David Leadbeater, author of the Matt Drake thriller series, talks about his work and what it’s like to hear his work in audio
David Leadbeater is an inspirational success from the world of self-publishing: in the space of little more than two years, he has brought out 14 Kindle bestsellers in series ranging between action/adventure, espionage, and the supernatural.
David took time out from his busy writing schedule to tell me more about Matt Drake and his other series of books. (Interview continues below…)
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On your blog, you tell readers that you’ve been writing since the age of 15, but that it’s taken you the better part of 30 years to find success. What motivates you to write – and what kept you going in the years before your work found such an enthusiastic readership?
My motivation come from the love of reading and writing. The early stories and novels were written purely for fun and for the joy of getting lost in a story – much the same way as why a reader picks up a book. I really love what I do and actually need no motivation. Every day I look forward to getting involved in the next part of the story I am creating. This is not to say that sometimes the going gets hard – it does, but working through the problem helps give you the experience to make the next tough part that much easier. I need no reason nor motivation to want to write my stories.
I had great fun narrating THE BONES OF ODIN, the first book in the series of Matt Drake novels which came out in audio a few weeks ago. There’s a very colorful cast of characters, including a megalomaniac fashion designer, a New York cop on forced leave, and a troop of Swedish Special Forces soldiers, all on the hunt for the greatest archaeological treasure the world has ever known – and at the center of them all, the hero Matt Drake. What would you like tell new readers to the series about him – and how did you come up with the character?
Matt Drake is an ex-SAS soldier, once a member of the “best of the best” squadron within the regiment, retired from the army when the oppression of command and the tragedies of personal life caught up with him. A born soldier, he has fought hard to accept a new civilian life but in reality has drifted from job to job until finding one that has finally struck the right chord in him. Since leaving the army he has become a loner; all the friends he has ever known as an adult are soldiers.
I came up with the character by using a process of elimination. I knew very well all the dangerous and demanding trials he would have to overcome, not just in the first book but in the rest of the planned series. I also wanted him to be a Yorkshireman like me; it’s easier to write about what you know and helps pin down the character when occasionally he reverts to the Northern slang. I also wanted him to have heart, and a great sense of friendship, as again I knew a large team would flourish around him – a team that would eventually become a family.
You must get a lot of feedback from your fans – does that help to shape the direction of a story arc across a series? Do you plot everything meticulously before you start to write, or does inspiration sometimes lead you down an unexpected route?
I make a point of asking for feedback from fans, both at the end of the book and on my website. The feedback has been excellent so far, even the negative comments. Everything works towards making the ongoing series that much better. Typos and mis-naming have been spotted and corrected quickly through emails from fans. So far, I have shaped the story arc myself but with a few extra scenes added that fans have requested. If it’s possible and works with the story, chances are I will write your scene.
I am a plotter, yes. It’s one of the ways I avoid “author’s block.” If I come up against that wall I just check to see what’s the next plot point. Always works! That said, I do wander quite regularly but only for a short while as my books need to be pretty well structured to strike the right balance between action, dialogue and characterisation.
Now that THE BONES OF ODIN has been released as an audiobook, what’s it like for you as the author to hear your work in audio? Are there elements of the story that strike you differently from the way you imagined them?
The audiobook is fantastic and something I was considering even before Amazon contacted me. I love the translation of words into audio and in particular the local accents of my characters. It did feel a little odd to me at first, not having listened to an audiobook before, but I found that if you just carry on listening you soon become as lost in the story as you would reading on your Kindle. I thought my main villain, Abel Frey, came across as a much more intense character over the audio, and that’s down to you, Nigel. Maybe you associated with the villains more than the heroes!
It was certainly a lot of fun to voice a cast of characters with such different backgrounds and accents. I love playing villains, and Frey is so deliciously twisted – it helps raise the stakes!
I’m looking forward to narrating more books in the Matt Drake series in 2015, but of course it’s not the only story line you have been developing recently. What would you like to tell readers and listeners who are ready to explore some of your other work?
The Matt Drake series will continue and I have part 9 three-quarters written for a release date of March 2nd. It’s what I call a “crossover” book as it draws together three of my main series in one huge adventure. It’s fantastic fun to write, though the logistics can be mind-boggling where three teams are involved, and a much longer story than I have written before. After that it’s straight into the next Drake and following the continuing storyline. I have also recently written a spin-off to the Drake series starring one of its most popular, feisty characters – Alicia Myles. This book has been very well received and if I hadn’t already planned for a second part I certainly would now! In addition I must also finished the Chosen trilogy (a supernatural thriller series) in 2015, so a very busy but productive year ahead.
Here’s a short extract from THE BONES OF ODIN:
Visit David Leadbeater’s website to find out more about the Matt Drake series and his other novels.