Getting straight down to busy today, we have Yorkshire born author, Ray Clark!
Eva: First of all, welcome Ray and thank you for taking part in my author interview series! Now, let's get started! Tell us all about yourself (as in, a bit of a biography).
Ray: Thank you so much Eva for doing this series! I am the Yorkshire born author, and creator of
Northern Crimes - a series of gritty, murder mysteries set in and around Leeds, featuring detectives DI Gardener and DS Reilly, and published by The Book Folks.
I always think of DI Stewart Gardener as a man on a mission. Not only does he feel the need
to revenge the untimely death of his wife on the city streets, but to hunt down anyone who
thinks they can take the law into their own hands. He is assisted by DS Sean Reilly, an
unstoppable force from the troubled streets of Belfast.
The duo are usually immersed in cases that present real and unusual challenges, whether
that's a serial killer, a blackmailer, a thief, a cyber-criminal, or a predator. It matters not, as
far as they're concerned; the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Over the last forty years I have also spent a considerable amount of time in the music
industry working both in the UK and Europe as a guitar vocalist and with a number of
bands. These days, I divide my time between writing books and working live on the music
scene, and, when I can, helping to raise money for the Oesophageal Patients Association, a
charity I feel quite close to.
How many books have you written up to now? Are they published or self-published?
What genre are they?
In the early days I used to write horror and the supernatural. I did self-publish my first book
entitled Calix, and followed up with a couple of short story anthologies. Horror however was
slowly slipping in the rankings and I started to notice that some of the bigger name writers
were switching to crime fiction. I’m pleased to say that I made that same change and
worked very closely with my friend and mentor, best-selling author of the Roy Grace series,
Peter James and I have never looked back. A few years ago, I met Erik Empson of the Book
Folks, who became my publisher, and I am really pleased to say that book 10 of Northern
Crimes, Impunity, was published in May 2023.
Of all the genres there are, is there any genre/s that you feel you wouldn’t be able to
write and why? Is there any genre that you really wish you could write, but feel you
wouldn’t be able to do it justice?
I suspect comedy would be the one that would beat me. It’s a difficult genre for the fact that
what makes you laugh may not make someone else laugh, so I think it must be a continual
challenge. I did once write a comedy horror short story about an alcoholic whose untimely
death and mix up with his name landed him in hell. He spent the remainder of the story
trying to bargain his way out of the place, and pleading with the devil that he really
shouldn’t be there, until he finally strikes a deal. Problem is, can you trust the devil to keep
his side of the bargain? It has never been published simply because, for some strange
reason, I have never submitted it anywhere. (Eva: I think you need to submit this one, Ray!)
Do you have any favourite ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ words that you like to use in your
books? What are those words? Also, what words used by other authors irritate you
more than they should?
This is quite a good question, but I don’t particularly have any. There are some words
however, I never use in the narrative such as ‘just’, ‘look’, ‘this’ and ‘get’. I always think there
are better ways of explaining yourself, particularly with the word ‘look’. I appreciate you do
look at something, but there are alternatives such as glance, stare, leer etc. They, I feel,
describe the scene better. I think the thing that irritates me the most in any writing are
repetitive words, something you may use three or four times in a paragraph, so I always try
very hard in the editing process to pick up on those.
Do you sing at all, be it karaoke, in a choir or have done so professionally? Whether
you have or not, have you ever written (or had the urge to write) any song lyrics?
Have those lyrics been used at all?
I do. As I mentioned briefly in the bio, I have been a musician for over forty years, working
both home and abroad, with bands, or as a solo artist, live on stage or in recording studios. I
still work live but not as much as I used to, mostly cabaret in the hotels on the East Coast in
Scarborough. When possible, I try to arrange charity shows in theatres to raise funds and
awareness for the OPA (Oesophageal Patients Association). We have a lot of fun with those,
usually there are five or six acts making up the night and it’s all for a good cause. I’ve never
actually written songs, apart from one small period in my life, when I co-wrote three or four
and we actually entered one for the Eurovision Song Contest but nothing came of it.
What question would you like to pose, (if you were to ever interview your favourite
author), which never seems to get asked in author interviews? And who is that
I have a few authors I really like, but I think the closest one is Peter James. Peter wrote the
introduction to my first publication, Manitou Man: The World of Graham Masterton,
although we never actually met at that point. We met some years after and have stayed
friends since. So, if I were to interview him, I would ask him what first inspired him to write
the Roy Grace series, and why does he have the word ‘dead’ in every title?
