a quick message before we start this week's podcast this episode where we interview owen ryan was recorded about a month ago since then so very sadly his sister-in-law lisa shaw a well-respected radio presenter and much-loved mum and wife passed away at the age of just 44. i knew lisa personally and she was one of the most lovely genuine people you could ever wish to meet so we dedicate this episode in memory of lisa rest in peace
hello and welcome to episode 7 of the failing writers podcast this week we actually have a special guest yes somebody who has achieved something in their life an actual bonafide writer and a man that we have all known collectively for about 20 years and did the same job as us yep so you know all who's singing from the same hymn sheet for a change although he's he's just been doing it a lot better than us so owen better known as his nom de plume uh omj ryan joined us and uh i think he had some uh some good little tips for us we had a nice chat about um character development um his process of writing and um a really awkward review he got from dave yeah that dave thought was anonymous yup um as it turns out it wasn't yeah i don't yeah it was it was quite a harsh review dave what was going through your mind when you were i was trying to be helpful for constructive criticism but you know it doesn't always come across that way it's really one of the highlights of the interview for me
right then hello owen hello i haven't seen you since that strange meeting in a garden center in yorkshire several years ago and we still talk about that quite a lot actually i was with gareth last week and we were talking about um meeting in a strange garden center meeting a strange man weird i've i don't know i've been hanging around there for years on the off chance you might show up and uh eventually you did well i used to live around the corner so you know you'd um you picked your territory quite well at least yeah at least i picked the right garden center otherwise i'd still be there now well i once did try and bury a during a promotion for the snooker when i was at holland we had we hid um snooker balls around the region and you had to dig him up to win cash and i buried one and not far from there and i think that's where i realized that i should write crime because you ever tried burying a body it's impossible if you can bury if it takes that it's that hard to get uh to not be seen burying a a small white ball to try and bury a six foot person i don't know how people do it owen do you remember what the name of the competition was it was um oh it was it was a play on words there must have been some balls deep was it ball's dead i think it was find the brown
yeah leave the pink and go for the brown something like that i think it was right hi bro you went hydrated of course yeah naturally yeah anyway owen you are officially our first official proper official guest onto the failing writers podcast um which is i mean it's exciting for us i would imagine it's even more exciting for you yes i'm not entirely sure whether um i want to class myself as a failing writer though as it's now my job well this is where we try to find out the difference between failing writers and people who actually being successful at it well i'm not sure i can help but i'll do what i can and in in reverence in reverence of your appearance on on our humble little podcast maestro john has taken the liberty of giving you your own introduction music no uh-huh uh-huh oh yeah you want to hear it yeah i'd love to here's omj ryan right about them people dying or spying or lying or trying to solve another crying he take a page and fills it with thrills that's his skill he make up a killer who kills for the thrills and phillips will grill all the villains until ryan been making millions of bills that is so good i need i need a copy of that i want to put on my social media that's that's gonna that's my ringtone that is so good just put it on your phone and just use that literally as your entrance music wherever you go just popping downstairs to get some milk hold on a minute i forgot how good you are at wrapping actually john oh well you know the only the only white wrapper i know apart from eminem and vanilla ice come on credit where credit's just yeah don't forget vanilla was he a rapper he's a slow singer oh there's a fine line isn't a fine difference hold on a minute you're not rapping you're just singing slowly that sounds like everybody's dad that's not wrapping a slow singing um i was thinking it's probably it's we worked this out the other day it's about 20 years since we all worked together it would be um tom and i started in 2001 um were you you were in manchester by then i think 2001 i was in manchester yeah i started in leeds in 98 a year later john appeared fresh faced and created just sat there in the creative studio just rapping doing his thing and then he had moved to manchester and i moved to sheffield at the end of 2003 i think it was so i moved into the world the dirty world of programming in 2003. so yeah and were you writing around that time they knowing or not yeah i am i wasn't writing books my first attempt to write was tv shows and i actually got a meeting with the head of drama and comedy drama at itv a guy called david reynolds and it was proper old school it was a strange meeting because it's like these old school board rooms with mahogany desks and chesterfields and everything and this kind of old guy there saying he liked a script i put forward called monkey it was tennis it wasn't far off it's called shelf life and um was actually about my life in the supermarket i'd worked in supermarkets and fully enough uh something called trolleyed appeared years later which they must have found my script in a bin yeah because it was remarkably similar and equally [ __ ] um so i had the meeting he said i'm about to go and do uh frost david likes me to direct you see i've been david jason i'll be back in three months come see me and we'll get you to do some uh some some scripts so because he didn't like the supermarket one but he was quite happy for me to come and write some stuff for him on spec and it was great because for every spec script you got you got five grand so i was like i was earning pittance uh writing ads i was like brilliant five grand so i went and had um went back three months later and they changed absolutely uh all the structure uh granada had bought uh it ytv and he was being made to retire so in my navity rather than say who do i speak to in manchester i just thought oh that's my that's my my bit done and i never carried on um so that was that was my first attempt and i went away with my tablet in my legs and and then