A Rare Chris Calder Interview
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was incredibly lucky to have been born in India during the end of the “Raj”, as the British occupancy of the Indian subcontinent was known. All of my formative years were spent in conditions that, looking back, seem unbelievably idyllic. Yet it was not all roses. At the age of seven I was packed off to a remote boarding school where the term lasted nine months. At that age, long enough to have grown out of the shoes in which I had arrived! The credit for creating in a small boy an appetite for reading and subsequently, writing, must go to one of the excellent teachers. One day I shall dip into the recesses of my memories of that time, and perhaps another book will be born.
What’s the story behind your first book?
My maiden novel is called Payback. It is a pacey revenge thriller which drew heavily on my own life experiences. Geoff Summers, a brilliant designer of electronic control systems for a company that makes anti-burglar equipment, becomes a cold, ruthless criminal when his vindictive new managing director prevents him from fulfilling his wife’s dying wish. The plot also follows Jim Warwick, a wealthy motor trader who is also a dealer in drugs. Sparks fly on the night that Warwick is cornered by the police and Geoff is at Warwick’s house with a gang of burglars.
When did you first start writing?
This is a question I find impossible to answer truthfully. I have always loved to write and for most of my long life, writing has been for me, an end in itself. During the last twenty-odd years of my working life, I ran my own business and was fortunate to have had articles published, mostly in specialist engineering journals, with occasional pieces in newspapers. Now, in my comfortable later years, I have been gifted the time and the motivation to write novels.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Seriously? Finding just the right word, or the perfect phrase, is like pulling teeth. The greatest joy is when it happens. Not nearly often enough.
What did you write after Payback?
Payback was my learning curve, discovering how to put together the nuts and bolts of a readable novel. My second book is called My Brother’s Keeper. It is about a Catholic priest who is charged with the task of helping in secret, other priests who are troubled. My Brother’s Keeper is a gripping story about a good man tortured by desires that conflict with his ingrained, deeply held beliefs.
Who are your favourite authors?
Wilde, G.K. Chesterton, Dickens, Arnold Bennett, Conan Doyle, George Eliot and others. Victorian and Edwardian novelists whose prose is a joy to read. My favourites among modern novelists are Jack Higgins, IanRankin and Lee Child, all masters at creating intriguing, clever plots.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
In my seventies, I need no motivation. The joy of living is enough. It beats the alternative.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Trying to keep mentally and physically fit and enjoying the beauty of the surroundings where I live, in rural France.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was awful, but I was only fifteen.
What is your writing process?
On-going, continuous new material every day, overlapped by the agony of editing what I’ve already written in the preceding days. Editing is a continuous and ongoing task.
What’s the next book?
Now that my last book Celeste Three is Missing has been published, I am working on another thriller in which the protagonist is an English Member of Parliament who gets sucked into the dark world of fundamentalist extremism.
When will you stop writing?
Ask me again in twenty years’ time.