If you were to ever write a children’s book, (and those of you who already do) would
you/do you do the illustrating yourself, make use of a family member or friend’s
talent or pay an illustrator? Do you solely write or do you have any other creative
I think children’s books are closely linked to an earlier question, about difficult genre’s that
you don’t think you could do justice to. I would struggle but if I had a go, there are a number
of people I could use to illustrate them. The one thing I cannot do is draw. I know that
nowadays there are a number of computer programs that make life easier for all sorts of
things but I’m no good with those either. The only drawing I was really any good at was
technical drawing in school.
Of all the characters you have created, who is your favourite? And why?
I think a number of characters I have written about I like. One that comes to mind is a
character called Mark Farnham in a book entitled The Priest’s Hole (later republished as
Resurrection). Mark is a writer who was unfortunate enough to have his house built when
he became successful. What he couldn’t know is that it was built over land that had been the
epicentre of a serious and violent battle a thousand years previously, where the last
stronghold of Druids in the UK fought for their lives. Things quickly spiral out of control
when he finds a medallion, and someone suggests a Ouija Board session to find out more.
What I liked about Mark is that he took no prisoners. He said it how it was, often even if
that offended people. He would probably not fit in with a lot of today’s culture.
But my favourite has to be D.I. Gardener from the Northern Crimes series. I like Gardener
for all the right reasons. Like all policemen, he is flawed because he feels responsible for the
untimely death of his wife but he continues to do what he does in an effort to put that right.
Where he is not like all policemen is that he still believes that he must look after himself at
all costs, therefore when he has been on a case for hours and it’s four o’ clock in the morning
and the only food available is MacDonald’s he will refuse it, because it’s bad for you. He
prefers to eat healthily, and dress correctly. He may be a policeman, but he is also a father
and a family man so he is able to wear two hats. If a team member is suffering, Gardener
will be the first to talk to them about the problem, and try to help out. He has a very
understanding nature. I always love starting a new Northern Crimes book, to see what I can
throw at Gardener and to see how he will cope. The new one that I am currently researching
is going to test him to his very limits.
Have you ever killed off a character in your books (I’m sure you have)? If so, was it
because…it fitted nicely into the storyline? OR…Did you start to really dislike the
character and, with too much work involved to re-write without that character, think
it the easiest option to have that person die?
I think I have only ever killed off a character out of necessity, or because it had been
planned all along. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a character enough to kill them off.
Are any of your characters based on family members or friends? Have you kept their
characters totally true to life or have you given them bonus traits that you wish they
possessed in real life?
I have only ever done this once. In the second of the Northern Crimes series, Imperfection, I
set a murder in the Grand Theatre in Leeds. In chapter one, the audience were there to
listen to an aged actor talk about his life in films. When the curtains opened, the actor was
nowhere to be seen. The chapter came to an abrupt end when the lifeless body of the actor
plummeted toward the stage with a rope around his neck. I had a character in that book,
called Albert Fettle, who looked after the stage door in the theatre. He was short and bald
and rotund and stretched a pair of braces to breaking point. He was a straight-talking
Yorkshireman who was always brewing a pot of tea, and always had food on the go. I used to
work with that very person many years ago. He was simply too good to waste, not that I ever
told him I had done that.
Relationships/family life aside, what are your TWO main regrets in life?
This might sound really strange but I don’t have any. I tend to spend my life looking
forward, not back. I daresay I have made a lot of decisions that have turned out wrong, but I
don’t really regret them, it’s part of the life experience.
What was your passion as a child? Did that passion stay with you during your adult
life OR did you, as you grew up begin to detest what you once enjoyed?
Can’t really remember if I had a passion when I was child, but I do remember going through
phases of wanting to be a professional footballer, and then an actor, a mechanic, and at one
point, a pop star. I guess that one must have stayed with me, although I wouldn’t say I was a
pop star but I managed to make a living out of something I enjoyed, both on a professional
and semi-professional basis – and still manage to.
What was your best subject throughout your school years? And your worst?
I think my worst lesson without doubt was French. Because the teacher was a Liverpool fan,
all we ever did was persuade him to talk about football, hence the reason I failed French. I
wasn’t much better at chemistry either. I think my best subjects were English and Maths.
My English teacher said I had a very good imagination and should do something with it. I
once tried my hand at a short story for the exam, about an aged stationmaster in an old
country station in the middle of a thunderstorm. Before locking up for the night he checked
all the buildings, not expecting to come face to face in the waiting room with a man up to no
good. I don’t think I had the imagination at that point to really finish the story so I rushed
the ending. Many, many years later, I revisited the story and really went to town on it. It was
titled One Rainy Night, and became the first story in an anthology entitled, A Devil’s Dozen,
which is now sadly out-of-print.
Tell me about your favourite teacher throughout your school years? Was it a crush
you had? Were they just an excellent teacher of your favourite subject?? Or some
other reason…kind, fun, generous…?
