Musician, truck driver, record label boss, and now a writer of no-holds barred espionage thrillers, Charlie Flowers has been an author on my radar for quite some time now.
Smart, witty, and with a personality that reeks of someone constantly hungry for knowledge, Charlie's new Riz Sabir thriller, The Boldest Measures has just been published. On top of that, he and his writing partner Hannah Haq won BBC Essex's Playwright of the Year last week, so I reckoned it was high time I sat down with Charlie for a proper chat.
Charlie, welcome to the blog! What attracted you to writing in the crime/thriller genre? Was there a particular author that inspired you to do so?
Hi Rachel, and good question! There’s a weird background to the Riz Sabir series, and it has its basis in the real-life girl gang that I’ve fictionalised for the books. The gang is known as the Cheerleaders, and they’re run by a group of Muslim girls.
At the time I was in a band and the idea was to write a musical called “The Blackeyes”, based on the gang and their members’ experiences. After a while I had a shedload of stories, but no one hook to hang it on. And then one rainy night a thought popped into my head.
“What if James Bond was Muslim?”
I laughed and then got a pen, and within days I had the character of Rizwan Sabir the jihadi turned British Intelligence agent, and his loopy cousin Holly, and the girl gang.
How did Riz Sabir develop as a character when you wrote the first in the series, Hard Kill?
He started in my mind’s eye as a wiry, nervy, skinny guy. But then we cast Zulfikar Ali Malik (East Enders, SPECTRE) to play him in the manga and film adaptations, so he morphed into a tall, muscular, bearded bloke. It works.
What sort of research did you undertake for your latest novel, The Boldest Measures? Do you have any skills that match your protagonist’s?
I spent three years researching the background to The Boldest Measures. In fact some of the information about the stay behind networks featured in the book has only just come out. As for skills… can I plead the Fifth on that one?
Do you outline/plot, or do you prefer to start at the beginning and see where the story takes you?
When I start a book I know the first sentence and the end sentence. Then my characters journey from the first to the last.
You regularly post excerpts from your latest book as you write it on your Facebook timeline – how did that begin, and why?
Couple of reasons: firstly to keep my readers entertained and up to date, and secondly to see how it scans in a different format. You’d be amazed at the errors you can pick up.
What does your writing space look like? Do you have any pre-writing rituals to get you “in the zone”, or do you write at a particular time of day?
Here’s some shots from my bloke cave, featuring scrapbooks and the actual Confederate flag featured in the latest Riz.
At 11pm I just stick the headphones on, crank up the relevant music for what I’m writing, and type till the oomph runs out.
We all occasionally hit a brick wall with our creative endeavours – what do you do to overcome any stumbling blocks?
I go for a walk in the woods or a drive, or pick out an air weapon and shoot paper targets or beer cans. The impetus always comes back as, after all, it’s been in your subconscious all along!
You recently co-wrote a cookbook with Misbah Mazhar, Mrs Kirpachi’s Cookbook – how did that venture transpire?
Misbah is a good friend of mine; she is the leader of the aforementioned girl gang, and I had her in mind when I wrote the character of Mrs Kirpachi, Riz’s mother in law. After a while we had enough recipes in the books to start a spin off cookbook. And it’s great!
What else have you got planned for 2017?
Quite a bit. Two manga adaptations, a radio play, the eighth Riz Sabir thriller which is told from Holly’s perspective, and a romance novel with my writing partner Hannah Haq!
Thanks for being a guest on the blog, Charlie - where can we find you and your books?
All books can be found on Amazon, and you can find me on social media here: