Name Howard Linskey
Where are you from
I’m from a small town in County Durham called Ferryhill. It’s between Durham and Darlington and about twenty five miles south of Newcastle. I have lived and worked all over the country in various jobs, was a journalists for a while and worked in sales and marketing for a variety of companies before jacking in the day job after my third novel. I am now a full time author and look after my nine year old daughter Erin, so I try to stop working when she comes home from school.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My fifth novel, ‘Behind Dead Eyes’ will be published by Penguin in May 2016 and the previous one, ‘No Name Lane’ will be published soon in Germany and the Czech Republic.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started a long time ago when I was about twenty. I think I was looking for something to be good at, during a time in my life when I had very little self-confidence and thought I was pretty useless at everything. I felt the need to express myself so I started writing scripts and these were well received by production companies but none of them was ever commissioned. I then wrote a book and that first novel got me a Literary Agent.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I only told people I was a writer once I was published for the first time, as I figured they might just laugh at me if I said I wanted to be an author. I suppose there are days when I still feel like a bit of a fraud but I know a great many authors now and they nearly all feel like they are the only one in the room who isn’t a ‘real writer’. An author I respect told me he always feels like someone is going to tap him on the shoulder one day and say, ‘it’s all been a mistake’ then lead him away from the writing life forever and I know exactly what he means. Unless you have a massive ego it is quite hard to get your head round the fact that you actually write books that are published and read by people.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I was wondering one day what it would be like to work for a gangster if you weren’t a particularly violent or tough man yourself. What if you were a white collar guy working for a hardened criminal and something went wrong that he blamed you for, like a large amount of money going missing. That became the premise behind ‘The Drop’, which got me my first publishing deal and set me on my way.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I probably have my own style but I’m not sure how I would describe it. I do believe in the adage that you should leave out the boring bits readers skip, so you won’t find me describing a tree in great detail and I’m told me books are very pacey. Readers often say they could imagine my books being turned into films or TV shows and I think that is because I am influenced by films, so I write scenes as opposed to chapters, if you see what I mean.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
‘The Drop’ describes money set aside to pay people off. It must have been a bloody good title because since it was published in 2011 it has been used by both Michael Connolly and Dennis Lehane for their books and the Tom Hardy film. I’m not saying they consciously stole my title by the way because I am sure they’d never even heard of me but I was definitely there first.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really though I don’t like to glamorize crime or violence. My three David Blake books are crime thrillers but if you still want to be Blake by the time you’ve reached the end of one of them then you are a very strange person indeed. I’m not drumming home the message that crime doesn’t pay but I don’t want the books to be recruiting posters for wannabee gangsters like some crime films I could name.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
A fair bit I reckon. A retired senior detective told me my dialogue is spot on and another guy I know who is friends with real gangsters told me ‘The Drop’ was very realistic.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Thankfully no; those books are all the product of my twisted imagination. I don’t hang out with gangsters in real life.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I don’t really have a mentor, though I owe thanks to a lot of people who have helped me along the way, which is why it is great there is an acknowledgements page inside a book. I have probably been influenced most by Stan Barstow, for writing about real people in a northern setting, and John Le Carre for his beautifully written but gripping stories. He proves you can write well but still tell a good story which is something to aspire to.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Coincidentally the biography of John Le Carre was top of my Xmas list and I’m enjoying that. He’s a fascinating bloke with a very interesting life story, not least because his father was a con man whose life he drew from for ‘A Perfect spy’.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I was lucky enough to be sent an advance copy of Susi Holliday’s 2nd novel, which is a cracking read. She is definitely one to watch.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I finished my fifth novel recently and sent it off to Penguin. I was planning to have several days off after working on it for seven days a week for months but I am already writing notes and planning the next two books. If you’d told me that last week I would have said you were mad and I was going to take a proper break but there you go; I’m already back at the coal face.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Like most people who have been published I needed help and support along the way from a whole bunch of people. As well as family, my friends have been great but I have to give a lot of credit to my literary agent, Phil Patterson at Marjacq, who is a top bloke and has always believed in me, which is important for anyone who has artistic ambitions but a very fragile ego.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, absolutely. I gave up the day job three years ago and this is what I do now. It can be a tough and frustrating life at times but I always say, slightly tongue-in-cheek that it beats working for a living. Whenever I feel like I’m having a bad day I just recall all of the office politics, stress, hassle and hours spent stuck on the M25 in my previous working lives. This is a vastly preferable way to spend my days.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I can say that categorically, as I have just submitted the third draft to my publisher and there have been a hell of a lot of changes along the way to get to this stage. I’m finally happy with it, which is a nice feeling and they are too, which is even better.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I have always been a reasonable communicator, otherwise known as a chatter box and have always told stories, even if it was just making friends laugh in the pub while recounting something daft that happened to me. I think writing stuff down was a natural progression and I always thought writing books was a worthwhile thing to do.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
‘Behind Dead Eyes’ is the second book to feature investigative journalists Tom Carney and Helen Norton, along with Detective Sergeant Ian Bradshaw.
