Name Steven Hayward
Age About halfway… if I’m really lucky!
Where are you from Poole, in southern England
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I’m a (fairly) quiet, studious guy from a working class background and a close and happy family. I grew up on the coast in Dorset, became the black sheep only by virtue of going to grammar school, joined a bank, and moved to London at the age of 22. I met my wife Helen and we’ve been married a long, long time. I travelled quite a lot for various banks, living and working in a few different places, ending up as the Head of Anti-Financial Crime at a US bank in Canary Wharf. I’ve run the London Marathon twice and helped raise over half a million pounds for New Ways as the financial controller of its annual advent ball. When I’m not writing crime fiction, I divide my time between consulting for banks on their anti-money laundering controls, experimenting with book marketing strategies, and being distracted by Facebook and Twitter.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
In May 2016, I released my second book which is a novella, called Jammed Up. It’s an introduction/prequel to my debut novel, Mickey Take, and the latest addition to what has become the Debt Goes Bad series. It’s been very well-received and has some terrific reviews.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I think writing is something that had burned within me as a child. But it was 11 years ago that I had the opportunity to take a sabbatical from my finance career and, as well as raising a beagle puppy (my muse, Ella), I went back to explore those creative preferences. Three years later, I quit the full-time job with the long-term aim of becoming a published author.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
While I wrote and re-wrote (and then edited and re-edited) Mickey Take, I found it really difficult to tell people I was a writer. I was getting on with a host of other things at the time that I wanted to do with the freedom I had from not working full-time and so I did feel a little disingenuous. But once I had a finished novel that people I didn’t know were reading and enjoying, I think that’s when I started to allow myself the occasional authorial moment. More recently, getting a second book out and now planning for a third definitely helps to cement the idea that, hey, I’m actually an author!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A combination of things influenced Mickey Take. I had attended several creative writers’ courses and at one of them I was given a single use camera to write about, and that started the idea of what I would do if I found a partly-exposed camera. Would I get it developed and what might be revealed? Another influence on the style of the book was a novel I was reading at the time called Contract by graphic novelist Simon Spurrier, which gave me the confidence to tell the story in the present tense and through the eyes of an unreliable and slightly confrontational narrator.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Mickey Take has something of a noir style to the first person narrative, but I was keen not to be constrained by that when I started writing the prequel. Although I set that story with the same general backdrop and peripheral characters, the protagonist is a very different proposition to Mickey. “Jam” has a cocky swagger and a younger outlook, not to mention a quite distinctive accent, and so the style is very different, albeit still within the so-called ‘brit grit’ gangster genre.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
While I was writing Mickey Take, I was always coming up with sardonic couplets with alternative meanings to describe a chapter or scene. In the end I decided on Mickey Take for the title because the protagonist (Mickey) had been instructed to take something but also, his unreliability might leave you wondering if he’s being completely serious or just taking the Mickey! Another angle is that this is Mickey’s ‘take’ on the world. Of course, I then have the challenge to stick with this format for other books in the series which led me to Jammed Up, where the protagonist (Jam) becomes the subject of injustice.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The message in Mickey Take is one of self-determination. We can all be influenced to do things we wouldn’t have chosen to do if not for the suggestion of others or as the result of peer pressure. Sometimes this can feel like the path of least resistance but often the outcome can be much worse. Jammed Up is primarily about loyalty and how that can sometimes be taken to extremes, which can lead to betrayal and ultimately to injustice.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Hopefully, it’s all realistic, but I guess that’s for the reader to judge.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Mickey did start out a little too semi-autobiographical and so I decided to try and conceal my personality within his sub-conscious (whom he refers to as The Banker), effectively as the brake on the excesses of his more rebellious nature. But everything else is a figment of my imagination!
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
What a great question! I suppose books I read from a young age influenced me in the sense they imbued the love for reading – from Alice in Wonderland to Treasure Island, Huckleberry Finn to A Christmas Carol. As an adult, I’m drawn towards crime and mysteries and these have influenced me as a writer – the Sherlock Holmes stories, and John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell and James Herbert. Particularly as a mentor, I would say Stephen King and Val McDermid.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Death of a Diva (Book 1 in The Danny Bird Mysteries) by Derek Farrell, an author I ‘met’ through a mutual friend on social media.
I’m also listening to the audiobook of The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood, a fabulous author I’ve recently discovered, having recently read The Darkest Secret – which is partly set in my old home town.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
The most stunning debut I’ve read this year is The Hangman’s Hitch by Donna Maria McCarthy and I’m eagerly awaiting her next offering.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am currently planning a sequel to Mickey Take and having published Jammed Up as a prequel, I’m keen to explore some of the new characters, which may give rise to another related backstory within the Debt Goes Bad series
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The various social media book clubs and the wider book blogging community have been a source of great support in getting my writing to a wider audience in the last year. In particular, I would single out Crime Book Club (on Facebook) and Shell Baker (www.ChellesBookReviews.blogspot.co.uk ).
