Sahlan Diver, Writer

About My Writing

What sort of stuff do you write?

A big feature of my writing is the use of multiple unexpected plot twists. If you enjoy the challenge of trying to keep one step ahead of the author, you will like my work.

How would you describe your writing style?

I feel no obligation to make my characters excessively dramatic: the cliches of the tough cop with an attitude problem, the alcoholic woman damaged by a string of failed relationships, blah blah, etc, etc. On the contrary, I write normal people, like you or I. What I try to make compelling in my novels and plays is the extraordinary situations in which they find themselves, in which you or I could easily find ourselves. In my novels, to emphasise the engagement of the reader, I write in first person, past or present tense, occasionally shifting to third person to add perspective.

What about content?

My writing is always an examination of something: in The Chapel In The Middle Of Nowhere (Play), the enclosed delusional world of cults; in The Arrangement (Play), the obscenity of religious fanaticism; in The Secret Resort Of Nostalgia (Novel), a critique of modern living and working environments; in For The Love Of Alison (Novel), the sad confidence trick of populist politics. I put all these themes into the context of a mystery thriller. Whether by doing so, I have invented a new genre, I don't know.

Any explicit content?

I don't do explicit "gritty" violence - there's enough violence in the world without needing to further normalise it. I do sex, about which I write frankly, but low-key, leaving the detail to the reader's imagination. Some characters in my novels and plays may occasionally use explicit language.

How do you set about writing a novel or play?

I start with the two or three main ideas which cover the set-up of the situation and the central unexpected twist in the plot. Then I gradually build it up with interesting characters and situations. New characters, and their connection to the plot, occur as I write. I aim to play fair with the reader, not to magically pull solutions out of the hat at the last minute - everything that happens towards the end of the novel or play needs to have been foreshadowed in some way.

Would your novels and plays be of interest to both men and women?

It depends. I'm a man, with a technical background. I can't escape that in my writing. The chief protagonist is usually a man, but strong female characters are essential to my stories and reflect the kind of capable women I have worked with in real life. A lot of what you find in contemporary fiction, even when written by women, is hardly "women's lib" is it? Finally, you will find humour in my writing, dotted about here and there; occasionally, I hope, of the laugh-out-loud variety.

How would you summarise your writing?

If you are looking for writing that is solely character-driven, like the literary equivalent of soap opera, then you won't like my stuff. My novels and plays do have an interesting cast of characters, but they are plot-driven. They are there to entertain the reader's thinking as well as their emotions.

Book Cover

Brief Bio

Educated at Dover Grammar School, Kent, and then at the University Of Birmingham, where I studied microbiology and philosophy. After variously working as a shadow puppet theater manager and prospective jazz saxophonist, I taught myself computer programming, becoming a freelance consultant. My writing career began, aged nine and a half, when I won a national TV children's short story competition. Thereafter my writing became dormant, apart from a couple of Edinburgh Fringe comedy reviews, until it was revived in protest against a religious movement I once belonged to. Through the latter experience I gained an understanding of the mechanism by which the arrogance of cults brings out the very worst in human nature. It also provided much useful character study for my subsequent writing, as, for much more positive reasons, did my permanent move to live in the Republic Of Ireland, thirty years ago.

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