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Maria_H
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Questions for Tom Rob Smith

[ Edited ]
Do you have a question for Tom that is related (or not) to Child 44? Reply to this message to start the conversation!

Message Edited by rkubie on 06-02-2008 05:42 AM


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Rachel-K
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith

Tom,
 
I have a question for you. I don't want to give anything away this early, but was really taken by how precisely a crime scene was described--and when we readers get it from two different angles--we get to understand what can be misperceived from just coming upon the scene after the fact.
 
Was it difficult to plot out these crimes? Did you have to try to enact the layout and how they might have happened--what evidence might be left and what evidence might be misconstrued?
 
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



rkubie wrote:
Tom,


I have a question for you. I don't want to give anything away this early, but was really taken by how precisely a crime scene was described--and when we readers get it from two different angles--we get to understand what can be misperceived from just coming upon the scene after the fact.


Was it difficult to plot out these crimes? Did you have to try to enact the layout and how they might have happened--what evidence might be left and what evidence might be misconstrued?


Rachel





Hi Rachel,

Every line is written through a character's point of view. I was careful to avoid stating an "authorial truth". In the case of the first crime scene, we never see it directly, we only ever hear different characters talking about it and we only hear their words from another character's perspective. In that sense, the "truth" is being refracted through at least two different prisms. I guess I was trying to capture a sense of how the "truth" was such a flexible concept in a totalitarian state. It had nothing to do with the empirical evidence. It had everything to do with what the State demanded you think.

Of course in my mind I always knew exactly what the "truth" was (since I was creating it) but I didn't want to allow that confidence to seep into the text.


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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith

Tom,
 
Hi there.  I just wanted to say that I thought Child 44 was a phenomenal book.  I couldn't help but thinking the entire time I was reading what a great movie this book would make.  I believe that I read somewhere that the rights were purchased to make the story into a film?  If so, to what extent do you have influence on the production? 
 
Also, I noticed in another posting that you will be finishing your next novel soon. Do you have any trepidation concerning the release of it?  As I read  Child 44 I couldn't help but think how difficult it would be to top it!  (I hope this question is not offensive because I mean it to be highly complimenting!)  With that said, will the next book be in the same genre or something entirely different?  Either way, I'll be sure to buy it.
 
Thanks,
 
Carrie
 
 
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



carriele wrote:
Tom,
Hi there. I just wanted to say that I thought Child 44 was a phenomenal book. I couldn't help but thinking the entire time I was reading what a great movie this book would make. I believe that I read somewhere that the rights were purchased to make the story into a film? If so, to what extent do you have influence on the production?
Also, I noticed in another posting that you will be finishing your next novel soon. Do you have any trepidation concerning the release of it? As I read Child 44 I couldn't help but think how difficult it would be to top it! (I hope this question is not offensive because I mean it to be highly complimenting!) With that said, will the next book be in the same genre or something entirely different? Either way, I'll be sure to buy it.
Thanks,
Carrie






I have no trepidation at all about the movie. It's the hands of amazing people. Ridley Scott is going to direct. Richard Price is writing the script. I've met the producers - they're all great, great people. I'm excited about it. My involvement is limited: this is very much their movie. I'll give opinions only when, or if, they're asked for.

As for the second book, I'm not insulted at all that you have a kind of nervousness about it. I think that's kind of sweet. I know lots of people, not just my editors, but my family, and the readers who enjoyed the first book, will be wondering, what's he going to do with book two. I'd be wondering the same thing!

All I can say right now is that I've found what I think is an amazing story, largely influenced by real events. It's a follow up to CHILD 44, so we have some of the same main characters, but the period has changed dramatically, we see how the characters change with it.

Of course, no one else has read the book yet, but I'm very excited about it.


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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith

I am very excited that your new book will be a follow-up to Child 44. 
 
