I am delighted to welcome the internationally bestselling author Linwood Barclay to the blog with a special Q & A to celebrate the release of his first children’s book ‘Chase’. This thrilling edge of the seat adventure had me captivated from the opening page and I devoured it in one sitting. Dark, dangerous and packed full of suspense and action this is a story that is guaranteed to enthral and entertain.
Linwood Barclay – Q & A
1. I devoured ‘Chase’ in one sitting and absolutely loved it, can you tell us more about this brilliant book?
Chase stars Chipper, a border collie that’s been outfitted with computer software by a sinister organization called The Institute. He’s been designed for espionage work, but The Institute is going to pull the plug on him. His canine instincts often overrule his programming, making him unreliable. Chipper knows his days are numbered, so he escapes. And when he does, he immediately goes in search of an orphaned boy named Jeff for reasons that are not immediately clear. The Institute is in pursuit, and Chipper and Jeff are running for their lives.
2. After years of writing bestselling crime books why did you decide to write your debut children’s novel?
When the idea for Chase came to me, I knew right away that it would not work as one of annual thrillers for adults, that it was really more of a book for young readers. But I liked the idea so much I did not want to abandon it, and my wife, a former kindergarten teacher, was so excited about it she said I simply had to write it. Girls will love reading it as much as boys, she said, but boys, who are often reluctant readers, will especially love it.
3. Did you share your book with any children to get feedback during the writing process or after the book was completed?
The children I shared it with were of the 60-plus variety. I mean, do we ever really grow up? I gave my first draft to a couple of friends and they reported back that they could not put it down. My UK editor who works on my adult thrillers gave the early chapters to his young son, and said he was hooked.
4. ‘Chase’ feels wonderfully thrilling and is filled with fast-paced action, was it very different writing for children and did you have to edit the story to make it less dark and dangerous?
The book is certainly lighter on foul language and violence, but there’s still plenty of darkness and lots of danger. I think we worry a little too much about trying to protect our kids from darkness in literature. I know I loved it as a young reader, and I think today’s kids do, too. But my approach with Chase was really no different than with any of my other novels. The story had to move, it had to be engaging, it had to make you want to turn the page, it had to have characters you could care about, and there had to be something big at stake.
5 . Who if anyone inspired the characters in the story and how did your idea of a highly trained spy dog who is part dog/ part computer come about?
The idea for Chipper came to me at two in the morning. I woke up and the story was pretty much all there. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t been dreaming it, but when I woke up, as men my age tend to do around that time of night, the story presented itself. I suppose the Jeff character, and the environment in which he finds himself, is largely autobiographical. In my teens, I helped run the family business, which was cottage resort and caravan park that catered to fishermen. One year, I adopted a stray dog that wandered in and named him – you guessed it – Chipper. It was my wife, Neetha, who suggested I name the dog in my story after my own. After all, what better name could there be for a dog loaded with computer chips?
6. I love how you open the story writing Chipper so the reader doesn’t realise that he is a dog. Is it important for you that the reader gets the same insight to Chipper’s thoughts as they do Jeff?
We are definitely in both their heads. We know their hopes and fears, and in that sense, we see them as equals.
7. You left us with quite a cliff hanger, it was one of the moments when I just couldn’t believe I would have to wait to find out what happened to Jeff. When will the second book be released?
Book two, which is written, will be along in about a year.
8. What’s advice you would give to children who want to be a writer and may be struggling to get started?
I started writing stories when I was around eight years old. The real struggle would have been not writing them. I believe that where children are concerned, writing is not unlike sports or music or riding your bike as fast as you can. No one has to talk you into it. You simply must do it. And for young writers, don’t worry about that old adage “write what you know.” Go ahead and write about anything you can imagine.
Thank you to Dom and Hachette for sending me a copy of this thrilling book and inviting me to host this Q & A. ‘Chase’ is available now to buy online or from any good bookshop.