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Interview with Linwood Barclay 2012

Linwood Barclay

Linwood Barclay’s latest novel, Trust Your Eyes (Orion) has been described by non-other than Stephen King as “a tale Hitchcock would have loved. The book is riveting, frequently scary, occasionally funny, and surprisingly, wonderfully tender.” High praise indeed, though not surprising. Linwood Barclay is unquestionably an author at the top of his game, with a legion of fans that is rapidly growing with each new release. Here the author chats with Chris Highabout the novel and, also, why he loves doing what he does.

Trust Your Eyes is based around one man’s obsession with collating research via the Internet. How much research did you have to undertake to complete the novel and how much of that was Web based?

Less research than you might think. I already go on Google Street View (the inspiration for the fictitious site Whirl360) and understand how it works. When I do have questions, I search the Web first for answers, and usually find what I am looking for. And I did take a fiew virtual trips, like the character Thomas, when I was writing about places I’ve not been to.

As someone who mentors disabled students at University level, it was interesting for me to see that you chose to represent Thomas as schizophrenic and those with schizophrenia in a positive light. How much personal experience have you had with those who have a mental health issue and why schizophrenia particularly?

Someone close to me has lived with schizophrenia for more than 40 years. While Thomas was not modelled on this person, I think my first-hand knowledge of the condition helped inform the character in subtle ways.

Trust Your Eyes is very much a book of parallels in which nothing is what it appears. How much planning did you have to undertake to ensure that all of the ends were neatly tied up and is the planning process one you enjoy?

Planning implies that a lot of the work is done ahead before you write. While I have a very good idea what the story is before I start, much of the problem-solving is done along the way. I reach a point that has to be sorted out, I sort it out, and keep on going.

Going back to technology and, particularly, the E-book debate which took on a whole different life form at this year’s Harrogate International Crime Writing Festival, where do you stand on the E-book debates?

I’m  not sure which aspect of the debate you are referring to, but I have no problem with ebooks. I still prefer to read an actual book, but I understand the convenience and potential of ebooks, and wouldn’t be surprised if they one day dominate the market, just as digital music has nearly eliminated CDs, and downloaded movies have almost killed the DVD. The good thing, at least from my perspective, is, they still need content.  What I do doesn’t change, but how you read my work is  evolving.

What are the best and worst parts of the job of being a writer?

It beats working for a living. But at the same time, it is work. I wouldn’t call it the “Worst” part but the challenge is, when you are writing a book a year, is striving to keep it fresh, to not repeat yourself, to make each new book better than the one that preceded it. 

Why did you choose to write within the thriller / crime genre and how much has being a journalist helped with being a successful novelist?

From when I was a kid, and read the Hardy Boys, I’ve always been drawn to crime fiction, perhaps because it has such a strong a narrative drive, depends so heavily on a well structured plot. As far as journalistic influence goes, working in newspapers for more than 30 years has taught me the importance of deadlines, of getting the work done. It’s taught me that writing is work. The only kind of work I want to do, but work just the same. It’s also taught me the art of writing simply. Don’t try to impress with how many words you know. Just tell the story.
What are the best two pieces of advice you’ve been given as a writer?

Know where you’re going. Even if you don’t know every detail of the plot worked out, have a road map. Otherwise, you’re drifting and floundering. I think that’s one piece of advice. But it’s good enough to be two.

Do you have a writing routine or any particular superstitions?

No superstitions. When I am working on a book, I generally get to work in my study by 9 a,m.. and go until 4, with lots of wandering the house along the way.

What do you do when you’re not writing and, given that one of your characters in Trust Your Eyes is a former Olympian, did you watch the London Olympics and Paralympics at all?

I saw some of the London Olympics, but didn’t watch every minute of it. Loved the Queen jumping out of a plane with 007. When I’m not writing I’m probably caught up in the business of writing. Promotion, meetings, tours. We love nothing more than discovering a new show and devouring an entire series on DVD.

What is next for Linwood Barclay and can we expect to see you in Britain any time soon?

No plans at the moment to come to Britain, although we do get there almost every year at least once. Next year’s book, A Tap on the Window, is finished, but soon I have to start thinking about the book that will come out in 2014.
Chris High



If you would like to comment on this interview with Linwood Barclay in 2012, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
© 2012 all rights reserved