As the grandson of Faber’s founder, Toby Faber grew up steeped in the company’s books and its stories. He was Faber’s managing director for four years and remains a non-executive director and chairman of sister company Faber Music.
How did you get started writing?
I first wrote two non-fiction books about Stradivarius violins and Faberge Eggs. That was a relatively gentle introduction to writing a full length book because to get a publishing deal I had to plan both out in advance, but the experience showed me that I could sustain a narrative for 80,000 words
What drew you to write a novel
I had an idea that wouldn’t go away about my protagonist witnessing someone fall off a tube platform. After two more non-fiction proposals that didn’t get off the ground, I decided to have a go at turning that idea into a novel.
Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
That’s hard to say. I’ve always admired PD James for her characters and the sense of place she manages to convey, while obeying what she sees as the rules of detective fiction. My book is not, however, a classic detective book.
When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
Each new project has involved going back to square one. My agent for the non-fiction books was not keen on thrillers so I had to move, with two false goes before I was taken on by Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge & White. He got me to do quite a bit of work on the book before sending it out to publishers, and there were several refusals and near-misses before it was taken on by Muswell Press.
There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?
I like Laurie – the main character – for the way she develops her own sense of independence in the course of the novel, but hope readers end feeling that her flatmate and father are just as interesting and important.
What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel?
I researched the underground a lot, both online and by exploring physical stations. I did not, however, go down there after hours.
Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
There’s quite a lot of my father in Laurie’s Dad, but bits of a few other people too, including me.
Do you have a particular favourite scene in the book and why
I like the scene towards the end when they meet the voluble neighbour Mrs Shilling. It was a chance to inject a bit of humour, and perhaps let the readers see things that are not yet clear to Laurie, before a moment of real tension.
Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
When I first thought about the book (a long time ago), I was a 25-year-old commuting on the underground, a bit like Laurie. I think quite a lot of me got into her in my first draft. There’s probably less of me in her now, and more in her Dad: I’ve grown older.
If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you might planned.
I’m not sure I’m finished with Laurie yet. I think she needs to understand a bit more about her childhood and why they ended up leaving Cambridge.
If you had the opportunity to write a novel with any writer alive or dead, who would it be and why.
George Macdonald Fraser is not a thriller writer but I loved his series of historical novels about Flashman. I’ve got at least two good ideas for other adventures Flashman could have had in the 19th century.
Do you have words of advice you can share with anyone who is intrested in writing a novel
If you want to write it quickly, don’t do what I did, which was to start with an idea and see where it took me. Instead, develop a really good understanding of your characters and plot the book out carefully. You’ll have fewer false starts!
Close to the Edge by Toby Faber is published by Muswell Press on 11th April, priced £10.99
Morning rush hour on the London tube. Laurie Bateman witnesses a terrible accident. Life had been looking up – she’s dating a new man and finally getting praise at work. But after the accident everything seems to plummet downhill. In the space of a few days her flat is burgled and her flatmate assaulted – she loses her phone and then her job. Are these events linked? Perhaps what she had seen was something more sinister? Compelled to investigate, Laurie finds herself in serious danger and is soon fleeing for her life through tube tunnels in the dead of night – the hunter has become the hunted.
Toby’s previous books are Stradivarius and Faberge’s Eggs, both published by Macmillan.
His next non-fiction book, Faber & Faber: The Untold Story, is being published by Faber & Faber in May.