Eyes Turned Skyward by Ken Lussey
It is exciting to be part of the book tour run by Love Book Tours for Eyes Turned Skyward by Ken Lussey. I am lucky that Ken took time out of his busy day to chat with me about this exciting new novel.
Wing Commander Robert Sutherland has left his days as a pre-war detective far behind him. Or so he thinks. On 25 August 1942 the Duke of Kent, brother of King George VI, is killed in northern Scotland in an unexplained air crash; a second crash soon after suggests a shared, possibly sinister, cause. Bob Sutherland is tasked with visiting the aircraft’s base in Oban and the first crash site in Caithness to gather clues as to who might have had reason to sabotage one, or both, of the aircraft. Set against the background of a country that is far from united behind Winston Churchill, and the ever-present threat from the enemy, we follow Bob as he unravels layers of deceit and intrigue far beyond anything he expects. This novel reflects on the rumours and theories surrounding a number of real-life events, including the death of the Duke of Kent and the aircraft crashes of Short Sunderland W4032 and Avro Anson DJ106.
What inspired you to write Eyes Turned Skywards?
I’d been thinking about a thriller set in Scotland during World War Two for some time. It was when I stumbled across the real-world story of the crash of the flying boat carrying the Duke of Kent, the king’s younger brother, on a remote hillside in Caithness in August 1942 that the idea of Eyes Turned Skywards began to coalesce into something tangible.
Who is your favourite character in Eye’s Turned Skywards and why?
I probably ought to identify most strongly with Bob Sutherland, the slightly second-hand ex-fighter pilot and Battle of Britain ace who is given the job of investigating the Duke of Kent’s crash. But my favourite character is Monique Dubois, a.k.a. Vera Duval. In many ways she is the character who shows most strength and fortitude when things get difficult. She is based on a real woman called (amongst her many other names) Vera Eriksen who had a past that was even darker than Monique’s in the book. The real Vera disappeared during the war after the two German spies she landed with at Port Gordon were tried and executed.
What was the first story you had published?
My first book was A Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to Great Britain, which was published by Penguin Books in 1983. It was a practical guide that did exactly what it said on the cover. It was rather less well known and sold less well than Douglas Adams’ similarly named book about the galaxy.
Do you have another story planned or in progress? When can we expect to see that?
What I’m working on now is a total change of pace from anything I’ve done before and is a young adult novel set in Scotland during the isolation and social distancing brought on by coronavirus. I’m writing it with advice and input from my 10-year-old grandson Alistair.
Who is your favourite author?
Many: probably too many to list, but I’d start with Richard Bach, Arthur Ransome, Tolkein… and on and on.
What do you like to do when you’re not planning or writing your next book?
Travelling, in Scotland and beyond it (coronavirus isolation permitting); photography (ditto); helping my wife run the tourism website Undiscovered Scotland; spending time with my grandson (once more, social distancing permitting).
When did you know you wanted to write novels?
Books have always been a passion of mine. I spent my childhood moving around the world and attending seven different schools. I worked my way through the libraries of most of them and this translated into a desire to write at quite an early age.
Do you write novels in other genres?
So far, my books have included a practical guide and historical and contemporary novels. I’m tackling a young adult novel at the moment and have sometimes wondered about getting involved in science fiction, something I read a great deal of when younger.
What do you like most about being an author?
The actual process of turning ideas into words. The sheer intellectual challenge of disentangling the next chapter or two and working out how the overall picture is developing is the best part of the process by far. When you are halfway through writing a book you are never bored, because you can always sit back and plot the coming chapter or two or mentally tug at a loose end or try to resolve some difficulty that’s occurred to you.
Do you have a specific routine for writing? Is there a special place or particular tool you use?
The actual writing takes place exclusively at my office desk, on a desktop computer. But that’s only the final stage in a much longer process. Collecting ideas and developing storylines can happen anywhere: but especially while visiting locations I intend to use; and in the middle of the night in bed.
What advice do you have for other writers?
It feels rather presumptuous to think I’ve got any advice that anyone else might find helpful. I suppose the two things I’d say are: ‘if it works for you, do it’; and ‘if at first you don’t succeed then welcome to the world of the aspiring author.’
If your book were to be made into an Audiobook, who would you choose to read it?
If your book were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play main character’s name?
I think that Eyes Turned Skywards would make a great film, though it might not be cheap to make. As for my preferred cast, Emilia Clarke would be perfect for Monique Dubois with Tom Hiddleston as Bob Sutherland. An alternative cast, if you ignore minor details like the actors involved being no longer with us, would see a young Ingrid Bergman as Monique Dubois and a young Ian Bannen as Bob Sutherland.
Ken Lussey spent his first 17 years following his family – his father was a Royal Air Force navigator – around the world, a process that involved seven schools and a dozen different postal addresses. He went to Hull University in 1975, spending his time there meeting his wife Maureen, hitch-hiking around Great Britain, and doing just enough actual work to gain a reasonable degree in that most useful of subjects, philosophy.
The next step seemed obvious. He researched and wrote ‘A Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to Great Britain’, which was published by Penguin Books in 1983. An inexplicable regression into conformity saw him become a civil servant for the next couple of decades, during which time he fulfilled the long-held ambition of moving to Scotland. In more recent times he has helped Maureen establish the website ‘Undiscovered Scotland’ as the ultimate online guide to Scotland. ‘Eyes Turned Skywards’ was his first novel and ‘The Danger of Life’ is his second.