Interview with author Emlyn Rees

On September 13, 2011, in Author, book reviews, Books, Interview, by Milo
Hunted by Emlyn Rees

Hunted by Emlyn Rees

Joining me today is Emlyn Rees, author of the action thriller title Hunted (reviewed here). Set in and around the streets of London it tells the story of Danny Shanklin, former CIA operative who struggles to clear his name in a frenetic game of cat and mouse. Welcome Emlyn:-

Thanks for having me on the site.

Emlyn, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Did you get one of those pivotal moments in school or did it come later?

In true Adrian Mole style, I got into reading (mostly good) and writing (mostly bad) poetry when I was a teenager. As well as thinking it would impress girls (it didn’t), I had an absurd fantasy that one day I’d get asked by a bunch of other revolutionary young poets to get involved in something epic like the Spanish Civil War (I never got the call).

What books/authors have most influenced you most and why?

In terms of thriller writing, I’d have to go for James Clavell, who I think is hard to beat in terms of technique and sheer scale. I think one of the chase scenes in SHOGUN comes in at nearly 200 pages. For style I’d cite Cormac McCarthy. He conveys a huge amount with a very few words. A lot of people describe him as lit fic, but I’d say he’s a pretty much perfect thriller writer too.

A fairly random question for you now… Given the chance to go back in time and spend two weeks either with an historical figure or event where would you travel and why.

I’m quite fickle with my enthusiasms, meaning I tend to get into whatever I’m reading at the moment, which right now is: London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945, by Barry Miles. Meaning I’d go to the UFO Club on Tottenham Court Road between the end of December 1966 and the first week of January ’67, which was when ‘The’ Pink Floyd were the house band and just about everyone who was anyone in 60’s London was there hanging out. I’d just gawp.

What drew you to the Action Thriller genre? Have you always been a fan?

I wouldn’t even say that what I write are action thrillers. Certainly there are elements of HUNTED that fall into that category (hard to deny, given that a lot of HUNTED takes place with my main guy Danny Shanklin physically running for his life!), but I hope to develop Danny as a series character who appears in a variety of differently-styled – and paced – thriller plots.

What do you find the hardest part of writing a novel – research, ideas, characters?

Parenting! I love being a father, but I reckon my writing output would be doubled or tripled if I was left to my own devices. (Even so, I still wouldn’t swap them – the kids – for the world!)

I remember comparing Hunted with Jack Bauer’s 24 earlier this month and fans of the hit US TV series missing their fix should really check it out. Were you a fan of Bauer and the 24 ringtone?

Definitely a fan of Bauer. Though I have to say that I got a little uncomfortable with the whole Bush era/rendition/the-end-justifies-any-means-including-torture morality of the series as it progressed. With Danny Shanklin, I’ve tried writing a character who uses violence as a last, rather than a first, resort. As far as ringtones go, I don’t actually have a mobile phone, which is weird, I suppose, considering how much I love technology. It’s less to do with hating them and more to do with how many I’ve lost. I lazily just give people the number of Jo (my wife and erstwhile writing partner) instead.

Harrods by Day

Harrods by Day

How did you get your head around some of the torture scenes, did you do any practical work or was it purely imagination? Not sure which is better!!

I’m a firm believer that for bad guys to be effective in novels, they have to be truly bad and true to character type. In the case of terrorists and intelligence agents, this translates to them behaving in ways that normal members of society (like myself) find appalling and abhorrent. Researching what these people do for money – and there are plenty of them working in the real world right now – was deeply unpleasant. Writing it was tough too. Most of these ‘darker’ scenes were written in one sitting, or ‘take’, to use movie language. I wanted to live them and then leave them. I think they read quite fast as a result. Maybe it’s a method I should apply to the rest of my work too!

Did you have fun setting the book in and around London? Given that the hero has to spend part of the book in the lovely sewage system of greater London, did you get the chance to experience that for yourself?!

I lived in London for nearly twenty years and started HUNTED just after I moved down with my family to Brighton. The fact I’ve set the novel in real locations was probably me relieving my homesickness on some subconscious level. (It’s probably no coincidence that several of my favourite pubs and other haunts make appearances in the story too…)

For those readers who haven’t yet discovered Emlyn Rees and Danny Shanklin could you tell us a little about your main protagonist and how he came about?

Danny came from a series of short stories I wrote over the past few years. He was called Mac then. Had a different career. A different family. The one consistency was that he was a character I kept putting in more and more impossible jeopardy situations, before setting myself the task of trying to find ways to ‘write’ him out of them. He’s a true survivor in every way. Someone who’ll never quit. The one person you’d always want to have on your side in a fight.

Do you relish the writing procedure or are you prone to distractions? Do you find you can write better in one particular room than any other?

It’s more a case of I relish the distraction procedure, but am prone to writing. I’ve habitually written every day for the past twenty years. I get twitchy (and irritating, Jo says) if I don’t. I write in the attic, not because – in the immortally bad lyrics of Adrian Gurwitz, I think one day I’m “gonna to write a classic, gonna write it in an attic” – but because there’s no wifi signal up there. Meaning I can’t research (AKA mindlessly surf the web) and as a result get a whole lot more done.

If Hunted was optioned for television or the big screen, who would you want to play Danny Shanklin and why?

Anyone who doesn’t look anything like I’ve written him in the book, because all the book adaptations I’ve ever enjoyed have surprised me with this casting. I’ve heard that Tom Cruise is about to play the seven foot tall Jack Reacher. Now that could be fun (or funny, we’ll have to wait and see…).

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing Hunted?     

How Big Brother Surveillance Society is already here. One of the main obstacles Danny Shanklin comes up against as he tries to outrun the cops through the streets of London and clear his name is how easily he gets tracked by both the police and the bad guys.

In spite of recent pledges by the UK Government to curb the epidemic, there are an estimated four point two million CCTV cameras in Britain. Half a million in London alone. Meaning that your average Londoner, wandering around London on an average day, is likely to be filmed by over three hundred and fifty cameras on thirty five separate surveillance systems.

Leaving a Londoner’s current chances of getting their portrait repeatedly snapped higher than anywhere else in the world.

I understand you are hard at work on the sequel to Hunted, can you tell us a little about the follow up and what the next book will be called?

WANTED picks up where HUNTED leaves off, with Danny Shanklin tracking down the terrorist cell who set him up, whilst simultaneously finding himself top of the Most Wanted list of the CIA, FSB and MI5. But it’s not them he needs to be worried about the most. The PSSKiller is looking for him too.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

Winnie the Pooh. (It would be a nice break from being Eeyore.)

Social Media – yes or no?!

YES, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Is that clear enough? Good to be in touch with readers and other writers. Saves on licking stamps. [Follow Emlyn on twitter]

And finally – if you could invite three people/characters from the past or present to a dinner party who would you invite and why and what would be for dessert?!!

Stock, Aitken and Waterman for single-handedly trashing the end of the 80’s and the start of the 90‘s, and thereby inadvertently paving the way for Simon Cowell. The pudding would be Semtex Surprise.

If you’d like to learn more about Emlyn and his work, why not visit Emlyn’s website now! Emlyn Rees is a published author with Constable & Robinson.

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