One of the questions authors are regularly asked is where they get their inspiration from. In my case, I'm lucky to live in a beautiful and fascinating corner of the south-east on the Kent-Sussex border. The views from my studio/writing room are stupendous. In one direction, looking towards Hastings, are fields and and rolling hills, reminiscent of Devon. Sheep and cattle graze on the lush grass. Looking the other way, in the direction of Rye, there are glimpses of the sea. As the light changes so the colours alter hourly. Sometimes the sea is a dark band against a pale sky, then it is brilliant aquamarine contrasting with grey, lowering clouds. I feel quite blessed.
But... like all writers, down the years, I draw inspiration from... other writers. Not to the point of plagiarism - that would be just wrong. It's not so much about the subject or theme, more about the style of writing. My favourite author is Ian Rankin.
His writing is tense and terse, without a superfluous word or phrase. His books are a masterclass in creating crime fiction. Over the course of almost two dozen books his main character, Inspector John Rebus, has grown from a relatively minor character to a towering presence. This has been helped, to a large extent, by his portrayal on the small screen by the magnificent Ken Stott.
Taking a lesson from this, I am attempting to 'fill out' the character of my own, DI Sonny Russell. When I started my first book he was just a shadowy idea in my mind, but as I have progressed through the stories I have got to know him better and tried to write more about him, as a person. I'm also a big fan of Val McDermid.
Her writing is quite different. It's still tight and concise but somehow has a different slant on life. Also, in a number of her books, she has two main characters - detective Carol Jordan and a profiler, Tony Hill - which brings a quite different dynamic to the stories. My only caveat with her stories is that they tend to include rather too many gory and forensic details for my liking. Although her latest book is much gentler. And talking of gentler, brings me to George Gently.
Alan Hunter wrote 46 books featuring the eponymous detective and were set in East Anglia, where he lived. The earlier books, written in the 1950s, are very much period pieces which have been very helpful as my stories too are set at that time too. It seems strange, that when the stories were adapted for TV, the locations were moved from the gentle flatlands to the the more rugged north-east. Martin Shaw's character, although nothing like the one created by Hunter, feels authentic, it's just a shame that they couldn't have kept the stories in Norfolk.
I have a gardener friend, who works in the area. One of his customers, an elderly lady, knew Alan Hunter when they belonged to the same sailing club. Apparently she was very cross when the TV series came out. I think I would have felt the same.