Q&A Interview with Matt Johnson author of Wicked Game
Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty-five years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1992, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. Matt is currently working on a sequel Deadly Game.
Daily Telegraph article ‘Ex-Met officer: my journey from PTSD to crime thriller writer’
Daily Telegraph article
Originally a self-published work, in 2015, the rights to Wicked Game were acquired by London based publishers Orenda Books.
Hello Matt, thanks for allowing me to interview you here – I’m really pleased for you that your book Wicked Game is now such a success. You have a very busy year ahead of you. Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming events for this year?
Sure. It’s going to be interesting, particularly as to date my only experience of author events and literary festivals has been via Youtube. My first event is on 11 March, before the formal launch of the book. I’m off to Glasgow for the AyeWrite festival where at 6pm in the Mitchell Library I’m joining Michelle Davies doing an informal interview with Craig Robertson. Next comes the formal Orenda Launch which the Waterstones flagship store at Piccadilly, London have agreed to host. That’s at 7pm on 22 March and promises to be a great evening. Some former colleagues from both the Army and Police are coming, as well as quite a few authors, readers and bloggers.
On 2nd April I’m off to Deal in Kent for the Deal Noir Event, then it’s Llandeilo book fair on 30th April, the Orenda roadshow at Waterstones on 12 May and two slots at Bristol CrimeFest on 20th and 21st May.
And on top of this I have a two-week blog tour in March, I’m hosting a one-week facebook event, also in March, and some interviews for radio stations, the dates of which have yet to be set. All very surreal, and quite exciting.
How do you feel about the endorsements and high praise for Wicked Game that you’ve had from readers and people such as Peter James and Sir Ralph Fiennes?
Lost for words. Another endorsement came in from Kevin Maurer this week as well. Kevin is the author of ‘No Easy Day’ – the hunt for Bin Laden – and is another writer that I have huge respect for. Quotes such as these guys have so generously given have been very humbling, especially as I know that they are lending their reputation to my work, so they would only do so if they really liked it.
The response from readers has been both kind and humbling. It’s one thing to have friends and family say that they like your book but when the reviews started to come in from complete strangers, people who had no agenda other than to tell me what they thought of the book, then I started to really appreciate that, perhaps, I did have an ability to write a decent story
You have a lot of book promotions and book signing events coming up but has anyone requested an autograph from you yet in a public place?
Not yet, no. I’ve no doubt that if or when that happens, I’ll be scratching around trying to find a pen!
If your books were turned into a TV drama series would you enjoy the fame?
That’s a big ‘if’, given how many books are published every week and how few of them are considered suitable for film. In truth, I’m not sure how I’d react. Nice to secure that kind of recognition but I wouldn’t relish losing my privacy and anonymity and I’d do my level best to ensure that I didn’t.
When you started writing during your treatment for PTSD, did you ever visualise that one day your books would be published?
Not at that point in time, no. At the time I was simply writing as a means to avoid the emotion that overtook me when I talked about my experiences and the causes of the disorder. But later on, once I had started to weave the notes into a novel I found that I was enjoying writing and then, of course, the ultimate ambition had to be to see if what I could produced was good enough for others to enjoy and to then be published.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time Matt?
I remember, many years ago, when I discovered ebay for the first time, I realised how many hobbies I had! For example, I keep bees, collect unusual hats, ride a Harley-Davidson and own three dogs who I love to walk in the Brecon Beacons near to my home. In between my hobbies I try and find time to write, but it’s not easy.
Which books do enjoy reading?
I read rather slowly and I’m easily distracted. As a result of which I’m quite fussy about what I read and if a book dooesn’t engage me after fifty or so pages I tend to put it to one side. I like thrillers but not exclusively. My taste is pretty eclectic, I’m a Lee Child fan, and I’ve also enjoyed Sebastian Faulks books. Recently I read Ken Follet’s ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and Lalline Paull’s ‘The Bees’. One book I loved is the Louise Beech book ‘How to be Brave’ which is a mixture of a ghost story combined with the tale of a mother coping with a young daughter with type 1 diabetes. Having a daughter myself, this book really struck a chord with me.
Do you have a space of your own in which to write?
Yes, I have my ‘spudy’. It’s a cross between a spare room and a study, so guests sometimes take over my work space and I’m forced to do a bit of tidying. The window behind my Pc looks out over the Beacons with the Sugar Loaf mountain on the horizon. Did I mention I get distracted easily?
If you could choose anywhere in the world to spend as long as you want just reading, relaxing and writing where would it be?
Oh heck, that’s a tough one. I think it would be Kenya. On a farm I know near the rift valley. It’s a heavenly place, quiet and peaceful.
Thanks Matt for your interesting replies and good luck with your writing career.
Will look forward to reading more of your books