Tom Anderson reveals his guilty pleasure and his secret love for maths ahead of the publication of The Actaeon Tide next month…
Which writers, books or ideas have inspired you?
My favourite book of all time is either Moby-Dick or Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, because I love the way symbols and metaphors are used to make the characters lives seem relevant to all of humanity when in fact both are essentially stories about single people with odd obsessions. I love some of the earlier magical realism of Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and am a huge fan of a lot of American literature because I think it helped free up the cods of language used by narrators. Like it or not, America’s influence on English is immense.
What influences your writing aside from other writers?
I live on the coast and a lot of my travels and lifestyle are based on being near or in the ocean, so that has a huge bearing on the mood and style of my writing. Characters I meet, places I go and experiences I have in and around the sea also inspire a lot of the material for my writing.
Could you describe your writing room?
An Ercol desk with a steel lamp faces straight out of a window which looks over my garden and a huge copper-beech tree in my neighbour’s place. Two walls either side of the desk are lined with bookshelves and there’s a sofa against a dark-red wall at the back of the room. It gets hot in there during sunny afternoons, which is why I write best in mornings and evenings or in winter. I wanted it that way though. Of course, I do also sometimes write on the sofa! And I go to libraries as well if I need to shake out storylines that home isn’t letting me see.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
I heard Ken Follett say that you have to invent a character, get the reader to like them or be invested in them and then place that character in danger or uncertainty. Apparently if you get that right your reader will read until the danger is over. That’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever had apart from ‘finish the draft right through instead of just talking about it and re-reading bits over’. However, for my travel writing to date I think the element that keeps a book going is some sort of personal quest that matches the physical journey. You need humour too, and clear prose.
Tell us something about you that not many people know about you.
I absolutely love mathematics even though I had very little to do with it in school. I read books on maths all the time. It’s one of the most beautiful things on this planet and the thing that gets me about it is the way mathematical rules have to have existed before anything else, so in a way learning about numbers and their patterns is like discovering the one language common to the whole universe. There’s maths to storytelling too if you free yourself up enough to see it. Sorry if that answer sounds all hokey and annoying.
What book is your guilty pleasure?
Sports biographies. I’m on Craig Bellamy’s right now. It’s pure ghostwritten gold.
Tom Anderson was born in Watford and grew up in Porthcawl. He worked as a private investigator for a range of clients after studying at the University of Glamorgan, before developing a travel writing career using journeys taken as a surfer. The Actaeon Tide is his fictional debut.
About The Actaeon Tide:
Noah, a debt collector and investigator in his late twenties, is slowly putting away enough money to get out of the murky world of solicitors, bankers, bent coppers and cheating wives for good. All he’s ever wanted is to make a wedge so he can emigrate some place where the surf is good and the weather warm, but then comes the job that changes everything. A mysterious woman thinks her huge house in the Vale is hiding the darkest of secrets. Drawn to the money and aided by the advice of occult-specialist Alys, Noah lifts the lid on a bizarre world in which depravity and deceit are in charge, where night time covers the inexplicable and where the dream of escaping to ride a few waves is soon growing further out of reach. The Actaeon Tide is a tale of ancient myth meeting new money, set at the shoreline of an all conquering sea.
Tom’s debut novel The Actaeon Tide is out through Parthian next month (Oct 2014). Come along to the launch as part of our new under the sun pop-up festival (7.45pm, Thurs 16th October, Porter’s, Cardiff). Tom will also be in conversation with award-winning travel writer John Harrison as part of Made in Roath festival (11.15am, Sat 18th October, Wellfield Road Bookshop, Roath, Cardiff).