Killing Bay by Chris Ould **Blog Tour Author interview**


     I'd like to welcome Chris Ould to Books, Life and Everything to celebrate his latest novel, The Killing Bay. This is the second novel in a trilogy set in the Faroe Islands featuring DI Jan Reyna and Faroese detective Hjalti Hentze. 


Welcome to Books, Life and Everything. 

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself ?


I'm tempted to say "I write, therefore I am", but - sadly - it's a bit too close to the truth. I've always written, one way and another, and it's the only thing I know how to do properly. In writing terms I started out as a novelist and then worked in television for a long time, but when we moved out of London about ten years ago it gave me the space I needed to think about going back to novel writing again. Being in the countryside, as we are, is a great release of pressure and it suits my basically misanthropic tendencies – as does writing novels. Occasionally I do miss the interaction and collaborative nature of TV work, but then I remember the stress. Writing books is a very civilised alternative.

The Killing Bay is the second in a planned trilogy, The Faroes Series. Do you look on it as a standalone story or a continuation of the first novel , or maybe a bridge to the third book? 

There is definitely a continuation in Jan Reyna's on-going investigation into his mother's death, but what I've tried to do is make each of the books independent yet linked. If I've done it right then it shouldn't make too much difference if someone reads them out of order. Of course, the practical problem with writing a series is always how to give new readers enough of the backstory without giving too much away about the previous crime story. For a while I toyed with the idea of having a "previously in the Faroes series..." section, but my editor didn't like the idea, and I think now she was right (as ever, Miranda) because it's a bit clunky.

When you started the Trilogy, which came first? the setting, the characters or the plot? 

I wanted to write a book (just one at that stage) which was set in an isolated and/or self contained community, and then to explore what happened when an outsider came in to investigate a crime. That was about as much as I'd worked out, but when I realised that an island community fitted those criteria I was drawn to the Faroes. So the setting was definitely the first element to impose itself on the idea, and that then dictated what I could and couldn't do in terms of character and plot. Beyond that it's hard to disentangle plot and character because each is dependent on the other.

How did you set about researching your book?

To begin with just by going to the Faroes and accosting people with questions about everything from language to funeral services and fishing. On that first trip I was also really fortunate to meet a great detective in the Faroe Islands police department who helped me establish what was and wasn't realistic in policing terms for the Faroes. The fact that I really fell in love with the islands was a real bonus because I've gone back every year since then, plus trips to Denmark. It gives me chance to check out the places I'm writing about, as well as catching up with friends I've made. If I need to know something in between I pester people with emails. By and large I don't think anyone minds.

As a writer, do you plan your writing out in meticulous detail or start with an overview and see where the story goes?

I'm sure everyone does it differently, but to me starting to write a book without a fully worked out storyline would be like getting on a train without knowing where it was going, how long it would take, how much it cost or why I'd gone to the station in the first place. Also, time's precious and you can waste an awful lot of it by writing stuff that may look good but in the end does nothing to further the plot. Some of the way I work is a hangover from scriptwriting – structuring and story lining, especially – but I really enjoy the practical, almost mathematical process of working out the ups and downs of a plot and playing around with it until it does what you want.

Which authors do you admire yourself?

It tends to be writers whose work, or something in it, makes me think "I couldn't have done that" or "I wish I could do that". I love Richard Brautian for his simplicity and inventiveness; Richard Russo for the intimacy of large stories, and John Le Carré for subtlety and intelligence. The most outstanding novel I read recently is Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen's Rabbit Back Literature Society. I came to it late and by accident and it's a book I could never have imagined writing myself. I think it takes a really good writer to make another writer switch off and simply enjoy a book for its own sake.

Can you give us any hints about any upcoming books you have planned?

Well, I'm currently finishing the third book of the Faroes Trilogy, The Fire Pit, which has taken a bit longer than planned just because I'd underestimated how many plot elements I had to resolve. After that I'm going to do something with new characters and a different setting: still crime but with a very different feel, at least that's the intention. I'm also working on a TV project, just because I love the idea and don't want to lose touch with that world completely. Sometimes you just need to recharge your batteries by starting a project completely from scratch.



More about the Book

When a group of international activists arrive on the Faroe Islands, intent on stopping the traditional whale hunts, tensions between islanders and protestors run high. Then a woman is found murdered only hours after a violent confrontation at a whale drive and the circumstances seem purposely designed to increase animosity between the two sides. For English DI Jan Reyna and local detective Hjalti Hentze, the case quickly exposes personal connections and conflicts of interest. But as they dig deeper it becomes increasingly clear that the murder has other, more sinister aspects to it. Knowing evidence is being hidden from them, neither
policeman knows who to trust, or how far some people might go to defend their beliefs.

 


My Thoughts

    I soon realised that The Killing Bay was much more than a crime story. Set in the Faroe Islands, the landscape and the people dominate. I loved the descriptions of the islands and there is a real feeling that this is a separate, mysterious place. The tradition of the grind or whale drive is fascinating, rooted as it is in the past and the clash of attitudes makes it a real flashpoint. Killing seems to permeate the island.   

    The plot is complex but skilfully dealt with through the use of perspectives. Written in the first person, Jan Reyna is always distinct from the third person accounts of local detective Hjalti Hentze but when they are brought together in the investigation of Elra's death, it is seamless. I did not feel that I missed out on not having read the first book in the Faroes series, Blood in the Water, but I became intrigued with Jan Reyna's own story and would like to know the truth about his family. As a bridge to the next instalment, The Killing Bay does its job and whets the appetite. 

In short: a crime story which rings every drop of atmosphere from its Faroese setting.  
 
                                     About the Author 

 



Chris Ould is a BAFTA award-winning screenwriter who has worked on many TV shows including The Bill, Soldier Soldier, Casualty and Hornblower. He is the author of The Blood Strand, the first book in the Faroes series, as well as Road Lines and A Kind of Sleep. He lives in Dorset. 

You can connect with Chris on Twitter 

Thanks to Philippa Ward at Titan Books for a copy of the book and a place on the Blog Tour.

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