About The Author
Simon Lelic was born in Brighton where, after a decade in London he now lives again, with his wife and two children. As well as writing, he runs an import/export business dealing in bauxite. He has written two novels so far, Rupture and The Facility. Rupture was Foyles Fiction Book of the Month when first published in January 2010 and went on to be shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. Simon made the shortlist for the Galaxy British Book Awards New Writer of the Year.
Rupture is set in secondary school and is set in the aftermath of a shooting spree undertaken, unusually, by one of the teachers. One determined police investigator is determined to break through the conspiracy of silence which protects the rotten heart of the school's administration which remains blind to the bullying of teachers by out-of-control pupils which led to the tragedy.
In The Facility, a man is imprisoned inside a secret Government camp, established to neutralise a supposedly widespread threat to the health of the British people. His wife pairs up with a campaigning journalist to rescue him and expose the real truth behind these draconian measures.
Simon's books throw the the state of modern society in Britain into sharp relief, highlighting the sort of issues which our hysterical press often glosses over in favour of demonising easier targets. Also a gripping storyteller, Lelic offers great promise as writer not afraid to tackle difficult subjects as with as much to say as more established chroniclers of political and social upheaval such as John le Carré and Henry Porter.
Below the interview is a list of titles by Simon Lilic currently in print in the UK. You may find other editions in our 'New and Used' section by typing the author's name into the Search field at the top of this page and selecting the 'Author Exact' filter to the far right of the Search field.
Exclusive Q&A With Simon Lelic
We talked to Simon Lelic in January 2010, on the eve of the publication of his debut novel, Rupture.
Was there a specific event that triggered the idea of writing about a teacher who loses control?
Some time before I started work on Rupture, I came across a short news piece in the Guardian about a college professor in the US who shot and killed one of his colleagues. The story was barely a paragraph long and contained few details but it started me thinking about what could possibly have driven an obviously intelligent and emotionally mature man to commit to such a desperate act. I was also reminded of incidents from my own time at school - teachers, for instance, being subject to victimisation that was often more vicious than anything I had witnessed in the playground. Classes sometimes became unteachable; I recall a teacher, on one occasion, fleeing the classroom in tears. Pupils were usually to blame but there was a sense, too, that the staffroom had its own hierarchy and cliques - that the experience of teaching in a school could never be entirely distanced from that of being a pupil there.
Much of the time, the action of the book takes place in oppressive heat. Is this for symbolic reasons or were you using the persistently hot weather almost as another character influencing the actions of the teachers and pupils?
It is symbolic, largely: of the sense of entrapment - of pressure from without - that afflicts Samuel (the teacher who commits the crime), and subsequently Lucia (the police woman who attempts to unravel it). But you are right, too, that the pervasive, unrelenting heat might also be seen as an entity influencing characters' behaviour. Or, at least, drawing their urges to act in certain ways towards the surface.
Rupture raises the issue of where the dividing line between the responsibilities of parents or teachers for educating children might be. Do you feel that teachers' responsibilities have moved too far beyond education now?
My mother is a retired deputy headteacher, so I cannot perhaps speak entirely objectively on this subject, but I do have the sense that teachers are today expected to carry a disproportionate burden of responsibility. In every school, at every level, they are expected to do more and more with less and less resources - and, most importantly, with very little leeway to decide how best to achieve what is being asked of them. Teaching should be a rewarding, and revered, career. There is a host of reasons why it so often fails to fulfil that promise, and why so many trainees, and even veteran teachers, become disillusioned enough that they see no other option but to take their talents elsewhere.
Your book has several narrators and although you switch between them regularly, the narrative doesn't seem to lose its flow. How did you manage to knit them together so seamlessly?
Thank you, first, for phrasing the question so generously! The story as told by the interviewees in every other chapter essentially unfolds chronologically (or thematically, at least), so this obviously helps. More important, I think, are the chapters that come in between the first-person testimonies - those told in the third person featuring Lucia. My hope was that Lucia would act as a needle (to borrow your analogy for a moment), drawing a thread through the narrative and, ultimately, stitching it together. At one point I was tempted to try and write the book entirely through first-person testimonies but I think, had I done so, the novel might well have become disjointed. Also, once I started to write Lucia's character, I became fascinated by the juxtaposition of her story and Samuel's. Again, I tried to use this to help generate a sense of flow within the novel.
Lucia, the policewoman investigating the shooting, is perhaps the only character whose life we follow beyond her involvement in the case. Why did you choose to focus on her?
I wanted to explore bullying in its various manifestations beyond the school playground - in adult, professional life in particular - and telling Lucia's story seemed the appropriate way for me to do this (in conjunction, as I say, with Samuel's). These days there seems to be a sense that sexism and sexual bullying is something society has moved beyond, or perhaps even that it is not something that needs to be taken especially seriously. My aim, with the book, was to challenge these assumptions. Lucia has to contend with some fairly egregious treatment at the hands of her colleagues but I have no doubt that the reality for many women, particularly in professions such as Lucia's, is equally harsh and equally disempowering.
Did your own experiences at school help you develop your cast of characters?
I can see myself getting into trouble answering this question...
The short answer, I suppose, is yes - inevitably. I would add the usual disclaimer (any resemblance to persons living or dead etc etc) but really there is no need. It was, as you say, my experiences at school that helped to develop the characters rather than the specific individuals with whom, or under whom, I studied. I find it is emotions - felt, observed, perceived, misconceived perhaps - that continue to resonate, and that most help to generate characters.
Some writers stop reading other people's fiction when they're writing their own, in order to avoid being distracted from the world they're creating themselves. Is the case with you?
The only author I have to ban myself from reading when I am writing is Cormac McCarthy. I find his style so compelling, so consuming, that I subconsciously attempt to imitate it - and inevitably, needless to say, fail miserably. McCarthy's books are now my reward for when I am between drafts. Otherwise, the only thing that stops me reading when I am writing is lack of time. The urge to read is for me as irresistible as the compulsion to write. I may read in shorter, rarer bursts when I am writing but I cannot not have a novel bookmarked on my bedside table. Whenever I have tried abstaining (with a view, for example, to pinning to the page a particularly intractable section of a new draft) I have found myself agitated, anxious - the same sensation I get when I am late for an appointment and the bus is still nowhere in sight.
Every new writer these days has to make himself available to the media to help promote the book. Are you looking forward to that side of things or would you rather be writing?
<p>I am happiest, in terms of my writing career, shut away in my office with a blinking cursor and a mug of liquid caffeine but that does not mean I take exception to the other responsibilities that come with being a published writer. On the contrary, I find any and all interest in what I have written to be tremendously flattering. And I am writing, after all, to be read. Given the competition for shelf space and public attention, any kind of coverage is therefore invaluable - if at times a little terrifying.
Are there any particular authors or books which first fired your desire to be a writer?
To be honest, I cannot remember a time when I did not want to be a writer. If pressed to pinpoint a single book from my childhood that most fired my determination to write fiction, I would have to say The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien, together with writers like Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander, evoked most memorably my wonder at words on a page: they wrote stories into which a boy could crawl. As an adult reader I have little time for fantasy or science fiction or even magical realism but I love that these genres thrive as they do. I owe them a debt.
Can you tell us anything about what you're working on now?
I can tell you that I am working on something. I am actually beyond the first-draft stage of my next novel but, though I am not superstitious, some instinct or other impairs my ability to talk freely about it. I will say that, unlike in Rupture, there is no element of crime writing. The structure is very different too. Also, in case you were wondering, it is not fantasy or science fiction or magical realism.
*Author photo courtesy of Kate Eshelby