Author interview with Matthew Clark Leach

Today on Becca's Books, Matthew Clark Leach is here, telling us about his children's book, and all about his writing! 

B ~ Matthew, for those who don't know of you, could you introduce yourself? Let us know what you're all about! 

M ~ Self published author and aspiring children's writer. Blogger. Geek. Connoisseur of the roast potato. Guitar player. Husband. Morrissey obsessed. All round good egg. 

B ~ You're the author of children's book Henry Took and the Secret of Christmas. Tell me Matthew, why did you choose to write a children's book? Are you a fan of that genre? It's such a contrast against the fact that you run a crime blog, in a good way though!

M ~ I think that no matter how old you get, the books that stand out the most, and I know that I won't speak for everyone, but it's certainly the case for me, are those that you read as a child. 

For me the ones that really struck a nerve and have stayed with me right into my 30's, are those that captured my imagination in my formative years, that standouts being pretty much anything by Roald Dahl, and Roger Hargreaves' Mr Men series. The stories were so simple and yet so affective. They were funny and endearing. They were also, and it's certainly the case with Roald Dahl, quite sinister and also pretty gruesome at times. I think that adults forget that kids love to be scared, grossed out and excited by books just as much as adults. Sometimes, even more! 

Why did I choose to write a children's book? Well, I guess it was the challenge of it. Children are the harshest of critics, if you can please them, you can please anyone. 

B ~ Do you have many ideas for future children's books? Is it something that you want to continue with? 

M ~ Well, I have an idea for a follow up to Henry Took which I am working on at the moment. This one is quite a bit darker and again involves Christmas. It also follows on from the ideas in the first book. So you'd really have to that one first. 

I'm also working on a fantasy novel for older children; I think they call it YA nowadays, which is coming along nicely. It's my first attempt at something involving magic and monsters, it's also quite dark, and my wife said that it's a little scary, which is great (who doesn't like being scared a little) but I have to say that I am very pleased with it so far, and I've had some great feedback, which is always nice. 

I've realised only recently that writing for children, or younger readers, is so much fun, the possibilities are endless of where you can go, it really allows you to flex the imagination and run wild. 

B ~ Tell us a little bit about Henry Took and the Secret of Christmas. What's the story about, and are there any messages behind it? 

M ~ The story is based around all of those books that I loved as a kid. There's a mystery, there's magic, there's a little adventure, there's Henry's mean parents who try and spoil any fun that he tries to have. Throw in the theme of Christmas and what's not to like :) I think that it's a sweet story that kids will love, or, at least, I hope they will. 

As for a message, I didn't write it with anything specific in mind, I just wanted to try and capture some of the magic of the great authors that inspired me. 

B ~ Do you have a planning and writing process? How long did it take for you to finish Henry Took and the Secret of Christmas? 

M ~ My writing process really fits in with my mood, which I know isn't the best way, but I find it incredibly hard to sit down and to try to force something that just isn't there. It's far too frustrating. In saying that, I do set aside time every day, say, an hour, and if it comes, which more often than not it does, then great, but if not, then I'll switch off and turn my attention to something else. 

As for planning, I never used to, it was always a case of having the initial idea and then winging it, which may explain why very few things I started were ever finished and why I have a laptop full of half written stories. Now, though, I only start something after writing a clear outline, it may not be a blow by blow account of every page like how some work, Jeffrey Deaver for example, his outlines are legendary, sometimes they are as long, if not longer, than then finished novel. I love that dedication to a craft, but for me a few pages are enough. 

As for Henry Took, well, I started back in 2007 and finally finished it towards the end of 2012, which is an age considering that it's only a short story. I remember half way in thinking, like I have the tendency to do quite a lot, that it's not good enough, so I put it to one side. I only pulled it out when a friend asked me what ever happened to the Christmas story I was writing, and did I ever finish it, they then gave me some good feedback and that was that. 

B ~ Are there other genres you'd like to have a go at? 

M ~ Over the years I've had a go at everything, crime, horror, comedy (which is something that I'd love to explore more) sci-fi, westerns, I even had a stab at a romance novel, boy meets girl, girl doesn't love boy but in the end she does, you know the sort of thing, it was pretty good, quirky, did I mention it was set in space? In the future? Think Nick Hornby meets Iain Banks. 

Experimenting is so important; you should always try to develop your own voice, your own style, you never know, you may just find that voice in something that you never even though possible. Maybe I'll dig out that romance story... back soon. 

B ~ Moving onto your crime blog, what is it that interests you so much? You've interviewed so many crime authors on there! 

M ~ I love crime fiction, and have ever since I first read The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. My bookshelves are crammed with crime novels. My cellar has boxes overflowing with crime novels that I can't bear to part with. 

One of the reasons I believe crime fiction is popular, and the reason I love it, is the fascination with human behaviour. Sometimes we are warmed by the actions of others and at other times horrified and appalled. I'm interested in personalities, behaviour and motivation. What is it that makes people do the things they do? 

I also enjoy a puzzle to solve, a crime to investigate and a mystery to unravel. When reading a crime novel I like to pit my wits against the protagonist or the detective and see if I can solve a crime before he or she can. That's also the mark of a good crime writer, the ones who can add twist after twist until you are dizzy and then hit you with a fantastic denouement. 

