Friday, November 2, 2012

Interview with Nick Sweet - Crime Thriller Author

I am so excited to have Nick Sweet here today for an interview. He writes crime thrillers, including recently released Switch and Flowers at Midnight.

Flowers at Midnight
US Amazon Product Page
UK Amazon Product Page
Leader of the Opposition, Sir Alex Boulton, is being blackmailed after erotic dancer Bella used a secret spy camera to take pictures of him performing a kinky sex act in the shower… But people in high places are determined to ensure that nothing prevents Sir Alex from becoming Britain’s next prime minister… 

Bella’s shacked up in her husband Joey’s flat in Ladbroke Grove with her new lover, Martin, who works as doorman at the club in Soho where Bella dances…and Martin has been telling Bella they should move in case Joey either gets out of nick early or sends some friends round to the flat ... Then they discover—too late for their own liking—that Joey B has done a deal with the police to win an early release from prison… What’s more, the two fellow bank-robbers he ratted on—Ricky Red and The Dog—are out to get him and the missing £3,000,000 stash… and they aren’t messing around… Joey confronts Martin, and then Bella’s shot onstage at the Revuebar, in Soho… Then DCI Preston and his sidekick, DS Johnson, are called in to investigate what threatens to become a PR nightmare, as bodies start to pile up.

So, I've let everyone read a bit about Flowers at Midnight. Tell us about your newer release, Nick, Switch.

Well, I’m currently writing a new crime novel and so Switch feels like ancient history, even though it was only recently published, but I’ll try. Here goes: master forger Terry Statham steals a Rembrandt to order for a multi-millionaire, then passes off a copy he’s painted himself on his client… But then evil gangster Frank Nicholson, or Frankie Nic, gets wind of what’s happened and kidnaps Terrie’s daughter Angie. Frank wants the Rembrandt original, or he’s going to kill Angie… I think I’ve probably said enough. It’s a very fast-moving story, with plenty of wisecracks, action and violence, just like all my crime thrillers.

Sounds thrilling! Want to tell us about your other book, Flowers at Midnight? 
Flowers starts with the man who’s tipped to become Britain’s next prime minister being blackmailed after being caught on film drinking a girl’s pee-pee, silly chap…He goes to his brother Charles for advice. Now Charles has been in the SAS and MI6, and he claims to know people who could find the kidnappers and make them disappear…then Bella, one of the blackmailers, who is also an exotic dancer at the Revuebar in Soho, is shot on stage in the middle of her act… Meanwhile, her violent husband, Joey B, has done a deal with the police to win an early release from prison, and he is threatening to kill Bella’s new man (the other blackmailer)…and then we learn that two other men who robbed a bank with Joey B, have just escaped from prison, and they are worried that Joey (who ratted on them) is spending all the money from the bank job… Once again, it’s full of action, suspense, fights, violence, a bit of sex (mostly really weird and kinky)… It’s life as ordinary nice decent people DON’T know it, in other words…but hopefully it’s an entertaining read…and certainly many readers have contacted me to say how they’ve enjoyed, as has also been the case with Switch… 

Haha - definitely sounds like life as us ordinary people don't know it. I guess that's the fun part of being a writer - we get to live much more exciting lives all in our heads.  When did you start writing? What made you want to be a writer? 
I remember when I was seven at school, I’d written a nourish detective story and the teacher said if I liked I could have the entire week to work on it in isolation. So while all the other kids were doing maths or whatever, I just worked on my story all week…The story got pretty confused and unwieldy in the end, and I remember my teacher, Mrs Hadrell, said she reckoned it might take me many years to work out exactly how to say what I had to say. Looking back, I can see that she was right. I published a literary or non-genre novel, called Gemini Games, back in about 2005. It was the first time I felt like I’d made a breakthrough with my work… I experienced a definite sort of rush while I was writing it, and it was as though the characters were completely alive and the book was writing itself. I sent it to various publishers and an editor at Jonathan Cape told me on the phone that my book was good and should be published, and that it reminded him of Ian McEwan’s early work. It was a confusing conversation, and I was left with the feeling that Cape hadn’t taken me because I wasn’t as good as Ian McEwan…what made it more confusing is that the editor told me that he didn’t think I was as good as McEwan, but the mere fact that he was comparing me with him should be taken as a compliment, because in his opinion “Ian” was the best writer currently at work in the English language…The editor said my book should be taken by a publisher sooner or later because it was good enough to be published, but that it was not for Cape, and that I should send it to other publishers…I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I’d already sent it to about 20 publishers before that—all of the big ones in the Writers & Artists Yearbook. So I paid some money to Janus and they published it. I sent the galley proofs out for review and acclaimed literary authors D.M. Thomas, D.J. Taylor and Andrew O’Hagan all very kindly offered quotes for the back cover to recommend the book. I felt that a big agent would be sure to take me on, with such writers recommending my book…but in fact nobody showed any interest whatsoever, although I have recently been approached by one very small agency. Anyway, I sent my work out to small e publishers back in May of this year, and six publishers wrote back almost straightaway saying they would like to publish my books.

