Name A P Bateman
Anthony Bateman but I write as A P Bateman (somebody else got there first!)
45 (I had to think for a while, do some sums – for some reason 36 still rolls off my tongue…)
Where are you from?
I was born in Cornwall and apart from some time working away and several trips travelling (I hate that term now, but I guess that’s what it’s called when you holiday for six months at a time on virtually no money!) I have lived in Cornwall all my life. If you remember to take the time and keep doing new things, Cornwall is an idyllic place to live. There are woods and moors, beaches and rivers – it’s a great place if you’re outdoorsy. But wages are low, house prices are high and job prospects are not so good. If you’re happy to trade all of that, it’s got most of the country licked.
Home for my childhood was at Watergate Bay. The seventies by the sea was pretty eclectic – surfing and skateboarding were big. We moved when I was eleven and I started private school. It was all boys, mainly boarders who didn’t see their parents for twelve weeks at a time, and pretty tough. You learned to fight or run. I wasn’t fast, so got tough. We lived in the country and for a while my dad was a gun dealer and brought his work home. I was shooting crazy and became quite a marksman. It’s followed me through life. Clay pigeon shooting is my favourite discipline.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest novel, Shadows of Good Friday came out in March (2017). It took me 19 years to complete – it was always shelved for different reasons – now the time felt right to re-write and I did so as a 17-year prequel to The Contract Man. There’s a lot of me in the book. The protagonist is starting his career in MI6, I had just trained and started to work as a bodyguard, so there were parallels there. We were both young and eager, naïve really. The main plot of the story was worked from three anecdotes told to me while training in close protection. I worked them into a plot and I guess my writing career started right there.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I tried several times, but failed to get a plot moving. The first novel I finished was Spiral of Conspiracy in 1999. The publishers went bankrupt and I did not get the royalties I was owed. It was a blow, but I managed to secure an agent but still nothing happened. I was represented by another agent soon afterwards and he was all but there with a deal with Orion, a publisher he previously worked for as an editor, but Saddam’s regime fell and the first incarnation of The Contract Man was horribly dated. Pertinent predictions merely became fact, and that wasn’t the point of the book. Writing is nothing if not a flexible art and I later wrote ISIS and the Chinese economy into the book and it became a no.1 Amazon bestseller.
I like the control writing gives me, the creative outlet also. I own a business too and it’s reached the point where my writing has become my focus and main income. It’s time for a rethink and a fulltime career as a writer is on the cards. I’m excited, mainly because of the flexibility and time it will give me with my family, and my wife who is a teacher. Like most writers I get distracted, so I’ll have to be careful not to stare out of the window for six hours thinking about plots and bacon and waste a day’s work!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Only recently. Spiral of Conspiracy was published in 1999. Business, marriage, mortgage and kids took my eye completely off of writing, plus I had taken some serious knockbacks along the way. By 2004 I had given up writing completely. I didn’t get back into the grove until early in 2015, when my wife suggested I get the manuscripts out of the attic and put something on Kindle. That book was The Ares Virus. It may sound shallow, but it wasn’t until around late 2016 when I received an Amazon all-star bonus. My monthly royalty was the most I’d earned in a month in my life, and now there was a substantial ‘gift’ from Amazon because my books were in the top 95% of pages read on Kindle. That’s when I thought, “Shit, this could happen…”
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I was working in close protection and private investigations. There was a lot of inspiration to pull on, but also long periods of inactivity. I started plotting out Shadows of Good Friday, but changed halfway through and wrote Spiral of Conspiracy. It was the best feeling to have finished a full length manuscript and many months later, when I saw it in print I was ecstatic.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
