Author Interview – Tony Levy
Please welcome author, Tony Levy.
A little about your background?
Born 1951 in Tottenham England I am a family man and former prison officer. I have previously worked as a Telegraphist where I learned to touch type, very handy when it came to writing my book. I worked in the computer industry for several years and then as a driving instructor in London, but decided in 1983 that I needed a safer for of work so joined the Prison Service. I am happily married to a loving wife who I am lucky enough to be able to say is also my best friend. I have two step-daughters and four fantastic grandchildren. I have turned into my worst nightmare — a doting grandad. I love all sports (Olympic Games in London 2012 was fantastic) particularly soccer, good wine, eating out, long lingering evening meals with good friends around the table. Holiday in the sun, and cruise holidays to see different places in the world.
What is your most recent work?
My most recent work or should I say my only work to date is my autobiography based on my 25 year career working in Her Majesty’s Prison Service here in the UK. Called ‘A Turnkey or Not?’ It is a warts and all revelation about what really goes on behind the closed doors of the UK’s penal establishments.
How much research do you do? How do you go about it?
All my research comes from my real experiences. Everything in my books is based on real events that actually happened without any embellishments or stretching of the truth. My book autobiography A Turnkey or Not? Is based entirely on my experience during my 25 year career working for Her Majesty’s Prison Service here in the UK. Basically all my research is from my 46 years of working with the public.
What inspired you to create this book?
People, All my works are based on the behaviour of other human beings, fascinating as we all are, we do not realise how our own behaviour is seen or can be interpreted by others.
Similar to the above question, but writers often talk about a key moment or moments in their lives that were trans figurative or epiphanous. Was there a moment in your life that lead to wanting to write this book or address this topic in general?
Yes and very clearly: As I state early in my book I was fed up with the press, TV, radio, and the politicians portraying prison officer and the prison service always in a negative light, and I had always said I would write a book and tell the truth, but never did. Then there was a (I think) Linda LaPlant thriller on the TV about a prison that was so way off reality that it made me so angry I was fuming. The next day at work I was still fuming and one of my colleagues said to me that I should write my book. I had previously said I would write a book about my time in the service. So I started to write it from then. This was my spark.
In a nutshell, what’s the key message you’d like readers to take away?
Prison Officer are just ordinary people doing an extraordinary job that many people could not do. We are not there as an easy target for anybody that wants to have a verbal go at us; we are not allowed to defend ourselves. Would you want to work with the dregs of society and still be ostracised for whatever you do? Wow.
How frequently do you revise editions?
Before publication several times but even now I look at the book and think damn I could have improved that chapter by………
Do you write full time or part time? How do you structure your day?
To be honest as I work full time I write whenever I can find the time or an incident at work sparks an idea for a chapter. Strike while my memory is still fresh is now my motto although of course my published book was done completely retrospectively many years after some of the incidents related in it.
How do you think you’ve evolved in being able to effectively communicate your message?
Not sure I have, but the publisher certainly made my words read seamlessly instead of my own wafting and procrastinating.
What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?
Interesting question in this case it was changing the real names and nicknames of my friends and colleagues so that only they would know who they were, as I did not want to intentionally insult anybody. Also avoiding writing anything that could be deemed against the official secrets act, which I had signed as a prison officer.
The most rewarding?
Easy question to answer, getting my book published and then finding out that people were actually interested in my life. My aim was to get published everything else has been a bonus.
Does this book stand alone, or is it part of a broader offering, such as web/television etc?
If there was a clever enough writer out there I really believe my book could become a great comedy series on the lines of the British comedy ‘Porridge’ I have much more material of incidents and action that took place in prisons that did not make the book. I could I feel
also make a great British comedy film, along the lines of the old Ealing comedies.
How much dialogue do you have with your readers? Do they influence your plans for future work?
