Luca Veste is one of the nicest people I've come across in the writing world, and one of the most talented judging by the short stories I've read. And they'll soon be even more of his work available, as his début novel Dead Gone is out soon - at the time of writing you can pre-order it for 99p as an ebook, which is just nuts.
Anyway, we got pissed and I have conducted the following professional and sober interview with Luca.
1. We’re conducting this interview in a pub, naturally, so the first question is: what are you drinking, Luca?
Are we still up north? In that case, a Jack Daniels and coke. Ordered one in London once and had to re-mortgage my house...which pissed off my landlord no end.
2. And we might as well start with this, as I can see you’re all giggly and excited: tell us all about your début novel, Dead Gone
I am indeedy! Set in Liverpool, Dead Gone is the first novel in the Murphy and Rossi series. It follows the investigation of the murder of a student from the City of Liverpool university (which doesn't exist in reality - I was worried about being sued by the university I still attend!), who is found in Sefton Park with a letter attached to the body...detailing an unethical historical psychological experiment which has been carried out on them. Obviously, this being Liverpool and ritualistic murderers/serial killers being something we're not used to, Murphy and Rossi dismiss it out of hand and decide it's someone who knows the victim. And then another body turns up...and then another...all with there own letter attached.
It's part police procedural, part psychological thriller, so I've been told. Hopefully it'll be a horrifically enjoyable read either way!
3. And tell us a bit about yourself. But remember, we are in the pub and you've just had one drink, so some exaggeration is okay. In fact include one lie and see if anyone spots it.
Well, I'm currently in denial that I hit 30 this year. I'm a married dad of two daughters, and a mature student studying criminology and psychology at uni in Liverpool. A former civil servant, actor, singer, and guitarist. I've played Buttons in panto, Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, and many other newly embarrassing roles in theatre which I hope no photographs remain of (a leather mini-skirt and size 11 high heels are not a good look on me). I still haven't passed my driving test. I have OCD, and once punched a cow. I was on TV once on a quiz show hosted by Dominik Diamond, in which we were told we'd won, only to have to re-film the ending as they got the scores wrong. We won a Nintendo 64 and a pager for coming second.
4. Okay, serious stuff before we have too many drinks. You've written on your blog about psychology, in particular the Bystander Effect, which is such a horrible idea that I've found people tend not to believe it. How did you go about incorporating such ideas into your fiction?
With great difficultly. At first I thought it'd be really easy, but once you include the experiment or theory, you then have to explain it without losing the readers interest. Otherwise, I'd just be parroting every psychology textbook out there (although it'd be cheaper - honestly, it's £40 for one of those big textbook). I knew from the outset that I had to have a couple of characters with psychology backgrounds within the story, so the university setting became key. I was able to incorporate lecturers (based on no real life ones I know - I've been advised by my legal team to make that absolutely clear) which made things a little easier. Most psychological theories or past experiments are pretty standard fare, but there's a fair few bizarre and strange ones out there to write about.
5. Are there any specific authors who influenced the style of Dead Gone, or any other aspect? Any writing heroes?
Well, I don't think it's much of a surprise to throw Steve Mosby's name out there first. I've gone on about the dude for a good few years now, but he's been a major influence. It was reading one of his books which made me change tack when I first started writing Dead Gone. I was writing a drugs and violence, mean streets of Liverpool, style of book before I realised I couldn't do it. Reading Mosby's book at the same time as starting my psychology degree was the catalyst for change. I'd also include the likes of Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, and Stuart MacBride. And Helen FitzGerald, for her bravery in writing.
5. The jukebox is free, Luca. Here’s a quid - why don’t you tell us what three songs you’re going to put on?
Well...I'll name my three favourite songs, but if this jukebox doesn't have them I won't be surprised! First, Every Strangers Eyes by Roger Waters. From his Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking album, which is generally awful save for a couple of tracks. This is one of them. The few seconds following "And now..." never fails to give me goosebumps. Second, Glorious by Muse. This is a bonus track on the Japanese version of the album Blackholes and Revelations, and I have no idea how I first heard it. Layer upon layer of guitar dubs near the end makes it...well...glorious. And finally, The Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys. A great lyrical poppy style song which doesn't get enough credit. Love the lyrics in that song.
