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The Outer Circle by Ian Ridley (Q&A) @unbounders @IanRidley1 #BlogTour #Questions #Debut #Thriller


Welcome to my stop on The Outer Circle Blog Tour hosted by Unbound. There are some fantastic crowd funded books coming out this year and Ian Ridley’s The Outer Circle is at the top of the list. A compelling vision of a human atrocity told from the perspectives of five individuals that is incredibly relevant to our modern day lives. I can’t recommend The Outer Circle enough to readers who like thrillers with a message. I have Ian Ridley here to answer a few of my questions about his debut novel. Come and join in with the blog tour and make sure to visit all the other stops for details about The Outer Circle and even the chance to win a signed copy! First a few details about Ian and The Outer Circle and then on to the questions :D.

About Ian Ridley

IAN RIDLEY is the author of 12 sports books, including the No.1 best selling Addicted, with the former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams, which was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. Three of his other books have also been nominated in the British Sports Book Awards.

Over a 40-year career, Ian has been a sports writer for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer and the Mail on Sunday, for whom he was Chief Football Writer. He was named Sports Journalist of the Year in the 2007 British Press Awards and has been nominated on two other occasions.

Ian has also written for television, including more than 20 episodes of the Sky One drama series Dream Team, and currently has a film script in development on the life story of the world champion boxer Darren Barker, based on the autobiography on which the two collaborated, A Dazzling Darkness.

The Outer Circle is Ian’s first novel.

The Outer Circle ~Synopsis~

Set in the week following the London Olympics, this novel imagines an attack on London Central Mosque and follows five people caught up in its aftermath.

It is Monday August 13th 2012, the morning after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. The city is relaxed as rarely before, delighted with itself at how spectacularly – and how securely – it has hosted the uplifting event. The capital, however, will be rudely and brutally awoken from its self-congratulation by a horrific attack perpetrated by a young man who enters unchallenged the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park and burns to death with a flamethrower five Muslims in the prayer hall.

How could it happen? Why did it happen? Is the atrocity political, religious or personal?

THE OUTER CIRCLE – which has at its core a focus on relationships amid the cultural concerns of modern Britain – follows five people caught up in the event and its aftermath of anxiety and reprisal as the story unravels over the next five days.

They are:

Saul Bradstock, a 59-year-old semi-retired book editor, living alone in Primrose Hill and undergoing radiotherapy treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital for prostate cancer.

Tom Judd, 25, a musician and languages graduate from Birmingham. How did he get to Regent’s Park, why does he look so lost and what is he doing sleeping rough in the undergrowth?

Rashid Johnson, a 23-year-old working in the Mosque’s bookshop. Raised a Jew in Stanmore, North London, and secretive about his recent past, he has not long ‘reverted’ to Islam.

Deena Campbell, 19, a policewoman based at Paddington Green and native of South London, where she lives with her parents, whose own parents came to England on the SS Windrush.

Jan Mason, 42 years old, single, living in a flat in Maida Vale and just about clinging on to her job as a news reporter for a mid-market national tabloid newspaper.

As the hottest week of the year unfolds, fate will throw the five together, along with a strong supporting cast of family members, police and the media, until a dramatic Friday denouement in Regent’s Park.

Ian Ridley Q&A

Could you give us your personal overview of The Outer Circle and what to expect?

It is the story of five very different characters, in ages and backgrounds, thrown together in the aftermath of an imagined atrocity at the Regent’s Park Mosque in London. I hope it works first and foremost as a thriller, through the hunt for a killer, but I also wanted to explore themes of modern Britain in social, religious and political contexts. Basically, it’s a book about the melting pot of our society and how we get on – or don’t.

What was the inspiration behind the story and why is now a good time for The Outer Circle?

I started writing about the relationship dynamic of an older man wanting to pass on his knowledge and experience to a younger one – as I am at that stage of life where leaving an emotional and spiritual legacy has become important to me – but realised that this was not going to sustain readers’ interest on its own. I like to read a good plot so I thought I’d better find one! And so I used the tried and trusted technique of creating a dramatic event to see how characters reacted. That introduced the thriller element. I set it the day after the London Olympics had ended because it was the last time I can remember the country at peace with itself and I wanted to look at what happened to change that. Then, when I had finished the book, all sorts of terrorist mayhem happened in London that reflected what I had imagined and so I was keen to get this out there. Why is now a good time? Well, amid so much discord around us, I hope a core respect for people – their beliefs, hopes and dreams – runs through this book.

What sort of challenges did you face writing such a tense story from five perspectives?

