Q&A with Stephen Leather

Today I am delighted to have a Q&A with author Stephen Leather. I recently read and reviewed Penalties, which you can find my thoughts here, which is out now and available to purchase from Amazon.

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Hi Stephen, thank you so much for joining me today on my blog. Your latest novel Penalties is set around a football match, are you a big football fan yourself and if so which is your favourite team?

I was born in Manchester and have always been a Manchester City fan. But to be honest I’m not big into spectator sports. I prefer to take part rather than watch. My favourite sport is squash, and I try to play at least once a week.

I love the cover to Penalties. Following your author page, I’ve noticed a few times you posting asking readers opinions on different covers. How important are others opinions in helping you decide and would you always go with the majority?

I do think it’s important to see what readers think about covers. You really can judge a book by its cover so it’s vital to get it right. Most of my self-published covers are done by the wonderful Debbie at www.thecovercollection.com and she usually gives me several ideas. I then put the ideas on my Facebook page to see which my readers like best.  I had three options for the PENALTIES cover and to be honest I preferred the exploding football image. But the Facebook view was very definitely in favour of the tunnel image. So yes, in that case I went with the majority. I think I’m pretty good at judging covers but at the end of the day it’s the readers – ie book buyers – who decide what works and what doesn’t. I’d be crazy to ignore their opinions!

Your book The Chinaman has recently been made into a film. How did it all come about and have you been invited to the premier?

I’ll definitely be at the premier, it’s written into the contract!  Getting The Chinaman made into a film was a very long road, more than ten years in the making! It’s all down to an amazing producer – Wayne Godfrey and his company The Fyzz. Wayne pushed and pushed to get the film made and it all came together last year when Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan agreed to star in it. The director is the awesome Martin Campbell who did the Goldeneye and Casino Royale Bond films. I got to see some of the filming – including when they blew up a bus on a London bridge. The movie will be released early next year and I’m really looking forward to it.

It was actually my brother who introduced me to your books, (thank you Simon) and the Jack Nightingale series were the first books I read. I think as they were the first ones I read they will always be my favourite as they introduced me to a new author whose books I have now read many of and enjoyed. Is there one particular book or series that you are more attached to than any of the others?

I really enjoy writing the Jack Nightingale books. They’re fun and I can do pretty much anything with them. My Dan ‘Spider’ Shepherd series is very much grounded in reality and the books are harder to write. Spider is an SAS trooper turned undercover cop turned MI5 officer and the books are very real. That means I have to do a lot of research to keep them accurate and that takes time. I’m just about to start the 14th book in the series and it’s been fun taking Spider from his late-twenties to early forties. His son Liam was a small boy in the first book – HARD LANDING – and in the new book he’s a soldier. While I really enjoy writing books in a series I do love to stretch myself by writing standalone thrillers like PENALTIES.

A couple of years back you did a book called Blood Bath where you and other authors all wrote a short story about the Jack Nightingale character. Where did the idea come from and did it feel weird having other authors write about one of your own characters?

I saw the BLOOD BATH cover for sale and thought it was amazing and snapped it up. It already had the title and I decided not to change it. Eventually I came up with an idea for a Jack Nightingale short story using that title and had great fun writing it. I’d been talking about the project on my Facebook page and a few of my fans said that the cover and title had inspired them so I decided to ask anyone who had an idea to go ahead and write it and that I’d publish it. I ended up with six other stories and I think they’re all great! It was an interesting exercise and one that I might well repeat at some stage!

Having also read all of the Inspector Zhang books and enjoying them, will there be anymore?

I love writing the Inspector Zhang stories but the plots are very, very difficult to find! He’s a detective in Singapore who solves locked room mysteries and plots for locked room mysteries are notoriously difficult to devise. I already have two more titles and covers ready to go but I’m just not able to come up with the plots to go with them. One of them is INSPECTOR ZHANG AND THE VERY BIG WHEEL where a man gets into a huge Ferris wheel in Singapore (similar to the London Eye). He dies, and Inspector Zhang is called in to solve the murder. The problem is, I have no idea how anyone could commit a murder like that. I’ve been hoping for inspiration for five years now but I’ve got nothing!

Being a writer do you get much time for reading yourself and if so who are some of your favourite authors?

I’ve always been a huge fan of John Le Carre, Jack Higgins, and Gerald Seymour. I read most of their books before I started writing my own thrillers. I also loved the black magic books of Dennis Wheatley and it was those that led me to writing my Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series. These days I’m a big fan of thriller writers Matt Hilton and Mark Dawson.  Most of my reading is non-fiction, usually tied in with whatever book I’m writing. I read several books on football while I was writing PENALTIES and I’m reading a lot of manuals on fire investigation as research for the thriller I’m writing at the moment.

Kindle or actual book?

Horses for courses. For factual books I prefer the real thing, but for general fiction I’m happier with the Kindle, though generally I read my Kindle books on my iPad. When I’m researching it’s always easier to have books to hand with lots of Post-It notes. That way I can have all the information I need on my desk. But when I’m reading for relaxation, an e-Book is so much easier. And with an e-reader you’re never short of something to read.

Favourite film adapted from a book?

I’ve had four books done as films – THE STRETCH and THE BOMBMAKER were released by Sky One, and THE CHINAMAN and TANGO ONE movies will be released next year.  I think the best film adapted from a book that I’ve ever seen is SIN CITY, if you’ll allow me to count a graphic novel as a book! I love that movie and have watched it more than a dozen times.

Lastly, of course I can’t let you go without asking what you are currently working on?

I’m midway through a book provisionally titled THE GIRL WHO GOT BURNED about a female firefighter who is badly injured in a fire and is reassigned as an arson investigator. Years ago I wrote two episodes of a TV show about firemen called London’s Burning but a lot has changed since then so I’m doing a lot of research. I’ve visited a fire station and hope to be taken into a training fire soon.  Once that’s done and dusted I’ll be starting work on the new Spider Shepherd novel, which will be titled LIGHT TOUCH. It’s got several plotlines including an undercover cop who has gone bad and an evil jihadist who is being protected by MI5.

For more information about Stephen Leather and his novels please click on the following links:







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