The aim was that my readers would feel that they were in a café with me telling them the story over a cup of coffee or glass of wine as friends do. Many readers mentioned that that was exactly as they felt so I think I achieved my aim. Because of the feedback I have received I will try the same with my next book. I wanted it to sound like a matter of fact conversation with the reader.
What kind of support groups do you have to help get the book across the line?
Do you work with an editor? If so, how much input do they have?
My editor is the person that makes the book read like a book as opposed to my original writings that really used too many words to describe the action. I could not believe how different the book reads once the editor and I agreed changes.
Do you have any tips or useful resources on marketing or branding?
As I have a publisher I have relied on them to market my book, but have followed many examples from the internet about promoting my book.
How are you publishing this book? (eg Indie, traditional) A little on why you chose to go this way?
I chose the traditional route and have a publisher Apex publishing. To be honest I never realised there was any other way of getting my book published until after it was published. However in many ways I am glad I chose this method. I could never have found the time to obtain publication and all that goes with it on my own.
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
Not really I use Facebook and Twitter to generate interest in me and my book. I have been lucky that every review received has been very positive and encouraging, But no real strategy
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Enjoy every moment of your life, it’s yours and is unique to you. You don’t want to look back ever and say I wish I hadn’t experience that. Life is all about learning so enjoy the experience, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
What are you working on next?
I have started a new book it will be an honest reflection of what I see and hear on a day to day basis during my working day. Based on my present employment at Heathrow Airport as a Security Guard. The book will be in three parts Passengers, Workers and Management each chapter will be a complete story in itself, and I hope I do not offend too many people with my truthful stories of their behavior.
Do you also write fiction? If so, a little about your work?
No but I really admire fiction writers, who can form a story, develop characters and reach a conclusion. They must have really good minds to be able to format their ideas into a story that has a start, middle and end. They are real writers, me I just used my memory to relate my story, so don’t really consider myself a writer
How do you relax?
We have a holiday home (which we will retire to live there permanently in the near future) in Spain and love going there as often as possible to relax in the sun, drink good wine, eat good Mediterranean food, met and entertain friends. I also like to watch sport on Television and read.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Apex Publishing: http://www.apexpublishing.co.uk/pubdetails.aspx?Num=283
About Tony: http://about.me/tony_levy
This is my first ever book to be published.
It’s an autobiography of my twenty-five year career serving in Her Majesty’s Prison Service. A warts and all revelation of what really goes on behind the closed door of the UK’s penal establishments. The book charts my early career from 4 July 1993 until my subsequent disillusionment of the service and my eventual early retirement.
A chance meeting on holiday in Majorca changed my life forever and launched me into a 25 year career in a job that I never would have considered previously: working in Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
This book catalogues my personal experiences of working as a prison officer, from my early days at high security HMP Pentonville to my final years in therapy-based HMP Grendon. Filled with interesting observations and incidences, hilarious wind-ups and memorable characters, this autobiography is the story of a journey, from the happiest days in what will always be a potentially volatile environment to a complete state of disillusionment as an old dinosaur that no longer fitted into the modern prison service world.
The book is filled with amusing incidents and anecdotes in my early days through my promotions, running the London Marathon, meeting my wife until my complete disillusionment of how our prison service is being run.
You meet the characters that made our jobs more bearable, until their demise through political correctness gone mad.
How decisions at the top were made and changed at a moment’s notice to fulfil the ambitions of our politicians.
I give an honest account of my feelings, as someone who would never be a yes man and tow the party line, in the face of a constantly changing environment that had become increasingly controlled by political correctness gone mad and by budgetary needs rather than human needs.
I am a man who cared, and even though my heart was sucked out of my job, I never lost my dignity or respect. Most importantly, I would never allow myself to be reduced to just a turnkey.
Until I could take no more taking early retirement from a job I loved, my heart sucked out and my ambitions in tatters.
The book will make you smile and laugh and then cry and feel how I did, but then with renewed hope as I left to start a new life.