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Interview with Tom Chatfield, author of The Gomorrah Gambit



Please welcome Tom Chatfield to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Gomorrah Gambit is published on July 23, 2019 by Mulholland Books.


Interview with Tom Chatfield, author of The Gomorrah Gambit




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Tom:  I've been writing fiction pretty much since I was old enough to write; when I was about nine or ten years old, I remember writing thinly fictionalised portraits of family life and reading them out loud to my classmates at school, in a style vaguely intended to be comic. I've basically wanted to be a writer since I could string words together.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Tom:  Hybrid, I guess. I know the themes and the broad outline of what I want to write. But then I fly firmly by the seat of my pants, writing and rewriting intensively in an effort to see what my characters want to do, and where they are coming from. Often, they end up doing something much more interesting than anything I could plan in advance.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about fiction writing?

Tom:  I've written half a dozen books of non-fiction, and I love/hate the fact that fiction isn't propped up by the real world in the same way as non-fiction: the story you're creating has to stand up (or flop) on its own terms. Also, with thrillers in particular, if your reader isn't thrilled, you've basically failed - it doesn't matter how clever you think you are.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Tom:  I'm a huge geek around speculative fiction: genre-bending science fiction, fantasy and thrillers that cross over into that world of technology and wild ideas. I love books that transport you, that drag you along while offering you new ways of seeing. Writers like Asmiov and Ursula Le Guin loomed large in my childhood along with, more recently, Naomi Alderman, Nnedi Okorafor, N. K. Jemisin, Ben Aaronovitch, China Miéville, Charles Stross, and many others working somewhere between fantasy and horror and science fiction. There's something amazing about transporting people into other possible worlds; showing them reality slantwise.



TQDescribe The Gomorrah Gambit using only 5 words.

Tom:  Edward Snowden meets Jason Bourne.



TQTell us something about The Gomorrah Gambit that is not found in the book description.

Tom:  Pretty much every single hack and location in the book is either real, or a lightly remixed version of reality. And I have personally owned all the classic computers I mention (and used to practice whistling tones at my friend's dialup modem in the early 1990s)



TQIn addition to your background in digital technology what inspired you to write The Gomorrah Gambit?

Tom:  I'm fascinated by technology, which is why I've written so many books of non-fiction exploring digital culture - but I also love the way that fiction can bring possibilities to life through narrative that you can't handle any other way. The opportunity to reach a new audience, and take them on a journey into the underside of global technology, was irresistible.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Gomorrah Gambit.

Tom:  It was done in-house at Hodder, and it's a very stark depiction of a glistening network in the shape of sharks shining against a black background. I love it. It's an abstract realisation of the themes of the book: the hidden depths, the lurking predators, the fine web of light woven across darkness.



TQIn The Gomorrah Gambit who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Tom:  My lead character has a best friend, Ad, who's an amalgam of several of my friends growing up - and their relationship is directly imported from my own experiences of being a geek mucking around online in the 1990s, playing games, exploring the internet, tasting the excitement of a future that few people seemed to know about. That relationship flowed onto the page, and formed the foundation of the book. Perhaps the hardest character was the female lead, Munira. She's from a very different place and mindset to my protagonists, and she's playing her own double games. She's smart, enigmatic; but I didn't want her to be dull or one-dimensional. It took her a long time to come to life.



TQDoes The Gomorrah Gambit touch on any social issues?

Tom:  I'm deeply interested in disinformation, fake news, democracy, and the impact on society of manipulation in these areas; indeed, I also write textbooks about the kind of critical thinking and research skills needed to see beyond these things. This is a huge area of interest and anxiety for me, and I hope I captured some of its possible impacts on society and politics, without at any point sounding like a textbook...



TQWhich question about The Gomorrah Gambit do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Tom:  Did someone really hack a casino via the sensors in a smart fish tank? Yes, they did. And others have also hacked everything from children's toys and baby monitors to smart fridges, plug sockets and pacemakers. Which is why you really ought to be worrying more about the Internet of Things.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Gomorrah Gambit.

