I am delighted to welcome David Gatward to my blog this week. I recently featured him in my Idea Store column in Writers’ Forum and I was anxious to find out more about this author whose output has left me full of admiration, both for its quantity and quality.
I was first attracted to David’s books when I read that his current series of crime novels featured Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales, a part of the world I love as we had many happy family holidays there when my children were little.
In the past two years David has published TEN books in his excellent DCI Harry Grimm series and it opens with Harry Grimm arriving – very reluctantly – from Somerset to take up his new post in the area.
Welcome to my blog, David and thank you for agreeing to be featured. Thank you, too, for reminding me how very much I love the Yorkshire Dales and how it is high time I went back there.
I’m intrigued to know how you managed to produce such a great series in such a short time.
My brain froze during that time, at least to start with. Obviously you are made of sterner stuff!
I was working in Suffolk but lived in Somerset, so I couldn’t actually get to work. Then I was put on furlough. So, I had time to play with. Various writer friends of mine (Barry Hutchison/JD Kirk, Alex Smith, Jonathan Mayhew) were doing the Amazon thing so I thought I’d give it a go.
By the ‘Amazon thing’ I take it you mean publishing the books yourself? You certainly have some talented and successful writer friends to point you in the right direction.
My background was traditional publishing, children’s and teen fiction, and we knew each other through that world, even appearing at various events together. Anyway, I launched a horror trilogy, just to give it a go. Then, after a lot of ‘Do this, Dave! Do this!’ from Barry/Alex/Jon, I decided to give crime fiction a go. The nice thing was the challenge of it. Something new to learn. And it took my mind off what was going on with work, with lockdown.
Where did the idea for the series come from?
The old adage of ‘write what you know’ came into play. I grew up in Wensleydale but lived in Somerset. So, I decided I’d have a detective from Somerset get sent up north. I’ve also ghost-written various military/action novels, so I gave him a military past.
From that point, I did a bit of research on police procedure, read some crime books, and just got cracking. I started book 1 in May 2020 and launched it in July 2020. I didn’t think much would come of it. Turns out I was wrong!
You certainly were! And I and many of your fans are delighted. You’ve written ten books in the series so far. How do you keep coming up with ideas?
What I’ve done is try and base things on my own experience, the area itself, and wider ideas.
For example, book 2, Best Served Cold, was based on a government safety film I remember us being shown in primary school called Apache. It’s all about farm safety and is terrifying!
Book 5, Restless Dead, is based on a ghost story and haunted house I’d remembered from the area. Book 6, Death’s Requiem, came about due to chats with my celebrity pal, the rather wonderful Aled Jones!
I’ve been helping him learn to write for a series of children’s books he’s doing called Bobby Dean, and we joked how it would be fun to kill him in my next book. So that’s what I did, and the book is dedicated to him as well.
It’s fun coming up with new ideas and seeing what happens, plus I have the many lives of the characters now to keep going, which readers seem to love more than the actual crime stuff, particularly the dogs!
There’s also fun stuff, like the whole cheese-and-cake thing, which I put in simply as a little detail, but which has kind of blown up rather.
There’s also the local flavour stuff as well. I like to make sure that geographically the books are fairly accurate and I have emails from readers who go on holiday now to the Dales to find places I’ve mentioned.
Ah yes, the cheese and cake thing. I’m afraid, soft southerner that I am, that’s something I’ve yet to be convinced about as I am not a great lover of Wensleydale cheese (sorry!) and I’ve been told it just wouldn’t work with good old Somerset cheddar.
I’ll keep an open mind though. You certainly brought the place vividly to life for me and, I’m sure, for many of your readers.
Cockett’s Butchers in Hawes gets a lot of visitors who are readers heading in for food and to have a photo taken outside! Madness, really, but so much fun!
How would you describe your genre?
I’m writing crime fiction and I believe it’s called police procedural. This was a thing I knew nothing about when I started! So, there’s been a bit of research. It’s a series because I know that series do much better with readers than standalone books.
I write as a living, not just because I love it, so building a series and a readership is key. The more books in the series, the better and easier it is to market and convince people to give it a go. Then, if they like the first couple of books, hopefully they’ll keep on reading.
And, hopefully, you’ll keep on writing the series. What inspires you most? Characters? Settings? Maybe even books you have read?
I don’t think anything inspires me the most really. I just enjoy writing and get cracking. Sometimes an idea will come from a character, something in their past, an action, or I’ll have an idea for a crime. Maybe a historical event or weird tradition will get me thinking. Sometimes I’ll be watching a film and an idea will pop into my head and I’ll have to write it down.
How did your writing journey start?
I had my first book published when I was in the last few months of being eighteen. It was a book of prayers for teenagers, stuff I’d written from the age of sixteen. I did a year out, working at an outdoor centre (the one mentioned in book 3 of my Grimm series, Corpse Road, Marrick Priory, in Swaledale!). It was through an organisation where teenagers work across the country in various roles.
At a volunteer training weekend, one of the other volunteers took what I’d written to show her dad. Turned out he was Kevin Mayhew, owner of Kevin Mayhew Publishers, and he sent me a contract. The book came out a few months after. It was hugely exciting. I wrote a couple more during university then went to work for him straight after.
