– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘The Sky Turned Black’ blogtour, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
John Steele was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1995, at the age of twenty-two he travelled to the United States and has since lived and worked on three continents, including a thirteen-year spell in Japan. Among past jobs he has been a drummer in a rock band, an illustrator, a truck driver and a teacher of English. He now lives in England with his wife and daughter. He began writing short stories, selling them to North American magazines and fiction digests. He has published four previous novels: Ravenhill, Seven Skins, Dry River and Rat Island, the first of which was longlisted for a CWA Debut Dagger award. John’s books have been described as ‘remarkable’ by the Sunday Times, ‘dark and thrilling’ by Claire McGowan, and ‘spectacular’ by Tony Parsons. The Irish Independent called John ‘a writer of huge promise’ and Gary Donnelly appointed him ‘the undisputed champion of the modern metropolitan thriller’.
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HIS BIGGEST CASE YET. BUT IT COULD BE HIS LAST…
NYPD officer Callum Burke is on a routine drugs raid when he bursts in on a scene of monstrous horror – and two killers about to get away.
The men are caught but they won’t talk. All the cops learn is that they’re Russian and extremely dangerous which means this could be the start of a savage new gang war.
Callum Burke is assigned to the investigation. It’s Manhattan in 1997 and the city is being cleaned up. The pressure is on.
But when Callum discovers there might be more to the Russian involvement than just criminal gangs, he finds himself in deeper trouble than he’s ever known…
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the bad old days of the ‘Troubles’. My mother was – and still is, in her late eighties now – a voracious reader. I always got a couple of chapters of Charlotte’s Web or James and the Giant Peach before bed when a child. My father could spin a story, and they both influenced me greatly. My last novel, Rat Island, and my latest, The Sky Turned Black, are NYC-set crime stories heavily influenced by my time living in the city.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I loved Charlotte’s Web and Roald Dahl. Also comics: Batman, and the British horror comic, Scream. I now enjoy Harry Crews’s work and, as much of his stuff is out of print, have picked up copies of his novels here and there. His first, The Gospel Singer, is getting a new Penguin edition this year so I can’t wait for that.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Harry Crews was willing to put everything on the page, and I’d love to chat with him about the integrity of his work. Richard Price is superb at portraying urban life on the darker side. I’m a big fan of the comic book writer Garth Ennis: he hails from the same part of the world as me and I’d love a session in the pub with him. I’d also like to read the novels of film director S. Craig Zahler – I love his movies and would be interested in reading some of his work.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I think Mattie Ross, in Charles Portis’s True Grit, has got to be one of the greatest literary heroines of all time and I look forward to the day my own daughter reads the book. She’s just a fantastic, flawed character – judgemental, cranky, self-righteous; but dogged, stoic in the face of great danger, and burning with an inner passion to see justice done. I can relate to some of her background, too.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I have to write when and wherever I can as I work full-time and want to be around for my family as much as possible. I can’t afford to have rituals, or even warm-up time, really. I look forward to the day when I can, though!
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
Back to Harry Crews again. He wrote an essay titled Climbing the Tower, in which he confessed how he believed we all have the capacity to do terrible things and each day can be a struggle to control these dark urges. I wouldn’t go that far in terms of myself, but I do think crime writers tap into the darker side of their psyche. You have to be careful, though. I bought a book for research, Practical Homicide Investigation by Vernon J. Geberth. Geberth is a former NYPD homicide detective and the book is used as a text on police training courses. But it’s illustrated with real crime scene photographs, which I foolishly didn’t realise when I ordered it. There are images in that book I can never unsee.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I was a devout pantser until now, but I am currently writing a third Callum Burke novel, The Devil Gave Them Voices, and I tried to loosely plot out the majority of the book before starting to really write. I thought it would make it easier to write with the pressures of work, family etc., but I have ended up ditching much of what I plotted and flying off in a different direction anyway.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
I’d say I’m still a novice writer myself! Start with short stories. When you do start a novel, you have to be tenacious – stubborn, really – to complete the work. Make sure you’re writing something you believe in and can live with for months or years.
What are your future plans as an author?
I had a ball writing Rat Island (2021) and The Sky Turned Black which is out now, so I want to finish the book I’m currently writing, The Devil Gave Them Voices, set in the same milieu. After that, who knows?
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
This is a moment in my new novel, The Sky Turned Black, when protagonist Callum Burke has chased a violent drug dealer into an alleyway in Brooklyn. He’s waiting for another narcotics cop, Lee, to join him and is puzzled at the dealer having disappeared.
“The alley was lined with the rear of various stores. There were a couple of shutters, lots of locked doors. A bank of trash cans. What looked like a couple of hiding holes where some buildings were shorter than others. He pulled the Glock.
There was the radio. He could call for help. Lee must finish his lap of the block in a minute, see the alley and follow Callum in.
He took a step, his breath still harsh.
Another step, another breath.
Then he couldn’t breathe at all and 6’4 of criminal terror and rage was barreling into him, driving him against a steel door. It felt like his ribs were making to crush his lungs. His head reeled. His limbs lost it for a second. The Glock hit the ground.”
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, John Steele.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!