Tom:

"After years of thinking he was the smartest person in the room, it occurs to Azi that he has spent most of his life in rooms containing just one person."

"Azi has a rule of thumb... If someone describes an internet-connected fridge as anything other than a futile blot on the technological landscape, they’re talking out of their arse."



TQWhat's next?

Tom:  I'm writing a sequel that, I hope, takes the characters and events of The Gomorrah Gambit in an interesting and unexpected direction. And, for variety, I have a new textbook coming out in November: a short guide to critical thinking in the 21st century that should be useful for anyone worried about fake news, disinformation and the dismal state of truth online.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tom:  It was my great pleasure. Thanks for having me.





The Gomorrah Gambit
Mulholland Books, July 23, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 Pages
(Fiction Debut)

Interview with Tom Chatfield, author of The Gomorrah Gambit
With dark technology hollowing out global privacy, an elite hacker enters the belly of the beast in this “gripping, intelligent, and stylist” international conspiracy thriller (Sophie Hannah, author of Closed Casket).

Azi Bello is an amiable outsider with a genius for hacking. Having spent the better part of his life holed up in a shed in his backyard, Azi has become increasingly enmeshed in the dark side of the internet. With the divide between online and offline worlds vanishing, so too is the line between those transforming civilization through technology and those trying to bring it to its knees. Dark networks rule. Someone with the right connections can access to anything imaginable, and power is theirs for the taking-although even they can’t know what kind of bargain they’ve struck.

Tipped off by a secretive young woman named Munira, Azi sets out to unravel the mysterious online marketplace known as Gomorrah, sacrificing his carefully constructed privacy in the process. Munira’s life is spiraling out of control: her cousins recruited to work for a terrorist state that’s hunting them both, her destiny in Azi’s hands. Her desperation drags Azi into the field where, working together, the two uncover an unimaginable conspiracy.

As pressure mounts, Azi has no choice but to take on the ultimate infiltration. In an age when identities can be switched at will and nobody is who they seem, how far will he go to end the nightmare?





About Tom

Interview with Tom Chatfield, author of The Gomorrah Gambit
Photo by Tim Bedingfield
Dr Tom Chatfield (@TomChatfield) is a British writer, broadcaster and tech philosopher. He's the author of seven previous books exploring digital culture—most recently Live This Book! (Penguin) and Critical Thinking (SAGE Publishing), researched as a Visiting Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute—published in over two dozen languages. His debut novel, The Gomorrah Gambit (Mulholland), is a darkly satirical thriller set in the world of the dark net. When not working, he plays jazz piano and drinks too much coffee.

Website

Interview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 2014


Please welcome Stephen Lloyd Jones to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The String Diaries was published (in North America) on July 1, 2014 by Mulholland Books.



Interview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 2014




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing fiction?

Stephen:  Thanks for having me! I’ve enjoyed telling stories, in one guise or another, for as long as I can remember. I received my first rejection slip aged fifteen, from a British magazine called FEAR. I took screenwriting classes at university, where I also wrote my first novel (a dreadful effort, long consigned to the attic). After graduation I fell into a job at a London advertising agency. While I concentrated on building a career, the writing began to dwindle. My father’s death, a few years ago, was a turning point. I began to consider how easy it is to neglect childhood dreams. I started writing The String Diaries shortly afterwards.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Stephen:  I guess I’m half and half, which makes me either an impatient plotter, or a paranoid pantser. I need to know exactly what’s happening in the opening five chapters, so I can spring out of the blocks without worrying about what’s up ahead. I do like to have a possible ending in mind and a loose idea of major plot points, but they often change along the way. I can plot for only so long before I feel the engine beginning to overheat. That’s when I know it’s time to start.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Stephen:  Finding the time, definitely - an advertising career is extremely demanding of it. The String Diaries was written either very late at night or during snatched lunch breaks in coffee shops. I squeezed in edits on the train to and from London. Now things are a littler easier, as I’ve taken the gamble to write full-time.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Stephen:  Other than Tolkien and Dickens, they’re mainly US authors. I’m always first in line for the new Stephen King or Dean Koontz, and I love the work of Joe Hill, Robin Hobb and Thomas Harris (I wish he’d write another book.)



