The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Chris Calder

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Chris Calder


Summary: Ani enjoyed Celeste Three is Missing by Chris Calder and thought it was a good, slow burning escapist thriller. She had quite a few questions for the author when he popped in to see us.
Date: 22 October 2015
Interviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson

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Ani enjoyed Celeste Three is Missing by Chris Calder and thought it was a good, slow burning escapist thriller. She had quite a few questions for the author when he popped in to see us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Chris Calder: Travellers. Commuters, folk on holiday, people who cannot bear to engage in idle gawping (or dozing) when they can spend time turning pages to see what happens next. My professional editor called my latest novel “a great beach read”. I was mortified until I realised that it was actually a compliment. He's right.

  • BB: Your latest novel Celeste Three is Missing is about a fictional attempted hi-jack. Would you like to tell us something about it?

CC: I have always been fascinated with just about everything to do with aviation. I had been following the progress and development of the Virgin Galactic space plane when the tragedy of Malaysian Airways MH370 occurred. There followed a 'what if?' moment. What if a revolutionary craft, perhaps something like Virgin's Galactic, disappeared without trace? And under what circumstances could such a thing happen?

  • BB: How do you approach creating your characters? Are they based in any part on people you know? (Although we guess you don't have an address book full of Russian oligarchs and mercenaries!)

CC: I have a sequence that I follow. The plot generates the key characters; after that it's only a question of putting myself in the character's shoes. What sort of a person is this? How would he/she react in this situation?

  • BB: Karenkov is a great baddie. Was there a particular reason why our heroes' nemesis and the target of our heroes' attention is Russian?

CC: Actually, no. His character traits arose out of the requirements of the plot. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, wealthy Russian businessmen had to take measures to protect themselves from the threat of kidnap. And the Presnensky project in Moscow and the manner in which Armenians were perceived there at the time are also facts that add credibility that would have been unlikely anywhere else. So he had to be Russian.

  • BB: Your three novels to date have been on wide reaching subjects – My Brother's Keeper centres on a priest, Payback is how an alarm designer sets out for revenge and now, Celeste Three is Missing set in the world of high level money, corruption and violence. From where do you get your inspiration?

CC: Honestly, I have no idea. My work is not genre-specific, I'll take ideas (and 'eureka' moments) however they arise. That said, I prefer to write thriller stories, leavened with some humour.

  • BB: You came to writing later in life. What was your background and why did you leave writing books until you'd retired?

CC: I have been a writer all my life. It was novel-writing that I took up late, after an unplanned sojourn in a French hospital, recovering from surgery. Before formal retirement my background had been in engineering and sales. My first novel, Payback, was conceived and fleshed-out during my recovery from illness and it was based loosely on some of the more interesting (and arguably bizarre) experiences of my long working life. And I haven't retired, I have merely changed professions.

  • BB: Do you find that there are advantages to becoming an author now rather than when you were younger?

CC: Absolutely! Life experience is of paramount importance when writing fiction. Younger folk have less of that commodity.

  • BB: As a self-published author, do you have any advice for anyone considering the process? What would you recommend them doing and what would you suggest they avoid?

CC: I'll own up to the fact that I am not self-published from choice. The only advice that I feel qualified to offer is something I learned the hard way, by experience. First, as a novice novelist, if you think that you may be perceived by Literary Agents or conventional publishers as being too old to be worth them spending time and cash on you, do not keep sending out your submissions. This is not a criticism of them, they are business people. Secondly, do not give up. There are plenty of self-published authors who are making a good living from their writing. Finally, get yourself a professional editor, even if you don't think you need one. You do.

  • BB: That's very good advice, Chris - particularly about getting a professional editor. everyone at Bookbag would second that.

Your books so far have all been fiction. Has this been a conscious decision to stick to novels or would you like to try non-fiction? If so what would your subject be?

CC: I love writing novels and my ambition is to write more and better works of fiction. At all times I have at least two ongoing projects. If for any reason one slows down or stops rolling out, I put it aside and go to the other. This works for me. Given the volume of research needed to produce a piece of serious non-fiction, I do not think that it would be right for me.

  • BB: What's next for Chris Calder?

CC: Right now I'm working on two stories. One is a thriller about an English Member of Parliament who gets sucked into the dark world of agents of the place known as the Islamic State and the other deals with the ever-changing fortunes of the Manager of a football club. How's that for 'wide-ranging'? My long term ambition is to be doing in twenty years' time, what I am enjoying doing now.

  • BB: And we hope that we're around to read the fruits of your labour, Chris. Thanks for taking the time to chat to us.

You can read more about Chris Calder here.

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