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?
The name’s Holt, John Holt. Did you see what I did there? Oh never mind. As to my age, let’s just say I’m old enough to know better, but can’t remember why.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, but have lived in Essex for the past thirty-six years.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
As I said I live in Essex, with my wife Margaret, and my daughter Elizabeth. I had a Grammar School education. When I left school my first job was with the National Coal Board, in Staffordshire, as a Surveying Assistant. For many years I was a Chartered Surveyor, working for Local Government, including several years with the Greater London Council. In 1986, after the GLC was closed down, I started my own surveying practice, preparing reports and architectural drawings, for property conversions, extensions, and new build. I had a heart attack in 2004, and eventually I retired in 2008.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I self-published my latest novel, “Diagnosis Murder” in December 2016. Since that time I have been tentatively working on a tenth novel. But I have also been spending time releasing translations of my novels. So far I have ten translations (in several languages), and eight in progress. The latest, “UnaCertidumbreMuerta”, (the Spanish translation of my private detective novella “A Dead Certainty”), should be available in a week or two.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Good question. I guess, like many other people, I had wanted to write a novel for a long time, but I could never think of a decent plot – a decent original plot.The first novel I wrote, “The Kammersee Affair” was inspired by a trip to the Austrian lake district. We stayed at a place called Grundlsee. The next lake was Toplitz which was used by the German Navy during the war to test torpedoes and rockets. As the war ended many items were disposed of in the lake, including jewellery, weapons and counterfeit dollars and pounds. There were rumours of gold bullion also being placed in teh dark waters of the lake. Extensive searches have never found any gold. The book is about the search for hidden nazi gold. But it is much more than that. It is the story of two men, an SS Major, and an American GI. It is a story of blackmail, murder, and revenge. After that there were eight other novels, and three novellas.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s a trick question. How do you judge? What criteria do you use to answer that question? I have always been a writer, even from primary school. I enjoyed writing things like “What did you do on your Summer holidays”. Okay, so I had to wait a long time before my first novel was completed. But did that make me a writer? Or was it the eight novels and three novellas that came afterwards? Was that enough to make me a writer? I guess I would have been pleased to be a professional novelist, and make my living from my books. Sadly that wasn’t to be. And no I’ve gone full circle – trying to think up a decent plot once again.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My first novel you mean? I wanted something short and snappy. And appropriate. As I said we stayed at Lake Grundlsee; the next lake was Toplitzsee; then a short distance further is Lake Kammersee.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
After “The Kammersee Affair” I had an idea about a private detective story, but I wanted to do it in the film noir style, so it had to be based in America. I soon realised that I just could not match the Raymond Chandlers of this world, and started to develop my own style. But basing the story in the US caused no end of problems, mainly with American phrasing instead of British. I got a bit of criticism on that one. I try hard to get it right, and take note of the criticism. I’m still making errors, but I think they are getting less and less.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I have written one novel set during and just after World War 2; and one novel set in, and just after, the American Civil War. I have no first-hand knowledge of either event. The bulk of my writing concerns murderers, and blackmailers – not the kind of people I run into in the normal course of a day.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No there was no travelling involved, and apart from “The Thackery Journal” very little research has been required.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
All my own work. I keep them simple. I look for a suitable photograph on the Internet. Get permission to use it, if appropriate. Add the title, and the blurb on the back, using Photoshop, and that’s it, done.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
No, no messages; no hidden poignant meanings; no answers to the secret of life. Just plain old fashion entertainment, which I hope people will enjoy.
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?
Over the past few years I have made many cyber friends, many of whom are authors. I read much of the work they produce. But I also still read my old favourites – Agatha Christie, Hammond Innes, Alistair Maclean. So I guess the answer is I do not have a favourite.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Sadly, not at my time of life. I came into writing very late in life.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Can’t think of anything. A novel, or at least my novels, are generally about 300 pages long. Things happen that lead to other things, good or bad. I guess what I’m trying to say is that changing something might not be that simple, and might lead to all sorts of complications. No the book is written, warts and all. Move on to the next.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Another difficult question. I’m not really up on the modern film stars I’m afraid. To me Hollywood hasn’t made a decent film since the fifties. I loved the old film noir – Humprey Bogart, Edward G Robinson, Cagney – okay stretching into the sixties, Robert Mitchum. So to play Tom Kendall, it would have to be Bogart, or Alan Ladd.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
People vary. Some will love your work, others will hate it. Don’t try to please anyone, except yourself. Enjoy your writing, because if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point. If you enjoy it that’s great; if others also enjoy it that’s a bonus.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
For a start, a great big thank you, I really hope that you enjoyed my work. If you did, I would greatly appreciate a review. On the other hand if you absolutely hated the books, let that be our little secret, know what I mean, nudge, nudge ….
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I have just finished reading “To Kill The President” by Sam Bourne. Without giving too much a way, it is about a US President threatening military action against North Korea, and steps considered necessary, by some, to stop him. Oh, and by the way, it’s fiction.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not specifically, but it was probably something by Enid Blyton. Every Friday evening when dad came home from work he would bring a couple of bags of sweets, and the Enid Blyton Magazine
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Comedies, old comedies – The Two Ronnies; Morecombe and Wise; Only Fools and Horse; Tony Hancock; Abbott and Costello; Laurel and Hardy. What makes me cry? Cruelty to children; cruelty to animals; events like those currently happening in Myanmar
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
My father, who died twenty-one years ago. Why? To spend more time with him, as I should have done while he was alive.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Photography. That is taking photographs, but also restoring them if I can using Photoshop.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I have to say that much of modern television, like the movies, leaves me cold. Even the advertisements are loud, in your face, and quite dark. Most of the time I turn to channels showing old programmes – Only fools And Horses; Fawlty Towers. Or I tend to use the television merely to play DVDs of movies. AlthoughI have to admit that at present I am watching “Bake Off”, and I’ll probably watch Strictly.
Fiona: Favourite foods, colours, music?
As far as foods are concerned, nothing exotic. I’m not one for hot spices, or curries. I like a good steak, and good old fish and chips. As to colours, I’m more into pastel shades, nothing too dark like purples. My musical tastes are varied. Many years ago I used to write articles for a Blues magazine – Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Charley Patton. But I also like Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Classical music. I very food of ballet, classical ballet that is, (watching, not doing).
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
What would I do? Probably nothing, I’ll be gone.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I sincerely hope it will be something like – “He did his best”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I’m afraid I don’t have a blog. All I can offer is my Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Holt/e/B003ERI7SI/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
And my Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/John-Holt-Author-553064201380567/