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
When I’m not contracting as an anti-money laundering consultant, my main focus shifts back to building my writing career long-term. As an self-publisher, my first goal is for it to become self-funding, but my dream is that one day it becomes financially rewarding.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Here’s where the hard-headed author-publisher steps in! When I sat down to write what was to become Jammed Up, I had a strategic plan that this would be a novella that would act as a marketing funnel to Mickey Take. With it recently published and and available to buy for 99p/99c on Amazon or as a free download on my website (www.StevenHaywardAuthor.com), it is already fulfilling that objective by building my email list and raising the profile (and sales) of Mickey Take. In that regard, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It’s always been there. I still remember some of the story I wrote at school. And then adult life got in the way for a number of years, but now I’m right back there enjoying making stuff up!
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My current WIP is very much in the planning stages – and as Stephen King says, no-one should ever read the first draft of anything! So if I may, here’s the start of Jammed Up:
Clearing a circle in the glass with the heel of his hand, Herb Long peered out at the car-lined street. It was still and silent; too early for the usual stream of cars that even at the weekend, and on this of all days, would use it as a rat-run to the station on George Lane.
He’d bought the house a few years before, when things had been looking up. He’d needed more rooms. Apart from that, he wanted a place north of the river. After all, London was such a big city. His particular line of trade was booming and the opportunities up here were huge. And besides, whoever built a global empire in a place named after the interment of plague victims? He’d needed to branch out, but above all else, this was going to be a stepping stone that one day would allow him to retire further out in the Essex countryside. Somewhere he could feel closer to her.
Outside, it was drizzly and numbingly cold. He shuddered as he let the heavy, tattered curtain fall across the grimy window. It had been a long night and the dull shadow of a headache pulled on the muscles at the base of his skull. Rubbing his forehead, he turned and walked across the room. Yesterday, it had been stacked, floor to ceiling, with boxes, crates and cases, and its roughly-papered walls had been lined with rails of clothing. As he pulled the handle behind him, a single wire hanger lost its grip on the top of the door and bounced quietly on the dusty floorboards.
He crossed the hallway to another empty room and closed its door firmly. Returning to the front door, he had one last thing to do before he could finally leave this place.
It was on the windowsill adjacent to the front door where he’d left it the day before. He picked up the small, glittery box and held it carefully, the lines on his face showed a mix of contempt and remorse, neither of which he could completely fathom. He shook the thoughts from his head and turned back towards the rear of the house. The small kitchen at the back was old and basic, functional but filthy, and largely unused. Apart from a table and two chairs, there was no other sign of domesticity; all its surfaces were bereft of utensils and the cupboards were empty, save for one drawer, forgotten in the dresser behind the door.
He pulled it open and a wistful smile briefly coloured his stony features. As gently as he put down the object he’d carried in, he lifted the photograph of his wife from the drawer. Her death 16 years before had been the start of all of this. Unknown to him, the man he blamed was intent on taking everything else he had.
‘Jasmine,’ he whispered, and his smile slowly transformed into a sorrowful frown. When a tear broke free of his lashes, he wiped it away self-consciously, looking around, embarrassed. As if in judgement, a shrill sound rang out and he reached into his pocket for the phone.
‘Boss?’ said an urgent Caledonian voice, gruff and familiar.
‘What about them?’ It wasn’t usually this difficult to understand the big man’s monosyllabic grunts.
‘What d’you mean, Mac?’
‘Trying tee get in.’
‘Shit! You need to get out.’
‘Leave it, leave it all.’
‘But Herb… what aboot…’
‘We sorted it… you sorted it,’ he said, and the grip of his large hand around the phone tightened as his mind went back to that night, 12 years before. The night he’d helped a young friend, spattered with blood, blubbering and inconsolable; the body of another youth lifeless on the floor. The memory of a face pierced near the eye with a sliver of wood. Of initial confusion, that such a wound could have brought him down. More so, that it could have caused so much claret. Then, he’d seen the knife.
‘Aye,’ came the subdued reply, but he didn’t hear it. Only when the plastic phone casing reached its limit with an audible crack, was he pulled back into the present.
‘We’ll be fine,’ he said, benefiting as much from the reassurance he was trying to project through the calmness of his words. When he heard shouting in the background down the line, he raised his voice: ‘Get the hell out of there.’
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
My novels tend to be quite complex thrillers and so the logistics within the plot and various subplots tend to be the most challenging aspect. I usually have to set out a timeline on a whiteboard to keep track of everything!
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
As before, Val McDermid is a particular favourite. I love the realism of her characters, their flaws and idiosyncrasies, and I like the way she gets into the minds of the most evil of people and tries to find their rationale for the things they do – however irrational that may seem to the rest of us!
