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An Interview with Max China

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Q: When did you first start writing?

A: Like most people, I’ve always written something from time to time over the years, and I first said I wanted to be a writer when I was seventeen, but life gets in the way.

I started creative writing seriously, about five years ago.

Q: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

A: I do indeed. I was around ten years of age and doing a paper round - whether that would be allowed these days or not, I don’t know - but there was a huge old house with a creaky wrought iron gate, and a long path that wound its way through overgrown laurel bushes. For some reason it used to terrify me, so I wrote a little piece of fiction about it.

Q: What is your writing process?

A: I’ll often wake up in the early hours, usually between 3 and 5 am and type a thousand words into my iPhone ready to email myself for further editing on my computer. I often write stepping stone scenes that connect all through the story, coming back to fill in the details later. The central part of the story I’ll often keep fairly flexible until I’m ready to fix the pieces in place. Because I write in my spare time, I have to fit the work in wherever I can. When I’m firing on all cylinders, I can complete a thousand words that I’m happy with, each day. Part of the reason I could be considered slow, is the research process. Although I write fiction, I like the facts to be correct, so for instance, in my debut novel, The Sister, when I say there was a Dire Straits concert in 1983 at the Hammersmith Odeon - there really was, and it occurred on the night that I said it did.

Q: What’s the story behind The Sister?

A: I’ve always wanted to write a novel and I guess it had been building in me. It went through several incarnations before becoming what it is today. I had some things I wanted to say about choices and what can happen if under pressure the wrong ones are made, how easy it is to do that, and the possible consequences of getting it wrong. So, in a nutshell, it’s about a man having the chance to make some sense of his life in his dying moments, and the story of what he sees as his last breath escapes. It is based on the concept that you see your whole life flash by in those last moments. All this plays out against the backdrop of a serial killer and the families of his victims whose lives have been blighted.

Q: Tell us about your main character.

A: The book is written in an unconventional way so that a variety of people are introduced fairly quickly, cameo fashion. The early lives of Bruce and Vera are explored, the effects on Bruce from witnessing a killer disposing of a body when he was seven years old, and of course, the effect it had on Vera viewing the same thing, but remotely from two hundred miles away. She is older and born with a wisdom that belies her years and other properties which enable her to cope so much better than he does. Bruce develops mechanisms that shield him from the fear, but blind him to the truth . . . I think I have to just clarify at this point that there are several main characters which come and go throughout the book. You never know when they will appear next.

Q: How do you approach cover design?

A: All my covers are professionally created by a Royal Academy of Arts qualified graphic artist. I bounce ideas off him. If something feels right, I go with it. For The Sister, I used a photograph of the full moon reflecting on the surface of an ancient moat, taken one cold February night. The images were exactly perpendicular, as above so below. It just seemed to fit. I like to use photographs I’ve taken for the background imagery. For The Man in Brown, a future release (late summer) - I used a picture of the same moat, this time showing a blazing sun. The reflection in the water is like a portal into another world.

Many writers wait patiently for years hoping for that elusive book deal. I wanted to write, I wanted to be read and I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny. The landscape has changed sufficiently to make those things possible. I’ve sold thousands of ebook copies of The Sister to date. I’m happy with the decision to go it alone.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: I’m finishing my latest novel Don’t Turn on The Light: Crossing The Line. Release date 21 March 2016. As I said previously, I further projects nearing completion, more spin-offs from The Sister, all of which completely self-contained, complete stories. Although not a series, many of my books are linked.

Q: Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

A: I was born in the east end of London, but grew up in a seaside town in Essex. Apart from the odd mention of seagulls, I don’t think where I grew up influenced my writing at all.

Q: Describe your desk

A: Organised chaos. If it were tidied, I’d never be able to find anything.

Q: What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

A: Daylight, birdsong and sunshine. The sunnier it is, the more inspired I’ll be...

 

 

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