CRIMINALLY GOOD: interview with author Sam Bourne

So we have ‘Criminally Good’ with a bit of a difference today … Author Sam Bourne decided he wanted some different questions, so here you go! (If you’re a crime fiction author and want to take part in this feature? CLICK HERE). Enjoy!

1) ‘To Kill the President’ is a political thriller about a volatile new US President ­– as a journalist who has covered several US elections, do you find writing fiction inspired by current affairs to be liberating, and how does writing a novel compare to journalistic writing?

It is liberating, actually. You can allow your imagination to take off, chasing down every avenue opened up by that ‘What if?’ question. That’s the big difference with journalism. But the two fields are more similar than you think. You have to do a lot of research as a journalist – reading, interviewing experts, going to places and pulling out your notebook – and for a novel like this, that work is necessary too.

One thing I’ve discovered is that readers will allow you the wildest flights of the imagination – but if you get a real fact about the real world wrong, that breaks the spell and their reading experience is spoiled. You can construct an alternative reality and readers will go with it – until you have a character who, say, gets on the Northern Line at Green Park. At that point, they’ll hurl the book across the room, declaring, “You can’t believe a word of this rubbish!” If readers know they can trust you on the little things, they’re more likely to trust you on the big ones.

2) What does your writing space look like?

A room at the top of the house, with a long, cluttered desk, filled with piles of paper. At the centre of those piles is a small clearing, with just enough room for a keyboard and computer. There’s an old school, non-digital radio on the desk, and on the walls lots of pictures, including: a framed poster promoting my first book, Bring Home the Revolution; a magazine cover featuring me and my then toddler son; and a line drawing of a part of London that includes Fleet Street.

3) Who are your literary heroes?

George Orwell, John le Carre, George Eliot, Leonard Cohen, Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, Ira Levin.

4) What’s the best advice you were given as a writer?

I once heard Philip Roth say, “Just wade through your own crap.” Meaning, no matter how much your confidence flags, you just have to get to the other side. Once the first draft is written, you can always make it better.

5) Apart from your knowledge of politics as a journalist, and current affairs, is there anything else that inspires your writing?

Family life, the people I’ve known, music, movies – everything.

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