Today’s interview is with author Keith Houghton who lives in a small town in north west England. He shares a home with his long-term partner Lynn, and a psycho Cairn Terrier called Jake. Their kids are all grown up and flown the nest, but the grandkids come home to roost regularly. He is a bit of a computer geek (he runs an online game community for the Battlefield Series) and Keith loves spending time with his family and eating good food (preferably both at the same time).
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Keith Houghton: From the age of 11, I remember writing lots of science fiction short stories whenever we had a story assignment in English class at school. I used to really infuriate my English Teacher (who didn’t like science fiction or me for that matter!) – so much so that one day she was so fed up with my churning out these far-flung escapades that she kindly wrote in red ink at the end of one of my stories: ‘Please write something else. You will never make it as a science fiction writer’. Not the pearls of wisdom a 13-year-old wants to hear, but enough to make me determined to prove her wrong – which I did once I put my science fiction novel ‘Uth’ onto Amazon at the end of 2011. So far it has been downloaded around 2000 times. Nothing major, but enough to validate.
Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?
Keith Houghton: I am inspired by the world around me. I know it sounds clichéd, but I really do live in awe at the wonders of this planet. I’m also a people-watcher – which helps me pick up idiosyncrasies for new characters.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your book “Killing Hope”.
Keith Houghton: ‘Killing Hope’ is my debut crime thriller. It follows a worn-down LAPD detective as he investigates a series of seemingly unconnected homicides, learning as much about himself in the process as he does about the killer. So far, ‘Hope’ has been downloaded to over 48,000 Kindles worldwide and has attracted some very pleasing feedback.
Books & Writing: What inspired you to write the book?
Keith Houghton: By pure chance, I picked up a copy of ‘Along Came A Spider’ by James Patterson. I normally read science fiction, so it was a bit of a detour for me. But I stuck with it, read it, then thought to myself ‘I can do something like this’, so I did. I sat down one evening with Lynn and together we hatched out the basic outline for ‘Hope’. In those days it was called ‘The Undertaker’ and was a completely different piece of work than it ended up being.
Books & Writing: What attracts you in thrillers?
Keith Houghton: I love storyline twists and turns. Thrillers allow you to build suspense, keep your reader guessing, introduce lots of colourful characters, and take your reader on a psychological journey.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your earlier work?
Keith Houghton: As I mentioned, I’m a sci-fi nerd at heart. I have written several science fiction novels over the years, but at the moment only ‘Uth’ is available to the public via Amazon. I’ve also written comedy stage plays, TV spec scripts and even a movie script – some of which are also downloadable to the Kindle.
Books & Writing: Are you working on something new at the moment?
Keith Houghton: The sequel to my Kindle Bestselling thriller ‘Killing Hope’. The new novel follows on in the aftermath of the first book’s shell-shocking events, and sees our dogged detective hero facing his arch enemy as well as a few personal demons.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Keith Houghton: Befriend other authors writing similar stuff. Network with them. Build relationships. They will help spread the word about your work. Most of all, keep plugging away even through a hundred rejections. If your writing is good enough you’ll get there in the end.
Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?
Keith Houghton: Mainly the old Grand Masters of Science Fiction such as Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Harry Harrison, Arthur C Clarke and Ben Bova.
Books & Writing: What is the last book you read?
Keith Houghton: I think it was ‘Tell No One’ by Harlan Coben. It was a long time ago. Maybe two years. Book promoting and writing keeps me away from reading!
Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?
Keith Houghton: You can see all of my Kindle Books on Amazon.
On the US site at http://www.amazon.com/Keith-Houghton/e/B005UMEUJA/
On the UK site at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Keith-Houghton/e/B005UMEUJA/
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?
Keith Houghton: I have a dedicated web site at http://keithhoughton.com which I encourage readers to subscribe to so that they can keep updated on my releases.
I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KeithHoughtonAuthor
And Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/KeithHoughton
Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Keith Houghton: My favourite movie is ‘Same Time, Next Year’ starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn.
Below is an excerpt from his book Killing Hope!
