Here’s the chat with Kevin Wignall wherein he reveals he has read epic German poetry. In addition to being a superb writer, he’s a nice guy.
CM: have you seen Wagner’s Ring Cycle performed? The reference to the Nibelungenlied intrigued me.
KW: I haven’t, but I love the music. As for The Nibelungenlied itself, it’s a great read, with an ending that’s every bit as shocking as For the Dogs.
CM: How’s life after FOR THE DOGS? Better, worse, too soon to know?
KW: Probably too soon to know.
CM: Any plans for a North American trip? Are there notable differences between UK fans and those over here? Has PEOPLE DIE been translated?
KW: Okay, slow down, David, one question at a time. No plans for a North American trip at the moment, but I’m looking forward to doing it some time soon – there are a lot of good people who’ve supported me and I’d like to see some of them. UK fans are less likely to email, or do so very briefly. What I like about American fans is that they’ll often tell me a little about themselves, which is always interesting. I receive a considerable number of emails from people who work in US Government “agencies”. As for People Die, no foreign language rights have been sold yet – I’m not sure why because I also receive plenty of emails from Europeans who’ve read it in English.
CM: I loved the aquarium moment in Budapest; where’d that come from?
KW: Thanks. I’d just come back from Budapest and I was sitting in the Reef Bar in Paddington Station, London. They have an aquarium in the wall just like the one I described and I suddenly realized how it’s the kind of thing that might really disturb Lucas. So I added it to the hotel lobby in Budapest. It’s what I like to think of as a “Tony Soprano moment”.
CM: Anything you’d like to share about the next book?
KW: It might be my last book for a while to feature a hitman – though you can’t hold me to that – and it tells two parallel stories, one about a hitman getting out of the game by killing everyone who can identify him, the other showing how he became a hitman in the first place. It’s called “Who is Conrad Hirst?”
CM: Blogs have exploded onto the scene over the past year. What’s your take on literary blogs? Feel free to range beyond literary.
KW: I don’t know how long it will last in its present form, but I think blogs are the most exciting media development in years. And the literary blogs in particular are informing would-be authors in a way that was never possible before.
CM: How long does it take you to absorb what a literary critic or reader, for that matter, has to say about your work. Does it astound you? Inspire you?
KW: I absorb quickly, I’m always astounded by kind comments, and I’m most inspired when readers pick up on minor points that mean a lot to me but would be missed by most reviewers. Your own point about the Cathedral is a good example.
CM: What was Belgium like as a kid?
KW: Oh, I was only there for a couple of years, also Germany and Northern Ireland. Most of my childhood was spent here in Gloucestershire in the West of England. My childhood was very quiet, really, except for being surrounded by lots of military equipment – I drove a tank on a range in Germany when I was eight!
CM: Tell us a bit about what you enjoy reading; the scene where Lucas and Ella discuss books was another excellent scene.
KW: That’s very kind. I don’t read much crime fiction, though I’m starting to read more and really enjoying it. Beyond that, everything and anything, with the exception of a lot of modern “literary fiction”, most of which seems to have forgotten that we’re in the business of telling stories. I love Stephen Crane. “The Red Badge of Courage” is a superb novel and “The Open Boat” is, for my money, the finest short story in the English language.
CM: Novel writing involves a lot of decisions. Did you work closely with your editor or was it more arms-length?
KW: My current editor, Ruth Fecych, is very direct and to the point, and I like that. She’ll tell me if she doesn’t like something, I think about it, I change it if she’s right, I tell her if she’s wrong.
CM: Was writing always your ambition?
KW: Okay, now don’t jump to conclusions, but my first ever wish (aged 5) was to be an assassin. Then I considered becoming an explorer, actor or lawyer. At about the age of eleven I read a short story by Saki, “The Lumber Room”, and I knew that was what I wanted to do.
CM: Are you a film buff?
KW: Don’t get me started! And as it happens, I think that’s the real reason I fell into writing thrillers. From Hitchcock to “Point Blank” to “King of New York“. Goodness, I was a bloodthirsty child. I also like comedies. Oh, and I saw “The Thing From Another World” again the other day – pure genius.
CM: Any nibbles from Hollywood?
KW: Some, including some major players, but nothing has come to fruition yet. People have often said that they can see my books making films, but much of what happens is internal and that’s quite hard to translate to screen.
CM: Thanks for your time. Any parting thoughts, gripes, observations?
KW: Thanks for asking me. What’s to gripe about? I hope I never forget what a privilege this is.
That’s a wrap. (Due to the time zone difference Kevin and I conducted the interview by e-mail. )
No aquariums were damaged in creating this interview.