it to perfection, more curves than a dragon’s tail.”

‘Now goblin, let’s try again: who are you working for?’
‘What’s the magic word?’

TQ:  What's next?

Terry:  There is another ‘Detective Strongoak’ adventure well underway and a very different type of fantasy novel currently with Harper Voyager as well. No dwarfs or elves at all, but equally close to my heart. In a different sphere of endeavour, I am writing ‘the book’ for a musical called ‘Resurrection’ for a brilliant songwriter name of David Alter. He’s got a top show with knockout songs, full of imagination, which I believe will be an absolute winner when we find the right home. Plus, there’s a couple of sit coms written that I’m very excited about – so fingers crossed for an exciting 2015.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Terry:  The pleasure was all mine, thank you for the invitation and the feathers.

Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf
Harper Voyager (UK), December 18, 2014

Private eye Nicely Strongoak is your average detective-for-hire, if your average detective is a dwarf with a Napoleon complex. In a city filled with drug-taking gnomes, goblins packing heat and a serious case of missing-persons, Strongoak might just be what’s needed.

But things are about to turn sour. When on the trail of the vanished surfer, Perry Goodfellow, Nicely receives a sharp blow to the head, is burgled by goblins and awakes in a narcotic-induced haze on the floor of a steamwagon with an extremely deceased elf, who just happens to have Nicely’s axe wedged in his head.

Nicely must enter the murky world of government politics if he is going to crack his toughest case yet. He’ll have to find Perry, uncover who the dead elf is and leave no cobblestone unturned…

About Terry

Terry Newman is a biomedical research scientist who used to spend most of his day in the dark in front of an electron microscope. Then he started writing comedy for the BBC and ended up as full time scriptwriter. Whether this represents a turning to or from the Dark Side is debatable. He has a weakness for linen suits and spotty dogs. He lives at, which is being redecorated.



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