Friday, November 19, 2010

Author Interview: Savita Kalhan (The Long Weekend)

Sam knows that he and his friend Lloyd made a colossal mistake when they accepted the ride home. They have ended up in a dark mansion in the middle of nowhere with man who means to harm them. But Sam doesn't know how to get them out. They were trapped, then separated. Now they are alone. Will either of them get out alive? This gripping and hypnotic thriller will have you reading late into the night.

From Goodreads.

What one word would you use to describe The Long Weekend?


What inspired you to write this novel?

A flyer went round all the local schools warning that the driver of a large flashy car had tried to snatch kids after school. It horrified parents and kids alike, and made me wonder how easy was it for something like that to happen. Pick up time when school finishes is chaotic, busy with parents and cars parked everywhere. But kids are pretty aware – they’ve had talks at school about not getting into a stranger’s car. So as I looked into it I realized that although it wasn’t easy for it to happen, it can and has happened.

It only takes a moment of distraction, of not thinking. Kids can be easily led by someone with a very plausible story.

A scenario came to my mind whereby something like that could happen terrifyingly easily and I just had to write the story.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing The Long Weekend?

I would say that it was trying to write it without giving myself nightmares! Sometimes I can still hear the jingle jangle of keys at night…

It was, at times, difficult to resist letting the story cop-out from the underlying theme of child abuse. I really wasn’t sure how it would be taken, but as it happens I shouldn’t have worried about that. Everyone who has read the book agrees that it is sensitively dealt with. The abuse is in fact only alluded to and not drawn out in any graphic or inappropriate way.

Did you do any crime or psychology research for this novel? Is it inspired by a real life incident?

The book was initially inspired by the school flyer, but I also know child survivors of abuse. I’ve heard their stories at first hand.

If you found yourself in a situation like Sam and Lloyd, do you think you would make the same choices?

Gosh, that’s a really difficult question! I hope I wouldn’t get in the car in the first place – I hope no kid would. What The Long Weekend does is put the message of stranger-danger into a format that, I hope, reaches through to all teenagers on a level where a talk in assembly might not. The Bookbag review agreed that it may scare the living daylights out of kids, but that it was probably a good thing if it helped to make them think about staying safe.

The book is a thriller, the message is clear, the consequences terrifyingly real! Once you’ve read the book, you’ll never forget its message.

As for the other choices in the book, well, I don’t want to spoil the book for readers, but I’d like to think that I would make the same choices as Sam.

Which character did you feel more of a connection with – Sam or Lloyd? What was it about the character that spoke to you?

The story came to me at the same time as the main character, Sam. I had an instant connection with him, he spoke and I wrote! What I love about Sam is his resourcefulness and the fact that whatever gets thrown at him in the book, he somehow manages to overcome it.

What do you think are the key components of a compelling thriller?

A great story, pace, maintaining the suspense throughout the story – from the beginning right to the end without losing the reader along the way. The Long Weekend is written in the third person, in Sam’s voice, but right from the opening chapter the reader is inside Sam’s head, living the events of the nightmarish weekend moment by moment. The tension never lets up. The reader has to keep reading, desperate to find out what happens to the kids at the end.

What is your opinion on book to film adaptations? Would you like to see The Long Weekend made into a movie? Who would you cast in the lead roles?

Some book to film adaptations work, others don’t. I think it depends very much on the scriptwriter and the director and the budget. For example I loved Louis Sachar’s Holes, and I also loved the film. I far prefer The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis to the films. I love the Godfather the film far more than the book.

I would love to see The Long Weekend made into a movie, but as for who would play the lead roles that’s such a tricky one. I’m not really up on teen actors, so I think I might need some help casting the roles of Sam and Lloyd! As for the man, well, Kevin Spacey pulls of chilling fantastically well!

What one book do you think has been the most influential in the past 100 years? Why?

The last 100 years?! That’s a really long time span and I’m not sure whether one book has been influential across the whole of the century. For me, the most influential books in my life have been the classics. I read them as a teenager and in my early twenties, and I would include world literature amongst them and the works of writers such as Dostoevsky, Maupassant, Camus and Sartre… But I really don’t think I could narrow it down to one book! Can anyone?

What authors have inspired you? What about them do you find inspirational?

Again, there are so many!

J.R.R. Tolkien inspired me so much that I read The Lord of the Rings at least twenty times, and then went on to read all the epic fantasy fiction I could lay my hands on – then I went and wrote one. It was my first venture, adventure, into writing. I fell in love with the world he created – the length and breadth of it, the characters, and the terrible struggle against the rise of evil.

Rohinton Mistry is a personal favourite. I love his writing because its epic in scope, his characters come from all walks of life, yet they are so well drawn, so varied; and his stories really draw you in. You never want to reach the end! I love A Fine Balance.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

READ!! I can’t stress that highly enough. Read everything you can lay your hands on – all types of fiction, genres, non-fiction, everything.

WRITE!! Write anything, try all the genres until you find the one that works for you. Keep writing and hone your craft.

What is a random fact readers probably don’t know about you?

I’m a Scorpio, and yes, I have a lethal sting!

What can you tell us about future books you have in the works?

Ooh! Well, I have just finished writing a thriller. It’s called Amnesia and it’s about a 14yr old boy who wakes up in a hospital bed and realizes that he has lost his memory. I’ll have to keep you in suspense about the rest of it I’m afraid. I can say that it is very different to The Long Weekend, but it is a psychological thriller…

I lived in the chalky hills of High Wycombe when I was growing up. My first school was Oakridge Infant School. Then I went to Sands Middle School and finally to Wycombe High School where I was really lucky to have some great English teachers.

After my A’ Levels I went to the University of Wales Aberystwyth and lived by the sea for a few years. It was a great place and I was very reluctant to leave, but leave I did with a Joint Honours in Politics and Philosophy, and lots of good friends and great memories.

I’ve travelled extensively but read much more widely. I even got married in Manila, in the Philippines. I love world food, world literature and world cinema. Now I’m back in the UK and living in North London with a view of the woods and the changing seasons from the room where I write.

I’ve done lots of different jobs including teaching art, Batik in particular, but it was only when I went to live in the Middle East where I taught English, that I began writing, stumbling into it almost like a dare, and stubbornly refusing to give up even though the road was steep and full of gaping pot holes, some that I saw and others that I didn’t.

The Long Weekend is my first published novel.

It was shortlisted for the Fabulous Book Award 2010.

From author's website.

For more about this author, please visit:

Thank you so much to Savita for this fantastic interview!


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