Welcome to a very special post here on AnAverageLife, my first author interview with none other than Sunday Times Best Seller Stuart Turton
Firstly let me thank you once again Stu for taking the time to share a little about yourself, the man behind the mystery. Let’s start at the very beginning.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process?
Process is a very kind word for the chaos I build books from. I’m at my most ordered in the first three months, when I’m not writing a word. That’s when I do my research and plan everything out. I start with my impossible murder, then work backwards, trying to understand who did it, why they committed the crime that way, and how they’ll be caught.
After that comes the clues, the red herrings, and everything else. Once that’s done, I start writing. I try to keep office hours, so I can spend time with my family, otherwise I’d work all night. My problem is that I plan plot, not characters. I find them in the writing, which means if the plot demands they do something I don’t believe they would, I have to change the plot.
The next two years then become a strange push and pull between character and story.
What inspired the seed of The Devil And The Dark Water? Did the characters come to you first or the ship setting?
I came across the story of a real-life shipwreck called the Batavia while I was travelling around Australia. It was wrecked in 1629, and the passengers were left in the care of a sociopath when the captain went for help. What followed is awful, but the setting stuck with me.
When I started thinking about what to write after Seven Deaths, I decided early on that this story should form the basis of it, but I didn’t want the horrible stuff. I wanted fun, adventure and mystery. After writing horrible characters in my last book, I wanted to write enjoyable characters for Devil. I threw away the bleak bits of the real-life story and came up with this Sherlock Holmes style story.
R: In that case, mission accomplished! I will certainly vouch for the fun, adventure and mystery.
There’s such intricate detail in The Devil And The Dark Water, how do you manage to keep track of all the different threads when creating them?
Once I’ve finished planning my books I internalise them completely. I can’t really explain it. I just know the plot inside and out, so I can change it as I want without ever referring to the plan again. The only bit I struggle with is remembering what my characters know/suspect at any given time, so I usually need to refresh myself on the last few chapters I wrote at the beginning of each writing session.
There must have been times -especially now that you have the lovely Ada- that you set aside The Devil And The Dark Water. Was there a part of the book you got particularly hung up on?
Ada is very lovely, thank you! The first year was an utter nightmare. She was born about a month before I started writing and I finished the book two days after her second birthday.
Everything I wrote in the first year was rubbish. I was tired, stressed, and I couldn’t hold the book in my head the way I normally would. I had unrelated chapters just pressed next to one another. It was crap.
After that first year though, Ada was sleeping, childcare came along, and
I was able to focus on the book. After that, it was pretty smooth – you know, aside from the ever present doubts regarding your own ability, the story, people’s reaction to it…
The reputations of the Bear and the Sparrow are known far and wide from Arent’s many accounts of their past cases. Has that door intentionally been opened? Could readers hope to see any of these two characters in future works?
Not from me, I’m afraid. People always accuse me of leaving the door open to a sequel in my books, but that’s not the intent. I like stories that feel like they started before the reader got there and will carry on after they leave. I want lived-in worlds, and characters with their own lives to be getting on with. I like to leave people with the feeling that the bear and sparrow will have more cases, even if we don’t read about them.
R: Note to self, never expect sequels. I should’ve known you would mislead us!
Can you tell us -spoiler free of course, be as cryptic as you like- which was your favourite scene to write?
The ending. It was the hardest thing to write and it came the latest. I honestly didn’t know what to do with these characters on the last page for the longest time, but when I worked it out I was so excited. I wrote the ending at about 2am in a frenzy, and it never really changed.
Stu, I’d love to know what you’re reading right now? Are there any titles you recommend to your audience?
I’m currently reading The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean. It’s fantastic. Will’s never written a bad book and that really annoys me 🙂 He’s a talented dude.
R: I hold my hands up here, I’ve owned Dark Pines since release and to date still haven’t read it. Consider my wrist slapped.
One last thing before we wrap up I must know your answer to THE most important question of our country… How do you take your tea and which is the ultimate biscuit accompaniment?
Splash of milk, but I don’t really eat biscuits. If there’s a bit of carrot cake going, I’ll happily have that.
R: Never trust a man that turns down a biscuit. Honestly Stu, who says no to a cheeky hobnob? Though I am a total fiend for carrot cake myself so I can’t fault you there!
Readers, The Devil And The Dark Water is out NOW from Bloomsbury Raven and can be found in all the usual places. If you still haven’t picked up Stuart’s debut novel The Seven (1/2) Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle what are you waiting for? On my honour you’ll not be disappointed! Mind boggling mystery and adventure awaits..
Don’t forget to follow @Stu_Turton, @BloomsburyRaven and me! @AnAverageLife88 for more of that sweet bookish content.