That was very good of your teacher to encourage you like that! The road to publication can be quite long, but it's a good thing you persevered! Anyone going the traditional route is bound to get many rejections along the way. Very exciting that you are getting so many offers now! 

Are there any other genres you like writing in?
I also write historical romances. My novel Young Hearts tells the story of a love triangle set against the backdrop of World War 1. Needless to say, though, there’s a fair amount of blood and gore in it, as I’ve included some scenes where my characters fight it out with the enemy on the battlefield…and then there are scenes in the trenches, and a few sniper scenes, as well as scenes that look at how the women coped with life at home while their men were away… And then there’s a man who comes home with a leg missing… It’s first and foremost a love story, though, and it will be published by Club Lighthouse Publishing before Christmas—hopefully in late November or early December. I’ll tweet about it when it’s out, don’t worry!

Everyone here knows I'm a sucker for romance! I'll be sure to watch for your tweets. 

What do you love about writing? What do you hate?
As far as writing is concerned, I suppose it’s hard to write on any subject that you don’t know anything about, but I’ve never really felt that I hated writing about anything, to be honest…I do find editing very hard. For me, it’s essential that writers edit their own books, though, because that’s where you begin to find your own style and work out what sort of writer you are… Writing a first draft can be fun, providing the ideas come and it starts to live in your imagination, and when it’s going well you can find yourself just allowing it to sort of tick over…and you’re writing each day without really having to think about it too much… But then it has to be edited, and then you have to do all the hard thinking that you didn’t do when you were happily tapping away at the keys writing your draft… I’m editing another crime thriller at the moment, and, frankly, it’s like a war of attrition. I mean, I can only do so much on it each day before it starts to play on my nerves… By the time I’ve finished working on it each day, I’m ready for a glass of wine or whatever. Perhaps that’s just because it’s been a year where I’ve done loads of editing of my own work—too much, perhaps… I mean, I’m at a stage in my writing career—if ‘career’ isn’t too grand a word to use--where I want to clear my desk, so to speak. I’ve got all this stuff in the cupboard that I’ve been quite happily working on, and now it’s time to get it out and do the hard work of turning these drafts that were quite good fun to write into finished books… Having said that, I do think I’ve improved a lot as an editor of my own work, and now feel I know what I’m doing. Although of course it’s always good to have your publishers there to give it a final pass. That way, they act as a safety net, because it’s so easy to overlook things and make stupid mistakes. My historical romance Young Hearts started life as a 120,000 first draft and is now either 65,000 or 80,000 words (can’t remember which—but it’s a lot shorter, anyway). I really had to do a lot of work to cut out all the chaff, and polish it up… I’ve got another book I’ve been working on—a crime novel--that was up at around 140,000 words, but it’s now finished and down to 80,000 words. That seems to be the way I work. I edit out all the rubbish. It’s the same when I read… I mean, I find myself editing other authors when I read now. I just can’t help it. I recently read a book by a French author that won all sorts of prizes…the book stretched to around 1000 pages, and I found myself quite happily just reading odd sentences here and there on every page, because the author was including all sorts of stuff that I would have edited out…but somehow I still managed to follow what was going on, and ended up enjoying the book in a funny sort of way.

It is quite hard to be just a reader after learning the secrets of good writing and having edited things. I have to work hard to switch gears in my head so that I can enjoy a good book and not worry about the editing. 

