Name: Matt Johnson
Where are you from;
I’m a Londoner by birth, currently living in Wales and looking out at the incredible Brecon Beacons as I write this.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Matt: I wrote about this in more detail on my blog, but to summarise: About fifteen years ago. It started quite by accident. I was in the process of leaving the police having been diagnosed with PTSD which had caused some unpleasant symptoms. As part of my counselling treatment I was asked to write doen my experiences, dreams, emotions etc as talking about them had been too upsetting. I found it very cathartic, the exercise did me a lot of good and a side product was the complimentary comments from the counsellor and the suggestion that I wrote a book.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Matt: Probably when I had my first magazine article published and was paid for it. It was fun to be paid for something I enjoyed doing. I first considered myself an author when my debut book started to produce a small income and to be well reviewed by complete strangers. Then, when Peter James emailed me and agreed to endorse the book, I began to accept that writing fiction was actually something I might be quite good at.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Matt: Following the PTSD treatment, I decided to follow the counsellor’s advice and give it a go. I enjoyed the experience and, as I said previously, it was very cathartic in helping me address my PTSD.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It came from the book, from dialogue between two of the characters. It is very different from the initial title. The same thing happened with the sequel which should be out next month. I started with one title and ended up with something quite different as the story grew.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Matt: As much as is possible. The genre that I have chosen to right in is full of people who will soon identify authenticity errors and lack of realism. I find it hard to identify with heroes who are impervious to injury and pain and who seem to think and act faster than anyone else. As the story progresses, I often ask myself ‘what would really happen’ and ‘is this feasible’.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Matt: Very much. All of the events and characters are amalgams of people I have known and events I have had involvement with. In the sequel to Wicked Game, three of the characters are named after competition winners and one name is that of a very kind lady who bid over £200 for a signed book at a fundraiser for an injured SAS soldier.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Matt: In recent times, Peter James has been a great friend to me. Peter has advised me on a suitable agent and helped to find me an exciting publisher. In the past, I used to like books like The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh and the early Alex Cross books.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Matt: My own, it’s editing time.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Matt: I recently read a wonderful novel called The Bees. It’s by a new author called Laline Paull.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Matt: The sequel to Wicked Game. It’s called Deadly Game and is due out next month. Final proof read is being completed and I’m due a report back from a military colleague to check authenticity and accuracy.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Matt: I do now, yes. I’m enjoying it very much and, so long as that continues, I will keep at it.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Matt: Yes. It started in the police with the writing of reports and evidence. I found that I was quite good with the written word and was often asked to help colleagues put their thoughts and witness accounts into words. Once, I wrote a speech for a senior officer that ended up being used by the Met Commissioner. I think that those experiences planted a seed that continued to grow.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Matt: Yes. For example, I have been back to Ireland, to a wedding in Romania and to the Red Sea for book two. It would be my view that to write about a place, you really need to go there and experience it. When you get to use all your senses in an environment you can recall the sounds, the smells and the feel of a place much better than if you just read about it. The challenge is to then find a way to put those sensations into words so that others can live it through you.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Matt: My brother Simon took and idea of mine and turned it into reality. I was very impressed by what he came up with. A book jacket is so key to success. I’ve been really pleased with the positive reaction this amateur production has generated.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Matt: For me, its grammar and punctuation. My english education stopped at O level. I find that I am now overcome that ‘blank page’ situation well after receiving the advice to ‘just write, don’t worry’. I think that we writers want to get it right first time but I have come to accept that this doesn’t happen so I concentrate on getting words down and then worry about other things later.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Matt: Most advice is already available in one form or another but I would make just one plea. Don’t cheat the reader by buying reviews for your work or doing mutually back-slapping reviews with fellow writers. It fools readers in the short term, but once they realise they have been conned, they can be very unforgiving. In the long term, the only person who is fooled by faked reviews is you. When you cheated to obtain a review, how will you know if you work appeals to genuine readers?
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Matt: On my blog last year, I posted a tale of my journey to South Africa to trace my ancestral roots. The person I would so much have loved to meet is a man who turned out to be my distant cousin, Nelson Mandela.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Matt: Too many. Which doesn’t help when it comes to distractions but definitely does when it comes to material and ideas. I enjoy riding my old Harley-Davidson, driving my classic Jaguar, scuba diving, bee-keeping, live music, my four dogs, cycling, hill-walking, gardening and, of course, reading. I also collect hats… oh and ties. It was only when I discovered ebay that I realised how many hobbies I had.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Matt: Its www.mattjohnsonauthor.com . You will also find me twittering at @Matt_Johnson_UK
Paperback due June 12