Because on the one hand, I can't wait to finish to see how it ends, but on the other hand, I am enjoying the book so much that I don't want it to end (to me the sign of a really good story).  Now I can finish it with the anticipation of the next book to come out.  Thanks for the great book.
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



sheshe703 wrote:
I am very excited that your new book will be a follow-up to Child 44.
Because on the one hand, I can't wait to finish to see how it ends, but on the other hand, I am enjoying the book so much that I don't want it to end (to me the sign of a really good story). Now I can finish it with the anticipation of the next book to come out. Thanks for the great book.





Thanks! What a lovely post! I promise I'm working very hard not to disappoint you with the second book!


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IBIS
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith

One of the most harrowing scenes that I've ever read is when Leo and Raisa escape from the train... on p. 362

It seemed such a relentlessly miserable effort... the only space for them was near the toilet .. the stifling heat... the train's sluggishness ...no breeze... "survival meant adjusting"... And when they finally do open the floorboards, there are the hooks under the trains which could tear open their skins....

Reading these sections made me so happy that I was safely in my home... I could mark the page, close the book, and do a household chore. And whenever I was ready, I could choose to continue their terrifying journey...

Which made me wonder about the actual experience of writing and describing all this suffering. Did you need to take long breaks, and break down the details bit by bit... or was the process more like... do it all at once and get it over with?

IBIS
IBIS

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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



IBIS wrote:
One of the most harrowing scenes that I've ever read is when Leo and Raisa escape from the train... on p. 362

It seemed such a relentlessly miserable effort... the only space for them was near the toilet .. the stifling heat... the train's sluggishness ...no breeze... "survival meant adjusting"... And when they finally do open the floorboards, there are the hooks under the trains which could tear open their skins....

Reading these sections made me so happy that I was safely in my home... I could mark the page, close the book, and do a household chore. And whenever I was ready, I could choose to continue their terrifying journey...

Which made me wonder about the actual experience of writing and describing all this suffering. Did you need to take long breaks, and break down the details bit by bit... or was the process more like... do it all at once and get it over with?

IBIS




I remember Martin Amis's stating something along the lines that there was nothing quite like reading about this period to really appreciate how wonderful being safe and cosy at home is. To my mind, this isn't just a reference to material comforts but the freedoms and liberties we enjoy, the sense that no one can storm into our home. Our space is protected. Of course, this isn't to dismiss the complex debates about civil liberties, nor is it to imply that our societies are somehow perfect. But I couldn't imagine how someone trying to argue that somehow totalitarian rule has its advantages.

When writing about this period, I felt our privileges very strongly. I never really got down. I was often very moved by the way in which personal stories of love managed to fight their way through difficulties. No matter how authoritarian a rule, there's something about love which it just can't defeat. And the State really did try, actively attempting to weaken the bond between families.


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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



Tom_Rob_Smith wrote:
When writing about this period, I felt our privileges very strongly. I never really got down. I was often very moved by the way in which personal stories of love managed to fight their way through difficulties. No matter how authoritarian a rule, there's something about love which it just can't defeat. And the State really did try, actively attempting to weaken the bond between families.




Your comment about appreciating our civil liberties resonated with me personally. I escaped from Cambodia during Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge massacres... our family met many strangers who risked their own safety to help us.

Many of your characters moved me because they reminded me of them... both major and minor, motivated by love for each other... willing to risk their lives to help Leo and Raisa catch the murderer. Their simple love for children and their safety overcame their personal fears.... the passengers on the train... the villagers who hid them... the little boy who distracted the hunting dog... the wagon drivers... and, of course, General Nesterov (along with Leo, he is a marvelous creation!)...

Today, as a naturalized citizen, I have the utmost appreciation for our guaranteed civil liberties. Books like Child 44 is a great reminder of how truly blessed we are.

IBIS
IBIS

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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



IBIS wrote:


Tom_Rob_Smith wrote:
When writing about this period, I felt our privileges very strongly. I never really got down. I was often very moved by the way in which personal stories of love managed to fight their way through difficulties. No matter how authoritarian a rule, there's something about love which it just can't defeat. And the State really did try, actively attempting to weaken the bond between families.