It’s becoming a little punchier. Less is more worked for Hemingway, Fleming and Chandler. The Rob Stone series are written in an American style, similar to Lee Child. This style is transcending a little to the Alex King books (an English series), which by their nature are longer, more complex stories. This transition in Lies and Retribution made for a faster read. Readers say the books are fast-moving and full of twists and turns – which is exactly as I want them to read. There are always comparisons to Lee Child, Frederick Forsyth, Gerald Seymour and Tom Clancy, but I’m A P Bateman and it’s just the way I write now. I’m not trying to copy anybody.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The titles are always part of the story. It’s tricky and to date only one book has started as a title and remained that way. That was The Contract Man. Everything else has had a working title. The title eventually comes from a plot twist or something crucial that happens along the way. Shadows of Good Friday refers to the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland. The shadows aspect refers to ambiguous intentions of the IRA in the last few days – also the shadow world of the intelligence services.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t feel that important. I just want readers to enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them. I’m not going to be on The Man Booker Prize committee’s radar, but I’d love to be on someone’s must-have holiday reading list.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I trained on weapons ranges with the Union County SWAT team, in New Jersey. I trained as a bodyguard with security companies run by ex-army, police and special forces. I have completed advanced skills evasive driving courses. And I have trained in karate and various martial arts most of my life. Those are all practical skills that transcend the writing and make it onto the page. I use experiences in life, and work with them as a seed. It grows to something more ‘dramatic’ in the story. There are a few scenes that are real – the train wreck King travels past in Indonesia in The Contract Man. I saw bloated, burned bodies, train wreckage, birds feeding on the eyes – there was nobody clearing it away. The injured had been moved, but there was a transition where the dead were left and nobody supervised the accident. I had to put that into the book – it was like a bad dream. In Shadows of Good Friday, the plot is based on three anecdotes I was told. I once got lost in the jungle on Sumbawa, Indonesia and spent the night sleeping in the forest without any kit. Humid, a hundred degrees, the forest floor alive with spiders, scorpions and snakes and without any water – that went into The Island where Rob Stone is forced to survive while being hunted in similar conditions.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The fist adult fiction I read was Jaws. It’s so much more than a rubber shark! Small town politics, an anti-hero, an affair, overcoming fear (the fact the chief can’t swim is perfect) – the shark is the catalyst to a great story. Ian Fleming was a great inspiration with the James Bond books – completely different to most of the films. Colin Forbes got me into serious series reading, and Lee Child has always had my attention with the Reacher novels. Early in my career EV Thompson read Spiral of Conspiracy (later updated and re-released as Lies and Retribution) and he said it was one of the best modern thrillers he’d ever read. He organized a reading with his agent – who dismissed it out of hand! So much for fifty books and a forty years as a bestselling author! It was a great thing for him to do though. Meeting Lee Child and giving him a copy of The Town to read was great. He was full of praise and encouragement. A genuinely nice bloke.
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?
Blake Crouch. I read the first of his Pines trilogy whilst on holiday in France in 2013. He has had two series of Wayward Pines filmed since then. He’s had a tremendously rapid rise – I had to wait two more years to finish the Pines books as he hadn’t finished them. LJ Ross has done very well – I met her at The London Book Fair and she was extremely personable. As was Mark Dawson, who I admire for his self-publicity and promotional work. He has done well as an indie author and is just about everywhere. Lee Child has always been my go-to author for holiday reading, his success is inspirational. I get most plots before the reveal, but not Child’s. Forsyth is a good read too. He has moved with the times very well indeed.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My readers. I was surprised how many contacted me to say how much they enjoyed my work, or couldn’t wait for the next book. It’s a regular thing now and never gets old.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. Not in terms of plot. To be honest, with Kindle and print on demand paperbacks, we indie writers have the facility to tweak. I had earlier books edited and re-uploaded when it was apparent there were a few typos. I have made small changes with some books. I added a few sentences and felt better about the plot because of the changes.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I thought it would be a great way to make a living. They say if you enjoy your work, then you’ll never work a day in your life. I have found that true of writing.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
It’s another Alex King thriller (book 4) and a good deal of it is set in Cornwall. To be honest, it’s a pretty good concept and not been done before to my knowledge. It would make a good film pitch, so I’m keeping the plot under my hat! It fits the world well right now. Alex King was a hardened, weary assassin in the first book and I’m humanizing him a little with this story, giving him a detective role and creating a bit of tension between his fiancé and another character. I think to create longevity the character has to develop and grow with each story. Don’t get me wrong, he’s as cold and ruthless as it gets and he’ll be getting his hands dirty at some point.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I avoid sex scenes! I use it as a scene change, or come back to it with an insight into how a relationship consolidates because of the sex. Obviously people get close through the story, sometimes it’s progressed and sometimes it hasn’t. In all honesty my books are so full of life-threatening situations and dramatic pace leading towards an ultimate danger, there isn’t really time for it. There are abusive scenes and reference to rape in Shadows of Good Friday and that was really horrible to write. And there was torture and the threat of sexual torture in The Contract Man, those scenes were difficult to write as well.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
With the exception of Northern Iraq in The Contract Man, I have visited every country in my novels. I feel it’s important to get the feel for a location, especially the people. I spent quite a few months in Indonesia, Australia and America and I’ve been to lots of countries in Europe. I like to add a location where we’ve holidayed as a family as well. It immortalizes a great time we’ve had together and I like that.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Spiffing Covers. They are excellent to work with and have a real attention to detail. I designed my first self-published cover. I was pleased with it, but knew that I would have to cough up some money to get to the next level. My sales virtually tripled overnight when The Ares Virus cover was changed.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Just finishing a book is a relief. The re-write gives me the greatest pleasure – putting meat on the bones. Some books have taken me to the edge because I have had to juggle a family, writing and my business throughout. I went a few months with only a few hours’ sleep each night because I was writing until 1 or 2am and up for work at 6.30am. Sometimes I would get up at 5am to get some words down and tidy a scene. But it’s writing fiction, I’m not after medals and it’s my choice. It’s what has to be done to finish a book. It’s important to me, because the goal has always been to write as a sole career. Now I’m close. Nothing infuriates me more than someone telling me, “I’d love to write a book, but I just don’t have the time…” No, you just haven’t got what it takes.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
If you’re going to be a writer, you don’t quit. Some things in life need letting go. Like a job or relationship that makes you unhappy. Or friends who stab you in the back. But not writing. Never. It will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done and at times you will question whether you can do it and whether you will remain sane. Ultimately, you can only call yourself a writer if you finish the story and engage the reader.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
I’d love to play the lead! But as I’d also love the film to be a success, I’d hand it over to Hugh Jackman. He’s play King well. I like Gerard Butler for Rob Stone.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Be careful who you take advice from and why they are giving it.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for reading, and I hope to keep you as my readers for a long time to come.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m writing, so I don’t read anything else. The last book I read was I am Pilgrim.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The Little Red Hen. About a thousand times!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Present: I met Lee Child recently, that was awesome. To meet a writer who sells a book every twenty seconds is incredible.
Past: I’d like to meet Hitler. I’d love to know what he was thinking and what his ultimate plan was. When and why he felt justified to do what he did in the holocaust. Only one of us would leave the room alive, but it would be an interesting conversation.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Bugger, I wasn’t ready!
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Shooting, martial arts, a host of water-sports.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I sometimes lose myself in discovery documentaries that seem ridiculous like Gold Rush, Deadliest Catch, Alaskan Bush People, Mythbusters – but it’s dangerous, before long you’re watching some guy making a living buying junk in a container. They can make a show out of anything now. I enjoy crime drama and definitely The Walking Dead! All the James Bond films and good action-adventure films.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Bacon, steak, sausage and more bacon/blue and green/anything with a good beat and guitar rift –so generally rock bands
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
It’s hard to imagine now that I’m writing. Anything else now would be second best. As my website says –a secret agent, astronaut, deep sea diving cowboy would be the ultimate. That would be pretty cool.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Amazon author page: