Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start writing.
Hi, I’m Steven Hague, I’m 44 years old, and I live in Norwich, England with my wife Lisa, where we’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new chocolate Labrador puppy. I’ve always loved US crime fiction, and I’m also a big fan of rock ‘n’ roll – everything from early Elvis right through to the Foo Fighters.
I was always a voracious reader as a child, and my love of books soon led to an urge to write stories. When I was at school, I was the kid that would hand in twenty pages of scribbled fiction when asked to write two pages for homework. I used to write my own stuff for fun, and I dreamt of becoming an author, but as I grew older that seemed like an unobtainable goal – something that other people did – and by the time I’d got a sensible job at a large investment company I wasn’t writing much of anything. As my career progressed I found myself writing more and more copy to help the firm in its marketing efforts, until finally I was asked to be their first investment writer, where I basically translated investment manager speak (trust me, it’s another language) into something that was more understandable to the general public. At this point, I rediscovered my love of writing and I also began to build some confidence in my abilities. When the firm relocated to London I worked freelance for them for a couple of years, and in my spare time started to work on a novel. My goal at this point was first to finish it, then to see if I liked it, then to see if I could find one other person that liked it!
Tell us about your books.
I write fast paced, gritty crime novels, my first, Justice For All, introduced Zac Hunter, an uncompromising ex-cop who’s on a one-man mission to clean up the mean streets of Los Angeles. In the sequel, Blood Law, Hunter’s search for a missing child leads him into dangerous territory and he soon finds himself caught in the middle of a gang war. The Beholder is my third novel, and this time Hunter must face off against his most dangerous foe to date, a psychotic serial killer who’s out to settle an old score. First and foremost I try to entertain my readers, but I also hope to provoke a little bit of thought about a difficult subject – for The Beholder it was the horrors of people smuggling into the USA.
How did you go about getting published?
Once I’d completed my first manuscript, I started out on the traditionally published route. The first (and hardest) step in the process was getting a literary agent. I did my research, found out which agents represented crime authors, and then found out which of them were currently taking submissions. Having contacted those agents to see if I could get representation, a number of standard rejection letters dribbled in over the following months, but amongst them there were a few encouraging comments that convinced me I was on to something. Figuring that if I wrote a second book I could put to use all the lessons I’d learnt while writing the first one, I started the process again. The result was my first novel ‘Justice For All’, and this time around I had an agent within a week of sending out my first submission, and a two-book publishing deal not long after that.
For my latest book, ‘The Beholder’ I’ve gone down the self-published route. In some ways this was harder, but in others much easier. Without the support of a publishing house, the editing process falls on the author, and I would recommend employing a freelance editor to help at this stage, as a fresh pair of eyes pays dividends. Once the editing process was finished and the manuscript was complete, I decided to publish exclusively on Kindle in the first instance. In order to turn my word document into a Kindle file, I used Scrivener (which can also create ePUB and PDF files), a very useful program that gives you 30 days of free use. For the cover, I was very fortunate to have help from a friend that’s a graphic designer. The actual process of getting the book published on Kindle was relatively straightforward, but then the hard work really started – learning how to self-promote and market the book!
What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?
I’m a planner rather than a push straight ahead type of writer, so I do my research and work out my plot structure before I start a novel (I use a pin board to break down my story into scenes). This gives me a roadmap to follow as I write – sure, the plan changes along the way, scenes are added, amended, or removed, and their order change many times, but I’ve always got a rough idea of where I’m going.
As a rule, I write Monday to Friday (my wife banned me from weekend work!) in my upstairs study. I’m more of a morning person, so I like to start around 8.30 – 9am. I aim to write at least a thousand words a day – some days I scrape the bare minimum, others it’s closer to fifteen hundred – and once I’m happy with my output I stop and get on with the numerous household chores or DIY projects that await me.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?
I’m a full-time writer, as well as a full-time house husband, and I always have plenty to keep me busy. I used to have my faithful old chocolate Labrador, Murphy, to keep me company, but sadly he passed away just before Christmas, hence we’re waiting for a new pup to fil the void. Once the pup arrives, I’ll put on my dog-trainer hat and get geared up for some bracing walks in the surrounding woodland.
As for hobbies, as I mentioned earlier I’m a big rock music fan, and my wife and I go to lots of gigs and music festivals throughout the year. I also love football (both kinds) and I’m a lifelong fan of both Norwich City FC (UK) and the Washington Redskins (USA).
Any advice for authors about book covers?
I got lucky as one of my best friends is a graphic designer and he did a fantastic job with the cover for ‘The Beholder’. Without him, I’d have been forced to hire someone, as I certainly wouldn’t recommend going DIY with a book cover. I think that covers should be arresting and ideally a little bit different from the norm – your first idea might not be your best. I thought about all the key characters, locations, themes, and visually striking objects in my novel then came up with a cover brief from there, then my friend worked his magic.
Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?
I’m a novice at self-promotion so I’m currently in the process of trying to ascertain what works and what doesn’t. In general terms I’m focussing on building up as much on-line presence as possible, while getting to grips with how best to use Amazon’s platform. The most important factors with Amazon seem to be selecting the right genre in which to place your book, and choosing the right keywords to attach to it. As I’m publishing exclusively on there, I get five promo days every ninety. My first promo went well, as ‘The Beholder’ was downloaded over 500 times which enabled it to get to number two in the free to download hard-boiled crime chart. Had I just classified it as a general crime novel, it’s safe to say the ranking wouldn’t have been as high. Following the promo period I was able to attract some positive reviews, which are obviously vital for the long term health of any book.
What’s your favorite book?
When I was growing up it was The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, but now I’d struggle to pick between L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy or The Cartel by Don Winslow.
What are you reading now?
Grifter’s Game by Lawrence Block.
What’s your next book project?
I’m currently in the process of getting ‘The Beholder’ ready for paperback release using CreateSpace. After that, I’m going to revisit my first unpublished manuscript as I think with a little work I might be able to use it as a spin-off novel for one of the secondary characters in the Zac Hunter series.