HALLIE EPHRON: SIMON WOOD likes to push the envelope. The one-time engineer and race-car driver moved to the US from the UK in 1988. He started writing to fill the time while waiting for his immigration paperwork to get processed and despite being dyslexic. From the get-go he's been a connoisseur of strange. DECEPTIVE PRACTICES is his thirteenth novel.
We're happy to have SIMON WOOD visiting today on JUNGLE RED, talking about writing the improbable and making it work.
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” ~Sherlock Holmes
I’m totally with Sherlock on this one…especially when it comes to the improbable. I’m drawn to the weird, odd and bizarre. I’m fascinated by the oddities in life that shouldn’t happen. They appeal to my imaginative sensibilities. Blame Roald Dahl and Rod Serling for making me believe in the crazy. It’s the reason why I’m a rabid fan of the show BANSHEE but not LAW AND ORDER. BANSHEE is crazy, intense and over the top and only works when the universe’s cosmic tumblers are off, whereas LAW AND ORDER is rooted in the now and the real, which makes it totally mundane to me (sorry Dick Wolf). If I want mundane, I can pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news. I want it weird. I’m an escapist! What can I say?
That’s why one criticism of my stories is that they push the limits of believability—and that’s true. They do. But for all that limit pushing, they don’t go outside the realm of the possible. I go out of my way to pay attention to the strange happenings in the real world. I think I have a fascination with the strange because I possess a small talent for calamity myself. I have many firsthand accounts of how my life went off the rails. One example was when I had a near fender bender on a roundabout which then developed into someone filing a fraudulent insurance claim against me. That led to me being charged with half a dozen driving offenses and was topped off by the police handing me a confession they’d written for me to sign. Seems unlikely, but it happened to meso things like this must happen to others.
I’ve discovered some tragic and cruel twists of fate such as a Sacramento motorcycle cop who responded to a fender bender caused by an elderly man who pulled out of a turn and tee-boned a car. The cop felt bad for the elderly man and let him off with a warning instead of citing him. The following week, the same elderly man did the exact same thing at the same intersection. This time he struck and killed the motorcycle cop who’d let him off. The weird what-if game that plays out in your head after that is what inspires my stories.
Things like this have been the inspiration for several of my books. The trading of life insurance on the living that is the backbone for ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN is a real thing. Private security firms being involved with workplace violence claims, which is the foundation for TERMINATED, came from something that was happening with one of my wife’s employers. The disturbing series of suicides in WE ALL FALL DOWN were inspired by similar ones that happened between coworkers in the UK in the 80’s.
With my current book, DECEPTIVE PRACTICES, things are a little different. The events in this novel don’t have a direct link to an actual event. Instead, they are inspired by a way of thinking. Namely, how can a seemingly mundane event get its strange on? In DECEPTIVE PRACTICES, there is a company called Infidelity Limited. They are the last ditch effort when it comes to marriage guidance counselors, especially when their pitch is: Do you have a cheating spouse? Has counseling failed? Want to get even with them? Then hire Infidelity Limited to teach them a lesson… They're a shadowy company that operates on a speakeasy premise and offers a bespoke service. Tell them who’s done you wrong and they will beat some sense into them. Olivia Shaw buys into their promises and hires them to even up the score with her husband when she discovers he’s cheating on her, but when he's killed, she discovers Infidelity Limited is far more dangerous than its advertising pitch.
It sounds a little wild but how many times have we read about spouses caught in police stings hiring hit men to kill their nearest and dearest? Now the idea of a specialist firm that deals in cheating spouses doesn’t sound all that farfetched. ;)
I know this outlook might not be to everyone’s liking but if you’re willing to go off-piste and embrace the improbable, then I think you’ll enjoy the ride.
HALLIE: Sounds like I definitely would. Today's question: Fans of Roald Dahl and Rod Serling and Simon Wood, what makes a story that goes super-strange work for you?
Simon Wood is a California transplant from England. He's a former competitive racecar driver, a licensed pilot, an endurance cyclist, an animal rescuer and an occasional PI. He shares his world with his American wife, Julie. Their lives are dominated by a longhaired dachshund and four cats. He's the Anthony Award winning author of Working Stiffs, Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper, Terminated, Asking For Trouble, We All Fall Down and the Aidy Westlake series. His current thriller THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY has been optioned for a movie adaptation. He also writes horror under the pen name of Simon Janus. Curious people can learn more at http://www.simonwood.net