Simon Fox

Simon Fox

About Author

Running out of Time is Simon Fox's first novel after 20 years trapped in the dungeon of accountancy.  He is determined to never go back.  He lives in Sussex with his extraordinarily patient wife and two teenage children who never tidy their rooms but would take on the world for each other.  




Deadlock  (Nosy Crow Books)

June 2023

Deadlock is a fast-paced contemporary novel that pits a boy with superb lock-picking skills against a shadowy group of criminals. Are his skills enough to save his father's career - and his life?

We ask author Simon Fox to tell us what inspired the story - and how good are his own lock-picking skills, as well as giving us tips on building tension in your writing.

Read a Chapter from Deadlock

Review:  A 'hard-to-put-down' adventure from the first chapter onwards!

Q&A with Simon Fox

1.   Can you tell us a little about yourself as an author - what kinds of books do you enjoy writing?

I always wanted to be a writer, but for the last twenty years, other things have got in the way. I wanted stuff like a house and a car and tickets to the football and food and unfortunately writing doesn't really pay for things like that so I became an accountant.

It was when my son started reading the Alex Rider books that I really decided to go for it. I loved the stories and wanted to write something similar. I write adventure stories and try to make them as exciting as I can. Hopefully people enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

2.   What is your new book, Deadlock, about?

Deadlock is a story about a boy called Archie who becomes a jewel thief. His dad is a policeman who specialises in high value robberies and Archie loves learning about Dad's job and the techniques criminals use, never dreaming for a minute this knowledge would be important. But when a diamond necklace goes missing and Dad is arrested, Archie must use everything he's learned to find out what's going on.

3.   What inspired this story; what are your influences?

Who doesn't like a heist? It's one of those genres that you can have loads of fun with. I guess I was influenced by loads of things from the original Raffles books to Ocean's 11.

4.   How do you develop your plot - do you plan it out or set things up and wait to see what happens?

I tend to do a bit of both. I will consider an idea if I can come up with a beginning, middle and end. Then what I tend to do is start writing at the beginning and see what happens. With Deadlock, there are a number of set pieces - robberies, escapes etc. so I thought about what I would find exciting and worked them in.

5.   Deadlock is, like Running Out of Time, a tense read. How do you build up the tension in your novels?

There are a few things to create tension. The first is that your character must be in a threatening situation. The consequences of something going wrong have to be significant and the reader must see that. Baddies around the corner, an alarm that triggers at the slightest touch, a policeman checking the building in which our hero is hiding.

Once you've put your character in a dangerous position, make things worse! If you imagine your character is balanced on the edge of a cliff or a high building, you have to make them wobble! Don't make it easy. If they are climbing make them slip. If they are running away, give them a blind alley or a locked door. Make things go wrong. Make everything as hard as you can for them. And if you think things are as hard as they can get, do some more thinking and make them worse!

Once you've got your plot set up, I find the best way is to choose words that emphasise the jeopardy. Words like 'dread', 'yell', 'hammer' and 'burst' are all dramatic and increase the tension. Use violent or dramatic similes and metaphors such as "the alarm screamed", "the shout punched through the air".

They say 'show not tell' but when you write in the first person you can tell a little as well, so get the character to tell the reader how scared he is. "Fear stabbed through me like a knife",  "desperation flooded into me".

Finally, you have to make sure what you write can be read quickly. When the reader gets tense, they increase the reading pace to try and see what's going to happen. It's really important that you allow them to do this by writing clearly. Some people will say short sentences but I would say clear sentences. Not too much punctuation and keep the action moving.

6.   Picking locks is a big part of the story and tension - did you need to do much research into how to pick locks? Have you ever needed lock-picking skills?

I was amazed at what you can find out online. There are videos showing you how to get into anything. I also met a lock smith from Hove called Pip who was really helpful. She carries around a bag of kit which can get into most houses so that's a bit scary! I did do some practising, but I wasn't very good. I'll leave lock picking to Archie.

7.   Why do you focus on father / son relationships in your books?

I hadn't really thought about this. I am a dad and the relationship I have with my kids is hugely important to me and different to the relationship they have with their mum. I hope my kids love me as much as Archie and Alex love their dads.

8.   Do you have a section in the book that you feel stands out or that you really enjoyed writing?

There are loads of bits that I'm really proud of and it's hard to talk about them without giving spoilers. I really like the way Archie and Bunny work together and how they encourage each other. I think Bunny is my favourite character and I really enjoyed writing her parts.

9.   Deadlock and Running Out of Time are great titles - did you come up with these? Do you already have the title when you start your book?

I came up with Running Out of Time but Kirstie from Nosy Crow came up with Deadlock. I had originally wanted to call it 'Nicked' but we agreed that was too English when we are hoping it can also sell abroad. So Kirstie came up with Deadlock which is great.

10.   What are you writing currently? Best and worst things about being an author?

I'm writing another adventure story about a group of kids who get lost in an old mine. Its working title is 'In the Dark' and I'm really enjoying it. Imagine being trapped in the dark in a maze of old tunnels with a group of people you don't know. And a sneaking suspicion that one of them has taken you down there deliberately!

Best and worst things about being an author? Best thing is how proud my family are of me for persevering and getting the books out there. The worst thing is how long everything takes. Is it worth it? Of course it is!


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