Mark Billingham

Why do you write? 

Put simply, because it’s my job. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t write if it wasn’t, but the fact that someone is happy to pay me for writing stories is what gets my backside into that chair in front of my computer every day. If you’re going to write for a living and publish a new book each year, you need a good deal of discipline, so you need to treat it like a job and be professional about it. Of course, I’m not denying that it’s the best job in the world…

Is writing your first love or do you have another passion?

I’m passionate about all sorts of things. Music, movies, football…nice cheese.

What was the first book that made you cry? 

I probably shed a tear or two over all sorts of books when I was far younger, but the last book I remember making me cry was The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly, which I finished, in tears, on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic. I think the other passengers just thought I was VERY scared of flying.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Definitely starting a book. Finishing one is the best feeling in the world, but it doesn’t take long before that voice inside your head starts nagging you about the next one, and, when you sit down to start, it’s as though you’ve never written anything before. It takes a good hundred pages before you realise that you can probably do it again.

Name a fictional character you consider a friend. 

Well, if Tom Thorne – who I’ve now been writing about for almost 20 years – wasn’t a friend, I’ve probably been doing something wrong. As we share many of the same interests, I certainly don’t think we’d run out of things to talk about in the pub.

Did getting published change your perception of writing?

You write that first book for yourself. Obviously you hope someone will want to publish it, but it’s a very different process than sitting down to write something you’re contracted to write. Crucially, once you’re being published, the books become a joint enterprise. You work with all sorts of other people, of whom the editor is obviously the most important, to make the book as good as it can be.

Who inspires you and why?

Obviously, I was inspired by the great crime writers of the past, from Conan-Doyle to Raymond Chandler, but There are SO many great writers working in the crime and thriller genre right now and I’m inspired by all of them. Any time you read something fantastic you should strive to make your next book better. I’m inspired by all those writers who are raising the bar.

Which book deserves more readers? 

There is so much luck involved in publishing, and I know that because I’ve had more than my fair share of the good sort. There are many fantastic writers who deserve a wider readership. Just off the top of my head…Doug Johnstone, Helen Fitzgerald, Steve Mosby, Stuart Neville, Daniel Woodrell, Megan Abbott. I envy anyone reading a novel by any of those writers for the first time. 

Do you have any friends that are writers? If so, do you show each other early drafts?

Many of my closest friends are writers (notably the five with whom I share a stage, when we perform as the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers), but no, we don’t show each other early stuff. We’re much more likely to be talking about football or music than about work. In fact, I don’t show early drafts to anyone and by the time anyone sees anything (usually my wife) it’s pretty close to being finished.

Who or what are you most excited to see at Newark Book Festival in July?

I’m hoping I get a chance to see the Brian Clough event…

Mark Billingham events