How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in your books?
Well I have to say that there is a bit of me in Tom Kendall, my private detective. We both have a sense of humour, and we are both a little bit stubborn. When we get a thought in our heads it takes a lot of shifting, especially if we think we are right, which, of course is most of the time. We are both methodical and think things out. Act in haste, repent at .... you know. And neither of us are great believers in co-incidence.
How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing?
That’s a difficult one, and I don’t think there’s a “one size fits all” answer. Certainly with my private detective stories I know three things to start with. I know the villain, I know the victim, or victims, and I know that Kendall will solve the crime, and it grows from there. With “Epidemic” I knew the whole story from start to finish before I actually started to write. With my latest book “The Thackery Journal” the first thing I wrote was the final chapter. It was an exercise into how a hunted man felt as his pursuers got closer and closer. Then I decided who the hunted man was, and why he was being hunted. Generally, I might suddenly have an idea that might work and I fit it into my outline. That might mean changing something that I had already written, but so be it. Of course it might not fit at all, in which case it will be discarded.
Can you tell us about the genres you write?
The first novel that I wrote, “The Kammersee Affair” is about hidden nazi gold. But it is far more than that. It is a story of two men, an American GI, and an SS Major. It is a story of murder, blackmail, and revenge. It is classified as an Adventure story. My latest “The Thackery Journal” is Historical Fiction. My main genre, however, is Crime, and I have written four novels featuring Kendall.
How do you cope with writer's block?
I don’t have set targets for my writing. I don’t sit down to write at a specific time of the day, and I don’t set myself any targets as far as word count is concerned. I only sit down to write when I actually have something that I want to write, so writer’s block doesn’t really occur. I might think of an idea, or a whole section, while I’m out doing mundane things like shopping, or I might wake up in the middle of the night with something in mind. I quickly scribble it down. The next day I’ll type it up, in the appropriate position in the manuscript. When I’ve finished I leave the writing, and get on with some other activity – gardening, or helping with the housework, or doing the family accounts. Or, of course, there is always publicising and promoting to be done.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
Generally I only have a handful of main characters in one of my novels. In the Kendall stories there are three regulars – Tom Kendall, his business partner Mollie, and Detective Terrence Devaney from the Miami Police Department. Featured in four novels now they are fairly well developed, and I know them quite well. The only other main characters are the villain, usually larger than life, powerful, ambitious, and ruthless. And then there is the victim, or victims. Maybe an innocent bystander who saw something they shouldn’t have, or a reporter asking too many questions, or, well I can’t divulge everything can I.
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
Although I might start with a basic outline for a story, it is quite likely for that plot to alter as things develop, or I get another idea which changes things I’ve already written. “The Mackenzie Dossier”, my second novel, started out as a straight forward political corruption story. Then about a third of the way through somebody gets murdered, followed soon after by a second murder. I then needed somebody to solve the crime. I could not rely on the police, because the Police Chief was involved in the corruption. So along came Tom Kendall, private detective. He hasn’t gone away since.
How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
When I’ve said all I need to say – the crime is solved, the culprit in custody. All loose ends are tied up. All points fully explained. Then, of course, comes the dreaded editing. That in itself might result in some additional work being required, apart from typing errors. After the third read through that’s it I’m happy with it, the end.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
Message? No. There’s nothing profound, no great meaningful revelation, or thought provoking statement. I write for basically one reason only, for people to be entertained, and for my works to be enjoyed. All right that’s two reasons I know.
What are you working on right now?
“The Thackery Journal” has only just been issued, so I’m spending a lot of time trying to publicise and promote the book. I am also working on three other novels at various stages of progress. Two are Tom Kendall novels, and the third is another adventure story based loosely (very loosely) on a true story. One of the Kendall’s, a prequel, is about 50% complete; the second is about 25%; and the adventure story no more than 10%. The “Thackery” novel was a ‘What If’ story. Although a long way out of my comfort zone I really enjoyed writing it. I would now like to do another ‘What If’, so trying desperately to think of something suitable. Any suggestions anyone?
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Truthful answer would be probably not. To want to be a writer suggests that you at least thought that you were capable of writing something. I don’t think I ever thought about it in that way. Of course we wrote lots of things at school which were quite enjoyable. When i was a young teen I wrote a story about a small town in Australia, and how it developed. I think I covered 100 years in about a dozen pages of hand writing. In the early sixties I was very interested in Blues, and I wrote several articles for a couple of blues magazines, both sadly no longer around. Certainly I have wanted to write a novel for quite some time, but could never think of an interesting, and original plot. I can’t say it was ever a burning ambition, but just a nice idea, if only. Then whilst on holiday in Austria in 2005 the idea for a story was presented to me.
At what age did you discover your love of writing?
Let’s just say it was very late in life. Whether I discovered a love of writing is not the issue. I discovered a plot that was the important thing. We were staying at a lakeside village, Grundle, in the Austrian Lake district. Grundlesee was the first of three lakes. During the war the second lake, Toplitz, was used by the German Navy to test torpedoes, and rockets. As the war came to an end documents, weapons, and jewellery were hidden in the lake. There were rumours that gold bullion was also hidden in the lake. Extensive searches after the war never found anything. However in my book “The Kammersee Affair” gold bullion is discovered.
