Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Conversation with Mark Hill

Mark Hill is a London-based full-time writer of novels and scripts. Formerly he was a journalist and a producer at BBC Radio 2 across a range of major daytime shows and projects. He has won two Sony Gold Awards.

Mark Hill's debut the Two O’Clock Boy is the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake – the perfect fresh addiction for fans of Luther or Dexter.

Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children's Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home's manager.

Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis' favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O'Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it takes to stop the murders - but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

"An unsettling and powerful story... The plot cleverly weaves past and present – with shocking, edge-of-the-seat twists until its heart-stopping finale."
                                       - David Young, author of Stasi Child

Discover the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake - the perfect new addiction for fans of Luther. We'd like to thank Mark, for A Conversation with...and wish him huge success in the future.

Tell us of your journey as a writer

I had one of those amazing English teachers at school who saw something in me that nobody else did and encouraged me to write, which I did in a fashion – I became a journalist. I always felt that one day, one day, I’d be an author. But the months and years passed, great civilisations rose and fell, my hair turned grey and my chins multiplied, and I still hadn’t written a novel. Maybe I was just kidding myself. There was only one way to find out. So I sat down and wrote the book that became Two O’Clock Boy.

How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

My role is to entertain the reader, give ‘em all the good stuff - heartbreak and horror. Keep them all up at night, cause them to miss their stop on the bus. I want to tell the best story possible in the best way possible, and to cram the pages with unforgettable characters. It’s something to aspire to, at least. Coming to writing in my 40s, I discovered the process is something of an emotional rollercoaster, but I love every minute of it and can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s a pleasure - and a privilege.

Have you ever created a character who you dislike but find yourself empathising with?

One of the joys of writing crime is that you get to explore all kinds of murky emotions and experiences. Difficult or abhorrent people are always fun to write. But people have often commented on the ambiguity of my characters – I like finding the light and shade in even the most despicable chancers. The truth is, I love all my characters – I find getting into the head of imaginary people an incredibly cathartic process, actually. I’m particularly attracted to the ones who have reached the end of their tether. People who have crossed a line and can never step back, but who still grasp for redemption. It’s great to play with all those big emotions – love, hate, terror – and step away at the end of the day.

What has been your experience of writing about diverse characters?

One of the reasons Two O’Clock Boy is written over two time periods – in the 80s and the present day - is because I wanted to write as many different types of characters as possible: young and old, damaged and, er… more damaged. True, they’re unfortunate to exist in a crime novel and may not necessarily survive till the end of the book… but I hope they enjoy their moment in your mind’s eye. There are other characters, too, who didn’t make it through to the end of the drafting process. I like to think they’re still out there somewhere, waiting patiently in some weird literary waiting-room in a parallel universe, suitcases at their side, ready to re-emerge in someone else’s book.

If you could be transported instantly, anywhere in the world, where would you most like to spend your time writing? And why?

An author friend showed me a photo of his colourful writing shed beside an aquamarine swimming pool in some sun-soaked place. That looked nice and I ached for a few moments. But the truth is, I fear I wouldn’t get too much work done in such a paradise. The fact is, a small cell with no windows and no wifi signal is probably what I need more than anything else. The view from my attic room across my garden and the houses beyond is probably more than enough for me. I love watching the sky burn red over the rooftops at the end of the day.

What is the one book you wish you had written?

There are so many. I’d like to write a crime novel which is the perfect balance of theme, character and story. Something like Dennis Lehane’s terrific Mystic River.

What advice do you have for would be novelists/writers?

Write, write, write. Find a way of getting words on the page that works for you and when you do, trust the process. There’s a brilliant quote about writing by the US broadcaster Ira Glass, that a friend of mine kindly made into a poster for me and which now sits beside my desk. Glass talks about how it’s going to take a while for your work to become as good as your creative ambition – that’s normal, but you’ve got to do a lot of work to close that gap. You’ve got to fight for it.

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?

The follow-up to Two O’Clock Boy is currently under construction - be sure to wear your hard hat and hi-viz jacket. There will be murder and mayhem. You have been warned.

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?

That would be Willy Wonka: genius, recluse, benefactor, psychopath.

Two O'Clock Boy is published by Sphere

Follow Mark on Twitter: @markhillwriter

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