Quentin Bates is the author of six crime fiction novels and the translator of Ragnar Jónasson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir novels. His new novel, ‘Cold Breath’ is published by Constable on the 11th October.
- To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing
I’ve been a journalist for quite a few years – nothing wildly exciting, as I write mostly about shipping – so it was a side-step into books and fiction. I did a creative writing course, mainly so I could have an afternoon a week off work, and the first book in the series grew out of that course – even though I had gone into it expecting to come out writing non-fiction.
- Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book, ‘Cold Breath’?
‘Cold Breath’ is the latest in a series that centres around a Reykjavík police officer called Gunnhildur Gísladóttir who has solved a good few murders before now. In this book things are a little different, as I wanted to take her out of her comfort zone entirely, so instead of hunting a criminal, she has been assigned to be a bodyguard for a visitor to Iceland who has a price on his head. The two of them have little in common and don’t like each other a great deal, and it isn’t clear if the mysterious visitor is everything he claims to be. That’s about all I can say without giving away any spoilers.
- If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
Lilja Sigurðardóttir (whose books I translate into English) because Lilja is loads of fun. Dominique Manotti and William Ryan, John Lawton, John le Carré and Len Deighton and because I love their books. Barbara Nadel because she has a wicked sense of humour, and writes brilliant books. My old friend Guðlaugur Arason because he was, like me, a seafarer, and he’s a fascinating character. And maybe Douglas Adams…
- Why did you decide to write crime?
I’m not entirely sure. It was something I had been tinkering with for a while and when it came to it, it was almost a snap decision to go down the fiction route. As I said, I had expected to be firmly shackled to non-fiction rather than crime novels, but sometimes these decisions seems to take themselves.
- Is there anything that you would change about your writing journey?
I would have liked to have started earlier, and a little more confidence at the outset would have been ideal.
- Who’s your favourite villain?
The chilling General Carmona, the Hairless Mexican from one of Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden stories.
- What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
‘It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.’
‘Earthly Powers’ by Anthony Burgess
- What’s your favourite book of all time?
It’s hard to tell, as there are so many. It’s probably ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.
- If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ (preferably the omnibus edition of the whole trilogy in four parts), Saki’s collected short stories and ‘The Code of the Woosters’ by PG Wodehouse. On a desert island, I’d need something that raises a laugh.
- What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
Just concentrate on the story and don’t let yourself get sidetracked. Don’t be afraid to cut stuff that doesn’t work. Try to do something on your WiP most days, even if it’s just a few words, as it keeps it ticking over in your mind. Don’t ask your Mum’s opinion of your work – ask someone who doesn’t love you.
- When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
As little as possible. Preferably nothing more than a table with a keyboard and a screen.
- And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
Right now I’m back in translation mode, working on two more books by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Cage which will appear in English in 2019, and Betrayal in 2020, as well as the translation of Indriði G Thorsteinsson’s Cab 79 which has just been published. There’s my own stuff as well, which is on the back burner at the moment. There’s a story that’s brewing, but I’m not sure yet if this will be Gunnhildur or something different.
You can buy Cold Breath from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.