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
So far, my books have been based in and around London and so my research has taken me only as far as several London suburbs, Gravesend in Kent and parts of the Essex countryside. However, a business trip to Gibraltar gave me some ideas for a future scene.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I’m one of those risk-taking (foolish?) indie authors who create their own covers. The big challenge with that is getting an objective viewpoint on whether they stand up to scrutiny in a highly competitive marketplace. I love playing with graphics and am always open to honest feedback and I’m hugely grateful to a whole host of people for helping me find the right look for both books. In thinking about what to do for the cover of Jammed Up, and to allow a more consistent style across the series, I decided to subtly alter the e-book cover for Mickey Take to the greyscale version you see today. Even though the e-book of Jammed Up has been out for a couple of months, the cover remains something of a work in progress as I try to produce a paperback version that may result in a slight change to the original. However, in future I may decide to avoid the paranoia altogether and get new covers produced professionally!
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
With Mickey Take, I made some rookie mistakes that took a long time to correct. I had an idea without a real plan or outline for the entire story arc and so the first draft needed a lot of work, structurally. When it was in a better shape, I engaged an editor to help tighten the story and polish the prose. That was a hard lesson learned.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a lot from writing and publishing Mickey Take. When it came to Jammed Up, I had a clearer idea of the story arc and wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo in November 2015. The second draft went out to Beta Readers in February and the third draft to my editor in April. I had a publishing plan including a launch plan, involving ARC reviewers. The ebook was released on time on 26 May and within days had some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. As mentioned before, the marketing objectives are also being met, not least by the use of a Twitter Lead Generation Card that offers the book free to all new followers. I find myself learning new things about writing, publishing and book marketing almost every day.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
All I would say to aspiring authors is to start engaging with potential readers at the earliest opportunity – think and act like an author even when you maybe don’t feel like one. Don’t wait until you’ve finished. I know that takes a real leap of faith that you will succeed in publishing something worth reading – it’s a bit like making a promise that you can’t be certain you can deliver on. But that is far better than producing something good that nobody then knows or cares about. And if you don’t like marketing, find a way to like it, because you’re going have to do it if you want more than a handful of people to read your work.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I’ve been truly humbled by the great feedback my books have received. So I would like to say thank you to everyone who took a risk on a new author you probably hadn’t heard of before, to those who have gone on to read the second book in the series and are patiently awaiting the third, and especially to those who have posted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads – you are awesome! To them all, I would also say, rest assured, there’s more to come!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
As a kid, I remember being given a very old copy of Alice in Wonderland – it’s no doubt still in a box somewhere. The spine was (probably still is) held together by gaffer tape! I think that might well have been the very first full-length book I read.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I was always a cat person, but since raising Ella, I’ve developed a deep love of dogs, and for over ten years I’ve attended a local beagle walk most Saturday mornings. The antics of these inquisitive and cheeky dogs never fails to make me laugh. Crying isn’t something I do often but when I do it’s usually to do with family grief, loss or suffering. And then I’ll surprise myself and a piece of music or a beautiful song will bring a tear to my eye.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Off the top of my head, Charles Dickens would be someone I’d love to discuss writing with, and particularly the model he pioneered for serializing the publishing of novels. In these modern times of reading books in small chunks on the go, on mobile phones, I’m sure the idea could well take off again.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
‘It took a while to get to know him, but it was worth it.’
No explanation necessary!
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I think my Twitter handle covers it all: author/publisher, AML consultant, plant grower, beagle whisperer.
The only bit I haven’t already mentioned, that is in constant competition for my attention is my garden. I love keeping it tidy and colourful, although it is increasingly taking a back seat as I concentrate more on my writing career. Maybe it’s also true to say, if you don’t get so many opportunities to sit and enjoy a garden, maintaining it becomes less of a labour of love…
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love films – thrillers (obviously) and sci-fi in particular. On TV, there have been some great US and British shows this year. My favourites: Dickensian, Line of Duty, and Suits. And I’m slowly working through the box-set of Game of Thrones to see what all the fuss is about – and loving it!
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Roast dinners like Mum used to make – and her Cottage Pie. But I’m equally happy tucking into Chinese or Indian food… chicken Balti.
I support the blue team on Merseyside and so that has always been my colour.
I have a wide taste in music. I only listen to classical when I’m writing, but I also love rock and pop – both the old stuff and the current chart fodder!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I worked in banking for 28 years (and dip back in occasionally) but in the end that doesn’t nurture my creative side. At school I also loved art, but I was far too sensible to consider that a career option. If I hadn’t turned to writing when I did, I’d probably still be on the corporate treadmill #heartattackwaitingtohappen!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes, my web-site is www.StevenHaywardAuthor.com and I occasionally blog – mainly with own book reviews
I have a Facebook Page: www.Facebook.com/StevenHaywardAuthor
And I’m quite active on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/stevieboyh
Great interview. I particularly liked “I found it really difficult to tell people I was a writer.” It took me over 10 years to be able to call myself a writer with a straight face…and no apology. So glad you kept writing regardless. 🙂