Chris Ewan is the best-selling author of The Good Thief’s Guides Series, Safe House and, most recently, Dark Tides, published in paperback last month. I first came across his work years ago when The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam was published and have followed his career ever since. Read on to the end to enter the draw to win a copy of Dark Tides, an intriguing and disturbing story of how our actions can follow us for years. It’s another great novel and one that I was so caught up with that I stayed up into the wee small hours, desperate to find out what happened. Anyway, here’s Chris….
Q. Why do you write?
Because I love books. Because I grew up reading lots of books in my local library and I enjoyed reading so much it made me dream of one day writing a book of my own. Then, when I was in my early twenties, I was travelling through the USA and I happened to go into a second-hand bookstore in New Orleans and ask for a recommendation. The guy behind the counter gave me a copy of Raymond Chandler’s THE LONG GOODBYE. The moment I started reading it, I knew crime fiction was what I wanted to write. It’s still my favourite novel.
Q. Were you a childhood scribbler or was writing something you came to later in life?
I wrote a lot as a kid. Short stories I made up for myself. Terrible poetry. But I didn’t get serious about writing a book until the year I left uni. I wrote my first novel, then rewrote it again and again. I had the bug by that point, and I wrote another two novels over another couple of years. Then I wrote my first crime novel and finally got my break.
Q. How did you get your big break?
I submitted my first crime novel, THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM, to the Long Barn Books First Novel Competition, run by Susan Hill. A few months later, I got a call at work. It was Susan, telling me congratulations, that I’d won the competition and I was going to be published. It was, and still remains, the best phone call I’ve received in my life. Any success I’ve had since that moment, I owe it all to Susan. She changed my life.
Q. What’s your writing routine? Bustling cafe or silent solitude? Crack of dawn or midnight oil? Laptop or pen and paper?
Since my daughter was born almost three years ago, the idea of a routine seems a bit laughable now. But on a perfect day, I get up early, take my dog for a walk, sit down at my desk by 9 am and hammer out five pages before lunch. I try to write most days, and I don’t quit until I have those five pages. If all goes well, I should have a first draft of a novel after four or five months. Then I spend another four or five months rewriting and reworking the book before anyone else gets to take a look at it. And to write anything, I need silence. Which again, is a bit laughable with a toddler running around.
Q. What writer do you most admire and what would you like to ask them?
There are too many to pick any single individual, and too many reasons, but one thing I really admire is how some of the major international bestselling crime novelists are able to deliver consistently strong novels year after year, always while balancing their writing time with major promotional commitments. I’m thinking of writers like Lee Child, Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben. I guess the question I’d probably ask them is: how the hell do you do that? My guess is they’d say, sit in a chair and type.
Q. What book would you most like to have written?
THE LONG GOODBYE. Except, of course, nobody could do it anywhere near as well as Chandler.
Q. Aside from writing, what skill or achievement are you most proud of?
In recent years I’ve been running some creative writing workshops for young writers. Getting to the stage where I’m not boring them into submission is something I feel pretty good about.
Q. If you weren’t a writer what would you do?
I used to be a film lawyer, and I wasn’t great at it, but take some of those skills and combine them with a love of books and maybe I could have cut it as a literary agent. Or maybe not. Either way, I feel hugely grateful to make a living writing fiction. It was my dream. I was lucky it came true. I hope I get to stick at it.
Q. What aspect of the publishing industry would you like to change?
It’s an old problem, but it seems to me there are still too many terrific novels being published each year that, for whatever reason, don’t find the audience they deserve. How do you fix that? I don’t know. But I hate that it happens.
I think it’s really important to be able to visualise the exact type of book you want to write before you begin work. I’m not talking about story here. Forget about plot and characters. I’m talking about the tone and texture of the book you’re aiming to produce. How should writing it make you feel? How will finishing it make your readers feel? Once you have that locked down, the real work begins.
I hope you found that interesting – I was particularly taken with Chris’ advice to get the tone of the book you’re writing figured out before you start writing and as I begin the rewriting process, I’m going to bear that in mind.
As I said, Chris’ new book, Dark Tides, was recently published and I have a copy to give away courtesy of his lovely publishers, Faber. To enter just leave a comment below between now and the 6th October. I’ll do the names out of the hat thing shortly afterwards. Good luck!