Sunday, January 29, 2012

Meet Keith Houghton, Author of Killing Hope

Keith Houghton is bonafide! Currently #10 on Amazon's Police Procedurals bestseller list, he stands to continue to do well with his Gabriel Quinn series, beginning with Killing Hope. I have read it and it lives up to thrillers and serial killer novels. It is a great read. I am pleased and humbled to bring an interview with Keith to my blog. 

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

At around age 11 or thereabouts. Memories tend to blend into one at my age! I'd always enjoyed reading. Always had a vivid imagination. I remember one of my favorite TV shows being the original Star Trek series re-run in the early 70's and being captivated as a child by not only its moralistic storylines and great characters but also by the sheer brilliance of the ‘'what if' speculation behind it. Discovering science fiction in paperback was the catalyst for me. I couldn't get enough of it. I'd pick up several new sci-fi books each week. And the more I read, the more I got to thinking ‘I can do this’, and so the creative part seemed to flow on naturally from the reading.
At first I wrote ideas and short stories out on paper. All sci-fi. Then I got my hands on an old (seemed to be made from cast iron) Remington typewriter as a hand-me-down and taught myself one-finger typing. I used to drive my English teacher mad in school, always churning out sci-fi-themed essays whenever we were given a creative assignment. In fact, I must have really annoyed her because one day she wrote in big red ink at the end of one of my stories: “Keith, you will never make it as a science fiction writer!” ... great motivating advice to a 12-year-old , so I took it as a challenge and eventually proved her wrong!
Throughout my early teens I started (with good intentions to finish) lots of ‘novels, but school and the trappings of teenage life had other ideas. One of the very first sci-fi novels I remember putting a lot of time and effort into was a humorous galactic spy caper in the vein of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series. It never got off the ground, but a revision of the main character did eventually become the central protagonist in my first completed sci-fi novel ‘Hisk’ back in 1990.
Yes, that's right, it took me about 13 years to finish my first real sci-fi novel ... but not before I wrote a fantasy novel at age 18 called ‘The Well of Magic’, followed by a collection of science fiction short stories entitled ‘Syzygy’.
So, yeah, I think the answer to your question is either 11 or 1977 ... ;)

I have recently read your book, “Killing Hope” and thought it was amazing! How did you come up with the idea for the book? Explain the emotional place we find Gabe in the book.

Here's your exclusive, Jason ... prior to its release on Amazon, ‘Killing Hope’ was called ‘The Undertaker’ and was the product of about 7 years, of writing, re-writing, editing and redrafting until I was happy with the polished result. Why so long on this first crime novel? Two reasons: Completing a 400-page book in and around work and family life is almost impossible, and being a perfectionist doesn't help matters either. Put it this way, if I didn't work and spent all day everyday writing (much to the neglect of my loved ones), I could have written ‘'Hope' in around 3 months flat, with another month spent editing. Luckily for me, the financial success of ‘'Hope' has enabled me to reduce my workload considerably so that I can now spend more time writing. So I have a deadline. I'm hoping to get the next Gabe Quinn novel out by the summer (not taking into account all the spanners that life may throw my way!). I just have to write it ... :\
Originally, ‘'Hope' began life very differently than the fast-paced thriller you see today. In fact, in her pre-release form back in 2005 when we first started discussing the idea, she was more focused on the serial killer than the police detective. Back then, she was known as ‘Miranda Falls’, following the life of a serial killer who could predict the future and was determined to do something about it.
The whole idea behind ‘'Hope' came out of a ‘'sit down' session between me and my partner, Lynn, in early Fall 2005. Since the two of us became one back in '97, I'd penned another sci-fi novel called ‘Uth’ (available on Amazon), plus several comedy stage plays and even a movie screenplay. But in those days there was a lull in the sci-fi market. ‘Uth’ had done all the rounds with agents and publishers alike and no one wanted to commit. I loved writing sci-fi but there were no openings in it for me. I had to consider something else. So Lynn and I sat down and did some brainstorming. What could I write that would break me into the book market?
Critics advise aspiring writers to write about what they know. I was used to writing science fiction. Since sci-fi is all speculative and deals with the unknown, I didn't accept that advice. I looked at what was selling at the time (chiefly crime thrillers such as James Patterson's Alex Cross series) and decided to go down that path. Here's the second exclusive ... I'd never read a crime thriller in my life. So I picked up ‘Along Came A Spider’, read it and thought ‘I can do this’.  So I did. I wrote ‘'Hope' and the rest is history. And, still, I have only ever read that one crime thriller! Shame on me!
'‘Hope's' main character, Gabriel Quinn, is in a bad place at the start of the novel. He's in mourning, shell-shocked by the loss of a loved one, and pretty much living in perpetual denial. He's always been stubborn and a bit of a maverick when it comes to procedure, but his darkling frame of mind at the outset accentuates these ‘rash characteristics to a point which seems sometimes irrational to an outsider. But Gabe has his reasons. As one of my reviewers states, Gabe is a bit of a terrier; when he gets his teeth into something he just won't let go. This isn't always good for those around him, but it's this kind of dogged determination that gets him from one day to the next , otherwise he'd have to face the demons trying to drag him back to hell.
The sequel to ‘'Hope' will be much less dark, but no less punishing on Gabe's emotions.

