Felix Francis, son of award-winning author Dick Francis spoke to visitors of the Sharjah International Book Fair about carrying on his father’s literary legacy – authoring novels mostly set against the exciting equestrian world.
“People ask me why I copy my father’s style. It’s not that I copy it, but it’s the style I grew up with,” he said. Like his father, Felix writes in the first person of the main character. “This has a great advantage because you don’t need a Mr. Watson. You don’t need to describe things. But the disadvantage is that there needs to be continuity in the timeline. You can’t write about anything that the character hasn’t witnessed because he wouldn’t know about it,” he said.
Felix’s father, Dick Francis, started as a jockey then became a racing journalist and then a novelist, writing crime stories that take place in the horse-racing world. He wrote more than 40 novels which all became international bestsellers before deciding to retire.
Though growing up in a literary home, Felix started writing later on in life and worked for a long time as a physics lecturer. Speaking about the writing process, he said that it’s important to keep his eyes and ears open all the time. “Sometimes it’s about asking the wrong question and getting the right answer,” he said. When a publisher told him that people are not reading much because there were too many cookery books, he decided to write a story about a chef, Dead Heat. “When you can’t beat them, join them,” he said.
Writing, according to Felix, is a full time job. “I try to write 1,000 words every day. Sometimes it’s more sometimes less. I don’t know where the book is going. Starting a book is like the guy at the circus spinning plates, every character has a story and you keep them spinning,” he said.
It is essential that the first line of the story has to be gripping, Felix said. “I notice how people act with books in a bookshop. They hold a book read the back cover, read the inside flaps then open and read the first line. That’s when they continue the book or put it back on the shelf,” said Felix.
When it comes to character development, he said that it was essential that the readers connect with the characters. “I’ve had people ask me, what happened to this character after the book ends? So I ask them… what do you think happened? Then they say: No, no. What really happened to them? I can’t bring myself to tell them that they’re not real,” he said.
In another lecture, Roland Perlwitz, head of music programming in the cultural sector at The Abu Dhabi Tourism &Cultural Authority (TCA), spoke to attendees of the Sea of Culture lecture series about Middle Eastern influences in German Music.
He used the example from the Romantic era in Wolfgang Mozart’s ‘Abduction of the Saray’ in which the ruler is projected to have good values and Novalis’s work Heinrich von Ofterdingen which has references to the lute.
“During the 18th century there was an interest in Arabia since all the information that Europe had at the time was from One Thousand and One Nights,” he said.