- How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?
I do tend to think for quite a long time about a book before setting out to write it. I currently have 3 to 4 novels sketched out to several thousand words, the ideas still circling in my head like airliners waiting to land at Heathrow. I do find that it helps to begin writing some aspects quite quickly. Characters for example do not become real to me until I’ve started writing down their dialogue, and can hear their voice in my head. But plots I can work on for weeks or even months trying to get something genuinely original wriggling in the dark corners of my mind. A lot of my writing is driven by issues that I want to shine a light on. Mirror Mirror for example concentrated on the concept of the instant celebrity, and the costs of that both for the individual and for society.
- What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?
I am good friends with a retired detective inspector, and have contacts with a Home Office forensic pathologist, and a scientist who undertakes DNA analysis. That is a minimum for anyone who is taking their crime writing seriously. There is a lot, of course, available online but some things never seem to be reflected, and you need to know people to know what the issues are. For example when sending off a DNA sample for analysis, do you choose the basic service which may take a couple of weeks, or the highly expensive express service, which may need a senior officer’s budgetary permission? If you want to be realistic about the police you need to reflect some of their day-to-day concerns: staffing shortages, managerial competence, and outdated attitudes to diversity, for example.
- How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience?
The more successful you are, the easier it is to be taken seriously. As a former journalist I have a forthright way of approaching organisations. In general I would give the advice to make a brief phone call first, then follow-up with a detailed email, which also gives your bona fides, including the name of your publisher and/or agent as well as your own website address.
- How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?
Dozens of times. It was a highly dispiriting experience, but if there’s one thing I should say to budding authors it is do not take no for an answer. Keep going.
- Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?
I was very lucky that my first thriller, while still self published, became the bestselling book in the UK for a couple of weeks in 2014. There were no marketing costs, no agent to pay, and I kept a good slice of the proceeds. That was a phenomenal year, and even though I now have all the apparatus of the professional publishing industry behind me, I still haven’t managed to replicate that experience. But overall, for me, it’s been a decent living.
- What do you read when you are ill in bed?
I’m almost never ill, and if I was well enough to read in bed, I’d be well enough to write. I certainly written tens of thousands of words when hungover, and sometimes they’re unusually creative ones.
- What have you done with the things you wrote when in school?
I wish I still had them, particularly some of the stories I wrote when I was seven or eight. In retrospect it does seem clear what I was destined to do.
- What, in your life, are you most proud of doing?
Two things: Managing to maintain a very harmonious marriage for more than 20 years and the books I’ve written. Without the first, I doubt whether I would ever have managed the second.
- Do you have an unusual hobby?
Not exactly unusual, but I’m a county standard chess player. While I have occasionally included a plot strand or two about chess, I do know that it should never be mentioned on the cover because it’s the commercial kiss of death.
Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992, while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies, and been translated into six languages.
The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017.
Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.