The Interview: Bookbag Talks To J E Ryder

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To J E Ryder


Summary: Sue hadn't really intended to stay up until four o'clock in the morning reading Blood Pool by J E Ryder but once she got into the story she had to know what happened next. When J E Ryder popped in to Bookbag Towers Sue had quite a few questions for her.
Date: 10 February 2013
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Sue hadn't really intended to stay up until four o'clock in the morning reading Blood Pool by J E Ryder but once she got into the story she had to know what happened next. When J E Ryder popped in to Bookbag Towers Sue had quite a few questions for her.

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

J E Ryder: If I had to imagine a reader, it would be someone who enjoys a good yarn and a fast-moving, thrilling story. I write what I love to read, suspense-filled plot-based novels with strong characters. My stories aren't all action, thrills and spills, I like to think there's something in them for everyone, drama, tragedy and romance too.

  • BB: What inspired you to write Blood Pool?

JER: The smallest incidents can trigger plot ideas. I'm observant and insatiably curious. I have a constant need to ask why. That why can so swiftly become a what if, and a plot idea is born. Three separate and unconnected events triggered Blood Pool's story line: a loaded glance I noticed between two people, my own family history research and a news item about a technological advance.

  • BB: I'll confess that I was expecting an engaging whodunnit - but what I got was a gritty, action-packed thriller with more twists than the average corkscrew. What draws you to writing in this genre?

JER: In my childhood most little girls I knew wanted to be ballerinas, or own a pony, or wear pretty dresses and go to parties. My dreams were very different. I wanted to be a racing driver, or an explorer, or yes, even a daring spy. I longed to travel the world. I wanted danger, adventure and excitement. Of course, real life crushed those hopes. There was the need to earn a living and later came marriage and a painful divorce. For years now, as a kind of antidote to my steady, solid business career, I've been composing thrilling stories in my head. I may have matured, but the childhood longings stay the same. Luckily, I can act them out through my characters and plots.

  • BB: It wasn't just the story which blew me away - you seemed to have a considerable depth of knowledge in a number of areas. I was particularly impressed by the way that you brought the boatyard off the page and the Prof's invention seemed to be based on more than just a flight of imagination. How did you manage to do all the research?

JER: I'm always scouting for interesting or unusual locations to feature in a novel. The boat yard was an easy one for me to describe. When I was a yacht owner I lived and breathed boat yards, their atmosphere, their hustle and bustle, their organised chaos, and met many determined, tough people who made their living from them.

As for the Prof's invention - the idea came from a casual conversation with my partner, an Applied Physicist. He was reading a scientific journal at the time and happened to mention an interesting item on the possible future development of a current technology. It was the inspiration I'd been waiting for, the final component I needed to complete Blood Pool. An exciting moment. Suddenly the plot came together in my thoughts and I was able to start writing.

Research has become so much easier these days. Thank goodness for the Internet. No more spending long hours in libraries thumbing through dusty reference works while trying to pick out the relevant information, or writing letters to learned experts in the hope that they'll respond. Online browsing achieved everything I needed to flesh out the background information. I based the Prof's invention very loosely on today's technology in that field, but its appearance and operation are no more than a figment of my wild imagination.

  • BB: Your heroine, Sam Shelley has an obvious affinity with boats, but suffers from seasickness. How do you feel about boats - and the sea?

JER: Poor Sam Shelley. I gave her my own problem with seasickness – a debilitating condition. I love yachts and yachting, the water hissing past the bow as the wind catches the sails, the slapping of waves against the hull, that wonderful taint of diesel oil in the hot sunshine. I could go on and on. I love it all. Unfortunately, put me on one rolling sea and I've had it. I'm sad to say that my active sailing days are over.

  • BB: You write a very good thriller, but are you a thrill seeker?

JER: Thank you for the compliment. I'd like to think I'm tough and adventurous. But if I'm honest I prefer to experience my thrills vicariously through my characters. Would I rise to the occasion if something terrible happened? Hopefully. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not as brave as my characters. I'm very thankful that I've never been tested in the way that they are.

