Today I’m pleased to welcome Stuart Turton to the blog. Stuart’s debut novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, was published by Bloomsbury Raven on 8 February 2018.
Stuart kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
It’s an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery (1930s country house and assorted accents with secrets) in a Groundhog Day time loop. My protagonist can’t escape the loop until he solves the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, but every day he wakes up he’s in the body of a different guest – allowing him to interact with past hims and future hims, all of whom have wildly different personalities he has to grapple with.
2. What inspired the book?
I was inspired by Agatha Christie having written every type of mystery there is, and selfishly using up all the great twists while doing it. I needed something to set my book apart, and I hadn’t seen this done before. Turns out there’s a reason for that, as I discovered when I entered my third year of writing a book that was only supposed to take one.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I planned Seven Deaths. My lord, I planned Seven Deaths. I wrote ideas on post-it notes; I made spreadsheets; I drew maps and timelines. I doodled things in notepads. I would have made dioramas if I wasn’t worried about looking like a serial killer. I spent a month planning, and then I went off-piste ten minutes into the writing of it because I had a good idea that wasn’t in the plan, then another, and another. The plan for Seven Deaths was epic, and bears only a grudging resemblance to the final book. For my second book I’ve tried to merge the two halves of my messy brain by planning major plot points, but leaving myself wriggle room in how I get to them. I still haven’t ruled out those dioramas, though.
4. Is there anything about the process of creating a novel which surprised you?
That I finished it! I’m not one of life’s great finishers. I’m a very keen starter. Incredibly enthusiastic over short distances, that’s me. This was fun, though. Far more fun than I expected, especially once my agent Harry Illingworth took it on, and put me in contact with Alison Hennessy at Raven, and Grace Menary-Winefield at Sourcebooks in the US. Having people that talented taking my book seriously, and helping to make it better, was truly amazing. Oh, and I got maps. I didn’t expect the book to have maps, and I love maps so much.
5. Do you have any writing influences or rituals you have to stick to?
Before I start on any story, I write mundane scenes for my characters that have nothing to do with the plot – for example, I’ll imagine them going shopping, or shaving. I try to see how they do things I’d normally never have them do. None of this writing ever makes it into the story, but it forces me to get around the character and see them from all sides, while fixing their voice in my head. Other than that, I make sure to only write when I’m in the mood, which is usually early in the morning, or very late at night. Any other time and I might as well just repeatedly smash my head into the keyboard for all the sense I’ll make.
6. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I’m a travel journalist, so I literally get away from it all. For a bit. And then I have to write about getting away from it all, and the circle begins again. There’s been about three seconds in my adult life when I wasn’t at a keyboard. I’ve got Stockholm Syndrome with my laptop.
7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I really hate it, but I’m determined to finish it. I read about thirty pages a year, and have to drink strong spirits to get through that much. I’ll be reading it the rest of my life anyway, so I might as well make it official. If you forced me to be less grumpy about it, I’d probably glue The God of Small Things and The Book Thief together, and have that. There’s so much beautiful writing in those books, I could cheerfully live off a single page for a month and be perfectly content.
8. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Q: Arundhati Roy’s next door, would you like to meet her?
A: To be honest, you wouldn’t be able to hear my answer as I’d have trampled you on the way out.
About the book
‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.
But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…