MEET THE AUTHOR
CHRISTOPHER FOWLER AUTHOR OF THE BRYANT & MAY SERIES – WILD CHAMBER
~ 10 Questions ~
In the latest in a series of Meet the Author Interviews I am delighted to welcome Christopher Fowler to talk about his latest novel in the Bryant & May series called Wild Chamber which is has just been released through Doubleday and is now available in Hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops. For a number of years Christopher ran one of the UK’s top film marketing companies. Now a writer of novels and short stories as well as two acclaimed autobiographies and the award winning Bryant and May detective novels.
Congratulations on your latest novel in the Bryant & May series – Wild Chamber. Can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel?
Sure – In an exclusive London crescent, a woman walks her dog – but she’s being watched. When she’s found dead the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate, because the method of death is odd, the gardens are locked, the killer had no way in or out and the dog has disappeared. The detectives investigate the hidden history of London’s ‘wild chambers’ – its extraordinary parks and gardens, and manage to cause a national scandal. If no-one is safe then all of London’s open spaces must be shut at night, and that’s just what an ambitious politician with an agenda wants…
Can you tell us a little of your background and how you became a writer?
I always wrote, from the age of 7, and only ever wanted to be a writer, but for a long time I lacked confidence. I grew up in the centre of London, writing about everything and everyone I saw, and while working in the film industry I started to write short stories. I sold my very first one, and continued from there, eventually writing a novel, ‘Roofworld’. I was always drawn to crime novels, though, and branched out with the Bryant & May mystery series.
You have written a number of books in different genres. Do you have a favourite?
I have a soft spot for both ‘Spanky’ and ‘Calabash’. The former is a modern take on the Faust legend, and the latter is my book about being young and having too much imagination. They have fantastical edges but can be read as entirely realistic tales too. I still get a lot of mail about them, and a novel called ‘Psychoville’ that’s very dark and funny. My back-catalogue of 20 novels and short story collections just came out as e-books.
Wild Chamber is the fourteenth novel in the Bryant & May series. How do you go about coming up with the storylines?
It’s actually the 15th – I think Amazon has got the number wrong, and it’s the 16th if you count the Bryant & May graphic novel! The stories are a combination of things I hear about in London, things I read in old books and stuff people tell me. There’s a lot more factual work in these books than you’d realise, and some of the most bizarre elements are all true. The sections on London parks sound almost made up in this new novel, but I can assure you they’re not!
I talk to a lot of authors about their writing routines, some are more creative in the early hours some need total peace to write. How do cope during your writing day?
People are always horrified when they walk into my home, especially when they see my study. ‘Where is everything?’ they ask. ‘How on earth can you work like this? There’s nothing here!’ I basically live in a glass box. The study became a paper-free zone as nearly all of my research documents, photos and letters are stored online. I’ve only kept a few book awards – most are stored in an electronic format. The study windows overlook St Paul’s Cathedral, an inspirational sight for any London writer, and there are 360 degrees of blinds which can be lowered one at a time, according to the position of the sun.
I treat my work day like anyone else’s, start early and blog, carry on until lunchtime, break, carry on until around 7pm. But I tend to work through weekends too. I work with music on, usually movie soundtracks. And I take my laptop everywhere, so I can continue to work when I’m out.
Looking back over your career, is there anything that you would change if you could go back in time?
I think I spent so much time in my day job that I didn’t concentrate enough at the start of my career on what I wanted to write. It didn’t make much money then, so my writing came second to earning a wage. But you always get known by the first things you get published, and it can be a curse; ask any writer.
I’d have loved to have made a film – I came so close to it so many times, but now the market has changed so much that I can’t ever imagine it happening.
Where do you get your inspiration to write novels?
I was born in London and spent most of my life walking its streets, which means talking to people, which means getting ideas for novels. It’s amazing how many people really want to tell you about their personal experience of London. Many have extraordinary stories, but no-one to tell them to. You’ll meet someone who looks a bit like a tramp and discover they were a wartime codebreaker, or someone who works in a coffee shop who used to be a famous gymnast. I believe everyone has a story.
Because I worked in film for a long time people often say my work feels film-like, so maybe films are an inspiration, but also I travel whenever I can get the time; it all gets fed into the laptop eventually. I’m notorious for using my friends’ traits, but I combine them with characters I’ve seen in films or read about. I also add current villains or heroes from London’s news. I like topicality, although it tends to place a time limit on your books.
You have also written short stories and two critically acclaimed autobiographies. What do enjoy writing the most?
Oddly, I wrote my first memoir, ‘Paperboy’, for fun because I was doing a lot of reading gigs and getting fed up with just reading out sections of novels, so I started improvising and talking about my childhood. These pieces went down really well, and soon I found I had a book full of stories about wanting to write and growing up in a house with hardly any books in it.
Short stories can be wonderfully satisfying to write but they’re now very hard to sell, as there are very few outlets left who’ll take short fiction. It’s a shame as almost every writer has tackled a short story at one time. I’ve written close to 200 and I’ve still not written one I’m 100% happy with. The day I do that, I’m done.
When you are away from your desk writing, how do you relax?
I partly live in Barcelona and have a sort of alt-life going on there, more outdoor-based, a very different world to my London work life. And I travel as much as possible. I wrote a volume of short stories called ‘Red Gloves’, which uses many of the locations I’ve spent time in. I’m infamous for getting into scrapes in far-off lands – and I watch a lot of European films.
As well as being a writer you have previously worked in the film industry, which do you enjoy the most and why?
Being in film was great, crazy fun – I loved working on the Bond movies, but writing novels is a discipline I seem to naturally have; it’s my habitat and I love developing ideas at home, with just the screen to argue with. I enjoy taking a break from the crime novels to write other books, though – you need to stay fresh. The world changes fast and you have to change with it. That’s part of the fun. I may write about the past sometimes but I feel as if writing keeps me living in the present.
Thank you to Christopher Fowler for joining me on Meet the Author. Wild Chamber was released through Doubleday on 23rd March in Hardback and is available through all good bookshops.
The Bryant & May – Wild Chamber Official Blog Tour Continues.