Monday, October 3, 2016

Interview with mystery author Ian Sansom

Welcome to October, readers! My first guest is author Ian Sansom. He’s talking with me about his new crime fiction novel, Westmorland Alone.

During his virtual book tour, Ian will be awarding 3 e-copies of the book to 3 lucky randomly drawn winners. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!

Ian Sansom is the author of the Mobile Library Mystery Series. As of 2016, he has written three books in a series that will comprise a projected forty-four novels.

He is a frequent contributor to, and critic for, The Guardian and the London Review of Books.

He studied at both Oxford and Cambridge, where he was a fellow of Emmanuel College. He is a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick and teaches in its Writing Program.

Please share a little bit about your current release.
Welcome to Westmorland. Perhaps the most scenic county in England! Home of the poets! Land of the great artists! District of the Great lakes! And the scene of a mysterious crime…

Swanton Morley, the People's Professor, once again sets off in his Lagonda to continue his history of England, The County Guides.

Stranded in the market town of Appleby after a tragic rail crash, Morley, his daughter Miriam and his assistant, Stephen Sefton, find themselves drawn into a world of country fairs, gypsy lore and Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling. When a woman's body is discovered at an archaeological dig, for Morley there's only one possible question: could it be murder?

Join Morley, Miriam and Sefton as they journey along the Great North road and the Settle-Carlisle Line into the dark heart of 1930s England.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired to write this book in the same way I was inspired to write all my books – which is to say I sat down one day, decided I was going to write a book and then wrote it. I’ll be honest, I’m not a great one for inspiration. To my knowledge I have never been inspired to do anything.

Excerpt from Westmorland Alone:
It was the most violent collision. There was a moment’s shudder and then a kind of cracking before the great spasm of movement and noise began. I fell forward and struck my head on the luggage rack. I was momentarily stunned and knocked unconscious. When I came to I found we were all tilted together into a corner of the carriage – me, the mother and the baby. Our coach seemed to have tipped to the right, off the tracks, and become wedged against an embankment. What were once the sturdy walls of the carriage were now buckled and torn like the flimsiest material: the wood was splintered, the cloth of the carriage seats split, everything was broken. I remember I shook my head once, twice, three times: it was difficult to make sense of what had happened, the shock was so great. The first thing I recognised was that the mother and baby were both crying loudly – though thank goodness they appeared to be unharmed – and that the carriage was shuddering all around us, shaking and groaning as if it were wounded.

‘Are you OK?’ I said.

The woman continued crying. Her face was streaked with tears.

‘Are you OK?’ I repeated.

Again, she simply sobbed, the baby wailing with her.

‘We must remain calm,’ I said, as loudly and authoritatively as I could manage, above the sounds, trying to reassure both them and myself, willing them to be quiet.

‘Where’s Lucy?’ she said.

Where was Lucy?

I stood up, still rather disorientated and confused.

‘I don’t know—’ I began.

‘You have to get us out!’ said the woman, between sobs.

‘I have to find Lucy.’

‘OK,’ I said. I was still gathering my thoughts, trying to work out what to do.

‘GET US OUT!’ yelled the woman, suddenly frantic.

‘I have to find my daughter! You need to do something.’

I didn’t know what to do.

‘You need to do something!’ yelled the woman again.

‘Help us!’

The carriage continued to rock and sway all around us; clearly, we had to get out.

I looked around: the window was open to darkness and the tracks beneath us.

‘What’s under there?’ cried the woman. ‘Is Lucy under there? Lucy! Lucy!’ She did not wait for a response – she was hysterical. ‘Lucy! Lucy! Lucy!’

‘Look!’ I said. ‘You just have to let me check that everything is safe.’ I was worried that Lucy might be trapped beneath our carriage.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I can’t guarantee that it’s exciting but this is the story I’m working on: basically it’s the next instalment of a very very very long quest. Let me explain. Westmorland Alone is the 3rd in a projected series of 44 books. Each book is set in the 1930s, each book set in a different county in England. In the books my characters – Swanton Morley (the People’s Professor), his wayward daughter Miriam, and their assistant, Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton – arrive in each county ready to write a guide book to the county but they find to their horror that some has died. Is it an accident or could it be … murder? That’s the gist of it. Book 4, Essex Poison is due to be published in the UK in February 2017.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Honestly, I still don’t. I write. I’m not keen on ‘writers’.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I have always had to work full-time and write in whatever quiet moments I can find. Sometimes I get up very early. Sometimes I go to bed very late. Somehow the writing gets done. Perhaps if enough people buy this book I can give up my job and devote myself to writing full-time. That would be nice.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have no writing quirks. Isn’t writing itself a quirk enough?

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I have never had any desire to do anything but write. It’s a form of vocational malfunction.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

No, nothing except to say I hope you enjoy the books – they’re meant for you to enjoy.


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