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Q&A Stephen Leather

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Stephen Leather is one of the UK’s most successful thriller writers, an eBook and Sunday Times bestseller and author of the critically acclaimed Dan “Spider’ Shepherd series and the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective novels. Before becoming a novelist he was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as The Times, the Daily Mirror, the Glasgow Herald, the Daily Mail and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.

He is one of the country’s most successful eBook authors and his eBooks have topped the Amazon Kindle charts in the UK and the US. In 2011 alone he sold more than 500,000 eBooks and was voted by The Bookseller magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the UK publishing world. Born in Manchester, he began writing full time in 1992.

Find out more by visiting this website at: http://www.jacknightingale.com/

What inspired you to write the Jack Nightingale series?

 I always loved the Black Magic books of Dennis Wheatley when I was a kid and I’m a huge fan of the Constantine character in the Hellblazer comics (graphic novels as they prefer to be called these days). And I just love supernatural films, especially haunted houses and things that go bump in the night. With the Nightingale series I wanted to explore the supernatural world but with a hero who is very much grounded in reality. The first three books – Nightfall, Midnight and Nightmare – really explain his backstory, how he became the man he is. The next two – Nightshade and Lastnight – explain why he had to leave the UK and the subsequent books will be set mainly in the United States, hence San Francisco Night and New York Night.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try not to have a style. Like most journalists-turned-writers I try to tell my stories simply with uncluttered prose. If I find myself over-writing I tend to hit the delete key and start again. I try to write my books as if I was writing for a newspaper, where it’s the information that is being conveyed that’s important, not the style in which it’s written. I do like to write fast-paced books, with lots of dialogue and not too much descriptions. For me, the story is everything.

How did you come up with the title?

As Jack Nightingale is the hero, I decided it would be neat to have the word ‘Night’ in all the titles, though after Nightfall, Midnight, Nightmare, Nightshade and Lastnight I have to confess I was running out of options. I don’t think Nightdress was going to cut it as a title!  The rest of the titles will be the name of a city, plus Night. So I have already published San Francisco Night and New York Night, and later this year I hope to publish Miami Night.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

Constantly, but that’s what the delete button is for! I self-edit as I go along and if something feels wrong then I change it there and then. Generally when I get to the end of the first draft my book is good to go because I rewrite as I go along. I hear writers who have finished their first draft say things like ‘and now the hard work begins’ but for me the hard work is done during the writing. It’s not unusual for me to write two or three hundred words and then to immediately delete them because it doesn’t feel write. I can’t think of anything I’ve had published that I’ve hated afterwards, though typos and errors that get into print are the bane of my life and I hate those sort of mistakes. 

 

What is your favourite theme/genre to write about?

I love writing present-day thrillers that feel as if they have been ripped from that day’s newspaper headlines. I have lots of contacts in the police, the army and the intelligence services and I love using the information they give me in my stories. Often I hear of things long before they reach the papers. In my book Soft Target I wrote about four Islamic suicide bombers going down the Tube system in London. Several months later it actually happened – it wasn’t that I was psychic, it was the people I was speaking to told me it was the thing they feared happening most.

Where did your love of writing come from?

I’ve always loved to write, to create a story from nothing. I like to tell stories to, and I often recite the whole plot of a forthcoming novel to my friends. Often by telling a story it becomes easier to put down on paper. But before I was driven to write, I read. I read so much as a kid and was at my local library several times a week. I loved to read and it was that I think that lead to me wanting to create my own stories.

 

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

Actually New York Night was an easy book to write, partly because Nightingale is such a great character to work with and partly because I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. It took about two months, from start to finish, and at no point did I hit any real problems. The ending didn’t come to me until the last week or so and I think that was probably the hardest part, coming up with a satisfying ending.

 

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I just love the Jack Nightingale character. When Hodder and Stoughton decided they didn’t want to continue to publish the series, there was no question that the books would stop. Jack just wouldn’t allow it. I love his sarcasm, his slight air of pessimism, and the fact that he just takes whatever life throws at him. He’s smart and thinks on his feet, yet because the supernatural world is so alien to him it’s constantly catching him off-balance. Having the books set in the United States is fun, because he’s always a fish out of water. It gives me the chance to explore different cities, too, which I enjoy enormously. This one was good fun because I know New York well, it’s one of my favourite cities. The next one will be set in Miami which is also a fun city.

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