When I first signed with Urbane the presence of James Silvester loomed large. Who was this handsome chap, a cornerstone of the Urbane empire, with ten million gushing Amazon reviews?
I watched him cautiously from afar, trying to get to the root of who he was. As it turned out, James Silvester was just a really nice guy and a super talented author.
As he comes to the end of getting his next book, The Prague Ultimatum, together, I finally plucked up the courage to ask him some questions.
In terms of the initial idea for Escape to Perdition, was there something you were first drawn to write about? The locations? The time period? The political context?
Hi Jared, enormous thanks for having me on!
Good question. The intention I’d originally had going back some years was to try my hand at writing a Cold War thriller. Books like, in particular The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Day of the Jackal and the early Fleming James Bonds were always so much more fascinating to me than some of the more modern takes on the espionage genre and I wanted to see if I could write in a similar vein.
As for Prague, there’s a reference in the story where Peter (the main character) remembers learning about the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution at school, and that’s actually channelling my own memories of those lessons. I was fascinated by that period of modern history and then, years later I ended up marrying a Slovakian whom I’d met in Prague and spending a lot of time in that part of the world. Being around that culture and learning of some of the resentment that had grown around the break-up of Czechoslovakia, reignited my love of the history. The story began to grow from there.
A lot of reviewers have praised the pacing of Escape to Perdition. What’s your process in terms of making sure the plot unravels in just the right way to keep the reader interested?
I’m not sure I can properly define it to be honest! I write in a very piecemeal way; I might start with a conversation in what turns out to be the middle of the story and I jump from place to place, before I then go back and connect it all together. The stuff I write generally takes place over a few days or on the cusp of some major event so that (hopefully) there is a sense of anticipation there, and then it makes sense to keep things moving steadily from there. Hopefully people enjoy that approach…
You recently visited Prague – a key location for Escape to Perdition. How was that?
Brilliant! I love Prague, it’s one of my favourite places in the world and I’ve been going there for years. This time was special as I was doing a reading at The Globe bookstore, an English language bookstore. It means a lot to me that the book is available in the city that inspired it and we’re planning to head back there next year to launch the second book.
I know you’ve been hard at work on book 2. What can you tell us about it at this point?
Well, it’s called ‘The Prague Ultimatum’ and is set I think for a May 2017 release. It’s not a direct sequel to Escape to Perdition but serves as a stand-alone story with a few familiar threads, some returning characters and a number of new ones. It’s set a couple of years in the future and looks at some of the problems facing Europe as a whole these days. A lot of my own frustration about the aftermath of the Brexit vote, particularly the increase in racist violence, has gone into the book, amongst other things. I think it maybe has a different feel to Escape to Perdition, but that’s ultimately for readers to decide. I’m very excited about it.
Finally, what was the last thing (book, place, film etc) that you totally fell in love with?
Prague, all over again. Sorry if that sounds like a flippant answer but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been able to get over thee and this last trip was like finding a favourite jumper you’d misplaced, putting it on and curling up with a brew and a book on the sofa. There’s always something new to experience and I’ve come back with my muse well and truly refreshed (if a little intoxicated).