Name Stephen Booth
Where are you from
I was born in Burnley, an old Pennine mill town in Lancashire, but grew up mostly by the sea in Blackpool. Though I’m from a working class family, I was lucky enough to get a good academic education and I was the first member of family to earn a college degree. I worked in local newspapers for many years, so I moved around the North and Midlands of England a bit. I’ve been married for almost 40 years now (to the same person!), with two step children and one grandchild.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The 16th novel in my Cooper & Fry series, ‘Secrets of Death’, is about to be published. It’s always exciting, even after all this time. It also means I’m about to start a few weeks of festivals and book signings, so I’m getting away from writing desk for a bit to meet some real people!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
A very long time ago! In fact, I think it was pretty much as soon as I could read. Once I started reading stories, it seemed to me that the next natural step was to start writing my own.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
From the age of 12. That was when I wrote my first ‘novel’. When I finished that novel, it felt so satisfying that I knew it was what I was going to do. I couldn’t get published straightaway (not surprisingly!), and I figured out that the way to earn a living by writing was to be a newspaper reporter. That was my very first job, and I worked in newspapers for over 25 years before I left to write novels full-time. So I’ve never done anything else for a living except writing and editing.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Well, if you mean that first one I wrote when I was 12, it was about astronauts landing on a planet and meeting aliens – and that was because it was the 1960s and we were all obsessed with space! My first published novel was ‘Black Dog’. I was a huge fan of crime fiction as a reader by then, but there were some things which no one seemed to be doing back then in the 1990s, so I wrote the book that I would have wanted to read to myself. The Peak District setting was an enormous inspiration too.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Not consciously. I think you should write in the way that feels natural for you, rather than striving for a particular ‘style’. My main concern is to make the reader’s experience a pleasure.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Titles are very important. I don’t have one when I start a novel, but it usually comes to me at some point during the writing. It’s often a phrase I’ve just written which seems to sum up the essence of the story. The title of the new Cooper & Fry novel ‘Secrets of Death’ comes from a phrase in the opening chapter.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t think the purpose of a novel is to deliver a message, but rather to ask questions, or perhaps to introduce readers to new subjects and encourage them to think about things in a different way. My characters tend to have opposing views, so both sides of any issue are presented. In ‘Secrets of Death’, I explore the complexities of our attitudes towards people who take their own lives.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I did do some research into the psychology and statistics of suicide. But in the end there are really only two main sources of material for writers – our own experiences, and those of people we observe around us. Most writing is a combination of the two. Often the trick is to look inside yourself for a small part of your own personality and build on it. In that way, you can use your imagination to create something which is fictional, but feels direct and personal.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I clearly remember the first grown-up novel I read. It was George Eliot’s ‘Silas Marner’ (I think it was the only novel we had in the house when I was growing up). It must have made an impression on me, because I began writing myself after that. As far as crime fiction is concerned, I was mostly influenced by the classic British crime writers like Agatha Christie, P.D. James – and my great hero, Ruth Rendell.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
There are many excellent new authors coming into the crime genre, particularly in the area of psychological thrillers, such as Sarah Hilary and Clare Mackintosh. I think my favourite author is still Ruth Rendell, though we lost her quite recently. She had the ability to overturn the conventions and to constantly come up with something new and exciting.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My local public library where I grew up in Blackpool. That was where I discovered my love of books and reading. Libraries have remained very important to me ever since, and I’m very sad to see them closing up and down the country.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It has always been my career – first as a journalist, and for the last 16 years I’ve made my living entirely from writing crime novels.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No book is ever perfect, of course. I think most writers, left to themselves, would continue polishing and polishing a book for ever. Luckily, I have a deadline for delivery, so I have to part with it! Once the editing is done, I say goodbye to a book and I don’t think about it very much or go back to read it again. I have to start work on the next one.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m in the early stages of a new Cooper & Fry novel, which will be the 17th in the series. My starting point in usually what’s going in the lives of my two central characters, Ben Cooper and Diane Fry, and where I left them at the end of the previous book. I also have to be clear about a choice of location, which I haven’t quite decided on. And there’s no title yet!
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I don’t like to write about violence – which might seem strange given the sort of books I’m writing. But I don’t think violence should be used as a form of entertainment. I’m much more interested in why it happens, and in the consequences. So I tend to allow readers to picture the violence for themselves, if they want to.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I used to travel a lot. My books sell all over the world, and they’ve done well in the USA. For the first few years, when I was trying to get my name known, I was spending five weeks of each year in the US touring from city to city and attending the big fan conventions. That’s very tiring after a while. I don’t need to travel so much now, but I still do a lot of events here in the UK.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
As writers, we have to try to get right into the heads of our characters, and that can be challenging. In ‘Secrets of Death’ I had to try to understand the thoughts and feelings of people were planning to take their own lives. It takes you to a difficult place during the writing, but in the long term it’s very therapeutic.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
I’ve sold the rights in all the Cooper & Fry novels for development as a TV series. But the casting question is a hard one for me. I don’t watch much in the way of TV or films, because I’m a reader rather than a viewer. So I don’t see actors when I think about my characters, though I have a very clear idea what Ben Cooper and Diane Fry look like.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you’re an aspiring writer, the best advice is to keep writing and never give up. The first novel you write may not be the one that brings you success, so keep at it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
‘Burned and Broken’ by Mark Hardie – a debut crime novel.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
There were two main books in our house when I was child – the King James Bible and a book on fortune telling. I devoured every word of them both. I remember them so well that I can still feel them in my hands when I think about them.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I wish I’d met Douglas Adams when he was alive. I’ve always been in awe of his imagination, his sense of humour, and the endless flow of ideas that he had. He must have been an amazing man to know.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I love the countryside, and I spend time walking in the hills whenever I can. We used to breed dairy goats, which was a great way of switching off when I came home from a busy day in the newsroom. Now, we just have three cats – and they’re very relaxing too.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I hardly watch TV. We haven’t got one in the house. It sucks up time and stifles the imagination. When I do watch a film for relaxation, it’s fairly undemanding sci-fi or a good creepy horror movie.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I’ve a bit of a sweet tooth and would tend to go for a dessert such as apple crumble or cheesecake. Favourite colour blue. My music taste is quite wide-ranging, but I do still listen to a lot of classic rock from the 1970s. It was my era!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I have no idea! I don’t think I’m capable of doing anything else. I tried teaching briefly, but couldn’t do it.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website is http://www.stephen-booth.com
Many thanks for the questions and for having me on your blog!Amazon Author Page:
Links to latest books
Secrets of Death:
The Murder Road: