Jonathan Whitelaw – Q&A

Jonathan Whitelaw is the author of The Bingo Hall Detectives, published by Harper North on 14 April 2022.

He kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about The Bingo Hall Detectives.

It’s a cosy crime book set in the Lake District. Mother and son-in-law detective duo Amita and Jason must put aside their bickering to catch the killer of a member of the local bingo club. There’s murder, mayhem and (hopefully) some endearing laughs and entertainment along the way.

2. What inspired the book?

I’ve always been a massive fan of cosy crime. I think it’s a wonderful escapism, a chance for a reader to completely immerse themselves in a good story without the worry of gratuitous violence and sex. Not that there’s anything wrong with those of course. I just think that cosy crime offers a comfort blanket, a safety net there for you as a reader to know that it’ll all be okay in the end. Or will it?

The novel is very much my ode to the Lake District as a place. It’s such a wonderful setting and a beautiful part of the world. And having two characters who rub each other up the wrong way but still have to get along seemed like the perfect fit.

3. Do you plan before you start writing or do you sit down and see where the words take you?

Since my son arrived (he’s just about to turn two) my writing has been a lot more focussed. Simply because I don’t have the time anymore. When I sit down to write, I know exactly what I”m going to be doing – whether that’s a scene, some plot development, introduction of a character etc. Whereas before I used to be a lot more laid back about the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a pantser at heart. I usually have a plot outline written out before I start a project that will keep me on track for what happens – key moments and twists etc. But usually the bits between these moments is up in the air. I like not knowing, it keeps me on edge!

4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that still surprises you?

Oh absolutely. I’m constantly amazed at the quality of the editing process. Seriously, editors are absolute angels and they can turn even the most nonsensical gibberish into something that’s well-polished, crafted and above all else GOOD. I’m very lucky to work with a fantastic team at HarperNorth. They’re enthusiastic, supportive and “get” the characters, setting etc of the Bingo Hall Detectives world. And, like I said, I’m always dumbfounded at just how bloomin’ good they are!

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

Like every other writer, I read. A LOT. I’m lucky and privileged enough to read novels by other writers for review and for endorsements ahead of publication. It’s a lovely part of the job and one I’m eternally grateful for.

I’m also a big football fan. Actually let me rephrase that, I’m a big EVERTON fan – whether they play football or not is up for debate! I also play a lot and have even turned out for Scotland at Bloody Scotland and for the writers team over the years.

Music is a big part of my life and has been for a very long time. So I enjoy catching up withnew releases and some classics. When I’m writing I like to have seasonal classical music on in the background. I’m currently enjoying the delights of Vivaldi, Handel and Tchaikovsky. Very wintry.

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

This is such a tough question! My initial answer was going to be The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams was a genius on pretty much every level there is and nobody needs to listen to me harp on about that.

But on reflection I think I’m going to go for something a bit more subdued and from my childhood. I grew up on a healthy diet of Roald Dahl and devoured pretty much his whole kids catalogue before I was 12. However, there was one classic that escaped me – Danny, the Champion of the World. So I’d have to say if I only ever had one more to read, it would be that one – both because I’ve never actually read it and I loved Dahl so very much.

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?

I feel like a bit of cheat with this one as I’m a journalist and asking questions is my job and has been for a thousand years. With that in mind, I think the question I wish I’ve been asked before is: “What was your hardest scene to write?”

The answer to this one is probably ALL OF THEM. But I know that’s a bit of a cop out so I’ll answer it properly. The opening of The Bingo Hall Detectives is both one of my favourite scenes but also the hardest I’ve ever written. It’s one of my favourites because it immediately throws you into Amita and Jason’s world and their relationship. And that was a very deliberate move on my part. I wanted readers to know exactly who they are dealing with from the off – a pair of people thrown together by fate who don’t necessarily get on – or would EVER get on without that mutual love.

For me the whole novel is about that relationship and it’s something we can all relate to. So nailing that from the very beginning was high on my priorities list. Whether I did isn’t up to me to answer. But I know it was a painstaking process on my part to at least TRY to get some semblance of the world and its characters from the opening sentence even.

About the Book

Jason Brazel is an out of work journalist who lives in Penrith with his family and mother-in-law, Amita. She knows everyone and everything that’s going on in this corner of the Lakes.

So when it’s discovered that Madeline Forbisher, one of Amita’s fellow regulars at the bingo club has died, found by the postman outside her crumbling country home close to Ullswater Lake, she senses immediately this is no accident. The trouble is, no one else seems to take her suspicions seriously.

That is, until she enlists the help of her friends at the Penrith Bingo Club. Dismissed by many as eccentric, over the hill or out of touch, it turns out that it’s unlucky for some that these amateur sleuths are on the case…

The next Amita and Jason mystery, The Village Hall Vendetta, will be published by Harper North on 11 May 2023.

You can buy a copy of the The Bingo Hall Detectives here.

(This is an affiliate link and I may make a small amount should you purchase through it. You can also buy the book from your local independent bookshop.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.