David Hewson, author of the acclaimed Nic Costa mystery series set in Italy,
describes his long journey to becoming a published author.....
I always did want to write
That much is true anyway. I grew up in and around the small
seaside retirement town of Bridlington in Yorkshire. For a few years
my parents ran a small children's home in a bleak position on the
coast. It closed every winter. They had no car. But the place had a
library so, weekend after weekend, that was there you'd find me,
reading everything from Victorian classics to old American crime and
science titles someone, in their ignorance, had dumped on us. In
order to write fiction you need the ability to create an imaginary
world, with imaginary people, inside your own head. A childhood like
this helps an awful lot. Perhaps you don't need the dysfunctional
part to get there, but I don't know many writers who had what the
rest of the world would call a normal upbringing.
Wanting to write and being able to write are two different
things, of course. I worked down an amusement arcade for a while,
handing out change, taking money on the bingo stand. When I'd saved
enough I bought a battered, ancient typewriter down the junk shop.
That's all you need to be a writer, isn't it? The tools.
I vaguely recall the start of a book in which there was a
nuclear war that left everything in the world intact except
Bridlington, and no-one minded. It didn't get very far. Fiction
requires more than a facility with words and an old typewriter. It
needs life to flesh it out. So I did what someone with no other
obvious talents than writing did back then. I got a job on the local
newspaper, the Scarborough Evening News, and spent the next
three years indentured as an apprentice hack. Covered a lot of
flower shows and funerals. Got threatened with the sack for being
idle once or twice. Survived to get another job. Survival is a
skill to be learned in all writing careers.
I also learned ambition too. I liked journalism. It was a licence
to ask impertinent, sometimes important questions that ordinary
people would like answered but are too polite to raise. So, after
provincial jobs in Carlisle, Hemel Hempstead and the East End of
London, I found myself on the staff of The Times at the age
of 25. I covered business, general news, the arts and the media
during the 1980s. During the great newspaper upheavals of that
decade I later quit The Times to work as acting features editor for
the launch of the Independent. Once that traumatic episode
had resulted in the paper's appearance, I decided to make a final
attempt to earn a living writing books.
It was a disaster. A series of travel books on Spain and the UK
cost as much to research as they earned, and I briefly returned to
publishing to launch and edit a magazine for private pilots,
Flyer. It was an enticing prospect, since it meant I had to
obtain a pilot's license, flying in the UK, Europe and through the
US for a few years. But the itch to write never went away and in the
early Nineties I quit editing for writing once again, subsidizing
those efforts with freelance journalism for national newspapers in
the UK, principally about computers, technology and the internet.
For a decade I had enormous fun turning out a lively and
occasionally vituperous weekly column for the Sunday Times
but I gave this up in August 2005 to focus on real writing. It was,
by that stage, decidedly hard to get into the paper the kind of
column I thought was warranted. A lot of journalism's gone soft
these days, to be honest. After more than thirty years at the
hacking coalface I find I miss it not one whit, though I may do the
odd piece for someone from time to time, if they'll print it.
I have this luxury because, of course, I finally learned a little
about writing books. After several abortive attempts, and at least
three completed earlier novels, I found a buyer for the Spanish
thriller, Semana Santa, which appeared in the UK in 1996,
won the WH Smith Fresh Talent award for first-time novelists, and
went on to be published in several different languages around the
world, then turned into a movie. Since that time I've continued to
produce a range of books at regular intervals, with locations as
diverse as Spain, the US and rural England.
A Season for the Dead was the first in a crime series
set in Rome, featuring the young Italian detective Nic Costa. The
historical Venetian tale, Lucifer's Shadow, appeared in the
US in August 2004. I research the books by commuting between home in
the UK and Italy constantly, and learning Italian at a school in
Rome. Five Costa books are now complete and at least six will be
published in total. I am also working on other projects, none of
which are quite ready for public view at the moment. Watch this
I live with my wife, Helen, a former PA on The Times, in
a remote location on the North Downs in Kent, near Wye, not far from
the English Channel. We've two kids - Tom, who is reading music at
Oxford, and Kate, who is at UCL in London studying English. When not
writing, I'm fond of food, travel and working on the development of
a small vineyard by our house which should produce its first bottle
of wine in 2007.
Whenever possible, I try to get out of the office too, to book
events, conventions and anywhere interesting I am invited. So if you
think it would be worthwhile, do get in touch. Oh, and the
inevitable age question
I was born on January 9, 1953.
Copyright 2005 David Hewson. All rights reserved. Reproduced from
davidhewson.com by permission of the author.