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Monday 1 April 2024

Interview : Carol Westron in Conversation with Nick Everard


Nick Everard served as a cavalry officer in the British Army from 1977-99, including as Commanding Officer of his Regiment in Bosnia.
He has worked since in the City; schools adventure travel
(he was a director of World Challenge) and Recruitment/Executive Search.
Since July 2021 he has been Regimental Secretary of The Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeths’ Own): thus his career has run full circle.
His first novel,
Clean Kill, (a lockdown project), was published by
The Book Guild in May 2022.
Nick lives on the Leicestershire/Northamptonshire border with his wife Kiki
and a menagerie of animals. They have two grown children.

Carol: You had other full-time careers before you published your first book. Have you always wanted to be a fiction writer? If not, when did you decide to start writing?
I started with screenplays, beginning in my Army days during long evenings in Bosnia in 1997/98: my predecessor advised ‘come with a project’, as it was by then pretty quiet (mostly). They are quite short (got to be able to read it in 2 hours), and the software makes it easy technologically (if not technically). But they are hard to sell – particularly if your agent dies, as mine did (I was lucky to get one).  I’ve done three, but when you are working full time it’s hard to devote enough effort to marketing them, so they languish in an electronic drawer.  I might try to resurrect them when I finally retire.

In terms of books – it was the pandemic.  Plenty of time on my hands, so ‘if not now, when’?  We were only locked down for a couple of months initially of course, but I’d made enough progress in that time to continue. I began in May 2020 and had finished Clean Kill by spring 2021. Then I had to get a publisher….

My wife certainly encouraged me.

Carol:    Many authors draw on past careers and experience (teaching and teachers certainly feature strongly in my books). Do you draw on your past experiences when writing your fiction and if so in what ways does it influence you?

Nick:    I think everyone recycles some aspects of their experience.  The first book Clean Kill was set in Essex, because I’d lived there twice whilst in the Army and knew it well: but otherwise, it was an entirely imaginary story.

My second book Past Unbecoming is a modern-day thriller, but it harks back to events in a wartime Cavalry Regiment, and a scandal that emerges.  I definitely drew on my own 22 years’ experience of that environment (albeit not of course WW2), and my general military knowledge, but not in much depth: I wanted the book to be accessible and hopefully informative to the general reader, but also credible to those who did have military knowledge. Hard circle to square, but basically plot tops technical detail: ‘less is more.’ The first draft certainly contained too much information, which I’d put in simply because I knew it.  That’s a mistake if you want to appeal to the general reader: I took a lot out.

Carol:     So far you have published two stand-alone books in which crime intrudes into your protagonists‘ previously well-ordered lives, do you anticipate continuing to write stand-alone novels or do you think that you might move into writing a series?
My third book Braybrooke is finished and will be published in September: see later section. I’m about to start my fourth, and have a promising idea for that, having persuaded someone with experience to talk to me.  So, no current intention to write a series, though never say never.  At present I think only the first (Clean Kill) might lend itself to that.

Carol:    Do you plot your novels or do you ‘write into the dark’ discovering the story as you write?
No – I start with a theme (ie ‘a perfect murder’ or ‘a scandal surfaces’) and just start writing.  Each chapter is 4 sections, and basically a section is one writing session of about 45 minutes.  I briefly review what I wrote in the previous session, but otherwise never go back: that way I eventually end up with ‘something’, though it’ll need a lot of work.

I do take stock at certain points when there’s a definite ‘fork in the road’.  Then I might lay out various possibilities before deciding which route to follow.  But I doubt I spend more than half an hour on it. I hadn’t finally decided on the killer in my most recent book till 75% of the way through.

Carol:  What part of the writing process do you enjoy best? And which do you find the hardest?

Nick:    I enjoy characterisation, and indeed letting characters emerge.  I give them their head, and they often surprise me.  At the end I might need to reel them back from a few blind alleys, but I don’t grudge them that.I don’t much enjoy the production / proofing process, nor the marketing / self-publicity.  But it’s necessary.

Carol:  In your second novel, Past Unbecoming, your protagonist is tasked with investigating events that occurred in the Second World War, how challenging did you find the research involved, plus working out how to fit it seamlessly into the contemporary narrative?
Not challenging – I already knew a lot about it, and if I need them there are plenty of resources where I work (I am Regimental Secretary of The Royal Lancers).  The challenge was to construct a credible fictional scenario within a factual environment.

Carol:    Tell us about your third book which is due to be published in September.
Braybrooke is set in the village I live in. There was quite a well-known murder there in 1932: I started with the idea of writing the story of that killing, Truman Capote/In Cold Blood style, but though the basic facts were easy enough to establish there wasn’t much underlying detail: I would have had to fictionalise much of it, and I was wary of unknown sensitivities in the village.

So, I shelved that idea, and instead invented a fictional modern-day story based on the theme of being the man with a dog who discovers a body, as per news reports ad infinitum.  I recycled aspects from 1932 (body location, weapon etc), but otherwise it has no similarity (many disclaimers)!  I tell the true story of the 1932 murder in the Prologue.. A couple of characters in my previous book make cameo appearances, because they’re both set in the area I live (Leics / Northants border).   

Carol:   What other hobbies do you enjoy?
I’ve always enjoyed sailing, and am starting to do more of it (you can’t live further from the sea than I do).  I like skiing, but rather less these days (not as brave as I was).  I like old cars, especially Italian ones, and havegenerally got an old sports car stashed away somewhere (I took the current one to Portsmouth for Mystery Fest).  And I have always enjoyed travel (Malta and US this year).

Carol:     What are your writing plans for the near future?
One novel a year for now.  I’m 67 and aim to retire at 70: possibly I’ll get more ambitious then.  And I want to get an Agent!

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher. 
Her crime novels are set both in contemporary
and Victorian times. 
Her first book
The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013.
Since then, she
has since written 8 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. interview
To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
Death and the Dancing Snowman

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