Author Interview – Stuart Wheatman
Posted by petermannwriter
Back in the July of 1973 there was a number of pivotal moments in history taking place – for instance France were performing nuclear testing in the Pacific at Nurruora Atoll; the USSR launched their Mars 4 space mission for a fly-by of the then mysterious red planet; America would see the passing after a long illness of stage play actor, the prolific William Russell Hardie, 68, wo appeared in many a Broadway production between 1929 and 1961.
On Tyneside, in the good ol’ UK, Paul McCartney was making an appearance at the Newcastle City Hall (10/07) and the Riverside branch of the Newcastle & North Shields Railway was withdrawn (23/07) to make way for Hadrian’s Way, now part of the C2C cycle route; and Stuart Wheatman was born…
A little over four decades later and Stu, as he is more commonly (often affectionately) known, is making his own little niche in the literary world, both writing and publishing relatively successful material for followers of specific genres of which sports and crime feature rather heavily, all for the greater good…
“I began writing in the mid-nineties following the completion of a Masters degree in Creative Writing at Sunderland University,” began Stuart.
“Everyone there wanted to be a film director or something like that and it wasn’t until I directed something myself I realised that I wanted to write instead, to be able to find and tell different stories.”
Since then he has written, and published, several notable literary pieces which include ‘Machine’ and the updated version ‘Cage Fighter,’ ‘King of Clubs,’ The Jam Unseen’ and ‘NME: From the Bender Squad to the Gremlins,’ among several other individual works and collaborations.
It was with the now-retired MMA/UFC former champion, Ian Freeman, where Wheatman’s insertion into the world of professional writing began to take off as ‘Machine’ was published in 2001 and the updated ‘Cage Fighter’ being released two years later, in 2003, affording the writer in an insight into a world previously unknown.
“When I began writing ‘Machine’ it was first pitched to Channel Four as a documentary which then began opening up new avenues, new possibilities, for a potential book,” continued Stuart when talking of his time with the former cage fighter.
“After his (Freeman’s) fight with Travis Fulton in the nineties, and seeing an article on it in the Sunday Sun (the north-east’s only Sunday newspaper), I saw the potential to create a story from it. Granted there was some initial wariness from Ian’s part before and whilst getting to know him, his family and background. I even did some training with him for a while which was good. It was certainly an eye-opener and gave me a foot in the door at the start and helped me to build a track record.”
It was also around the time when Wheatman became friends and, ultimately, a literary collaborator and business partner with fellow Tynesider, Steve Wraith (future ‘Author Interview’ this Summer). Wraith, a writer in his own right, and Wheatman have gone through the mill and back again with their extensive works and contacts often taking things to another level, as was seen with their respective works on The Krays, NME and The Sayers, neither afraid to court controversy.
“I met up with Steve whilst I was writing ‘Machine’ and introduced him and Ian to each other; Steve was kind enough to take Ian to the funeral of Charlie Kray and then attended the book launch in Sunderland,” continued Stuart.
“It was around this time that he would approach me about his own book, ‘The Geordie Connection’ (published in 2002) which was great for me as I was already feeling on top of the world with the success of my literary debut. I liked telling that unusual story that nobody knows anything about and became a crime writer through it, kind of fell into it all really.
“The basis was there already for it which helped massively and it was just a case of talking to and getting to know people, knowing how they tick. The Geordie Connection was then updated and released as part of a ‘Villains’ box set (through Pan Publishing) which was brilliant and sold more than twenty thousand copies. It was good for us both (Steve and Stuart) to be recognised alongside the other titles in that genre.”
The Krays has played a big part of the literary nuances of both Wheatman and Wraith, the pair combining with both ‘The Geordie Connection’ and the more recent masterpiece ‘The Krays Behind Bars,’ the latter being published in late 2015. Around those however Stuart has found himself often immersed in something and the writing of ‘King of Clubs’ (published in n2005) played a pivotal role in his own mind-set.
This was something different in itself as it looked at the life of actor, rave promoter and the running of that ‘One Nation’ on the London scene, or as the book was subtitled ‘Sex, Drugs and Thugs’ and looked at the different entities which ruled the life of Terry ‘Turbo’ Stone, thus adding a fresher string to the Wheatman bow.
“Writing the ‘King of Clubs’ was more a case of finding myself as a crime writer really. I had heard of him and knew much of his gangland connections, his business nous and entrepreneurship and there became a few different dimensions to it. Tony lived in Ascot and part-owned a restaurant there; it was like going to a different world and I suppose I kind of became part of the family.
“It’s from projects like this that I’ve found that you definitely have to establish a level of trust with your subject first and foremost and then to keep that going. It’s always good to get that instant respect and know that what’s being said is handled appropriately.”
