Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Paul Heatley

Meghan: Hi, Paul. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Paul Heatley: Well, I’ve been keeping busy. I always try to keep busy. Books two and three in the Eye For An Eye series were released by Close To The BoneThe Runner and Violent By Design – I released a Christmas novella called Christmas Stockings, and this year has seen the release of Guillotine (All Due Respect) and, most recently, Bad Bastards (Fahrenheit 13).

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Paul Heatley: Pretty boring. When I’m not at the day job I read a lot, I watch TV – standard stuff.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Paul Heatley: I really don’t mind. In fact, I wish more of them would do it! (And tell all of their friends and relatives in turn, and so on.)

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Paul Heatley: It’s a bit of both. When it’s going well it’s the greatest thing in the world. Then, when block strikes or something in a manuscript just isn’t quite working out the way you want it to, it remains the best thing in the world but with added frustration. I make sure to write in some capacity every day, and if I don’t I get incredibly restless and agitated, which is what makes it a curse I suppose. I don’t mind, though. I’d rather have this than nothing else.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Paul Heatley: I’m not so sure it has a great deal. I set most of my books in America and I wasn’t raised there, and the Eye For An Eye books which I’ve set in the north east England don’t contain a great deal of my background – not that I can see, anyway.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Paul Heatley: I’m not sure I’ve ever researched anything particularly strange. Like I said above I tend to set most of my books in America, so sometimes I just look up words to see if they have different meanings in America to how we use them in England.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Paul Heatley: Probably endings. Even just chapter endings, sometimes. You want to make sure you finish on just the right word or phrase. When it comes to the very end of the book, that’s what people are going to remember most of all so it’s important to try and nail it just right. Of course, sometimes beginnings are hard, too, especially if it’s something brand new that you’re going into and you need to work your way through the setting and get to know your characters.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Paul Heatley: I do a mix of all! Primarily I outline, but sometimes I do just sit down and start writing. I prefer to have an outline as I prefer to go in to a work knowing that I have all the Gordian knots already unravelled, rather than lose time trying to find out how to cut through them. I don’t think there’s anything worse than writing yourself into a corner and having no idea how to get out of it. When it comes to characters and plot, I tend to have the plot first, then I introduce the characters to it, work out their own background and traits which in turn influences and sometimes expands the plot.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Paul Heatley: I follow them and see where they go. I outline, but I’m not afraid to change it on the fly. I’ve rewritten entire sections of work in the past if the characters find a new direction to go in.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Paul Heatley: I repeat mantras to myself that I’ve heard over the years to make sure I get in the chair and write. Sometimes they’re harsh, but sometimes that’s what it takes – ‘Every day you don’t write is another day you’ve wasted.’ ‘Do you want results, or do you want excuses?’ etc.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Paul Heatley: I am, though not a particularly fast one!

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Paul Heatley: I’ll read anything, so long as it interests me. At the minute I’m reading the first book in the Wheel Of Time series by Robert Jordan. I haven’t read any fantasy for a while and I was eager to get back into it. I tend to mostly read things on the crime side, though. I read The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain for the first time recently, so you can probably guess I’ve still got a lot of the classics to catch up on. I’ve never read Raymond Chandler or Patricia Highsmith, and I’m eager to get round to both of them. I only started reading Richard Stark in the last year and now I can’t get enough. Mostly I’ve read James Ellroy, Jim Thompson, and Chester Himes. They are my main three.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Paul Heatley: I don’t mind them, though if it’s something I’m interested in I always prefer to have read the book first.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Paul Heatley: Yes, quite often. Going back to your earlier question about when characters don’t follow the outline, there’s a death at the end of Violent By Design that I didn’t originally plan on, but I’m quite glad it got worked in.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Paul Heatley: Yes. It’s necessary to the story – without their suffering, there is no story. Especially in noir. And when you consider noir tends to be the stories of bad people doing bad things, it’s hard to not want to make them suffer.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Paul Heatley: My most colourful characters probably appear in my Motel Whore books (collected together in The Motel Whore & Other Stories). There’s a wide array of outcasts and oddballs in those stories.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Paul Heatley: I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve had a bad piece of feedback. It’s only really bad if you perceive it as such, and if I read a bad review I pay attention to WHY the person didn’t like it. That way, you’ve got something to learn from and improve upon. In terms of the best, I got a great review recently from David Nemeth for my book Guillotine where he said ‘Heatley is becoming a master of American noir in the vein of Jim Thompson and James M Cain.’ That’s great, and that’s the blurb I’m gonna use on every future release.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Paul Heatley: They mean a hell of a lot. I appreciate everyone who buys and reads my books, and who gets in touch with me to tell me what they thought of them. Without them it’s me just screaming out into a void.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Paul Heatley: Parker by Richard Stark. He’s simultaneously the perfect noir hero and villain. Tough and unrelenting, and cares only about himself.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Paul Heatley: This questions follows on perfectly from the last as I guess I’d have to go with Parker. Naturally the story would be about a heist going wrong, he gets double-crossed, then he comes back for revenge! I’d have to read every single one of his past appearances to make sure I was able to work in something new and didn’t just repeat an earlier caper.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Paul Heatley: Stephen King, and we’d put together some From Dusk Til Dawn-style thing – it starts off as a gangster story, then it becomes something totally unexpected and over the top.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Paul Heatley: Like I said at the top, I keep busy! I write every day and the intention is to always be building up forward momentum, so hopefully you’ll see a lot more books coming your way!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Paul Heatley: I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My website is here.

Paul Heatley is the author of The Motel Whore & Other Stories, Fatboy, Guillotine, Bad Bastards, and the Eye for an Eye series, as well as more than fifty short stories published online and in print. He lives in the north east of England.

The Motel Whore & Other Stories

A dying town on the edge of nowhere. Misfits, outcasts, losers and loners, making their way through their aimless lives. The Motel Whore. The Vampire. The Boy. They will crawl inside your skull. They will live beneath your skin. They will stay with you forever. Featuring two previously unpublished tales.

Fatboy

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 most vile regular customer, the rich and racist fatboy. So Joey hatches a plan to get his family back by taking him for all he’s worth. 

But the fatboy isn’t going to make it easy for them. Neither is Joey’s temper. Things are going to get messy, and it’s gonna be one hell of a long night.

Guillotine

After suffering a lifetime of tyranny under her father’s oppressive rule, when Lou-Lou sees a chance to make a break with the man she loves, she takes it. Problem is, daddy’s also known as Big Bobby Joe, a dangerous and powerful man in the local area—powerful enough to put out a sixty grand bounty on the head of the man she’s run off with, who also happens to be one of his ex-employees.

With every criminal affiliate out looking for them, making good on their getaway doesn’t seem promising. Even their so-called friends are on the take, willing to pull a double-cross if that’s what’s going to turn them a quick buck. But Big Bobby Joe hasn’t counted on his daughter’s resolve to distance herself from him. No matter what he throws at her, no matter what he does, she’s going to get away—or die trying.

Bad Bastards

Falling in love might just be the dumbest move Patton has ever made. 

Patty Dawson is beautiful – tall, with most of her length in her legs – and Patton has fallen head over heels. Patty is also Bobby Hodge’s daughter and that means she’s off-limits to guys like Patton. 

Bobby runs the Bad Bastards Motorcycle Club with an iron fist – he runs his family the same way – and when he finds out about Patton and his only daughter it was only ever going to go one way, badly. 

Beaten to a pulp and under threat of death, Patton is determined to find a way to be with the girl he loves no matter what the cost, but as the stakes get higher he has to decide just how far he’s willing to go in the name of love. 

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