I am really pleased to be able to interview Chris having met him at CrimeFest earlier this year and watched him on the International Thriller Writers panel. One of the things that intrigues me about Chris is that in this panel he talked about how writing enables him to combine his love of crime writing with his need to travel and visit new places. Surely Chris is living the dream all new crime writers aspire to?
Let’s find out more!
1. First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m the author of nine crime and thriller novels. I started out writing the Good Thief’s Guide To … series of mystery novels, which are set in a number of glamorous cities around the world and which I’ve recently reissued as ebooks. I’ve also written four standalone thrillers. Safe House, my first thriller, has sold over 500,00 copies in the UK and was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Nowadays, I’m based in Somerset (after eleven years living on the Isle of Man) where I write full time and live with my wife, two kids and the family Labrador, Maisie.
2. What first got you into crime writing?
Oh, I guess there are a number of answers to that question. One is that I had written three novels (not crime novels) that had landed me an agent but not a publishing contract and I finally realised (way too late) that I should try writing something a little different. Another answer is that I think it’s important to write in the genre you most love reading – and for me that happens to be crime fiction. And the final answer, and probably the most relevant, is that I read Raymond Chandler’s THE LONG GOODBYE. After that, I didn’t want to write anything but crime fiction.
3. Could you describe your main character, Charlie Howard for us, and where you got the inspiration for him?
Charlie Howard is a hack mystery novelist who writes thrillers about a burglar – and who also happens to moonlight as a thief. But Charlie isn’t your average petty burglar. He likes to think of himself as a gentleman thief. He works on commission for a very select clientele and he likes to work as little as possible. Unfortunately for him, things have a habit of going sideways and he usually finds himself forced to try and work his way out of an unfortunate set of circumstances (and solve a murder or two). He’s a pretty relaxed, pretty flippant kind of guy who sometimes has to wise up and realise that life isn’t always the game he’d like it to be.
4. What is your writing set up like and do you have a particular routine?
I write in an annex attached to our house, which means I can close the door on our kids and get some work down in relative peace, at least until the kids come through the door and tell me they need me to do something way more important. As for routine, it varies, but when I’m writing a first draft I like to write five pages every day, seven days a week. I’m really a morning writer and once I hit lunchtime the ideas tend to dry up. That’s my excuse, anyway.
5. I’d love to hear more about your favourite places you’ve travelled to for your stories! How do you record details of the places you visit?
Well, I guess since I’ve been doing it for more than a decade, my process has changed! I used to make lots of detailed notes when I went on research trips whereas nowadays I tend to record a lot of videos on my phone. But the important thing to me is to try and visit the locations I’m writing about wherever possible. That isn’t always achievable (my most recent novel, Long Time Lost, visits multiple countries) but it was key when I was writing the Good Thief’s Guides. I set the first book in the series in Amsterdam because I’d lived and worked there for six months. After that, I visited each of Paris, Las Vegas, Venice and Berlin three times during the writing of each of the books I set there (hard times, I know). If I had to pick a favourite location, my heart will probably always belong to Amsterdam, though Venice in the depths of a murky winter definitely runs it close.
6. Who is your favourite crime author of all time, and could you recommend us a favourite book?
It’s still Raymond Chandler for me. I re-read his novels all the time and they’re all a good place to start, but like I say above, I doubt anything will ever top THE LONG GOODBYE for me.
7. What advice would you give someone just getting into crime writing?
Read as much as you can. Write as much as you can. And then think very hard about the type of crime story you want to tell and why you want to tell it. Once you’ve settled on that, the tricky part is coming up with a new and fresh angle but it’s also the most fun part, too.
8. Finally, what are you working on at the moment and when can we get our hands on it?!
Funnily enough, I’ve just completed a new book – a standalone thriller. I hope you’ll be able to pick up a copy before too long!
Thank you so much for featuring on my blog Chris and for giving us a sneak peek into your home life and writing process! Very best of luck with your new thriller!
Make sure to check out Chris’s work:
You can buy the entire boxset of THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO… series on Kindle.