6. Hmmmm, my third pint always puts me in a moaning mood. You’re looking grumpy too. So, what about the writing or publishing world today makes you want to scream?
The "us vs them" argument which happens occasionally between self-published and traditionally-published writers. There's room for both, and there's absolutely no need to make it into a competition or "war". The idea that traditional publishing is about to go under (I've seen the money they make...they aint going anywhere for a good long time) or that all self-publishing is dreadful cack (it's not - read any John Rickards/Sean Cregan, Mark Edwards, or Mel Sherratt to realise this) is just ridiculous. We're all writers. There's better stuff to worry about. Like where those 2,500 words you wrote last night in a drunken haze actually fit in with the story.
7. But the fourth always cheers me up, especially as I've just remembered all the fun chats we've had on social media. How do you think Twitter and the like have helped you as a writer – either on the creative side or on the business-y, making contacts side? Or are they just a time drain?
I'm almost certain I wouldn't be at this point now without the help of social media. I first spoke to my agent through Twitter for a start! It's been a great tool to meet and connect with other writers - most of whom I would never have met without it - which led to the charity anthologies I put together. It's just a fantastic space to share with excellent people. There's a brilliantly welcoming community out there.
But, yeah, it's a huge time drain. I could spend hours just reading what everyone else is saying on Twitter/Facebook/insert preferred social media platform here. They're all ridiculously entertaining, which doesn't help when you're trying to write a difficult scene in whatever book you're writing at the time. It's a great distraction though.
8. We first spoke, I think, when you were promoting the first of your brilliant anthologies Off The Record. All the proceeds from those books go to children's literacy charities (I was extremely chuffed to be involved in the second). Is that a cause close to your heart?
Definitely. Reading as a child was something that I enjoyed more than anything. I didn't have the best of situations growing up (cue violins), but I was lucky in that I had a dad who always encouraged reading of any kind. Although he probably shouldn't have given a copy of The Stand to a just turned 11 year old boy. Reading was an escape from reality, whilst also opening up the door to a variety of worlds out there. Off The Record 1 & 2 have raised quite a few hundred quid for the children's literacy charities which hopefully goes some way to helping some other kid in worse situations than mine ever was to discover the absolute joy of reading.
9. I'm rambling now (must be the Guinness) but if you had to write in any other genre than crime, which would you pick?
I'd love to be able to write horror. It's my first love really, but I just can't seem to manage it. Some parts of Dead Gone have that horror feel to it, but it's a remarkably difficult genre to sustain a tale within. My hats off to anyone who can.
10. What's next for you writing-wise after Dead Gone?
I'm about to deliver the second book in the series to my editor. This one explores vigilantism and the "problem" of youth. Namely the issues surrounding the large numbers of unemployed and not in education young people we have in Liverpool at the moment. I've often heard people talk about the "good old days" when a clip around the ear, or going back further National Service was all that was needed to sort them out, conveniently forgetting that we've always had youths who were anti-social (whatever that means). So, I've got a group of people who think they can solve the problem with a good bit of discipline...only, what happens when they can't "fix" someone...
11. So, now you’re nicely sozzled, it seems like a good time to ask you if you have any crazy plans for Off The Record 3…?
I've been thinking about it a lot lately. There's definitely going to be a third one, but probably with a different approach. The second one didn't sell as well I'd hoped, which influenced my decision to take a year off, but it'll be back. Hopefully I'll be able to get some big names involved, whilst also including the lesser known excellent short story writers (including your good self) out there. I love that mix, so want to keep that a central part of it.
As for theme...I think TV is the natural progression. We've had music and movies, so I think it's only right. I'm just hoping someone comes up with a story with the title "I'm a celebrity...get me out of here".
12. Well, it’s getting late. One for the road?
Just one? Lightweight.