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Writer Wednesday: Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson is an ex-soldier and cop from the UK. He is the author of the 2016 John Creasey CWA Dagger listed novel Wicked Game which was listed by Amazon UK as the highest-rated rising star novel of 2016 and topped the best seller lists for both the Kindle and Kobo e-readers. Originally a self-published work, in 2015, the rights to Wicked Game were acquired by London based publishers Orenda Books.

Matt served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty-five years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1992, 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. Whilst 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. He has used his detailed knowledge and memory to create what has been described by many readers as a fast paced, exciting and authentic tale of modern day policing. Matt Johnson is living proof that PTSD is a condition that can be controlled and overcome with the right help and support. He has been described by many fans as an inspiration to fellow sufferers.

A keen biker, Matt rides a '99 Harley Davidson Fatboy and is patron to the UK based 'Armed Forces Bikers' charity. He is also patron to a newly-formed charity, 'Shoeboxes for our Heroes'. In his spare time Matt keeps honey bees and produces his own honey. He scuba dives, collects unusual hats and enjoys hill-walking with his three dogs at his home in Wales near the Brecon Beacons.

1. Why did you want to become a writer?
I describe myself as an accidental writer in that I came into this new world quite by chance. I started writing as part of a programme of treatment for PTSD and only discovered an ability when my counsellor commented on how much she enjoyed reading the material I had produced. Once I had made the decision to write, I was then on a mission. I wanted to use fiction to attempt to explain to people exactly how PTSD affects people, their families and friends. I realised that a non-fiction book would end up gathering dust on a shelf but fiction has the power to inform through entertainment. The incredible way my debut novel Wicked Game has been received has, to my mind, endorsed that decision.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you?

The editing re-write. Going back to the story, changing and developing. That said, the hard work is always worthwhile and editors are very professional and don't suggest changes without justification. And, I have to admit, the results are worth the effort.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing?
I love writing, but I particularly enjoy having written. After that, getting out and meeting readers is very rewarding. There's no better motivation to facing having to shut yourself away again and get going with the next one.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
Well, that's a tough one. I don't read a large number of books and I tend to prefer non-fiction. That said, there are some that have had a lasting effect on me. I loved Seb Faulks - Birdsong, but if there were one book I would always remember it would be Paulo Coelho - The Alchemist, just brilliant.

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
My main protagonist, Robert Finlay, is a former army officer, now in the Met Police. His sidekick, Kevin Jones is a rough diamond, a tough Welshman who, I suspect, is going to find himself in deep trouble sooner or later. I like Kevin, and so do readers, so I think that whatever calamity he faces, he will need to overcome it.

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do?

I don't really have a favourite fictional character but one thing I might like to do is to take Jack Reacher out onto the Welsh hills and show him that there is more to life than getting into life-threatening scrapes!

7. What can we expect next from you?
The sequel to my debut will be published by Orenda Books in e-book format at the end of January 2017 and will hit the bookshop shelves in March. It's called Deadly Game and is about slave trafficking and the sex trade.

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out?
To someone starting out I would say 'do your research'. Not just with regards to your writing, but on the ways to securing that elusive publishing deal. There are many more routes to achieving success nowadays than there were a few years ago,

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you.
First things first, a brew. I always start my day with tea. Then, out onto the hills with the dogs. I have three and we tend to walk a lot. I take a dictafone with me to record ideas and thoughts and, if I'm stuck then I always walk to clear my thoughts. It's amazing what comes to you when you relax. I start at my desk at about 10am, do emails, social-media etc and then try to write about 1000 words per working day. I don't work at weekends but, if I have things to do in the day - yes, including the washing - I may write into the evening. Some days I do no work at all, others I have been known to write 5000 words and work late into the night following an exciting thread. I like the variety but have come to realise that this is no life if you lack self-discipline.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I recently went to a funeral of a mate who had written a book about his time in the army. His name is Pete Scholey and the book is called The Joker. I'd never read Pete's book and, at the moment, I'm putting that omission right. It's a damn good read, I wish I'd had the chance to tell him that before it was too late.
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Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered, Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all...

Picking up where the bestselling Wicked Game left off, Deadly Game sees Matt Johnson’s damaged hero fighting on two fronts. Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy... and a shocking fate. 

Follow Matt on Twitter | Buy Deadly Game on Amazon |
Like him on Facebook | Visit his website

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