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My First Time with...Stuart Turton

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who has previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is his debut novel. TV rights have been optioned by House Productions. Stuart is the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition. He lives in West London with his wife.

More importantly, he is joining us at The Riff Raff on Thursday 12th April and we don't want you to miss out, so get your tickets here.

Here's the blurb for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle...

'Somebody's going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won't appear to be a murder and so the murderer won't be caught. Rectify that injustice and I'll show you the way out.'

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As the fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden - one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party - can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?

I’d wanted to write an Agatha Christie novel since I was eight, and actually had a stab at it when I was about 21. It was rubbish, the worst Christie fanfic you can imagine. I realised I was trying to imitate rather than innovate, and that the best Christie novels always did something clever with structure, or their twist. So I put the book down and got on with my life, thinking that I’d have a genius idea for a plot twist in a month or two. Ten years later, I was on a flight somewhere, half asleep at 2am, and my mind drifted back to my forgotten Christie novel, at which point I realised that Groundhog Day and Quantum Leap had congealed over the top of it. I was so excited I dashed off 2,000 words there and then. They were bloody awful, but they proved the concept would hold. After that I just needed a plot, some characters, a setting…

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write your first book?

That it would take three years, not one, and that was a daft promise to make my wife.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

Making cups of tea and coffee. When I used to work in an office it got to the point where I was making fourteen-person tea runs every hour or so.

What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing it?

I’m not really a tantrum person. If I get a knockback I give myself an hour to feel bad about it, then I have to know what I’m doing next and take steps towards it. I did falter about a year and half into writing the book when I realised I’d screwed up the timeline and about 12 impossible things had to happen at the same time. I dithered and desperately tried to rearrange the plot, before I admitted to myself that I needed to throw away the last 40,000 words I’d written. That stung, and I actually had to walk away from the book for three months, before I could look at it again without feeling sick.

Best thing about writing your book?

You’re kidding? I wrote a time-travel, body-hopping, murder mystery novel. I loved every bloody bit of it. And the worst?

I’ll never write another one. I feel like I pushed the concept as far as it can go, and I’m a bit sad that I’ll probably never go back to this well.

Go-to writing snacks?

I reach for biscuits, my wife guides my hand to the grapes.

Who or what inspires you to write?

I love writing, so it comes from inside. If I needed something external to inspire me, I’d be properly fucked.

The book that changed you?

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy showed me that the structure of a book could be whatever you wanted it to be, and that storytelling wasn’t limited to the words on the page. That was a valuable lesson for me.

Your pump up song?

Currently anything by Run the Jewels.

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer dead or alive, who would it be?

Raymond Chandler. Though the night would probably start on whiskeys, then wind down with gimlets at 4am as we swapped tawdry similies. God, I love Raymond Chandler.

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?

So many things have to go right to get published that every little bit of the process has to be done to the best of your ability. It’s so easy to think that finishing your book is enough, but it’s really not. You need a snappy, two-line, sell; you need to polish your submission to perfection and not come across like an absolute dick; you need to write a tight synopsis; meticulously research agents to make sure they’re buying what you’re selling, while very much not being a dick; and steel yourself, because rejection sucks, and even now, when the world’s against you, you still don’t get to be a dick.


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