Scarberryfields: Can you tell us a little about your nationality?
Stewart: I’m British. I’m an Englishman with quite a lot of Irish blood on my mother’s side and a bit of Scottish from my father’s side. A Celtic Englishman, you might say. I’ve been looking into my family history on my dad’s side. I’ve managed to trace it back to the late 1700s so far and hope to continue finding out more about my ancestors.
Scarberryfields: When you finished your debut novel, did you miss the characters?
Stewart: Yes and no. No, in the sense of knowing that they will appear again, because Steps In The Shadows is the first of a quartet; yes, in the sense of not being able to wait until I can write the next book and develop the characters further.
Scarberryfields: While writing, if you need help with punctuation, grammar, etc., where do you turn?
Stewart: I’m pretty lucky because I’m already a spelling, punctuation and grammar obsessive. I agonize over every phrase. My family are similar – so I turn to them for advice, especially my wife. The other day, we had a discussion on whether a comma should go before a closing speech mark or after – a cross-cultural discussion, since the American and British styles differ! She’s American and I’m British. I wonder how many other couples discuss punctuation over dinner.
Scarberryfields: With the number of hours spent writing, do family members support you or complain about the time spent away from them?
Stewart: My wife is unwaveringly supportive, as I am of her. She is an artist and an academic, and, when I was writing my novel, she was engaged in her own intensive work. We still manage to live a relatively normal life – for example, we went out for pizza last night!
Scarberryfields: Does writing benefit you in any way and if so, how?
Stewart: It benefits me immensely. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since childhood and I’m finally realizing my ambition. It gives me inner peace. I had to take time off work a couple of months back due to exhaustion, and the writing gave me some purpose and structure in my day.
Scarberryfields: When you’re writing, do you shut-off all social networks?
Stewart: Not entirely. I’m a sociable person and I now know, more than ever, the value of switching off for a few hours, meeting friends, having dinner and a few drinks. I also use Facebook and Twitter extensively, especially Twitter – it’s great for the writing community.
Scarberryfields: Did you use any family members as Beta readers for your debut novel?
Stewart: All of my immediate family. My dad was the first and quickest. He’s a retired schoolteacher so he rattled through it in one sitting and pointed out some typos and stylistic idiosyncracies. Then my mum, an avid reader of crime fiction, read it for pleasure, taking a bit more time over it, and picked up a few errors my dad had missed out. My wife has also read it and my sister is currently reading it. Finally, my oldest friend since childhood read it. It’s a detective novel and, since he’s a police officer, his input was invaluable. I’m indebted to them all for their feedback and support. They all enjoyed the book, which is the main thing.
Scarberryfields: Do you have a job or any hobbies?
Stewart: My wife and I are in the process of relocating because of her work. Her job offer came recently, so I gave notice to my employer and decided I would go freelance as a writer and editor. As for hobbies, I enjoy reading – every writer needs to read avidly – as well as running, cooking, and listening to jazz. I co-presented a jazz radio show for three years and I pick up the guitar occasionally – I like to dabble with playing the blues and a bit of jazz fusion.
Scarberryfields: Do you plan to write any other books?
Stewart: Yes. I originally set out to write just one, but as I wrote, the ideas flowed and I ended up with enough material for four individual stories – so I decided to write a further three books and link the stories by way of an arc that encompasses all four. I’ve called it the Northern Quartet, named after the area of central Manchester in which the stories take place. Before the second book in the quartet is released, I am going to publish a stand-alone book – a darkly comic novel that has nothing to do with the crime fiction genre. This book will go out in December, and the second in the Northern Quartet is scheduled for April 2013. After the quartet, there will be more novels featuring Detective Inspector Molyneux and other characters from the Quartet – in fact, the other day, I outlined the plot for one of these books – but I would also like to write true crime and a book about my favourite band.
Scarberryfields: Where and when can readers find your book?
Scarberryfields: Thank you so much, Stew for taking time out from your busy day to answer my questions. I have enjoyed getting to know you better and wish you nothing but the best.