CTG in conversation with Alex Caan: author of CUT TO THE BONE

Cut to the Bone

Today I’m super excited to be hosting a stop on the CUT TO THE BONE Blog Tour. The lovely Alex Caan has joined me on the CTG blog to chat about all things writing, reading and to tell me what it’s really like being a debut author.

Welcome, Alex!

I always read about writers knowing from a young age they wanted write. What do you think? And when did you decide to do it professionally?

For me I think it was about 8 I remember starting to write stories and wanting to be a writer. I think I saw Roald Dahl in his shed on Blue Peter (I know the glamour of my youth!) sharpening his pencils and writing his stories, and that made me realise it could actually be a career. Like so many though I didn’t have the confidence to pursue it, until I hit thirty and decided if I wanted to pursue my dreams it was now or never. So I joined writing groups, did short courses and eventually an MA. But from trying to make this my profession to the publication of ‘Cut to the Bone’ I think it’s taken me a decade of hard graft.

CTG pauses a moment, adds up years: thirty plus a decade … then says [in shock] there is no way you’re fourty!!!!

But, seriously, I’ve talked to quite a lot of authors who’ve said it’s taken them about ten years of ‘apprenticeship’ before getting published. So, you did an MA (like me). How did you find it?

Ha, thank you I think! Mine was a general MA and I spent most of it trying to write the next great Booker winner style novel. Only towards the end, when I had to submit a novel for my dissertation did I have the confidence to write something I really wanted to. I think I learnt a lot about how to cope with criticism, and constructive criticism. And I knew nothing about the business of publishing, how to approach agents and how the process works. The MA helped greatly with that.

Yes, that’s a really great point – I found it gave me a much better understanding of the world of publishing too. And the ‘writing what you want’ thing you mention is key, I think, it’s easier to find your own voice that way perhaps.

America. Why?

My reality especially as a teenager was dire. I think it’s why I connected with the character of Ruby so much, that sense of alienation and being an outsider, which I think both Kate Riley and Zain Harris also share. And when you’re growing up in a deprived inner-city area, and having a tough time, the American Dream is just so big and brash and seductive. The TV, films and especially the novels. Everything just seemed so exciting, even the grittiest thrillers had a touch of glamour. Plus the country was always so different depending where you were, so New York was different from LA, and both different from Texas and Boston. However, I’ve never been and I thought my novel would read as a poor pastiche if I tried to fake it. Instead-I transported Kate Riley from her New England/Washington past to London. That will give me I hope the vehicle to tell stories about America as her past comes back more strongly in future novels. And once I’ve been!

Oh yes, you absolutely must go! I can’t wait to discover more about Kate Riley’s past. And I get what you mean about the gritty but glamorous US-set films and TV shows. I’ve spent a lot of time in the States, and have family out there, so I’m more confident writing about the locations and such, although I do spend a lot of time checking my facts are correct – and getting my Step Mom to say things ‘in Amercian’ for me to ensure I’m getting the phrasing right!

What’s the weirdest research you did?

I ended up wandering around the South Downs late at night while on a work trip to Winchester once. And I think I spent about four days watching YouTube vlogs non-stop. I was by the end of it an honorary teenager, and my world-view was all over the place. But none of this is as exciting as your stint as a bounty hunter!!

An ‘honorary teenager’ – brilliant! But from what you’ve said, you wanted to experience some of what your characters do in order to write about it, and I guess that’s the same with me and the bounty hunting!

Who would you use your taser on?

So far everyone’s been lovely…so far…but I might borrow it if I start meeting writers who act like erm not very nice people (am determined not to swear).

Ha ha! Yes, you’re very welcome to borrow it, so long as you promise to give it back! In return, what advice can you give me as someone approaching publication as a debut?

So advice for you as a debut. I think you’re already leagues ahead of so many writers, the most difficult part for me was breaking into the crime world. Everyone seems to know everyone, and I was terrified. Thank you for your advice by the way, it really helped. So I think you’ve done all of that, and people have so much respect for you already, and I really feel like your novel has a buzz around it. It will really hit the ground running. What I would say, and what I’m failing to do fully, is enjoy it. The nerves make it difficult, the idea that people you have no control over will review it, how much it sells, Tv deals etc etc. Try and ignore all that if you can. And practice your ‘I didn’t win the oscar face’ if you get a questionable review. I have to remember how subjective reading is, and not to take it personally. If someone’s bought the novel and spent the time to read it, they are entitled to feel any way they want to about it.

*blushes* *goes off to practice I didn’t win the oscar face* *returns* – thank you, that’s great advice. I do hope you get to enjoy the experience. Your debut, CUT TO THE BONE, is a fantastic novel.

Speaking of which, can you summarise your novel for readers in a paragraph?

Cut to the Bone is about Ruby Day, a vlogger with millions of fans who goes missing. An elite new unit of the Met are called in under questionable circumstances to investigate, led by Kate Riley, Zain Harris and the rest if her team. What starts of as a misisng person’s case soon escalates into a creepy hunt for a kidnapper, as videos are anonymously uploaded of Ruby pleading for her life. And the kinapper has issued a threat that she won’t be the only one.

It’s a great read, folks. Be sure to watch out for my review next week.

And finally, I don’t believe I swear more than you. Are you sure you counted all bad words? Anyway, my next novel I am determined to swear less. What’s your resolution?

Ha! I think you swear more on the page and less in real life perhaps. I’m the other way around – I edit my sweariness on the page, but in real life I am a pottymouth. Perhaps my resolution should be to even the two out a little more!

And, sadly, that’s all we have time for.

A huge thank you to the wonderfully talented Alex Caan. To keep up with all his news, follow him on Twitter @alexcaanwriter

A bigger thank you to you though for letting me part of the iconic CTG blog, and I can’t wait to read Deep Down Dead (not that this is a MASSIVE hint to get me a proof copy or anything…)

CUT TO THE BONE is out now. You can buy it from Amazon here

And be sure to check out the rest of the fabulous CUT TO THE BONE Blog Tour stops …

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