Dougie Brimson exploded onto the UK literary scene in 1996 and has remained there pretty much ever since. A former RAF serviceman and Falklands Veteran, his first book Everywhere We Go remains a cult classic amongst football fans the world over whilst his fictional work including the thrillers The Crew and Top Dog and the comedy diary Billy’s Log have established his as a firm and best-selling favourite. However, he is perhaps best known as a screenwriter with his most notable success being the multi-award winning film, Green Street.
01. How did you get started in your career as an author?
I fell into it by accident. I’d left the RAF in 1994 with no real idea of what I wanted to do other than I was intent on avoiding any more engineering for a while and somehow ended up working as a TV and Film extra with my younger brother.
Anyone who has ever done any of that kind of work knows how much sitting around you actually do and inevitably, discussions turned to football, violence, casuals and the forthcoming EURO 96. That’s when the idea for Everywhere We Go was born.
So, after gathering a load of ideas and notes together, we finally decided that we best approach a publisher so I walked into WH Smiths, picked up the first football book I came across and wrote to the publisher. I wouldn’t say that they bit our hands off, but within a few weeks we had a deal and an advance in place. It was only years later that I discovered how lucky we’d been and that it doesn’t happen like that for everyone!
Of course after the first one came out, we caned it with another three books in quick succession because we never knew how long it would last. Yet here I am 16 years later, still at it and still wondering how I’m getting away with it.
02. Where does your direction and inspiration come from?
In terms of my books, everything comes from my readership because without them, I don’t really have anything.
Thankfully, they are both loyal and incredibly supportive which is, I think, largely due to the fact that I encourage them to let me know their opinions be it via email or by leaving reviews on the online store sites. By doing that and taking on board their comments, I’m better equipped to be able to give them what they actually want to read as opposed to what I hope they might want. That’s a massive difference and it’s one I think readers appreciate but which too many authors and publishers fail to understand.
Indeed, one thing I always tell budding authors is that if they want to write for publication it is absolutely vital that they get to know who their target readership will be, research what they are reading and then write something to suit. That might sound mercenary but it’s exactly what a publisher will do when they’re deciding if a submission is right for them so why not make the process easier for yourself?
In my case, my target readership is primarily lads and as a lad myself (albeit an older version!) I understand that we’re basically simple creatures who know what we like to read and more importantly, how we like to read. So I try to give them what they want in a way that’s easily accessible, it really is as simple as that. There’s no magic formula to it.
In that sense the eBook explosion has been a fantastic boon for me because not only does it help the exchange of information to guide me toward what to write, it allows me to publish those books much faster than I’d be able to via traditional means. It’s win-win for everyone.
However, don’t get the impression that I take my readership (be they real or potential) for granted because I don’t. As a professional author my readership is my livelihood and if I don’t keep them happy and entertained, I’ll starve!
There are though, projects which are labours of love and which I do for my own amusement and my last book The Art of Fart was one such book. I had more fun writing that than I’ve ever had with any writing project. It was quite simply hilarious. But then again, farting is isn’t it?
Films are a very different beast largely because whilst in some senses they are easier to write, there are so many hoops to be jumped through before anything gets anywhere near a camera. As a result, you’re often under the control of other people and whilst that can be fun, it can also be bloody hard work. There are an awful lot of major league bull shitters in the movie game.
03. Who were your major influences and passions and who do you despise?
In terms of writing, I don’t have any influences. I know that sounds conceited, but it’s true, I don’t. There are a lot of people I like and admire for sure, but I hope I have my own voice and my own style.
Life is a different thing entirely. My grandmother was and is my inspiration and to this day, if I have to make any kind of major decision I ask her what I should do. She never lets me down. I also have a couple of good mates who are seriously inspirational to me. They are driven, have total belief in their ability and what they are doing and never even think about giving up when things aren’t going well. Legends.
I’m far too much of a gentleman to say who I even dislike let alone despise in public. Besides, I have a limited amount of space and my shit list is extensive.
04. What current projects are you involved with?
Book wise, I’m currently putting the finishing touches to a novel called Wings of a Sparrow which is a comedy based around a football fanatic who inherits ownership of his local rivals. Think Fever Pitch meets Brewster’s Millions. Once I’ve finished that, then work will commence on the third book in the The Crew/Top Dog trilogy.
On the film front, plans for the film adaptation of Wings are well advanced with a script, producer, lead actor and director already in place and I’ve also written a movie about a British Muslim soldier who loses his legs in Afghanistan. Again, we have a lead, director and producer attached to that so it’s a hectic time!
But when it comes to movies, I do my best to ensure that wherever possible my involvement is limited to matters relating to the script. I can’t be arsed with the rest of it.
05. What can someone who has never read or seen your work before expect and how may this change in the future?
That depends on what it is they pick up! I’m apparently unique in many ways given that my 14 books range from hard-hitting non-fiction about hooliganism and the culture of football fandom through to comedy fiction about sad losers and even ‘faction’ about farting! That’s some range of work but at least it means there should be something for everyone!
However, if someone comes to me and asks me to suggest one of my own books, I point them at The Crew or Billy’s Log. Very different in many ways but both bloody good reads (I think) and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
And it is what it’s all about. A book should be entertainment and if someone is going to hand over hard-earned money for something I’ve created and spend valuable time reading it, it’s only fair that I do my absolute very best to ensure that they get value for money. Then again, The Crew is a free download both on Amazon and iTunes so that last bit doesn’t apply!
06. How do you begin your works? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with? Is there anything that you feel you would steer clear of?
Like all things, books start with the germ of an idea and they come from one of three places; my warped imagination, life and the market. For example, the inspiration for Billy’s Log came from a conversation I overheard on the tube between two middle aged women who were blaming men for everything that was going wrong in their lives whilst missing the fact that they were both clearly bunny boilers.
