W“ith the publication of Burning Bridges just a few short hours away, we took the opportunity to sit down with the author, Matthew Ross, to talk all things writing. You can pre-order Burning Bridges now by clicking here, or it’s available from all good stores from 1 June 2022. Enjoy!
Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you start writing and why?
I’ve always enjoyed writing from as early as I can remember. I also enjoyed comedy to the point of becoming an anorak, I was that keen.
However, I left school at 16 and as far as I could see the only way people got into comedy was through university, so that was that as far as I was concerned. Then in the early 2000’s suddenly there were courses in just about anything, including stand-up comedy. I signed up and had a blast. It was good fun and I met some great people. It came as no surprise to me though that I found the writing more enjoyable than the performing. I got approached by a leading stand-up and began writing material for their live stand-up shows, Edinburgh Fringe shows, nationwide theatre tours and appearances on tv and radio. That led to writing commissions for radio shows and podcasts.
But in the space of about three months I lost my father, had my first child, and had work issues. It was quite a stressful time and something had to give, and that was my writing, which was a shame given the momentum I was starting to build behind me. What was intended to be a temporary postponement soon became a total derailment as several years galloped past in the blink of an eye. However the itch to write wouldn’t go away, and became itchier than ever, but by that time in my life I felt the full length novel was more where my mind was at rather than jokes and sketches. I signed up for the Faber Academy ‘Novel Writing Course’ in 2016 and it changed my life.
With no spoilers, tell us a bit about Burning Bridges and what prompted you to write it.
Burning Bridges follows a character called Brendan Quinn. He and his brother were once big figures in the underworld with fearsome reputations, but following his brother’s sudden death in a car crash, Quinn took a step back. We join him three years after the accident, and Quinn is now quite happy running a coffee shop living a safe legitimate life, but then faces from his old life coerce and cajole him back for one last job. It goes wrong, Quinn is betrayed by his team and left for dead, but not before suggesting his brother’s death may not have been an accident. Quinn embarks on a mission for answers and revenge.
I wrote it firstly because I love the British Gangster Crime Genre, whether movies, TV or books, I simply love it – especially when you’re meant to cheer on the bad guy for a change. It came to me after I’d finished writing my first two novels (“Death Of A Painter” and “The Red Admiral’s Secret”): they are comic crime capers so I fancied the challenge of writing something that was darker and had a more noir feel to it.
Your knowledge of organised crime and the London (& Kent!) underworld is seriously impressive; where does this come from?
Purely from being a massive fan of the genre, and enjoying cheering on the bad guy.
Is Brendan Quinn – the main character in Burning Bridges – based on anyone you know?
No, every character in the book are figments of my imagination. However, I like to think the locations and environment take on roles of their own in the book. My father, and his family for generations before, came from the Isle of Sheppey, so we visited there a lot. I always found it a fascinating place, especially when you’d first arrive on the island, roll over the crest of the bridge and see the hundreds and hundreds of new cars lined up. I always thought ‘someone should write a story about that’.
Burning Bridges is a brilliant example of the underworld crime novel, who are your favourite authors in this genre?
I grew up devouring my Dad’s ‘Dick Francis’ novels which I think sparked my love for crime and thrillers that aren’t in the traditional mould of a policeman solving crimes, but instead features a person whose ordinary life is tipped upside down by violent crime, usually murder. I always look out for the new releases by Kimberley Chambers, Martina Cole and Lynda La Plante – I’d loved the recent remake of ‘Widows’. As for newer authors in the genre, I’m really enjoying Stephen Golds, his recent novel “I’ll Pray When I’m Dying” was terrific.
Tell us about you writing routine and where you tend to write
Lockdown really disrupted me. I found it extremely difficult to write. Perhaps I’m a creature of habit, but pre-lockdown I found it a lot easier: I’d tend to write at weekends and some evenings, then my morning commute would be spent reading what I’d done, and at lunchtime I’d edit tweak and amend. I’ve always very much been the kind of writer that won’t leave a page until I’m completely happy with it – I guess on the one hand it means that it takes me longer to complete a full length novel, but on the other hand it gives the final editing process for publication a lighter touch.
How did you find the editing and publication process?
I’ve always found the final edit process for publication to be a pleasurable and collaborative experience.
The cover looks fantastic – what were your first impressions when you saw it?
I was delighted. I think it’s perfect for the genre, and the use of the Sheppey bridge and the cold blue water sums up the mood and tone of the story perfectly.
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
Right now, I’m keen to see what people think of Quinn. I loved writing about him and developing him as a character, and I’ve got a few ideas sketched out where he could go next so if there’s a good response to him I’ve certainly got the appetite to do more with him.
QUICK FIRE ROUND (One or two word answers only):
Plotter or pantser? = Plotter
Guy Ritchie or Martina Cole? = Guy Ritchie
Pen or Keyboard? = Keyboard
Character or Plot? = Character
Early bird or night owl? = Early bird
Crossword or Sudoko? = Crossword
Sausage or bacon? = Sausage
Asking questions or answering questions? = Asking
Don’t forget, Burning Bridges hits the shops on 1 June 2022. You can find out more about it by clicking here, or get your copy by clicking here.