started looking at novels quite a bit later really so were you because in your all your different jobs is copywriting and then going into programming and then the big move to australia were you were always writing something or did it get put on the back burner it definitely got put on the back burner for a little bit when i was in content um management like the first throws of content management um in uh in newcastle and in glasgow i was so stressed out by dealing with presenters who had enormous egos and small talent that um not all of them i must hasten to add but there was a couple in each site that really made it very difficult work i never had the energy to write anything so um when i went to australia i got this kind of weird hybrid job which involved writing but for content and it was there that i started to meet a lot of writers and like-minded people who were you know doing writing courses and and there was one in sydney that caught my eye which someone in my team was doing and i thought i'll give it a go and that really sparked the the journey into doing it properly and was it was it the course itself like or was it just the idea that you had got in your head that you were going to do it seriously if you know what i mean it was both i think i was desperately um i remember being on holiday before i went to australia being on holiday in greece and um i was just it was coming towards the end of the holiday i was really stressed out thinking about going back to work to all the crap that came with doing that kind of job and i was just like oh god wouldn't it be ace to just be a writer i was reading something i can't what it was but i thought you know i could do that and it'd be lovely and to get paid to do this and that really was the seed i was writing a book in my head on that holiday pretty much the whole time i was i was i had a narrator in my head you know and um writing this this book it wasn't anything particularly special but at the time it just sort of gave me a bit of hope and it's always been the hope that i could do it that's what kept me going when i was doing some pretty difficult um meetings and you know moving people on or whatever it was or changing structures all that kind of crap out to go through so um so this was always in the back of my mind and when i got to australia and i went and did a four week unlocking creativity course the writer's studio and then really you saw the kind of list of people who've done these um who've done the course and then gone on to become full-time writers and i was just like i can do this so i did the four-week course and then i did the first year course which is the first draft then the second draft and then the third draft so i ended up doing three years really working with him it was very intense because my job was a pretty much a ten to twelve hour job i was having to go up at five in the morning to do the writing to keep up with the course um you know sitting in the dark um not in the dark obviously we get up in the middle of the night almost sometimes through the australian winters which are pretty nasty even though people think they're not um you know it was uh it was a real commitment but i just had it in my head i was going to finish this book and it would take me somewhere and i don't know where that came from but it's always been sort of right through the middle of me that i was meant to write and i've been writing since i was a kid writing little stories watching tv shows that i didn't like the ending of i'd go and rewrite them or i'd go and draw them differently do a little storyboard so it's always been there and and i've just got to say so is that from was that the main thing that you always wanted to do was it was it your sort of lifetime ambition to be a writer i think to be creative to create i think most of the at the time when i was little more than to be a writer it was it was to create something to tell stories whether that be on the page or or to create images i got a graphic design degree i end up doing art mainly because english the way it was taught at school was pretty boring and uninspiring um whereas art was a was a very free place of you know i could go and express myself and to be honest a little bit easier so i was like oh sorry i'll go and do do the art but interestingly my best scoring project or you know whatever assignment when i was at university was where i matched creative writing with artwork i told stories on the page and it was um it's the best thing i've ever done and loved it and i enjoyed the writing probably more than the actual design so that probably looking back was where my brain was going this is where you're meant to be mate you know but i did learn a lot from the words and pictures yeah totally and it's always been something i've got a little storybook here in my office that i found in in my cellar excuse me at home we cleared it out last year and i must have written it when i was about seven or eight and the stories uh uh for an eight-year-old a fantastic and i illustrated them as well so i was always very keen to um to bring the whole thing to life oh in the book that you you were writing as part of the course was that what turned into media monster is that or is that something different yes no it was um it had many incarnations um and it was inspired by a radio presenter um called kyle sandyland who's uh quite famous in um in australia for being quite provocative and there was a period he went through he's calmed down a bit since then but there was a period where um he did a lie detector test on air with a 15 year old girl and her mother and they asked the question you know have you ever had sex and she was like um no i haven't and the girl um kyle said except it's that's a lie the machine tells us it's a lie and kept pushing her on it and the girl was going no it's not it's not and actually what came out was a huge scandal was that she had been raped and he still kept his job now this is you know this was 2009 i think 2010 there was a huge uproar they were talking suspenders and all that but he came back two months later and admittedly his act had changed at that point a little bit um and he has mellowed and i do know people who work with him who says actually underneath he's a bit of a sweetheart it's kind of his persona but it really inspired this character of a radio presenter who believes that they're a media mogul essentially who's so above the law they can do what they like and then actually and they find themselves in a situation that they can't get out of and the media suddenly wants them on a stick and that kind of really inspired and what became media monster and and then was subsequently developed once