Where do you get your story ideas?
I really have no idea. I mean, I’m working on a book now and every time it’s like maybe I’ll never have another idea again and this is the last book I’ll ever write, you know?... That can make you anxious. But that’s just the way it is. Some ideas of course have come from direct personal experience. I mean, I once worked as a doorman for a few months in Soho, and my experience of that helped me with some of the scenes in Flowers At Midnight…and then some ideas have come to me in dreams. But really where most of my ideas come from is a complete mystery to me. I need to be inspired at the end of the day to write anything. An idea needs to come to me that excites me…it’s just like anything…like love and sex, if you will… I’m the same with reading… I mean, I can’t just pick a book up and read it. I read loads…but I need to be inspired by what I read. What is inspiration? Where does it come from…?

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Well, I’ve not really had time to suffer with it too much, because I’ve got too much stuff in the cupboard that I need to edit…although often when I’m working on a new draft, I get that I have no idea what’s going to happen next. Sometimes I worry that a book’s going to turn out to be a dead-end… This is every writer’s fear, I think—that you suddenly find your book’s not going anywhere… I’ve had that a lot… Then what I do is slow down and let the book dictate to me. I think it’s important never to try to force things. If the book you are working on has any life in it at all then the book will suggest ways of keeping itself alive… If it doesn’t then the book was never any good anyway. In a sense, I believe in just letting it happen…I’m there to let the book write itself—that’s the ideal, anyway… The book I’m editing now happened that way… I was working on the draft over the summer, and each day I’d sit down at my desk and think, “I wonder what’s going to happen in the story today…” Although there are other stories where I’ve had a clearer idea of what’s going to happen overall, this one seemed to come to me straight out of the fog from start to finish…

What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing? Why?
Well I read The Sun Also Rises when I was about 19 and then A Farewell To Arms and I still read those books—particularly the first one—every year or two. (By the way, Hemingway is one of the most misunderstood writers of all time, in my opinion. People seem to have this idea that he was just this big macho poser…which he probably was, but that’s now what makes his writing interesting… If that was all there was to be found in his writing then he wouldn’t be worth reading and would have been forgotten about long ago…) No idea how many times I’ve read them. I also keep Hemingway’s Collected Short Stories by my bed, and, again, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read some of those stories. Particularly Francis Macomber, Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Undefeated, Hills Like White Elephants, Night Before Battle and The Butterfly and the Tank. I also admire Raymond Carver a hell of a lot, particularly his later work. All of the stories in Elephant and other stories are masterpieces, for instance. There are loads of other writers I like, too, though, and I’ve read both War and Peace and Anna Karenin at least four times, I think. And reading Dostoyesky was an unforgettable experience--particularly Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov…it sort of changes the way you see everything… And then there’s Elmore Leonard… I first read his novel Pronto back in about 1994, when I was ill in bed with flu, and I whizzed through it and loved it. It was so fresh and new, a totally different kind of crime/thiller writing… Curiously, I saw an interview Leonard gave in which he said that as a young man he spent long years trying to write like Hemingway, without success, until he finally found his own voice… The thing about Leonard is that he tells a good story, but he’s funny, too…and it’s a pretty sophisticated kind of humour, I think—one that Tarantino clearly picked up on and made good use of in his films… I read somewhere that Tarantino used to steal Leonard’s books when he was a lad and too broke to be able to buy them, and you can see Leonard’s influence there, not just in films like Jackie Brown (which was of course an adaption of Leonard’s novel) but also in his other work—in Pulp Fiction, for instance… I’ve read about 25 Leonard novels to date, and reading him turned me on to crime fiction, which I’d never really be into before. There are other crime writers I’ve read since and really admire. When I first tried to read Chandler I found him hard to get into. I mean The Big Sleep never really did much for me, and I’ve tried to read The Little Sister twice and never managed to finish it. But then I discovered The Long Goodbye and was blown away. I read it five times in the same year, and each time it seemed to get better, which, of course, is the sign of a truly good book. The Postman Always Rings Twice is another great crime novel…definitely one of the very best crime novels ever written, in my opinion… Speaking of the current scene, I really like Don Winslow and Dennis Lehane, and, on the British scene, I really enjoyed Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue and Robert Wilson’s The Blind Man of Seville, and there are many others…many others I’ve read and enjoyed…and even more I’ve yet to read, of course. But I read very broadly, and love to read anything about the Second World War…you know, the Nazis and Stalin and all that… I loved Gitta Sereny’s long book on Albert Speer, for instance, where she interviews him…and once I’d read that I went and got hold of Speer’s book on The Third Reich and read that…and I loved the books that Mailer and DeLillo wrote on the Kennedy assassination, Oswald’s Tale and Libra… I also read in Spanish, and Vargas Llosa’s book about the downfall of the dictator Trujillo was brilliant… Oh, and one brilliant Spanish novel—perhaps my favourite novel written by a Spanish author—is Carmen Laforet’s Nada… I’ve read it in the original Spanish at least twice and think it’s a wonderful book, but you don’t hear people talking about it much outside of Spain… But I could go on all day talking about books I’ve enjoyed…

