Christopher Wakling is the author of What I Did, On Cape Three Points, The Devil’s Mask, The Undertow and Beneath the Diamond Sky. His latest novel, Escape and Evasion, is published by Faber on 3 May 2018.
Christopher kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Escape and Evasion.
It’s the story of a banker called Joseph Ashcroft. He’s hugely successful, yet in the book’s opening pages he steals £1.34 billion from his own bank, gives it away untraceably to impoverished strangers worldwide, and runs for his life. Why? And will he get away with it? ESCAPE AND EVASION is a thriller with heart: it’s about masculinity, materialism, family and the pull of home.
2. What inspired the story?
I used to work in the City. What struck me was the human fallibility of the so called masters of the universe. I wanted to humanize the cartoon villain of the evil banker: show him in his flawed ridiculousness, give him a heart. Other ingredients in the book include a close friend’s experience of soldiering in Bosnia, fatherhood, and the fact that I like camping.
3. You have written a number of novels. Is there still anything about the publishing process that surprises you?
Lots. Including the realization I gained through working as a creative writing tutor for the literary agency Curtis Brown, that although authors think the industry is stacked against them, with the agents and publishers and booksellers having all the power, that’s only true to a degree. The agents need good books to pitch, and everyone involved, from agents to editors and publicists to publishers, are also putting themselves on the line.
4. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
I do both. I tend to know how the story starts, roughly where it’s going to go, and I have an idea about the ending – or possible endings at least – before I begin. Then I make it up, scene by scene, as I go along. Over-plan (I’ve done that) and writing the thing starts to feel like painting by numbers. Set off without a map and you risk going nowhere. The fastest I’ve written a first draft is six months. But that book took a long time to edit. The slowest is a couple of years. That novel also took a while to edit, come to think of it.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I write travel journalism, but that’s still writing, and I teach writing, as mentioned above. I also read a lot. When I need to get shot of words entirely I go mountain biking. There are trails close to my house. Also I enjoy the usual family stuff: I drive a dad-taxi, make cheese and pickle sandwiches, and like wandering round B&Q feeling handier than I am.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
That’s a terrible question, as in it’s too hard. I’m not going to answer it. I won’t consider which of my children I’d pull from a burning house, either.
7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you have done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Hmm. My books appear to be quite different – I’ve written historical fiction, thrillers, comedies – and I’ve never (that I can recall) been asked what links them. My answer would be the same as for question 3: lots. One way or another my stories seem to be about normal, relatable people pushed beyond themselves: I’m interested in the fragility of control, and what we do when lose it.
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.
About the author
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.