Ed Chatterton, author of Underland
Tell us about your latest creation:
‘Underland’. This is the sequel to last year’s ‘A Dark Place To Die’ which was Random House Book of the Month for August. Set in Liverpool, England and in LA, this is a gritty psychological crime thriller which builds from an apparently ‘ordinary’ murder-suicide to a climax of global proportions.
I was born in Liverpool (England) and lived and worked in London and then the US for some time before emigrating to Australia in 2004. I live in Lennox Head on the NSW north coast and split my time between there and the UK.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
I wanted to be an astronaut but there were some problems: fear of enclosed spaces and being lousy at maths among them. Next I wanted to be a footballer. I still do. My first achievable aim was to do something in the arts and I became an illustrator. Now I have ambitions to be a film-maker. ‘A Dark Place To Die’ was optioned as a movie so maybe that’s how I’ll end up achieving that particular goal.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:
The work I’m producing at the moment is my best. If I didn’t belive that I’d give up. I’m currently working on three projects, all of which occupy most of my brain space. The first is ‘Unidentified Male’, the third book in my ‘Frank Keane’ crime series. The second is ‘Archangel’, a futuristic YA novel which itself is a spin off from my PhD magnum opus, ‘The Last Slave Ship’ an examination of the lingering effects of the slave trade on my home city. I think that ‘Underland’ is an improvement on ‘A Dark Place’ and I’m feeling good about the work I’m doing on ‘Unidentified Male’. Why? These novels are the culmination of a long apprenticeship in writing. I’m pushing myself hard, because I’m trying to compete with the best. And I’m trying new fields: one of my projects is working with Rebel Waltz Films on a documentary about the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
I have a desk that’s too small and a computer that’s too big. It veers wildly between chaotic and ordered. I’ve been working for thirty years in this field and there is always this imagined Shangri-La of work environments that I know – just know – I will have one day yet still remains tantalisingly out of reach. I suspect this will always be the case.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
I have been reading a lot of slavery related stuff. Barry Unsworth’s ‘Sacred Hunger’ is a stand out. Also more esoteric academic material and (quite strangely for me) the poems of WH Auden. I’ve also been trying to discover why Scandi crime is so popular.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
So many to choose from. The Famous Five featured heavily, as did Ian Fleming, Conan Doyle, Capt WE Johns (Biggles), Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse, Dr Seuss, Isaac Asimov, Michael Moorcock, Evelyn Waugh, Richmal Crompton and (later) Elmore Leonard. Probably the Sherlock Holmes stories are the ones that have had the most influence.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
Sherlock Holmes. I always fancied myself as a cerebral gentleman about town and Holmes is such a complex and flawed character. I think my Holmes fixation is very like my David Bowie man crush.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
I play soccer and I’m pretty good at it too. I’m also president of the Lennox Arts Board. We brought KULCHUR to Surf Town in the form of Andrew Frost (‘The A-Z of Contemporary Art) and Michael Leunig.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:
When I was a kid there was a magazine called ‘Shoot!’ which dealt with English football. In the section where they asked players what their favourite food was they would, almost without exception, say ‘steak and chips’. This was the late sixties/early seventies but I still think it’s hard to beat a perfect rare steak and some shoestring fries with a dab of English mustard. Wine.
Who is your hero? Why?:
As an ex-punk not having heroes was something of a mission statement but I’d have to give it up for John Lennon, John Lydon, PG Wodehouse, William Shakespeare, David Bowie, James Brown, Larry David, Laurel and Hardy, SJ Perelman, Armando Ianucci, Michael Winterbottom, Woody Allen, Patricia Highsmith, Ron Mueck and Billy Connolly all qualify as bona fide heroes. Actually, for someone who doesn’t have heroes that’s quite a lot, isn’t it? John Lennon then.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
I think moving to a more fluid distribution system while still rewarding the creatives is the biggest challenge. What has happened with music will happen with books. Probably.
Website URL: www.edchatterton.com
Blog URL: www.thelastslaveship.com.au
Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/marti
Twitter URL: @MEChatterton