Tom Rob Smith graduated from Cambridge University in 2001 and lives in London. Born in 1979 to a Swedish mother and an English father, his bestselling novels in the Child 44 trilogy were international publishing sensations. Among its many honours, Child 44 won the International Thriller Writer Award for Best First Novel, the Galaxy Book Award for Best New Writer, the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the inaugural Desmond Elliot Prize. The film adaptation of Child 44 stars Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman and is set for release later this year. His latest novel, The Farm, has just been released.
How does writing a stand-alone novel differ from writing a series?
With the second or third novel in a trilogy you tend to be following the stylistic decisions you made with the first book. With a stand-alone, or the first book in a new series, you have to figure out not only what the story is but how you're going to tell it, the narrative style, the structure, the type of language. The process of discovery is very exciting, you make a lot of mistakes, it takes a lot of time, but the feeling is very special.
Tell us about your Swedish heritage and how it informed this book?
I'm half Swedish, my mother is Swedish, and I've been there many times and stayed there for many months. I know the landscape well, the shops, the food, the little details about everyday life, and yet I'm also a foreigner there, someone on the outside looking in, and I feel that foreignness keenly.
Mental health issues are so prevalent in your book. How did you research these issues?
The central premise of the novel is based on a real experience. Four years ago my dad called me from Sweden to tell me that my mum was ill, she was in an asylum and suffering from delusions. I live in London so I immediately booked a flight out to Sweden. However, on the way to the airport I received a call from my mum telling me that she wasn't mad, everything my dad had told me was a lie, and that he was involved in a criminal conspiracy. The doctors in the asylum had believed her version of events and let her go. She was flying to London so tell me what had really happened. I had to decide who to believe. That's the central premise for the novel - who do you believe, your dad or your mum.
Daniel, one of the main protagonists in The Farm, keeps his relationship secret from his parents. Do you think this is still common?
Sadly it does remain common among gay men and women. There are also great number of straight relationships which for cultural reasons, or religious reasons, might also be hidden. So, yes, hidden relationships are still very much part of our world.
Below is the haunting trailer for The Farm. Were you involved in the production?
The director, Calum, is a genius, he's going to have a huge career in movies. We were at school together, he loved the book so I asked him to director the trailer which he did as a favor to me because there was almost no budget. I was involved in the script but Calum and his team managed the shoot and post-production.
What’s next for you?
I'm working on my first original television series, a contemporary spy thriller set in London, commissioned by BBC2, produced by Working Title TV. I should have the scripts finished by the summer and we start filming in the autumn.
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