TQ:  Describe The String Diaries in 140 characters or less.

Stephen:  A supernatural thriller about a young woman, Hannah Wilde, fleeing from a man who’s murdered the last five generations of her family.



TQ:  Tell us something about The String Diaries that is not in the book description.

Stephen:  Although much has been made of the novel’s shocks, it’s fundamentally a story about sacrifice and love.



TQThe String Diaries is described as "...a sweeping thriller...". What appeals to you about thrillers?

Stephen:  I love reading about characters placed in impossible situations and forced to become instruments of their own redemption. The larger the landscape upon which those events take place, the more immersed I become.



TQ:  What sorts of research did you do for The String Diaries?

Stephen:  The historical sections set in Budapest required the most research. I’d already visited Hungary in 2010, but I spent months studying the country’s history, poring over old photographs and maps. I also took Hungarian language lessons to ensure that the foreign phrases I used were correct.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Stephen:  The easiest was Beckett, an Oxford professor of Philology. He has a minor role in the book, but he arrived fully formed and was enormous fun to write. The most difficult characters were Hannah and Jakab: Hannah, because so much of her journey is laced with pain; Jakab, because of his increasingly disturbing actions as the novel progresses.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The String Diaries.

Stephen:  To avoid any chance of spoilers, I’ll give you the very first line. ‘It was only when Hannah Wilde reached the farmhouse shortly after midnight that she realised how much blood her husband had lost.’



TQ:  What's next?

Stephen:  I’ve just delivered the sequel to my publishers. We don’t have a title yet, but it’s out November 6th in the UK, and next summer in the US. I’m very excited about it. Meanwhile I’m about to start work on my next book. (Once the World Cup is over, that is…)



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The String Diaries
Mulholland Books, July 1, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
US Debut

Interview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 2014
A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.

The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night--her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?

Stephen Lloyd Jones's debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion--a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.

If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.



Qwills Thoughts

The String Diaries hit all the sweet spots for me: interesting mythology, strong female characters, a sociopathic shape-shifting antagonist (who's had a long time to practice), action, fear, a bit of gore and horror, and a terrific story.

Hannah Wilde is the main character in the present as she is the most recent generation to have to deal with the horror that has been stalking and killing members of her family for years. She's a strong woman. She makes mistakes. She's a mother, wife and daughter. She loves her family deeply. She has decisions to make about how she will live and how her family and future generations of her family will live.

While the main plot centers around Hannah, Jones takes us back and forth through her family's history to show how this all started, how it has affected generations of her family, how the monster Jakab came to be, and who and what he is. It's fascinating. It's chilling as Jones slowly lets the reader in on the history of this multi-generational horror as the characters ineluctably move towards each other. Jones does a great job of building and building the tension. The end chapters of the novel are pure adrenaline as things finally come to a head.

There is gore and violence, but it's not over the top. The writing is crisp with a mythology that is inventive and different.

The String Diaries is compulsively readable. It's a taut unnerving supernatural thriller about what one woman will do to finally save her family. I loved every minute I spent reading this debut novel. I can't wait to see what Jones does next.





About Stephen

Interview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 2014
Stephen Lloyd Jones was born in 1973, and grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire.

He studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and far too many books.










Website  ~  Twitter @sljonesauthor  ~  Facebook





2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones


2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.


Stephen Lloyd Jones

The String Diaries
Mulholland Books, July 1, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
US Debut

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones
A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.

The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night--her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?

Stephen Lloyd Jones's debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion--a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.

If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.



Interview with Tom Chatfield, author of The Gomorrah GambitInterview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 20142014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

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