  • BB: Where and how do you write? Which parts of the process do you enjoy and which would you rather put off? How long did it take you to write Blood Pool?

JER: I write in a small upstairs room at home - I call it my garret - my desk lodged against a blank wall, no distractions, just me, my imagination and my laptop. I love to write. Barring trips abroad, or holidays, I'm disciplined about my work and write every day for at least three hours. I get so engrossed that the time just flies by. My wonderful partner of many years and my lovely stepdaughter are very supportive. When I'm lost in my work and haven't noticed the time, which happens a lot, my partner produces meals to keep me going.

At the start of a novel, by the time I'm ready to commit words to the page, I've already done a lot of thinking. The plot idea is in place. I know where my story starts and how it finishes. Those two crucial scenes are fixed in my head. Between them I'll have worked out three or four set-piece scenes that I want to include. During the thinking process I get to know my characters, who they are, what they want. Snatches of dialogue will have come to me, and perhaps the characters' emotions in confrontation. I jot them all down in a notebook for later reference. Then I start writing. If I'm very lucky the idea and broad course of the plot arrive all at once (as they did for my next novel). Otherwise the plot works itself out as I write. I visualise each scene first, consider what works and what doesn't. If it doesn't excite me I restructure, rewrite or discard it completely and try again until I'm satisfied.

What do I enjoy most about writing? The creative process - without a doubt. It's that visceral excitement of getting the words down onto the page and seeing the story come to life. The part of the process I least enjoy is taking off my writing hat and buckling down to the serious task of editing, an arduous process where I have to be ruthless, constantly refining my words, grammar and story structure. I'm always thankful to return to the creative part.

Once the first draft of Blood Pool was finished it took me twelve months to re-work, hone, and polish before I was happy with the completed manuscript.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment? Which books have influenced you most and if you could only take one book to a desert island, what would it be?

JER: Books have always been a part of my life. I grew up in a rural village where the mobile library called every two weeks, a major event. As a family we scoured second-hand bookshops, magical rabbit-warren buildings filled floor-to-ceiling with every kind of literature. We all read avidly. At school I was obliged to read the Classics. They didn't really make a dent at the time. I needed to study them in order to pass examinations and that was as far as my interest went. Recently, I've felt the urge to return to them. I've just finished reading The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Once I'd adjusted to the (much) slower Victorian storytelling pace I discovered all the ingredients of a modern thriller: adventure, danger, pathos, emotion and a flawed hero. Dickens' characters don't merely exist; they are changed by the situations they are thrust into. Marvellous!

The books that influenced me the most? Back to childhood, and a favourite, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The combination of adventure and bravery enthralled me at the time. I haven't read it in years, but the book made such an impression that even talking about it now makes me want to rush off and read it again. In my very early teens I moved on to share my elder brother's reading choices, popular well-thumbed thrillers by Alistair Maclean, Raymond Chandler, John Wyndham, Desmond Bagley, Frederick Forsyth, Hammond Innes and Ian Fleming, to name a few. They all had a lasting impact on me.

Having to pick one book for my desert island is very difficult. When I'm sitting on that Pacific atoll, perched on the scorching sand beneath a lonely palm tree I'll need a trusty companion, a book to stem the boredom and stretch the brain, one I can dip into again and again. Ah,yes, I have it. I choose Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, interesting, witty and informative in a friendly, easy style - a joy to read.

  • BB: You've got one wish. What's it to be?

JER: Luckily my family is in good health and happy with their lives. Long may we all remain so in this uncertain world.

  • BB: What's next for J E Ryder?

JER: I've completed the first draft of my next novel, as yet untitled, a sweeping action-filled thriller that spans the European continent - a story of tragedy, vengeance and love. I'm as excited by this book as I was by Blood Pool.

  • BB: We've got something to look forward to there, Jeanette. Thank you for chatting to us.

You can read more about J E Ryder here.

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