Today I’m delighted to host the final stop on Andy Blackman’s For the Love of Grace blog tour and have Andy Blackman here to talk about his new novel and what inspires him.
Welcome Andy to the CKT blog.
To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your new novel For the Love of Grace?
For the Love of Grace, is about Family, and the lengths a mother will go to protect her child even if it meant breaking the law. The story begins with Tom Sharapova, a top assassin who is a wanted man, coming back to England after many years of absence. But with the intelligence services close on his tail, Tom is out for vengeance. But before he can be reunited with his mother Grace, who brought him up in the East End of London, he must face the danger head-on if he is to survive.
What inspired you, as a writer, to set some of your novel in Odessa?
The reason I picked Odessa was when I was growing up, Russia was behind the iron curtain and was always a far away mysterious place – somewhere where people struggled on a daily basis to survive. It was a place where we never knew much about apart from the odd news reports, which always looked cold and the people never smiled, so thought it must have been a harsh terrible place to live, which fascinated me. I did not want Tom to sail off in the sunset so thought Tom should at least have a form of sentence placed upon him. Although he had escaped the terrible fate that awaited him, Odessa was still a punishment as Russia was a strange uninviting country. I have never been to either Russia or Odessa but I used my imagination to capture the harsh world Tom is living in.
Who would you say is the biggest influence on your writing?
The biggest influence on my writing I would say would be my family; I was always brought up to believe in family, and how important it is to always look out for them, and as the saying goes “you can pick your friends but not your family.” My three daughters, who I have tried to impart the importance of family, are my harshest critics. I have always said I would try and write a book, but as we all know life gets in the way and it becomes a thing that is placed on the ‘bucket list.’.I remember reading a really bad book, which was predictable and basically very boring, after I had struggled to finish, I thought to myself I bet I could do better than that. After speaking to my daughters about it they told me to stop talking about it and just get on with it, so this time I decided to go for it and finally committed pen to paper or as you say in this modern era fingers to the keyboard.
I have two authors who inspire me. I find Dan Brown’s books compelling, and well written – what I find brilliant about his books is they are always well researched and very factual, and mostly always controversial. It is the same with Jeffery Archer, perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but I find his diversity between books, most refreshing as he does not stick to one theme, his books are a nice light read but always have a twist.
And finally ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck. This was the first book I read in school and the book kicked started my love of reading. I found the book so well written that even today I still remember the story. I think a good author or book should be one that years later you can still remember and recall, plus a good book should be one once you start reading you find it hard to put down.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process; do you plot the story out first or dive right in and see where it takes you? Or a mixture of the two?
It is funny I cannot just sit at a keyboard with a blank page and start typing and the plot and characters come in a flurry of inspiration. I prefer to think and mull over the characters and plot in my mind which could take days or even weeks to formulate a plot. I especially do this at night lying in bed just before I fall asleep when it is dark and peaceful!
Once I have the basic idea for a plot or a character I then go to the keyboard and randomly type the outline. I will research as I go and like to use my own life’s experiences as research. For example, in the book I had Tom drive from New York to Washington, which I have done myself, so although the book is a work of fiction I think you still need to get some facts correct for continuity. Sometimes a thought will pop into my head in the strangest places, while at work under a desk fixing a computer, or standing in line getting a cup of coffee, so once the spark of an idea or a good character has taken root I will think about it and see where it leads.
Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it without giving too much away?
I am writing the next book called ‘The Second son’ and it is a continuation of the first book from Grenville’s perspective who features in the first novel. It does bring in Grenville’s childhood and how he becomes the Duke of Hampshire, his friendship with Tom, from the first book, and how he helps Tom in his quest.
And finally, what is the rest of 2016 looking like for you at the moment?
At present I am still in full time employment working in IT for a large company, so work is pretty busy and sometimes tiring. I must admit I do like my job but I am now 56 so perhaps deep down I needed a change and hopefully writing a book was going to give me that, so would love to write full time. I am, concentrating on the second book, ‘the second son’, which is going well. Also my middle daughter who was married last year is expecting her first child; this will be my third grandchild so I am very excited! I’m also very excited about my novel being published this year and hope my book is well received. It was easy when I was writing it as I was the only one reading it and of course, we all think what we create is good, the hardest part is when you put out your work for public scrutiny – it’s a game changer, and no longer just yours, and you have to put yourself up for criticism. I hope people enjoy the book, and want to read more of me in the future.
A big thanks to Andy for taking the time to answer my questions, much appreciated!
Now for the Blurb
Grace Backer had a life full of tragedy. But despite everything, she raised her son, Tom, with her secret intact.
Tom is a prodigal child, destined to escape the slums of the East End of London for a better life; circumstances will make him flee his loving mother and their home much sooner than expected.
Tom starts a new life in Odessa, Russia, and with the help of new-found friends starts a business. At last, he is finally accepted into a new and loving family, but one which holds its own dark secrets. A chance meeting with the son of a duke of the realm leads to close friendship and a new business partnership. When Tom decides to move his company to London and have his regal new friend run it, the firm thrives. However, not everything is as it seems, and Tom’s business soon conceals dangerous secrets of its own.
Years later, when Tom finally decides to return to London, he is a wanted man, one hunted by the intelligence agencies. If he is finally to be reunited with his beloved mother and his best friend, he must fight to put the past behind him. But keeping secrets is never easy.
About Andy Blackman
After serving in the British Army for over twenty-five years in the Parachute Regiment, Andy Blackman today lives in Bedworth, Warwickshire and works within in the IT sector. In his spare time he can be found visiting his three daughters and grandchildren.
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