As for the blog, it was just an idea that I had one afternoon, I never for one moment thought that I'd get anyone to agree to participate. How wrong was I! I ended up with some pretty big names including Tess Gerritsen, RJ Ellory, Jane Casey and Chris Carter. All of who were very kind with their time. 

B ~ Do you do a lot of reading as well as writing? Any favourite authors out there? 

M ~ I love to read, it's one of life's finest pleasures, and I try to read as much as I can. My 'to be read' pile, much to my wife's annoyance, is ever growing. If only work didn't get in the way then I might finish some of them! 

Favourite authors? Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, JK Rowling (words can't describe how wonderful she is!) Hilary Mantel, Kim Newman (everyone should read his Anno Dracula series) Anthony Horowitz, Stephen King (how can anyone not like King!) At the moment I'm revisiting Nick Hornby, who I don't think has ever written a book that wasn't 10/10. 

The best discovery of recent years has been CJ Sansom, his Shardlake series of historical novels are some of the best books I've ever read. 

B ~ How long would you say you spend writing on average a day? 

M ~ Truthful answer, not long enough! I have fits and starts when it comes to writing.Some days I can speed through 3,000 words, then for the next week nothing. I do try and set aside an hour, though, whether it be sitting at the computer or just scribbling notes and ideas in my notebook (because every writer should have a notebook) so as long as I get something done then I'm happy. 

B ~ What are your hopes and dreams for the future? 

M ~ World domination! Ha! No, really, my dream has been, ever since I was a kid, probably as early as seven or eight, to write. To write books that are loved and books that inspire others, and that hasn't, and I don't think ever will, change. I did go through wanting a wanting to be a rock star phase in my early twenties, (if I'm honest, I still do, playing guitar and pretending I'm Johnny Marr) but, spending your time living your dream should be everyone's goal, no matter what that is, airline pilot, architect, carpenter, dog groomer, cobbler, tailor, whatever you hearts desire you have to go for it and not be afraid. Don't get stuck in a horrible office or dirty factory if your heart isn't in it. It's a huge cliché, I know, but you only get one shot at this. Don't waste it. Make the life you want and be happy. 

B ~ Has Henry Took and the Secret of Christmas been as successful as you'd hoped it would be? Is there anything that you'd change about it now? 

M ~ As any self published author will tell you, it's a very tough ride on your own. Out of the thousands of published authors out there, you can count on the fingers of one hand how many have made a career from their work, the best example being Hugh Howey, author of the incredibly successful Wool. 

Despite that, it has sold a few copies, 155 at last count, and so for a short story, and a seasonal story, it hasn't been all bad. 

Would I change anything? I don't think so; so it's a step in the right direction and I'm very proud of it. 

B ~ Do you receive many reviews of your work? How do you cope with any negative comments, if any have been received? 

M ~ Not a great deal of reviews at the moment, I have had a couple from strangers that have been quite kind, though. Most have come from friends and family who have all been kind and encouraging. I know what everyone will be thinking, but I trust them all not to be kind just because of their being close to me. 

I'd like to think that should I ever receive a negative reviews that I'd take it in my stride and not turn into some crazy monster, but who knows :)

B ~ If you could have written any novel in the world, which novel would you choose? 

M ~ Tough one. There are so many incredible books that have had me giddy with excitement over the years, that it's hard to choose just one. But, I guess, if push came to shove it would have to be... wait, can I have two? I can't limit it to just one. 

Right, the first would have to be Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, quite simply, the most astonishing book ever written. I first read it when I was 20 and have read it about 10 times since, and every time it never fails to astound me. The language, the imagination, and in a nutshell, it's the book that made me want to write. I'd encourage everyone to read it. 

The second would be the ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. If you want to know how to write great crime fiction that keeps you guessing until the last page, then there is only one place to go, and that's Christie. All of her novels are great, but this is the stand out. 

B ~ What do you find to be the hardest part of writing? Are there many challenges that you've had to face? 

M ~ I've never been one short of ideas, so that part of the process comes rather easily, which is great. I put it down to being an only child and spending hour after hour as a kid creating, whether it be with action figures, writing little stories or doodling spaceships and aliens in my colouring books. I'm pretty sure that I could out idea most people :)

It sounds silly to say, especially for a budding writer, but the hardest part is the putting everything together. The actual writing. The converting those many ideas (and there are many!) into a cohesive and enjoyable story. Actually, that's not entirely true; I guess that it goes back to my earlier answer, some days its good, others not so much. It's definitely something that I am working on, and I try not to let it stress me too much. My plan for world domination wouldn't amount to much if I couldn't write a decent story :)

B ~ Any advice for aspiring authors out there? Anything that's helped to push you along? 

M ~ Well, I'm not too sure that I'm the best person to ask for advice, maybe in a few years when I've cracked it myself :)... In saying that, though, I did see something a while back which rings true with me... 

You stop dreaming of writing.
You stop talking about writing. 
You stop wishing you were writing. 
And you write. 

And I think that just about sums it up. 

~ Author Bio ~ 

Born in Kent a number of years ago where I live with my wife and a cat called Agatha. I spend my days, in-between work and play, dreaming of words and stories of monsters and mayhem. Henry Took and the Secret of Christmas is my first book (hopefully of many) and is available now on Kindle. 

In addition to writing I love daydreaming (who doesn't), and music and sport, I still dream of rock stardom and scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final. Oh, and I'd also quite like to go to the moon. 

Matthew Clark Leach can be found on Twitter

Henry Took and the Secret of Christmas ~ Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US


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