Your comment about appreciating our civil liberties resonated with me personally. I escaped from Cambodia during Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge massacres... our family met many strangers who risked their own safety to help us.

Many of your characters moved me because they reminded me of them... both major and minor, motivated by love for each other... willing to risk their lives to help Leo and Raisa catch the murderer. Their simple love for children and their safety overcame their personal fears.... the passengers on the train... the villagers who hid them... the little boy who distracted the hunting dog... the wagon drivers... and, of course, General Nesterov (along with Leo, he is a marvelous creation!)...

Today, as a naturalized citizen, I have the utmost appreciation for our guaranteed civil liberties. Books like Child 44 is a great reminder of how truly blessed we are.

IBIS




That's incredible. Did you know that I lived in Cambodia for six months, working on a BBC soap opera (written by Khmer university graduates, filmed with Khmer actor)? I was the storyliner, helping to shape the stories for each episode. The point of the show, aside from being entertaining, was to convey various health messages. It was a big success, it was getting audiences of several million. I loved working out there.

Anyway, while I was living there I read a lot of books about the Khmer Rouge, visited the Killing fields. It was devastating, fascinating. I wonder, looking back, whether that experience shaped CHILD 44 in some way. I'm sure it must have.

Your experiences, the experiences of your family are to my mind exactly what I was trying to capture in the book: the way in which some people will always buck the State line and risk their own lives in order to do the right thing. And that perhaps more than anything else is I think what CHILD 44 is about. The darkness of CHILD 44 is really a way of revealing those moments of inspirational courage.

I can't tell you how touched I am that this story resonated with you!


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tgem
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith

Tom Rob Smith,
 
I've been enjoying the posts concerning your book, and your responses to them.  Gorky Park was mentioned in the Recommended Reading section.  Did it influence your writing, and if so - how?
 
Thank you,
 
tgem
 
 
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



tgem wrote:
Tom Rob Smith,
I've been enjoying the posts concerning your book, and your responses to them. Gorky Park was mentioned in the Recommended Reading section. Did it influence your writing, and if so - how?
Thank you,
tgem





Hi there,

That recommended reading section was actually drawn up by B & N, and is slightly different to the one at the back of my book. I didn't actually list GORKY PARK, or indeed, any fictional narratives.

While working on CHILD 44 I made the decision to concentrate all my research on non-fiction. This is because you can take inspiration from a non-fiction source. You can't really do that when you're reading fiction, in a sense, all the material has already been "taken".

I held off reading GORKY PARK until I was about half way through CHILD 44. I was going to wait until I'd finished it completely but then I figured it was crazy not to have read one of the most famous detective books set in Soviet Russia. I really enjoyed reading it, I think it's a great book. As for how it influenced me... I'm not sure, all the way through I thought we were doing very different things.


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tgem
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith

Tom Rob Smith,
 
Thanks for your reply.  It has been some time since I read Gorky Park, but I remember it really impressed me, and it's a book I will read again.  I can't say that about many.
 
I'm going to have to hold off on purchasing your book until I get to Portland, OR,  later this week, where I'll be able to walk to the local B&N.  The closest B&N from my home is a little over an hour away, up and over a mountain range.  It's a beautiful drive, but I've been super busy getting ready for my trip - and the price of gas could probably buy me the book!
 
My grandfather came from Ukraine in 1910.  Because of this, I've had a long time interest in what I used to call Russian literature.  But the word Russian offends my younger Ukrainian friends.  I grew up during the Cold War and the map was quite different then.  It seemed the only information available was from fiction, or later memoir.
 
I will look into your non-fiction recommendations also.  I went through an extensive Solzhenitsyn phase.  I look forward to reading your book.  Will post again when I get to Portland, and buy your book.
 
tgem
 
 
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



Tom_Rob_Smith wrote:
That's incredible. Did you know that I lived in Cambodia for six months, working on a BBC soap opera (written by Khmer university graduates, filmed with Khmer actor)? ... while I was living there I read a lot of books about the Khmer Rouge, visited the Killing fields. It was devastating, fascinating. I wonder, looking back, whether that experience shaped CHILD 44 in some way. I'm sure it must have.