i got a publishing deal into deadly sequel so yeah tell us a little bit about that owen what happened with the the journey of media monster then in terms of how it got changed or how it got picked up and well i um i totally don't see in 2018 um from my group content director job and it came exactly the right time the most terrifying thing i've ever done because i was walking away from a six figure salary i was doing very well and money was was was never an issue we had a nice i mean uh my son had been born in november of 2017 sadly my dad passed in 20 in march 2018 and then in may or april i was approached about a restructure within the business i was working in and i didn't like the look of the restructuring i didn't have the look of what i was going to be doing in it so i was like well actually is redundancy available and after you know a few uh questions and it was like yeah okay well if that's what you want to do and i'm like i think it is so i've always dreamed of a big redundancy payment did you know unfortunately i've never had a job with a decent salary you actually have to know the job for a decent lender from achieving my dream yeah that 23 pound 50 you got from the chemist when they let you go it didn't really go that far no it wasn't worked out all right i mean i rang my wife literally ten minutes after the meeting i went outside or a minute after me went outside and wronged my wife and just said stand in the sunshine in leeds you know the building down by yorkshire tv and i just went i went out with this i just they've given me this i want help but i'm terrified because obviously we've got we've got a baby i've got responsibilities just bought a new house and she was like no do it do it and um you know we had a lot more conversations in the month that followed before i finally decided to to walk away because obviously there's a lot to to do but from there i thought i'll take the summer off it was the world cup it was beautifully sunny i had the best time i watched nearly every game of football i have beers every night don't have to worry about getting up the next day and uh and i finished media monster which was probably eighty percent of the way through and i spent the the remaining month uh a couple of months so that summer just tidying it up or finishing it then tidying it up getting edited designing the cover or getting the cover designed and all the formatting nonsense that goes with trying to get these things online are you self-published yeah yeah i did it through kdp on amazon i went to an amazon uh conference and explained how easy it was how amazing it is and um it's not like it's not that easy to do um it is amazing you can get them out to everyone but the the formatting is quite tricky which i struggled with um eventually got it all sold it mainly through facebook did a few ads and did it to pretty much everyone i know who bought a copy and and and gratefully read it and and um i got fantastic reviews but i didn't um i didn't really sell that many and i think it was maybe you know three or four hundred across that summer if i was lucky and it's difficult to remember the exact numbers because some of it's through page raids and some of it's through downloads um but it wasn't it was you know it was really disappointing it was quite heartbreaking it was never going to be enough to replace the salary i just said goodbye to obviously i don't see money in the bank and but i thought jesus if this is me gonna be you know this is the money i'm gonna make as a writer we're gonna have to go live in a tent so um it really was it was it was quite heartbreaking i pushed and pushed and pushed and i got to october that year and i just turned around to my wife and said i think i'm gonna have to get a proper job i can't i can't risk this this isn't gonna do it for us and literally i think it was four days later i got an email on a friday night ten to five i've still got it um from brian lynch who's uh one of the publishing partners at incubator who was setting up a digital publishing house in um in dublin he's a tv writer i think he's either baffled nominated or always one of after can ever remember and garrett his partner um was an author and had done very well in the us so they were setting up a and they both went for apple in their early years so they understood algorithms and all that kind of stuff so um they offered me a publishing job a publishing deal they said they loved mediamonster um well interesting they said they love it the story is great and then they said we want to change the cover change the name and do some quite judicious editing on it and i was like jesus if you i'd hate to hear what you think if you didn't like it so um we um we arranged i told my wife kim uh she was out and she came in i said look at this look at this look at this i've got a publishing deal and um she poured p all over it because she was like why do you want to give away your royalties why do you want to do xyz and i was just like oh what if they're trying to rip you off my wife is naturally very cautious around these sort of things and she just thought maybe someone was trying to take advantage of me because there's a lot of shark publishing deals out there you know that kind of pay up front and then we'll publish you and all that kind of stuff which don't work and so i did my due diligence i went to see the guys in dublin and was blown away by them and their ability to help develop me as a writer as much as anything and both being writers they were happy to you know sort of work with me on on on structure and and and really helped me sort of hone my craft and and we signed the first deal for deadly secrets with a follow-up for deadly silence and we've been rolling ever since then and we published deadly obsession uh on the 25th of april which is this sunday depending on when you're listening to this wow i downloaded it yesterday oh oh did you yeah through the advanced what's name copy thingy through incubator advanced reader yeah yeah i look forward to hearing what you think
