I know it’s a hackneyed old cliché, but I have to admit that writing about stuff you know and have a passion for is incredibly useful.
Take it from me, the idea that any of my central characters would have a passion or influence in their lives that I didn’t have a foggy about is too terrifying to even contemplate. Plus, while you are at it, writing about a subject you are drawn to makes the process way more fun.
So when it came to picking an important influence in the life of my central character, ambitious, young thief Danny Felix, I chose movies.
I love movies.
In fact I’m probably a bit obsessed by them.
Okay, okay I admit it...I’m a Movie Geek.
And so, now, too is Danny Felix. My writing career actually started when I became the film critic for a woman’s glossy magazine in my native Northern Ireland. I was already doing the same thing for BBC Radio Ulster, and as I was being invited to junkets and film events, turning my interviews with actors and directors into written articles seemed like a natural progression.
So Danny loves movies just as much as I do. They play a huge role in his thought processes. For instance, he uses the wisdom of Robert De Niro’s character in Michael Mann’s Heat to help form his own (a) moral code and modus operandi. It also just happens to be one of my all-time favourite films. “Never own anything that you wouldn’t leave behind in heartbeat when the heat comes down.” Danny has a very sparsely appointed flat…
We also share another all time favourite in the shape of Ridley Scott’s classic science fiction noir Blade Runner. This film has quite simply enchanted me since I was 14 years old. The look, the atmosphere, the plot, and the performances… everything about it is just fabulous. I have a habit of deciding not to trust anyone in the creative industries that hasn’t seen it. It’s that important to me. In Standstill, Danny uses it help him ruminate the challenge of the robbery he is about to attempt. For him it’s a meditation…and it is for me too…funny that!
Another film that pops up is The Outlaw Josey Wales but I don’t want to give away how, except to say when I wrote that bit I was trying to be funny (you can be judge of whether I pulled it off or not). Both Westerns and Clint Eastwood have been a huge influence on my creative tastes. I grew up nicking my Dad’s battered old paperback Westerns. I read them as quick as I could, especially as I knew I wasn’t meant to be indulging in such adult fiction. I was 11 years old at the time, and all the bloodshed and loose women in books such as George G. Gilman’s Edge series were just irresistible to me. It amazed me how the cover illustrations looked a bit like Eastwood in the Spaghetti Westerns…how did they get away with such a cheap gimmick?
And then of course there’s Dirty Harry… how could any self respecting crime writer not love the maverick cop who spawned millions of copycat characters?
So is it cheating that I partially filled my book with stuff about the films I love? I think not. I wrote them in to help explain who Danny Felix is and how his mind works. Also films can act as a shorthand for the reader. I’m not highlighting Swedish Art house films from the 1960’s. I reference movies that, as a crime fiction fan, you will probably have seen or at least be aware of, and there is enjoyment to be had in discovering how a writer, and in turn his characters, interpret those movies.
Plus I was only fulfilling the cliché…write what you know.
Standstill by J.A. Marley is published 15th September by Avocado Books, price £6.99 in paperback original. Pre-order Standstill in eBook now, for just £1.99.
More information about the author can be found on his website. You can also follow him on Twitter @jamarleybooks.