Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Quiet Belief in Roger

I confess, I am smitten. Anyone who knows me knows I have a thang for Roger Federer, but a new Roger may have quietly supplanted him this summer. No not on the tennis court. my bedroom, where I have not been able to put down A Quiet Belief in Angels, the first book by RJ (Roger) Ellory to be published in the US. (Note: for some reason the cover of this book..which is a gorgeous warm orange and brown..wants to be blue on my computer. Fingers crossed it will appear in the right color on the blog.)

Already an internationally bestselling author, Ellory hits the US with a novel that's already been called "a beautiful and haunting book.."... Michael Connelly, " a mesmerizing tale.."...Clive Cussler, and "a riveting mystery as compelling as it is moving" ...Ken Bruen.
I call him a terrific guy who is kind enough to visit with us today and tomorrow.

1939. In the small Georgia community, a 12 yr-old boy learns of the death of a young classmate, a girl he quietly loved. The murder is the first in a series of killings that will plague the community for the next decade. The boy and a group of friends vow to watch over the girls..but the murderer evades them and fifty years later he confronts the nightmare that has overshadowed his entire life...

But I'll let him tell you about it.

RJ: Last year I did more than one hundred and fifty public events in England and abroad, and the question I am forever asked is, ‘Why, as an Englishman, are you writing books set in the United States?’

For me, the answer couldn’t be easier. Paul Auster, a wonderful New York novelist, said that becoming a writer was not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You didn’t so much choose it as get chosen, and once you accepted the fact that you were not fit for anything else, you had to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.
And that was the case for me when it came to choosing the subject matter I wanted to write about.

I was orphaned at seven and spent the next nine years living at various schools. I read voraciously. That’s what I did to fill my time. Cross-country running, table tennis and reading. I read everything I could get my hands on. Through Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie to Algernon Blackwood and HP Lovecraft, I read and read and read. And then I came across American literature – Steinbeck, Hemingway, McCullers, Harper Lee and William Faulkner. It was like coming home. There was a rhythm and a timbre and a poetry to this literature that I had never experienced before, and I fell in love.

When I was thirteen I contracted chicken pox. I was quarantined and left to my own devices for a good week or so. It was during this time – sequestered in a twelve-bed dormitory by myself, the locked door giving on to a black-and-white checkerboard-tiled corridor – that I read a book called ‘The Shining’. Half of it I didn’t understand, and the half that I did understand scared the hell out of me. It was then that I really grasped the power of a great novel, the fact that whereas non-fiction had – as its primary purpose – the conveyance of information, fiction had as its primary purpose the evocation of an emotion.

It was – coincidentally – another Stephen King book that propelled me to write. It was November of 1987. I was studying in the south of England, and a fellow student spent all his meal times and breaks reading a book. I happened to ask him what it was. ‘It’, he said, ‘by Stephen King’. And then he went on to detail how transfixed and captivated he was by this novel. It was then – in that moment – that a lightbulb went on in my head and I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to write stories that would captivate and transfix readers to the same degree.

I started that night, and here we have too little time to discuss the twenty-two novels I wrote in the subsequent six years, most of them in longhand. Here we have too little space to detail the more than five hundred rejection letters I received from more than one hundred publishers, both in England and the United States, but what we will say is that in 2002, fifteen years after first putting pen to paper, my twenty-third novel was accepted for publication.

And that was just the start of the work!

Come back tomorrow for the story of how that persistence paid off in the second part of our visit with RJ Ellory, author of A Quiet Belief in Angels (Overlook Press, September 2009)


  1. Welcome to JRR, RJ (what a lot of Js and Rs there seem to be). I'm also a Brit who sets one esries in New York. I think that unless one writes about one's home town, any novel is an adventure somewhere else and it's always a challenge to get into the mind-set of other people. But that's what makes it fun.
    Congratulations for not giving up through 23 novels and for finally honing your craft until you wrote the gem.

  2. Welcome Roger!

    I must confess I snagged your book at BEA...and tucked it into my bag like a treasure. Can't wait to read it..

    And it was Stephen King's THE STAND that did it for me. I actually called in sick to work so I could stay home and read it. (Sorry, boss, but it was 1980 and I can now confess.)

    And wait--150 public events? Was that--fun?

  3. 23 novels before one was published? I can't even imagine. We must hear about how you managed to keep the faith and whether you've learned things from all that experience that would help other discouraged writers!

    Thanks for stopping by Jungle Red today and we wish you the very best with your book!

  4. 23! That's dedication, but it sounds like it's fate and talent too. Wishing you well, and hoping I find the book soon, though I'll have to remember what color cover to look for in the store.