Wednesday 4 May 2011

Chris Ewan interview: The Good Thief's Guide to Venice

The Good Thief's Guide To Venice by Chris Ewan

Chris Ewan is the award-winning author of The Good Thief’s Guide to …series of comic mystery novels, about globetrotting crime-writer and professional thief-for-hire, Charlie Howard. His books include THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM, to PARIS, to VEGAS, and to VENICE. When he’s not travelling for “research”, he lives in the Isle of Man.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

A burglar gets burgled. Charlie Howard is blackmailed into committing a dastardly crime in the heart of Venice by a femme-fatale cat burglar.

What was your motivation for writing it?

Charlie is a terrible crime writer but a talented thief. He’s proud of his abilities. Smug, some might say. I wanted to explore how he’d react if he came up against a thief who was better than him. More agile. More daring. More ruthless. Oh, and stunning.

I also wanted to see how far Charlie could be pushed. Is he really a “good thief”, or could he be forced to commit a truly heinous crime?

How important is a good title?

It’s hugely important. Title always comes first for me. I can’t begin writing until I have a title that nails the tone and the feel of the story. With THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM, the first book in the Charlie Howard series, I tried to do a number of things. Pun off the idea of a travel guide, conjure a sense of light-heartedness, and mention the destination for the book.

I hear that a lot of people have been drawn to the series because of the quirky titles. Mind you, I did come across one reader who complained that I seemed to be getting in a bit of a rut with my titles…

How important is a book's central character?

I think it varies depending on the type of book, but it’s crucial in my novels because Charlie narrates the action in first person. He’s very much the lead voice and everything he does, from his actions to the way he talks, dictate the character of the books themselves.

What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?

Meeting readers is the best part of all. Unless you’re a natural, it takes time to become confident talking in public and appearing on panels, but now it’s something I really enjoy. You get immediate feedback. You can see when an idea has captured a reader’s interest. That’s invaluable.

What was the last good eBook you read?

I only got a Kindle recently, so I’m still dipping my toe in the water. But the first title I read, and the stand-out for me, was a novella called BYE BYE BABY by a certain Allan Guthrie. I loved it. Inventive, playful. A story stripped down to its essentials and the essentials were great. That Guthrie guy packed a lot of surprises into a short, fast tale. You should check him out.

What do you look for in a good book?

Speed. Precision. A great hook, intriguing characters. But most of all a really distinctive narrative style. There’s a huge difference between saying something, and saying it stylishly, and my favourite authors demonstrate that all the time.

How do you feel about the ease with which anyone can publish?

I think it’s great. It’s such an exciting time to be a writer just now. Everything is changing. Nobody knows how things are going to turn out. And as a writer, one of the hardest things has always been getting your break, so it’s terrific that people can reach an audience in new and exciting ways.

One caveat, though. I think you need to be confident that what you’re putting out is your absolute best work. I wrote three novels before I got published. In hindsight, I can see that they didn’t get published for a good reason. They were all flawed in different ways, and they taught me a lot. But I believed in them so much at the time that if ebook self-publishing had been as available then as it is now, there’s a good chance I’d have self-published them. And I’m sure I’d have been slammed. 

The Good Thief's Guide To Venice by Chris Ewan


  1. Cheers for the kind words, Chris. You think we'll ever see a Good Thief's Guide to Edinburgh?

  2. Maybe. It's a perfect backdrop. But I hear there are just a few Scottish authors who might have claimed dibs on Edinburgh...

  3. Nah, do Dublin. We're all down with ordinary decent criminals over here ...

  4. Great interview. Think I'm going to have to give this series a go.

  5. How about Bristol - Charile going Home and to CrimeFest.


  6. Smashing! There are plenty of Bad Thieves in Hartlepool...

  7. dunbar could be a tour stop, home of dunbar noir and only a train ride to the big smoke (or little one) of edinburgh

  8. Blimey. Not sure where I'll have ticked off before I get to Hartlepool. Could be a long-running series...

  9. Seems like you are on to something good and I hope Charlie can make his way to the US someday