Kerry Donovan is the author of a number of British police procedural crime books, and you can see what I have to say about THE DCI JONES CASEBOOK: RAYMOND FRANCIS COLLINS here, and DCI JONES CASEBOOK: ELLIS FLYNN here.
Then he goes and hits us with something entirely different, THE TRANSITION OF JOHNNY SWIFT, and I talk all about that book here. So I figured, hey! What’s up with that? And I decided to ask him.
Marti: You usually write crime fiction, right? The formidable DCI Jones. Gee, I liked those books. But now you have come out with a ummm paranormal sci fi psychological thriller. Let’s see, can I get any more genres into that description? No, I think that about does it. What makes an apparently normal-seeming author of traditional police procedural mysteries suddenly go off the deep end into paranormal sci fi? Let me reword that: Are you
nutz now going in a different and new direction?
Kerry Donovan: Firstly, thanks very much for your support for my mate, DCI Jones. He’s a particular favorite of mine. Secondly, to allay your fears, I haven’t stopped writing the Jones Casebooks. In fact, I currently have three on the go and the next one (a prequel to Raymond Francis Collins), should be ready for publication by Christmas 2014.
And as for Johnny Swift, it’s a paranormal, sci-fi, psychological thriller, with a strong romance thread if you don’t mind—mustn’t undersell it, eh? To be honest, fitting the novel into the correct genre is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of the whole publications process. I can’t sell it as a true sci-fi because there aren’t enough gizmos. Nor is it a true paranormal, as there are no ghosts, ghouls, vampires, or werewolves. I made a rod for my own back when writing this novel, eh?
I’m glad you wrote ‘apparently normal-seeming’. No one who knows me would ever accuse me of being ‘normal’. Nuts, yes. Larger-than-life, yes, but normal? Absolutely not. But you’re right, changing genres might seem a daft thing to do.
Marti: I am totally fascinated by sci if and the paranormal. All the time you were writing about DCI whoosieface, was this story about Johnny Swift stirring around in your brain? Or did it just come to you out of the blue?
Kerry: More like out of the ‘yellow’, tee hee. Sorry about that, you’ll have to see the book cover to make sense of that comment. Briefly, the colour yellow features throughout the novel and starts with it being Franks racing color, but it’s much more besides.
The novel stemmed from the title, which is hardly the normal way of doing things. I was hanging on the phone line waiting for my bank to answer. You know the type of thing, hideous electronic music interspersed with a recorded human voice telling me my call was important to them, blah-de-blah. Anyway, after hanging on for hours, I started doodling on a piece of paper.
After I finished the call, I read the jotted words. Among all the scribbles and swear words and notes about how to rob the bank, I found the words Transition and Johnny Swift jotted in the corner. It struck me as an intriguing title for a book and left me asking the obvious questions, who is Johnny Swift and from what did he transition? I had to write an explanation. It started as a short story and grew into a full-blown novel.
It wasn’t easy though. To me, the name, Johnny Swift, sounded like one of those flashy motorcycle stunt riders from the 1970s. I couldn’t see myself writing a novel with my lead character having that name, so I came up with something a little more reasonable. I called him, ‘Fiery’ Frank Brazier.
When we first meet Frank, the adopted some of a racecar designer, his life is damned near perfect. He has a great job, great future, great family, and a gorgeous girlfriend. But he’s also a thoroughly nice guy. Too good to be true, right? Right. I had to put Frank through the wringer, and I think I pulled that one off.
So where does Johnny Swift come into it? Well, that would be telling. We don’t actually ‘meet’ Johnny until half-way through the book. To find out how I square that particular circle, readers will have to buy the book.
Marti: Have you always been a sci fi/paranormal fan?
Kerry: I’ve always been a sci-fi fan, but I’m much more a fan of character-based sci-fi than the high-tech ‘Star Wars’ gizmo-fests that you see in the traditions of the genre. Star Trek is much more to my liking and the characters are as important as the technology.
One of my favourite sci-fi movies is the low-budget Enemy Mine (1985). Starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. I highly recommend it as a fascinating character study, shines a light on the racial divide. Excellent.
In Transition, I wanted to write a story where the reader wasn’t certain what was going on, but was absolutely full-square behind the central characters, in this case, Frank Brazier and his girlfriend the delectable and steadfast Jenny Barratt.
