It’s Saturday again, which means its time for the series spotlight feature. This week I’m joined by Owen Mullen, author of the Charlie Cameron series.
About Owen (via Amazon Author Page):
School was a waste of time for me. Or rather, I wasted time; my own and every teacher’s who tried to get me to work. It took twenty years to appreciate what they were telling me. Life has rules. They aren’t written down but they exist nevertheless. I got that. Eventually. But by then I was thirty five.
Along the way I missed an important clue. At ten I won a national primary schools short story competition – and didn’t write anything else for forty years.
SMART BOY WANTED
As a teenager my big obsession was music. Early on I realised if I was successful I would probably be rich and famous and pull lots of girls.
So how did that turn out?
Well, you haven’t heard of me, have you? And this morning I caught myself worrying about the electricity bill. So the short answer is: one out of three ain’t bad.
Running around the country in a Transit van with your mates is fun. It’s your very own gang. You against the world. Until you fall out and the dream lies bleeding on the dressing-room floor.
When that happened I went to London
[everybody from Scotland goes to London, it’s like first footing at New Year, or ten pints of lager and a vindaloo on a Friday night; a sacred tradition]
and became a session singer. I also started gigging with different bands on the circuit.
Back in Scotland – most of us come back with wild tales of great success, none of them true – I wondered what I should do with myself and didn’t have to wait long for the answer. Her name was Christine. We got married, I went to Strathclyde Uni and got a bunch of letters after my name, and toughing it out at Shotts Miner’s Welfare, or dodging flying beer cans at the Café Club in Baillieston, was in the past. The long hair was short now, I wore a suit and pretended to like people I didn’t like because we were ‘colleagues’.
After many adventures I started my own marketing and design business and did alright. Christine and I were very happy, we travelled all over the place; India, Brazil, Botswana, Nepal, Borneo, Japan. One day I suggested we move. To the Greek islands. So we did. We bought land and built a beautiful villa overlooking the Mediterranean. Then the pan global financial crash happened, years of fiscal carelessness finally caught up with Greece; the exchange rate dived and the cost of living in Paradise went through the roof.
I had to do something. Then I remembered the short story competition. I had been good at writing, hadn’t I?
I wrote another short story called The King Is Dead…the first thing I’d written since primary school. When I typed the last word [Christine taught me to type] I held the pages in my hand then started to read. An hour and a half, rooted to the chair unable to believe what was in front of my eyes. For four decades I had shunned a god given gift. And as I read I started to understand why. It was awful. Not just bad. Bloody terrible.
But I kept going.
And now, eight years and seven books later, three literary agents plus two I turned down [they were reading a different book] I am a writer. My books are on Amazon. People buy them and come back for more.
One seasoned London agent has predicted I am destined to be ‘a major new force in British crime fiction.’
So is the moral: follow my example, find something you’re good at and stick with it. Hardly. I didn’t, did I? Do it your own way; it’s your life
I love that bio so I had to add it in! 🙂 Without further ado I’ll hand you over to the man himself…
Venus and Mars
In Games People Play, Jackie Mallon – who runs the New York Blue bar/diner where Charlie Cameron has his office – decides to have a bagua done on the restaurant. Don’t know what a bagua is? You’re not alone. Jackie is trying to maximise the energy around the business. A strange man comes from the Glasgow Feng Shui Society to help her.
[Don’t know if there is a Glasgow Feng Shui Society. If there is, please accept my apology]
Before long she is re-arranging the furniture, painting the front door red – apparently it brings prosperity – and strategically placing an ugly little chunk of marble in the image of a three-footed frog: the Toad God.
So where did that come from? Easy. From my own life. Kind of.
Years ago my wife, Christine, became interested in Feng Shui. She would sit quietly pouring over books with strange titles. I didn’t ask what they were although I was about to find out. One night I was looking for a magazine I’d bought months earlier. It wasn’t where I remembered leaving it. After an hour of fruitless searching I asked Christine if she knew where it was.
