BRIT GRIT, Col Bury, short sharp interviews

Crime writer and Thrillers Killers n Chillers editor Col Bury is a Manchester City supporter, so he knows all about the harsh side of life. However, he recently signed with New York agent Nat Sobel -Richard Russo, Hilary Davidson, James Ellroy– and is on the up and up. We had a natter.
PDB- Is Manchester a good place to be a crime writer?

My home town is very diverse, and not just culturally. It’s not quite, “One wrong turn ‘n’ yer dead,” – although this has happened! – but you can be traveling through plush parts, then suddenly enter the more intimidating suburbs. This is where you lock your car doors!

Like many big cities, it has its fair share of undesirables, so crime is all around you, unfortunately. But this is a national problem, not just Manchester. So, yes, you have to become streetwise, and, yes, it is useful for a crime writer’s understanding of real crime. Perhaps I’m giving Madchester, sorry, Manchester, a bad press here, and the crime is actually spread much thinner than I’ve suggested. In actual fact, it’s a wonderful place to live. Very vibrant, trendy and full of great northern banter, especially when it comes to football.

It’s been described by the press as… the ‘gun capital of the north’… (but things have improved dramatically after a big sting by the cops)… ‘Madchester’, regarding the historical tit-for-tat gang shootings, as well as the top music scene… Oasis, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, James, Take That (!), etc.

But, to be honest, I can’t see myself living anywhere else. I love it, innit!

PDB- How did Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers come about?

A mutual friend told me about Matt Hilton’s success and, knowing I was intrigued, he phoned Matt and put us in touch early in 2008. He basically called Matt ‘n’ thrust the phone in my hand! Anyway, we hit it off and became good friends via near-daily emails, and the odd call, before we finally met up in Lancaster (half-way between Manchester and Carlisle) for a bite to eat and a non-stop chat about writing and life. I’ve said it before, but Matt’s unflinching support has been a godsend to me.

Matt tried for years to get published and appreciates how difficult it is (was). So, he started TKnC in January 2009 to help new writers showcase their talent and get constructive feedback. Initially, there were only a few contributors, me included. I was like a dog with two dicks, eagerly sending him story after story, knowing somebody (apart from me mum) would be reading my stuff. For the first couple of months it didn’t really take off, but was still great fun.

Unexpectedly, in March 2009 Matt kindly asked me to assist and I literally bit his hand off. A risky thing to do, considering he’s a black belt. 🙂 Me… an editor? A little later, I recall Matt and I were debating the merits of accepting a certain submission and he made me laugh, saying, ‘Col, we’re becoming editors …aaarrgh!!!’ We’re so proud of how it’s taken off, though most of the credit should go to Matt for his foresight in creating the site: it’s his brainchild.

However, what definitely helped speed things up was letting my Writers News Talkback friends know of TKnC’s existence. I’d say about twenty, or so, now have stories on the site, and for many, like me, it was their first taste of publication.  And I know for a fact that loads more of them are readers.  I believe this gave TKnC a welcome boost, before word spread within the blogosphere.

TKnC has won awards, grown in popularity, and Matt’s revamped the layout. And now we have ‘horror dude’ Lee Hughes on board, so things are looking damn good.

PDB- What is Writers Talkback and how did you get involved?

A few years ago – before entering the blogosphere – I’d been considering joining a writers’ circle to spur me on in this lonely business we’re in. I’d only ever been in one before, but that was just a writers’ ‘line’, not a ‘circle’ – ie, just me ‘n’ fellow scribe David Barber. Because of shifts, the kids, football ‘n’ pool commitments, I knew I couldn’t get to a certain place every week to attend one, so, being a long-time subscriber to Writers’ News, I started lurking on WN Talkback forum.

I soon found they were an extremely helpful bunch, with some experienced writers amongst them. I noticed ‘newbies’ being welcomed with open arms, and getting answers to all their questions. So I decided to take the plunge and actually introduced myself in 2007.

