Thursday, May 23, 2013

Stephen Leather, Nightshade

AUTHOR:  Stephen Leather

BOOK TITLE:  Nightshade

PUBLISHER: Hodder and Stoughton

Tell me a little about your book. 

It’s the fourth in the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series. Nightingale is a former Metropolitan Police detective who now works for himself as a private eye, specialising in cases involving the occult.  Jack has two cases to deal with in Nightshade.  In one he is investigating a spree killing where a farmer guns down a group of schoolchildren. In the other, a child is abducted and killed – but then comes back to life. 

What gave you the idea for this particular story?

There was a farmer who killed a group of schoolchildren in Scotland in 1996, and the case was never really fully explained. I always wanted to so a story based on a similar spree killing, and then I had the idea for an occult link, and I knew I had a thrilling story.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I’ve been a full-time writer of fiction for more than twenty years, and I was a journalist for ten years before that.  I try to write every day and generally manage it. On a good day, I write 2,000 words; on a very good day, I write 3,000. On a bad day, I don’t write anything. Generally I have five good days a week, one very good day, and one bad day.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Since I was a teenager. I tried to write at university but wasn’t able to write anything of any worth until after I had been trained as a journalist. I worked for some of the best newspapers in the world including the Glasgow Herald, the Daily Mail, The Times in London and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, and it was while I was working as a journalist I honed my writing skills. I wrote my first book, Pay Off, while I was working on the Daily Mirror and my break-out book, The Chinaman, while I was working on The Times.

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?

I want them to be entertained. I want them to enjoy themselves while they are reading my book, and when they put it down I want them clamoring for the next.  Which I have yet to write, of course!
Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?

I specialize in thrillers.  My Dan “Spider” Shepherd series – now up to number ten – is about a former special forces soldier who becomes an undercover cop and then an MI5 agent. But my latest book – Nightshade – is an occult thriller. I have also written a vampire book (Once Bitten) and a science fiction novel (Dreamer’s Cat) and am working on a cowboy story. I also have self-published a series of semi-erotic short stories as eBooks and a series of locked room mysteries featuring Singaporean detective Inspector Zhang. I guess I prefer thrillers as they are the books I enjoy reading.

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?

Typing. It hurts. I have just finished writing 120,000 words in sixty days, and I am now seeing a physiotherapist as my right arm and shoulder is in agonising pain. Five years ago I was crippled with severe pains in my left arm.  It is true that writers suffer for their art. My arm is throbbing as I type this.

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.

The premise of a farmer shooting schoolchildren is based on a real life massacre in Scotland in 1996 when 43-year-old Thomas Hamilton went into a primary school in Dunblane and killed sixteen children and one adult before committing suicide. The massacre led directly to a complete ban on handgun ownership in the UK.  I have heard various stories over the years as to what was behind the shootings, and I used one of the theories as the basis for the massacre plot line in Nightshade.

How much is your protagonist like you? How different?

Very like me, although younger and better looking!  Nightingale is a smoker, and I never have been, but whenever I write about him, I always feel like a cigarette. He does tend to speak with my voice and have my sense of humour, though he isn’t especially smart. He does drink Corona bee (from Mexico) which I am a big fan of!

What kind of research did you do for this type of story?

Not much, actually.  When I write one of my Spider Shepherd thrillers, there is usually a huge amount of research to be done, but with the Jack Nightingale books it’s much more a matter of using my imagination!

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?

I find writing violence fairly easy and am fairly graphic.  But I’m never at ease writing sex scenes and tend to shy away from them. Generally I describe a scene up to the point that sex starts, and then I back away. I’m not sure why that is.  Partly, I suppose, because I personally don’t enjoy reading sex scenes in thrillers.

What about your book makes it special?

The mix of police procedural and the supernatural is an unusual mix. There aren’t many novels that mix the two.

What is your marketing plan?

For Nightshade I have no marketing plan.  It is being published by Hodder and Stoughton, and the marketing is down to them.  I will of course plug it on my blog, my website, my Facebook page and on Twitter. And here, of course!

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

I have a website at and another at  Jack Nightingale has his own website at It’s in the form of a spooky house. If you can find the safe, there is free stuff in it, and there’s a zombie in the attic.
Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?

I think that no matter what your genre, the key to success is to write every day. And to read as much as you can. Learn from successful writers and adopt their methods and techniques.  When you start off, your writing won’t be good. It is a craft that has to be learned. But the more you do it, the better you will get.  I think that you need to write for something like ten thousand hours before you have the necessary skills to write a bestseller. That’s a lot of hours so the sooner you start, the better!

What’s in the future for you?

More books. More pain.  And hopefully more readers!  I have just finished the tenth book in my undercover cop Dan “Spider” Shepherd series (True Colours) and am about to start the fifth Jack Nightingale book. It will probably be called Lastnight.  I also have a few eBook short stories planned.


In Jack Nightingale's world - where reality and the occult collide - sometimes the only way to fight evil is with evil. A farmer walks into a school and shoots eight children dead before turning the gun on himself. It's a harrowing but straightforward case - until police search the man's farm and unearth evidence of dark Satanic practices. When the perpetrator's brother approaches Nightingale, adamant that his brother was set up, it's clear that something even more sinister lurks at the heart of the case. And there are dark forces elsewhere. A young girl miraculously returns to life, claiming she's spoken to those from beyond the grave. Those in contact with her are dying hideous deaths . . . forcing Jack Nightingale to make the hardest decision he's ever faced.


  1. Replies
    1. It varies and you should probably do a search for self publishing. There are a lot of writing specific web sites that will be able to help you. Personally, I've never self-published, although I know quite a few who have, many of them have been interviewed on this blog. Good luck.

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