That would be a teacher we nicknamed, Noddy, in all honesty I cannot tell you why we did
that. At one point in school, I wanted to be a mechanic, and when you had to pick your own
lessons for your latter years, I was always told, if you want to be a mechanic, you had to pick
physics. I never understood that. Auto Science was in the same group and you could not
pick two, so I opted for physics, with a teacher I could not stand, called Mr Ireland. Four
weeks in, I swapped, against the headteacher’s better wishes, to Auto Science, with Mr
Hughes (otherwise known as Noddy). He was a brilliant teacher, very understanding,
always up for a laugh, and basically treated you like an adult. We all loved him for that. I
learned so much about cars in that lesson, so much so, when I left school, I was offered an
apprenticeship with Kennings Ltd, as a car mechanic. So much for the advice.
Did either of your parents ever express a wish to write? Are they supportive and
proud of your work? Or do they just choose to not get involved, but they are pleased
My parents were always supportive of the things I chose to do. My Dad decided not to try to
push me into anything but to let me make up my own mind, and stand and fall by my
decisions. He was always very proud of my writing and he was always the first to read a
newly finished novel. But he never told me what I wanted to hear; he was instead a fierce
critic. If something wasn’t working, he would tell me. In the first Northern Crimes novel
(the working draft) I had D. I. Gardener and D. S. Reilly visiting a lady. She opened the door
on a chain and demanded to see their ID. When satisfied, she closed the door and not only
unhooked the chain, but apparently slid all the bolts back. My Dad telephoned me and
asked, how could she slide back bolts if she had already opened the door? Of course, he was
right, but it needed pointing out before I sent the manuscript off.
Tell us about your ultimate ambition, be it personal, travel, writing, work, hobby
related or other?
Again, it’s another question I’m not sure about. I spent a lot of years wanting to meet Cliff
Richard, and one day I did. I have always admired his stamina as a pop star. And then I
wanted to meet Graham Masterton because I loved his books. Not only did I meet him but
had the chance to work with him on Manitou Man. I’m not really sure what is left to go at.
Do you have any phobias and if so, what are they? Have you ever conquered any
phobia and if so, how did you do it?
I have a very serious phobia of false teeth. I hate them, and I have never conquered it. But
the funniest thing ever to come from that was a visit to the dentist where we sat and
discussed everything and between us came up with a brilliant idea for a short story about a
man who had a phobia of false teeth. He loathed them but an unfortunate condition meant
he had to have a set, which ended very badly for him, particularly when he found out that
the false teeth were so perfect because they came from corpses. The story was called The
Teeth Park. It was published many years ago but I think it is sadly out of print.
Most people I know are not happy with something physical about themselves
(face/body etc.,) but if you could change anything about your personality, what
would you wish to change?
Very possibly my patience, which is sometimes a little on the short side. There are times
when I don’t think things through and make the odd rash decision – but I am getting better
What is your ‘go to’ snack, whatever the time of day? And drink of your choice?
Quite a difficult one. That said I have a local butcher who makes the most amazing pork pies
and hog roast sausage rolls and, believe it or not, the best egg custards ever. So, a
combination of those with a cup of tea would almost always do the trick.
Cats or dogs? What do you have? Do you introduce any pets into your books?
Cats. I’ve had them all my life. I love all animals of all descriptions but have only ever kept
cats. Interestingly, when one passes away, it ends up in a book. I had a ginger cat called
Waldo, which made it into Calix, and I remember having a white cat called Magic, which is
in the Northern Crimes series – she was Gardener’s late wife’s cat. That said, my first
partner, Linda, had a golden Labrador called Sam. He was fantastic. He used to go to the shop
with us and carry back his own tin of dog food. He also went to the shop with my dad
and carried back the newspaper, only because he would be rewarded with a chocolate
biscuit. He would go to the shop on his own and sit and wait at the door and refuse to move
until he was given a bag of crisps. When we went to pay the paper bill, we always had a bill
for crisps, so we had to tell the shopkeeper that we had no problem, but please give him the
cheapest crisps and not Walkers. Everyone knew and loved Sam.
AND FINALLY, Hit me up with all your Amazon book-links? And the links to your
website and social media profiles?
Website: Northern Crimes | by Ray Clark (thelordofmisrule.net)
Facebook: (20+) Facebook
Twitter: Ray Clark (@T1LOM) / X (twitter.com)
Contact an Author: Ray Clark | Contact an Author
You Tube: (44) Ray Clark - YouTube
Amazon: Amazon.co.uk: Ray Clark: books, biography, latest update
And another great interview! Thanks again, Ray! On Friday we have author, Ann Wedgwood in the hot seat!
Have a great week everyone!