Interview With…Paul Clayton

The actor chatted to us about his new book The Hoax set to be published on the 1st April.

(c)Michael Wharley.

Hi Paul, thanks so much for talking to me. Could you tell me a bit more about what The Hoax is about? The Hoax is about friendship and kindness and promises we make to one another without knowing whether we can never keep them. It’s about the bonds that tie us together, and how those bonds can break. It’s about a world in which we live where people have to remind us of kindness rather than allow us to celebrate acts of kindness that we do.

How did the idea for the book come about? I was reading a newspaper one morning and came across a story about two women who had been friends and had fallen out and the remarkable lengths that one of them had gone to in order to wreak revenge. I was reading about the court case that ensued, but the mechanics of how one friend deceived the other quite fascinating and is an incident around which a story could pivot, it seemed rather exciting. A morning spent reading up other versions of the story in other newspapers, and I was getting the central picture of what could be an exciting tale.

How does it compare with your previous novel The Punishment? People often ask are you a “plotter” or a “pantser” — that is, do you plot everything out to begin with before you write or do you just start the book and fly by the seat of your pants? “The Punishment” springs from a true incident that happened to me when I was a young actor and a passionate encounter I had with a burglar. I used that as the basis to imagine what might have happened. “The Hoax” is more of the seat of the pants novel. Having created my central character and knowing where she was heading, I let the story flow just to see what happened. The glorious thing was that a lot of it quite surprised me.

Have you found writing this book easier or more challenging? When I set out to write my first book, which was in 2012 on the world of corporate acting, I doubted whether I could even write a book and there was an enormous thrill holding the finished item in my hands. That has never gone away, and after two non-fiction books, I decided I had to meet the challenge of writing the sort of book that I would like to read. That brought about “The Punishment” it was a huge learning curve, and I was very lucky to have a fabulous mentor in the form of the author Jane Wenham Jones who looked after what I was doing and taught me several invaluable techniques. Sitting down to write your second book is a bit like knowing you can swim the channel because you’ve done it before, but only realising just how much effort it takes once you’re a couple of miles from shore.

Were you inspired by any other authors in creating The Hoax? I think if there’s any inspiration for The Hoax it comes from people like Louisa Cavendish who have that brilliant gift of setting up a situation and then slowly peeling away the skin of it to reveal what is going on. It’s like what we do in the rehearsal rooms as actors, and I find it a fascinating process.

Are there any authors in particular whose work you really enjoy reading?  I love psychological thrillers and mysteries and crime, and every night I love to settle down in bed for a good half hour with a book that makes me feel guilty by reading one more chapter than I should have. The late Ruth Rendell was top of my list, but the brilliant Val McDermid, Nicola Upson, Peter James and Peter Robinson all have kept me awake well past my bedtime. And just as in my television viewing, Scandi Noir has penetrated my reading. I take great delight in settling into bed with Ragnar Jonasson and the Dark Iceland series.

How would you describe The Hoax? I think I would describe The Hoax as a dark and funny page turner that might just make you think who your friends are. 

By Emma Clarendon

The Hoax is set to be released on the 1st April.

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