North-east author Paul Heatley is most at home writing fiction that’s dark, bleak and a bit scary. So where did his love of crime stories come from?
Your books have a strong undercurrent of violence and gangster-type activities. Did you start out to write crime thrillers, or did it happen by accident?
By accident. When I first started writing, many, many years ago, I wrote horror. It was terrible. But I did it every day, from the moment I finished school I’d come home and write, at first by hand and then, when we got a computer when I was fourteen, on that. Like I say, it was all terrible stuff, but I reckon that’s how I got in my 10,000 hours of practice. I even tried my hand at literary fiction, but again, I was trash at that, too. It wasn’t until I turned to crime fiction that things seemed to finally click. I wrote some short stories and the first crime one I had published was ‘Red Eyed Richard’ which appeared in Thuglit issue three. Haven’t looked back since.
Your work features the Geordie dialect and a lot of ‘northern’ humour, so do you worry that some readers may not understand it?
I haven’t had any issue with it. I think a lot of the time people can work it out for themselves, and they tend to enjoy it. It adds local colour to the stories. A couple of the reviews for An Eye For An Eye on Goodreads positively point out the use of the term ‘dozy twat’.
Do you write to please your readers or to please yourself?
Primarily for myself. I’ve got a hell of a lot of ideas in my head that I need to get out. Obviously I want other people to read them and enjoy them, but I never write anything with an audience in mind. I never write to please, though it’s always nice to find the likeminded people who are entertained.
As well as your novels, you’ve contributed short stories to various magazines, so did the stories lead into writing novels or was it always your intention to move into longer works?
It was always my intention to write longer works, though as it’s turned out at least two of them have been borne of short stories. An Eye For An Eye used characters that first appeared in my short story The Straightener. Guillotine started life as a short story too, though not one that was ever published. I may write some more longer works in the future inspired by my shorter fiction – published or unpublished – but who knows?
Have you ever used real people or real experiences to create characters/plots?
Oh yeah – highly fictionalised, of course! Unfortunately I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head – which is probably for the best. Very few pleasant things ever happen in my stories…
In terms of the development of your writing, is your latest book (Bad Bastards) different from the others?
I’m not really sure, I suppose that’s a question for a regular reader. My hope is that each new book I have published shows an improvement in my writing and storytelling techniques.
Do you have many unpublished novels/stories?
Yeah there’s a few, but they’re primarily waiting to be edited so hopefully they’ll find homes one day. There’s one I’m currently editing, and another lined up for next.
How did your relationship with Fahrenheit Press start, and do you still publish books as an indie author?
Basically I sent Bad Bastards to Fahrenheit 13 and it started from there. In terms of self-publishing work the last I released was Christmas Stockings last Christmas, and I’m not saying I’ll never put something out myself again, but for the most part I prefer to use actual publishers. Fatboy and Guillotine are both with All Due Respect, and the Eye For An Eye books are released by Close To The Bone, and now I’m very pleased to be a part of Fahrenheit Press, too. I’d never have got my own t-shirt without them, and that’s a bucket list item I didn’t even realise I had!
Given the dialects used in your books, do you keep a vocabulary of these words and phrases or do you naturally write this way?
It comes naturally. A lot of it is just the way I talk so I don’t have to worry about keeping track of particular words and their meanings. Why aye!
What can we expect for Paul Heatley over the next few years?
For the most part, I hope to release a lot more books. Some of my favourite authors include Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Georges Simenon, Philip K Dick, Richard Stark/Donald Westlake, and no matter how different their books may be, one thing they all have in common is that they’re prolific. Like I said earlier, I have a hell of a lot of ideas I want to get down, so I aim to be just as prolific in my own way.