Welcome to the blog tour of To Die in Vienna by Kevin Wignall . I am your host today and I have a special post from the author for you!
One of the things writers often get asked in interviews is for a piece of advice they’d give to aspiring writers. Over the years, I’ve boiled it down to two essential rules, but I thought today I’d open it out for those of you who are interested in putting pen to paper.
A writer writes. This is the first of my two essential rules, and it might seem flippant but it’s actually vital. A writer writes. They don’t talk about it, they don’t find excuses for why they can’t write (a surprising number of first novels have been written in trying circumstances), they do it. If you don’t start the novel, you’ll never finish it.
A writer reads. I’m suspicious of any aspiring writer who isn’t also a voracious reader. Reading other people is how you first learn what works and what doesn’t, both for you and for the wider market – so for example, if you didn’t enjoy “The Girl on the Train”, it’s a good challenge to ask yourself why so many other people did.
But don’t write for the market. Over the last two years or so, you’ll have seen lots of books marketed as “the next Girl on the Train”. It’s something publishers do, and if you happen to have submitted a book about a psychic detective just after there’s been an unexpected smash hit about a detective with paranormal powers, you might get picked up because of it. But jumping on a bandwagon is a notoriously tricky thing to pull off, and you’ll be selling your talent short in the process.
And don’t write for Hollywood. A lot of aspiring writers will come up with a concept that “will make a great film”. Really? Then go and make a film. Write for your readers, not for those imagined film-makers out there. And for what it’s worth, Hollywood has its own way of deciding what will work on film, and it very rarely revolves around concepts or plots. To Die in Vienna had a couple of competing offers before we settled for selling to Focus Features and Jake Gyllenhaal, but everyone involved talked about how much they loved the characters – the plot was almost incidental.
Allow for the wood and the trees. What I mean is, accept that you might be too close to your writing, and the book might not be good enough. This is tough because a lot of good writers will often fear their book isn’t good enough. If you don’t have a trusted reader (one who’ll be brutally honest) and you’re not sure, leave it alone and read it fresh in six months – if it still looks good to you, it probably is.
Following on from that, don’t be in too much of a rush. Be prepared to leave that book alone for six months while you work on something else. If your first book is turned down by everyone, don’t be in a rush to publish it yourself on Kindle, write the next book instead. Take your time.
And finally, my other essential piece of advice, never forget that you’re telling a story. Imagine that you’re sitting by the fire telling your story to a few listeners. Are they hooked? Might they be getting bored? Are you including too much detail? Storytelling lies at the heart of everything we do, and you ignore that at your peril. No one owes it to you to turn the page – you have make them want to turn it, and the next, and the next after that…
About the Book
Freddie Makin is a spy for hire. For a year he’s been watching Jiang Cheng, an academic whose life seems suspiciously normal. To Freddie it’s just a job: he never asks who’s paying him and why—until the day someone is sent to kill him, and suddenly the watcher becomes the watched.
On the run from whoever wants him dead, Freddie knows he must have seen something incriminating. The only trouble is, he has no idea what. Is the CIA behind all this—or does it go higher than that? Have his trackers uncovered his own murky past?
As he’s forced into a lethal dance across Vienna, Freddie knows one thing for sure: his only hope for survival is keeping the truth from the other side, and making sure the secrets from his past stay hidden.