Please welcome Nick Rippington a career journalist award winning author from East London. Nick is also one of our many talented authors participating in this year’s Mystery Thriller Week beginning February 12th!
*Where did you go to college and what did you study?
Writing was in my blood from a very young age and by the age of 11 I knew I wanted to be a journalist. In fact, putting pen to paper had its merits even then. When I was at junior school in Bristol, England, I was the only student outside the school football team allowed to bunk off lessons to go to games – my reports appearing in the school newspaper, The Elm Park Ranger, each month. Out of 100’s of applicants I managed to qualify for the one-year pre-entry journalism course in Cardiff, Wales, which was great fun. I learnt all about the profession, passed my 100 words per minute shorthand, and studied journalism law, use of language and public administration. Two years later I had to return for a proficiency test after landing a job as a reporter on my local paper. Once I had passed that I was a qualified senior journalist. From there I progressed to sports journalism and have worked all over the UK. I am still managing to hold on to a job in a dying profession 38 years later, working as a freelance on UK national newspapers in London.
Wow. This is quite a resume!
*What did you grow up reading?
I wasn’t a big reader until one day I was moaning to my mum during the school holidays about being bored. “Read a book”, she said. “Boring,” I said. “I bet you won’t find this one boring,” she said. It was Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying, and I read it in little more than a day. After that I was hooked. I always liked a twist or something that thrilled. Jaws, by Peter Benchley, was another quick read. Levin has always been my favourite though. I’ve read all his stuff, pretty diverse from horror (Rosemary’s Baby) to Sci-Fi (this perfect day). Boys from Brazil is possibly my favourite.
Haven’t heard of any of these guys but I love learning of new and interesting authors.
*What do you read for entertainment?
I love discovering something really original. I love psychological thrillers and books that at some stage give you an OMG moment where you just stare at the page, mouth open, shocked by what you’ve just read!
YES. I love psychological thrillers too! I think it takes a lot of skill it pull it off correctly with the desired effect.
*What are your favorite resources for journalism?
I’m more on the design and editing side these days so it’s a difficult question to answer. I like designing on In design, though the software does have its glitches.
I have seen this program and it looks pretty powerful from a designing standpoint. If I had to start over, design would be in my top 5 choices.
*Favorite genres to read?
Thriller/suspense/mystery… something original
Me too. Hard to resist a good thriller, suspense or mystery!
*According to your experience how is writing different from journalism?
The whole process needs a different mindset. When you go to journalism college or take a course the first thing they teach you is to follow a formula, which over time erodes your creative side. It is a different case for columnists or feature writers I imagine, but as a plain news hack you learn a series of rules that MUST be obeyed. The idea is to get the story across as quickly as possible without frills. You have to answer the five key questions in the first sentence or two in case the story is ‘cut’. There is no slow burn, it is instant: Who? Where? What? Why? When? How? It took a lot of “re-educating” myself to return to creative writing, though the one thing journalism has taught me is not to waste words and to avoid repetition. I am pretty adept at editing my own work ruthlessly before going to an independent editor at a later stage.
Wow. Sounds like being a journalist does have good benefit in training yourself in certain ways. I can see how it would affect your creativity though. It’s good that you still were able to retrain yourself after so many years. That’s great!
“Creativity is a wild mind & a disciplined eye.”- Dorothy Parker
*How did you research your book Crossing The Whitewash?
As a career journalist of 38 years who has worked over the whole spectrum of the business I could draw on my own experiences greatly. Also, as a sports journalist I have met a lot of characters, so amalgamated many of them. For the things that happen earlier in the book there were stories I was told and I drew upon some experiences of my teen years. I have lived in most of the places featured – or know someone who has and was able to tap into their experiences. I had to read up about jails, but I’ve encountered so many situations it was just a case of getting them into a coherent order and embellishing them.
This is great. Sounds like you had a wealth of experience to draw from coupled with other resources.
*Introduce us to the football prodigy Gary Marshall
As a young teen, Gary is just an ordinary kid with a big talent for football (soccer) that his dad Stan is keen to encourage. Though he lives on a seedy, rundown estate he is happy-go- lucky with a positive outlook on life. This starts when he encounters a gang who want to steal his bike. He ends up indebted to another boy, Arnie Dolan, who helps him escape and is then drawn into the Boxer Boys gang and slides slowly off the rails. It’s a case of how a youngster can bow to peer pressure. It all has a deep effect on Gary’s life and the story is really about how he goes about trying to break those shackles.
Sounds like quite a story. I’ll be listening to the audio version of this book and really looking forward to it. You picked a good narrator too! Can’t wait to see how Gary brakes those shackles!
*Who is Arnie Dolan?
Crossing The Whitewash got an honourable mention in the genre category of the 2016 Writers’ Digest self-published eBook awards with the judges saying: “Arnie Dolan is terrifying, but never two dimensional”. I am hugely proud of this character. I wanted to write a real bad guy but to explain how he had got that way – the outside influences which dictated he turned out the way he did. He is incredibly resourceful but doesn’t use his attributes in a good way. Strange, really, that some of the first people to read the book admitted to feeling sympathy for a guy who has a propensity for savage violence – against men and women. Arnie is driven by a warped sense of right and wrong. His biggest asset is his immense loyalty and he feels let down by others who don’t afford him the same respect. The way his back story unfurls gave me a great deal of satisfaction.
Sounds like a juicy character! Very intriguing. Readers love these kind of anti-hero/grey kind of characters that they can relate to.
*What can you tell us about their relationship with one another?
This relationship forms the basis for the whole book. Arnie is a leader and all the other boys on the estate look up him. Gary has a bit of an individual streak, and is blessed with a couple of talents the others don’t have, so he never really fully immerses himself in the gang despite Arnie’s promptings. As Gary grows older, he realises that if he is to get his life back on track he must separate from Arnie completely. He moves away at a time when Arnie isn’t about and creates an entirely new life for himself. Pretty soon, though, Arnie goes looking for him.
This sounds like a really good book. Looking forward to getting into it.
*Tell us how the setting in the rundown London estate plays a part in the book
There were a lot of cheap estates built in London after the second world war. Tower blocks were grouped together to answer the demand for housing, but over time they became run down. The Boxers estate is a prime example, situated in a deprived area of London’s East End where the no.1 job opportunity is villainy. With little to do, kids on the estate form gangs with the intention of defending themselves against outsiders. It is against this background that Gary and Arnie meet.
Wow. I can almost picture the scenery in my head. Sounds pretty intriguing when you think about it. There are situations like this all over the world. Kids in the midst of poor environment, looking for a way out, hoping to survive. Excellent.
*What else are you working on?
My latest work is set in 1982, a prequel involving Arnie’s dad Big Mo Dolan. He has no end of worries, having to raise a young family on the same London estate with no job and little money. As his mind turns to crime, he is also concerned that his brother Clive has enlisted for the army at a time when Britain and Argentina are poised to go to war over the Falkland Islands. The story – as yet untitled – explains much of what later develops in Crossing The Whitewash. It is with the editor and I am hoping to release it in late Feb/early March.
Oh great! Keep us posted on the development. Would love to read this.
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