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so you were you were a mere nuts chuff away from giving it all up yeah 100 that's awesome yeah what would you what would you have gotten done what job what would you be doing well during the summer unsettling on the bins back to supermarkets i loved working in the supermarkets i had the best time working as such a good time oh it's all over produce bakery groceries i wasn't everything uh trolleys um it was it was it was a kind of it was quite a deflating time because everywhere i looked i was kind of like jesus i'm i just felt like a bit of a failure you know i quit this i power a job with a high-powered but you know supposedly a high-level job um loads of money and um i've followed my dream to be a writer that hasn't worked i'm a great coach mentor i'm gonna do that that's not really working right i'll get back into radio they don't seem to want me back it was a quite a dark time to be honest and um they did yeah but you know what they say if you don't fail you can't come on the failing writers podcast so swings and roundabouts well i certainly qualified for for quite a few failures um although you know it's well i have i've done a lot of reading and a lot of self-help and development trying to understand you know my decisions the way i work the way i operate and you know what i'm trying to get out of life and one of the things you read from very successful people is um it's usually when you surrender and you give in and just it'll be what'll be that thing suddenly starts to happen you're trying to get a tight grip on everything because i was so wound up with i've got to make money i've got to get this salary back that i left i've got to you know look after all my son i've got to make sure the house is paid forever this just was completely restricted any kind of um energy i was putting out so in the end um trouble with that is as well you're making sure anything you actually do achieve is still a failure yeah because there's no way it's all going to add up to hitting every single one of those self-imposed arbitrary targets is that so you're always going to be thinking that you've missed the mark yeah and that's in my my my genetics the way i am you know i was brought up by that's not good enough parents yeah um you know catholic irish parents yeah it's kind of like well you want to do that for you never never what you did well it was kind of what you missed out on and and you carry that with you that narrative and that's something i've been trying to break and that cycle and i'm you know even now i'm lucky i have coaches i work with who support me and that and um and you need it to be able to put yourself out there and stick um and stick yourself on the on the out in the public domain you've got to have belief in what you do and that's funny i've never i've never lacked the belief in my writing ability it's just whether or not it was meant for me and i guess that's the thing because when you know when you when you were at that point where you'd sold you know you'd sold a few hundred books of media monster and you've been doing all this publicity but at that at that point the sales don't necessarily correlate to how good the book is don't mean because people aren't gonna see how good it is until they read it it's so i was it quite disheartening were you desperately struggling around thinking how that how the hell can i push this on and sell more books to people who i don't know uh you know how what were the other ways to try and get these things out there i mean a lot of it with digital publishing you're looking at social media and trying to harness that but that's a that's a dark art in itself and i work on courses and you know seo and all this kind of stuff and it's now knowing what i do for my publishers about how the amazon algorithm works and how difficult it is and how they change it all the time um it's uh you either get very very lucky and hit sweet spot and it flies or you get a publishing deal or you get someone you know you have to spend quite a bit of money um to promote the books in the first place to get them because what you want to do is the algorithm the amazon algorithm is to see that people are reading your books know that it's making money for them and then the algorithm will carry it for you and yeah yeah my first two books didn't didn't hit the algorithm other writers within the stable were getting that and they were suddenly finding themselves in a good position i was going up and i was going back down and that's like g you're like god i've got a publishing deal and i'm still not getting it right and you know still not working and it was only really when i released um deadly vengeance which was the third in the series but my fourth title of fourth book within the deadlies um that i started to see some consistent numbers but you still got a tail off and then i released deadly betrayal which was the um my last book and we stopped that tale stopped because the algorithm went oh actually this guy's doing all right we'll keep him up there and and now it sits at a consist you know the books rank consistently and they move a couple hundred places you know daily within the within the you know but that's you know that's a lot of that's a good position to be in um it's still not where where i believe i can be and it's certainly not where i'm aiming to be but now you know there's an income that is um that is sustainable and it's consistent and that's been the bit that has been the most frightening because you go from you know a regular paycheck for 30 years to oh right i've got to make my own money and it's got to come in and it's all based on what people think of my book so um it's very very disheartening for i think for a lot of writers when you put your stuff out there and you know it's good and you read other people that you think are just as good as you but are making a fist of it you know and yeah you know it's really difficult to know what they're doing differently you just don't know you just got to try and look after yourself yeah because was there a because going back to when when you made the changes from from media monster and it turned into this sort of detective phillips series well i like how much of that was you and how much of that was driven by the publisher and did it take you do you think it took you a while to sort of get your head around the changes and and get into that series if you like not all the um the idea for jane was mine um was jane and the team and only because i've read deadly seeker i've written deadly secrets she obviously for the readers that people haven't read it is that's where we get the introduction of james phillips and both leno and jones the the the detectives in that um and my thinking was always you can't bring marty back for another murder mystery because you suddenly get into jessica fletcher territory you know radio presenter solving crimes and that's right as much as i like murder she wrote i wasn't going to start doing that so i really liked i got a lot of feedback on the fact jane and bob and jones were quite you know quite chunky characters so i decided in my own mind that's where i was going to go next with the story um and you know marty appears in in the second or the first in the series my second book is in a cameo role just to kind of keep some continuity