Trevor Wood is the author of The Man on the Street, which was published by Quercus on 19 March 2020.
Trevor kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Man on the Street.
The Man on the Street is about a homeless man who sees a murder but no one believes him. It’s set firmly in the homeless community in Newcastle and features the first appearance of Jimmy Mullen, a homeless veteran suffering from PTSD. It won the CWA’s John Creasey New Blood Dagger for best debut of 2020 and was picked by Val McDermid as her favourite debut of the year.
2. What inspired the book?
I read a statistic that around 10% of the homeless population are ex-servicemen and wanted to understand how someone who used to be disciplined, organised and self-sufficient could end up on the streets. I was in the Royal Navy for 16 years and it seemed unimaginable to me that any of the people I worked with could have ended up there. I know better now, after volunteering at a soup kitchen for the last 30 months.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I’m a no plan at all kind of writer. I have a vague idea of what the general theme is and a first chapter and go from there. The characters have an annoying habit of heading off in a direction I hadn’t anticipated which means a lot of re-editing of the earlier chapters. I edit as I go and then re-edit after every 20k words before a final edit of the whole thing. By that stage it’s usually in good enough shape to show someone. In The Man on the Street I had an ending in mind though and that stayed with me throughout, including the very last line of the book.
4. Having been through the publishing process, is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
It’s astonishing how helpful people can be. I’ve approached all kinds of experts for advice and almost to a man/woman they’ve given me their time and expertise willingly. I’ve spoken to harbourmasters, probation officers, council workers, policemen, experts in animal poisoning, you name it. The same applies to other authors, I’ve had a huge amount of support from other writers with advice, reading, support, introductions, the list is endless. I guess the message is: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
In the normal world I would have said going out to gigs, festivals and pubs. I like nothing more than live music and have been deprived of that for far too long. I’ve been to Glastonbury for the last seven years and really missed it last year. I’ve optimistically booked tickets for several gigs next year and am desperately hoping that some of them will actually happen. New Order in Manchester in September is probably my best bet. At home I like to get out and jog two or three times a week – it’s generally when I get my best ideas.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
I was going to go for Different Seasons by Stephen King but that seemed cheating as it’s actually four brilliant novellas so I’ll choose A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. It’s a fantastic book, raising huge questions about what it means to be human but it’s also written, in part, in a made-up language (Nadsat) so I could spend my time mastering that as well.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
There’s a fire theme throughout The Man on the Street, matches, a cigarette lighter and a fire extinguisher play big parts in the story and it begins and ends with a raging inferno. I was overly pleased with this when I was piecing the book together and not a single person has noticed or commented on it. The working title of the book was When A Fire Starts To Burn, also referring to the protagonist rediscovering his spark, but the publishers deemed it too long. In retrospect they were right, though maybe that would have helped flag up the theme. I console myself that it works on a sub-conscious level but I’d really like someone to actually ask about it so I can pretend I’m a literary writer with motifs and that.
About the Book
It started with a splash. Jimmy, a homeless veteran grappling with PTSD, did his best to pretend he hadn’t heard it – the sound of something heavy falling into the Tyne at the height of an argument between two men on the riverbank. Not his fight.
Then he sees the headline: GIRL IN MISSING DAD PLEA. The girl, Carrie, reminds him of someone he lost, and this makes his mind up: it’s time to stop hiding from his past. But telling Carrie, what he heard – or thought he heard – turns out to be just the beginning of the story.
The police don’t believe him, but Carrie is adamant that something awful has happened to her dad and Jimmy agrees to help her, putting himself at risk from enemies old and new.
But Jimmy has one big advantage: when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
About the Author
Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for twenty-five years and considers himself an adopted Geordie. He’s a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for sixteen years. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. The Man on the Street, his first novel, was published to widespread critical acclaim and won the 2020 CWA New Blood Dagger. One Way Street is his second novel.