I was born in Scotland, a lifetime ago. At school, the only subject that interested me was English and that interest paved the way to a 37-year turbulent career in journalism as a reporter, editor and publisher. Along the way, I edited two metro dailies and Scotland’s biggest selling tabloid – the Daily Record.
In my second book, The Editor (published next year), I pose the question: can there be
a more thrilling sight than a British tabloid newsroom in full throb on a big news day?
The answer is: I doubt it!
Later I had the opportunity to live and work all over the world: the US, NZ and then wonderful Australia where I have lived (in Noosa) since 2004. I married and had two children (a son in Florida, a daughter in Sydney), and now I have three grandkids.
What is The Scoop all about?
The Scoop is an action-packed adventure story underpinned by a tense love story.
It roller-coasters between Sydney, London, LA and South East Asia. The story centres
on Jonno Bligh, a successful Aussie journalist who gets caught up in modern-day piracy
in the Strait of Malacca.
Jonno has his personal demons but redeems himself when he rescues British woman Annie Greenwood from a terrible death on an uninhabited Indonesian island at the hands of pirate leader ‘BangBang’ Budiman. They flee on Jonno’s boat The Scoop Jon B with the pirate loot, and BangBang in hot pursuit. They are saved by a navy patrol boat only to find themselves in a Jakarta jail accused of drug smuggling.
The gangster tracks Jonno down in a Sydney marina, determined to kill him. Can Annie save Jonno as he once saved her?
What prompted you to
start writing books?
Someone once told me: ‘You tabloid guys are good at writing fiction!’
As a journalist, I have always lived in a world of words. After newspapers, it seemed natural to continue writing; although I quickly found that crafting a 90,000-word novel was a little different to churning out a 500-word page lead.
How long have you been
writing The Scoop?
I was writing this story for my own pleasure, rather than with any expectation of having it published, so this first book took (a leisurely) 18 months. My second novel, The Editor, took half that time.
Can you tell us a little bit about what made you write
this particular story? Where did it come from?
It came from a dream! I used to travel a lot in my working life. Different cities, different hotels. To help me get to sleep at night, I used to have a trick of focusing my mind on being on a deserted island. As the nights went by, those moments between wakefulness and slumber became more and more exciting as I thought about how I might have got there and why, and then on to how I would survive in that situation. The possibilities became so gripping that I stopped trying to sleep and instead started writing notes down in the middle of the night. The result was The Scoop.
That’s a good way to make use of your sleepless nights!
You worked with The MAA in the development
of your manuscript (MS), how do you feel that helped
to shape your work?
The MAA was the catalyst for my success in landing a book contract. When I sent them my original manuscript, I essentially asked: ‘Should I continue with this writing lark, or stick to playing golf?’ Happily, they felt my novel had potential. In a brutally forensic critique, they identified what was working and what was not. It gave me the confidence to create a second draft which was then sent to publishers. My golf handicap has fallen on its arse ever since! I think any wannabe writer would benefit from such an independent ‘autopsy’ on their body of work.
It is always so good to hear that we have been useful in someone’s writing journey, it is why we are here, after all (and to make a little coin to feed our families too, of course!).
How did your MS develop, both in your initial
thinking about it and in the revision process?
The Scoop underwent a number of incarnations before publication. And even after Simon & Schuster (S&S) picked up my second draft the editors performed another autopsy and identified a number of other areas that could use some attention: mainly relating to structure and pace. While the overall plot and characters remained intact, I was asked to cut chunks of description and ‘exposition’ that slowed the narrative down. I was also encouraged to write some more action sequences to cement its positioning as an ‘airport thriller’. But the more I changed, the more it stayed the same.
Writing is a process of layering and also ‘peeling back the flaky paint and re-coating the surface so that it has no flakes and breaks’ (sorry for the terrible analogy!!). It can be frustrating for authors, but it sounds like you really enjoyed it.