um but it was in terms of writing the team i found it much easier um than i expected and i really enjoy writing the team and and the more the series goes on them the easier it is to know what they would say to each other and how they will react to each other the biggest challenge is this first few chapters of the book where you're reintroducing them to new readers and trying not to assume that the readers know who they are and that's quite yes because i've noticed that in the bits that i've read um you sort of allude back to other books in the series i guess that's quite a delicate balance isn't it sort of because some things in previous books inform what happens in the later books but you don't necessarily know who's read what or in what order so how do you how do you balance that that is um it's it's really it's just a very careful walk you know i'm keen to make sure the readers know what has happened or or but without spoiling anything for them so there's character development you know there's things that happen to characters in each of the books that in the following books you'd need to reference because it's a big part of their life but you wouldn't necessarily want to go into too much detail and i'm keen and cautious around cases as well not to give anything away so it's quite a trick to do it um and that's not that's not the most difficult the most difficult is actually reintroducing what the characters look like and sound like at the start of each book without sounding like you're just doing the same or same old i'm in the middle i'm writing chapter two at the minute this today of the next one and and and the first i forget the first probably the first five chapters are probably the most difficult because yeah and the first five and the last five because you're reintroducing the audience to it and then the last five you're basically trying to not write it too quickly to get to the end so um it's it's a fine balance try not to uh finish too quickly yeah it's a common problem sound advice for life if people haven't guessed from the titles of your books you're a crime thriller writer but what what drew you to that genre owen are you uh did you always read mostly thrillers or how many people have you murdered owen well if in my latest book i think it was about 17 uh not 17 including my latest book i think it's probably about 17 or 18 i've killed off so um yeah no i i've always had an interest in i'm not i wasn't a great reader i didn't enjoy reading at school um because i i need to to read the words and understand it i need to picture them in my mind and it makes me quite slow and wife laughs at me because she can steam through a book but she can't remember it two days later whereas i can remember it almost word for word ten years later so i struggled with um with books that were chewy and long and then i found jack higgins um as a kid my dad used to read them in there um they're worked very well all the early ones uh very well plotted um and very well written they're cliched but then all successful books generally are and it was his style of moving things quite quickly um that got me excited about um a certain style of writing and then i think the crime stuff really came i would i'd never set out to write a crime through it as so much as um as just it fell out of media monster come deadly secrets that there was the characters there that i liked and i wanted to work with and want to write more and so i kind of got into into crime and honestly now i'm because one of my one of my um advisers his former crown prosecutor there's not a lot i don't know about uh about criminal law and how to get away with it yeah very handy that's worrying but handy on the subject of the characters your main characters in it how tricky did you find the line between making them you just mentioned about cliches that detective fiction is is full of it isn't it and needs a certain amount of it to be able to move it along and forever for the readers to be on the same journey but then obviously you can step too far and all of a sudden you've got yourself a tough troubled alcoholic savant detective germany before you know where you are in that how did you find the balance of creating those characters or did they just organically become themselves and you kind of just hear them i think um i think in silence i probably went quite heavy on cliche um naturally it's it's you kind of look at it as a you want to really pull out a very clear defined character you know phillips has a you know classically has a drink problem but there's a reason for that and that's obviously what came out of dirty secrets she was she was severely injured in that and so you know she's coping with it and and that side of it it was good i guess it's cliche but it's also quite true because even in my radio career i've worked with people who have you know suffered with severe stress and have dealt with it with alcohol or drugs or yeah yeah you know so it's all my characters are quite real i think i turn the volume up it's funny because in silence there's a couple of characters who um you know were based on real people and um and some of the reviews that i got around them were that they weren't realistic they were too unpleasant and i was like well not if you work in the radio industry they're not they're quite real and um in in fact when we were moving from media monster to deadly secrets my publisher said we're a bit concerned about marty sitting at home and snorting loads of cocaine in his lounge and when he gets suspended uh he's you know it doesn't seem realistic and i was like oh really here's a list of names of people just go and look you know i can i can tell you now i've seen them do it um yeah the only question there why is it not realistic which which room do you think they should be doing yeah exactly so we moved to the kitchen shelter so um so we made him um you know two's whiskey rather than that and and i think once i got into waters and as i move through i've the characters are kind of turned down the the fights are a bit more subtle the arguments are a bit more yeah you know it's just and it's just a craft it's just learning and you take the feedback on board but i mean you know they still read well and they still rate well the first books but i think they're just that i'm i'm i think i'm more subtle in how i yeah i develop the characters now i think it's really interesting because you do you do need that certain amount of stereotypical something that's going to resonate quickly with the reader i guess what you're saying is if you can take it another step deeper underneath then it stops being a cliche and becomes a reason a real reason around your character yeah