Rochelle Lewis lives twenty miles south-east of Las Vegas. On an edge-of-town circular in a newish housing development in Boulder City. I’d never been to Rochelle’s place. Never quite gotten around to it. I didn’t even know if she’d be home. Or even if she still lived there. Listings had no telephone number registered to the property.
I commandeered a cab heading south. Watched the eye-watering Strip sail past. With its Christmas tree hotels and its flashing neon billboards blazing away the night.
Up until ten months ago, Rochelle Lewis had lived in LA. She’d lived there all her forty-five years. No reason to change that. An elementary school teacher with a good pension to look forward to. Not much in the way of family. But enough to keep her rooted. Then something had happened to make her up sticks and seek solitude in another State. I had no idea if she was still teaching. Or if she was still alive. Last time I’d spoken with Rochelle she’d tried to claw out my eyes.
We passed McCarran airport. Took the cloverleaf interchange onto Interstate 215. Headed east through the darkened desert towards Henderson at a breezy fifty-five.
Two years ago, Rochelle Lewis had made three mistakes. The first mistake was she’d met a man one night. It had been an ordinary meeting in an ordinary bar. A chance encounter. Just a few drinks. A few expertly-aimed compliments. The second mistake was she’d moved him in the very next day. He’d led her to believe he was a traveling salesman. Working for a company supplying piano accessories to outlets along the West Coast. He’d even had a van full of piano parts and pedals to prove it. He’d used Rochelle’s place as somewhere to crash for a few weeks whenever he was in LA. Used Rochelle in more ways than that. The third mistake had ruined her life.
Rochelle had known her part-time boyfriend as Travis Kimball.
But I knew him by another name.
The cab rubbed against the curb and came to a quiet stop five or six houses down the street from Rochelle’s place. I gave the driver a fifty and asked him to stay put. Walked the rest of the way on my toes. If Rochelle was home I didn’t want her spooked and out the back door before I’d rung the bell.
It was a clear, crisp night in Nevada. The kind that causes Californian coats to let the cold in. I ignored it. Walked beneath a vast black velvet heaven sprinkled with diamonds. The breath smoking from my lips. I could hear the wound on my scalp complaining with each step. I ignored that too. Kept my gaze locked on Rochelle’s place as I moved in and out of shadows. The house looked exactly like its neighbors: single-floor, side awnings, shingle and shrubbery out front. Nothing special. Good place to stay hidden, I thought.
There was a pick-up parked underneath the sunshade, I saw. Down the side of the house. A dark-painted Ford with Alabama plates. In good condition. But not even last year’s model.
I stopped at the threshold. Suddenly wary about speaking with Rochelle again, face to face. Our last get-together hadn’t gone down well. I looked up and down the quiet street. Took a deep breath. Then ventured through the open gates.
There were lights on inside the house. The muffled sounds of a TV coming from within. Sounded like somebody was watching a sports game. I peered through the glass in the front door. Looking for signs of Rochelle. Nothing. Just coats on hooks and scatterings of shoes. I grabbed a peek through the large front window. Saw a small untidy living room with blue upholstery and green carpeting. Magazine skyscrapers. Hillsides of clothes. There was a TV set in one corner. Showing a rerun of Wednesday’s game between the Cowboys and the Colts. Nobody watching. An opened bottle of Coors standing look-out on the arm of a chair.
The side gate wasn’t locked. I popped the latch and snuck through. It creaked but no one noticed.
The back yard was dark; I went slowly, letting eyes adjust. The area was mostly rough-cut gravel and Yuccas – worn-down bristles on a balding brush. There was a large plastic hopper pushed up against the rear wall, probably for housing outdoor stuff. I could taste gasoline. An old rotary clothes dryer was stooped in one corner, looking like a broken satellite antenna. An uncoiled hose snaking across the yard. Random pots of paint and a pair of workman’s boots near the back door.
I realized I was holding my breath. Slowly let it out.
What was I expecting from Rochelle? She hadn’t been co-operative the first time round. In fact, she’d gone out of her way to be obstructive and dumb. Was I hoping she’d mellowed during the last twelve months – that she’d help fill in the gaping holes in a case I wasn’t supposed to be working? Why should she? I’d helped ruin her life. Sent the man she loved into hiding.