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Will Dean is the author of The Tuva Moodyson Series and standalone thriller The Last Thing To Burn, which was released in hardback on 7 January. He took the time to answer some questions for us.
Can you tell us a bit about The Last Thing To Burn?
The Last Thing to Burn is a tense thriller set on an isolated fenland farm in the East Midlands. It’s been likened to Room by Emma Donoghue and Misery by Stephen King. There are only two main characters: one is keeping the other captive. It’s a claustrophobic thriller but it’s also a story of love and family and identity and resilience.
Will you still be writing the Tuva Moodyson books?
Absolutely. I’m currently working on Tuva 5, and Tuva 4 will be published next year. I love writing Tuva Moodyson and the weird (almost Twin Peaks style) small Swedish town she lives and works in. You’ll see much more of Tuva in future.
Are there any plans for more standalone books?
Yes! I’ve just delivered the next book to my editor. It’s set in New York and it’s pretty wild. The story explores sibling dynamics, identity and vengeance.
Do you prefer series or standalone writing – what are the main differences?
Genuinely – I love both. The Tuva Moodyson series allows me to layer up the local community – and go really deep with character – over a long timeframe. It lets me see Tuva grow older. That’s a real privilege.
The standalone books are liberating. I’m excited that I’m allowed to break free. The main character doesn’t need to survive for the next book. I can be playful with tense and points of view and plot structures. I’m a huge reader and a huge fan of both series and standalone books. I’m very fortunate that I now get to write both.
How has the pandemic affected you and your writing?
I live in Sweden (in a forest) so day-to-day life hasn’t changed too much. It’s been strange living in a country with no lockdowns. The main impact it’s had on my day-to-day life is the lack of travelling for book festivals and events. Last year I spoke at the Hong Kong Book Fair, attended lots of brilliant UK festivals, and visited New York for book meetings. This year has been very quiet.
In terms of writing, like many of my friends, I was hit hard back in February/March 2020. I visited New York in late February and got ill (suspected Covid but there was no testing regime here back then). I recovered quickly but my creative energy was extinguished for quite a while. The pandemic news was so sad and overwhelming I found it difficult to read or write. After a while I was able to focus again. It’s been such a weird, tough time for everyone.
What did you read and love in 2020?
So many great books! I loved Lightseekers by Femi Kayode and The Khan by Saima Mir (both out soon). I read Grown Ups by Marian Keyes – she’s so good at creating characters. Adored it. Also really enjoyed Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, and Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone. My reading tastes are pretty eclectic. I thought The Devil and the Dark Water by Stu Turton was brilliant, as was Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh. Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series is one of my favourites (The Cutting Place was published in 2020) and Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent was absolutely superb. Right now I’m reading Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty. It’s multi-layered, atmospheric and very, very funny.
Some of our members might know that you live very remotely – can you tell us about that and how it feeds into your writing life?
I live with my wife and son in a small clearing at the centre of a large elk forest in Sweden. We have no direct neighbours and our life here is quiet and simple. I found the land on the internet in 2009 (it was very cheap – no Swedes wanted to live here!) and started building our wooden house later that year. It took me a while. We use logs to heat and cook, and we take water from our own well. It’s quite an old-fashioned life – there’s lots of physical work to manage firewood and rebuild our dirt track – but there’s also lots of time for reading and writing.
I’m not sure how my forest life impacts my writing. The quiet helps. There are no shops or cafes or cinemas here. Zero distractions. Also: I tend to write small, claustrophobic settings so perhaps there’s a link there. I’m fascinated in where landscape intersects with character: learning how different people cope in different places, and how their relationships evolve.
Last year we adopted a small St Bernard. He is no longer small. Bernie is wonderful to have around in the forest and I enjoy writing while he snores next to my desk.
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