‘It’s in the bin,’ she said. ‘I threw it out.’
‘You weren’t reading it.’
‘But I was going to read it. In fact, I want to read it now.’
‘Well you can’t. It’s gone.’
I didn’t understand.
‘What do you mean? Why throw a brand new magazine away.’
With a straight face she said, ‘It was clogging up the energy.’
A week after that I decided to listen to Billy Joel. We have a lot of CDs in our house; the one I was after wasn’t there.’
‘Have you seen the Billy Joel CD?’
Christine didn’t reply.
‘You know the one. Haven’t played it in ages.’
‘That’s right. I thought you were finished with it.’
‘How could I be finished with it? It’s a CD. People keep CDs.’
‘Use it or lose it.’
‘Use it or lose it. Otherwise it’s just clogging up the energy.’
We had a full and frank exchange of views the way married people do. I made my point and thought that was the end of it. Not so. Time passed, the Toad God became part of the family and I learned to live with him. Summer became autumn, then winter. One wet Wednesday, with the wind blowing hard enough to make the windows rattle, I decided it was clearly a day for my old leather coat. I’d had that coat for years; it was an old friend. Of course it was nowhere to be seen. Eventually I raised the subject with my wife [Christine had never liked it. She called it my ‘Flick of the Gestapo’ coat]
‘Where is it?’
‘You know what I’m talking about.’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘My coat. My leather coat.’
She hesitated. ‘Oh, that.’
‘I gave it away.’
I exploded. Christine stayed calm and the explanation she gave me made perfect sense. ‘ We’re surrounded by energy. Everything feeds from it. Possessions draw it to them so unless we use something or love it, it has to go because it’s…’
‘…clogging up the energy. I get it. What I don’t get is why it’s always my stuff. Why never yours. All those shoes for example. I mean, how many pairs of shoes does one woman need?’
She stared at me, her face set hard. ‘What’re you suggesting?’
‘I’m suggesting you get rid of some of them because they’re clogging up the energy.’
‘Get rid of perfectly good shoes?’
‘Yeah. Throw them away.’
She shook her head and started to walk away.
‘I can’t talk to you when you’re hysterical.’
The point I’m making is that, for a writer, everything in life has the potential to be used for a story. The things we store away without even knowing we’re doing it can come back when they’re needed.
I don’t go through life filing stuff I think will be useful. I only realise I must have done it when it pours, seemingly from nowhere, on to the page. And of course I keep my eyes and ears open and dismiss nothing.
Because you just never know.
[by the by, the Toad God is still there. Persistent little bastard, isn’t he? Maybe I could have some Glasgow gangster kidnap him. I can think of a couple who might be interested]
Christine wants to add something.
‘I certainly do. As I understand it, the advice on this topic is that we give energy to every single thing we own. So if we don’t love it, and we don’t use it, it’s just physical and mental clutter. Never believe anything a writer tells you. There was no magazine – it was old cooking utensils Owen hadn’t used in 100 years. The Billy Joel CD is still nestled beside all the other CDs Owen doesn’t play; the collection is set out in alphabetical order. Surprisingly, Billy Joel comes…wait for it…J Being a man, that concept is beyond Owen. Great writer but… Lastly, the coat. The coat was old and scuffed; the lining hung down at the back and the style wasn’t ever coming back. It was an embarrassment and yes, I pitched it out. Nothing to do with energy. It was a rag and the bin was the best place for it. Owen couldn’t see he was only achieving half of the ‘shabby chic’ look he was aiming for…and it wasn’t the ‘chic’ half!
ps I like the Toad God, he’s come through once or twice, and at least he doesn’t use ‘poetic licence’ in his stories about me!.
I also asked Owen what series he’s read that he would always recommend, and he chose Sherlock Holmes and Neil Cross’ Luther series.
Huge thanks to Owen for taking the time to participate in the spotlight feature. Here’s all his info if you want to keep up with news, books etc!