What fun fact does Paul have to share? “I gave the singer Mark Lanegan (formerly of Screaming Trees, Queens Of The Stone Age, and many others) a copy of An Eye For An Eye the last time he played Newcastle. Whether he still has it, or has looked at it since, is anyone’s guess!”
SR: What’s An Eye For An Eye about?
PH: An Eye For An Eye was released in summer of 2016 and tells the story of a reluctant heavy for a Newcastle firm called Graeme Taylor partnered up with a young doorman called ‘Tracksuit’ Tony Gordon to hunt down the man responsible for accidentally blinding their boss’s daughter with a dart. I’ve since written two more titles to accompany this and they’re due for release in August and September of 2018, again through Near To The Knuckle. The first, The Runner, is a prequel/companion piece to An Eye For An Eye that tells its own story but features characters from the original, some as cameos, some in much larger roles. The second is a direct sequel to An Eye For An Eye entitled Violent By Design and is set a year after the events of the original. I’m looking forward to both seeing the light of day and for people to find out what Graeme and Tony get up to next.
SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?
PH: Originally I wrote a short story entitled The Straightener and it was the first piece of crime fiction I’d set in my native north east of England. The story was published online by Near To The Knuckle, and a few months after that they announced they would be starting to publish novellas. The idea for a story popped into my head in the vein of a Chester Himes caper and I decided to revisit the two main characters from The Straightener and give them a bigger story to play with.
SR: How do you think your protagonist would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?
PH: Graeme’s a pretty world-weary man. He’s seen and done it all and at this point he just wants some peace and quiet. So long as the aliens left him alone, he’d do the same to them. If they wanted trouble…well…that wouldn’t be their best idea.
SR: Your protagonist has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?
PH: Graeme would likely go somewhere quiet, somewhere low-key. I can’t imagine he’d actually go that far. Scotland, probably. He’d hide out in a little cabin around some Loch, spend his days fishing and keeping his head down.
SR: What conspiracy theory is your protagonist most likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana? What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to them?
PH: Graeme doesn’t have any time for that kind of thing. Tony’s a little more open-minded, he’d probably spend some time on Wikipedia looking into the dark stories behind JFK and Princess Diana, and Marilyn Monroe, too. Speaking of Monroe, that’s the one that most intrigues me.
SR: Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?
PH: Prison, for definite. He’s trying to live a quiet life, away from the trouble that’s so often plagued him, but he’s still got a thin fuse.
SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?
PH: Losing the people he cares about most, primarily because there aren’t that many of them!
SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?
PH: No insight, no philosophy, just a good time. I hope they enjoy themselves, I hope they like what they’re reading, that’s all.
SR: If you were in an arm wrestle with your protagonist who would win? What is your protagonist better at than you?
PH: Graeme, for sure. He’s better at me than fighting, no doubt. I got punched in the nose once, decided that wasn’t for me.
SR: If hell was watching one movie over and over and over again, or listening to one song over and over again, what would the movie or song be for you? For your protagonist?
PH: I try to avoid things I don’t like or have no interest in, so I’m struggling to put a name to anything I don’t particularly like. Graeme’s the same.
SR: Carpool karaoke. What would be your protagonist’s song? Yours?
PH: Graeme wouldn’t sing, he’d just hum along to The Animals. For me, well, it’ll likely be whatever I’m listening to. Let’s say Carry Home, the Mark Lanegan cover. Hell of a song. The Gun Club original is great too, but not as easy to sing along to as the Lanegan version.
SR: Cage match between you and your protagonist. It’s a fight to the death. Which one of you will be left standing, and why.
PH: As I’ve already said above, Graeme, no doubt. He’s a fighter, he’s spent his life fighting. I’ve spent mine reading and writing.
SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?
PH: I read a lot of comics when I was younger – Asterix, Tintin, Judge Dredd. I can’t pinpoint anything specific that impacted upon me, but I know the one that opened my eyes up to crime fiction is The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy. Before that, I assumed all crime fiction to be standard procedural drivel, or Agatha Christie Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries. Ellroy showed me what it could really be, how dark and gritty and dirty. Most recently, Don Winslow’s Cartel novels have been blowing my mind.
SR: What’s the best thing about writing?
PH: Creating your own characters, your own world, and cutting loose in it. And being read, and hearing back from people who enjoy your work.
SR: What’s the worst thing about writing?
PH: I’m very particular about editing, so I’ll read a piece over and over and over before I’ll send it anywhere. Sometimes it gets to the point where it’s become a chore, it’s sucked some of the joy out the work, but after a few months you can go back to the piece and be proud of it and forget the hardships of sweating over it.
SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?
PH: Dialogue. I love dialogue. To me, it’s one of the most important parts of the story. I look at the likes of George V Higgins, David Peace, Elmore Leonard and others and see how strong their dialogue is and this inspires me.
SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?
PH: Bit of both, drawn and wary. I’ll do my research and heed the opinions of people I respect. When it comes to marketing, I don’t think I’m particularly good at it, so I guess I just do my own thing.
SR: What’s your personal life motto?
PH: On the wall above my writing desk there’s a piece of paper on which I’ve written a few quotes. I wouldn’t say any of them are a motto, but they certainly help with things. ‘When it feels like you’re going through hell, keep going.’ – Churchill. ‘Don’t count the days, make the days count.’ Muhammad Ali. ‘The question is not who will let me, it’s who will stop me.’ – Ayn Rand.
SR: Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen or Arya Stark? If you could be any fictional character for a day who would it be and why?
PH: It would have to be Arya Stark, cos she’s a badass.
SR: If you have to live in a potential natural disaster zone, would you pick blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Why? If you had to describe your protagonist as a weather system, what would they be?
PH: Blizzards, I guess. Because at least the snow looks good! Graeme would be a storm, noise and chaos and none of it really his fault.
SR: What movie or TV world do you wish you could live in? Why?
PH: Twin Peaks! Perhaps not the more horrific aspects of it, but the music, the people, the fashion, the scenery. If you cut out Bob and the Black Lodge, who wouldn’t want to live there?
SR: Everyone needs an outlet to help them recharge. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?
PH: Reading, but that probably goes without saying. I try to workout when I can, though I’ve been lax with that lately.
SR: What factors influence you when you’re choosing a book to read?
PH: I have very broad tastes. I’m currently reading some sci-fi by Iain M Banks, then after that I’ll probably read some crime fiction. I read whatever appeals to me. The last book that really caught my attention due to praise and reviews etc was A Lesson In Violence (She Rides Shotgun in the US) by Jordan Harper. It did not disappoint.
SR: Do you have any special events coming up? Where can people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?
PH: As well as the two releases I’ve already mentioned a few times here relating to An Eye For An Eye, I also have another book coming out early next year with All Due Respect, who published my book Fatboy, and this one will be called Guillotine. So keep eyes peeled for all three!
Also in this issue: Paul’s Casting Call for An Eye For An Eye
Paul Heatley is the author of over fifty short stories in print and online, published at the likes of Thuglit, Spelk, Crime Factory, Horror Sleaze Trash, Shotgun Honey, and the Flash Fiction Offensive, among others. His books are Guns, Drugs, And Dogs, The Motel Whore & Other Stories, An Eye For An Eye, and Fatboy. He lives in the north east of England.