Interview with John Holt   14 comments

Today’s interview is with crime and historical writer John Holt, who has been a guest on the blog before. Welcome back to the blog, John. Tell us something about yourself.


John Holt Author PicI was born in Hertfordshire too long ago now as to make very little, if any, difference. Since 1980 I have lived in Essex, in a small town about 40 miles northeast of London, with my wife Margaret, my daughter Elizabeth, and Missy our cat who adopted us a few years ago. I spent many years as a surveyor working in local government, including many years as a Senior Project Manager with the Greater London Council. Then in 1986 I started my own surveying practice. In 2004, I suffered a heart attack, and I finally retired in 2008. In April 2012 I was diagnosed with a cancer. After several tests this was confirmed in the October of that year, and I started treatment in the November. In January 2013 I started an eight week course of radiotherapy. Although I will still be monitored for the next four years, there has been no sign of the cancer for the last 12 months.

 

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I guess, like many others, I had wanted to write a book for a long time, but I could never think of a decent, reasonably original, plot. It was during a holiday in Austria in 2005 when a plot finally presented itself. We stayed in Grundlsee, in the Austrian lake district. The adjoining lake, Toplitz, was used by the German Navy during the war to test rockets. As the war ended many items were hidden in the lake. There were rumours that gold bullion had been placed in the lake. Twelve months later “The Kammersee Affair” was published. Six novels, and 3 novellas followed.

 

Tell us about your writing process.

It’s hardly a process, hardly scientific. I can’t just start at page 1 and gradually work through to the end. I don’t have a set time for writing. I just write whenever I think of something to write. I don’t see the point of sitting down every day at such and such time, and then just staring at the computer screen because I can’t think of anything. I might go days with nothing, then quite suddenly a whole string of ideas, events, scenes, etc, will come to mind, generally in the middle of the night. Then I have to fit them in the manuscript in the appropriate places.

 

John Holt Collection

 

That is a process in and of itself and if it works for you, go for it. What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

That has to be crime. I love the old gangster movies, the film noir from the 1950’s – Bogart, Edward G, Cagney, great actors, and great stories. I always wanted to recreate that style with my books. Sadly, I soon realised that I couldn’t do it, so I (hopefully) developed my own unique style. Of the 8 books that I have to my name, six of them are crime novels.

 

What are you passionate about?

I am very much against animal cruelty, and for many years I was Chairman of the local branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Health reasons forced me to give that up, but I still speak out about animal cruelty wherever, and whenever I can.

 

John Holt Casebooks

What is something you cannot live without?

Well, if you promise not to tell anyone, (unless, of course, they wish to make a donation), I guess that would be Chocolate. I am rather partial to a square or three of milk chocolate, or dark chocolate come to that. I don’t like that white chocolate though, and I don’t need the fruit and nuts that you get in some bars, either. No, all I need is the Chocolate. Not that I am a chocoholic, you understand. I can stop anytime I want to, I just don’t happen to want to, that’s all.

 

You and I have similar chocolate tastes. Who needs stuff in it? When you are not writing, what do you do?

Aside from writing my main interest is photography. Not so much taking photographs, although I do like that. I’m not a great technical photographer, and talk of shutter speeds, exposure, and ISO (whatever that is) leaves me cold, and I rely heavily on the automatic functions of my camera. My main interest, though, is photograph restoration using Photoshop software. Old photographs that are badly marked, or torn, or scratched, I will try to repair as best I can. The software is pretty amazing and apart from the editing facilities, it will also allow for the photographs to be made much clearer than the original.

 

Wow, what a great hobby! What sort of research do you do for your novels?

Research? Not something that I spend too much time with I’m afraid. My novel “The Thackery Journal” is set during, and just after the American Civil War. It is purely fiction although it does refer to several real people, and real events, especially the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. As a consequence some research was carried out, all courtesy of Google Search. The Internet is a wealth of information, and very easily found. “The Kammersee Affair” is also purely fiction, although there are partial truths within the book, and only limited research was carried out. As for my other novels, they are all fictional crime stories. No research was necessary.

 

I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

That’s a difficult one. I’m not into fishing or hunting, so that would be out. Just as well that you are providing the food. I notice that you are also supplying the mosquito spray, so I guess I might need to some shots before I leave. Okay so there are mosquitoes. What about grizzly bears? I understand that you have them in Alaska. I’m guessing I know, but I reckon they could find a person, all alone in the wilderness, inviting, so to speak. Is there a television, or a DVD player, I do enjoy movies, old movies with Humphrey Bogart, Cagney, you know. I guess sight-seeing would be an absolute must. I mean why go all that way, and just stay in the cabin? Alaska has some incredible scenery, so I’d be there with my camera, snapping away. As for taking books with me I wouldn’t need many, not for a month. I’m a pretty slow reader. But it would certainly be a crime novel, or novels. And one written by another Indie author. I would also spent some time, probably the evenings, writing. It should be ideal for that. I guess there won’t be any neighbours close by having wild parties. So I shouldn’t be disturbed. So when do I go? Incidentally you are paying the air fare as well aren’t you – and please not economy class. I mean, after all, one does have certain standards to maintain …..

 

You’re in luck. Alaskan mosquitoes are not vectors for any known disease. There are just lots and lots of them. Talk about your books individually.

Well I’ve already mentioned my first novel, “The Kammersee Affair”, and I’ve already mentioned “The Thackery Journal”

 

My second novel, “The Mackenzie Dossier”, started life as a straight-forward political corruption story. But then something happened. I allowed someone to get murdered. Well two murders in fact. So I needed someone to investigate. I couldn’t use the local police because the police Chief was involved in the corruption. So I created a private detective, Tom Kendall, and he hasn’t gone away since. To date there are five novels featuring Kendall. After “The Mackenzie Dossier” came:

 

“The Marinski Affair” began as a dull mundane case involving a missing husband. Okay, so he was a rich missing husband, but he was nonetheless, still only a missing husband. The case soon developed into one involving robbery, kidnapping, blackmail and murder.

