Chris Lloyd talks about his need to write, his process and Occupation
When did you start writing, and why?
I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. At school, I’d write long stories instead of getting on with my homework, which often got me into trouble with my teachers. I think I wrote because it was an escape from a routine, from the everyday. They were worlds and people I could make up, even if I never really had any control over them, and I also think that writing created a degree of confidence in myself that I never felt in real life.
I was also lucky in that my mum was a booklover and always encouraged me to read. When I was about ten, she gave me a copy of ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serraillier, and I always think it was that precise moment that I knew it was what I had to do. Later, it would be my dad who encouraged me to write, telling me he’d read whatever I wrote.
My local library also has to take some of the blame. When I was growing up, it had a rule for children that said for every fiction book you borrowed, you had to borrow one non-fiction book. It was a wonderful idea, even if it might not have seemed it at the time, and it nurtured in me not just a love of reading, but a fascination with broad swathes of knowledge. Even as a kid, it just seemed that the obvious next step for me was to write my own stories. So when I was in my first year at secondary school, I plucked up the nerve to tell another kid in my class that I wanted to be a writer. He just looked at me solemnly and told me I had to wait until I was old enough. I’m still waiting for that to happen, but I’m also still writing.
What motivates you to write?
I think it’s a need to write. There are things I want to say and it just feels that stories are the most effective way of saying them and of getting people to read them. I think that’s why I love the crime genre, as it allows you to explore pretty much any subject you want and present its lighter and darker sides, and then end by offering some sort of resolution, which real life rarely gives.
There’s also nothing quite like the thrill of creating characters and worlds. The whole process of writing fiction is deeply enthralling, from the spark of an idea that wakes you up in the middle of the night to the research that throws up surprising nuggets sending your story dancing off in a whole new direction. And then there’s the blank screen staring back at you and the tentative first words, the first draft and (and this will be unpopular) the rewrites. I complain and swear at every single part of it, but I could never live without it.
Which do you like to write, series or standalones? If you write both, what do you find the difference?
Every time I try to write a short story, my immediate thought is that it’s too limiting, that I’d like to pursue the idea further and turn it into a novel instead. And the same pretty much goes for series versus standalones. I get involved with the characters and the worlds and I immediately know the moment I start planning that I want to carry on living with them and see how their stories develop across other books. The other great thing about series is that I know the characters, so there isn’t the need to discover a whole cast of new ones every time I start writing. It feels like getting old friends to help write the story with me. And I find that there’s always something in one of the character’s stories or personalities that I want to come back to in a later book.
Having said that, there are a couple of ideas I’ve got for standalones that I really want to make the time to explore. Well, I say standalones. That can always change…
Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
That would have to be Eddie Giral, who’s the main character in my latest book, The Unwanted Dead. Eddie’s a police detective in Occupied Paris, fighting his own battle to try and do his job properly under the Nazi regime. I love writing about him, both because he’s a very complex character and because the stories are in the first-person, which really lets me get inside his mind (and him inside mine!). He tries to be a good man in bad times, but he’s fundamentally flawed – he’s human and fallible, his moral compass can go badly wrong and the choices he’s made in his life haven’t always been the most palatable, to the point of being self-destructive. So much of the stories are about Eddie’s struggle to retain (or regain) some semblance of humanity while walking a tightrope between the occupier and the occupied and between resistance and collaboration, and he doesn’t always get it right. And still I love him.
Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
There’s a character in The Unwanted Dead who makes my blood boil. His name is Hauptmann Karl Weber and he’s an officer in the Wehrmacht. I’ve tried to be realistic with the characters in the story in that not all the Occupiers are essentially bad people and not all the Occupied are essentially good people – they were individuals caught up in the politics of the time – but Weber has a sense of entitlement that cuts through to the bone. He’s supercilious and arrogant and every jobsworth and self-appointed elite that any of us has ever had to put up with.
Tell us about your last book…
The Unwanted Dead begins on the day the Nazis march into Paris. Four refugees have been found gassed in a railway truck. Later that day, a fifth man commits suicide. Despite opposition from the occupiers and reluctance and apathy from the rest of his police colleagues, Eddie becomes obsessed with finding the truth. On a continent where thousands are dying every day, the four murders in the railway yard come to mean everything to Eddie, a redemption for the mistakes he’s made in his own life. His investigation, though, will lead him to suspect a far greater crime, one that he refuses to believe possible and that will bring him into the gunsights of the Nazis.
What’s coming next…
I’m working with my editor on the edits of the second book in the Eddie Giral series – no title yet – which involves prisoners going missing from one of Paris’s biggest prisons and a plea for help from someone from Eddie’s past. I’m also starting to research and plot Eddie’s third outing, which takes place at Christmas 1940, when the complexion of the Occupation was beginning to change for the worse.
Anything else you want to share?
I’m a member of the Crime Cymru collective of crime writers and very much looking forward to our Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival. It’s the first international crime fiction festival in Wales and will be online this year (26 April – 2 May) and in Aberystwyth in 2022 (30 April – 2 May).
Originally from near Cardiff, Chris Lloyd lived in Catalonia for twenty-four years, where he taught English and worked in educational publishing and as a travel writer and translator. He has also lived in Grenoble – researching the French Resistance movement – as well as in the Basque Country and Madrid. He now lives in South Wales and is a writer and translator.
He writes the Eddie Giral series (Orion) set in Occupied Paris. He is also the author of the Elisenda Domènech crime series (Canelo), featuring a police officer with the Catalan police force
Where to find Chris Lloyd:
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chris-Lloyd/e/B01GQH7Q5C/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
Thanks Chris, like you I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write, fantastic isn’t it?
Tomorrow, we’ll met Cathy Ace