Once I have the basic idea, then I’ll always work on the ending first because to me, that’s the most important part of any book. It’s the bit the reader remembers and it’s the bit which will hopefully leave them wanting more.
If I can develop a decent ending, usually with a major twist built in, then I’ll start to properly build my characters and plot out the rest of the story but it has to be a great story because there’s no point otherwise. At that point, I’ll run the outline past a few mates and if they like it, I’ll run with it.
That might not be the classic way of doing things, but it works for me.
But no matter what it is, be it fiction or non-fiction, I will only ever start something if I think I’m going to enjoy doing it. After all, if I don’t enjoy writing it how on earth can I do it justice?
For that reason, there are two subjects I tend to steer clear of; religion and homosexuality. I’m kind of anti-religion and I’m certainly not homosexual so the idea of researching either subject leaves me a bit cold.
07. Does your personal world view tend to shape your work and if so how do you include this into your finished pieces?
Oh god yes! How can it not? I’m lucky in that I came into writing quite late in life and had already spent 18 years in the RAF so trust me, I’d lived a little! Indeed, someone recently asked me if I’d ever think about writing an autobiography and I said no because no one would ever believe it!
Of course when you experience life then you form opinions on pretty much everything and as anyone who has ever read any of my non-fiction or indeed my blog, will know, I am slightly opinionated. Indeed, one thing that really gets on my tits are people under 30 preaching in the media about this or that as if they know. They don’t know, they can’t know. They haven’t lived.
08. What has been your biggest challenge? Were you been able to overcome this? If so, how?
I think my biggest challenge has been learning to set stuff aside. Not in the sense of getting crap reviews or anything like that, all authors get those and if you can’t take that sort of thing then don’t write.
No, it’s the big stuff that can be the problem. The biggest of all arrived one night when I realised that I was being screwed over by someone I had considered to be the very closest of friends. And I mean screwed over big time. To make matters worse, I then found out that a lot of people I knew and trusted who were working with us on the same project had known what was going on and did nothing to either stop it or even warn me.
That ate me up for a long time and impacted on both work and life generally because the betrayal was so personal. However, I eventually learned to set it aside purely because I realised that the best way to deal with those people was to be better than them. And I hope I have been and will be.
But rest assured, I’ll fuck them all over when the opportunity arises. I’ve already refused to have certain people brought onto projects and even had someone place a proper full-on curse on the biggest culprit. Now I don’t know whether you believe in such things or not but what I do know is that their career has tanked and that will do for me.
And yes, they know what I did because I told them. I also told them what they have to do to get it lifted but they’re obviously happier struggling to regain the status and opportunity they once had because I’m still waiting and their still struggling. That’s fine by me though.
Bare a grudge… me? Too fucking right.
09. Do you feel the British Media in all its forms needs a shake up?
Oh yes. I think it’s such a shambolic mess that even the general public are starting to desert it because it’s too selective, too preaching and too celebrity focussed. That’s why less people watch the news, less people buy newspapers and to be blunt, less people care.
The hope of course, was that the Leveson enquiry was going to shake a few things up and go some way toward rebuilding that trust but I don’t personally think much will change. The truth is that only thing that will actually change anything is pressure from the great British public and I can’t see that happening. They’re far too set in their ways. But once a nation loses trust and faith in its media, it’s screwed. We’re not screwed yet, but we’re getting there.
10. Where do you envisage being in five years time? What types of things do you get offered due to your success?
Hopefully breathing! I’d settle for that at the moment. However, as long as people keep buying my work then I’ll certainly keep doing my best to keep supplying them with fresh material.
I’m fortunate in that I do get a lot of offers of work and I’ve met some fabulous individuals over the years. I’ve also been to some fabulous places with Russia being a particular favourite largely because of the amazing people.
But trust me, the life of an author isn’t full of grandiose parties, glittering openings and trips to 5 star hotels. Well, mine isn’t anyway. In 16 years of writing I’ve been invited to two literary events and both of those primarily involved authors moaning about a certain publisher who I was actually quite happy to be working with!
Most bizarrely of all, I’ve never even been invited to the British Sports Book Awards even though as I type this, The Crew has been at number one on the Amazon and iTunes football charts for over 8 months and of the top 50 football titles on iTunes, 7 are my books! Figure that one out.
11. Who would you most like to work with and in what capacity? Any heroes and zeroes?
I’ll work with anyone who actually gets things done as opposed to people who simply talk about getting things done. But ideally, I’d only want to work with people I like and get on with. Why on earth would I or anyone else want to do otherwise especially when, as a writer, you’re going to be spending an awful lot of time together?
I really liked Elijah Wood when I met him on Green Street so I’d love to work with him again if the opportunity ever arose and George Clooney looks an absolute blast of a bloke so to do something with him would, I’m sure, be awesome fun.
Most of my hero’s are actual hero’s in the proper sense as opposed to being some media or sporting figure who has been hyped up by the media and since they are generally out of the public eye, to mention them would be unfair. But if there was one high profile figure I consider worthy of the term it’s David Beckham. The guy is a quality individual in pretty much every respect.
Zero’s I don’t do. I can’t stand people who are full of themselves and I certainly won’t work with them. Danny Dyer is a good example. The guy’s a total dick.
12. How have you included technology and the internet into your working methods and finished works?
Other than the use of a laptop and a decent internet connection, I don’t really have any need for that much technology. But like all authors, a decent web presence is essential as is social media. I’m addicted to Twitter.
I’ve never actually included much technology in any of my work although I have written a fantastic outline for a book about the five eyes surveillance system called Echelon. The trouble is that kind of stuff moves so fast that it’s probably already out of date now.