In our new series, we’re doing some basic introductions for each of our members. This week, it’s Seb Kirby.
How many books have you written?
I’m currently hard at work on my seventh.
Please explain your various series and standalone books.
All the books I’ve written so far are thrillers. The three books in the James Blake series came first. I was interested in telling stories with an international perspective. After drugs and guns, art theft is the third largest international crime. One estimate puts it at $6 billion each year. Organized crime is behind many of the most notorious art thefts. Stolen works of art are used as a form of currency between mob members.
I have a long-term interest in art. Before I took up full-time writing, one aspect of my work as a university academic gave me insights into methods used to restore paintings and sculpture. It seemed natural to draw on this in creating the world that James Blake is drawn into. Uncovering what lies beneath a work of art and its history is also a good vehicle for developing the mystery and suspense that I’ve worked hard to capture in the series.
How have the main characters developed or changed over the course of the series?
I wrote the first book, Take No More, as a one-off. It’s a story complete in itself. Then, the inevitable happened. The characters I’d created began to take on a life of their own and the further stories Regret No More and Forgive No More demanded to be written. In Regret No More art theft and a sophisticated conspiracy to cheat collectors out of millions takes center stage, while Forgive No More tells of the wider conspiracy that underlies this branch of organized crime and takes on a much more ambitious, historical dimension. Each is a story complete in itself.
The main character, James Blake, grows in stature, from an ordinary man unwittingly caught up in these events to become a wiser and more assured champion for truth and honesty.
How has your style changed over that same period?
This is a good point to talk about my other stand-alone stories. Alongside the more conventional approach to thrillers in the James Blake series, I have a strong interest in psychological thrillers. This first took shape in Double Bind, a doppelgänger story about a hero struggling to make sense of a profound existential crisis. I wrote this as a thriller and was surprised when it was received as sci-fi. On reflection, this is not too shocking as, since a teenager, I’ve read a great deal of sci-fi and much of that must have been formative in the telling of the story.
In writing Double Bind and in seeking to capture the mind-set of the main character, I was drawn to a more minimalist style than the one used in the James Blake stories where conventional third person, past tense is used throughout.
Double Bind introduced me to writing in first person, present tense and I’ve carried that through in three stand-alone psychological thrillers set in London. Each Day I Wake and Sugar for Sugar are available now. I’m currently close to completing a third story, as yet untitled, to be released in September. These books do not form a series as such but they have a commonality of place—the South Bank and East End of London—and share some characters. Each is a stand-alone story and can be read in any order.
Has the way you write, or your process, evolved?
My writing process has evolved with each book, as described above. There are many ways to write a novel and I think I’m still investigating some of the many possibilities.
But underlying it all is storytelling. That’s the real currency that we all work with.
When do you write? Is there a time of day, or a period during the week? I don’t adopt a set pattern in writing. I just set myself the goal of achieving something tangible every day. As Dorothy Parker put it: “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” That’s my guiding principle.
Is there a particular place you like to be to write?
I used to write in notebooks whenever I had the opportunity—traveling to work by train, grabbing a few minutes at lunch-time. Now I write full time, I tend to work at a (not too tidy) desk in my home office. But I still use notebooks to capture ideas as they come, whenever they come.
About Seb Kirby
Seb Kirby was born and raised in Birmingham, UK.
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