It has been such a pleasure for me to discover that there’s another Welsh crime writer on the block and having contact with him via twitter and email. Thus, it was also a pleasure to wing it over to Salisbury last Thursday and find myself surrounded by, er, mainly Welsh people. Unlike the Irish who like to have a themed pub near them, camaraderie exists with the Welsh but more discreetly (the obvious exception to this being rugby match attendance).
Discretion applies here in another way too, for Richard Jay Parker has already been entertaining people for years but you may not realise it. You may have laughed at lines he has produced in scripts for such comedic luminaries as Mel Smith and Hale & Pace. Indeed, he also produced a number of TV series, one of which – We Know Where You Live – launched the careers of Simon Pegg, Fiona Allen and Sanjeev Bhaskar. But he’s now published within the crime fiction genre, so where did it all start?
Early on at the party I was introduced Mr Jay Parker senior, beaming with pride at his son’s achievements and eager to give me an idea of the early years of Richard. I was told that Richard and his brother would save for their Cornwall holidays, with Richard spending his money on small model creatures like spiders and other creepy crawlies. We all know what happens when a child prefers the real over the fake and takes the legs off one by one, as we’ve read this quite a few times before. Luckily, Richard preferred the fake, graduating to horror in books and on screen and ended up, in his first published novel writing about a serial killer.
Where Richard’s brother followed in his father’s footsteps with an interest in things mechanical and engineering, Richard followed his mother with an interest and aptitude in the arts. For quite a few years, his father told me, chuckling as he did so, he urged Richard ‘to get a proper job’ as he embarked on what would become a successful TV career.
But I think it was seeing the book with his name on the cover that caused all the pride on that night. It took quite a while to get there, with Richard having spent around ten years and writing about the same number of novels before Stop Me hit the shelves. Due to changes of personnel leading to changes of taste at both publishers and agents, early interest in a couple of his novels waned, but he continued to write and discovered that he liked constructing thriller plots. Says Richard, ‘Because of my script background and my voracious appetite for movies I've always had a very celluloid approach to writing and admire the ingenuity of a good movie thriller twist. From “Angel Heart” to the structure of “Memento” it was more movies than books that turned me onto the idea of writing a thriller.’
I asked Richard what spurred him on to writing crime fiction and why he made the transition. He replied ‘I worked exclusively in adult TV comedy for eighteen years and I'd reached a stage when I'd had a go at most of the creative processes within production. I was always commissioned to write scripts for all the shows I worked on which was the fun part but I did other things to subsidise my income. I loved script editing because I got to encourage and nurture some new writers along the way as well as see my ideas through every department of production. I produced a couple of series but it was thankless work and it left me with very little time to make a contribution to the shows. On top of that you do start to analyse your work and realise that, after years of writing, everything you put into a comedy script meeting is a variation on something you've already done. So with an increasing frustration with producers and performers tampering with my work (sometimes for the better but often for the worse) it's not hard to see why the idea of writing a novel appealed to me. There are still obviously editorial filters to submit to but a novel is really all your own. I was lucky to have a good editor at Allison and Busby and she changed very little – just helped me analyse it.’
Many have said that a big part of the achievement of becoming published is the tenacity of the writer, the drive to write and to never give up. Richard clearly possesses this in spades. An early blip had one agent declare a novel of his as ‘supernatural pornography.’ Not a genre I have come across before, so I had to ask. Richard kindly elaborated with ‘It literally was supernatural pornography. The story concerned an ex porno director moving to a quiet village and his presence altering the fabric of the community. There was a vaguely supernatural element to it but mainly it was full of sex.’
And of his future writing, I’ll leave the last words to Richard: ‘Stop Me is a standalone as is the next book. I can't see me writing books about a regular character – although never say never. At the moment I've got lots of ideas for self-contained thrillers and the new one brings in some similar elements to the first book although the character dynamic is going to be very different. There's also going to be some sex. It won't be supernatural pornography though.’
Keep up with Richard at his site here.