Today's Roving Eye interview is with British crime writer, Stav Sherez. He is the author of the CWA shortlisted The Devil’s Playground and The Black Monastery. His third novel, A Dark Redemption, is out now.
When did you first realise that you wanted to write for a living?
I think that ever since I was nine or ten years old I wanted to be a writer. I'm not sure whether back then I had a concept of doing something 'for a living' but I knew that I wanted to write books like the ones I was reading. As I got older, this hardened into knowing that writing books was the only thing I ever wanted to do.
What made you chose crime fiction?
Actually, it chose me. My first novel, The Devil's Playground, was not written as a crime novel per se but it was sold as such. Crime fiction is something I've always enjoyed as a reader and I quickly realised that the themes I wanted to explore in fiction (violence, how we represent it, idealism turning into tyranny, cults and civil wars) were all central tropes within the crime genre. I also like the purely structural element of crime fiction, the way it seduces the reader, enfolds them in its mystery, makes them scratch their heads then delivers the dénouement. There's something very challenging about the form of crime fiction and readers are very sophisticated at noticing what's good and what's not.
What crime novel would you most like to have written?
God, that's a hard and cruel question! But, if I had to choose one, it would probably be James Ellroy's American Tabloid because of its density, complexity, beauty of language and the brilliant characters as well as its tremendous and ambitious scope and its rendering of history as fiction.
Who is your favourite author outside of crime fiction and why?
Another difficult question! Probably Thomas Pynchon. Why? Because he writes books that no other novelist can write. Because they are funny, weird, thrilling, dark, surreal and profound. Because of his sentences. Because you will never view the world in quite the same way again after you've read one of them. And because he was never too afraid or snobbish to use genre tropes and structures in his books.
I don't really have a memory of that. Probably at school. At about age fifteen is when I first remember writing stories for myself and not for class. I was reading a lot of the Beats at that time, William Burroughs especially, and I'm sure everything I wrote back then was highly derivative of them.
If you weren’t a writer, what else could you see yourself doing?
I really couldn't imagine doing anything else. I don't think I'm any good at anything else. If I wasn't a writer, I'd be...nothing.
What is your least favourite part of the writing process?
Each and every part of it! They all have their drawbacks and their pleasures. Probably coming up with the plot, that's one of the hardest and least rewarding. As is writing the first draft when you know pretty much every sentence is rubbish, the plot and characters are rubbish, and that it'll be a long road from here. But maybe the worst is reading through the first draft and realising how much work is needed.
One record and one book to a desert island, what would you take?
Damn, that's a killer. Book would be Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon - not only is it my favourite novel but I don't think that even after 60 or so re-readings I'll still get all of it. One of the few inexhaustible novels of recent times. My favourite album is probably Springsteen's Nebraska but that would be way too depressing to have on a desert island so might instead opt for Dylan's Blonde on Blonde.
With the rise of ebooks and self publishing, what are your thoughts concerning the current state of the literary world?
I don't really have much idea. I don't think anyone does. We're in one of those periods of history where everything is changing and technology dictates the pace of change. We'll just have to wait and see, I guess. But if more people are reading books because of Kindle then that can only be a good thing.
Sum up your latest novel in less than 20 words.
Ten dead nuns in a burned-out convent. One unaccounted for body. Eleven Days before Christmas.
And lastly, just for fun...
Have you read or would you ever consider reading 50 Shades of Grey?