Good afternoon folks and I’m delighted to welcome Crime writer Matt Johnson to my blog. Here, he chats his career highlights from when he was a police officer, self publishing his debut novel Wicked Game and getting an agent for it, and his advice for aspiring crime writers looking to write police procedurals.
1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now?
I did, and it rather dates me to admit it was PG Wodehouse. I used to really enjoy his work. Nowadays, that’s a much harder question to answer as, over the years, I have developed an eclectic taste. I like some science fiction – Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov – I enjoyed the James Herbert horror books like The Fog and The Rats, and I thought Birdsong by Seb Faulks was excellent. Possibly the most memorable book I’ve read was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist – a book that really made me take note and think.
2) Did you enjoy English at school?
Not particularly. I liked writing essays but, when it came to literature, I didn’t really care for the choices on the syllabus – Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid. I dropped English at 16, preferring the sciences at that age and planning a career in the Army.
3) How did you find your career with the Metropolitan Police? Any career highlights?
Too many to list! Twenty-odd years left me with many memories. I saw tragedy, heartache and helped to take some very bad people off the streets. I also delivered a baby, drove in car chases, attended a Royal wedding and ‘dad-danced- at the Notting Hill Carnival. A rich tapestry of experience doing what many cops refer to as the best job in the world.
4) What was your inspiration for Deadly Game and the sequel Wicked Game?
Personal experience of PTSD and of people trafficking. I wanted to use fiction to write about both to try and reach an audience who might not normally read about such things.
5) Did you encounter differences when writing the sequel to your debut?
Very much so. Wicked Game as a debut raised the bar for me. Not that I’m complaining, but having the book CWA listed and to have had it receive such an amazing reception meant that the pressure was on to ensure book two matched it. I became very self-critical during the writing process and was pretty nervous when it hit the shelves, even though I liked it myself.
6) How did you find self publishing Wicked Game by Amazon and then publishing a physical copy via your agent?
Self-publishing is a great way to reach out to people, especially when you consider how very hard it is to break into traditional publishing. Self-publishing means retaining control for everything from content to marketing. Traditional publishing means handing that control over. For me, traditional publishing was always the ambition. It opens doors, puts you in the hands of experts and helps you reach an audience you can never reach by yourself – Rachel Abbott excepted of course!
7) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors – particularly if they’re writing police procedural?
Do your research – thoroughly! You owe it to people who are going to pay for the privilege of reading your work to get it right.
8) How do you find you work best – music or silence? Do you have a particular band or artist you currently like?
Mostly I work in a quiet office with a view over the Brecon Beacons. It’s peaceful. But I do use a website that plays sound effects like waves on a shore, or rainfall, which I find helps me concentrate.
9) What genre of music did you grow up listening to and has your taste changed?
I was a Bowie child and Elton John went to the same school as me, so they were both idols of mine. That said I loved Pink Floyd, Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top and others so I guess that makes me something of a rock fan. As with books, I have eclectic taste, enjoying the classics and some opera. Rap, house and some modern music puzzles me, though. I just can’t find it enjoyable.
10) I find writing is therapy for me, somewhere I escape to and where I feel I can lose myself in the written word, how do you feel when writing?
Exactly the same. Once I’m away in my fantasy world the time passes very quickly. It’s tiring, relaxing and cathartic all at the same time. The wonderful thing is that others enjoy the result, something I will always be grateful for.
Thanks for your time, Matt.