Your experiences, the experiences of your family are to my mind exactly what I was trying to capture in the book: the way in which some people will always buck the State line and risk their own lives in order to do the right thing. And that perhaps more than anything else is I think what CHILD 44 is about. The darkness of CHILD 44 is really a way of revealing those moments of inspirational courage.

I can't tell you how touched I am that this story resonated with you!




The brief B&N Author's summary mentioned that you had lived in Cambodia. Visiting the Killing fields must have blown your mind... how could it not?

I've met many people, both family and friends, who have told me that the experience of visiting the fields shaped their creative sensibilities in ways that they have yet to realize.

You definitely captured the experiences of many of us "boat people"... we who have had to run for safety, and make a home elsewhere. CHILD 44 makes a good case of how human suffering is a crucible that can reveal shining moments of human courage...

and yes, the story makes us all wonder about ourselves... how would we behave under such horrific circumstances... would we have the personal courage to do the right thing?

Thankfully, many of us will never be tested in such devastating ways... your perspective on the ultimate courage of the average person is very encouraging, and inspiring. The positive ending reaffirms what I've seen up close in my personal life... the kindness of strangers... the love for each other that powers us to go on...

Obviously, your novel's ultimate theme has touched many hearts and minds... How could it not be a success?

IBIS
IBIS

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IBIS
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith

Another question for you, Mr. Smith...

I found a copy of Robert Cullen's THE KILLER DEPARTMENT (Orion, 1933) which details the crimes of Andrei Chikatilo. It will be interesting to see how you used the facts from the actual story to create CHILD 44. Keeping the real murderer's first name... is there a reason you kept it?

About the map on the inside front and inside backcovers... it's a marvelous visual aid... without it, I would have been totally in the dark about the train tracks and the various towns... so spread out over thousands of kilometers...

Was the map your idea, or your editor's? Whoever it was, it's a splendid addition.

IBIS
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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



tgem wrote:
Tom Rob Smith,
Thanks for your reply. It has been some time since I read Gorky Park, but I remember it really impressed me, and it's a book I will read again. I can't say that about many.
I'm going to have to hold off on purchasing your book until I get to Portland, OR, later this week, where I'll be able to walk to the local B&N. The closest B&N from my home is a little over an hour away, up and over a mountain range. It's a beautiful drive, but I've been super busy getting ready for my trip - and the price of gas could probably buy me the book!
My grandfather came from Ukraine in 1910. Because of this, I've had a long time interest in what I used to call Russian literature. But the word Russian offends my younger Ukrainian friends. I grew up during the Cold War and the map was quite different then. It seemed the only information available was from fiction, or later memoir.
I will look into your non-fiction recommendations also. I went through an extensive Solzhenitsyn phase. I look forward to reading your book. Will post again when I get to Portland, and buy your book.
tgem





Hi Tgem - it sounds like you live somewhere very beautiful. I have a friend who lives in Portland, we studied together in Italy. Whenever she showed me photos of the area I thought it looked stunning.

Yes, with the break-up of the Soviet Union, the map has changed vastly. In fact, many of the divisions and tensions between regions existed even when it was a single state. The Ukraine had been treated very cruelly by authorities in Moscow. Robert Conquest, if I remember correctly, argues that the famines were partly an attempt to suppress the autonomous spirit of the Ukrainian region.

The list of books are at the back of CHILD 44. If you want to ask any questions about them, feel free.

Solzhenitsyn is an incredible writer. Actually, when I was on CHILD 44 book promotion tour in the States, I came across a first edition of THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO in a tiny secondhand bookstore in Seattle. I lugged all three volumes around with me and back to England. Not very practical but I was too excited not to buy them.


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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith

[ Edited ]
By mistake I just submitted a blank post, pressing "submit" instead of "quote"... let me try again.