What challenges do you face in bringing a book to life?

Time constraints are the toughest hurdle to clear. I don't suffer from writer's block too often, so when I get chance to write I usually can. It's just getting that time. Once I'm good with an idea I can pretty much flesh it out. One of my downfalls is I don't like planning. I like to write whatever comes to mind, going wherever my imagination takes me. Sometimes this makes things more complex than they need be, which leads to a lot of rewriting and editing , so I'm trying hard to be more focused and less adlib.

You seem to have a wide range of interests as a writer.  Share a little about “Uth”

Did I mention I love science fiction? We go way back. We're tight. ‘Uth’ came about in the mid-90’s purely by the desire to write something commercial (so I could quit my day job!). I'd always loved the big sci-fi exploration novels such as Larry Niven's Ringword series, and writing this kind of sprawling space adventure was something I'd always wanted to do. So I did.

How did you come up with the plot for “Uth?”

Here's where I'm at when I embark upon a novel: I know (roughly) where the story is going to start and who I want to play the lead. I know (roughly) where I want the story to end. Then I adlib the middle.
The overall emotional theme in ‘Uth’ is taken loosely from my first sci-fi outing ‘Hisk’ ,  which deals with a Special Agent who has taken himself out of the ‘'game' after the death of a loved one (can you see a familiar theme developing here?). His former employers press-gang him back into service for one final mission, with the lure being that his loved one isn't really dead after all and that they will be reunited upon the mission's completion. I wanted to explore this emotional rollercoaster with an otherworldly  backdrop, to tell Grask's story based within the idea of exploring a fantastical alien habitat. ‘Uth’ was the result.
My sci-fi is written in a completely different style than my crime thrillers. It is much more flowery and descriptive  (as the genre allows) and less punchy.

What do you think is the key to success as an author?

“Never give up, never surrender!” ... just about sums it up. I've spent the best part of 35 years writing and have only in this last 6 months enjoyed some degree of achievement. I'm not an overnight success by any means!  I've endured dozens and dozens of rejection letters over the years. I believe failure is not about falling down, it's about staying down. Every time I get a personal knock (such as a rejection slip or a cruel review) I pick myself up, dust myself down and tell myself: ‘Keith, you’ll never be able to please everybody all of the time. Take comfort in serenity. Change what you can and accept that which you can’t. Even if you move just one person emotionally with your writing then you have achieved. You may always be poor, but at least you will have touched others.’

Which writers would you like to have as a mentor?

Alas, they are all dead or too old to give a damn! I'd love to have met some of the sci-fi grand masters such as Robert Heinlein. My hero. Maybe in the next life ... ;)

What is your current project?

I could tell you, but then I'd have to sneak in your bedroom one night and smother you with a pillow!
At present, I'm working on putting together a flow-chart storyline for the sequel to ‘Killing Hope’. It picks up Gabe's story about 6 months after the events of ‘'Hope' and not only deals with him facing his demons but also his arch enemy. My intention is to make this sequel less complex than its predecessor (after receiving concerns that too many back stories were left loose) and more about catching a killer. Of course, it will have just as many twists and turns and hopefully a killer twist to close. So stay tuned!

Do you have any advice for writers?

Stay true to yourself and never quit. I know from experience that rejection gets you down and that sometimes nothing ever seems to go right. But I believe that if you're writing is good enough and you persist that you will get recognized. It may not be now, tomorrow or even a few years down the line. But if you stay honest to yourself, only put out the very best you are capable of, then Lady Luck may smile favorably on you one day and reward you for never losing faith and never giving up.
Most of all, be positive! :)

Visit Keith Houghton's Amazon Author Page to find out about him and his work:

Keith, I thank you so much for bringing insight and a behind the scenes look at your writing and your life. Thank you so much for giving my readers a treat! Thank you for a rare opportunity!




  1. Thanks, Jason, for giving me this golden opportunity to speak so frankly about my writing and where it all began.

    You're a cool guy and a great friend!

    Take care, buddy,

    Keith :)

  2. Thank you for everything Keith! You are a great writer, a great friend and a gentleman!