1) So, who are you & what have you written?
My name is Matt Johnson. I describe myself as an accidental author, and a very lucky one. I served in the Army and Metropolitan Police office for nearly 25 years.
My debut novel Wicked Game – a crime thriller – was published by Orenda Books in March 2016.
I didn’t train as a writer and or come though a traditional route. My journey from the military, through policing to eventual publication might be described as somewhat unusual.
In 1999, I was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whilst undergoing treatment, I was encouraged by my counsellor to write about my career and experience of murders, shootings and terrorism.
I was eventually persuaded to give this a go, and one evening, I sat at my computer and started to weave my notes into a work of fiction – Wicked Game was the result.
Since then Wicked Game has been listed for the Crime Writers Association John Creasey Dagger award, has topped the Amazon and WH Smith KOBO charts in several categories and at the end of 2016 was listed by Amazon UK as the highest-rated ‘rising star’ novel of 2016.
2) Why do you write crime fiction?
I was motivated to start writing fiction out of a sense of both duty and failure. During the 1980s, I was involved in the post Broadwater Farm riot enquiry. I was tasked with taking statements from officers involved. At that time, the profession did not recognise the effect that exposure to the trauma of the riot and the death of Pc Blakelock had on those officers and when many ended up leaving the service I didn’t recognise their PTSD until I too suffered from it. I knew I couldn’t turn the clock back but I undertook to write in a way that informed people about the condition and how it affects individuals and their families. I chose crime fiction as it is based on a world that I know intimately.
3) What informs your crime writing?
As I described above, I spent many years as a police officer in a variety of roles. That gives be background and helps me to be authentic but I still harness ideas from real-life events and I talk to former and serving cops to help me generate ideas.
4) What’s your usual writing routine?
I wish I had one! Having come to writing quite late in life, I have yet to think of it as my occupation. At the moment, it is a hobby that I fit into my day as and when I can. It was only after the success of Wicked Game that I started to think of myself as an author and then start to consider how or whether I should develop this hobby in a more professional way. That is happening, slowly, as I learn and as the editing team at Orenda help me develop.
5) Which crime book do you wish YOU’D written, and why?
Now that’s a tough one. I prefer to read non-fiction and probably only read about seven or eight fiction books a year. To answer this question, I’ve had to scan through my bookshelves and look for a title that called out to me. I came up with Harry’s Game, the Belfast-based thriller by Gerald Seymour, which changed the genre for the better and still sells well, over forty years later.