Where are you from
Born and raised in sunny Staffordshire
A little about yourself (ie your education, family life etc)
I currently live with my partner in London. I’ve had a multitude of jobs before becoming a fulltime writer, but immediately prior to getting my first book deal I was a freelance video editor. I’ve got a degree, A-levels and GCSEs, but I don’t remember what grades, so that probably means there were more bad ones than good ones.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’ve just finished checking the proofs of my second novel, The Enemy, which is due out in May 2012 and continues the escapades of Victor, the ruthless assassin protagonist of my first novel, The Hunter. I’m very excited about it. I feel it’s a much stronger book and I can’t wait for people to read it. Also, I’m about to start editing a novella, out in April. It’ll be available as an e-book and serves as a sort of prelude to the next book. Other than that I’m trying to summon the courage to brave the chaos of London to do some Christmas shopping.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I was at primary school I used to love writing stories and that never went away really. In fact, writing was the only type of school work I enjoyed throughout my education.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When my first book came out. I’d done a variety of freelance writing jobs beforehand, but they were never my main means of employment. From the point where I had first had an agent to my book’s release was a very long wait, for all sorts of reasons, and during this period friends and family would refer to me as a writer, such as when introducing me to strangers. “Here’s my mate, Tom. He’s a writer.” Which would invariably be followed by the person I was being introduced to saying, “What’s your book called?/Has it been published?/Where can I buy it?” Then there would be much awkwardness as I tried to explain that yes I had written a book, but no it hasn’t been published. Now, it’s much less awkward. Except when I’m asked, “Are you a millionaire yet?” I’m not, by the way. All donations to the Tom Wood Millionaire fund will be gratefully received.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always been a fan of a great villain. In fact I usually prefer them to the heroes. I suppose it’s because often bad guys are so much more interesting than the good guys, who invariably all act in the same tried and tested heroic manner. I guess I used to try and seek out books with antihero protagonists and there just aren’t that many, so I ended up writing my own.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I would say that I write in a cinematic style, which is partially deliberate, because it fits with what I wanted to achieve in my novel. I wanted it to be relentlessly paced, always exciting, and with a notable absence of fluff. I sometimes describe The Hunter as an action movie in book format. But also my style comes from the fact I have a short attention span. I get bored easily, and when I read I just don’t care what the character ate for breakfast or how many tiles there are on the bathroom floor. I want to get on with the story. I want to be engaged, intrigued and entertained. I don’t want to have to skim through padding to get to the good bit.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I didn’t. My original title was The Killer, and it was published under that name in America, which was where I got my first deal. When the rights were sold in the UK, my editor wanted to change it from The Killer to The Hunter. I wasn’t keen at first, but I trusted (and still trust) my editor, and so The Hunter was born.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really, because first and foremost The Hunter is designed to entertain. I try to keep my own philosophies and political opinions out of its pages because I hate it when a novel I’m reading becomes a soapbox for the author to shove his or her beliefs down my throat.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
A great deal of the book is realistic and a good deal of it exists in hyper-reality or Hollywood-reality, if you will. My book is about spies and assassins and conspiracies and so on. In reality, spying is about analysis and number crunching and innumerable hours of surveillance and other activities that aren’t particularly entertaining to read about. The moment you start having gunfights and car chases, realism pretty much goes out of the window, but I try to maintain, if not realism, believability. Which I think is far more important to any story. Fact can be stranger than fiction. But not often.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Absolutely not. I know no hitmen, I’m very happy to say.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
The Lord of the Rings would be the single most influential book because it made the teenage me realism that maybe books weren’t so dull and boring after all.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Well, I’d love to have been in such a position, but I don’t think I know, or have enough contact with any writer to consider them a mentor. That said, Joseph Finder contacted me not long after my book came out in America and has given me a lot of career advice, for which I’m very grateful.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just started getting into reading e-books on my phone after resisting the technological revolution for a good while. Now, I love the convenience of being able to read whenever I am, at any time. I’ve always got my phone on me when I go out so it’s always possible to read. That said, I’ve got a bad habit of reading multiple books at the same time. When I say at the same time, I mean I’ll have more than one on the go at any one moment. That’s not a sign a book is bad, just that I like many different tastes and I may fancy reading a lightweight adventure story one night, and then a historical drama the next. A couple of the books I’m reading are: Abraham Lincoln: Detective by Allen Appel, which is exactly what you would expect from the title. It’s a book where, before he became president of the USA, Abraham Lincoln is trying to solve a strange case during his lawyer days. It’s told through the eyes of his best friend and it beautifully written and thoroughly engaging. I’ve also just started reading The Trinity Six by Charles Cummings, which is a spy thriller, but I can’t tell you much else as I haven’t got very far. The other book I’m reading isn’t to my tastes, but I’ll keep its name under my hat. Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean it isn’t a good book. It just means it’s not for me.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
