In which E.V Thompson talks about his writing career.

The following is a rough transcript of the interview I held with EV Thompson at the recent St Austell Library Reader’s Day. Neither of us recorded it but I kept a copy of my questions and so I e-mailed them to EV. Between us we’ve tried to cobble together the interview as it ran.

Churchyard and Hawke is your 38th novel, your 39th Beyond the Storm is about to be published and your writing your 40th. That’s a huge number of books and you’re clearly well loved in the UK but I’m wondering if you have a worldwide audience? How many languages have your books been published in?

EVT: Translations have varied over the years, some books doing better than others. CHASE THE WIND did best. When it won the award as Best Historical Novel of the Year it went into 13 languages.

Do their covers vary from country to country?

EVT: Oh yes, they vary enormously and authors and publishers rarely agree. In early days I was never entirely satisfied with them and one day, when having lunch with Winston Graham he agreed with me, saying that my covers were of the type he turned down in the 1930’s! As a result I had it written into my contracts that I have to approve them – but at the end of the day the publishers really decide.

I imagine that you run into a lot of conflict with publishers? For you, writing is a creative process for them it’s a commodity? How much say do you get?
EVT: Usually my relations with publishers are very amiable, but the publishing world has changed dramatically during the 35 years I have been writing professionally. I was lucky with my first editor whom I had for 15 years. He was of the ‘old school’ and became both friend and mentor. We would occasionally have differences of opinion but would discuss the matter and not argue about it. He always stressed the fact that it was my work and that the final decision on any point would be mine. My present publisher is a similar type of man – but you are right, for many of today’s publishers a book is a mere commodity, there to make money for them.

Some of the audience may not be aware of the fact but you are a meticulous researcher. If you say a river flows along side a bush, then that’s exactly what it does. Do you enjoy the research?
EVT: Yes, I thoroughly enjoy researching. Had I enjoyed a University education I might well have become a researcher. When writing a novel I need to learn all I can about subject and place. The look, feel – and even the smell of a place is important. My research has taken me to some of the remotest places in Africa, Asia, Canada, USA, Australia, etc., but I sometimes end up disappointed with my findings. I once went to Texas to check on the estuary of a river, only to learn that the Texans had not liked the place where it flowed into the sea, so they had changed its course some years before and it now flowed into the sea some 25 miles from where I had set it in my book. Fortunately, I met with a local historian who gave me maps and photographs of the original place!

So which do you prefer, researching or writing?

EVT: I enjoy both immensely. Never 100% happy unless writing – but can also become miserable if research not going well. Was once told (In respect of research for book mentioned above) by wife to “Push off to Texas, find out what it was I needed and perhaps when I returned the family can live a normal life again.”

Do you write for yourself or your audience?

EVT: Always have readers in mind, but write for myself, could not do otherwise.

You’re best known for your historical fiction but you’ve also written various non fiction titles as well, are you interested in writing modern fiction?

EVT: I brought my saga of Retallick family up to the 1st World War but do not want to carry it any further forward. I find I can use life’s experiences in Historical Novels without having readers speculating on whether I have been in similar situations. Besides, I enjoy history, it is, after all, what has made us the people we are today.

I was chatting to you earlier and you’ve had such a varied career have you ever considered an autobiography?

EVT: I have thoroughly enjoyed the life I have led but am basically a very private person and prefer to keep my personal life private.
Which of your books are your favourites and why?

EVT: CHASE THE WIND has to be my first favourite. When it won the award for Best Historical Novel with £7,500 prize (quite an amount 35 years ago), plus guaranteed publication in America it changed my life completely and was the realisation of a dream. But also enjoyed writing DREAM TRADERS, BECKY and CASSIE. They were of places and types of people with whom I am familiar.

What are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?

EVT: I read very little fiction, enjoying many books on various facets of history, but have always enjoyed the writings of Leon Uris – EXODUS, ARMAGEDDON, etc., and was fortunate enough to meet him and have a long chat about his writing.

From the audience. How do you write?

EVT: I need to use a Word Processor and it does make work a loot easier, but for sheer personal satisfaction I refer to use a pencil and pad and will write that way when time and commitments permit. I have about 100 pencils in pots around my study and use them until they all need sharpening.

11 thoughts on “In which E.V Thompson talks about his writing career.

  1. Thank you for posting this. I have been a “fan” of E V Thompson for 25 years – ever since being given The Restless Sea after having my appendix out! This is a really informative interview and would have loved to have heard it live. I thoroughly enjoy his books – my favourite is Ruddlemoor because it is the one where Josh dies and he was part of all of the Retallick series to that point – a real tear-jerker. E V Thompson kindly signed my copy of Ruddlemoor several years ago. Thank you again!


  2. I live on the west coast of Canada, yet I thoroughly enjoy each of the E.V. Thompson books. When they are published, I don't bother to look at what they are about, I just order them. I find his style of writing to be very detailed and compelling. His characters are people I would like to know and the themes of his books, based, I believe on actual events as closely as possible, are realistic and enjoyably informative.
    In my opinion, Mr. Thompson in one of the finest and most important writers alive today.

    The only question I have for Mr. Thompson is when is your publisher going to commit your books to the ebook format? I am buying a Kindle soon and would like to repurchase all the many E.V. Thompson books to the ereader format.
    Ladysmith BC


  3. The first E V Thompson book I read was Chase the Wind, I've since bought another twenty and can't part with them. Like Ruth I would love to have heard the interview. My favourite author. Thank you.


  4. I have read 19 over the last 12 years, some twice! Helped me through some sleepless nights. Keep writing please. Recently bought 8 of the Retallick series. Just make sure the publishers keep the print a decent size as so many modern printings are too small to read comfortably. Many thanks.


  5. From New Zealand
    Thank you for over 20yrs of reading enjoyment. I've now got my husband hooked on your books and he has manged to get 2 on his Kindle ; I prefer a real book! We have many book sales near us and I always look for titles that I haven't yet read. Thank you for many hours of “happy escape “!


  6. I have read every book since Chase the Wind was first published in Reader's Digest. It is still an essential part of Christmas for me to get the new EV Thompson book. Dream Traders and Becky are my favorite.


  7. Awesome books. Have read and got every single one. Love the Retallick series best of all. Thank you for making my life just a wee bit more pleasurable with your books.


  8. My favourite author. I just loved the way EV's characters came to life. I could truly lose myself in his writings.They were tangible,I could smell the gorse on the moors, the stench of poverty, the fish & sea, infact anywhere he wrote about. The history was so well researched that not only did I love his every book I learned so much. I had the honour of conversing with him for a few hours at an FSID fundraising event where we sat side by side whilst he signed books & I sold raffle tickets. I learned of his death whilst visiting Mevagissey on Friday. Sadly missed but never fogotten. RIP.


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