In the first instance, I wrote short biographies of them all so that I could get to know the characters. Then, they all had to be researched properly and in depth. I could draw on the older and younger men characters from myself and people I knew to create composite, three-dimensional people and the woman reporter came easily enough to me given my 35 years as a national newspaper journalist. For the young Muslim character, however, I had to make sure I knew what I was talking about so I took a day-long course on Islam and attended a Muslim funeral. In blending them all together, I did an hour-by-hour timeline of their whereabouts over the five days in which the story unfolds so that it all held together. My experience writing for a TV soap opera on Sky One, in creating a scene-by-scene (or in this case chapter by chapter) breakdown really helped with that.

There are some potent themes and ideas explored within The Outer Circle, what are you trying to achieve with the novel?

I’ve tried to balance a rattling good yarn with saying something about the times we live in and I hope it works on different levels. There is the effect of trauma on people, and we all have had different types and intensity of trauma in our lives. There are relationships and interactions between characters, along with religious and racial tensions. It was important to me to paint a true picture of Islam, for example. There is the modern media and its changing practices and how they impact on us. I’ve always been a fan of books and writers – like those of Charles Dickens – that combine memorable characters with good stories against the backdrop of issues of the time. So I guess I am trying to entertain while trying to provoke thought.

Are there any authors that directly influenced your writing of The Outer Circle?

First, Tony Parsons. I heard him speak at a book festival four years ago about how his writing career had hit a wall and he decided to take a gamble, not earning anything for a couple of years, to switch to writing crime. Then William Boyd. I had always liked how he combined a good plot with a literary style and thought I could find my own style using those two elements.

What sort of timeline did it take to write and publish The Outer Circle?

I began it a few weeks after hearing Tony Parsons speak and it took me three years to complete, as I had a couple of sports books I had to write alongside. After that, it took five months to crowdfund on Unbound then seven months to go through the editing process to publication. They assigned a fantastic editor to it, by the name of Claire Baldwin, who picked up on some points, tied up loose ends, and made it a tighter and tenser read.

How was the experience of writing your first novel? You definitely went all out for your debut effort!

Thank you for noticing that! I felt that at my age, I may only get one shot at writing a novel so threw the kitchen sink at it. That is to say, I had so many ideas and themes I wanted to weave into the plot, having had a lifetime of experience observing and making notes on what was going on around me, that I wanted to get so much off my chest. I guess I should have saved something for that difficult second novel but I hope when I sit down, new things will occur to me. As they say, the Lord always provides.

What attracted you to a career in writing?

Sport was always my passion when I was young and when I realised I wasn’t going to be good enough to play it professionally, I thought writing about it was the next best thing. I have had a very fortunate career covering events, such as World Cups, for newspapers while also writing and ghost-writing sports books but there came a time when I felt that the novel that had been germinating all those years finally needed to flower. Good sports writing and journalism is an underrated art and I think it prepared me for the discipline and sheer stickability needed to write a novel.

Did you celebrate the completion of The Outer Circle at all?

Not when it was finished. I felt a quiet sense of satisfaction that at least I had put my backside on a chair and completed a work of fiction but there was so much still to do – rewriting, editing, finding a publisher, funding. I did celebrate publication by having a little launch for friends and people who had helped fund it at Primrose Hill Library, in the heart of where the book is set. It was low key and intimate and I enjoyed it a lot.

What sort of hobby do you look to when you are trying to blow off steam and forget about writing?

Well, I am Vice-Chairman of a Non-League football club, Salisbury FC, and am deeply involved there in the running of the club. Hopefully we will get a promotion to a higher league this season and all the attendant angst and agony will be worth it. I certainly blow off steam sometimes. That’s a good way of putting it.

Finally, have you read a book or article that you would highly recommend to the readers of this post?

I recently read Sarah Vaughan’s Anatomy of a Scandal and also attended an event in Cambridge where she spoke. It is an elegant and clever book and she writes dialogue particularly well. It is also very timely, and I identify with the journalist’s eye for the topical. I think it is the job of a writer to try and hold up a mirror to their times.

Pick up a copy of The Outer Circle here: Unbound / Amazon UK / Goodreads

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by to check out Unbound’s awesome blog tour for The Outer Circle. Ian Ridley has written a cracking debut full of provocative and shocking moments and I highly recommend readers check it out very soon. Unbound are giving authors a chance to bring us some amazing books and give us, the readers, an opportunity to invest in the future of the book industry. If you get a chance pop over to their website and have a look. I appreciated the opportunity to put this interview together and I hope you all enjoyed it.


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