Interview: Chris Ewan, author of Safe House

Chris Ewan is the author of the Good Thief’s Guide series as well as his new suspense novel, Safe House. He was kind enough to take some time out of his very busy schedule (he’s a new dad!) and answer a few of my questions!

Please welcome Chris to the blog!

Chris, you’ve got six books under your belt, including the Good Thief’s Guide series and your newest, Safe House. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your background?
I was always reading books and writing stories and poems as a kid. I loved the idea of making a living by writing novels though I’m not sure I ever allowed myself to truly believe that might be possible. Now, I’m one of the lucky ones, and I feel incredibly fortunate.

As for my background, I studied American and Canadian literature at university, then struggled to get a job and ended up training to be a lawyer. Throughout this time I was writing novels and I finally got my break a week before I turned thirty, when the author Susan Hill telephoned me to say that The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam had won the Long Barn Books First Novel Award. It’s the best phone call of my life. I owe Susan a huge amount.

Did anything in particular inspire you to write Safe House?
I’ve lived on the Isle of Man for nearly ten years now (my wife is Manx), and from the early days of living here, I’ve heard rumours of the island being used as a safe haven for people involved in UK witness protection schemes. The concept behind that fascinated me. Why might someone be relocated here? How would they adjust to island life? What dark secrets could they be trying to escape? It was all perfect material for a crime thriller!

What made you decide to set it on the Isle of Man?
The Isle of Man is a unique and fascinating location. Not many people have heard of the island, let alone visited it, so I knew it would be new terrain for a lot of readers. The island is only thirty-two miles long and fourteen miles wide, but it has a hugely varied geography, with a lot of interesting locations for my characters to explore. Plus, there’s the added dynamic of having an isolated location with a relatively small population (80,000 people), which creates an interesting dilemma when you have a character with a need to conceal themselves.

Will there be more books featuring Rob Hale?
Never say never, but not right now. It does look, though, as if the new novel I’m about to start writing will be set on the Isle of Man. There may even be scope for a few of the characters from Safe House to make an appearance…

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
In terms of the novels I’ve written, I’d say Raymond Chandler, P.G. Wodehouse, Harlan Coben, Lawrence Block and Patricia Highsmith.

What do you like to see in a good mystery/suspense novel?
Like everything, it varies and depends to some extent on my mood, but I love a fast-paced tale with plenty of intrigue and tension. I especially enjoy novels with a noir tone, and a fresh and stylish prose style always helps.

What makes you put aside a book in frustration?
It rarely happens, but if it does, it could be any number of things. Most likely it would be a lack of narrative drive or plain bad writing.

If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. I first read it entirely by chance – it was recommended to me by the owner of a second-hand book shop in New Orleans. I can still remember how exhilarated I felt when I read the opening pages, sitting on an ironwork bench in Jackson Square in the blistering August heat. It’s the novel that made me want to be a crime writer and I re-read it often.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading a bunch of great novels: Red Bones by Ann Cleeves; From the Dead by Mark Billingham; and Dark Room by Steve Mosby. I’m also re-reading Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
My wife and I have a ten-week old baby, Jessica, so free time is a relative concept at the moment. But I like to walk our dog, Maisie, along the island’s beaches, maybe catch a movie or go out for a drink. If the weather’s good (which is all too rare on the Isle of Man) it’s fun to drive out in our 1967 VW camper.

What’s next for you?
The Good Thief’s Guide to Berlin will be published in the US by St. Martin’s Press this August. At around the same time, my new thriller, Coercion, will be published by Faber in the UK. Coercion is set in Marseille. It’s the story of a professional hostage negotiator who has to negotiate the release from kidnapping of the man he suspects of abducting his fiancée, in order to find out what has happened to her.
Keep up with Chris: Website | Twitter | Facebook

About Safe House:
A brilliant thriller from the author of the acclaimed Good Thief’s Guide series asks, how can a beautiful woman simply vanish?

When Rob Hale wakes up in a hospital after a motorcycle crash, his first thought is for the gorgeous blonde, Lena, who was on the back of his bike. The doctors and police, however, insist that he was alone at the scene. The shock of the accident must have made him imagine Lena, especially since his description of her resembles his late sister, Laura.

Convinced that Lena is as real as he is, Rob teams up with Rebecca Lewis, a London-based PI who has a mysterious connection to Laura—and learns that even a close-knit community like the Isle of Man can hide dangerous secrets that will not stay safe forever.

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