Paul Heatley is the author of the thriller series around Tom Rollins. We used the publishing date of Hard to Kill to talk with him a little.
First of, thank you for taking the time for this little interview! I’m happy to have you here, on this Blog.
Tom Rollins is quite the interesting guy. Black ops, dirty government work in his past – but he seems to have a strong hold on his own moral code. How would you describe this code?
While Rollins has partaken in some questionable things in the past, he’s always had a belief in the greater good. The moment he started to realise others in his unit didn’t hold this same belief is the same moment he started to think that perhaps he wasn’t on the right path. Once he witnessed the events in Blood Line’s prologue, that was when he made up his mind to get out and go his own way. Tom believes in doing the right thing, and helping those that need it, even if you have to do things they don’t necessarily agree with, as shown in Hard To Kill.
And also the right thing might not necessarily be legal. I think that’s one of the things that draw readers to characters like Tom: We all look forward to someone dishing out justice, in a world where justice seems easy to find for some people, but not for others, especially the poor. Helping those that need it – it reminds me a little of the A Team, that 80’s tv show. Some of the action in Hard To Kill reminded me a little of 80’s action movies (Stallone, Seagal, Schwarzenegger – hey, why do all the names start with s?). Coincidence, or are you an 80’s fan yourself?
They are absolutely an influence! Not so much Seagal, as I haven’t seen much of his stuff, but Schwarzenegger and Stallone for sure, especially the latter and, of course, his Rambo movies.
Rambo? Well, that was a cool soldier. Talking about influences, I’ve got some suspicions – but I’m curious. Which authors (or characters by other authors) do you think had some influence on Tom Rollins?
I think the obvious one, and the one I hear the most comparisons to, is Jack Reacher, but truth be told when I first started writing Rollins I hadn’t read a single one of Lee Child’s books. Since finishing Hard To Kill I have, but early on it felt important to me to make sure I was creating my own character who wasn’t too heavily influenced by someone else’s creation. I wanted to make sure I had my own handle on the character before I read someone else’s.
I’ve also read some John Milton, but early on one of my biggest influences while I figured out Rollins was The Punisher. As well as that, his name itself is an amalgamation of the two men I’ve based him on physically – which I’m not going to reveal here! I’ll leave that for people to speculate.
For me, John Milton seems to be the better example, especially given the character’s backgrounds.
But Frank Castle? Wow, that’s unexpected. Although now you mention it, it does fit your description – doing the right thing – and the whole Army of One vibe. But are we talking the comic books here, or more like the 2004 movie (with Travolta as villain) or the Netflix series?
The comic books, for sure. I’m a big fan of the comic book character, especially the Garth Ennis run on it. I haven’t seen the Thomas Jane movie, but I have seen War Zone, and I wanted so desperately to like it as it was clearly influenced by aspects of Ennis’s work, and I’m a big fan of Ray Stevenson – but I fell asleep. The Netflix series…oh man, talk about wasted opportunity. Jon Bernthal was the perfect casting for Frank Castle, and his appearance in Daredevil season two was the best thing in that show. Season one of The Punisher was…all right. It went on a bit too long. 6-8 episodes were all that were needed, as opposed to the twelve that we got, which frankly meandered here and there.
And then we got season two… Sigh. There’s no beating around the bush here – it was terrible. Again, far too many episodes, and no focus. A halved episode count and a more concise story would have been so much better. And frankly, Ben ‘sharp intake of breath before every sentence’ Barnes just didn’t come across as that good an actor. Is he so bad in everything? I have no idea. He was all right in Westworld, as I recall, but the role of Jigsaw just wasn’t for him.
Well, pretty sure there was a reason the series got cancelled after season two. Talking about series: Hard to Kill is the third installment in your Tom Rollins series. Tom’s past seems to be settled now, with his former team mates (mostly) dead (at least the bad guys). So, what’s next for him? Will he ride off into the sunset and be happy ever after?
So long as people continue to enjoy the stories, I’ll keep writing them, so this isn’t the end of the road for Rollins yet! I’ve just started work on book four. I won’t say anything on the details, but there is a clue as to where he’s going to be near the end of Hard To Kill. As for future adventures, there are some instances of foreshadowing scattered throughout the three books so far…
Alright, no details! But just to get the imagination running – can you reveal the (working) title?
I’ll share the working title, but you’re gonna be disappointed – it’s ‘Tom Rollins Book Four’. The title tends to be the very last thing I come up with, as titles are hard! A lot of the time it doesn’t occur to me what the story is going to be called until I’m near the end of writing it, and sometimes not until it’s well into the editing phase.
Well, with everything going on during editing – writing is rewriting, after all – it might just be a good idea to find a title after the fact!
Alright, final question: What’s your favorite drink or cocktail (if you have any)?
I’m Straight Edge, so I don’t drink cocktails! It’s pretty much water all the way for me. And there’s nothing wrong with a hot chocolate in the winter months neither.