Interview with Gordon Ferris

What's the story behind your latest book?
I had to write Money Tree. In a previous life I worked in international banking and grew increasingly outraged at the shady dealings and greed that drove the business. When I heard about the work of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and the personal story of its remarkable founder - Professor Muhammad Yunus - the story erupted in my head. Nothing is black and white, and no-one is truly good or evil, but Money Tree gave me the opportunity to explore morality and its consequences in the form of an international thriller.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've written six novels, all published by Atlantic Books in the UK. I've sold some 400,000 copies [ebooks, paperbacks and hardbacks] of my two crime/thriller series: the 'Brodie' and 'McRae novels. I wanted to stretch myself by writing something broader, more contemporary and tackling some of the bigger social issues. All my publisher wanted was more in the 'crime' series. Money Tree is my break for freedom!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
A reader emailing me and saying how much she'd enjoyed my writing.
What do your fans mean to you?
They are quite simply my reason for continuing to write. If no-one read my books and no-one told me they loved my work, there would be no point in writing.
What are you working on next?
I'm weighing up two very different plot lines. First, is an imagined narrative sequel to one of my all time favourite movies [I'm not saying which at this stage!]. The second, builds on my background in computing, Defence, international banking, and management consultancy in an action filled romp across continents.
Who are your favorite authors?
Where to start?! I see a long golden thread of great story-tellers running back to my youth. It runs from Buchan and RL Stevenson through the classic SF writers like Asimov, Heinlein, Pratchett, and on into the 'Russians' live Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I've devoured Greene and Chandler, Mary Renault and Patrick O'Brian, and re-read all of Dorothy Dunnett's chronicles. The great Americans figure large: Updike, Mailer, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and Baldwin. And for modern thrillers it's hard to beat Lee Child, Philip Kerr and James Elroy. Then there's the thriller novelists pretending to be 'literary writers': Boyd, McEwan, Atkinson, McCarthy. Where to stop...?
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Coffee and porridge.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
thinking about writing...
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I know the writers I want to read and listen to friends' advice about what's new.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
My first full length story was 'Crows on the Battlefield' about lovers on the run from an international gang of terrorist 'bankers'.
What is your writing process?
First; get an idea. Ideas are as elusive as unicorns. They can crop up reading an article in a newspaper. They can leap out in conversation. But sometimes you just have to go out hunting for one. I hunt with my keyboard and screen. I start writing something, anything, and see where it goes. I keep shouting at my characters, wanting them to say something, do something, until finally an idea flops out, like a new and amorphous life form. I then have to bash it into the outline of a story. Typically this is four or five pages long, and takes a month or so to hammer out.

I then start writing. I try not to review what I’ve written, otherwise it’s groundhog day for the first chapter, often the first page. I keep on bashing away until I’ve cranked out a rough and ready story of about 50,000 to 60,000 words. I then go on holiday, or a bender, or to the Priory . . .

I come back from my break, read the first draft and weep. It’s like I’ve built Frankenstein’s monster. Most of the bits are there but not necessarily in the right place, and there’s no sign of life. I dry my eyes, take up my keyboard and start to rewrite. I fill in the blanks. I flatten out the discontinuities and flesh out my characters. I cut and paste, chop and change, and generally play God with storyline and actors until miraculously, I have a rough diamond of about 100,000 words. Many of them good, and frequently in the right order. After another round of playing with words – killing clichés, strangling adverbs and instilling cadence and rhythm – I let Sarah, my wife and first reviewer see it. And it’s back to the keyboard. . .

Eventually my publisher rips the draft from my hands, lets their editor at it, and round we go again. Finally I sign off on final proofs and the cover, and wait for review copies to show up. It takes a year from idea to publication, and each time I hold the first edition in my hand there’s a couple of days relief. Then the anxiety starts up again. Where am I going to get the next idea . . .
How do you approach cover design?
I write my book first, chose a title, and then think about the image[s] the title and book conjure. I then bounce the ideas around with my cover designer who throws images at me until one sticks. Then we sharpen it up.
What do you read for pleasure?
Nice reviews from my readers about my books.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Ipad mini.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
First and foremost: come up with a great, well-written story with strong 3 dimensional characters. Second, get lucky. My breakthrough novel was The Hanging Shed which has been a #1 kindle bestseller and has sold some 300,000 units. Its success came from a wizard idea by my publisher who launched it as an ebook to hit the Christmas present market for ereaders. Hanging Shed got rave reviews and shot up the charts; success bred success and it stayed at #1 for three months.
Describe your desk
Imac, keyboard, coffee cup and mounds of papers.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a sandstone tenement in Kilmarnock, a small industrial town in the West of Scotland. My ‘hoose’ was distinguished by what it lacked: inside toilet, bath, central heating, electric lighting, telephone and hot water boiler. Lighting was gas with tiny fragile mantles – it gave a romantic glow, but made it pretty hard to read. The mantles crumbled at a touch and were forever disintegrating. Heating was a coal fire in the front room where my parents slept. A two-bar electric fire took the edge off the sub-zero temperatures in the back room, where my brother and I slept. The windows in winter were opaque with iced condensation; perfect for finger drawingIf we wanted a bath, we hauled a zinc tub up from the outside wash house and filled it - actually ‘filled’ is an exaggeration – with kettles of hot water. We were forever being plunged into darkness as the money ran out in the electric meter. There were times when my mother counted on getting a ten bob rebate when the ‘electric man’ emptied the meter and totted up the sums.

If this all sounds like a Monty Python sketch of competitive deprivation, it was nothing of the kind. In the 50's no-one was any better off. There was nothing to envy. We were a young family clawing our way out of rationing, and building lives for ourselves. The crowded Saturday night parties were memorable for bad singing and laughter. The door stood open at Hogmanay for First Footers. It was a happy home. And above all, we were readers! We had access to a fabulous local library where I picked up my deep and enduring love for books.
Published 2014-06-26.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Money Tree
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 106,340. Language: English. Published: June 26, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
A destitute village-woman plunges into the teeming streets of New Delhi to escape the daily embrace of usury. In New York a top American journalist savages the explosively growing People’s Bank for ripping off the poor. Erin Wishart, an obstinate Scottish banker, accuses him of lies and distortions. Their search for the truth uncovers a dark story of ruthless ambition and global crime. And murder.