Damien was saying ..."A friend just finished reading Emma Gross and told me she'd been staying up at night reading it because she couldn't put it down. Now what's better than that?"
Damien: I turned to historical crime because I lived in Berlin and that inspired me to want to write about its interwar history. I'd done a history degree that fair robbed me of enthusiasm for the subject by the time I'd finished it. Three and a half years in Berlin brought that enthusiam back to life. Berlin wears its scars openly and seduced me with that matter of factness. The city's 20th century history is as packed with incident as any, and a hell of a lot more than most. So I just went looking for stories. Oddly I ended up transferring all of that to Dusseldorf because of the story I ended up wanting to tell the most, but Berlin was the catalyst for looking back.
MCN: Stylistically, you tip your hat to the hardboiled noir of Chandler et al, without being a cheap imitation. Was this a tricky thing to pull off? Any pitfalls?
Damien: I never really thought about it in those terms. I thought about style in as much as it would make the book feel authentic. In some ways I tried to write the way someone from that era would have, but at the same time I decided that because it was set in Germany, I would treat the whole thing as if it was translated from German, not bothering too much about anachronisms in English because none of the characters would ever have spoken 1920s-30s English anyway. Some modern phrases slipped in because of that, which probably helps save the book from pastiche.
MCN: For any readers out there who aspire to publication, any advice?
Damien: Try not to cut yourself off from friends and family too much while you're working on your manuscript, because if you do then you'll have no one to share your ups and downs with, and you really need that when you're writing. Try and have a hobby that gets you out of the house so that writing isn't the only thing you've got apart from the day job. Try to quell that impatience. It takes time to get good,then more time to get recognised, then more time to get published, then more time until you start selling any copies, so for God's sake try to relax about it all. It's not going to come overnight. And one piece of advice I read from someone else (can't remember who) was to celebrate every success, however small. If you get a story in an e-zine then celebrate. If you get an agent, then celebrate. When you finish the first draft of your manuscript, go out and celebrate. Just celebrate the fact that you're doing something you want to do every time you getthe chance.
MCN: What's next for Damien Seaman, crime writer?
Damien: I'm working on a novella at the moment for Blasted Heath. It's set in the same period and has the Nazi takeover of power as its backdrop. I'm trying to get at that whole question of what it would be like trying to enforce the law when the people in power are the biggest lawbreakers of all. A lot of crime fiction plays with this idea, but when you've got Nazis involved you don't have to bugger about with being metaphorical about it.