every every single character has as issues or any issues that they have we try and pull them out in a in a realistic way and you know having worked in in in an industry with some delicate people and lots of people have managed lots of people with all kinds of issues going in the background you know it's there are lots of commonality in in how life affects people and it's just bringing that in and also there's a certain sense of morality in every one of the stories about you know society or situations or people have created these monsters rather than they were born that way you know and i think that's really important to try and get that across as well because there is a hope in reading that you're entertained but also you kind of go you might go god i've got a [ __ ] boss like that as well you know and usually the [ __ ] busters don't always win um although you have to read a few of the books to for that to come through what's your favorite uh bit of writing you know your favorite moment yeah what's your favorite word what's your favorite moment is it the starting a new book is it sort of when you feel like you've cracked it or is it or is it literally you know putting down your laptop and going i've done it yeah it's the end it's the bit where i go i'll come out of my office walk out and find kim and go boom done and i usually say something like that um but i think that you go through stages in in the writing process because the planning is quite arduous and then when you start writing the first chapter is terrifying uh because you think god i can't do this again can i do this again you get that one out the way it's a bit of a high yesterday i faced chapter one i normally do more than one do two or three chapters a day but yes i only got one out because it was the first and it's quite tricky um but i felt quite buoyant yesterday then this morning i felt a bit flat again because i'm gonna do it again and then you start working your way through it and these are the tricky kind of descriptive chapters of the characters and then you sort of you get into your flow and i'd say the next check the next 10 chapters are really exciting because it's like oh this is brilliant and then you start to look and i've got the list of chapters and i know how long it's going to be and i'm like and you get to the sort of up towards the middle you're like oh god this is this is hard i can't keep doing this then once you tip over the top you start to think i'm getting there and then the final 10 chapters are really exciting because you're kind of bringing the whole thing to a crescendo and the big challenge is trying not to you know no pun intended finish too early you've got to try and draw the tension out rather than just being a desperate desire to just finish the bloody thing um it's a roller coaster you go up and down up and down up and down yeah but it's it's it's amazing and i'm high as a kite when i'm writing i'm always thinking about the story and how it can develop oh and have you always written in that in that framework of being a a thorough planner writing out what happens in the chapters and then going at it in a from chapter one to chapter x um no not really well initially no but when i went to work a lot of study at the writer's studio that was very structure based yeah but not to the degree this this writing method i use now is what they use in tv it's called the beat sheet um where you work you work out the beats of the story and then you break it down into acts act one act two act three and then you break i then break it down into chapters and when we get into chapters we can start to see where things are that there's too many chapters are too samey or we need to work things out so i am i mean all the ideas are mine all the um all the work that goes into the planning um is pretty much at my end but i have consultants that i took it through to um who have a look at it and with a critical eye will go that sequence of chapters is probably you could lose that one you don't need it and then so by the time i get the sign off to write i'm really clear on what each chapter has it has going on and i just then look at it look at it in my head watch it play out like a video and i just describe what i'm seeing and how detailed is the player is it longer than the book it's about i think normally it's about 10 000 words worth of planning it's great to do it that way because it's a pain in the ass to do it takes about a month and it's almost as painful as the editing um but um but once you start writing it just gives you the freedom because you know where you're going so you're not restrained by will this work you've already worked it out so so you say it takes about a month to do the planning what how long from that sort of initial concept to to hand it in your draft roughly does it take you and it's that sort of got shorter as you've gone on through this yes it has well i was left the first book took me 10 years the second one took me um i think it was three months and um my last book the last book took me a while because it was split over christmas but deadly betrayal i wrote in five weeks in a day from sit down i've got the chapters ready let's go um but i've i've developed a new writing method um which i know a lot of writers use i've actually got it from a writer i've got it from a guy called jim quick who's a brain um a brain expert talks about how long you can do something before your brain starts to deteriorate in terms of quality so i work in half hour blocks i do 30 minutes a five minute break 30 minutes five minute break and i'm very strict on that um dave you work with the opposite don't you yeah yeah five five minutes long day off for a couple of weeks that's interesting that yeah so just like proper like uh bursts like doing it in birds yeah i'm i am quite disciplined anyway in how i work and how i write i can't just sit there you know i've got to have a very target driven or you know not not target driven not not so much achievement driven you know it's kind of like i want to do x amount feel like i've achieved and i can sit down and relax at the end of the day so i'm not good between books i get lost because i don't have anything to to focus on um or anything to to occupy my mind so i'm not great so it's interesting because i remember you being like that uh back at galaxy you know you you always very much you know right this is the target this is what we've got to achieve you know that's and then that's what we work towards so that does that sort of come in handy do you think in terms of you know being disciplined enough to do this as a day job yeah yeah absolutely because you know when you're writing commercials you've got