We asked Jeremy de Quidt, author of The Wrong Train, six questions about being a writer and his favourite books.
Why not read our review of The Wrong Train first?
1) What was your inspiration for writing The Wrong Train?
It was more practical circumstance than inspiration. I write painstakingly slowly - a novel in 2008, the next in 2012 - so it made sense to do something that wasn’t going to take me a lifetime. I’d written a dark little short story called ‘Little Blue-eyed Boy’ for the Guardian at Halloween in 2013 (their strap-line ‘When you push your little brother down a 200 foot pit, you don't expect to see him again…do you?’) and my agent said ‘why not a collection?’ and having a dark turn of mind I said ‘why not?’ They were done quite quickly for me, but the mechanics of publishing sometimes take longer, so they were only out this September.
2) What were the main challenges that you faced when writing this book?
Some stories write themselves, and this was one of those, so I can’t pretend that it wasn’t a pleasure, because it was. The idea of a series of unsettling tales with a twist told to someone in an inescapable location was there at outset - it was just one of those things in my head - it was then a case of filling the stories in. I only had two false story starts that I had to ditch - one about rat poison and a haunting, the other about a drowning - the rest happened along under their own steam in the order they appear in the book.
3) As a child or teenager, did you want to be a writer and if so, is it as you expected?
Along with most people I hadn’t the faintest idea of what I wanted to do, though everybody told me that I had to do something that was something. So, I ended up being a lawyer. Wasn’t what I wanted and I hated every minute of it. But somewhere along that line between not knowing at school and ending up a lawyer the writing light went on in my head so brightly that it bleached out everything else. So, I threw the law in and picked up a pen, and I haven’t looked back. Is it what I expected? It’s a lot harder and lot lonelier, but a person has to do what a person has to do and I wouldn’t change it.
4) Who are the writers that have influenced you?
Now, this is going to be a disappointment. I wasn’t a big reader when I was young, but I was a watcher and a storer away of things I’d seen and heard, and in some ways that’s the same territory. I read all of John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes etc, and penny dreadful spy and war adventures by Alistair Maclean, but it was a bit of a desert really. Yet things grow in deserts as well - they just take longer. Now, I read all the time, though seldom fiction while I’m writing it. There are writers I enjoy hugely, but I can’t say any of them has actually made me write the way I do. It’s more like the whole weight of stuff gets soaked up and thought about.
5) What's in your reading pile currently?
At the moment I’m reading ‘Danse Macabre’ by Stephen King - his novel-length essay on the horror genre. I’ve recently finished the ‘Our Ancestors’ trilogy by Italo Calvino and in brilliant contrast I’m waiting for a copy of ‘Wed Wabbit’ by Lissa Evans to drop though my door. (Actually drop into the red bucket we use as post box by the front door, but that’s mere detail).
6) What is your all time favourite book?
Now, this I can do, and don’t you dare roll your eyes at it. Treasure Island. I love that book, and I’ll tell you for why. Pace, plotting, characterisation, location, suspense, excitement, pirates and treasure. As good today as it was then. And my best bit - the fight with Israel Hands and his long drop into the clear blue water where he lies dead on the seabed like a man curled in sleep. What. A. Book. In fact I might just go and get it back down off my shelf right now.
Been a pleasure to be here.
The Wrong Train is one of our YA Recommendations for November - find out more here!