Tuesday, 10 January 2012

In conversation with... Emlyn Rees

Hello Emlyn! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your latest novel, Hunted. Can you tell us what it is about?

A: Hunted tells the story of Danny Shanklin, a hostage negotiator, who finds himself the subject of the biggest televised manhunt in history. After going to a business meeting in the Ritz hotel in London, he blacks out and wakes to find himself dressed in a balaclava, a red-and-white striped tracksuit and a brand new pair of Nikes, with a high-powered rifle in his hands.
Looking outside, he sees a burning diplomatic limousine and dead civilians all over the street. With the police closing in, and only his best friend and tech guy, the Kid, for backup, Danny has to find out who’s set him up and why - but with 500,000 CCTV cameras, 33,000 cops, 9 intelligence agencies, and dozens of TV news channels all hot on his tail, just how long will this one innocent man be able to survive?

How did the idea for this novel develop?

A: Back, back, back in the mists of time, before I started writing rom coms with Josie Lloyd (which I did for ten years), I wrote thrillers. Jo and I only ever planned to write one book together and I was then going to go back to writing action and suspense. When I ended up writing comedies full time, I kept on writing suspense and action short stories in my own time, and Danny Shanklin started recurring as a hero in them. I finally came up with a storyline for him - the one that appears in Hunted - which I knew was big enough, and exciting enough, to be a novel. That’s when I sat down and started writing it. It was a pretty hands on and intense experience after that.

Hunted is the first instalment in a new thriller series starring Danny Shanklin. When will we be able to read more of his adventures?

A: While I wanted to give Hunted a satisfying ending for any reader, I also wanted it to finish with something of a cliffhanger too, so that hopefully it would leave people wanting to read more, and that equally a sequel would be something I’d be itching to write. I’m working on that sequel, Wanted, now and am hoping to have it finished just after Christmas. Meaning it’ll be out in hardback in the UK in September next year.

What kind of research goes into your novels? Do you complete all of your research in advance so that you can then dive into the writing process undisturbed or is it more a research-as-you-go sort of process?

A: I’ve always read a lot of thrillers and I’m a complete news junkie, so a lot of what I end up writing is already in my head anyway. Like most writers I know, I’ve also cultivated a few ‘expert’ friends over the years. There’s a lot of cutting edge military and surveillance technology in Hunted. That’s largely down to a couple of friends who I acknowledge in the book for their help. It was very much a case me saying to them, ‘I really want to use something like this - but does it, or could it exist?’ It was really important for me that whatever I was writing was plausible. I didn’t want to write a movie-style James Bond. I wanted to write an explosive story that actually could happen in the real world. I think that always makes for a much more engaging read. And I hope - thanks to my mates - I’ve pulled that off as best as I can.

Hunted would translate incredibly well into film. Have there been any talks about a possible adaptation for the small or big screen?

A: Yes (he said excitedly!), we are in talks with a feature film company now. That said, I did once have a film made of a comedy I wrote with Josie Lloyd and so know that these things can take a heck of a long time (and not even be very pleasing when they actually happen), so I’m trying to keep a tight lid on my expectations at the moment. That said, I would love to see Hunted on the big screen. And not just for the popcorn. I very much ‘saw’ it as a moving action piece while I was writing it, so it would be a lot of fun getting to see how it might actually look as a real film, not just one in my head.

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, it seems that interacting with readers – be it via a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a blog etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: I love getting feedback. Good and bad. No book is perfect and writing is a continual learning process. Hearing what people liked and what they don’t is a great help if you’re trying to make each book better than the last.
What I love most about modern social media is that the feedback you get can be a proper real time dialogue. You can learn an awful lot about what you’re doing right and wrong fast. Plus, I think readers are a lot more honest than your family and friends when it comes to feedback. They’re much more likely to tell you the truth.
As far as disruption goes, the internet can certainly eat into your writing time if you let it. What I find works is to set aside a part of your writing time for researching online or talking to other writers and readers etc, but for your actual writing time you’re better off making sure your access to the net is cut off. You’ll get a lot more actual writing done that way, I think.

What one fundamental piece of advice would you give to those who want to follow in your footsteps?

A: I wouldn’t really advise anyone to follow in another writer’s footsteps. Instead the one bit of writing advice I’d give anyone is to do your own thing. Write the kind of book you want to read, the kind that meshes with your interests, the kind that’ll fit your writing style, and most of all the kind you’re going to feel passionate about. Writing a novel is a pretty intense thing to do. It can be as knackering as it is fulfilling. And so you’ve got to have that passion and drive right there at the start in bucket loads to carry you through.

And lastly, is there anything that you would like to share that I haven’t asked?

A: My tip for making a perfect chilli. Always marinade the meat in lager for two to three hours before you cook it. Works every time. And here’s a photo of me coming a (valiant!) fourth in this years Brighton Fiery Food Chilli Eating Festival just to prove I do know what I’m talking about. (I’m the bald one on the left.)


You can follow Emlyn Rees on Twitter and learn more about Hunted here.


And for a chance to win one of two copies of Hunted, click here and complete the form. The competition will close on the 23rd January at 1pm.

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