“Personally, and professionally, it’s been a great few years. I’ve always known Steve and we’ll both work on practically anything. When working with anyone, starting a new, working relationship it’s getting to know someone new again but, with Steve, we know each other inside out, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we both want and expect from each other.”
Throughout all the writing, and the day jobs, as well as occasional night ones, Stuart set up Tonto Publishing in 2004 which ran for nearly eight years with relative amounts of success including, prior to its disbanding, cracking the American market. Then, after a brief hiatus in the publishing market, but still writing of course, Stuart teamed up with Steve (Wraith) on a more permanent basis, creating Mojo Risin’ Publishing who released their first two publications towards the end of 2015 with astounding success – ‘The Sayers: Tried and Tested at the Highest Level’ and ‘Pavel is a Geordie’ taking their respective literary markets by storm.
“The setting up of Tonto Publishing was done due to a lack of opportunities in the market; I’d met my then business partner on the Creative Writing MA, both non-fiction writers and frustrated at that.
“The first to come from there was a short stories book which served its purpose as it gained the belief of those that were involved at the time. We began looking at subjects that were left of centre, the celebrities that you maybe wouldn’t think of doing something on or reading about. Towards the end of all that though there was some annoyance for a number of reasons even if it did lead to distribution in the USA.
“I always knew that I’d carry on working with Steve though and, with the Sayers book it was quite organic really and evolved from there, a combination that seemed to happen at the right time having already discussed it in the past; overall it was good for us to launch Mojo Risin with the Sayers and Pav books.
“We are both massive fans of The Doors and the name relates to an anagram of the name ‘Mr Mojo Risin’ which originates there through Jim Morrison, so, having already discussed setting something up and found that common ground so it was nice that we were able to put that reference there. With it being a new company, and our respective backgrounds within the region then we can build something up this year, produce titles of interest over the next few years and there is a lot developing behind the scenes because of it.”
The past few years has been something of a literary rollercoaster which had a somewhat tragic finale to 2015 following the passing of Pavel Srnicek shortly after Mojo Risin published his book, ‘Pavel is a Geordie.’ Tragedy however can bring further success and, with the releases of ‘NME: From the Gremlins to the Bender Squad’ (2013) and a trio of books in 2015 with ‘The Krays Behind Bars,’ ‘The Sayers: Tried and Tested at the Highest Level’ and ‘Pavel is a Geordie,’ the latter seeing Stuart a part of the publishing team, it bodes well going into a new year.
“After finishing The Geordie Connection we began to discuss both Sayers, and Newcastle hooligans,” Stu continued.
“The problem was though we didn’t really have an in with any of them at the time. We did some research but it led to nothing initially, until a couple of years later anyway. Steve (Wraith) though is the kind of person who loves meeting these people and forging relationships with them and, as our own writing relationship has developed I’ve found that it’s good for him to do that, I just jigsaw it all together at the end.
“With the NME book it was something else. Getting to know all those different personalities and there was well over forty that we spoke to. I am glad that it was us who finally did the book though and got to tell that story. It certainly tells a social history of Newcastle as well as looking at the mind-set and psychology of the person as well.
“With the NME story there’s definitely still a lot of legs in it and we’ll be looking at some sort of film to go alongside it as well. The DVD, with this and The Sayers book, was a visual concept to accompany it and was something we had an interest in doing as more a side project than anything and we put it out there to see what the reception would be like.”
As for 2016 and beyond; well it’s all about causing a ripple in literary waters, and a big one at that with Stuart adding: “We are in a nice position and testing the water, kind of how it was done with Tonto Publishing beforehand, built with the spirit of that as we turn what effectively was a hobby, into a job more than anything, we’ve certainly not jumped in.
“We’re looking at four titles this year, quirky stories in specific genres as we find the right audiences. It is nice though to be able to have some fun within a job and there’s no real stress emanating from it for we can do things as we want to do them – we didn’t need to do it, we wanted to do it.”
His biography on Percy Publishing can be found HERE
Read the piece on Mojo Risin for Northern Insight magazine (p90) HERE
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About petermannwriterFreelance (Sports/Music) Journalist
Posted on 09/01/2016, in Author Interviews, Features and tagged Author Interviews, Book Publishing, Cage Fighter, Charlie Kray, Crime Books, Ian Freeman, Jim Morrison, King of Clubs, Literary, Machine, Mojo Risin, Newcastle Hooligans, NME, North east, Northern Insight, Pan Publishing, Pavel is a Geordie, Percy Publishing, Sports Books, Steve Wraith, Stuart Wheatman, Terry Turbo Stone, The Doors, The Geordie Connection, The Krays, The Krays Behind Bars, The Sayers, Tonto Publishing, Tyneside, Writing Books. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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