|9 Nov 2021|
|United Kingdom | Japan|
Four by Chris Hood
This is my third novel and my 8th book overall. This is my 4th book that I’ve done through self-publishing. It does take a lot more time and effort, but it allows for greater freedom without the pressure from publishers and editors.
It’s the first book chronologically in a series I have put together. It’s my third novel, my first one took about 11 years one way or another to do. I once went to a training session and they suggested one of the things you should do to get your brain and fingers working in the morning is to just do a bit of free writing, eventually you could add it all together and turn it into a novel, and it grew from there really.
But in writing that first book I thought that really does work for me; having that little bit of time each day to do some writing, and I started getting other ideas for other books. My second book was all based around the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and because I wanted to make sure the book was out in time for the Olympics I set quite a tight schedule for writing. That came out last year, and within three weeks of the book coming out, they had decided to postpone to 2020 Olympics. There were a few revisions taken into to account of that, it’s now set in 2021 but everything else largely stayed the same. I’ve got my fingers crossed the Olympics go ahead this year otherwise the book doesn’t work!
Two characters that appear at the end of the first novel are central throughout this latest novel.
I wanted to break the story down into different parts to help tell the story over a long (almost 10 year) time frame. So that’s how I broke it down, and it all fell into place from there. Four parts, four main islands of Japan, each part set in each island.
‘Four’ is set around the same photo-journalist travelling around Japan with a journalist and in each of the four places they go, things happen which they do not expect to happen. It’s a crime thriller but more than just a ‘who done it’ – I feel like books or movies should have a moral to the story or challenge your mind.
Literature is where we get to test our ideas, and test societies ideas. I’ve always tried to do a little bit of that, so while this book is a thriller, it also gave me the opportunity to deal with some of the issues in society in Japan. This is a way of getting some of my academic knowledge of Japan across to a different audience. The story talks about issues to do with depopulation which is a big issue in Japan and the impact of that. It also covers issues to do with mental health which of course is incredibly topical at the moment due to the Covid-19 situation.
Are there any Concord influences in this book? Are there any characters based on your friends from Concord?
In this one there are none, all of my characters are totally fictional and that’s one interesting thing – I’m still not 100% sure where characters actually come from. The main character is a photo-journalist, and I have met a few photo-journalists so that gave a little bit of a model to work off, but when you’re writing somehow these people just appear in your mind.
This one doesn’t have any particular influence or relation to Concord in that respect, but there are a lot of concord Alumni names mentioned in the acknowledgements. Sometimes you just need something to get you going, get you writing and some of the banter we were having in our WhatsApp group gave me that little bit of energy and spark to help keep me going with the writing.
Also, with the fact that I was unable to get out to Japan this year, there were a couple of things I need to check in relation to one of the locations. One of the Concord alumni I know lives out there and was able to check some details relating to a particular location for me.
The main journalist in the book is based on Concord Alumni, it’s not very clear in this book, it just refers to her English education, but in the sequel (Tokyo 2020 Vision) it specifically mentions she was at Concord College. I can see in my next book there will be a Concord Alumni get together on a cruise ship, that has got some mileage. While all of the characters will be entirely fictional, I have had two friends offer to let me murder them in the book!
Does your academic research inspire your novel writing or is it vice versa?
The academic research has really driven quite a lot of it. For example the book ‘Hijacking Japan’, a lot of the details for that came from my research of the Bullet train in Japan. There are certain train journeys I have done so many times, and I was thinking to myself how can I use this time [while on the trail] other than looking out of the window or doing my research? It allows an extra level of detail and believability in certain scenes which might otherwise not be there.
Leading on from that, has your academic writing helped your novel writing or are they two conflicting interests?
They are two different beasts, but as time goes on I’m finding that they help each other much more. While there is a lot of time and dedication involved with writing a novel, there are no ‘rights and wrongs’ and do not require the same degree of thoroughness and referencing. There is a lot of freedom there.
I would normally set aside large blocks of time for my academic writing during the working day and use my break times for novel writing, but the experience of novel writing has shown that you can get a lot done in smaller chunks of time. The challenge is the language, making sure I swap back to the formal style of writing for my research!
With Covid-19 preventing most travel over the past 12 months, has this helped your writing in any way or has the lack of travel, especially to Japan been a hinderance?
It has helped actually! This new book ‘Four’ I had originally planned to be released at the end of March, so it ended up being 57 days early! And that was all down to not being able to go on our summer holiday as planned. It meant there were additional days at home, I could find an hour here and there to do some work.
Finally, do you have any goals for 2021?
The next novel I will start working on in the summer time with the aim of that coming out in 2022, alongside that I am working on another book about the pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood, mainly about their fans. During lockdown there was a thing called Tims Twitter Listening Party where everyone listens to the same album and comments on a twitter thread. They did one for Welcome to the Pleasuredome which is one of my favorite albums and it was so great to see all the memories people had. Part of my brain said there is something that can be done here!
I’m specifically going to look at how Frankie Goes to Hollywood developed fans in Japan and the success or lack of success of Western pop music in Japan more widely.
All of these things stem back to my experiences at Concord. If I hadn’t have gone to Concord, then none of this would be happening!
Thank you for chatting to me Chris, you sound like you have a very busy calendar and fingers crossed you will be able to get back out to Japan this year!
If you would like to get a copy of Chris’ latest book ‘Four’, it is available on Amazon
For all other texts and blog posts, visit Chris’ website here
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