My interview over at The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively is HERE

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Interview with author Nick Stephenson

I would like to thank Nick for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer a few probing questions about himself and his new release, Panic!

I know you’ve just published Panic and I really want to talk about that. But first, I’d like my readers to know a little about you.  

What is your favorite quality about yourself?  

First of all, thanks right back for having me on here – it’s a real honor to be here. A little bit about me (skipping out the more salacious and top-secret aspects of my life): My name’s Nick Stephenson, I live in Cambridgeshire, England (and between rain showers, I rather enjoy it) and I write thrillers. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the several billion pixels it’s taken to get me this far, and look forward to several billion more before I’m done.

If I had to pick a favorite quality (and, well, let’s face it – there’s so many for me to choose from) I would have to say my sense of humor goes a long way to keeping me amused when life gets a little dull, as it is prone to do at times. This translates well into my writing, where I like to keep a good mix of action, suspense, and humor to keep things mixed up a little, and keep the readers turning the page.

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

Being a new parent has certainly been the biggest challenge! It’s all a new ballgame for me, so I’m immensely proud of surviving this long. Other than that, professionally, I would have to say I’m most proud of building up enough courage to decide that I want to write for a living – and putting the wheels in motion to make that happen. The journey’s long from over, but I’m very pleased with how it’s going so far.

We’re going to talk about this book that you’ve written, but first, let us learn a little about how you got your start in writing.  

How has your upbringing influenced your writing? 

The first obvious influence is in the language, namely English, which immediately puts me at an advantage. It’s very difficult to succeed as a new writer if you can’t appeal to English Language markets, so this has been a big factor. Admittedly, I do have to force myself out of my British English comfort zone when writing for an American audience, but I don’t mind. Too much.

Other than that, I’ve always been encouraged to be creative, and I’ve always had a keen entrepreneurial spirit - so writing has always felt like a good fit for me.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

When I first get an idea for a novel, I definitely feel an urgent need to get it all down on paper. That’s the fun part. However, after about 10k words, that initial rush of excitement does tend to wear off a little – and that’s when the real work begins. For me, the real challenge is keeping that momentum going, over the period of time it takes to write a full-length novel. That can be quite difficult, especially with “the muse” is in hiding, but it’s 100% essential – after all, if you didn’t have fun writing the book, people won’t have fun reading it. And that’s literary suicide. 

Okay, now we can get to talking about Panic. 

Tell us about a little bit about Panic.

Panic is the first novel in the Leopold Blake series of thrillers, with at least two more under development at the moment. The book has been described as “Sherlock Holmes meets Die Hard” and I think this sums up what I wanted to achieve perfectly – a blend of classic mystery and procedural, with the butt-kicking action and edge-of-your-seat tension of your typical action thriller.

The basic premise [from the back cover] – Leopold Blake, expert criminology consultant for the FBI, had his weekend all planned out – and it didn’t involve dealing with a murdered senator, a high-profile kidnapping, and at least three near-death experiences. Three politicians have been murdered in as many weeks, all expertly dispatched by someone who knew their business well, and only Leopold can get to the bottom of it. Unfortunately, as all hell breaks loose on the streets of New York City, he soon finds himself the next target of a powerful enemy who wants him silenced. Permanently. Against the backdrop of political corruption and murder, Leopold and his team must fight for their lives to uncover the truth before it’s too late.

Like most thrillers, what you see isn’t always what you get. Leopold, while undeniably brilliant, is also inherently flawed. Behind that big brain, he’s still trying to prove himself, and it takes him some time (and a fair number of bruises) to realize he can’t do everything by himself, even with all the money and resources at his disposal.

How did you develop your plot and characters? 

I set out wanting to write the sort of book that I’ve always enjoyed reading – namely, something that keeps up the action, but also has a good murder-mystery at the heart of it. From there, I took inspiration from a wide variety of sources, but really the characters have existed in my head for years. All it took was a little coaxing, and I was able to plot out a decent description and back-story for all the main characters in the book.

The plot developed organically, over several months, and a lot of tweaking went on. The central concept was the idea of this body, clearly murdered, turning up inside a sealed room with no signs of forced entry. From there, the plot turned into something much more complex, and I’m really happy with how it all turned out.

I terms of development, for my new books I’m being a little more structured and working to a more regimented storyboard, which has helped immensely. Though I do miss the fun of planting a seed and seeing where it goes, having a book all plotted out and structured (to a basic degree, anyway) really helps with speeding up the daily word count. And, at the end of the day, the faster I can put books out, the better!

To top it all off, Panic is now completely free on Amazon between 9th March and 13th March – so thriller and crime fans should definitely go check it out. As a bonus, anyone signing up to my email list also gets a free advance copy of book 2 in the series – before anyone else in the world. So, that’s reason enough to go take a look! Here’s the Amazon links:

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Keeping the momentum going was a challenge, as well as fitting in writing time alongside everything else I’ve got going on. Thankfully, because I’m a fairly fast writer, I can usually put out a chapter or two each day if I can find a spare few hours, but it isn’t easy. Writing, like anything else, takes some serious commitment, so I’m very aware of the long hours needed. Thankfully, it’s all worth it in the end, and I’m really pleased with how the book turned out – fast pacing, non-stop action, and laced with humor, I really hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

How many Leopold Blake novels do you plan to write?

 At least three – I have book #2 underway right now, and #3 has a loose plot outlined. I hope to get both out this year. I’m very excited about how the trilogy is going to play out, and how the characters develop along the way. Most importantly, all the financial, social, and technological advantages that Leopold enjoys during book #1 get taken away – one by one – and I’m really looking forward to seeing how Leopold deals with all the fresh challenges that brings. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll make for a great read.

Have you started your next project yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?  

I’ve got 2 books on the go right now – the first is book #2 of the Leopold Blake series, and the other is a novella that I’ve been asked to write for an anthology, with all profits from the latter going to charity.

Book #2 of the Leopold Blake series is a bit of a departure from the familiar surroundings of the first. We see Leopold and team travel to London to assist Scotland Yard and MI5 with a series of gruesome murders, re-opening a case the British police thought had been closed for good. The first 3 chapters are included at the back of Panic – so anyone interested can grab a free advance copy of Book #1 and a preview of Book #2 in one go. Just visit my website, and check out the books section.

The novella is something completely different, and focuses on a futuristic dystopian society, dealing with terrorist uprisings. The story revolves around one of the good guys, military captain and all-round tough guy John Devers, as he eventually unravels who’s behind the attacks and for what purpose. Of course, nothing is quite what it seems on the surface…

Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?  

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present." – who said Kung Fu Panda didn’t have anything profound to say? 


What is your favorite color?  

Right now, I’m loving a bit of blue. 

What is your favorite food?  

Anything I can eat without a knife and fork 

What’s your favorite place in the entire world?  

On the sofa, chilling out with my family 

Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see the point?  

I only make the bed when I know someone’s coming round to visit – otherwise it’s a bomb-site 

Do you get road rage? If so, what bugs you the most about other drivers?  

No – I’m surprisingly calm on the road. Show me a printer that doesn’t work, however, that’s a completely different story…