Hello Giles Blunt, how are you?
Half-vaccinated. Actually, given the nature of my work, COVID-19 has made minimal changes to my life. Still sitting at a desk every day, still writing stories. Wouldn’t mind a little human contact once in a while.
You have a new book to your credit, "Le Grand Calme", so are you happy, stressed or just happy?
It came out in English back in 2013 as Until the Night, but I’m delighted that it’s finally coming out in French. I suppose I have the Cardinal TV series to thank for that. It’s now coming out in other territories as well.
If you had to describe this book in 3 words, what would it be?
Colder than death.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
Several different things. Somewhere—I forget where—I came across a mention of an Arctic «drift station». A drift station is a research outpost set on an ice floe. In summer months it will travel around the High Arctic without the need for an ice breaker. In winter months, it’s frozen in place. A pretty isolated place to be—especially in the eighties before they had Internet, email, and social media, which is when my novel is set. The two words were so evocative that I immediately started imagining a story around them. At the time, I had been mulling writing a ghost story, and though I abandoned the supernatural, elements of ghost stories still remain.
What was the trigger that made you want to write novels?
Novels were a huge part of my growing up. I reveled in the intense pleasure of escape, in the wit and insights of my favourite writers, in the almost magical power that words have to move us—whether by the craft of storytelling, or the beauty of prose. I wanted to entertain people in that way, so that they would be touched by a book and—honour of honours—perhaps want to read it more than once.
Why write about this mystery and not another subject?
The atmosphere of that drift station really got to me, and as my ideas developed I saw a unique possibility for the murderer’s M.O.
Are the characters fictional or did the story really exist?
I do often base my books on real crimes or incidents, but in this case the whole enterprise—both character and story—is fictional.
Did you honestly say to yourself one day I'm going to stop everything, I'm going to retrain in another job or not?
No, I always wanted to create stories. But I often wish I’d wanted something else.
Do you or do you not know about the blank page syndrome?
Well, I would just call it anxiety.
If you embark on a project that really challenges you—perhaps a concept that requires a new technique, or skills you have not yet shown to be in your repertoire, or the creation of a fictional world far from your personal experience—then you’re bound to have anxiety about your ability to pull it off. Much of «Le Grand Calme» is narrated in the first person (something I’d never done before) by a scientist (an occupation completely foreign to my experience.) And I had two storylines entirely separate in time, location, and tone (one being the mystery, the other a love story) that would have to be connected in a persuasive and satisfying way. So my anxiety level was particularly high with this one.
Without thinking, if I tell you
- a book to escape ...
- Any Elmore Leonard.
- a book you could read for the umpteenth time Madame Bovary
- THE book that inspires you There is no one book. Favourites change as you grow older, as you read and write more.
- And the book you would take to a desert island Complete works of William Shakespeare.
What are your literary influences? Graham Greene, Ross McDonald, Martin Cruz Smith, Thomas Harris, John le Carre. Going further back, Thomas Hardy, Knut Hamsun.
If you were to write an author’s biography, who would it be? I never would. I often enjoy reading them, but the demands are utterly different from novel writing. I might invent an author to write about. I loved William Boyd’s Any Human Heart, which is a faux diary of a twentieth-century novelist.
Action or truth? I don’t understand the question.
Question quote: In life you don't do what you want but you are responsible for what you are. Who is this quote from and what does it inspire you? No idea who said it. It doesn’t inspire me. The first part immediately calls up exceptions and limitations, and the second part is simple-minded. It ignores the formative power of evolution, genetics, home life, postal code, income level, education, and luck.
What will your next book be about ?
I don’t know.
I'm coming to the end of my questions, I have one last one. What can we wish you today for tomorrow?
Thank you very much for this interview, I wish you a beautiful literary continuation.