What influences a writer?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a number of people asking me the same (or at least a very similar) question…

Why are you suddenly so politically active?

And they don’t just mean on my blog. Recently I’ve been talking a lot more about politics, specifically the political landscape in Britain, and on one or two occasions I have even poked fun at the political state of the country. I’ve been talking on Facebook, I’ve been talking in person to individuals…

And a lot of people are wondering, ‘Why now?’

Well, the simple answer would be to simply say that what is going on in Britain at the moment had touched a nerve of some description – that the current shambles that is British politics and the recent vote to Brexit is something that I just happen to feel passionate about.

But that wouldn’t quite be true…

It’s not untrue, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

For one thing, I always like to think I’m making a point in my writing.

Whether I am telling a story about Jack the Ripper or telling a tale about how an Irish baker is forced into becoming a detective in a secluded, Victorian village, all of my stories have some point that I am trying to put across. And, now that I have people asking about my sudden outcry over Brexit and British politics in general, I feel that the time has come to talk a little about what motivates my writing and what you can expect when you tuck into a Nick R B Tingley story…

For the past three years, my writing has been bound by similar threads and themes. Like most writers, I have found myself falling into a genre that I enjoy writing (in my case crime fiction) but I have also carved out a little niche for myself within that genre. It is not enough for me to tell a tale about a brutal murder and a detective’s attempt to solve it – I much prefer to delve deep into our own mindset and pluck out what I perceive to be the fascinating aspects of our society…

If you have read any of my stories, you may well have noticed the major themes already – although a closer look at my tag-line may have also given it away…

The Dark Corrupts Us All

Simply put, I tell stories about the lies that people tell each other. In the case of Dressed to Deceive, the story explores the lies told on an individual level but also addresses the backdrop of the time where the newspaper men who covered Jack the Ripper’s crimes were doing everything and anything to keep him on the front page and, as a result, fuelling the fear that swept across the country.

In the case of The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow, the lies are a little simpler. I won’t reveal too much as I haven’t even finished the story yet, but I can tell you that one of the driving forces of this tale is the idea that the detective character is an Irishman who has been nominated to be the village policeman against his will. In a time where being Irish wasn’t exactly a cause of joy for small town, Victorian England, the Irishman spends the vast majority of his time trying to sift through all the lies he is told by others in a torturous attempt to find even the tiniest scraps of relevant information.

In the DS Giles stories, the subject of lies is developed even further as I begin to investigate the idea of politicians lying to each other. Although it is very rare that a politician actually appears (or will appear) in a Giles novel, the decisions they make and the lies they propagate run through the background of every event that shapes Giles’ life and with each new lie, a new evil emerges from the shadows.

But lies are not the only thing that influence my writing. There is something a little deeper than that.

In a large proportion of my stories, my leading characters are at a complete disadvantage to everyone else. In the case of The Butcher of Barclay’s Hollow, the character of Conroy is an Irishman living in Victorian England. He is viewed by many with suspicion and the main reason why he becomes the village policeman in the first place is because some of the other villagers are desperate to reveal him as the idiot, barbarian that they think he is.

In the case of the DS Giles novels, Giles takes on this role. Like Conroy, she is treated with suspicion. But, whilst Conroy belongs to a time gone by, Giles is a detective of Asian descent living in a modern Britain – a Britain where a far right political party has taken control and are systematically trying to remove or destroy all immigrants from their lands…

And maybe now you begin to see it – why the whole Brexit question and the state of British politics has prompted me to become more vocal about it all. It is all, in some way or another, relevant to my writing – I just hope that what I create in my mind doesn’t come to pass…

In the film, Chaplin – a biopic of Charlie Chaplin made in the early 1990s – Robert Downey Jr. (who plays Chaplin) makes what I think is a rather apt comment. I have no idea whether the real Charlie Chaplin ever said it – a quick glance through various internet search engines didn’t come up with anything to suggest he did – but I like to think that he might have at least thought it. It is a sentiment that I strongly agree with and, for that reason I shall repeat it to you now…

‘If you want to understand me, watch my movies.’

Of course, in my case, I should probably paraphrase it slightly.

So if you ever find yourself wondering why I am suddenly taking an interest in certain aspects of the world that I haven’t necessarily drawn much attention to in the past, just remember this one little phrase and, with any luck, it might make things a little clearer…

If you want to understand me, read my stories.

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