Interview with Chris Simms
In the meantime here is an interview with Chris Simms, the crime writer who will be guest author at the Languedoc holiday and has been kind enough to answer my questions about his excellent book SHIFTING SKIN and life in general.
Chris Simms has worked in airports, nightclubs, post offices and telesales centres. After travelling throughout the world he settled near Manchester, England. Now 36 years old, Chris is married with four young children and works as a freelance copywriter.
His compelling debut novel, ‘Outside the White Lines’ is a psychological thriller set on Britain’s motorways and is described by his publisher as having ‘the psychological immediacy of Ruth Rendell plus the gritty violence of Mo Hayder’.
His second novel ‘Pecking Order’ was selected as a Best British crime novel by Deadly Pleasures magazine. His third novel, ‘Killing the Beasts’ is the start of a series set in Manchester and starring DI Jon Spicer. It was selected as a Best Crime book for 2005 by Shots magazine. Its sequel, Shifting Skin, was released in July of this year to widespread critical acclaim.
Questions about writing:
C.D: Shifting Skin, as well as being an exciting and absorbing piece of crime fiction is also a portrait of a city, particularly its underbelly. Do you actively research these places for your books?
C.S: Generally the places that feature are places I’ve spotted beforehand and mentally filed as having potential for a scene. Sometimes, when plot developments necessitate a scene in a particular geographical spot, I’ll get out my A to Z, identify a suitable location, drive there and scout it out. This was the case for the Butcher’s dumping grounds around Belle Vue in ‘Shifting Skin’.
C.D: You obviously know police procedure very well too - the detail gives the book a certain feeling of authenticity without being too obtrusive. How much research do you do for each novel? Was there any special research you had to do for SHIFTING SKIN?
C.S: I have a good friend who is now quite a senior officer in the GMP – she answers any police procedural questions I might have. For ‘Shifting Skin’ I also contacted a childhood friend who has gone on to become a maxillo-facial surgeon. The internet is also very useful – especially for the escort services described in ‘Shifting Skin’.
CD: The characters are also convincing. Are they based on anyone you know?
CS: More often they’re amalgamations of several people I’ve met or read about.
CD: Where did the idea of the amateur sleuth, Fiona, come from? Do you intend to do any more like this, or do you intend to stick to having police as the main protagonists?
CS: Fiona arose purely because I needed someone to have heard a crime in the next door room of a hotel. She developed from there. There’ll certainly be other strong support characters in future novels – though not necessarily amateur sleuths.
CD: What sort of crime writer are you? How would you describe your interests?
CS: I’m very job-like in the sense that work and family commitments dictate exactly when my writing can occur, though I do scribble thoughts at all hours of the day and night. I think my interests are quite varied – I love physical exercise, but I also love sneaking off to the cinema on a quiet afternoon when the kids are at school / nursery.
CD: I notice that you describe yourself as a copywriter. How does this fit in with the business of being a novelist?
CS: Working with words – and using them economically – is essential to both copywriting and novel writing. I would prefer to be able to afford less time as a copywriter though.
CD: I would describe Jon Spicer as the Morse of Manchester - have you ever been approached by a TV company?
CS: Unfortunately not – I would love to be involved with a screen play and see him on the screen.
General questions :
CD: Do you have any connection with snails?
CS: Sleeping rough one time in an Italian park, I woke up to find giant size ones all over my sleeping bag.
CD: What is your proudest moment?
CS: No idea! Seeing family members do well fills me with what feels like a very pure sense of pride.
CD: Have you ever had a life-changing event - if so what was it?
CS: I once went head first through a car windscreen – I guess that was life changing since I should have been injured far more seriously than I was. A lucky get off.
CD: What is the saddest thing you’ve ever heard of or seen?
CS: Where to start? Recently, a documentary I saw showed a couple of live upturned turtles in a dodgy street market in China. The slow movement of their flippers as they vainly tried to right themselves was achingly sad.
CD: If there was one thing you’d change about yourself what would it be?
CS: I’d like to be less constrained by politeness.
CD: What is happiness?
CS: Accepting your limits and working within them.
CD: What is the first thing you do when you get up?
CS: Start the logistics of getting four young kids ready for breakfast.