Local author Colin Bateman has written a string of bestselling novels all with a distinctive Northern Ireland flavour. Recently, he’s set up a Secrets of Writing a Bestseller course, with the hope of inspiring a new set of local writers. I caught up with him to ask a few questions about this course, his books, and about how long he thinks he’ll keep writing for…
What made you want to start up this writing course? And are you planning on making it a permanent feature?
I like a challenge! I taught a sixteen week course at South Eastern College in Bangor, almost by accident because they advertised the course but then couldn’t get a lecturer, so I jumped in at the last minute. I enjoyed it but thought 16 weeks was too long, so I’ve come up with this weekend one.
Do you have any writing advice for aspiring authors, aside from joining this course you’re running of course?
The only advice is: write. People who want to be writers go to amazing lengths to not actually write.
Would you say it’s easier to get published now in the social media age (like with the recent 50 Shades of Red, White and Blue), or do you think it’s harder to get noticed?
It’s easier to get published, harder to get noticed.
Do you think the Northern Irish humour translates well to readers further afield?
It depends – my books do because it’s understandable – but a book entirely in say ‘broad Belfast’ is unlikely to travel.
Your new book (The Prisoner of Brenda) is the fourth Mystery Man adventure; can you see The Man With No Name becoming as enduring as your beloved Dan Starkey? And when, if ever, is his name going to be revealed?
This is the last one in the series, so nobody will ever know.
Speaking of Starkey, are there any plans for his return?
I’ve just signed a contract to write two more Starkey books, and I hope to start the first of them in the next few weeks.
Has there ever been any kind of backlash against anything that you’ve written? I remember reading that No Alibis wasn’t best pleased at the beginning but has since come around, as well as the residents of (W)Rathlin Island being slightly non-plussed at their portrayal.
Nope, never had any hassle. I’ve been in No Alibis and Rathlin fairly recently and haven’t yet been lynched.
Do you come up with the witty titles of the Mystery Man books before you come up with the characters/plot? The Day Of the Jack Russell being my favourite thus far.
My books always seem to come with their titles first and the plot after. I had The Day of the Jack Russell as a title in my head for 25 years.
You’ve written books for children as well as your crime fiction; have you ever wanted to write a horror or sci-fi novel, but with a Northern Irish spin? Is there a genre you would like to try your hand at?
I’d like to try my hand at everything. I grew up on science fiction, so wouldn’t mind a crack at that. But like I say, I like a challenge – like ‘Teenage Kicks’, the punk musical I’m about to start writing, based on the songs of The Undertones.
And finally, do you ever see a day where you’ll stop writing, or do you think you’ll always be writing something?
It’s more a case of if anyone wants to keep publishing me! But yeah, I think I’ll always be writing something….