My original ms was 110,000 words. S&S asked me to cut it back to 90,000. I groaned at the thought of hacking out 20,000 precious words. But, to my surprise, I actually removed 30,000 before adding 10,000 new words back in via new action scenes. Despite this substantial surgery, the final version is still recognisably the same story as the original but with less repetition, greater pace and heightened drama. This literary liposuction had the effect of stripping everything back to the bones of the original book and adding new, improved features.
That’s editing for you 🙂
What are the reasons you decided
to seek a publishing contract?
After The MAA’s positive feedback, I felt encouraged to approach publishing houses. But an author friend put me in touch with the ex-CEO of a major publisher who read my surgically enhanced manuscript. Suffice to say he’s now my agent. He was the conduit to Simon & Schuster Australia, who is now my publisher.
What did you find easy, difficult,
surprising about the publishing process?
In my tabloid days, we used to produce 100 pages a day from scratch. Every day. The book world, by comparison, operates at a glacial pace. But I loved the three ‘Rs’: writing, revising, researching. Even the proofreading was rewarding. I owe my editors a great deal. The final product is chalk and Camembert from my original manuscript: a lot more dynamic and professional.
OTHER BOOKISH THINGS…
Do you usually read ebooks or traditional format?
Where do you mostly buy your books from?
I am a book junkie – always have been – and I will normally have two to three on the go. I read hardcopy during the day and use my iPad in bed at night. On car journeys, I absolutely love audiobooks. I’ve been known to sit in the garage when I get home to hear the end of a chapter. I buy from book stores and online and I use my local library.
I love that you’ll stay in the car to hear the end. I do the same, my kids think I am crazy! How wonderful that your book is now out there and could have this same impact on readers just like you – not wanting to put the book down. That must feel good?!
NOW TO THE IMPORTANT STUFF…
Where can we buy your book?
And is there anywhere else we can find out more about you?
The Scoop is available, as they say, in all reputable bookstores in Australia and NZ as well as on Apple iBooks (where it is a recommended pick) and Amazon Kindle. More details can be found on my website also.
Now, what’s next for you?
The Scoop was only launched officially on August 1 so the last couple of weeks have been about working with the great people at Simon & Schuster to market and promote the book. Enjoyable but I can’t wait to get back to the writing. Book two – The Editor – is written but is yet to go through the editing and rewriting mill. Set in a tabloid newsroom, it is a lot more in my comfort zone with blood-soaked terrorism and backstabbing politics. It is scheduled to be published mid-2019. Book three is provisionally titled The Hack and follows on from The Editor. All three feature the two main characters – Jonno Bligh and Annie Greenwood.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We are so excited when any of our authors pick up a publishing contract. Well done, we are so happy for you!
Before you go, here are 10 QUICK QUESTIONS we asked Mr Quinn…
- What’s your favourite book or top five books?
The three that still seem to resonate after many years are: The Stand by Stephen King, Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk, and Fatherland by Robert Harris.
- Which authors do you most admire, and why?
Bernard Cornwell for his ability to cross genre divides. John Sandford and Michael Connolly who, as ex-crime reporters, write with gritty authenticity. I admire Jodie Picoult’s courage in tackling thorny issues and Hilary Mantel’s attention to historical detail.
- Use five adjectives to describe yourself:
Driven, insular, realistic, agnostic, self-aware
- Would you rather have a cat or dog? Why?
Cat. More entertaining, less poo to clean up.
- Do you have a favourite quote?
‘I don’t believe in the afterlife but I am taking a change of underwear.’ Woody Allen. Always advisable to hedge one’s bets.
- If I went to your place and looked in your fridge, what would I most likely find?
Thai chilli jam and Baby bok choy. I love cooking Asian food.
- What internet site do you frequent the most?
Newspaper sites, of course: The Australian, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The (London) Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
- How do you feel about going to a movie alone, or eating alone in a restaurant?
Perfectly at ease. After spending long periods away from home, I got used to my own company.
- What is the wall paper/screen saver on your computer?
A photo from my office window showing a long stretch of water with the small, perfect triangle of Mt Cooroy rising up in the distance.
- What do you miss most about childhood?
Playing football in the park, Irn Bru and the blessed absence of admonitory beeps (from cars, microwaves, refrigerators, computers, phones etc).