I can safely say, I have some friends for life over on TB. That’s where I met the likes of cool horror writers, Lee Hughes ‘n’ Lily Childs, for example. I began entering their monthly One Word Challenge, whereby the previous months winner picks a word for everyone to write a piece in 200 words. Incredibly, to me, I’ve actually won a few, including the poetry one month! (I must have been the only one who entered).

Without the support of my fellow ‘Talkbackers’, I doubt very much I’d have progressed to the stage I’m at today.

PDB- You’ve just signed to a top New York agent. How cool is that?

Cooler than the epicenter of an iceberg, bud! Nat Sobel is a powerhouse in the industry and he literally squeezed my novel out of me over a nine month period. Nonetheless, I know these are tough times for the wannabe novelist. I’m hopeful, but don’t wanna tempt fate… you can read more about this here:

PDB-  Give us the SP on your novel?

The SP? About £1.99 🙂

The working title has changed from ‘The Hoodie Hunter’, to ‘Vengeful Pursuit’, to ‘Operation Predator’, and is presently, ‘STRIKER’.

Detective Inspector Jack Striker has a shady past that haunts him throughout the novel. When he teams up with un-PC, DC Eric Bardsley and pretty rookie DC Lauren Collinge, in Manchester’s Murder Investigation Team, their first case seems to be a gang fight that got out of hand. But, when the ‘hoodies’ are being executed daily, Striker realises there’s much more to the killings than the gang warfare Manchester cops have become accustomed to. Two so-called colleagues have it in for Striker, and begin to snoop into his past. He also has to dig deep into his past, himself, to find the answers as to why the ‘hoodies’ are being slayed. And in a frenetic finale… lots more exciting, twisty stuff happens!

Jeez, that’s the first time I’ve done that about my novel, but I don’t wanna give too much away.

I’d say, it’s a gritty, fast-paced, whodunnit-procedural-cum-crime thriller, sprinkled with dark wit.  A mix of all the things I love reading.

From the few people who have read it to date (two agents, two authors ‘n’ a detective), two words seem prominent: ‘Compelling’ and ‘Gripping’. I just hope the publishers think the same. I must confess, I’m shitting me-self in case things go tits up. (Translation for literary types: Col is somewhat apprehensive at the distinct possibility, especially in the current economic climate, of not finding a purchaser for the said novel.)

PDB- Could you describe a typical writing session?

Very random, mate. I get home from work, usually tired, thinking, ‘Right. Tonight I’m gonna blast the keyboard.’  Then Mandy tells me my lad’s got footy (soccer) practice, or my daughter needs a lift to dancing, or something, so the writing sess’ is deferred. I’ve found that late night sessions are my most productive, as I’ve always been a bit of an owl (this also helps to spot lurking backstabbers – no? okay). However, when you’re up at 6.00 for work, it doesn’t do much for the old baggy-eyes.

I REALLY value my days off, when the kids are at school. I’ll browse the blogopshere to see what my writing buds are up to, then discipline has to kick in, and I write. I’ve sacrificed a lot at the expense of writing, including sleep. But I do ensure there’s quality time with the family too.  When I’m not at work, it’s not uncommon for me to write non-stop all night, because I hit a rhythm that I may not get chance of replicating for a while.

PDB- What’s next?

Nat Sobel is obviously trying to sell my novel, so much depends on that. I wrote it kinda ‘blind’ (without an outline), but now Nat already has my outline for the sequel, which I’m currently working on. I have a solid idea for a third too, which I can’t wait to write, and embryonic ideas for several more. So fingers crossed, eh?

Obviously, I’ll still rattle off the odd short story, whenever an idea pecks my head enough, plus I’ll continue co-editing TKnC with pleasure, as that is truly an honour to be a part of.

May I take this opportunity to thank all my friends throughout the blogosphere, as I simply wouldn’t have got to this stage without you.

Thanks Col.
Col Bury also has a story in the anthology  EVEN MORE TONTO SHORT STORIES, which you can buy HERE
Col Bury‘s blog is here
Thrillers Killers N Chillers is here