Tuesday 4 September 2018

Interview: Matt Walker

shark-bait, matt-walker, book

For this week's author interview, I'm pleased to be welcoming thriller writer Matt Walker to The Writing Greyhound. Matt is here to chat about his novel Shark Bait - a super-charged action-thriller perfect for a gripping read.

If you are interested in learning more about Matt and Shark Bait, then keep on reading!

Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
I’m a 31-year-old piano teacher and pianist from Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, England. I also love composing and writing. Shark Bait is actually my sixth novel, and I have a piano book for beginners on Amazon too.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I have always loved stories – I remember writing a series of Goosebumps-esque stories when I was 9 or 10. Around that time I also started a fantasy novel but never finished it. I was initially drawn to Young Adult fiction and wrote my first novel when I was 16. I think Harry Potter had a lot to do with it. I was lucky enough to grow up along with the books.
Tell me about Shark Bait.
Shark Bait is an all-action thriller for adults. John Steele is a government hitman and has just completed his contract – the assassination of two drug kingpins. He then inadvertently gets embroiled with a violent loan shark called Gary Brooker. But Brooker has his own problems. He’s picked on the wrong guy. 
Shark Bait was a finalist in AM Heath’s Criminal Lines competition 2015, and was picked up by the fabulous Sarah Manning (now of The Bent Agency). It made it to the acquisition boards of both Harlequin Harper Collins and Orion, but despite high praise from them and lots of other publishers, it was never picked up. Publishers seem to be looking at psychological thrillers for debuts. Mine is an all-action, plot-driven novel.
Why did you decide to write in the thriller genre?
As previously mentioned, for about ten years all I wrote was YA fiction, producing five novels. But then I read Lee Child. Even though I do like and read other thriller writers, I don’t think anyone else gets anywhere close to Child’s control of prose and pace. His style influenced Shark Bait the most. I love pace, and wanted my novel to be totally gripping. As every review so far has said they “couldn’t put it down”, I hope I’ve achieved that!
What drew you to writing action scenes?
Excitement! I love action movies. In a way, I wanted to put an action movie down on paper. That’s what I go for. I get bored with books quite easily and give up on a fair few. A lot of people do. In 2014, Booktrust surveyed 1,500 adults and found that 36% give up on books because they get bored. I think we need more high-octane, gripping, blistering-paced reads. Shark Bait is my attempt. I want to write books no one could ever say are boring.
matt-walker, author

How did you get inspiration?
That’s a tough one. I think the characters were already formed in my head before I started writing. I remember seeing a storyline on Coronation Street about one of the characters being threatened by a loan shark. And I thought, what if a loan shark happened to pick on someone who was actually more dangerous than him? That’s how the character of Gary Brooker was born. And I’ve always enjoyed lone wolf stories where the hero is a kind of vigilante, acting just within the law (or perhaps just outside it). John Steele is a Licensed Vigilante, fulfilling that role.
What’s your writing process?
I plan extensively. First a few ideas, key scenes, characters etc. before creating a plot overview and then fleshing it out. Everything is written in my head before I write it on paper. I imagine every scene like in a movie. 
The prevailing advice is to get the first draft down as quickly as possible then go back to it. Afterwards, leave the manuscript a few weeks and go back to it again with fresh eyes.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
To keep going when the doubt sets in. I think it probably happens to every writer at some point. One day you’ll be writing and just think, “Oh what the hell’s the point?” or “This is a heap of crap.” or “I’m just wasting my time.” 
There are times when you sit down to write and nothing comes. That’s why I advocate extensively planning – those moments are rare for me because at least I know what’s going to happen, even if I’m struggling with the words.
Which authors inspire you?
The aforementioned Lee Child and J.K. Rowling. I love Stephen King, which comes somewhat as a surprise to me because his books can be quite slow and over-long. But he is a master. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness really captured me. As far as thrillers go, I also enjoy Dan Brown, Simon Kernick, Peter James, Dean Koontz and Harlan Cobern.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Read a lot and write a lot. For fiction (but not necessarily literary fiction) remember that story trumps all. Finally, omit needless words. And sentences, and whole chapters – anything that doesn’t add something to the story, omit it. They’re the three biggies, in my opinion.
What are you currently working on?
My agent and I both worked on a new high-concept thriller, Memories Unspeakable… but that didn’t get picked up either! It will be published on Amazon in Winter 2018.
What are you reading at the moment?
I recently finished Lee Child’s The Midnight Line... not one of his best! And I’m also reading Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
It simply has to be Harry Potter. Absolutely nothing comes close.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’d love to be able to make a living out of my writing... or at least a nice supplementary income!
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I’m a piano teacher and pianist. I love composing, and have had a musical and many songs performed by choirs. I shall be releasing my book of piano compositions in the near future. I also perform magic, and love science.
Shark Bait is available to buy now. For more about Matt and his writing, you can check out his website or follow him on Twitter.

Does Shark Bait sound like your kind of book? Let me know in the comments below!

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