Dave Hutchinson’s new novel, EUROPE IN AUTUMN came out in January, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the book! Please give him a warm welcome!
Congrats on the new book, EUROPE IN AUTUMN! You have a background in journalism, but have you always wanted to write fiction? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
Thank you! I was actually writing fiction long before I went into journalism. I’m from Sheffield in South Yorkshire, had a thoroughly ordinary childhood, started writing when I was about sixteen, published my first collection of short stories when I was seventeen or so, published three more, then went to Nottingham University to read American Studies, at which point I more or less completely gave up writing for some years. After I graduated, I got a job on Fleet Street, moved down to London, and here I am. I’m no longer a journalist, though; I was made redundant in 2010.
What inspired you to write Europe in Autumn? Will you tell us more about it?
Europe In Autumn is a near-future espionage thriller set in a Europe where new nations have begun to spring up everywhere. I’m not sure what inspired me to write it, I’m afraid; I started to work on it about thirteen years ago, and whatever the original inspiration was, it’s lost in the mists of time and rewrites.
Europe in Autumn is described as the love child between John le Carre and Franz Kafka. Would you say that’s accurate?
It’s certainly very flattering. I was aiming more for Alan Furst territory, but I can kind of see what people mean when they say that.
What should we know about your protagonist, Rudi, and why do you think readers will root for him?
Rudi’s an Estonian chef working in a little restaurant in Kraków when the book starts. He’s just an ordinary chap who winds up – partly through boredom, I think – getting sucked gradually into this covert world and finds himself up against a huge conspiracy. I rather like him. He’s cynical, capable, and fallible, he spends much of the book without the slightest idea what’s going on, but he never gives up; he just keeps plodding along, winging it. A lot like everyone, really.
Did you do any specific research for the book?
I did. The biggest piece of research I did was for the chapter set in the national park in Estonia – which does exist, by the way, and which I’ve never visited, although I really want to. Similarly with the bits set in Berlin and Prague. I’ve visited Kraków a lot, and of course the London stuff was just a case of pounding the pavements looking for settings.
What is your writing process like? Is there anything specific you need to get the creativity flowing?
I don’t have any real ‘process’. I just sit down, imagine stuff, and write it down. Then when that bit’s finished, I imagine some more. I find I can’t write in total silence; I do need some music or some talk radio or something going on in the background, or my attention wanders, but I do need to be left alone to concentrate. I’m a dreadfully idle writer – I find it very hard work, and I need to put my head down and do it.
Genre-wise, how would you classify Europe in Autumn, and what did you enjoy most about writing it?
I consider myself a science fiction writer – that’s the closest I can come to the stuff I do, anyway, and that suits me – and that’s what I used to tell people the book was. But since it came out it’s occurred to me that, apart from the setting, and some little bits of business, and a Thing, there isn’t a lot of science fiction in it. For long stretches it’s an espionage thriller. Which has kind of surprised me. I really enjoyed creating Rudi’s world, trying to tweak it to make it sound rational and plausible and consistent; that was a lot of fun. In a lot of ways, it built itself out of the demands of the story – situation x had to happen, so the world had to be like this. And that in turn sparked off new ideas for what might happen within the story.
What are a few of your biggest influences, in your writing, and in life?
Biggest influences in writing would be Len Deighton, Alan Furst, Keith Roberts, Raymond Chandler, Larry Niven, probably not for the most obvious reasons. In life? Ooh, that’s a hard one. I’d have to take the Fifth on that. 😉
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Chris Priest’s The Prestige. I think that’s one of the finest books written in English in the past fifty years or so. It pulls off an extraordinary magic trick, and though it still works wonderfully even when you know the trick – because the writing is so very good – that first time was a marvellous thing.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Hive Monkey, Gareth L Powell’s sequel to Ack-Ack Macaque, which I utterly adored. This one’s even better. Gareth’s a terrific writer, and I’d recommend his books to anybody. The Recollection is an extraordinary thing. I’m also reading Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, the third book in Ian Sales’s Apollo Quartet, which I think is building up to be a very significant achievement in science fiction.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a companion novel to Europe In Autumn. Not a sequel so much as a novel about how the events of the first book came about, another perspective on them. I’ve also begun to see a way I could put together a ‘proper’ sequel, but that’s in the future; it needs to cook for a while before I start writing it. I’m also working on a detective novel involving gnomes and love and redemption and the nature of Reality. As you do.
About EUROPE IN AUTUMN:
Rudi is a cook in a Kraków restaurant, but when his boss asks Rudi to help a cousin escape from the country he’s trapped in, a new career – part spy, part people-smuggler – begins. Following multiple economic crises and a devastating flu pandemic, Europe has fractured into countless tiny nations, duchies, polities and republics. Recruited by the shadowy organisation Les Coureurs des Bois, Rudi is schooled in espionage, but when a training mission to The Line, a sovereign nation consisting of a trans-Europe railway line, goes wrong, he is arrested and beaten, and Coureur Central must attempt a rescue.
With so many nations to work in, and identities to assume, Rudi is kept busy travelling across Europe. But when he is sent to smuggle someone out of Berlin and finds a severed head inside a locker instead, a conspiracy begins to wind itself around him. With kidnapping, double-crosses and a map that constantly re-draws itself, Europe in Autumn is a science fiction thriller like no other.