CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2021 – Interview with Stuart Turton

With two days to go before the winner of the 2021 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award is announced, we interviewed STUART TURTON and asked him about his shortlisted book THE DEVIL AND THE DARK WATER.

How does it feel to be on the shortlist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger?

It’s truly lovely. Writing each of my books feels like I’m juggling plates on a highwire, and I’m never sure until the end whether it’s going to work. It must be awful for my publisher, who just has to wait and see what madness I turn in. Being nominated for the dagger is a great feeling, because it means this collection of odd ideas entertained somebody – which is really all I’m trying to do.

If you could summarise ‘The Devil and the Dark Water’ in ten words, what would you say?

Holmes and Watson on a boat with a (possible) devil.

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first and in which ways has lock-down affected your writing process, if at all?

I plan everything beforehand, except for the characters. I learn about them by smashing them together on the page to see if they get on. If they surprise me, I tweak the plot around them as I go. I never want my characters to feel like they’re doing things that are inauthentic to them. THe lockdown has affected me, both positively and negatively.

I usually like to travel and do plenty of research for my books, but I haven’t been able to do that for book 3 because, obviously, nobody’s going anywhere. On the other hand, not travelling has allowed me to spend more time with my three-year-old daughter, and that relationship is seeping into everything I write. I suspect my next novel will be a buddy comedy between a knackered father and his insanely energetic child.

Which thriller writers do you most admire?

All of them! Writing a book is like climbing a mountain. Anybody who’s done it deserves a pint from me. It’s such a stunning achievement.

What makes a killer thriller?

Christ, I wish I knew. If I could figure it out, I’d bottle it and sell the secret on the internet. Great thrillers have an alchemy all their own. It’s some combination of characters, stakes, set pieces and theme. It just happens, but I don’t think you can plan it. You just stir everything together and hope for the best.

Photo by Charlotte Graham

The winner of the 2021 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award is announced on July 1st, stay tuned for the last shortlisted author interviews tomorrow.