to get so much done within a certain time frame and and you've got to do it obviously within the deadline to meet the meeting and then get back and tidy up and be quite organized um i think i've always been i've always been quite organized in my work life um and that's just something i carry through and i like to um i like to get the books done as quickly as i can within reason of not you know degrading the quality um because it's you know you've got you've got momentum then you've got an energy whereas if you sort of meander and do a couple of days here and i might do a day next week um because i took a break over christmas um and so i was away from it for about three weeks and coming back to it with that with that gap was was really tricky probably took another week to get my head back into the right zone whereas if you start and just keep going and you're just immersed in the story and it's really it's a the energy is very very different it's quite exciting because we've been talking in previous episodes about getting into that sort of zone and if you can do you can just do something every day it helps you to stay in it yeah they do say that you know if you want to write you should write every day if you're going to be a writer you need to write something every day not necessarily on the weekends but you know i write money to friday yeah always are there any books uh in your head owen that you like to write that aren't um part of the same series are you you just you just don't have time to think about that because you're currently in this funny enough i've got like most parents i've got a children's book having um and it and it came to me it's an idea that came to me in a dream bizarrely when i was in manchester and i got up that next morning and stuck it on a up on an email to myself and was like right i'm just going to get this down and it's henrik and the magic satchel this guy who goes off and disappears into the satchel and goes and sees various things around the world with his granddad and all this kind of stuff so that was always in my was in my mind to create something like that but digging up snooker balls yeah exactly yeah yeah digging up balls no it was it's that kind of that's probably is still in the back of my mind but i think if i think children's publishing is more cutthroat and more difficult than anything else i've i've thought about in terms of grown-up writing um you know i think you know long how long can i sustain dci phillips and the rest of the team but then you look at someone like peter james who's i think he's releasing his 19th book in the grace series and um you know harry bosch series goes on and on and on you kind of think well there's no reason if people love them it's only really writers i think that get tired of stories and and that's yeah terry pratchett always used to say you know if you've got something that works then just stick with it if you've got something that works and you you're free within that to do the things that you want to do then why why change it yeah and i think is i think it's the writer's ego of like you know i should be doing something different because people are going to say i'm old hat and you know if you're still if you know if you are still writing and people are still reading them then i don't think there's any reason you should stop but equally there is i have thought would i do a psychological thriller um is there something in that that i would do um at the minute i'm just really enjoying jane and the team and i feel i feel for my stable mates who write psychological thrillers and have to start every book with a new set of characters and a new introduction and everything is from scratch i mean it's it's exhausting at least i know what bob's going to do when he walks in the room what it's going to look like how he's going to eat a sandwich and what you know what jones is going to say to him and how phillips will react to fox and you know there's a new character in the in the new book as well um who replaces fox as jane's boss so that was quite fun bringing him in um so yeah it's um i think i'll just keep going and maybe when i'm sat on my yacht and the sun's shining and i created inspiration i might write something that no one wants to read oh and there's just this can be one book that you start in this series where you're just gonna start thinking do you know what i think jane's gonna have to uh gonna have to die in this one
well i did discuss killing a character off with my publisher the other week um and his uh his reaction was was quite priceless because he just was sort of like what um it's like don't mess with the formula we're just getting it yeah yeah don't rock the boat no um but uh i did promise him that if i do that the character will be around for a few books yet but i was um i just i don't want to i think for it to live long um there will have to be some critical changes at key periods to just shake it up otherwise it will become a bit same or simple we were going to ask you owen uh what do you think makes the perfect opening to a crime thriller because we were going to have a little go ourselves and uh maybe next week's podcast just write the opening of a crime thriller so give us some pointers well this is this is my personal take on it is get to the um get to the scare pretty quickly you know for me it's a lot of the feedback i get for my books is um you're straight into the meat of the of the drama there's i these i don't know there's a lot of writers who spend two or three chapters developing the character of the or the main character the main detective whatever and just going over and over and over that and i think you can bring that through in you know you that comes through in the story so get to the meat of it i always like to just pretty much have the kill almost on the first page if not the second or third page the first one so that that that's it for me again you know a sense of foreboding either someone watching or someone um uh you know some you you know something is coming and you're just waiting to find out what it is and then always try and make the the first kill a bit of a surprise yeah kill him early that's my take on it yeah uh yeah i i definitely think we should have a go at that and perhaps perhaps you can get oh and to judge them for you
