Please welcome Stuart Prebble, author of The Insect Farm.
Do you have a signature accessory, colour, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
If I have a trademark look it is probably “disheveled.” If I have a trademark phrase it’s probably unprintable but best paraphrased as ”you’ll never guess what these idiots are up to now?”
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Keith Potten, who was my English teacher when I was at grammar school. Mr Potten got me started on a love of literature.
David Plowright, MD of Granada TV in the great days of independent television in the UK. David used to berate us for not making enough enemies, especially in the government.
Eric Clapton – whom I’ve never met but who has provided me with more pleasure than any other male of the species.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Yes, but it has to be either classical, or opera sung in a foreign language. If I listen to anything with lyrics I can understand, I find they distract from the words forming in my head as a write.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
What an excellent question! I think it might be 100% cacao. It’s an acquired taste, it’s slightly challenging, but it gives you a feeling of euphoria when you’ve eaten it.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I seldom have dreams that I remember, but I do have a horrible recurring dream that sometime in the past I killed someone. I know – ghastly! Worse still, I sometimes continue to believe it for a while after I wake up. It was the idea that at sometime, many years ago, my hero had been involved in a murder and had been trying to get away with it ever since, that inspired the plot of The Insect Farm.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I find it fascinating that any number of people who witness the same incident will each see something different, and how events are further distorted by our memories over time. Long term memory has been a factor in a history book I wrote about the cold war (Secrets of the Conqueror), my novel The Insect Farm, and also in the latest book I am working on.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
As is often the case in fiction, the narrator in my book is a bit like me. Jonathan is about the same age as I am, he grew up in similar circumstances, and has some of the same attitudes to life. However it’s part of my purpose that readers might swing in and out of sympathy for him; he is, after all, closely involved in a hideous and violent murder!
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Hmmm. I think that perhaps Jonathan is one-third Tom Cruise (as in Rain Man), one-third Harrison Ford (as in Presumed Innocent), and one-third Atticus Finch – ultimately fair-minded but struggling against a cruel world.
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Wow. I’d love that so much! OK here goes. Dickens. Nabakov. Anita Shreve. Anne Tyler. Scott Fitzgerald. Shakespeare. Can you imagine the conversation? “Could you pass the Martini, Will?” “What’s a Martini, Scott?”
What’s next for you?
I still love working in television because we have a great team and we make programmes I am proud of. However I’m also working on a next novel for Mulholland Books. Like The Insect Farm, it’s about family, relationships, mystery, murder and memory.
Stuart Prebble is a former television executive and CEO of the UK television network ITV. The Insect Farm is his first novel to be published in the United States. He is currently a producer and director at StoryVault Films. He lives in London.