The Hunt is such a gripping read and the characters really come to life on the page. How did you go about researching the book?
There were areas of the book I needed to research and was keen to get right. Firstly the landscape, which I wanted to make as much a character in this book as the people upon it. The only way to know the real Welsh mountains of Snowdonia, both the geography and the feel, smell, and touch of the landscape itself, is to go there. I paid a couple of visits whilst writing and revising The Hunt, climbed Snowdon, hiked in the mountains, really tried to get a feel for the atmosphere of that place. It’s a wild place, and with the aid of a good map it’s pretty easy to get off the beaten track. The ruggedness of the land, and the dangers, aren’t easy to imagine without seeing and experiencing them first-hand.
I was also interested in the psychology of someone who might want to take part in a human trophy hunt. I researched trophy hunts in Africa, read a lot about who takes part in them, and why. I find it hard enough to understand why someone would take any pleasure from shooting a wild lion in the head with a high-powered rifle, even less so when the animal is wounded to stop it escaping, corralled, and essentially defenceless. Going one big step further – to hunt humans instead of animals – was difficult, but it’s something I can see happening sometime, somewhere. Who knows, maybe it’s already happened. There were also smaller areas I had to research – weaponry, computer and web technology, helicopters. All of my previous novels have been horror or fantasy novels, where a lot of the time I’m making up my own worlds. This made The Hunt probably the most heavily researched book I’ve ever written.
You’re a regular participant in athletic endurance events. How much of your own experience did you draw upon when writing about the physical struggles Chris faces in the book?
This was a classic case of write about what you know (at least, I know a little bit about it). The inspiration to write The Hunt came from my love of endurance sport, something I’ve been passionate about since I turned 40 overweight, unfit, and wondering where the future would take me. I discovered running, then cycling and swimming, started entering races, ran my first marathons, competed in my first triathlons, and then completed my first Ironman race. It was a huge change to my life – one that continues now – and because I’m a writer, I was often looking for ways to incorporate my new-found love into my fiction. I’d been considering writing a thriller for some time, and the idea of combining endurance sport with a fast-paced chase thriller seemed perfect.
There’s a lot more to the story, of course, but at its core it deals with a man able to keep ahead of those intending to kill him. He knows the mountains and trails, knows how to pace himself, understands the nutritional aspects of such a long pursuit. And for that, I dipped very heavily into my own experiences. I have first-hand experience of how much it can hurt pushing yourself to those limits, as well as what it feels like to enjoy pushing yourself. There’s a lot of me in Chris.
What was the first book that really made an impression on you?
When I was maybe 6 or 7 I read Shadow the Sheepdog by Enid Blyton. There’s not too much I remember about it, other than being enthralled, and fascinated at seeing the world from a dog’s point of view. It was the first time I read a book again and again, and funnily enough my sister still has that copy.
The second book is The Rats, by James Herbert. My mother gave me this to read when I was 10 or 11, and I never looked back. Herbert was a favourite through my teens, and many copies of The Fog, Domain, and The Dark were passed back and forth among me and my friends. I met him a couple of years before he died and thanked him for The Rats. The book introduced me fully to the horror genre, and is partly responsible for me doing what I do now.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently writing my second thriller for Avon, tentatively titled Every Man (although I suspect that title might change). I don’t want to say too much about it, other than it’s just as fast and furious as The Hunt.
The Hunt is out now.