IT'S PARTY TIME FOR MY LOVELY AUTHOR FRIEND FIONA ERSKINE TODAY!
And what a book it is! I first read Jaq Silver's story a couple of years ago and what can I say -- I knew then that what Fiona had created was a masterpiece and just what the world of thrillers needed: an intelligent, smart, woman of science main character.
You will love this book because it has clever and beautiful writing, a fast and exciting plot, and more tension than most books can handle!
I couldn't be more delighted for Fiona and all I can say is GET THIS BOOK TODAY!
Grab your copy here:
And follow Fiona here:
Here's an interview with Fiona and her publisher so you can find out more about this brilliant book!
How did you begin writing The Chemical Detective?
In 2012, I had a skiing accident. Waiting to recover enough to fly home, I took strong painkillers and gazed out at the slopes through the panoramic windows of a hotel bar. My daytime companions were Russian men who started drinking at breakfast. Jaq Silver appeared with a story to tell and wouldn’t let go.
How long did it take you to write it?
About six months. I needed time off work after surgery and devoted myself to writing. And then it took six years to edit that awful first draft into The Chemical Detective, leaving plenty of material to spare.
What did you enjoy most about the writing process?
For me, writing fiction is a way to make sense of the world around me. It’s also an escape. I travel a lot with the day job and it fills the waiting hours far from home. My characters come first and when they run off to places without permission, or pick fights with one another, I have enormous fun weaving plots around their antics. It’s also delightful to ski expertly and fight injustice while tucked up in bed.
Your heroine, Jaq Silver is a chemical engineer, and like you, she lives in Teesside. Are there autobiographical elements in her character?
The similarities stop there. Jaq is much better than me at all things academic and athletic. She had a traumatic childhood, caught up in a civil war – my childhood was peaceful and idyllic – growing up in Scotland and the Lake District with my brother and sister, bikes and enormous freedom. Jaq loathes her feckless mother, I adored my brilliant, eccentric, loving parents. Jaq has serious commitment issues – I have been in love with the same man, my husband Jonathan, since we met in 1982.
Is she an alter ego?!
Aha, now you have me. She seduces fit young men, eats and drinks exactly what she fancies, remembers everything she ever learned, and takes sweet revenge on the corporate psychopaths of the world.
Would you recommend being a chemical engineer?
I would heartily recommend it. Chemical engineering is all about transforming raw materials into useful, everyday products. The clothes we wear, the food and drink we consume, and the energy we use. Better nutrition and improved health; greater social mobility; warmth and light; protection of the environment, conservation of our scarcest resources, clean air and water. Having a practical skill set allows you to choose where and when you work, and to travel the world if you want.
What are the advantages… and the drawbacks of working in a male-dominated profession?
When I started work, I was the first female engineer among hundreds of men. There is no doubt I got my first opportunity, in part at least, because of my gender. The local management were terrified by my request to work night shift. Leith docks could be rough when the ships came in and the other working women were afforded less respect. So, they gave me a fantastic chaperone, an experienced shift foreman with all the practical experience I lacked. Effectively I was given a full-time coach and mentor and we remain firm friends. Since then I’ve worked with female scaffolding crews in China and female construction labourers in India and female scientists, technicians and engineers the world over. I think we focus far too much on gender and not enough on the natural variations between people. The best teams have complementary skills, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation. The loneliest places for women are still at the top, but I think that’s the same in all professions. And it is changing.
Is blowing things up a part of the job?
Not for me. I supervised several factory demolitions, but neither wrecking balls nor explosives were used. Most of my working life has been dedicated to avoiding explosions by careful control of the hazards. However, it’s far more memorable to read stories about things that go wrong.
Which thrillers do you enjoy reading? Are you a fan of the James Bond films?
I devoured every Graham Greene novel as a teenager. And many of the Russian greats (loved War and Peace, loathed Anna Karenina) and Dickens. I only started reading thrillers after I tried to write one, to see where I had gone wrong. Now I adore Lionel Davison, Robert Harris, John le Carré and Lee Child. And yes, I was always a fan of James Bond films. Although never entirely comfortable with the disposable women.
Which is your favourite James Bond film?
I love them all. Daniel Craig brings a fantastic gravitas to the role. The opening chase scene in the remake of Casino Royale, on a building site, is one of my favourites, as is the Tosca scene in Quantum of Solace: perfect timing. But if I had to pick my all-time favourite James Bond film, it would have to be From Russia with Love. Sean Connery is gorgeous as 007 and Lotte Lenya is terrifyingly brilliant as Rosa Clebb, but Istanbul and Venice steal the show.
If you had a choice, who would play Jaq in a film?
Meghan Markle or Ira Verbitskaya (Wake me Up, 2016)
The Chemical Detective taps into real fears about terrorism and chemical attack. Could the events you describe actually happen?
Thanks to the work of the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) it is increasingly unlikely. When I worked for a fine chemicals company, we tracked and accounted for every drop of scheduled chemical used (substances that have legitimate uses but could be horribly misused). Handling even the most basic chemicals safely requires an extremely sophisticated organisation. The recent events in Salisbury remind us that it is not just terrorists we have to worry about, but national governments.
The book opens in the Julian Alps in Slovenia and travels to Portugal, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Chernobyl - why did you choose these locations?
My first foreign holiday was a school trip to Russia and Ukraine in 1977. I was studying Russian language and Russian history at school, thanks to a Scottish education system that eschewed the artificial arts-science divide. I have maintained a hopeless love for the former Soviet Union ever since.
On a more recent family holiday in Slovenia, my husband and I swam the lakes while our children went cycling and canyoning and para-gliding. The mountain scenery is glorious, and it was the perfect place to open the story.
I lived and worked in Portugal for almost a decade, I speak Portuguese and suffer saudades - that sense of love and longing for a place that is no longer your home.
I remember the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and the shock that an accident so distant could affect so much of Western Europe. Writing a technical paper for the 30th anniversary of the accident, I was dumfounded to realise that the initiating cause was a safety test that went catastrophically wrong.
Teesside also features prominently in the book. Why did you choose to set the book there?
It’s not a place that people are familiar with and deserves to be on the map. Teesside is still a major driver of the British export economy, with a thriving chemical industry. It’s my home now, and a great place to live and work. The people are fantastic, music everywhere, it’s surrounded by gorgeous countryside – North York moors, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District, Northumbrian coast.
What’s next for Jaq Silver?
Poor Jaq. However hard she tries to get back to straightforward engineering projects, she’s going to have to do a bit more crime fighting. Next stop, China. Then she’s off to Brazil. And maybe India to complete the BRIC quartet.
HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, FIONA!!!!!
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!