One in particular jumps out a mile: Howard Linskey and his debut novel, The Drop. For the purposes of full disclosure I have to say that I’ve got to know Howard over the last couple of years, and we share an agent, but my opinion is without bias. The Drop is a fantastic crime novel and one of my favourite books of the year. The main character is a gangster for a small crime outfit in Newcastle, and as such The Drop is often tagged as a gangster book, but the story is very much a detective tale. It’s full of twists and turns, memorable characters and brilliant atmosphere. The protagonist is also something of an antihero, so that makes it just about perfect for me.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. It is my career. It took a long time to get to the point where writing pays the bills, but thankfully it does. Writing a novel takes up so much time I’m in awe of anyone who can hold down a fulltime job and write a book a year.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes. Lots of things. Too many things. I don’t see myself as a typical perfectionist, but every time I read something I’ve written I’ll want to make heaps of changes. I think this is inevitable. All skills are improved with practice, and because it takes so long to write a 140,000 word novel, by the time I’ve finished it I’ve gained so much more experience than I had when I started it. And if I’ve written two novels since then, the desire to tweak and polish will be immense. In fact, I refuse to open my first book to avoid just that.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Plot. My books have multiple viewpoint characters and multiple storylines running concurrently and plotting can sometimes be very tricky. When I have several plotlines moving from A to B to C to D to E and I find I need to move things around or change a specific event it often causes a huge ripple effect through the rest of the book.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have a favourite author, but I do have lots of favourite authors, including, but not limited to (in no particular order): Bernard Cornwell, Matt Hilton, Lee Child, Joseph Finder, Andy McNab, Harlen Coben, Greg Hurwitz, Howard Linskey… The list is endless!
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
My books are set all over the world, and though I would love to go to each location in each and every country I write about, I wouldn’t be able to eat as all my money would go on airfares and hotel bills. But if I don’t have firsthand experience of a location I always try to get at least some information from someone who does. I also go to the odd writing festival.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The very talented Hannah Clark at my publisher, Little, Brown.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
The most important thing I learned was simply about writing. As I said before experience plays such a big part in the skill of a writer that just getting to the end taught me so much about every facet of the craft.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
“Writing is manual labour of the mind: a job, like laying pipe.” John Gregory Dunne. I think that quote sums it up perfectly. Writing is hard work. Not physically, because I’ve done hard physical jobs and I know the difference. But it takes a huge amount of time and effort to write a book, and if you want to get to the end you have to treat it as a job, even when you’re not getting paid. Which can be overwhelmingly tough at times. If you work a 9-to-5 you don’t just go into work when you feel like it (if you want to keep that job), and you should take the same approach to writing. When I was doing other jobs I would email myself my Word document every night so I could work on my book during my lunch break. If you have a fulltime job then try to write every lunchtime and evening and have a target number of words that you have to reach, no matter what. Write just 500 words a day and within a year you’ll have a 100,000 word book done. I spent years only writing when I felt inspired and looking back it’s not a surprise that I never finished a full novel. I wanted to be published and dreamed of being a fulltime writer, but I just wasn’t putting the effort in to make it happen. I was treating writing as a pastime that I enjoyed while hoping it would become a career. Which is a ridiculous approach when you think about it. When I eventually decided to take things more seriously and professionally, within a year I had a book completed and I was working with an agent.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
A huge thank you to everyone who has read my book. The support and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and I feel truly blessed to be doing something that I love every day.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done ?
Astronaut, pilot, stuntman, boxer… in no particular order. Not that I would have been any good at any of them!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it?
www.tomwoodbooks.com, facebook.com/tomwoodbooks, and twitter.com/thetomwood