English-born suspense novelist found time for writing in Estonia

Siiri Liiva
, reporter
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Estonia-based English writer dreams of the day when one of his books becomes a movie – as this is how the ideas for books are born in his head.

Tim Heath (35) has lived past three years in Estonia and plans for a longer stay. A week ago, the author presented his second novel at Kamahouse in Tallinn.

We meet a day after the presentation at Apollo bookstore in Solaris Centre in the capital. The meeting point is somewhat significant, for in this very store his initial two books – «Cherry Picking» (2012) and «The Last Prophet» (2015) – will be also available for Estonian readers, however, for the time being only in English.

Would you please tell first something about yourself – where did you grow up and what has made the biggest impact on your life so far?

I was born in England and lived the first 21 years in Kent. The place is also known as the garden of England, there's a lot of greenery. As I went to school I did try a bit of writing, but it never came to anything as it wasn't very conscious process.

Back then, my big dream was becoming a stock broker. At the age of 18 I did my A-levels, went to London and started working. I knew that in this field experience counted more than a university degree. I worked there for four years and then moved to Manchester where I remained for a total of eight years.

Moving from London to Manchester helped me to prepare to going abroad. I knew no-one there, the people speak a different dialect, I was an outsider to them – I had to start from zero. While in Manchester, I met my future wife and by 2008, when we moved to St. Petersburg, our first daughter had already been born. The second daughter was born while we were in Russia, but we went to England for the time of her birth. In 2012, we came to Estonia.

In terms of writing there was a major change as we moved away from England. By then, I’d been in finances for over ten years, working also in the fields of telecommunications and insurance, and it was rather hard to find time to write at the same time with work and family.

How did your first books come to be?

The content of the first book – «Cherry Picking» – largely revolve around the finance sector. I wrote the first chapters at during my one-hour-long-lunch-hours. However, that was going very slowly – in three years I only managed to do five chapters. But the reason I started writing was that the whole story just came to me – the characters, the premises of the story.

In a way it was what Stephen King described as a ship landing at night in a mist. A good writer never aims to come out with good ideas; rather, he waits till an idea is ripe. That’s the way how my first book was born, and it was the same with the second one.

I believe the characters live in your head until you have told the story. Then a new story begins with new characters. With the first book I could start from a clean slate as nobody had any expectations about it. With the second one, it was more complicated already.

In January 2014, my first book made to the 2nd place in the list of suspense novels on Amazon UK website. After that, Amazon contacted me and put my book aside with John Grisham and Dan Brown in their recommendations' list. «Cherry Picking» got good reviews as well.

But still, why did you move away from England?

I get that question a lot. The simple answer is: it felt right. I felt that God was leading me this way. Moving to St. Petersburg with the whole family was a very natural thing. The three and a half years we lived there were very intense. I believe the friendships one develops while abroad are a lot deeper.

My older daughter speaks Russian, having attended kindergarten in St. Petersburg. In Tallinn, she studies in third grade at English College and her Estonian is excellent as well. I believe that, through that, my children will get a very good sense of the world.

We are planning for a longer stay in Estonia so there is a great likelihood that both of them will finish their school here. We sold our house in Manchester to buy an apartment here.

You mentioned that while living abroad, the relationships are deeper – have any of the people you’ve met provided material for the characters in your books or are they totally imaginary?

I can’t even tell as I don’t know how much my subconsciousness has put these people in the characters of my books. I definitely have not intended this to be so, especially when we are talking about the villains of the books.

I was joking about it at the beginning, but I really believe that if my books became successful, they would make good films. So I’m especially  happy with the reviews that say the book would make an excellent movie. However, this is not a priority for me at the moment. First, I must finish with the two books I am writing.

What is the genre you’d place your books in?

«The Last Prophet» is more a mainstream suspense story. The following ones are suspense novels as well. The first book does contain elements of science fiction, but it isn't a science-fiction novel – though many people think it is.

I believe that writing suspense novels does in many ways define me as a writer. These are the stories I would like to watch as movies myself. I want to write niche stories that are a bit extraordinary and take the reader someplace else than blunt love novels like «Fifty Shades of Grey».

I believe people are able to read something more intelligent. I want people to ask themselves themselves questions, how would they act if they were these characters.

Who are the writer that have been role models to you, or whom you look up?

I surely got a lot of help of Stephen King. He writes horror stories which I haven’t read much, but he has this wonderful book – «On Writing» – where he talks about writing a book. Having read that, I’m trying to follow his advice: try to have the first draft ready and only then start editing it. If you always take breaks to edit the text, you will get nowhere with the story as it can always be made better.

Isn’t it hard to fit family, writing, work and hobbies?

It is sometimes, to be honest. At times, I’m rather tired of my daily work, as I put more passion into writing and the church. However, doing the office work for a day or two a week earns me four times the Estonian average salary, and this helps me to support the family. My family – wife and two daughters – has been very supportive the whole time.

Had I stayed in England, working full time, after a while I’d have started asking myself questions about how my life would have turned out if I had started writing. I believe I have made the right decision with becoming a writer.

Tim Heath

  • English-born writer, aged 35, authoring suspense novels that have elements of mystery and science-fiction.
  • Books published so far: «Cherry Picking» (2012), «The Last Prophet» (2015).
  • On the process of writing: «The Tablet» (intended release in December 2015), «The Shadow Man»
  • In January 2014 «Cherry Picking» hit 2nd place in the list of suspense novels at Amazon UK sales chart.
  • His books are read in the UK, America, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, Mexico.
  • His books are sold: in Amazon, Kindle and via pre-orders, soon at Apollo bookstores in Estonia (most probably in March)
  • See further: FB (facebook.com/timheathauthor), Twitter (twitter.com/timheathbook), website (www.timheathbooks.com)

Source: Postimees