Tuesday, 26 April 2011

INTERVIEW: David Hewson

If you're a fan of the mystery thriller, then at some point you've probably sat down and enjoyed a David Hewson title.

With the new Nic Costa title released today in the US, we thought it was high time to talk to this extraordinary author to discover a few mysteries of our own.

Here we chatted to David about the day job, must own titles and his listener, Eddie...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

David Hewson: I think there's definitely an obsessional aspect to writing. If you can choose not to write then you probably don't have it in you to be a writer.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

DH: When I realised how much I loved books.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

DH: Short stories are very different to novels. Some writers excel at them and struggle with the structural issues of the longer form. So I definitely disagree with that principle, though I can't say my own work proves or disproves either way.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

DH: Being English I'm socially averse to selling anything so I’d probably mumble about only being there for a present for my auntie, make an excuse and leave.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

DH: Cultural literary mysteries for readers with a penchant for dark deeds in beautiful places.

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

DH: Robert Graves, Robert Aickman and Jorge Luis Borges are writers I return to from time to time, but their output's been a bit sparse of late.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

DH: I have a general idea of where the narrative is going but the characters usually tell me I'm wrong halfway through. I don't profile them, I let them appear on the page.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

DH: Reading and writing are pretty relaxing really. Current book: Scourge and Fire by Lauro Martines about the Florentine friar Savonarola. I read a lot of non-fiction.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

DH: Never suffered from guilt about any pleasures.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

DH: An argumentative wire fox terrier called Eddie who is taken for a walk/story conference every morning. His key trait is he's a very good listener. He's not appeared in a book yet.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

DH: Mina Gabriel, a precocious 17-year-old with a secret. Very interesting trying to get into the head of someone who's treated as a child but is a lot more mature than most people notice.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

DH: Nothing like Nic Costa - he's much nicer than I am .

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

DH: None really, though I like travel, art, food and Italy, all of which come through in the books.

FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

DH: Life.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

DH: No more than plumbers encounter plumber's block. Some days you don't feel like working. It passes.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

DH: I regard this is a full-time job. So I work 8-6 Monday to Friday and do other things at weekends.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

DH: The idea of writing to music horrifies me. I don't allow anything to interrupt the working day, except a brief nap after lunch.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

DH: That it would be easy once the first book was out of the way.Truth is every book is 'new' and a challenge.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

DH: A workout for the imagination. Fiction is a way of producing fairy tales for adults, stories that expand on and occasionally explain the mundane thing called 'reality' and make it more palatable.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

DH: Set in Venice in February during the carnival. Spent a lot of time there during 2010. February in Venice is very cold.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

DH: BBC New, Times Online, bank account, own web site and Expedia

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

DH: No - just read books.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

DH: Persistence and a thick skin

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

DH: Best: you don't have to wear a tie. Worst: it takes an unconscionable amount of time for a finished book to appear, so that when it does I've already written the next one and that's what's in my head.

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