Thursday, February 4, 2016

9mm interview: Jake Woodhouse

Earlier this week I had the privilege to attend Penguin's Crime Drinks in Soho, London. It was a great night talking books, storytelling, and life with a terrific group of of people - authors, reviewers, publishers, and others. I'd also been to this event last year, where I met a number of new-to-me authors, including Jake Woodhouse, who randomly often comes up when I do searches about New Zealand crime, as he's a bestselling crime writer, who happens to have travelled and worked (at a winery) in New Zealand. He is British though, and sets his excellent books in Amsterdam.

Last year I read Jake's second Inspector Jaap Rykel book, INTO THE NIGHT, and really enjoyed it. I called it "a very fine European police thriller, with a twisting storyline, fascinating cast of characters, and tremendous denouement" (read full review here).

It was great to see Jake and the other Penguin authors on Tuesday night. I'm very much looking forward to his third Inspector Rykel book, which I understand will be released in the coming months.

Jake himself is a really interesting guy who had an interesting path to thriller writing. A skateboarding and snowboarding teen who fell in love with the oboe and classical music (even though he looked more like a metal-head), he studied at the Royal College of Music in London, then went on to postgraduate music studies in Amsterdam and touring as a professional musician around Europe.

Then - and this is something I can personally identify with, given my own far-less-than-linear life track through my 20s and early 30s - Jake felt compelled to drop music and try something else: winemaking. He went to New Zealand to learn the craft, then worked several vintages as a winemaker in Italy, before working in a shop and starting a wine business back home in the UK. It was during this time he eventually sat down to do something he'd always wanted to - but had been putting off for many years - write a book. He set his thriller series in a fascinating city he knew well: Amsterdam.

Jake has certainly taken a circuitous route to where he is now, filled with adventures and side-steps. A life of exploration, well lived. And today, this bestselling thriller writer who knows plenty about winemaking, snowboarding, and classical music, becomes the 138th author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

Jake Woodhouse and myself at the Penguin
Crime Drinks in Soho in March, 2015

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I’ve not read much series crime fiction so this is a tough one, but my favorite series characters have to be Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix. I grew up reading those books, and they’ll always stay with me, even though I’ve not read one for years.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
There have been so many books… I’m not sure about the first, maybe something like SIDDARTHA by Herman Hesse, or WATERMUSIC by T.C. Boyle. I think the reason why is simple, they both, as any good book does, open up another world, whether that be serious or comic doesn’t really matter, the main thing is that you are someplace else, that words are firing something in your mind which can translate into emotion, in whatever form that is.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Nothing, I’d been putting off writing for years and years, there seemed to be this massive fear of doing it, even though I had in the back of my mind that I’d be a writer. Crazy really, but then I think if you start too young you might waste your youth writing instead of living. Then you’d have nothing to write about.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Mostly hanging out with my wife and two dogs. I love to surf and snowboard, but I don’t get to do that as much as I’d like. I find when I’m writing a book switching off is kind of difficult, there’s always this sort of undertow, pulling your mind back into the world you are creating and I have to fight that a bit, it’s not good to be too immersed.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I live in South East London, not sure people really visit here for fun?

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I’d probably ask for the one whose name I’ve forgotten, but whodelivers the best lines in recent movie history, from The Departed. This character, when asked a question, says ‘Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe fuck yourself.’ I’d want to be played by that guy, and the film would consist of him wandering through my life, saying that phrase in answer to any question posed to me by anyone. It probably wouldn’t make for a compelling bit of drama, but I think after the 100th or so repetition you’d either want to kill yourself or you’d give in and find it ridiculously funny.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
I guess I’ll always have a soft spot for my first, AFTER THE SILENCE – I lived with it for years, writing it and rewriting it, and that kind of sticks.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I got a call from my agent saying he had some good news, the manuscript had been sent out to Germany and a publisher had stayed up all night reading it and called first thing in the morning with a pre-empt. I was stunned really,and I was also in the middle of trying to stop a puppy from throwing up on the floor so I probably sounded a bit distracted. I don’t think it really sank in for about six months or so. I do remember when the UK deal came in I was in the mountains snowboarding, so that was a sort of celebration.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I was doing a signing at an independent bookshop when a lady shuffled up and asked me if I’d sign for her. I said sure, though she didn’t have a book. She did however have a bag plastic shopping bag, and she dipped her hand in and pulled out a dead crow, which she plonked on the table. She didn’t say anything after that, she just stood there looking at me. It was a bit unnerving really.

Okay, I’m kidding. They’ve all been pretty normal so far.

Thank you Jake. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


Find out more about Jake Woodhouse, his books, and his dogs at his website here. Follow him on Twitter here

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