Marti: Have you ever seen a UFO? Ever been abducted by aliens? OK, never mind that last one. But have you ever seen a UFO? You live in France, right? Out in the country?. I would think that those would be good conditions for UFO viewing.
Kerry: Never seen a UFO, but aliens abduct me every second Thursday of the month, except on a leap year..
You’re dead right. I live in the middle of Brittany, miles away from the nearest major conurbation and the stars-capes we get here are to die for. On a clear night, I can see the international space station, which is completely awe-inspiring. I’d love to go into space—without being abducted by aliens though, you understand.
Marti: Have you ever seen a ghost? I ask these questions because I want to know what kind of experiences an author has or doesn’t have which would contribute to the creation of a work like Transition.
Kerry: I’ve never seen a ghost, but Shadow-man is one of my closest friends, Shadow-man and David Jones, of course. Shadow-man is not a ghost, he’s real. Or at least he tells me he’s real.
To be serious for a moment, [oh, must we?] while writing The Transition of Johnny Swift, I kept these questions in mind at all times.
If faced with Frank’s situation, what would I do?
Does this make sense?
Do I care what happens to these characters?
Can I finish this paragraph before I need to go to the toilet?
Marti: In Real Life, are you the kind of guy who plays by the rules, like DCI Jones, or do you have a secret life where you are in contact with shall we say beings of a different kind?
Kerry: Ha! Fantastic question.
I don’t really know how to answer that without landing myself in real trouble. I am honest to a fault, kind to children and animals, and a wonderful father and grandfather. I never tell lies and all my writing is non-fiction.
In the past, I have heard strange voices, but I’m cured now, apparently. At least according to my counselor, but what does she know?
Marti: For you, where does make believe — fantasy — stop and reality begin?
Kerry: I’m a writer. Fantasy never stops. The moment the fantasy stops, I’ll stop writing.
Marti: You have a lot of interesting characters in your books. Do you like them? Are any of them boring for you? Have you come to dislike any of them? Do you sometimes forget they are not exactly real?
Kerry: Thank you. The short answers are: mostly, nope, yes, and yes.
To flesh that out a little, I love my heroes (flaws and all), and hate my villains, but I do understand the way they tick.
The moment I find a character boring, I dump him or her. After all, if I’m finding them boring as a writer, there’s a real danger that the reader will find them boring too. That isn’t to say that some of the situations I put them in have to be blow-by-blow exciting. There have to be moments of relaxation and normality.
One of the joys of being a writer is that I am in control. I can get rid of any character I like, even if I have to kill them off to do so. I can do what I want to whomever I want. It’s a real power trip. And then my wife tells me to take out the rubbish, which brings me right back to the real world. Life.
Marti: These characters — did you create them out of whole cloth, or did they come to you already formed, sui generis, as it were?
Kerry: As in real life, my characters start off as strangers that I grow to know as the story progresses.
I think of them as hollow, naked figures at first, waiting for me to clothe them in the traits of character. The first thing I do is visualize them as physical beings. I have a naked model onto which I hang the clothing of character, and I add all the usual baggage of humanity; history, likes, hates, fears, ticks, foibles, etc.
Marti: Why do you write?
Kerry: Because I’m a dreamer and not good enough to play professional football, or clever enough to become an astronaut. And to pass the time. It’s a sometimes lonely life, but I have a great time with my creations.
Marti: You are British, right? An ex-pat? Is there any British food you can’t get in France and that you miss? And how good is your French?
Kerry: Nope, I’m Irish and very proud of that fact. However, I did spend most of the first fifty years of my life in the UK. And yes, I live in France in a stone and cob cottage my wife and I renovated between 2004 and 2008. The only thing we can’t get here is proper loose leaf tea. We don’t like teabags—all you can taste is the paper. Fortunately, neighbors of ours spend every other month in England. They bring us the required provisions. Wonderful people. Apart from the tea, we want for nothing.
And I speak French like a native—of Ireland.
Well, Gentle Readers, that about does it. You can find out more at his website, http://kerryjdonovan.com/. If you go to Amazon and type in his name in the search window, you will get a list of all of his works, so if you are partial to mysteries, you will be happy. If you like sci fi/paranormal, you will be happy. On the other hand, just between us? I am not sure I fully trust a sci fi author who has NOT been abducted by aliens. Just something to keep in mind.