this is the failing writers podcast and coming up next slightly more of the failing writers podcast how lovely for you how do you find you know we mentioned before about the reviews side of things how do you how do you find the reviews when you just got these anonymous people um saying good things or bad things in in the main they're pretty positive occasionally um you'll get someone who'll you know stick one to you and it's that that becomes even more difficult if you know the person um i remember getting a review once from someone who i was you know i thought was really good friends with and jesus they hated everything it was like they hated the dialogue they hated uh they thought the characters lack depth um and there was i remember this lying about them saying that i was had an unhealthy fixation with people um losing coats who would do that kind of thing i know seriously yeah i don't know what sort of person would say something like to me it sounded like a frustrated writer who wasn't uh happy with what they were putting out so that does sound like yeah they took it all out in the defense of whatever person it was that wrote whoever that horrible human being was sometimes you have to consider that the the box that you get to write the reviews in are quite small and and uh and it's difficult to try and get across what you hope is constructive criticism uh in a way that doesn't make you sound like a bastard yeah having said that oh and i do i do want to know whether you do have an unhealthy obsession with people removing their outer garments it just seems very specific for you to deny it to be honest yeah oh break up oh yeah oh that's uh not pretty is it detective now you found her yep poor thing right well we uh we need to find out how it happened don't we well uh sorry sir it seems pretty uh i mean there's the axe just look at this zit zip sir on the court not not the coat thing again gov it's undone that's a clue she's got an axe in a red sir in a red well he's halfway through a red actually yeah i reckon that's the clue right there sir the axe i've been doing this job long enough to oh look here one arm out with a court a court is half on and half off so that might be what killed her i think it's probably the axe the head axe yeah they think the axe too the court is always about the court to tell you huh tea court off what take it caught up i'm taking mine off look everyone take your cards off it's a bit chilly courts off and that's an order um why i don't i don't have a coater oh what i haven't you know i i don't really wear coats right johnson yes sir pass me the axe oh christ so thank you very much for joining us owen being our first uh ever get so far you're probably the best guest we've ever had oh right thank you thank you that's it that's some achievement as i always want to be number one yeah well for the time for the time being we'll guarantee you that number one slot sweet it's good omen for my new book coming in i'm gonna give it a plug not that anyone's listening but you know yeah um go to amazon and look up for omj ryan you'll find the deadly series there with detective james phillips starting with deadly silence then we've got deadly waters deadly vengeance deadly betrayal and now as of the 25th of april deadly obsession which is um about a serial killer obsessed with historical serial killers so it's fiction brought together with real life um if anyone wants to be inspired by the way then you could do worse than have a read of owen's blog which is very motivational well we covered some of it but it's uh yeah it's very nicely written bit and where could people find that if they did want to have a look at it that's a my website omg orion.com and uh just look for blogs you'll find the taylor swift one which is a tip from taylor swift to swift exit which talks about why i quit and why i decided to uh to get into writing and then the other ones will uh will follow in the next six months so nice one well thank you very much well thank you gentlemen it's been an absolute pleasure um i i think it's lovely to see your faces and um and it's been quite therapeutic for me to finally face my demons and my biggest harshest critic
take care oh well that was nice well we've had we've had a guest on i was a born invited guest and we asked him questions and he answered questions and i think we all learned something well i think we should do that though we should definitely we should have a go you know now we've learned how to write crime fiction we should do that we should write a page of it ourselves yeah we should we should give it a go i reckon we could do that what like the like the start of a crime fiction novel just like the first the first page or so the opening bit that's gonna the bit that really gets you into it that makes you want to read the rest of the book the first page of our best-selling crime detective murder mystery novel yeah and i reckon we should put it out there on twitter and everything as well and get people uh list the thousands of listeners to to send sends i know it'll be an unmanageable amount of stuff we'll get in because yeah we won't be able to read it all but we should make that clear anyone out there who wants to send us a page look on twitter for the failing writers and then just send us a page of your murder mystery not the first page probably yeah not one from the middle that wouldn't make much sense with it yeah so that so if you send it to failingwriterspodcast gmail.com yeah so we're going to write these like uh we're writing a crime thriller for real or we're going to just try and make each other laugh i need to know this before i started i don't know what i i i it's quite an important question though this is for real okay good i think we should do it for like as though you know what would be the opening of if you were writing a detective or sort of murder what what would it how would it start okay yeah let's do it let's do it properly one page of a4
i'll go and have a long hard look at myself and uh give yourself a review dave i will it won't be a positive one take your coat off sit down and give yourself a review yeah
we've had a nightmare boss we found a dead body in a corpse
where's everybody gone
I'm OMJ Ryan.
I spent the first twenty years of my career working in the radio and entertainment industry across the UK and Australia, collaborating with household names, celebrities and music icons and accumulating a host of international writing and radio awards, before taking the leap into full time writing in 2018.
Since then, I’ve not looked back, writing stories for people who devour exciting, fast-paced crime thrillers by the pool, on their commute - or those rare moments of downtime before bed.
My mission is to entertain you from the first page to the last.
Born and bred in Yorkshire, I've lived and worked in a variety of cities across the UK including Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Glasgow, as well as Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, before settling in the north east of England with my wife Kim and young son Vaughan.