Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From Debut to Career: David Hewson

By Julie Kramer

Any author would love to debut like David Hewson. His first novel, SEMANA SANTA, set in Holy Week Spain,david-hewson.jpg received acclaim, awards, even a movie deal. But the path to publication was a long haul for the former London Times reporter and his is the kind of story that inspires writers at various stages of their careers.

Hewson was turned down by every literary agent in the United Kingdom -- without even reading his manuscript.

He eventually got his agent through a referral even though her agency had already rejected his query. When she called him to discuss his novel, "I neglected to mention this."

Hewson was on assignment in California when The Call came that he'd sold his first book. "To be honest, life was very hectic back then and it took a while to sink in. I'd kind of given up on the book in some ways."

Thus his career as a novelist began. Not once, but twice. After his first five books, his publisher dropped him. "I thought I was out of a career. It was only thanks to my agent slapping me around the head that I didn't give up."

Hewson, definitely not a broody, moody writer, went on to craft a best-selling mystery series based on Nic Costa, a detective in Rome. His latest book, THE GARDEN OF EVIL (sixth in the series), sold out its first print run the first week of publication, so Hewson seemed a logical author for ITW novices to turn to for career building counsel.

"Be professional." That's his top advice for debut authors. "Understand the needs of the people who sell and market your work and do everything you can to support them in meaningful ways. Don't pester them to do things that don't make sense -- such as demanding a nationwide tour. Don't be a jerk. Get them on your side."

His suggests every author have a website and keep it current. Networking at conferences like Bouchercon and Thrillerfest can also pay off. "Be visible, go places, talk to people, make friends. Be persistent, write regularly - nothing beats an annual book for maintaining momentum."


David Hewson’s novels have been translated into a wide range of languages, from Italian to Japanese, and his debut work, Semana Santa, set in Holy Week Spain, was filmed with Mira Sorvino. Dante’s Numbers is his thirteenth published novel.

David was born in Yorkshire in 1953 and left school at the age of seventeen to work as a cub reporter on one of the smallest evening newspapers in the country in Scarborough. Eight years later he was a staff reporter on The Times in London, covering news, business and latterly working as arts correspondent. He worked on the launch of the Independent and was a weekly columnist for the Sunday Times for a decade before giving up journalism entirely in 2005 to focus on writing fiction.

Semana Santa won the WH Smith Fresh Talent award for one of the best debut novels of the year in 1996 and was later made into a movie starring Mira Sorvino and Olivier Martinez. Four standalone works followed before A Season for the Dead, the first in a series set in Italy. The seventh Roman novel featuring Nic Costa and his colleagues, Dante’s Numbers, appeared in October 2008. At the end of 2006 he signed renewed contracts with Pan Macmillan in the UK and Bantam Dell in the US to extend the series to nine books, running to 2012. The titles are published in numerous languages around the world including Chinese and Japanese… and Italian.

He has featured regularly on the speaker lists of leading international book events, including the Melbourne and Ottawa writers’ festivals, the Harrogate Crime Festival, Thrillerfest, Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime. He has taught at writing schools around the world and is a regular faculty member for the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference in Corte Madera, California, where he has worked alongside writers such as Martin Cruz Smith and Michael Connelly.

In 2006 he launched a campaigning web-site save-wye which was instrumental in a successful battle to prevent one of the largest environmental threats to the countryside of Kent in southern England. His non-fiction book on the campaign to defend Wye from development, Saved, was published in May 2007. David lives close to Wye, Kent.

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