Shaun didn't always live in a damp cottage in Scotland. He once lived in a flat that permanently smelled of pizza. He wasn't always a writer, either. He worked in a factory, a government institution, as a manager in a purchasing department and later as a gardener.
He has had a gun levelled at him and been threatened by a man with 'Bad Joe' tattooed on his neck. He doesn't knowingly associate with criminals.
Shaun comes from the north east of England where his novels are set. He is represented by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency.
Woodcutter is his debut novel published by Thistle Publishing. It is based on the criminal underworld of his native home, available as an ebook on Amazon. The paperback will be published 7th June 2018.
These days, he keeps chickens and bees, grows his own fruit and vegetables and wonders where it all went so right.
You can find him at shaunbaines.com, on Facebook as Shaun Baines Writer or Twitter as @littlehavenfarm
WoodcutterOn the run from his criminal family, Daniel Dayton returns home to Newcastle Upon Tyne when his abandoned daughter is attacked.But his family have problems of their own. Targeted by a brutal mercenary, their empire is destined to be destroyed should Daniel refuse to help.Betrayed by his parents. Despised by his brother. In love with his sister-in-law. Home has become a dangerous place to be.Daniel wants his daughter safe. And he wants his revenge, but in the shadowy streets of Newcastle, things are never what they seem.
Who are your influences?
There are a lot of writers I've admired over the years. The list is achingly long, but includes James Herbert, Jeffrey Deaver, Thomas Harris, Martina Cole, Stephen King and more. They're all very different, but they've worked hard at their craft. Whether you like them or not, that effort comes across in their writing.
The people who influence me the most aren't writers. I live in a rural community where farmers work around the clock just to keep up with the payments on their farm. My Dad had a series of grisly jobs when I was growing up, but he went in every day without complaint. When I grumble about how difficult writing can be (and I do. Bitterly.), I remember there are people out there working twice as hard for half as much.
If that doesn't squeeze another paragraph out of you, nothing will.
When did you begin writing?
I think everyone enjoyed writing stories when they were a kid, but some of us never grew up. I have a vague memory of writing a Christmas play for my parents when I was six-ish. I persuaded my sister to play an elf while I played Santa Claus returning to his Grotto from the pub. I'm not sure why Santa was drinking on Christmas Eve, but I was very judgemental about it. He certainly shouldn't have been flying his sleigh. The narrative arc started and ended there, but we received rave reviews from our parents. Forty years later, we are still hoping to tour the play at some point.
How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
I have to come clean. I am terrible at naming my characters. Conventionally, names should encapsulate the characters in some way, but I'm so eager to get the story finished, I don't stop long enough to give them much thought. Where I write, I am faced by rows of DVDs. There is a direct correlation between my character's names and actors in my favourite films.
Or names simply surface from my murky subconscious.
It wasn't until the third draft of Woodcutter that I realised I'd named the main villain after my wife's uncle, a mild mannered optician. Or the conniving matriarch figure after my best friend's wife. I changed them, of course, lest Christmas get-togethers got awkward, but name-checking has become an important part of my writing process.
I don't want to get cut out of anyone's wills.
Do you work from an outline?
One of my favourite authors John Connolly plans out his first few chapters and uses them as a springboard for the rest of the novel. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me and it worked a charm for the first draft of Woodcutter, but the rewrites were a massacre. Huge swathes of innocent words were cut and I was left with a story with more holes in it than a British road.
So I embraced the Post-It note and plotted things out properly. I have since adopted this as my go-to method. Maybe it's a safer option, but it's a lot easier tearing down a Post-It note than deleting whole chapters.
I admire fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writers, but for me, it's like jumping off a roof and then attempting to avoid a sticky mess at the end.
Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
I approach writing as a job. There isn't enough time to wait for the Muse to show up, if it does at all. And there's nothing you write that can't be fixed later so it's about head down, words down. This works best in the first draft stage where I'm carried away with creative fervour. As I progress through my drafts, I pay less attention to word count and it becomes more about replacing quantity with quality.
For a lot of people, money is hard to come by. I owe it to readers who spend money and time on me to take that seriously. I put a lot of hours into getting something right. Readers deserve it.
Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
I write a lot of short stories and hope to put a collection together some time. It's mainly dark fantasy with shades of folklore. I've tried writing science-fiction, but I can barely work the TV so it always falls flat. I'm way too cynical to write romance and too English for erotica. But I am passionate about commercial crime fiction. I love it. I love the darkness and the light of it, the joy of a red herring, the theatre of the denouement and the complicated characters.
My goal as a crime writer is to put my reader on a rollercoaster, warn them the brakes are faulty and press Go.