Friday, December 2, 2011

It's a Sirens Holiday with JJ Toner

Have you ever been arrested or detained?
Once, at an airport, the police kept me waiting for a couple of hours while they checked me out. They told me I was "a model citizen." They looked disappointed.

Have you written all of your life or is this a new experience?
I have written since I was 13, but there was a huge gap in the middle. I started again thirty-six years later. Everything I wrote in between was either technical or a business report of some kind.

JJ Toner
When you were writing your book what audience did you have in mind?
Good question. I didn't think about it. I wanted to write an exciting story -- for people like me, I suppose.

Did you experience any of the scenes you wrote about in your book or are they completely from your imagination?
They are completely from my imagination. I started with several of the main characters and a rough plot outline. Then the scenes emerged naturally from there. 

If you had your life to do over again would you have been a writer first?
I definitely would have been a writer first. I was really good at math in school and that deflected me into studying math at university and then a career with computers in industry. Mind you, I was good at every subject in school (*ahem*) but math was my passion (It's hard to believe now!)

Do you have any advice for people who want to write about law enforcement?
It's a rich field, but try to write characters that are humans first and law enforcement officer’s second. Consider the reasons why people get into law enforcement. There can't be many who do so for truly selfless reasons, and I believe there are many who do it for all the wrong reasons -- the power, opportunities to exercise a bullying instinct, or from some sort of prejudice, hatred, or anger

What does your family think of your book?
Okay. My sister hates my main character, Ben Jordan, my wife loves him. My sister liked my first book the best (that's the one gathering dust under the bed). She thinks there's too much sex in the story, my brother says there's too little. My daughter loved the plot because she couldn't work out what was going to happen. My sons don't read books.

How do you deal with writers' block?
I always have several projects on the go, 2 books and maybe 3 short stories. If I feel blocked on one, I switch to another. It's never been a big problem thus far (touch wood).
When writing your book did it stir up any desire to be an officer?
No way. I couldn't do one time what our law enforcement officers do every day, and anyway, they'd never find a uniform to fit me.

What is your opinion of television shows that portray police work? Which in your opinion is most accurate?
A lot of the cop shows on TV are rubbish. The restrictions imposed by the medium (the time constraints) must make it difficult for the writers. Some of the newest ones are fantastic. I like BONES and I loved MONK. The French TV series SPIRAL is an inspiration to me, full of gritty realism, knockout characters and tension-filled scenes. I hear THE WIRE is good, but I have difficulty with the dialogue/sound quality.

What agency of the police force would you want to be a part of?
None, really, but if I had to choose one, I'd go for admin and hope to make a significant contribution in a back office somewhere (honestly), maybe in the development of computer systems for crime detention.

What author(s) influenced your writing voice?
How long have you got? A lot of comedic and science fiction writers like Douglas Adams, James Thurber, PG Wodehouse, Peter Tinniswood,  Robert Sheckley, RA Lafferty. More serious, mainstream thriller, spy and crime writers like John Le Carre, Ken Follett, Ellis Peters, Patrick Suskind, Campbell Armstrong, Eugene Kerrigan, Declan Burke, Victor Canning, Francis Clifford, George Pelecanos,  Lee Child and, of course, Raymond Chandler. And many, many mainstream writers like Steinbeck, Hemingway, Camus.

What are you most looking forward to as an author?
A little recognition, maybe.

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  1. JJ - lol... that was a great interview!

  2. Especially liked the contrary views you got from family and friends! Funny!

  3. Thanks, Christine.

    How do you get the text to wrap around the pictures? I've never managed to do that.


  4. I've fiddled until it just happened JJ. I added the picture and then clicked and drug it next to the text. :) Thank you Stacy for the compliment. Isn't family fun Derek?

  5. This is a great interview... really funny. I love the way that every family member loves something different in the book.

  6. This interview made me laugh. I've seen some pretty big cop uniforms so I think one would fit him easily. Great people are needed even in the back rooms at police departments:-)

  7. Agreed BLD a collective can create/save/inspire in an incredible manner. :)