They are investigating the mysterious disappearance of a politician’s teenage daughter while also looking into the case of a corpse with no face and a convicted murderer who swears he did not kill his former lover, so there is a lot going on to hopefully keep people interested. It’s all set in Newcastle and County Durham in the nineties, which is a very different world to the one we experience now, being pre internet for one thing.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Editing is a bit of a bugger. When you get a draft back from your publisher and they have suggestions to improve the book it can be a massive help but it can also make your heart sink because you know there will be loads of changes to make and lots of work before you are done. I think most authors get to a point when they are saying ‘I am so sick of this book right now.’ Usually they finish the bloody thing and then think ‘actually that’s really not bad’, but two thirds of the way through they probably want to chuck the lap top out of the window and go off and do something more sensible with their time.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Aside from Le Carre and Barstow that I mentioned earlier; I like Belinda Bauer, Helen Fitzgerald and Eva Dolan’s crime books. There are others too numerous to mention here but Helen’s ‘Viral’ is a must read for 2016 and Eva’s ‘Zigic and Ferreira’ series just gets better and better. I like good stories that are well written. Some authors can manage to do one or the other but if they can manage both then I’m hooked.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I am able to enjoy trips back to Newcastle where I get to watch football and spend time in pubs. I have always done this but since I became an author writing books set in the north east I can now legitimately call it all ‘research’.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Going over it and endlessly editing it to make it better, while trying not to literally lose the plot.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned I really should plan a bit more in advance and not just write the bloody thing. I ended up with an enormous book that had to have 25,000 words cut from it, even before the more detailed editing. I’m trying to plan the next books a little more to avoid huge headaches along the way.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep at it, be your own worst critic, make the book the best it can be before submitting it, don’t listen to the people who say you have no chance of getting published and do hang out with other writers, so you realise they are just like you, sharing the same hopes, fears and anxieties.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you very much for choosing my books to read. Life would be pretty damn bleak without you. It’s always great to hear from readers who have enjoyed the book and I love meeting them at events and signings and having a natter.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first one I can vividly remember reading was ‘The Terriers Football Club’ by Karl Bruckner. I kept getting it out of Bishop Middleham junior school library so I could read it again.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Not much makes me cry but I do feel quite emotional if I see a story told really well. I’ll give you one example; the ending of the film ‘The Lives of Others’, which is so wonderful I feel quite choked recalling it. All kinds of things make me laugh. I try not to take life or myself too seriously so I am always looking for the fun and absurd side to everything.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I met Michael Caine very briefly but there was no time for a chat. I’d love to sit down and have dinner with the great man because he has had one hell of a life. He made some of my absolute favourite films. Imagine chatting to him about ‘Alfie’, ‘Zulu’, ‘The Ipcress Files’ and ‘Get Carter’. That would be some lunch.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
The Times newspaper voted ‘The Drop’ one of its top five thrillers of the year, so I always joke I’d like that written on my tombstone. Don’t bother with the born or died dates; just put that instead. Not a bad epitaph.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I play 5 a side football and am a long suffering Newcastle United fan, so I must have done something really bad in a past life.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch any reality TV or soaps but I do like box sets of good shows like The Bridge, The Wire, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Killing and The Black List.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music:
Foods: Roast Chicken or fish and chips. Colour – Black. Music – Blondie, The Beautiful South, Alison Moyet, Kirstie MacColl.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I wanted to play for Newcastle United and England when I was a kid and actually I still do. Basically Alan Shearer stole my life, the bugger.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My web site is www.howardlinskey.com
Amazon Authors Page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Howard-Linskey/e/B004C6O2OI/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1