17th May2012

Interview with Emlyn Rees

by Lloyd Paige

Author Emlyn Rees is no stranger to the demands of publishing after collaborating with Josie Lloyd and creating a host of successful titles. But now Emlyn has given us a new fictional hero all from his own hand, a character that never gives in. So it was only fair that I ask him a few questions about his new book Hunted, published by Corsair.

1. You’ve had success a few years back when you teamed up with Josie Lloyd to produce books such as Come Together, Come Again, and We Are Family. How was that collaboration originally created?

We were both single at the time and ended up having one too many in a pub in London and telling each other all sorts of things we probably shouldn’t have about what had been happening in our separate social lives. A lot of it made us laugh and it occurred to us it might be funny to write a novel about dating, but told from alternating his/her viewpoints. Luckily we didn’t get so drunk that we couldn’t remember the idea in the morning.

2. What was the hardest part of writing in a team?

Learning to take criticism from each other. The flip side of which is being totally honest with one another. And you have to be – both your names end up on the book, meaning you both have to be proud of what’s inside. The good news is it gets easier with each book.

3. Before you begin to write, where do you draw your inspiration from?

The same as with Come Together, all the novel ideas I’ve ever had have come from conversations, especially with other writers. Jo and I always end up playing ‘what if?’ where a small idea can quickly spiral into a fully formed character or plot.

4. Your current book Hunted, introduces Danny Shanklin. What do you think sets him apart from the other fictional characters out there?

He’d kick the rest of their asses, no sweat! No, that’s just a joke. Yes, Danny can do the physical stuff when it’s needed – and watch out anyone who gets in his way – but I didn’t ever see him as some invincible/cartoonish fighting machine. He’s very human. He’s not perfect. He makes mistakes, in both his private and professional life. I also think in many ways he’s very down to earth. He’s a Dad, who’s trying to fathom out a relationship with his teenage daughter, and a widower who’s haunted by the losses and grief in his past. He’s someone I hope readers will care about, not simply cheer on when he takes the bad guys on.

5. Will Hunted be a stand alone book or is it part of a series?

It’s very much the first part of a two parter. I’m writing the sequel, WANTED, now. HUNTED ends with Danny having achieved some of what he set out to so there is a sense of resolution and ending for the reader. But there’s also a lot more he needs to do before he can find peace.

6. A lot of changes can happen during the novel writing process, did the first draft of the story end up being radically different to the final submitted manuscript?

A lot of HUNTED is written in ‘real time’, by which I mean I wanted to put the reader right inside Danny Shanklin’s head and make them run each exhausted step with him, as he attempts to evade the UK authorities. As a result, while the plot I had planned out stayed pretty much the same, the actual pace of the novel took on a frenetic life of its own.

7. How long did it take you to write Hunted?

Start to finish, I’d say around six months. Though certain parts were much faster to get down than others, like the ending, which in writing terms felt a bit like getting caught up in a bursting dam, after the build up of pace and momentum that had gone before.

8. As well as being an author, you’re also running Angry Robot’s new crime fiction imprint EXHIBIT A, how do you successfully mix both roles?

Ha! Good question. And one I hope I’ll be able to answer more fully in a year’s time. What I can say is that the two roles require the same head set. They’re all about crime. What’s different, of course, is the approach. I always thought writing books was the hardest thing. But finding new writers is even tougher. Mainly, this is because of the sheer enormity of choice. There’s a huge amount of talented writers out there, but at EXHIBIT A we’re only going to be publishing twelve novels a year. I need to make sure I get the right twelve – by which I mean novels I can be fully passionate about as a reader/editor, but also novels that are commercial enough for the sales and marketing people I work with to back with their enthusiasm, experience and expertise.

9. What can crime fiction readers hope to expect from the EXHIBIT A catalogue, and how does the imprint plan to stand out from the rest?

EXHIBIT A is all about addictive writing and addictive new voices. We’re looking to launch exciting new and previously overlooked talent – books readers will be itching to share with their friends. I think what marks ExA, Angry Robot and its YA imprint, Strange Chemistry, out as different is that all of us who work there come from the reading communities we want to serve. We’re writers, bloggers and eZine editors, who are passionate about the genres we’re working in. In short, we love what we do and would be doing it anyway. And it’s this enthusiasm and excitement which I hope is also going to come through in everything we publish at EXHIBIT A.

10. With self publishing on the rise through a variety of different mediums, do you think that route is now an accepted option for first time writers, or should they still try the traditional approach by attempting to gain an agent first?

Another tough question. And again one that’ll be easier to answer in a couple of years time. My answer now is that, yes, self-publishing is a great route for a lot of writers. No-one likes sticking a novel away in a draw. But in the old days – short of vanity publishing – that was your only real option in the face of rejection from traditional agents and publishers. These days, at least in terms of eBooks, anyone can go out there and find their audience. Is this a better route than getting your book out there via an agent and publisher? That would depend on the book. The more left field an idea is, the less likely a traditional publisher will get involved. If you’re brilliant at self-promotion, then maybe you’re best off self-publishing. But when you sign with a publisher, you’re also getting access to their sales and marketing teams, as well as their rights teams (which will attempt to sell your novel’s translation and dramatisation rights – all of which you’ll get a cut of).

11. What do you think makes a good crime thriller story?

Simple: take one part fear, two parts intrigue, add a sprinkle of original characterisation and a dash of pace, then stir to perfection.

12. Finally, what do you like to do when you’re not writing or running the imprint?

Read (!) and watch films and TV box sets. Go to the pub. Go to gigs. Hang out with my family. Enter chilli-eating competitions. Travel. (And then read some more.)

EXHIBIT A will be holding an ‘open door’ later in the year for unagented writers. Keep an eye out for details on the angry robot website.

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