Do you remember the first book you read?

I think it was ‘The Terrier’s Football Club’ by Karl Bruckner. It was published way back in 1961 but I found a copy in my Primary School library when I was very young and it is the first book I can recall reading that was mostly words as opposed to pictures. I also have a very early memory of my dad reading Treasure Island to me and I was a bit terrified of Blind Pugh.

Where is your ideal place to read, and do you have a favourite time of day for reading?

I read when I can and snatch moments here and there so there’s no set time. I have a comfy armchair in my front room and the sun really catches the light in the conservatory too so it’s nice to sit there but you can’t beat escaping to a good pub for half an hour or so with a book and a pint. I did that yesterday in fact while my wife and daughter were busy shopping for clothes. Bliss.

Which authors have inspired or influenced you?

Oddly enough my main inspirations were not crime writers. Stan Barstow was a big influence and I have read all of his novels. He was the one who first made me realise you could set books in northern towns and not just glamorous places like London or New York. I thought ‘A Kind of Loving’ was a great book. I’m a fan of John Wyndham’s very English brand of sci fi. ‘The Chrysalids’ is a favourite even though it is far lesser known than ‘The Day of The Triffids’ or ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’. They are all tremendously imaginative, which is inspiring. I grew up reading Len Deighton and John Le Carre because their books were always on my dad’s bookshelves and I took to their suspenseful stories, full of betrayal and duplicity. I was probably influenced by the way they tell their stories even though my writing style is nothing like either of them.

If you could choose any book from any place or time which one would you most liked to have written?

‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ is my desert island book. I absolutely love it. John le Carre writes beautifully and this is perhaps his finest novel. A tale of betrayal with an intricate plot containing a perfect whodunnit that is filled with suspense right up to the end. Le Carre draws on his own early life to describe a world hidden to most of us in such authentic detail you feel like you are being led through it by a real insider.

What led you to write your first book?

I’d been writing for years for fanzines, newspapers, magazines and trying my hand at writing scripts but one day I had the idea for ‘The Drop’; a story about a white-collar gangster from Newcastle who must retrieve some missing money or be killed, and it seemed a natural story for me to write. I knew the locations, thought I had a good idea for a plot and the characters just came to me. It was published in 2011 and The Times voted it one of the top five thrillers of the year, which was incredibly thrilling and still feels a bit unreal even now, years later but I promise I did not imagine it.

Pen, pencil, typewriter or computer keyboard?

When I first started writing it was pen and paper then I’d type it up on an old manual typewriter because that was all there was back in the 80s. I then became a journalist and there was no time for that, so I had to learn to type stories straight onto a PC. Now it’s a lightweight lap top, which is very portable, so I can take it anywhere but I mostly write at home.

Do you have a routine you follow when writing?

It’s not always the same but I try to ease into the day by having breakfast and reading the newspaper once my daughter has gone off to school. There is usually a bit of internet related procrastination reading the latest appalling behaviour from Donald Trump and how Mike Ashley refuses to spend any money because Newcastle United are somehow broke yet again. If those two were in a room together and I had a gun with one bullet it would be a tough choice. I’d probably have to beat the other one to death. Finally, I buckle down to a mid-morning writing session and try to get at least a thousand words done before lunch. How many of those will end up in the finished book remains to be seen but it’s important just to get some momentum going or the blooming book will never be finished. Routine goes out of the window towards the end with a deadline looming then its just write-edit-write-edit and repeat until the pesky thing is done.

Was there a break-through moment for you, or a key person who helped you?

My first breakthrough was getting my debut novel ‘The Drop’ published by Ion Mills at No Exit then I had another big break when my fourth novel was picked up by Penguin and I am now writing a series for them (The Chosen Ones is the latest). My literary agent, Phil Patterson, has been the key person for me throughout my writing career. His support and advice have been priceless but I have also been lucky to work with three really intelligent, supportive and lovely editors; Keshini Naidoo, Emad Akhtar and Joel Richardson who have all been massively supportive and a pleasure to work with.

What piece of advice could you give a new writer trying to get published?

Make sure your book is the best it can possibly be before you send it to someone then develop the patience of a saint and the skin of a rhino. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you the odds against getting published are ridiculous. They are but someone has to get there and it might as well be you. Be honest with yourself too though. Have a realistic view on how good you are but know you will improve with every book you right. It might not be that first novel that gets you there, in fact it very rarely is. Every author I know has had a lot of rejections over the years but they got published in the end because they got better then stuck at it and never gave up.


You can find out more about this wonderful author here:

Web: www.howardlinskey.co.uk
Twitter: @howardlinskey

His latest book ‘The Chosen Ones’ is published by Penguin.

(photograph of Howard taken by Donna Lisa Healy)