Brazil, Sumatra and Northumberland all inspire author Dan

Dan Smith
Dan Smith

LOCAL author Dan Smith visited Waterstones in Morpeth and chatted to Heather Murdoch about his work and his inspiration.

Can you tell me about the books you’ve written so far?

I’ve had three books published with Orion. The first was Dry Season, which about a former English priest living in a small, somewhat violent town in Brazil. My second novel Dark Horizons is about a young traveller who goes to Sumatra and befriends a group of people who aren’t what they appear to be. My new book The Child Thief is set in 1930 Ukraine and is about a veteran from the First World War and the Russian Civil War who is hunting for a kidnapper who has taken a child.

Your style covers different periods of history and different parts of the world. What inspires you?

The first two books were set in places where I had lived. I was in Brazil for four years and I was inspired by the people who I knew. I grew up in Sumatra and I wanted to put a character into a place where he would feel lost and alone, and I felt Indonesia was the ideal setting. I got my inspiration for The Child Thief after walking home on a snowy winter’s night crossing a field in Northumberland. I imagined a figure alone in a snow-covered wilderness and it took off from there.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I would like to say yes, but probably not. But living in places where there was not TV, I read a lot. I’m glad that I am a writer.

Your background has given you real inspiration and you have unique stories to tell.

I’ve had a lot of experiences that others won’t have had, but I don’t think you need this sort of background to be a writer. I think that your job as a writer is to make things up and even if you have an ordinary upbringing and life, you can write about it in an extraordinary way.

Who do you read?

I like particular books rather than particular writers. I love Lord of the Flies and The Old Man and the Sea. I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy, although in short doses as he can be quite hard to read. At the moment I’m really enjoying George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones.

What’s next?

I have another adult book set in Eastern Russia during the Civil War out next year. I’m also very excited about a children’s book I’ve written, which is also out next summer.

It is set in a Northumbrian coastal village during the Second World War, and it’s about a boy who makes friends with a girl who is an evacuee from Newcastle. A German bomber crashes in the field behind his house and they find a survivor.

It sounds great, is it the sort of book which adults can enjoy as well as children?

Yes it is. The book is for 10 years and up, I’ve tested it with adults who all seemed to enjoy it and got something from it. I suppose you could compare it to John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.