Tuesday 7 August 2018

Interview: Martin Ungless

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I'm joining in the Duck Egg Blues blog tour today by welcoming author Martin Ungless to The Writing Greyhound! Read on to find out more about Martin and his writing...

Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Martin, I’m a writer. I used to be a scientist, then an architect. I guess I’m moving slowly towards purer forms of creativity. I paint.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always written in one form or another, but perhaps less so when I was designing buildings when I guess the urge to create was being satisfied. Even then I wrote pieces for architectural magazines. As a child I took things apart to see how they work, a lot of things, much to the annoyance of the rest of my family, (shhh, I still do today) and I suspect writing was my way of looking under the hood to see how it was that books brought such enormous pleasure. I’ve always made things too, from computers to pieces of my home, and so when I write, it’s this fabrication of new places, characters, and plots which really brings me joy. I have to say though, just like those other areas of creativity, in the end, it’s the quality of the finished product which drives me because most of all I want my reader to enjoy reading my books!
Tell me about Duck Egg Blues.
It’s a robot butler detective mystery-thriller, with ducks.
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Did you purposely try to avoid writing in a specific genre?
I do think genre is too restrictive. I am happy with the preconceptions that come with genre, especially Crime, but I think a writer should not be limited by this, subversion of genre enriches the experience of reading. Duck Egg Blues is narrated by a robot, but I wouldn’t say that it is sci-fi, in my eyes, it’s a character-driven thriller. The story arc of the first-person narrator comes first, along with some of the rules of Crime.
Do you think it’s important to have an element of humour in fiction?
Agents and publishers specialising in Crime seem to believe it’s a bad thing, but I would argue that there is a strong history of dark humour in the best of the genre, from the cracking one-liners of Chandler’s Marlowe, through the sparkling dialogue and sheer slapstick criminal mess to be found in Elmore Leonard’s work - just think Get Shorty. Even Poirot is a little tongue-in-cheek, isn’t he? Someone like Carl Hiaasen uses a more overt humour, dark action contrasted with light interludes, laughter exacerbating the thrills and spills, at the same time he’s making the characters more human too. In Britain, we have some great comic crime writers like Malcolm Pryce but they don’t get the coverage their work deserves. Humour’s always been there but it doesn’t get discussed, because I think critics like simple categories, perhaps driven by newspaper review sections that are split into the different genres. Maybe the freedom of the modern book-blogger will liberate us from this stifling and unnecessary categorisation? I do hope so. Long live the blog!
Did you have to do any research for the book?
I’ve always had an interest in computers, robots and AI, so very little. In one sense my life’s interests have been the research for this book.
How did you get inspiration?
I wrote a short story in which I tried to combine many aspects of the locked-room mystery into one. The result was a sci-fi murder-mystery narrated by a robot butler - you can read it here for free. The character of PArdew intrigued me, always trying to help, being treated badly by his Master, and I wondered what would happen if someone like that (something, I suppose I ought to say) were transported to the present day.
What’s your writing process?
I tend to plot the book pretty thoroughly before I start writing. Occasionally I will start with a splurge of words to see if I can’t track down the voice for that particular story, but then back to plot. I guess it’s the architect in me, needing a plan! Then, because I’ve been self-employed most of my life, I’m pretty good at getting up and just getting on with being creative. I don’t set myself a word count, I think this would be too depressing. Somedays I do write thousands of words, but on other my word count goes into reverse. I tend to read over yesterdays writing as a starting point for the day, but I usually spend too much time revising this, so I am trying to wean myself off the habit, leaving it for a grand revision, once I can see how the whole has panned out.
Which authors inspire you?
I think Annie Proulx is a genius. There is no doubt that PArdew is influenced by Asimov. Chandler is a great writer, and if I could write with even half the verve of Chuck Palahniuk it would make me happy.
What are you currently working on?
I’m splitting my time between the second PArdew novel and a high-tech crime thriller which was long-listed this year for the Crime Writer’s Association’s Debut Dagger.
What are you reading at the moment?
A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Robotics! I love tinkering with my RaspberryPi - if you don’t know about these, look them up, they’re really great for introducing kids to computing and for making things that work in the real world.
Duck Egg Blues is available to buy now. To keep up to date with Martin, you can follow him on Twitter.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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