Saturday, March 14, 2009

Author Q&A with David Hewson, author of 'Dante's Numbers' and 'Semana Santa'

David Hewson is published by Bantam Dell in the US and Pan Macmillan in the UK, as well as a wide variety of publishers around the world in translation. His current paperback, 'The Garden of Evil,' was voted best mystery of 2008 by the American Library Association. A former journalist with the London Times and Sunday Times he lives near Canterbury in the UK. His current hardback release (out March 24) is 'Dante's Numbers.' His first book, 'Semana Santa,' was made into a movie with Mira Sorvino. 'Dante's Numbers' is his thirteenth published novel.
Where can we find your work? In book stores generally around the world - I was in twenty different languages last time I counted (you stop after a while).
How did you get your start in writing? In a way I’ve always been a writer since I left school at seventeen and became a journalist. I saw writing as the only possible career given that I’m allergic to manual labour.
What does your writing routine look like? Like a job, which it is. I spend three months on the road for promotion, a month or two in Italy for research, and the rest of the time at home writing, planning and editing. I generally work a five day week, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm, except when I’m on the road when it becomes more flexible.
Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why. Robert Graves' I Claudius and Claudius the God were two wonderful books that turned me on to Rome and history. I’m also a big admirer of Somerset Maugham, MR James and Arthur Machen. Over the years I’ve grown to love Ed McBain for his use of an ensemble cast among other things. I like writers who don’t fit easily into categories or attract labels. The whole genre thing is a turnoff for me frankly.
What are you working on next? I’m currently working on the ninth Nic Costa novel. After that I intend to finish a short story collection set in Venice which I’ve been slowly working up for some time, and there are a couple of scriptwriting projects that may or may not come to fruition. But Nic Costa is a regular in my diary - one book a year, the way a series should be.
What made you decide to write this novel? Dante’s Numbers is the seventh Nic Costa book, and a bit of a departure in that my cast get on a plane for the first time. The story starts in Rome then shifts to San Francisco where the opening theme, about a movie set around Dante’s Inferno, becomes muddied with Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It’s important for series authors to stay fresh and one way I do this is by trying to write an entirely different kind of book each time. Each one has to be completely separate from the previous, though to continue the underlying story of the relationships between my varying characters. Taking them out of their home environment, Rome, from time to time allows me to see them in a different light.
What challenges did you face with this book? Making sure that it was America seen through the eyes of foreigners, not an American novel. Also trying to introduce some subtle thematic links between Dante’s Divine Comedy and Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which aren’t obvious but are there waiting to be brought to the light.
What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers? Read lots of books, work hard, be patient and always attempt to be original. Me-too books never work in the long run. And don't do this because you want to become some filthy rich celebrity. Herman Melville couldn't make a living out of writing - he spent the last couple of decades of his life working as a civil servant to make ends meet. Success in writing isn't measured in dollars, but in what you write.
EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

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