Tim Weaver talks to Mary Darby about VANISHED, the third terrifying thriller in the David Raker series…
Who is Tim Weaver?
I’m a writer, a journalist, a dad, a husband, a reader, a football fan, a film and TV obsessive, and a big fan of tea. (Well, I’m British, after all.)
Who is David Raker?
He’s an ex-journalist turned missing persons investigator, a widower, a reader, a football fan, a film obsessive, and a big fan of coffee. You can probably see why we get on so well. He’s also a lot more intelligent than me, stronger, more determined, and less fearful. Probably for the best given all the situations I drop him into.
What is VANISHED about?
VANISHED sees Raker looking into the disappearance of Sam Wren who, on his regular morning commute, gets onto a Tube train – and never gets off again. There’s no trace of him anywhere – no eyewitnesses, nothing on security camera, literally no sign that he ever got off the train. So where has he gone? And how did he vanish?
How did you research for VANISHED? The scenes in the London Underground made me see the tube in a whole new way; did you go down into the tunnels for your research?
I didn’t, no. Since 7/7, security has been ramped up a lot, so it was hard to organise an actual visit to the ghost stations. I tried, but it became a form-filling nightmare that just went on and on, and eventually I had to start writing the book! However, I got the next best thing: a man who’d spent his life working for the Tube, who was just a brilliant source of stories and facts, and a pile of books so high you could use them as a coat stand. Both were invaluable.
Where do you write?
At the moment, our house is undergoing a bit of a change-around, so my study is full of children’s toys. I’m basically homeless inside my own home! For the next couple of months, I’m writing at the dining room table, and using my wife’s old nursing chair (it sounds weird, but – seriously – it’s ridiculously comfortable). It’ll probably stay that way until Book 4 is done, as my submission deadline is in two months and I’m at quite an advanced stage, and then – once we’ve refurbished the other rooms in the house – I’ll finally claim back my study.
When you’re writing, do you prefer a pen or the keyboard? Silence or music? Day or night?
I handwrite a lot of notes, but that’s about as far as my relationship with the pen goes. I use a keyboard to plan and to write the books, I work in total and utter silence (rigorously enforced – just ask my wife), and I write at night – not because I’m more inspired at that time, but because I work as a journalist during daylight hours.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve just always been interested in words, in language, and in stories. I’d grown up reading thrillers – adventure thrillers mostly, like Ice Station Zebra and When the Lion Feeds – but, gradually, as I got older, I gravitated towards crime fiction, and in particular American crime fiction. I instantly fell in love with writers like Chandler and MacDonald, as well as modern successors like Michael Connelly. Reading Connelly’s Bosch series – as well as Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan and John Connolly’s Every Dead Thing – cemented my desire to write, and, in particular, to write crime and mystery thrillers.
What’s the worst thing about the writing process?
The stage you hit, between about 40,000 and 70,000 words, where you hate everything you’ve written and start to have serious doubts about its quality. That’s happened with every single book I’ve written, and it’s happening right now, today, on Book 4.
And what do you enjoy most about the writing process?
When a book’s published and you start to read the reviews, and get people’s feedback, and you realise it was all worth it. I love hearing from readers.
Do you ever scare yourself when you’re writing? Those tunnel scenes are very spooky!
I have to be honest, not really. However, I always find it fun when readers get in touch and say the books scared them. It’s pretty hard to scare people from the page, so if I manage it – even once a book – I feel a certain amount of pride!
Do you have any rituals you must perform when writing? Or when you’re about to deliver a new manuscript?
Boringly, no. This is my writing routine:
7.30pm – Cup of tea #1, check the internet, read over last chapter
8pm – Writing
9pm – Cup of tea #2
9.15pm – Writing
11pm – Check the internet, wind down, small edits
11.30-12 – Go to bed, fail to drop off to sleep
And when I finish a manuscript, I breathe a big sigh of relief that I’ve (somehow) managed to do it again, despite all the doubt and the fear and the tiny little voice, chipping away, telling me that I don’t have it in me to finish another book.
What do you like doing when you’re not writing?
Read! I don’t read any books – at all – when I’m writing my own novels because I find it too much of a distraction. So, once a manuscript is done, I catch up on all the reading I’ve been putting off for eight months, and basically just blitz books, back to back. Same goes for films, TV and videogames. Downtime is incredibly important to me, as I’m always trying to ensure my wife and daughter don’t forget what I look like, so I’ll generally try to ensure they’re front and centre when I’m not writing… although I’ll always make time to watch Arsenal and my local side Bath City, as I’m a massive, massive football fan.
Do you have a favourite author/book?
I remember reading Michael Connelly’s The Black Echo back in 1993, and as a fifteen year old I was just completely blown away by it. His run of novels from The Black Ice in ’93 through to Trunk Music in ’97 were incredible, so the Bosch series (and also The Poet) will always have a special place in my heart because it feels, as a teenager, like I grew up reading them.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Probably Eighties action movies. You’ve got your classics like Aliens, Robocop, Predator, Die Hard, The Untouchables and The Terminator. No one can argue with those. But then you’ve got a whole lot of pretend-they’re-junk-but-secretly-you-like-quite-them destroyfests like Commando, Rambo III, Cobra, Red Heat and the Chuck Norris double-header Code of Silence (which, actually, is surprisingly good), in which he plays the one good cop in town, and Invasion USA (which, actually, is… er, not that good) in which he defeats THE ENTIRE SOVIET ARMY, and drives a Humvee through a shopping mall. Of course he does.
What are you reading now?
As I said earlier, I don’t read while I’m writing, but I do occasionally listen to audiobooks on the walk into work. Last week, I was listening to a BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of The Long Goodbye and Farewell, My Lovely. Toby Stephens was playing Marlowe, and I have to say, he was absolutely brilliant.
What’s next for Raker?
For Raker? Well, I wouldn’t want to say if you haven’t read the end of VANISHED. For me? I’m 77,639 words into Book 4, and have two months to finish the remaining 20-30,000. It’s something a bit different, that’s taken me out of my comfort zone, so it’s been a challenge (but a good one), even if it’s massaged those doubts even more keenly than usual.
What would be your top tip for aspiring writers hoping to get published?
Persevere. Don’t give up. Finish what you’ve started. Then, when you’ve finished, don’t rush it. Put the manuscript down and forget about it for a couple of months. Then come back to it and see it with fresh eyes. That was the difference between me getting a publishing deal and not. Sometimes it becomes so hard to see the wood from the trees when you know your book so intimately. Time away from it can give you the perspective you need.
VANISHED, published by Penguin, is out now!