The Ordinary by Christopher Ritchie PLUS INTERVIEW

The Ordinary

The Ordinary by Christopher Ritchie is a continuation of “House of Pigs” his debut novel. Mr Ritchie seems to be very comfortable in the darkly surreal world of the Ordinary and as such it is written rather well.

Whilst I wouldn’t say this book is better than “House of Pigs” because they both have their own charms but I do think he’s come even further out of his shell and really grabbed his audience.

Each of the Characters has his/her own story and background and they don’t all feel like carbon copies of the previous ones. Even those caught in the net of the Ordinary seem to have their own personalities underneath the hive’s trance.

When I first started the book I couldn’t really see how everything fitted together, I thought Mr Ritchie had too many characters and sub-plots and each time I got into one story I felt like I’d been forced into another. The stories do all tie in and come together though so if you’ve got part way through and feel like it’s all a bit much, do keep reading because it’s quite interesting how it’s all tied up at the end.

I enjoyed Stanley’s storyline and the story behind the PP girls a little more than others, but as I say once they all tie in it’s much easier to read and keep up with.

My only disappointment really is how fast everything climaxes. It seems just a little bit simple compared to the rest of the book although I can’t properly describe that without spoiling it. You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out!

This doesn’t make it a bad book, it’s just that it seems to build up over a series of chapters and then end within one. This however could just be me, you’ll have to read it and add your take on it below in the comments to let me know if you disagree.

I would be interested in hearing your ideas about the book so if you’re likely to spoil the ending and don’t want to post below then you can also email me to discuss.

I would very much like to see what Mr Ritchie comes up with next and would like to see what other stories lurk within the dark corners of his mind.

If you’d like to try the book you can get it here;

The Ordinary by Christopher Ritchie

Now for the interview!…………………………………………….

Chris Ritchie

So “The ordinary” is a continuation of your debut novel “House of Pigs”. What gave you the ideas to carry it on?

Well, it is and it isn’t in that you can read it as a stand alone story if you haven’t read the first and still follow it all. But I created a world in Pigs that I felt I wasn’t finished with. The idea that there are these unseen, kind of mundane forces pulling the world apart still intrigues me. And the themes here of loss, displacement, and the spread of fear through the media, all ties in with the first book. That main theme comes from my own decision to shut out most of the world’s media a few years back. I really have no idea what is going on in the world. I found news bulletins to be more like macabre theatre, and it was really beginning to affect me – that constant stream of often upsetting information. There’s too much news, most of which has no relevance to us, so I cut it all out and am much happier having done so. In The ordinary, I imagine a world where it doesn’t just affect people; it ends up seriously damaging them!

Both of your books so far have been in the same universe, so can we expect another continuation or do you think you’ll start a fresh universe next?

Happily I can say I’ve started on book three and it’s entirely different. That is to say it’s still grown up with plenty of obscenity and brutal violence, but I’ve said goodbye to that universe for now. I may go back to it one day but as you know from the ending, it’s pretty final. I’ve considered writing back stories for some of the main characters, but that’s for another time. Right now I’m framing the concepts behind something very different and pretty excited about it. So many ideas jostling for position in my mind and I guess the next one will fuse a lot of that together. Expect something more grounded. Possibly. I do want to ramp up the violence a bit too.

There were a lot of different stories going on at once in “The ordinary”. Did you struggle to keep the stories separate as you were writing?

Not at all. It’s very deliberate. I don’t read books at all, and haven’t done for years. So the format of the book is more like a TV show, as was Pigs. I dart between locations and characters and find it a very simple way of pacing the story. Sure, it can become complicated sometimes to remember who is where and what they’re doing, but keeping notes along the way and keeping your characters true to themselves is essential. And, really, the stories all do come together at the end.

Are any of your characters based on real people?

Yes. I’d say most of them are in some way based on real people, certainly in terms of characteristics and personality traits. Maria in fact is based very much on a friend of mine. Stanley is a fusion of several people from my past. I’ve met lots of Jocks and Bleaches in my time too! