We caught up with Mike Craven...
1. Why do you live in Cumbria?
I suppose there are two answers to this. The first one is easy and quite short; I was born here. I may have a North East accent, and I may have grown up in Newcastle, but when I was a baby my family lived in Scotby. That’s the easy answer.The longer answer is that my mum and dad’s best friends lived near Bassenthwaite and we used to spend a lot of time there. We’d also holidayed together in Devon. They had a son my age, Stuart, and we’ve been pretty much inseparable ever since we were seven or eight years old. In 1984 I joined the army and lost touch with my school friends from Newcastle; Stuart suggested I spend my leave at Bassenthwaite. He and his friends were going out in Keswick most weekends and it was great fun. I spent the next ten years coming across whenever I could.
2. What is your favourite thing about Cumbria?
From a personal point of view, Cumbria is a fantastic county. It’s by far the most picturesque in England and has a pace of life I’m very comfortable with. I love the beer and I love the food. I have a springer spaniel and there’s nothing better than exploring new things together. With my writer’s hat on, Cumbria is pretty much ideal to write about. It offers so much, from urban areas like Carlisle, Barrow and Workington, to isolated rural areas. There’s a fascinating mix of poverty and wealth, there are huge companies like BAE and Sellafield and there are a multitude of ‘mom-and-pop’ stores. And there are enough people up to no good to keep a crime writer happy…
3. What is your favourite place in Cumbria?
My favourite part of Cumbria is probably still the Bassenthwaite area. I love the lake itself and I love the surrounding area (Binsey, a fell near Skidaw, has my favourite view and the river near Rose Castle in Dalston is my favourite walk). These days the places I tend to frequent are the quirky little coffee shops; my current favourites are Coffee Genius and Cakes and Ale, both in Carlisle. My favourite pub is Moo Bar on Devonshire Street and my favourite shops are Bookends and Bookcase.
4. What did you want to do for a career when you were younger?
I’ve always wanted to be an author; although I assumed it was one of those aspirational careers you never really think will be possible. Other than that, I didn’t really have a dream career. I drifted into the army almost by accident (I accompanied a friend to the recruiting office for something to do – I joined, he didn’t) and I drifted into the probation service.
5. Describe the route from your change in career and why you did it?
I have been fortuitous in my career to date and seemed to have bypassed the heartache of endless rejections many writers consider a right of passage. In 2013 I entered the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award for unpublished writers, and was incredibly fortunate to be shortlisted. I was invited to the gala dinner in London where Jack Reacher author, Lee Child, was being presented the lifetime achievement award from Frederick Forsythe. After a few revisions, I sent the final manuscript to a publisher I met at a writers’ conference in Gretna (Crime & Publishment) and he signed me in June 2014. Born in a Burial Gown, a crime novel set in Cumbria, was published in June 2015 and is still doing well. Because of all this, when the chance to take redundancy came about, I took it to concentrate on writing full time.
6. What do you enjoy most about your job?
The freedom. I get to set my own agenda and work on what I want to work on, which is unbelievably refreshing. I can’t remember who said, “If you can get paid to do what you love doing, you’ll never work again”, but it’s how I feel right now. Monday mornings are now something to look forward to rather than dread.
7. What do you do to help you think up the ideas to put into your books?
I’m lucky in that I’m blessed with the major tool a writer needs to keep writing; a fertile and active imagination. Although when it’s 4a.m. and I’m still awake, notebook in hand, jotting down ideas and dialogue, it can feel like a curse sometimes… I suppose the one thing I do, which all writers can do, is put events I read about – whatever the source – through the ‘What if?’ process. When I read about something that’s happened recently, something that doesn’t necessarily have a story in it, I’ll ask myself ‘What if?’. What if the car crash I read about was intentional? What if the busker who sits on the steps in West Walls car park with his accordion is really an undercover cop? And if he is, what is he investigating? What if? What if? What if? Eventually, there’ll be something with legs. As soon as I have a rough idea of where I’m going, the micro-details of the plot always seem to take care of themselves.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Hopefully still doing what I’m doing now but a bit less manic. I’ll hopefully have two or three series on the go. The Avison Fluke series is one that’s fun to write, and that universe has endless possibilities. I’d also still like to be writing a new series I’ve just started about a specialist serial killer unit (it is based on a little known real unit within the National Crime Agency). And maybe one more series – a non-crime based one - perhaps Young Adult or comedy.
9. Do you have any hobbies or pastimes?
During the last few years my spare time has pretty much all been taken up with writing, but now I’m a full time writer, I’m finding the evenings a bit hobby-free at the minute. Unsurprisingly, I do read a lot and I’m also keen on the excellent Scandinavian crime dramas that are on some of the more obscure channels. I’m part of a few writing groups which have an active social side, and as I’ve never really grown up music wise, I go to punk gigs as often as I can. Of course, a spring spaniel takes some walking, and I try and get out in the countryside for at least an hour a day. It clears the cobwebs in my mind and helps me focus on what I want to write that day. Bracken also enjoys it.
10. What are your future writing plans?
The immediate future involves polishing off A Man Apart, a thriller set in the USA, about a U.S. Marshal who kills the son of a Russian organised crime boss during a raid, and ends up with a bounty on his head. It’s almost ready for submission. Body Breaker, the sequel to Born in a Burial Gown, is with my agent and will hopefully be out this year. It leads on from the events of the first novel but sees Fluke entangled with New Age Travellers and a domestic terrorism plot. It is set in west Cumbria again, and starts with a dismembered corpse on the tenth green of Cockermouth
The book I’m writing now is a brand new series. The first one is set in Cumbria but isn’t a police procedural. It’s provisionally titled Washington Poe and I’m hoping to get it finished by the end of April.
To find out more about Mike and his work please click below to go to his website: