Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Paul Heatley, 29.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Gateshead, on the other side of the River Tyne from Newcastle, but my family moved up to Amble in Northumberland, right on the coast, when I was about eight. These days I’m living in the next town over, Hadston. It’s smaller than Amble, but just as few people have heard of it. I like the isolation.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Well, as far as education goes I made it through high school. I dropped out of Sixth Form after a couple of months, deciding it wasn’t for me, then went off to work in the glamorous world of the local potato factory. Then I served a brief apprenticeship as a mechanic, tried my hand at carpet fitting, spent a few months on the dole, went back to working on cars, was made redundant from that garage so started in the café of a local tourist destination, and now I work in a bookshop.
As for family, I have one son, who crops up in the dedication page of all of my novels and novellas thus far. His mother and I aren’t together but we still get along, and she’s on the dedication page of my newest book, Fatboy.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My latest news is also my biggest news! Fatboy was released on May 1st for Kindle and print via American publisher All Due Respect. That same week, my formerly Kindle only novella An Eye For An Eye, published by Near To The Knuckle, also became available in paperback! Here’re the blurbs for them both:
After his girlfriend leaves and takes their young son with her, Joey Hidalgo is left alone in the trailer they formerly called home with nothing to do but get drunk and contemplate her reasons. Is he really as angry, as volatile, so close to constant violence as she claims he is?
No, Joey thinks, of course not, the real problem is money – or lack thereof. Joey’s a bartender, always struggling to make ends meet, unlike his vile most regular customer, the rich and racist fatboy. So Joey hatches a plan to take him for all he’s worth.
But the fatboy isn’t going to make it easy for him. Neither is Joey’s temper. Things are going to get messy, and it’s gonna be one hell of a long night.
An Eye For An Eye:
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
When it comes to Neil Doyle’s daughter, Gandhi had no idea.
An accident leaves Jasmine Doyle permanently disfigured, and the patriarch of one of Newcastle’s crime families goes on the warpath to find the perpetrator. He doesn’t care who gets in his way, or what he has to do to them, to get his hands on the man responsible.
Graeme Taylor and ‘Tracksuit’ Tony Gordon find themselves dragged into this brutal quest for vengeance, pushed physically and mentally to the breaking point by all that they see, and all that they are forced to do.
By the end, the streets will run with blood, and no one walks away unscarred.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I remember trying to make comic books as a child. I wanted to draw them though, but I can’t draw. I’ve never been that kind of an artist. The urge to write has always stuck with me, however. I’d write by hand in notebooks all through childhood. It’s probably worth pointing out that my handwriting is illegible, and these days if I have to write something by hand it’s sure to be in block capital letters. We got our first computer when I was fourteen and every night after school I’d get home and write, for hours at a time. Nothing from that period has ever been published, it’s all long lost now, but they say to get good at something you’ve got to put ten thousand hours of practice in, and I believe that’s where I accumulated the largest chunk of them.
As for the why, well, Mr Bob Dylan has the answer to that – ‘I got a head full of ideas that are drivin me insane.’ I’ve got stories I want to tell, stories I need to get out. They’re no good to me anymore, lying round in my head, taking up space. I need to share them.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Stephen King says if you write a story, place a story, get paid for that story, and use that payment to pay your electric bill, then he considers you a writer. The first time I got paid for a story was Thuglit issue three, but that was my fourth published piece and I remained reticent to label myself as a ‘writer’. It was something I did, but if people asked about it I would just kind of shrug it off and say something self-deprecating. The second time I got paid for a story was Thuglit issue twenty, and though I’d been steadily published between these two issues I used the payment that time to keep the lights in my house on, and I guess that’s when I stopped holding back with the writer label.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A burning need to get a story out, and to create something that could be bigger than me, that could outlive me and be remembered long after I’m gone.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For the titles of any of my works, I just try to use something that’s going to be memorable, but at the same time sums up the content of the tale within. Generally I do struggle with titles, though. An Eye For An Eye was suggested by Craig, the publisher. It sounds suitably biblical for a tale about vengeance and bloodshed. Fatboy serves as a suitable description for the eponymous antagonist. The Motel Whore does what it says on the tin, and Guns, Drugs, and Dogs encapsulates the themes of each of the three novellas in that collection.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write noir, and I’ve always found myself gravitating toward this genre. When I was younger and harboured delusions of penning literary greats that would contend for Bookers and Nobels etc, even then I erred more toward the dark, and the violent. When I finally gave in to those darker urges and cut loose with crime fiction, that’s when things started to work. That’s where I’ve always found the best success, and where I’m most comfortable.
As for a specific ‘style’, I think I would describe it as ‘workmanlike’. One of the recent Amazon reviews for Fatboy states along the lines of ‘Easy to read, impossible to put down.’ I’ll take that any day.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My works are all complete fiction. I might take snippets of stories I’ve heard, or use the way a person talks, work them in for a specific character, but by and large they’re all completely made up.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I’ve been to America once, to Florida, but I wouldn’t necessarily say my American set stories are based in Florida. They’re more based in the fantasy worlds presented in movies and television. To travel would be nice, but I’m broke and it’s not feasible. Maybe one day! An Eye For An Eye is set in Newcastle so I was able to inject some local colour into that, but I don’t think – within reason, of course – that it’s a necessity to visit a place to write about it. I mean, if I were setting tales in the Middle East or the Far East, exotic destinations that aren’t so readily exposed, I’d maybe feel differently.
My least favourite writing ‘rule’, or piece of ‘advice’, is ‘write what you know’. I can’t think of anything more boring. Writing is fiction, it’s telling stories, it’s using your imagination. I’ll write what I please, howsoever I please, and wherever I want to set it, whether I’ve been there or not. I highly doubt writers of fantasy or science fiction, or the creators of monsters in horror novels, are losing any sleep over ‘writing what they know’.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Craig Douglas did An Eye For An Eye, Eric Beetner did Fatboy, and for all the stuff I’ve self-published, my buddy Ben Shanks put them together – for Kindle The Motel Whore, The Vampire, The Boy, The Mess, The Pitbull, and Three, as well as their print collections The Motel Whore & Other Stories, and Guns, Drugs, And Dogs.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I just want to tell a good story. If people find a message, that’s cool. In fact, I’d like to hear what they think it is. Everything’s open to interpretation, but I don’t particularly set out with a message in mind.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Tom Leins always blows me away with his short stories. They’re always dark and violent, and almost uncomfortably hilarious. Paul D Brazill too writes with a similar level of humour. Marlon James’s A Brief History Of Seven Killings came to my attention after he won the Booker and that was just a phenomenal book, and I look forward to reading more that he’s written and more that he will write.
I’ve got a list of favourite authors as long as my arm – Stephen King, James Ellroy, Harry Crews, Joyce Carol Oates, Zadie Smith, William Faulkner to name a few. Much as with music, I have very broad tastes and I wouldn’t say there’s any one thing that draws me to their work. I do tend to lean more toward darker tales. I respect the writers that play by their own rules and do as they please, write what and as they please, and I’d say all those named certainly fall under these banners.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
There’s been a great deal of support from other writers within the crime writing community, and I feel a lot of gratitude to people that promote my work when I’ve never met them and chances are I never will. I’ll probably miss a few names but off the top of my head there’s Gary Duncan and Cal Marcius (both of whom I have actually met), Tom Leins, Paul D Brazill, Bill Baber, Tom Darin Liskey, David Nemeth, not to mention everyone that’s ever taken on one of my short stories or longer pieces to publish.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’d like to, but I think I’ve still got a while to go before I get there.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m pleased with how Fatboy has turned out, pleased with the reviews it’s getting, and pleased it was taken on by All Due Respect in the first place! I try not to look back too much, especially in terms of things I’ve written. I move on to the next story. I’ve got a long list of things planned that I need to write, and if I dwell too much on published works I’m never gonna get through it! The way I look at it is, if something was good enough to get published, good enough to have people buy it and compliment you on it, then it should be considered a success and there’s no need to dwell on little things. If you concentrate on little things you’ll find more and more of those little things and you’ll just never be happy. I wouldn’t change anything about any of the stories I’ve had published.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I wrote Fatboy about two years ago over the course of sixteen nights while listening to Ministry’s ‘In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up’ live album. I sat on it for a long time and when I finally decided to take a look at it and start editing, I read it through and made a note that said something along the lines of ‘Dialogue = good, exposition = terrible!’ So I rewrote it and focussed a lot on the dialogue, George V Higgins style. So, to answer your question, it taught me a lot about accentuating your own positives, and for this particular story its strengths lay in the dialogue. It also taught me, and this was something I picked up on with An Eye For An Eye, too, that you can fix a LOT in the edits. I don’t worry too much about the first drafts anymore. So long as I get enough meat on the bones of the story, I can be confident that whatever’s lacking I can build it up in the editing phase.
Also, if you’re going to write late at night beyond your bedtime while listening to heavy music, be prepared to find a lot of spelling and grammatical errors!
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’ve given some thought to The Motel Whore and who exactly best fits the bill of Joanie, the lead, and I’ve come up with three options: Chloe Sevigny, Juliette Lewis, and Lady Gaga. I’m not particularly a fan of Lady Gaga’s music, but I thought she was fantastic in American Horror Story: Hotel.
Graeme Taylor is the lead in An Eye For An Eye, and I think Peter Mullan would do him justice. A Scottish accent isn’t too far removed from Geordie so I don’t think he’d have too much difficulty on that front, and also I’m just a big Peter Mullan fan.
Fatboy’s lead, Joey Hidalgo, I reckon Diego Luna could do a good job. His character had a dark side, almost a mercilessness, in Rogue One which I think would carry over.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Everyone’s different, everyone has to find what works for them, but what works for me is this: WRITE EVERY DAY. You’ll hear this over and over, that unless you put the hours in you’re not going to get anywhere, and that’s true. It wasn’t until I put my butt in the chair each and every day and made sure I was working on something that I started to see some form of success. There’s no easy way round it. Writing is hard work and you have to commit yourself to that.
To be clear, when I say write every day, I’m not necessarily talking about churning out a thousand or so words at a time. I’m talking about working on your craft – to me, that includes the planning and editing stages as much as the actual writing. They’re all as equally important. Sometimes it might even just be a blog post. It all counts. It all contributes to the education you’re giving yourself.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Just that they’re pretty awesome for reading my stuff without a gun pointed at their head. And to keep reading, because I’m gonna keep writing!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m progressively working my way through a few titles! The Art Of Asking by Amanda Palmer, You’re Not Supposed To Cry by Gary Duncan, Johnny Panic And The Bible Of Dreams by Sylvia Plath, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, and I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond. This year has been the first time I’ve allowed myself to read more than one book at a time. In the past I’ve always rigidly stuck to one book, even if it was just a short story collection, but I’ve found my to-read pile growing out of control and I feel that the only way I’m ever gonna tackle it is if I just dive right in.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was probably either an Asterix or a Tintin, most likely the former. After that there was the Hardy Boys, and some Enid Blyton type stuff. I read a lot of comic books growing up. I wasn’t really a big reader of novels etc until I was about fourteen, then I got into Stephen King in a big way and everything else just bloomed from there.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Movies make me cry – Rocky, It’s A Wonderful Life, stuff like that. I don’t really cry in real life. I laugh a lot, though. I laugh at plenty. My son says some hilarious things, a lot of the time without realising it. He’s very dry for an almost-five year old. And I like watching comedians – Bill Hicks is a particular favourite, and Eddie Izzard.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I do music reviews on occasion for R2 magazine, and April 2016 I got to interview Mark Lanegan at the Sage, Gateshead. I was terrified going in, I’m a huge, huge fan, but he was very cool. So I guess I’ve already met the person I’d most like to meet!
To choose from a dead hero, however, I’d love to have talked with Harry Crews. I enjoy his interviews almost as much as his fiction. He had some amazing stories to tell and a great voice to tell them with, and I could’ve happily spent a day with my mouth shut just listening to him.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Not particularly. Writing kind of outgrew being a hobby into something all-consuming. I listen to music, I read, I watch movies and TV, I workout.. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
The last film I saw was Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2. Films are a bit like music in that so long as it interests me I’ll watch it. My top three are Rocky, Taxi Driver, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
I’m a bit more selective with television. I like the long-form style of storytelling as opposed to episodic monster/crime-of-the-week type deals – one exception to that rule being the X-Files, though I really had mixed feelings about those last six episodes they put out as a miniseries. Of course there’s the likes of The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, The Leftovers, Twin Peaks, Banshee, The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones, The Affair.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Mexican! I eat a lot of fajitas… And soup. I eat a lot of soup, but that’s mostly out of necessity. It’s cheap. Peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Again, I wouldn’t say they’re a favourite, but they keep me alive.
For colours, I like blue and green – my son has it in his head that my favourite colour is black, and he always tells me that my favourite colour is black. I guess that probably says something about me.
Music-wise if I like something I listen to it, any genre. Lately I’ve listened to a lot of The Gun Club, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Fugazi, Run The Jewels, GZA, Patti Smith, The Pixies, Devo, Type O Negative, Portishead, Suicide, Gary Numan. I’m always listening to Mark Lanegan and Nick Cave. I have broad tastes.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’ll be underground, or else scattered to the wind. That’s when I’ll stop.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
‘Why are you reading this – he wrote some books, check those out!’
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I don’t have a website, but I’ve got pretty much everything else! Twitter (@PaulHeatley3), Instagram (Heatley_Paul), I blog at paulheatley138.wordpress.com, and I can be found on Facebook! There’s also my Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paul-Heatley/e/B00SNGKKXA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1494024756&sr=8-1