 

“Epidemic”is about a corrupt pharmaceutical company that is testing a new drug. Things go wrong, people die.  Kendall is asked to investigate the death of a young newspaper reporter. The evidence shows quite clearly that it was an accident: a simple, dreadful accident.

 

In “A Killing In The City”, Kendall is on holiday in London, when he hears of the sudden death of a fellow passenger.

 

The fifth novel, “Kendall” is a prequel telling how Kendall started as a private detective, and his first case involving phone hacking.

 

November 2013 my brother was killed in a traffic accident, and my writing came to a full stop.

 

Then in February 2015 someone suggested that I do shorter stories. Over the following three months I produced three novellas featuring another private detective, Jack Daniels. The first was “The Candy Man” (a slang term for a drug dealer); then “A Dead Certainty” set at a racing stables; and third was “Trouble In Mind”a case of blackmail and murder.

 

 

I am currently working on two more Kendall novels. One, I hope will be published in about August. The other sometime round the middle of 2017. I am also currently arranging for my novellas to be translated, through Babelcube. To date “Trouble In Mind” has been translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Italian; “The Candy Man” has been translated into French and German, and should be available soon. It is also being translated into Dutch; Spanish; Afrikaans; Portuguese; Norwegian; and Chinese.

 

What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

There are no hidden messages in my books, no moral judgements, no profound or deep, meaningful, statements. All I want is for the reader to enjoy my story, to be entertained, and at the end feel satisfied that my work was worth reading.

 

That’s enough for any story, I think. What influenced your decision to self-publish?

In general terms there are only three ways of getting published. The first, and by far the most appealing is the traditional route. Publishers have a bidding war to publish your novel; you get a six figure advance, followed by a film deal in Hollywood. (Ok, remember I’m a fiction writer). The second, and by far the worst way of getting published, is going down the vanity publisher route whereby you pay them a vast sum for the privilege of them publishing your work. I quickly realised that the traditional publishers did not have the ability to recognise talent when they saw it; and I also realised that the vanity publishers were only interested in receiving a huge fee. That left me with the third option – self publishing.

 

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

Self-publishing is now so easy, and at no cost. Whilst that is a good thing, it can be a double edged sword. Because it is so easy there is, I’m sad to say, a lot of rubbish being published.

 

Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

Publicity without a doubt. And exposure. As an Indie author I need to do all of the promoting of my books. This is made even harder when you consider the costs of advertising  

 

Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

Certainly being traditionally published also means a professionally designed book cover; and professional editing and proof reading; which should result in the production of a high quality book. Many self-published authors are unable to afford professional editing, or proof reading services. I do my own editing, and my own covers. Nonetheless, I see no reason why a self-published book could not be every bit as good as a traditionally published book. Take note of books published by mainstream publishers – the quality of the cover – learn lessons and implement them. Make sure the book is the very best that it can be.

 

 How do readers find you and your books?

 Links:

 

The Kammersee Affair – http://t.co/aFfYsPFUPM

The Mackenzie Dossier – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008U6STIQ

The Marinski Affair – http://bookShow.me/B00AFW98D8

Epidemic – http://amzn.to/1aWAOOj 

A Killing In The City – http://www.amazon.com/Killing-City-Tom-Kendall-Book-ebook/dp/B0093N363S/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Kendall – http://bookShow.me/B00LGZYZHW

The Thackery Journal – http://ow.ly/s9hPG

The Candy Man – (http://www.amazon.com/Candy-Man-Jack-Daniels-Novella-ebook/dp/B00TWCF53O/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

A Dead Certainty – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00UP2S4EC/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

Trouble In Mind – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VI9ZK3O/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/john.holt.98031506

 

Twitter – https://twitter.com/JohnHoltAuthor

 

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/John-Holt/e/B003ERI7SI/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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14 responses to “Interview with John Holt

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  1. Reblogged this on Daermad Cycle.

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  2. Thanks for featuring me Lela, much appreciated. Incidentally i’m still waiting for the airline tickets, don’t forget will you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always enjoy John Holt’s books. His characters are witty and highly entertaining – just like this interview. Just finished his latest ‘A Case of Murder’ and would highly recommend it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You always have an interesting interview, and I even learned something about my old mate!!
    I never knew you were the Chairman of the local branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals?
    Every day’s a school day with you, John 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • My old mate Richard – good to see you here. Yes I was Chair of our local branch for about 7 days. We ran a fairly large animal shelter. I was Architect that designed the Small animal shelter, the fox compound, the area for the swans; a three aviary bird shelter, and a couple of stables. I also drew up plans for the refurbishment of the kennel block. Long while ago now.

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  5. It’s great to learn a bit more about you, John. Many thanks both of you for an entertaining interview

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  6. Really enjoyed this interview, John. As you know, I love Kendall with his Columbo like casual style, but I also really like Jack Daniels. Like you, I love the Raymond Chandler, Bogart type of detective, and in Jack Daniels you’ve certainly succeeded in creating one, in spite of what you say. A great series! However, I’m glad you’ve returned to Kendall with A Case Of Murder – thanks!

    Like

    gerrymccullough
  7. Hi Gerry – good to see you as always. Glad you liked the interview

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  8. Always fascinating John. Thanks so much for sharing with us all once more. 🙂

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  9. Thank all of you for stopping by!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s such a pleasure to read about a friend, especially a talented and caring friend. Great interview folks. I’ve long been a fan of John’s writing. He is an awesome supporter of other indie writers as well. Bravo!

    Like

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