Oliver Stark’s début novel, American Devil looks like it’s headed for the top of the best sellers lists judging by the reaction of the book reviewers. I caught up with Stark this month and the result is this in depth interview, which opens the pages up a little on his life, his plans and his writing.
The short synopsis of American Devil shows clearly what promises to be a thriller of best selling proportions.
Taut, tense and terrifying – American Devil marks the thrilling début of an outstanding new talent.
The Progression of Love: his ultimate artistic creation – now all he needs is seven beautiful women.
For the violent killer stalking New York’s streets, the trophies he will take from his victims are essential if he is to complete his masterpiece. That he also likes playing games with the police and his prey is a bonus. He can outwit everyone he comes up against. Or can he?
Detective Tom Harper is the NYPD’s best chance of catching the American Devil. But he’s on suspension for punching his superior. With panic gripping the city, Harper wants the challenge even if it means he has to undergo therapy from police psychologist Denise Levene. She believes he can be brought back into the fold, but can the NYPD trust him not to fall apart?
A deranged murderer and a volatile cop. Time is running out and there can only be one winner…
Stark wrote his first novel at the age of sixteen. It failed, but this did not put him off the ambition he held to become a published writer. He has been writing a long time without success, always enjoyed it and tried all manner of styles and genre. He believes that crime fiction has the right mix of strong narrative drive, excitement, contemporary relevance and character development.
He said he found it difficult to persuade an agent or publisher to consider his ability as a writer, and agreed that luck often plays a large part in securing the deal that sets you off along the path to publishing success. He also accepts that there are probably many good writers out there who still haven’t found that agent or that publisher who will believe in them. But by believing and trusting your agent, and knuckling down to the re-writes and re-drafts suggested, it brings the result you are looking for. Stark feels very lucky to have a great agent and a great editor.
He has no fear of moving into a crowded genre because he believes there is always room for new voices. He was captivated by and idea and wanted to see if he could take that forward. He also enjoys the inherently strong structure of a crime narrative.
He isn’t fazed by his excellent reviews, but does consider himself very fortunate and grateful. After many years of writing without an audience, he said it’s a privilege to write books that will be read.
Stark says he ‘reads himself to death’, always a tried and trusted way of learning your craft, and has found many authors he may never have come across. He likes historical crime fiction and Gothic crime fiction, but is also partial to a good thriller in the mould of Lee Child and Harlen Coben.
Stark has no particular fiction hero, but does like a lot of the top crime fighters; Harry Hole, Jack Reacher, Philip Marlow and many others. And among those writers who bring out these interesting characters, he enjoys Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and other Russian writers.
When I asked Stark what advice he would give to wannabe writers, his answer was probably the same as almost any writer would give; to keep at it. If you enjoy writing, never give up, and prove to the publishing world that you truly can write. He doesn’t find writing an effort, and begins his writing day with a coffee, the computer, and his mind buzzing with plots, re-writes and re-drafts. Because he works full time, Stark has to be disciplined when it comes to settling down at the keyboard.
When asked about his hobbies (do writers have hobbies?), he said he likes to spend time with his family. They go out walking together. He likes sport, including football (soccer to the Americans), and of course, reading. He lives in London with his family, but if he had to live somewhere else, he wouldn’t mind New York or the Lake District (a beautiful part of the English countryside). Stark has been to New York, although it wasn’t directly connected with research for American Devil, but he said it definitely helped when writing the book.
Stark has an eclectic taste in music, which isn’t unusual in a lot of people. It’s probably just an all round love of music. He also enjoys plays and art exhibitions with he attends with his wife.
American Devil is due out in paperback in September and is published by Headline Publishing. Read what others said about Stark’s excellence as a new writer:
‘An impressive début. Written with pace and a delicate feel for the darker shadows of the American psyche….let no one doubt Stark is an exceptional new British talent. Let’s look forward to what he does next. Geoffrey Wansell, Daily Mail, April 2010
‘If this is the future of crime, then bring it on because American Devil is a book loaded with fabulous characters, a brilliant sense of place, credible plot lines, pace, twists, turns, suspense and heartbreak.’ Tangled Web, Chris High, June 2010
‘This is a stunning first novel.’ Crimesquad, June 2010