(Of course, this doesn't look much like a blank post, I've edited it to explain my stupidity! It's early in the morning, I haven't quite woken up.)

Message Edited by Tom_Rob_Smith on 06-08-2008 04:50 AM


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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



IBIS wrote:


Tom_Rob_Smith wrote:
That's incredible. Did you know that I lived in Cambodia for six months, working on a BBC soap opera (written by Khmer university graduates, filmed with Khmer actor)? ... while I was living there I read a lot of books about the Khmer Rouge, visited the Killing fields. It was devastating, fascinating. I wonder, looking back, whether that experience shaped CHILD 44 in some way. I'm sure it must have.

Your experiences, the experiences of your family are to my mind exactly what I was trying to capture in the book: the way in which some people will always buck the State line and risk their own lives in order to do the right thing. And that perhaps more than anything else is I think what CHILD 44 is about. The darkness of CHILD 44 is really a way of revealing those moments of inspirational courage.

I can't tell you how touched I am that this story resonated with you!




The brief B&N Author's summary mentioned that you had lived in Cambodia. Visiting the Killing fields must have blown your mind... how could it not?

I've met many people, both family and friends, who have told me that the experience of visiting the fields shaped their creative sensibilities in ways that they have yet to realize.

You definitely captured the experiences of many of us "boat people"... we who have had to run for safety, and make a home elsewhere. CHILD 44 makes a good case of how human suffering is a crucible that can reveal shining moments of human courage...

and yes, the story makes us all wonder about ourselves... how would we behave under such horrific circumstances... would we have the personal courage to do the right thing?

Thankfully, many of us will never be tested in such devastating ways... your perspective on the ultimate courage of the average person is very encouraging, and inspiring. The positive ending reaffirms what I've seen up close in my personal life... the kindness of strangers... the love for each other that powers us to go on...

Obviously, your novel's ultimate theme has touched many hearts and minds... How could it not be a success?

IBIS




Yes, it was an incredible experience. Living in Cambodia was an incredible experience.

I agree with you - I sincerely hope no one would ever have to go through those terrible predicaments and find out what path they'd take. Maybe that's why fiction is so useful in these circumstances, it always us to imagine. It seems to me important to keep these events in mind... I'm not entirely sure why. I've always been unsure that knowing about history can prevent it from repeating. I guess that is the hope though.


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Re: Questions for Tom Rob Smith



IBIS wrote:
Another question for you, Mr. Smith...

I found a copy of Robert Cullen's THE KILLER DEPARTMENT (Orion, 1933) which details the crimes of Andrei Chikatilo. It will be interesting to see how you used the facts from the actual story to create CHILD 44. Keeping the real murderer's first name... is there a reason you kept it?

About the map on the inside front and inside backcovers... it's a marvelous visual aid... without it, I would have been totally in the dark about the train tracks and the various towns... so spread out over thousands of kilometers...

Was the map your idea, or your editor's? Whoever it was, it's a splendid addition.

IBIS




Robert Cullen's book will be fascinating, in its own right, but also as a comparison. When reading the book it was clear to me that I needed to create a fictional detective with a very different predicament. Nesterov is in many ways much more like the real detectives who worked on the case.

I kept the name Andrei just to be clear about which case I was referencing, I don't want any doubt that the real life case had been the start point. I wasn't trying to imply that my Andrei was the same as the real Andrei. They are very different.

The real Andrei Chikatilo enjoyed pain, pain gave him pleasure. I found that impossible to write about. How do you explain it? How to open that character up to a reader? It's an insane, destructive preference. I've read a lot of books about him and I still don't really have any idea how his mind works. I just can't fathom enjoying pain. I knew if I kept that motivation I'd write it badly.

Some people have argued that the motivation I concoct for the killer is wildly insane. But I would argue that all serial killer are insane! It strikes me as bizarre to start suggesting that are sensible reasons for killing fifty people and not so sensible reasons!


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