Thursday, July 3, 2014

Guest Post by Tim Weaver + a Giveaway

This week, British author Tim Weaver makes his US debut with Never Coming Back. As a special treat, I've got a guest post from Tim himself to share with you AND a copy of the book to give away to one of you lucky readers. Be sure to read through to the end to enter.

But first, just a bit about the book (from Goodreads) to tempt you with:

Emily Kane arrives at her sister Carrie’s house to find the front door unlocked, dinner on the table, and the family nowhere to be found—Carrie, her husband, and two daughters have disappeared. When the police turn up no leads, Emily turns to her former boyfriend David Raker, a missing persons investigator, to track the family down. As Raker pursues the case, he discovers evidence of a sinister cover-up, decades in the making and with a long trail of bodies behind it.

Sounds amazing, right? And now, Tim Weaver!

NEVER COMING BACK represents a conscious decision to try something a little different. Towards the end of my third book VANISHED – which spent much of its time exploring the claustrophobia of the London Underground system – I wanted a change. To be truthful, I wanted the opportunity to write about wide open spaces, to describe a windswept beach, a coastline, the DNA of a village. But then, as I started to consider that, I started to realize something else. If I was going to go part of the way, and have Raker leave London behind, why not just go all the way? That was when I came up with the idea of setting the book in two entirely separate locations, on opposite sides of the globe: one, a tiny, windswept, rain-soaked settlement of 100 people on the English south coast; the other its complete antithesis – the sun-scorched, neon-lit sprawl of Las Vegas.

Why Las Vegas? I visited a few years back and found it a bewildering, very silly, surprisingly scary and, in some ways, somewhat tragic place, but one that was endlessly fascinating and full of potential stories. As well as that, my deep love of American crime fiction had left me with a real desire to set a book on the other side of the water, for a long time, but I'd always been held back by one, major worry: that my voice wouldn't feel genuine. I am, after all, British. 

For me, there's a big difference between writing a crime thriller set in America, and writing an American crime thriller. American crime fiction has an undefinable 'feel' which sets it apart from British crime fiction (and, indeed, crime fiction from any other part of the world); not a better feel, just a different one. If Michael Connelly and Mo Hayder were asked to write the same chapter using the same characters and the same basic outline, they'd come back with two pieces that were noticeably – probably vastly – different. Both excel in their own environment, and in their ability to observe it. 

The fact is, the British and American voice isn't the same, even if we speak the same language. Can you imagine what a Michael Connelly novel would feel like if it were set in London? Would it feel British? I doubt it. When he took Harry Bosch out of L.A. to Hong Kong in NINE DRAGONS, that book still felt American, even while Bosch was seven thousand miles away. In the end, it doesn't come down to ability or to research, it comes down to something more natural: voice. 

There are just subtleties in language that are impossible to replicate, however hard we try. You can build a sense of a location – a New York, or an L.A., or a Chicago – by which I mean you can describe it physically: how it looks, how big it is, its roads, its highlights. You can go there, take photos of it, drive it, walk it, you can replicate what you saw and heard – but it’s still hard to nail down what makes the city tick, its people, its nuances, if you don’t leave and breathe that place consistently and over a long period of time. That’s not to say it’s impossible: Lee Child writes such convincing American thrillers, it’s sometimes easy to forget he’s English; the same with John Connolly, an Irish writer with a real ear for what makes Maine such a distinct corner of the country. 

But I've read books by British writers – fantastic British writers – who've set one or more of their books in America and, for me, they've always felt British, even when the action is played out in L.A or New York, and the cast is made up of FBI agents or big city cops. There's nothing wrong with that, and it didn't spoil my enjoyment of those books at all, but there can be minor consequences: perhaps you're never quite transported the whole way into that world, because the turn of phrase isn't quite right, and the observations don't quite ring true. In the end, you only need one bum line, one moment where the character makes a remark that doesn’t feel like something a person from that part of the world would say, and the reader is suddenly pulled out of the story completely. That’s especially damaging when – like in NEVER COMING BACK’s case – you’re trying to talk to an American audience, and especially when you’re writing a thriller. In order for a thriller to work you have to keep your reader glued to the pages.

Fortunately, NEVER COMING BACK gave me an 'in', especially with part of the story being about British ex-pats, which got around the problem of language, of making my central characters sound like they came from Nevada. (Because, in most cases, they didn’t.) Although it didn’t remedy things totally: as readers will find out, one major character – Carlos Soto – is Las Vegan, born and bred, and I approached him more carefully than anyone I’ve ever written dialogue for.

Do I regret trying it? Absolutely not. It was fun, it was frightening, it was a challenge. But, clearly, I recognize NEVER COMING BACK’s U.S. release – and my debut here! – for what it is: the real (and really terrifying!) litmus test.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tim Weaver was born in 1977. At eighteen, he left school and started working in magazine journalism, and has since gone on to develop a successful career writing about films, TV, sports, games and technology. He is married with a young daughter, and lives near Bath, England. Visit him at visit www.timweaverbooks.com

Big, big thanks to Tim for being here today and to the folks over at Viking for setting all of this up for us.

Now for the giveaway: To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 21. US only and no PO boxes please. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


traveler said...

Thanks for this intriguing giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Anita Yancey said...

This book sounds so good. I love finding new author's books to read. Thanks for having this giveaway.

KAS said...

this book sounds pretty exciting. thanks, Becky...-Kara

Terry said...

This is not the usual genre that I read but your blog post has certainly piqued my interest. A real page-turner! I have added this one to my TBR list.

Anonymous said...

This book sounds so good and suspenseful.