Howard Linskey

Where do you find inspiration for your books?

I’m not sure what triggers the initial idea for a story but they do seem to just come to me. I try to read a lot about the world we live in and I think that helps. I’m also a big film fan and have always enjoyed a good story no matter what format it’s in. I think it’s important for a writer to read a lot and watch good quality films and TV to stimulate ideas. I also read court reports in newspapers, which will set out the bare bones of a crime and tell you a little about the person who has committed it and I often wonder what they are like in real life. Sometimes I can get a story idea from that too.

Cover with Billingham quote
Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say Waterstones website?

I do read them yes and I think most authors do. Thankfully most of mine have been very complimentary but you will get the occasional reader who does not like your book and that is perfectly fine. They paid money for a novel and have the right to express an opinion if they are not fond of it. Occasionally people will write quite spiteful things though, which they probably wouldn’t say to an author’s face but you just have to laugh those comments off.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

There are probably a number of topics I would avoid but the most important thing is how you write about something. Violence or sexual assault for example could be written in a way that elicits huge sympathy for the victim or it could be portrayed in a way that makes it gratuitous and is used as a form of entertainment, which I don’t agree with. The phrase torture-porn seems to have entered the lexicon lately to describe that kind of writing.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I have had all kinds of jobs including barman, catering manager, journalist, sales manager and at one point I was even marketing manager for a celebrity chef. I have always written though; for fanzines, magazines, web sites and I wrote fiction for a number of years before getting published. I always say that being an author beats working for a living, even though writing a book is actually quite hard work but it doesn’t feel like it most of the time and I know I am incredibly lucky to do what I do.

Which author inspires you?

As a teenager I read Stan Barstow. He made me realise you could write about life in a northern town and still make it entertaining and accessible to a large number of people from a variety of different backgrounds. Before that I naively used to think all books were written by posh people from a mythical place somewhere in the south of England. I didn’t realise that anyone can write a book no matter where they are from.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I like a lot of different stuff but I mostly read crime and history in both fiction and non-fiction. In nonfiction I like Nicholas Pileggi, Antony Beevor and Ben Macintyre. I know a lot of crime writers these days and try to read friend’s books when they come out.

What is your biggest motivator?
I want my books to be as good as they can be because I hate to think someone is going to read them and be disappointed. If you have paid your money and want to spend a number of hours reading one of my books I very much want you to enjoy them, so I try to write the best book I am capable of.

What will always distract you?

Facebook, news of my hopeless football team, Newcastle United, and old movies on TV when I should be working. I recently lost a couple of hours to a repeat showing of ‘The Ipcress File’ on a Saturday afternoon when I should have been editing. I couldn’t help myself, even though I already owned the DVD.

How much say do you have in your book covers?
I have been very lucky with my covers. I have written four crime fiction books and I have loved every cover. I’m not sure if I have any say or not because I have never had an argument with a publisher about a cover. I occasionally look at other author’s covers and wince, so I know how fortunate I have been.

As a child were you a great reader?
I grew up in the north east of England in the seventies and eighties and, amongst my peer group, reading was not seen as a particularly cool thing to be doing. I did read books though not voraciously but thankfully I was always into stories, which I would get from various sources, including comics, TV shows and films plus a few good books. The older I got the more books I began to read.

Which book shop is your favourite?
I have a number of favourites but ‘Barter Books’ takes some beating. My mother lives in Alnwick, so we pop in when we visit her and my daughter gets to enjoy the model railway that runs on top of the book cases. It’s a lovely big place in a converted former railway station so you can even have tea in the buffet, which adds to the experience. I like ‘Daunt Books’ in Marylebone High St, ‘Word on the Water, which is a floating book shop on a canal barge near Kings Cross and ‘Globe’ Bookshop in Prague, which I visited once while I researching a novel. I was trying to find an old, obscure, out-of-print book and hoped to get it there. I turned a corner and their last copy was on display in the window.

What can you not resist buying?

DVDs. I’m a big film fan and I watch TV box sets to relax in the evenings. I’ve been through ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘The Wire’, ‘Mad Men’, ‘House of Cards’, ‘Game of Thrones’ and so many Scandi crime series, like ‘The Killing’ and ‘The Bridge’, I’m surprised I can’t speak fluent Danish by now.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?
Not really. It’s only in the past couple of years that I have been able to go full time, so I was used to grabbing time to write whenever and wherever I could, so I never really got into a routine. These days I start by making a fairly strong cup of coffee then I take my watch and my rings off but that’s not so much a ritual as just something that makes me feel a little more comfortable as I try to type a thousand words or so.

How many books in your own to be read pile?
Way too many. It’s so high I don’t even know. I get lots of books sent to me, which is lovely but if I am asked to read one and provide a blurb for its cover I put it straight to the top of the pile and other novels get put to one side for a while in the hope that I will eventually get back to them.

What is your current read?
I am currently reading Eva Dolan’s latest Zigic and Ferreira novel. She is a wonderful writer and I was lucky enough to be sent an advanced copy of ‘After You Die’, which I am thoroughly enjoying. Eva writes about a police hate crimes unit in Peterborough and her books are gaining quite a following. Deservedly so.

 Have you ever considered writing for the young adult or teen market?
I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out but I don’t have any plans to write for that market. For the time being I am more than happy writing crime fiction, which is just as well as I have a three book deal with Penguin and at least two more books to write for them before I could even think about turning to anything else.


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