Published by Faber & Faber
Paperback (3 May 2018)
Welcome to my turn hosting the publisher blog tour for Escape and Evasion. My thanks to Josh of Faber & Faber for the invitation and to Christopher Wakling for the answers to my Q&A.
It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the blog Christopher, would you please tell us a little about your background?
Thanks for having me. I started out as an English student, then read law and worked in the City as a litigator for a few years, before turning to writing to full time – a while ago now. I’ve since written seven novels and a fair bit of travel journalism. I teach creative writing for Curtis Brown Creative and The Arvon Foundation, and have been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at UWE and Bristol University. I live in Bristol with my family and a cat. It has no tail. What else? I think that’s enough.
Without giving away too much information, can you please tell us a little about your latest novel, Escape and Evasion? Where did the inspiration for the story come from?
ESCAPE AND EVASION is the story of a banker, Joseph Ashcroft, who robs his own bank of $1.34 billion, gives it away electronically to strangers worldwide, and flees. The story answers two questions: why did he do this, and does he get away with it? Sounds like a thriller, but really it’s a comedy about masculinity, materialism, and the pull of family. Where did the story come from? A strange desire to humanise the cartoon villain of a banker – they’re as ridiculous as the rest of us – and the idea of an incompetent Ray Mears / Bear Grylls figure hiding out in a hole in the woods.
You’ve written several books, from historical mystery to general fiction. Do you have a preferred genre for writing?
No. Without planning it, I’ve simply tackled subjects that interest me through genres that seem appropriate to the particular story. That’s what genre is for, in my opinion. It sets up expectations for the writer to play with, stretching and satisfying the reader by turn.
How did you plan/research your books? Do you plot in detail or just see where the story takes you?
I like research. It’s endless, though. I tend to know something of the subjects I tackle before I start – that’s why they interest me, probably. Then I do enough research to get going, generally in an organic (disorganised) way, through travel, talking to people, the internet, and books. Once I’ve begun writing I work out more of what I need to know as I go along. The big problem with research is avoiding the temptation of putting it all in the book. As for plotting, I generally have a strong sense of where a story starts, a pretty good idea of where it’s going to end, and ideas for key scenes and happenings in the middle, but I don’t plot the whole thing out in detail before I write. I did so once, and then the writing felt like painting by numbers. Having no plan at all would be disastrous, though. I never believe writers who claim they make it all up as they go. That said, there’s alchemy in storytelling; I enjoy it when whatever I’m writing takes an unexpected turn.
What is the best writing advice that you have received? And what advice would you give to anyone trying to get their novel published? Is there anything that you wished you had done differently?
I give out lots of writing advice: as a creative writing tutor I’ve worked with hundreds of students over the last fifteen years. To date twenty-eight of my former students have mainstream publishing deals, and I’m very proud of that. So my advice to anyone wanting to get published would be to come on one of my courses. But honestly, the most important advice I dish out when teaching is horribly obvious stuff: it’s read, and write, lots. Everyone expects a musician to practise, an artist to keep sketch books, a swimmer to do some lengths, and so on. But there’s this batshit crazy idea that writing is all about waiting for inspiration to strike. You’re not a writer unless you’re writing. Sometimes I hear myself spouting this stuff and remember it applies to me as much as anyone else. Read, and write. That’s the most important writing advice I’ve been given, by myself.
Is there any part of the writing process which you enjoy (or find the most difficult) – i.e. researching, writing, editing?
The most enjoyable part of the writing process for me is reaching the end of a scene, or chapter, or even a first draft, then reading back over what I’ve written and thinking hey, that’s not bad. And the most difficult part of the writing process for me is reading the same scene or chapter or draft the following day, and realising I was wrong.
Are there any authors whose books have made an impact on you? What type of book do you enjoy reading for pleasure, and what are you reading now?
Many authors’ books have made an impact on me, of course. My favourites include Beryl Bainbridge and Paul Auster and Justin Cartwright and Anne Tyler and George Saunders and William Faulkner and Tobias Wolff and Magnus Mills and Annie Proulx and the list goes on. Right now I’m reading EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid. It’s very good.
Do you read your own reviews?
Yes. Not slavishly, but I’m always curious. They’ve made me swell with pride and shrink with shame. Either way, I try to shut the newspaper / laptop quickly and do something else sooner rather than later. The best way to accommodate reviews?: write some more.
Is there anything that you wouldn’t write about?
No. Though there’s the minefield of cultural appropriation to navigate, I think it’s a writer’s job / right / duty to give difficult subjects a go. There are obviously topics I’m less interested in, or might instinctively steer clear of, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.
When you’re not working or writing, what do you do to relax?
I go mountain biking, alone or with friends. It stretches and frightens and takes my mind of things all at the same time. And I read, which is half-work-all-pleasure. Also Netflix, the pub, ferrying my kids about, normal stuff.
If you could only keep 3 books on your bookshelf, which ones would it be and why
I’m going to exert my right to remain silent here. It’s too hard a question. The Bible, Shakespeare’s Collected Works, my kids’ diaries. What am I supposed to say?!
| About the Book |
City banker Joseph Ashcroft has stolen £1.34 billion from his own bank.
He has given it – untraceably – to impoverished strangers worldwide, and has fled.
Why has he done this? And will he get away with it?
Joseph knows that if he leaves the country, he will easily be tracked down. So he opts for hiding close by – first in the city, then in the woods near the home of his estranged family. An ex-soldier, he’s adept at the art of camouflage.
On Joseph’s trail is Ben Lancaster, the bank’s head of security and, as it happens, a former army friend with whom he shares a violent, guilt-ridden past.
The hunt is on.
Escape and Evasion is a tragicomic tale of buried secrets, the lengths a man will go to win back those he loves, and the fallout from a monumental change of heart.
| Author Bio |
Christopher Wakling is a novelist and travel writer whose previous books include On Cape Three Points, The Undertow and Towards the Sun.
Born in 1970, he was educated at Oxford, and has worked as a teacher and lawyer. He lives in Bristol with his wife and children.