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America's Next Author
America's Next Author is the first real social writing contest. Winners will be chosen based on a unique combination of votes from readers and publishing industry experts.

Simon Lelic on writing

Interview with British Thriller Author

Writing is an inside job with no heavy lifting. Who said that, Terry Pratchett? It has it’s challenges, like anything that feels worthwhile, but I certainly don’t regret choosing it as a career.

Your books are on really heavy topics, but based on your bio you seem like a lighthearted person. Discuss.

I’m a cheerful person – honest! But I do struggle to remain interested, when I’m writing, if a subject doesn’t have a challenging moral issue or two at its core. That these first few books are slightly ‘dark’, for want of a better term, is more an accident of timing than anything else, I would say: I wrote about the topics that most engaged me at the time. But for my next book, who knows? Maybe I’ll write a romcom. 

If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?

Tough one. The nature of the art is that all the interesting ‘goodies’ are forced to endure something of an ordeal, so it would probably have to be a ‘baddie’. Tom Ripley has fairly good time, and at least gets the chance to travel. Can I be him?

Are any of your books based on real shooting cases or do you like to invent these things yourself?

Well, I have a drawer stuffed with newspaper clippings, if that serves as any indication. It was a newspaper article – about a US college professor who shot one of his colleagues – that gave me the nudge to start writing Rupture, my first book, but The Facility, my second, had its roots in a dissertation I wrote at university: the war-on-terror link evolved in the writing. With The Child Who, my new novel, I had for a long time been pondering a novel on the subject of a child who kills, but could not, until I heard an interview with Jon Venables’s former solicitor on the radio, see a route in. So the ideas for each of my novels came to me from different directions. I don’t consciously scour the headlines – but any idea that does settle is far more likely to engage me if it chimes thematically with current affairs.

Did you ever read a book and then wish you had all that time back?

No. If I’m not enjoying a book, and not otherwise getting anything out of it, I stop reading it. Life’s too short.

What type of books do you like to read in your spare time?

I try to read as widely as possible. In terms of fiction, I suppose my tastes are more ‘literary’, but plot is important to me, too. That said, if a book is what I consider to be poorly written, I can rarely bring myself to finish it. 

If you had a book club, what would it be reading and why?

The Good Father, by Noah Hawley. It’s out in the UK in March, I believe, and is that rare beast: a literary novel that is utterly compelling. My wife and I have recently had our third child, which means questions relating to parenthood – about how we influence who our children become – are uppermost in my mind. But I would still suggest this book even if I didn’t have kids. 

What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome in your writing career?

I’ve been lucky. I wouldn’t say I’ve overcome any particular adversity, other than those every writer chooses to face. Writing is difficult, but it’s not hard.

Did you ever regret wanting to be a writer?

It’s an inside job with no heavy lifting. Who said that, Terry Pratchett? It has it’s challenges, like anything that feels worthwhile, but I certainly don’t regret choosing it as a career. Not today, anyway. Ask me another day and you might get a different answer.

What are some of your favorite books from your childhood?

The books I most remember inhabiting are The Lord of the Rings and Susan Cooper’s fantasy series, in particular The Dark is Rising. CS Lewis’s books, too, until I worked out the subtext. I recall resenting feeling manipulated.

Name a book that you'd blush to be seen reading on the bus.

I might blush if I spotted someone else reading one of my books. But I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of the reading choices they make. I love seeing people reading, whatever the book. There are few sights quite so uplifting – at least when you’re sitting on a bus.

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America's Next Author is the first social writing contest. Friends, family, fans and publishing industry experts will read authors' submissions and nominate their favorite to be America's next major author. Everyone can participate!