What was the first story that you wrote?
“The Kammersee Affair”
When were you first published?
When I wrote “The Kammersee Affair” I thought I was bound to be published, I would make a lot of money and ... Well, I very quickly realised that there weren’t that many traditional publishers seeking submissions; many agents already had more than enough clients; and because I wasn’t an A-lister, or a celebrity chef, the chances of getting published were slim to say the least. Then I discovered the Vanity publishers, the ones you pay for the privilege of getting published. Not the same as a mainstream publisher, but at least it would get your work in front of the public. After some investigation I found Raider Publishing International, in New York. They still charged a fee but they were considerably cheaper than many others. They published “The Kammersee Affair” in 2006.
How were you discovered?
I’ll tell you as soon as it happens. You’ll be the first to know.
What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?
Well assuming you have thought of that elusive, original, interesting plot, and you have spent about a year of your life writing it all down, and you’ve completed the endless editing, where you constantly miss that same typing error over and over again, it’s time to get it published. With self publishing being so easy these days this part of the process is simplicity itself. So it’s written, edited, published, and available to purchase. Now what? Oh no, publicising and promoting it, endless postings to Facebook, tweeting, blogs. Yes I think I can safely say that promoting is the most difficult part, but it has to be done.
What do you like to read?
As an Indie author I like to support Independent authors. Being a crime writer I tend to read crime novels. Authors like Babs Morton, and Alfie Robins. I have recently read “Parallax View” by Allan Leverone, a cold war spy thriller. Currently reading “Angel in Belfast” by Gerry McCullough.
What writer influences you the most?
Authors that I used to read include Alistair Maclean, Hammond Innes, and Wilbur Smith. All from the fifties, sixties or seventies, which must date me. I also enjoy Agatha Christie, the crime writer of all time. I was actually reared on Enid Blyton – The Secret Seven, and the Famous Five – sadly no longer fashionable. My all time favourite book is “The Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. But did any of these diverse authors influence me? Maybe indirectly, but certainly not directly, I like to think that I have my own style, and I don’t copy anyone.
If your books were made into a TV series or Movie, which actors would you like to see playing your characters?
That’s a difficult one for me. I’m not a great fan of many of the modern TV series – I can’t stand the endless zombie, and vampire programmes. Modern films tend to have too much swearing, and too much graphic content, and to find one that I like is quite rare. I tend to prefer movies from earlier times. Stars who were around in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Stars like Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck.
As for Kendall and Mollie, I actually see them more from another cinematic time, particularly as their relationship is platonic, although Mollie does hold a bit of torch for Kendall, rather like Miss Moneypenny does for Bond. Kendall is aged in his late thirties, Mollie is a bit younger. And, of course, they are American. So, maybe David Duchovny (Agent Fox Mulder), and Gillian Anderson (Agent Dr. Dana Scully), from the X Files from the 1990/s might fit nicely. They have a platonic relationship, and Scully constantly keeps Mulder on the right track, and between the two of them they solve cases.
Where can people learn more about you and your books?
My Amazon Author page – the link is http://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Holt/e/B003ERI7SI/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
I do have a web page although I don’t really use it that much – but the link is http://johnholt1943.blogspot.co.uk/
I have several pages on Facebook:
The first chapters of some of my books can be read on Wattpad – the link is http://www.wattpad.com/user/JohnHolt1943
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself and your books?
Last August I decided to go down the Self Publishing route. I formed a company, PHOENIX. It was easy and very informal. I now have six novels available.
John Holt Biography
I was born in 1943 in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire. I currently live in Essex with my wife, Margaret, and my daughter Elizabeth. And not forgetting Missy, the cat who adopted us, and considered that we were worthy enough to live with her. For many years I was a Chartered Surveyor in local government. I was a Senior Project Manager with the Greater London Council from 1971 until it was closed down in 1986. I then set up my own surveying practice, retiring in 2008.
I suppose like many others I had always thought how good it would be to write a novel, but I could never think of a good enough plot. My first novel, “The Kammersee Affair”, published in 2006, was inspired by a holiday in the Austrian lake district. We were staying in Grundlsee. The next lake, Toplitzsee, was used by the German Navy during the war to test rockets, and torpedoes. As the war came to an end many items were hidden in the lake – millions of UK pounds, and US dollars, in counterfeit currency; jewellery stolen from the holocaust victims; and weapons. There were also rumours of gold bullion being hidden in that lake. Despite extensive searches the gold was never found. In my book, however, it is found, only in the next lake, Kammersee.
The books that followed, The Mackenzie File, The Marinski Affair, and Epidemic, all feature Tom Kendall, a down to earth private detective, and were originally published by Raider Publishing in New York. My fifth book, A Killing In The City, another featuring Tom Kendall, was originally published by Night Publishing. In August 2012 I decided to go down the self published route, and formed my own publishing brand PHOENIX. All five novels have now been published on PHOENIX. A sixth novel “The Thackery Journal” was published on 8 August 2013.
I am currently working on two other novels featuring Tom Kendall, and I have made a tentative start on an Adventure novel.