Name Stephen Leather
Where are you from Manchester, UK
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I have lived abroad most of my life – Hong Kong, France, United States, Ireland, Thailand. I studied biochemistry at university, became a journalist and started writing fiction full-time twenty-five years ago.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My book False Friends, number nine in the Spider Shepherd series, is published in August.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was a journalist for ten years. I wrote my first novel, Pay Off, while I was working for the Daily Mirror. By the time it was published I was working for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. I wrote my break-out book, The Chinaman, while I was working for The Times in London.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess when I started writing fiction full time and realized that if my books didn’t sell I would starve.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I went on a Scottish Whisky Association tour of whisky distilleries and had the idea for a thriller while I was at a distillery. I had the whole ending of the book in my mind at the time and it’s pretty much as I envisaged it then.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Fast-paced. And I try not to over-write.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Spider Shepherd series are in pairs – Hard Landing/Soft Target, Cold Kill/Hot Blood, Dead Men/Live Fire, Rough Justice/Fair Game. So the next two will be paired, False Friends and probably True Colours. The False Friends refer to undercover agents in the book.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I guess that not all Muslims are terrorists. The two heroes of False Friends are two British Muslims who risk their lives to help MI5.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
All of it. All my thrillers are based on fact. My thriller Soft Target was about four suicide bombers on the London Tube and it was published six months before the real attack happened. In False Friends I have terrorists attacking the Westfield Shopping Mall in East London. I gave it to a friend of mine who is an armed cop and a few months later his team were out at Westfield reviewing security precautions there. And yes, he agreed that my scenario is bang on.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Both. I spend a lot of time picking the brains of cops and spies. And villains.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Len Deighton’s thrillers. I realised that I could write similar books and that if he could make a living from writing then perhaps so could I. He has a very smooth, easy, writing style that I try to emulate.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’m not sure that mentors are a good idea. Every writer should find his own voice.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
At the moment, nothing. I tend not to read while I’m writing. It gets in the way! I have just finished a book about a Brit who spent time in a Thai prison. I tend to read factual books rather than fiction these days.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I spend a lot of time watching the progress of new authors who are self-publishing on the Kindle and other e-readers. I talk to them and we share opinions and tactics. Guys like Adam Croft, Nick Spalding, Steve Roach and Stephen Davison. All are worth reading.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am working on the fourth Jack Nightingale book. He’s a supernatural detective fighting the forces of evil. The first three books are Nightfall, Midnight and Nightmare so the next one has to have “night” in it!
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My publisher, Hodder and Stoughton. I have been with them for more than twenty years.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Of course, it has been for the last twenty-five years.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope, it’s all good.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My uncle was a writer. He wrote for TV shows like The Avengers, Danger Man, Department S, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and many others. I always envied his lifestyle.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The grind of writing 2,000 words a day, every day. It’s hard work. It really is.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have several favourites – Len Deighton, Gerald Seymour, John Le Carre and Jack Higgins. They all have terrific writing styles and come up with great plots time after time.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Sure. Though less so now that I have the internet. Before I used to visit every place I wrote about, but now I can Google most things. But I still travel a lot. For my book Fair Game I spent sixteen days on a container ship sailing from Malaysia to the UK. For False Friends I spent a lot of time researching the London settings and visiting an armed police HQ in South London.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
An excellent designer Stuart Bache who does most of my covers for Hodder and Stoughton. He has a website at http://www.stuartbache.co.uk/
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
It takes stamina to write 135,000 words. Sitting down at the laptop and knowing I have to write 2,000 words that day can be daunting.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Every book is a learning experience. With False Friends I learnt a lot about Stoke Newington, an area of London I wasn’t familiar with, and an awful lot about the security arrangements that are in place for the Olympics. I also know a lot more about CO19 – the Met’s armed police – than I used to.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
They know what they have to do!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Please keep buying my books!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I almost became a policeman after leaving university. With hindsight I should have become a hedge fund manager, retired with a fortune at forty and spent the rest of my life writing.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it?
I have two. My main website is at www.stephenleather.com and my Jack Nightingale occult detective has his own website at www.jacknightingale.com I was one of the first writers to have their own website, and it’s grown to quite a size. The Jack Nightingale website is very special and I’ve never seen anything like it. It takes the form of a haunted house that you can wander around. It cost almost as much as a real house!