Joining me today on my blog is author Adam Fitzroy to discuss his latest book, The Bridge on the River Wye.
How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
Quite a lot, I think. Many of my characters have my slightly peculiar sense of humour, and a lot of them are self-reliant and/or calmly resigned to living in less than ideal conditions – these are definitely aspects of my own personality. On the other hand I’ve managed so far not to inflict my unpleasant temper on any of them; I suspect that would be far too uncomfortable to write, as well as pretty unattractive to read.
What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
What I enjoy most is the research, particularly where it’s something I didn’t really know much about beforehand. For example, with BETWEEN NOW AND THEN I had a wonderful time ‘driving’ around Northern Europe on Google Earth and inventing hotels and so forth. For other books I researched paint-balling venues, how to make vinegar, and forgotten stations on the London Underground. Research can often take a story off in unexpected directions, so in my opinion you can never really do too much!
The worst aspect of writing I think is deadline pressure. Like many people I seem to need a proper schedule before I can really buckle down to working at a reasonable rate, but when the deadline is looming closer and the characters are taking their own sweet time to co-operate it can be very stressful indeed. (There’s usually a certain amount of un-writerly language to be heard from me at such times!)
Please tell us about your current release.
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE was published on 1 February 2014. It’s the story of Rupert, a chef who’s just escaped from a bad relationship and returned to his native England from Australia. Picking up the pieces of his previous life, he meets up again with Jake – a former market trader now trying to run his family’s organic smallholding in rural Wales under increasingly difficult circumstances. Rupert gets caught up in trying to help Jake, and as their relationship progresses they also begin to unravel the mystery of exactly how Jake’s brother met his untimely death.
How did you come up with the title?
For most of its life the book had the working title OFF THE GRID, because there’s a lot in it about self-sufficiency and treading lightly on the land – and also because I wanted the characters to be living in a relatively isolated place without mains services or decent mobile phone reception. However the area I chose was a bend in the River Wye, which forms part of the border between England and Wales – and since Jake’s brother appears to have died as a result of falling into the river from a derelict railway bridge it wasn’t long before I was jokingly referring to the book as THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE. After that, a formal title change seemed pretty much a necessity – and, luckily, it also made for a far better cover design!
Which of your characters is your favourite? Do you dislike any of them?
It often happens with me that a minor character will come along and turn out to be surprisingly interesting; in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE it was the police officer, Sharon Holt, who looked completely ordinary and unthreatening but was remarkably effective at her job; she was based on an off-duty police officer I encountered on a bus – another passenger was causing trouble, and she quietly got out of her seat, showed him her identification and told him to behave or she’d have to arrest him. It was all done so beautifully and with such a minimum of fuss that I felt I had to put her in a story!
Of all my characters the one I like best, I think, is Callum in STAGE WHISPERS. He’s a true golden boy, a talented young actor heading straight for the top, but at the same time he’s got a sort of Labrador puppy-like naivete and clumsiness which gets him into any number of awkward situations. In fact he’s a little bit like Frank Churchill in Jane Austen’s EMMA …he makes a lot of poor decisions and disrupts the lives of everyone around him, yet somehow he still seems to emerge smelling of roses! Reader response to Callum has been delightful – a lot of people say they ended up wanting to slap him and he really got on their nerves, but that he’s not a one-dimensional character; he learns lessons and gradually morphs into the sort of person anyone would be glad to have as a friend.
The one I dislike most is Thomas, in MAKE DO AND MEND, who was described by one reader as ‘a gigantic tool’. Thomas hasn’t got a motive of any sort that isn’t ulterior; he’s completely self-centred – although he could also be described as ’emotionally damaged’ – and harbours resentment towards his older brother, Harry, because when Harry escaped the stifling burden of family expectations the weight all fell on Thomas’s shoulders. Some people feel Thomas is a bit of a caricature, but I can only say that he’s very squarely based on someone I know; everything Thomas does or says is definitely something that person would do or say in the same circumstances.
Have you started your next project? Can you share a little bit about your next book?
At the moment I’m working on a short story entitled A ROOTED SORROW which I’ll be submitting for Manifold Press’s A PRIDE OF POPPIES – an anthology of modern GLBTQI fiction of the Great War. When I’ve finished that, I’ll be getting to grips with a book currently entitled FANDANGO in which a ghost-writer, sent to work with a notoriously secretive rock musician, learns more about the man than he could ever have imagined possible. I also have a half-finished project entitled BOUNDARIES which I want to return to before the end of the year if I can; it’s about two teachers in a tough area of London in the 1960s who bond over trying to start a cricket team from scratch … and thereby incorporates two of my all-time favourite subjects, London and cricket!
If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?
Hmmm. This is a tricky one – but thank goodness you didn’t specify living authors! Top of my wish list would be John Le Carré and Jane Austen, both of whom I admire for their plotting. Although Le Carré’s books take place on a world stage and Austen’s have a more intimate domestic setting there is a lot of common ground in the intricate way the strands of their plots interweave and overlap – and in the logical development of action and consequence. Their world-building also has a similar richness; you know there are other people just over the edges of the page into whose lives the story may only give a single glance, but their existence makes the whole structure feel much more solid and secure. If you stepped into an Austen or a Le Carré book, you could travel a very long way before you ran up against the limits of their imagination!
This breadth of vision is something I would very much like to be able to achieve myself, and it’s definitely what I’ve been aiming for with my own writing. After all, if you’re going to emulate anyone, it should surely be someone at the top of their chosen profession – and there’s no shame attached to aiming high and falling short; it’s failing to aim at all that’s the real pity.
Tell us a random fact about you that we would never have guessed.
I adore cheesy Hong Kong action movies from the 1980s/1990s, preferably with their original soundtracks and really bad subtitles. If I’m having a rough day, there’s nothing that cheers me up quite so much as watching Andy Lau, Chow Yun-Fat or Ti Lung outwitting bad guys. They haven’t managed to find their way into any of my books just yet, but I have no doubt they will at some point in the future!
Chef Rupert’s picking up the pieces after a catastrophe; he’s lost his love, his business, his home and even his dog, and he’s trying to make a fresh start. Linking up with Jake almost on a whim he soon finds himself involved in a strange tale of organic farming, migrant workers, greed and even possibly murder – in the midst of which the attraction is still there, but Rupert’s not sure whether the feeling’s mutual or if he’s ready to try for a proper relationship again just yet …
About the Author
Imaginist and purveyor of tall tales Adam Fitzroy is a UK resident who has been successfully spinning male-male romances either part-time or full-time since the 1980s, and has a particular interest in examining the conflicting demands of love and duty.