Author Interview: Ben Westwood

What inspired the idea for your book?

In Green Shoots, I drew upon my passion for ecology. I wanted to write a thriller that touched on issues that matter to me. On a personal level, the main character John lost his wife and finding out what really happened to her is his primary motivation. I drew upon my own experience of loss.

How long did it take you to write this book?

The ideas were swimming around for months but from starting writing to finishing was nine months – so a bit like a pregnancy.

How much research did you need to do for your book?

Green Shoots is set in England and Ecuador, the two countries where I have lived so I was writing about countries familiar to me. I did a lot of research about the environmental conflicts in the Amazon and eco-activism, as these subjects are central to the story.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

Slightly perversely, I enjoyed writing the murder scenes. I think for readers of thrillers, these are often the most exciting parts and I enjoyed being on the other side writing these scenes, although it was easier in third person, so I wasn’t actually playing the killer when writing.

What was your hardest scene to write, and why?

There is a scene where the main character John rushes to be with his seriously ill wife Christina but arrives too late and she has already died. This scene triggered a lot of traumatic memories for me and I had to lie down and take some time out from writing afterwards. Writing about grief was hard but also cathartic.

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

John is closely connected to me – a journalist who lost his wife, determined to make sense of it and get to the truth. However, I also related to the killer’s motivation, which is about avenging the destruction wreaked on the natural world. I’m not violent at all but I think I projected my anger at injustices in the world into his character.

How important was professional editing to your book’s development?

I enrolled on Curtis Brown Creative’s novel writing course and gained a lot of feedback from tutors and colleagues on this course. This really helped sharpen up the plot and general writing and meant the manuscript was already in good shape when presented to the publisher. Getting feedback from pros is essential.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?

I definitely wrote Green Shoots with cinema in mind. I think Eddie Redmayne would be good as John, as he’s a studious intellectual character. I’d love Tom Hardy as the killer, as he plays dark characters very well.

How long have you been writing?

I first wrote an extended story aged 12. I really got started in journalism as an undergrad and spent many years as a national newspaper journalist and travel writer. This meant that writing quickly and to the point, which is essential in thriller writing, comes relatively naturally to me.

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Write about what you know and what you care about. What you don’t know, you can find out, but if you’re passionate about your novel’s subject, it will be far easier. Most importantly, stop just thinking about it and get writing. The world is full of people who want to write a novel, but you need to put it into action!

Green Shoots by Ben Westwood on Amazon UK:

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