Q: There are some hints of speculative and the philosophical to The Other Side of Night. Mix that with lyrical writing and it’s poised to be one of the best novels of 2022. Can you tell us about the process of creating The Other Side of Night? Your ideas, your inspiration, blending such complex themes with a diverse cast of characters, and the 18-month writing journey?
A: The idea for The Other Side of Night came from a question our son, Elliot, asked when he was 8-years-old. He’s now approaching 14, so it’s taken me slightly longer than 18-months to bring the book to life. Thank you for asking about the speculative and philosophical aspects because they’re very important to me. The book is intended to be an experience, maybe a dream, to take readers out of themselves and give them a different perspective on life and the world. It doesn’t claim to have any answers, but hopefully it will prompt people to ask some interesting questions. In terms of the writing process, I started work the day Elliot asked his question, and I originally wrote it as a short story. I knew there was something in it that was worth exploring in a long-form piece, and worked on it as a screenplay and a novel for the next three years, but something was missing. It was interesting and emotional, but I wanted it to feel magical, so I kept working and waiting for inspiration to strike. It finally did when I met a man while teaching on a writing course at the Arvon Centre in Clun. We were on a lunch break and I’d gone for a walk in the woods that surround The Hurst, the beautiful home that once belonged to playwright John Osborne. I met a man walking a lovely dog and we fell in beside each other and started chatting. I asked about the dog and he told me it used to belong to his daughter and was now his because she’d died of cancer the previous week, leaving behind a husband and two young children. I did my best to console him, as much as one can a stranger, and we parted, but the grief he expressed stayed with me and I realized I needed a perspective such as his to give my book that magical quality.
Q: You’ve spent time as a screenwriter and currently work with both studio and production companies. How has that impacted your progress for The Other Side of Night? Can you dig a little into the challenges of screenwriting vs novel writing that were unexpected, fun, or unique?
A: Screenwriting teaches the importance of structure and of economy. Movies and TV are expensive, so every shot has to count. This doesn’t mean something has to happen in every shot, but it does mean any moments of nothing have to mean something. I think the same is true in novels. They work best when there is no fat, when the reader isn’t being asked to indulge an author and when the author has the reader’s enjoyment front of mind. This doesn’t mean non-stop action, but I do think it means every moment of inaction is presented deliberately and as a key part of the whole. Another thing screenwriting teaches is the importance of planning. Do as much work up front as possible and it saves heartache later on. I’ve written books with and without outlines, and have to say an outline makes the process much more fun. It’s like having a map, one can take detours and go off the planned route, but without a plan of getting from A to B, one risks getting entirely lost.
Q: There have been some readers who recommend going into The Other Side of Night blindly (without reading the blurb). What are your thoughts on this? Would you recommend digging in this way and why?
A: I don’t think it hurts to know a bit about the book. In fact, I’m starting to get messages from people who’ve read it a second time and who say they got more out of it on the second reading. Anthony Horowitz said he appreciated it even more the second time round. The book is constructed in such a way that you’ll see hidden meaning and references throughout on a second reading. If you really want to delve deep, there are anagrams and secret meanings to some of the character names and some of the places, secrets in the poetry and so on.
Q: We’ve heard of the incredible twist in this novel. What are the secrets behind that perfect twisty moment that changes a story for better or worse?
A: I think twists have to be integral to the story and they have to feel authentic. If a twist meets those criteria, I think readers will love it and it will enhance their experience of a book.
Q: Why did you decide to found Capital Crime, one of the UK’s largest literary festivals?
A: I had such a lot of fun at ThrillerFest in New York through my involvement with International Thriller Writers, that my co-founder David Headley and I decided London needed a similar festival dedicated to connecting readers with authors. I’ve since left the UK to live in Mauritius and am not as involved in Capital Crime as I was, but the festival is up and running again after a break because of the pandemic, and the line-up this year looks incredible.
Q: What new projects are you working on that you can share with us?
A: I’m developing a TV series based on an original concept, have completed another stand-alone novel, am working on my next Private book with James Patterson, and have two books and a feature screenplay scheduled for 2023. I’m exceedingly grateful to be so busy.
Discover the Book
The Other Side of Night begins with a man named David Asha writing about his biggest regret: his sudden separation from his son, Elliot. In his grief, David tells a story.
Next, we step into the life of Harriet Kealty, a police officer trying to clear her name after a lapse of judgment. She discovers a curious inscription in a secondhand book–a plea: Help me, he’s trying to kill me. Who wrote this note? Who is “he”?
This note leads Harri to David Asha, who was last seen stepping off a cliff. Police suspect he couldn’t cope after his wife’s sudden death. Still, why would this man jump and leave behind his young son? Quickly, Harri’s attention zeroes in on a person she knows all too well.
Ben Elmys: once the love of her life. A surrogate father to Elliot Asha and trusted friend to the Ashas.
Ben may also be a murderer.
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 11, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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