haha - I know, right? It's so hard to pick just one book that influences us if we are avid readers. I have the same problem. 

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Well, I like to spend time with my wife and kids. I’m very much a family man. And as you can tell from what I’ve just been saying, I love reading, of course… I mean, my ideal holiday would be to take a break from writing and read other writers’ books for a few weeks, and I like to swim and play tennis. I was a keen and pretty good cricketer when I was younger, and I have all these football channels and watch as many games as I can with my youngest son. Watching or playing sport provides the perfect anti-dote to working on a book…and of course I like a drink and good conversation. My other real passions are watching films, looking at paintings, and listening to music. I enjoy all the arts. 

I’m a very busy person, as I guess most writers are… 

Yes! With family and work and writing, I often wish I could clone myself or find that elusive 30-hour day!

What’s next for you? Anything in the works right now?
I’ve recently finished an 80,000 word crime novel, which is a first for me in that the main character is a Spanish detective who appears in every scene, and all the action is seen through his eyes. The story is set in Seville. I will be sending that one off soon. Right now I’m working on another shorter crime novel, about the same length as Switch, and similar in style…although it’s full of all kinds of surprises and very different from Switch in all sorts of ways, too. After that I’ve got another historical romance in the cupboard that I need to edit and send off. And there’s more stuff in the cupboard that needs to be edited that will take me up to next spring or beyond. But I’d like to start a new book before then, if possible, because so much editing without writing anything new would be likely to drive me nuts…

Sounds like you keep yourself plenty busy with new ideas! Good luck with your released books and all the future ones that have yet to be published!


Nick Sweet was born in Bristol, England, in 1960, and has moved about a fair bit, having lived and taught in Barcelona, Seville, Bilbao, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Cardiff, Brighton and, for a long time, in London. He is currently living in Malaga with his wife and family, where he writes and teaches. Nick was a keen cricketer in his youth, playing for Cardiff University and Downend, in the Western League.  

Nick's reviews and articles have appeared in the London Magazine, the New Humanist, the Contemporary Review and various other places. Nick also published a lot of poems in Nineties Poetry, and his book of verse, Call Me Paranoid, is also available from Amazon. 

Nick’s first novel, GEMINI GAMES (a literary novel, which was praised by D.M. Thomas, Andrew O’Hagan and D.J. Taylor) is available in paperback from Amazon; and twenty of his short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, including the Evergreen Review (issues 117&118) and Descant (issue 106).

Nick has recently published two crime thrillers that have already inspired rave reviews. These are FLOWERS AT MIDNIGHT (from Moonshine Cove Publishing) and SWITCH (from Club Lighthouse Publishing). These novels are both available in paperback, as well as in a variety of electronic formats, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. 

Nick’s historical romance, YOUNG HEARTS, will be published (also by Club Lighthouse publishing) before Christmas, and he is working on three more books—two crime thrillers and another historical romance, all of which will appear at some time over the coming months. Nick will be tweeting about his books as they are published. You can follow him at To read more about Nick and his work, visit his website at:

Do you want to connect with Nick and follow him so you don't miss any new releases or other information:
Become one of his Tweeps on Twitter!

Drop him an email:

Once again, the links for his books:

Flowers at Midnight:

Happy reading everyone! Have a great weekend!
P.S. Don't forget my new policy and read the samples before you buy! Everyone's tastes are different! 

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