Q&A With David Woodward
Question: Did you always want to become a writer? David Woodward: Not consciously, no. I think, along with so many other people who have enjoyed writing stories or short pieces of prose, there had always been an understanding that I would write to some extent and at some time. That time came for me when I retired and could legitimately spend my time writing for pleasure.
Q: How do you manage to find fresh story ideas? David: I know that many authors say they sit in darkened rooms thinking about what their readers want. Perhaps I am a bit too early in my writing ‘journey’ for that. I get my ideas in a number of ways. For example, ‘A Gelato for Phoebe’, was inspired via a friend of mine who related an anecdote from their family history. I thought it would make a good story – indeed it still would – but as I started to write it, my characters started to go down their own paths. These paths were so strong, I just had to follow! The result bears no relation to the original anecdote.
Q: What made you choose Florence as the location for A Gelato for Phoebe? David: The location was simple. I experienced Florence for the first time in 2003 when our daughter was married there. We stayed in the Hotel Brunelleschi and walked the streets. Ten years later, we visited again, this time with our daughter’s children in tow, the eldest being named Florence. My wife and I spent longer there on this second visit and became fascinated by the many tiny passageway that run through and between the buildings. The one behind the ground floor of the hotel just had to be used for a ‘creeping up’ scene!
Q: How would you describe your style of writing? David: I don’t really know. It depends on what I am writing. The Matt Dowling series are lighter mysteries. It would be presumptuous to call them thrillers. Some of my short stories reflect a darker genre. When I finally fix on one, I’ll let you know!
Q: Does writing come easily to you? David: No. Like many writers I have an idea and get stuck in, but even with a carefully contemplated storyboard, my characters keep insisting on going off on their own and more often than not, I follow! I love writing though, so relating what they get up to is fun. One of the things I learnt early on was that you cannot become a writer unless you write. When my characters are running away with me, I just crash away at the keyboard and when they stop running, I try and decipher what I have been typing! That can be a challenge.
Q: Do you re-write much or edit as you go? David: A bit of both. I have a wonderful editor who is most supportive. She sorts out a lot, but I find that if I spend too much time in editing on the hoof, my characters tire and stop running.
Q: Where do you like to write? David: In the past, when I was working for other people, I would write wherever I was when I got bored! Now as a full-time writer, I write in my office. I would prefer to call it a study, but as I also do all the household accounts etc. from there it is more like an office. When I’m writing, I don’t have any distractions like music. My desk faces a window that overlooks a very busy little cul-de-sac. It’s easier at night when there is less happening out there. I definitely don’t need distractions as I am a two-finger typist and regrettably my keyboard at times becomes dyslexic!
Q: Do you ever have “writer’s block?” David: I’ve heard it said that ‘there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block’. (Thanks to Jeff Deaver for that.) Once again like many other writers I have suffered the 30% or 60% syndrome when ideas seem to dry up. Once again I refer to something I once read, that was “write something else, but keep writing!” When I return to where I was I often find that I have been dragged down a blind alley by one of my characters and just need to go back to where it was all running smoothly.
Q: Has your previous career helped you in becoming a writer? David: Only in as much as I have had a varied one with some specific changes in direction. This has taught me that if you set your mind to something, you can achieve it, though the level one attains might not be as expected. I became bored as an IT person, but found construction to be the most rewarding.
Q: How much of the stories come from your real-life experiences? David: In many cases the answer is quite a bit. Certainly, the locations are places I have been and when I come up with a character I usually base them on a person I knew or perhaps an actor I admired. This helps with behavior patterns. If you look at my Bio you will see there is limited, actual plot material to work with there. The workplaces were hardly inspiring!
Q: How do you pick the settings for your books? David: They must be places I know or have visited. In that way one can gain the feel of a place or even include little things like festivals that might be happening there. We have spent a number of holidays in and around Brisbane. It was where our son met and married his Australia wife. In the Powder Room, Matt and Luisa go to a place called Oakey. When we were over there, my wife and I drove through and stopped in Oakey. My two enduring memories of that day were the flies who wanted to share our sandwiches, and the long straight road out of the town, that leads to Marge’s property in the book.
Q: What do you do for fun? David: I have several hobbies that I have engaged in over the years, including photography, cars and of course, writing. I still regard it as fun even when I feel time slipping away without sufficient words on the screen! Having worked in offices all my life, I tended to rely on them to provide my social life as well. Bad thing! Now, writing full-time, I need to get out more! I am currently sampling U3A – the University of the Third Age!
Q: Has there been any one source of inspiration or any one person who has helped get your new career off the ground? David: There have been many! The number of support / help groups that exist on the internet have been very useful in providing guidance, such as The Write Practice and The Creative Penn and many more sites and blogs.
Q: Can you list some of your favorite books? David: Perhaps rather than books it might be authors and be answered along the following lines;
The Travis McGee books, John D. McDonald
The Jack Reacher books, Lee Child
The Dr. Siri and Jimm Juree books, Colin Cotterill
The Vish Puri Mysteries, Tarquin Hall
The Inspector Singh books, Shamini Flint
and the books of Rosie Thomas and Nick Earls