Between then and now I’ve done various publishing jobs, worked for the civil service, spent some months on a salmon farm in Scotland, written children’s fiction, worked as a ghost-writer, led hundreds of creative writing sessions in schools across the country and over in Ireland, and I actually ended up in the end as the managing director of Kevin Mayhew Publishers as my last job, so it was all very full circle.
And now I write full time. It’s a mad world, really, so I try to not think about the journey too much because it makes my head hurt.
Do you have any future plans?
The aim is to keep writing really. DCI Harry Grimm has a good number of adventures in him I believe. I’ve written just over five novels a year this past two years, but I’m dropping that to four from now on. This will allow me a little more time to think up and work on other ideas.
I have one I’d like to do based in Somerset. I’ve also a few thriller ideas. It would be fun to see Grimm as a TV show and I’ve someone working on a treatment for that, though that’s something which I doubt will happen. Anyway, lots going on and I’m enjoying doing it.
And finally, please tell us three things about you we might not know.
1. I’ve seen ghosts! The first one was while I was mowing the lawn at a large house when I was sixteen (pocket money work!) Middle of the day and there was a man in a black suit under a tree watching me. And then there wasn’t … The other was at Marrick Priory. I ‘lived’ in a static caravan on site. The place had a history of hauntings. I was woken in the night by a bright light and saw a woman in a corseted dress standing next to my bed. Very strange.
2. I love watching snooker and darts.
3. I had a drowning accident when I was six so I’m pretty terrified of water. I can swim, and I love being in the sea with my two boys, but that’s about as far as I’ll go with it. Though I am stupid enough to throw myself into daft activities just to show them how important it is to confront your fears. So, for example, on holiday in Scotland, we did white-water rafting and various other daft things, which involved throwing yourself into mad rapids to then pop up downstream, as well as jumping of 10-metre high bridges!
You’ve been a fabulous guest. Thank you for answering my questions so patiently. Thank you, too, for the promise of many more DCI Grimm adventures to come. I look forward to reading them.
Social Media Links, blog, website etc.
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/davidjgatwardauthor
Facebook Harry Grimm Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/373849887240040
The all important buy links.
Grimm Up North (book 1 of the series): mybook.to/Grimm-Up-North
check out David’s Amazon author page for links to the other books in the series.
Biographies are strange things to write. What to include, what to leave out, wondering why anyone would really care that, for example, I had a drowning accident when I was six years old, or that I once dislocated my elbow because my dad encouraged me to jump off a rather high wall.
I could start at the beginning, perhaps. I was born in 1973 to a nurse and a trainee Methodist minister (they’re my parents, in case you’re wondering). We lived in the Cotswolds where the family grew to include two more boys and a golden labrador, though not necessarily in that order.
From the Cotswolds we then moved to Hawes in Wensleydale, a place of hills and moors, the deepest snow we’d ever known, and to us a strange love of things like cheese and cake and pie-and-pea suppers. Those were very happy days for us all and the memories I have of the place, the deep affection still, made it the natural place for me to set my DCI Harry Grimm crimes series.
After Wensleydale, we moved down to Lincolnshire, a place that makes up for the clear lack of hills with the most breath-taking skies. When I was eighteen, I then headed back up to the dales for a year to work at Marrick Priory, an outdoor education centre, then onto the Lake District, to study my degree in outdoor education.
Through all of this, I had a love of reading and of writing. I was the kid in English who’d write those really long stories, which probably didn’t make much sense, but certainly filled up the exercise books. I wrote for fun and was reminded of this by an old school friend, who told me how we used to set each other writing tasks to do during our free time.
Obviously, there were other interests beyond reading and books. I didn’t just spend my entire childhood in my bedroom hiding behind my own personal library. There was Cubs and Scouts and Boys Brigade, archery and fencing, walking, caving/potholing, climbing, shooting (air rifles and shotguns), camping.
My first book was published when I was eighteen. After graduating, I moved into publishing, did a wide range of jobs, published some more books, then somehow ended up working on a salmon farm in Scotland. When the company offered me a trainee management position, I promptly left and got a job as an editor. Somewhere along the way I became a dad, moved around a bit more, and started writing children’s and teen fiction, under my own name and also as a ghostwriter. I traveled around the country doing creative writing sessions in schools, won an award. Trying to make a living that way though isn’t exactly easy, so I then moved on to running a small publishing firm on the other side of the country. And then the pandemic hit.
Work changed considerably because of this so to help myself deal with it, I started writing again. And, listening to the advice of some good writing friends of mine (Barry Hutchison/JD Kirk, Jon/JE Mayhew, Alex Smith/Gordon Alexander Smith), I decided to try writing crime.
Life is a strange, wonderful, terrifying, exciting, frustrating, surprising thing. I’m doing now something I always dreamed of, through a mix of never giving up, listening to others, taking advice, hard work, and a fair amount of luck and good fortune. Do I have an idea of what’s around the corner? Of course not! But what I do know is that I’m having a lot of fun on the road.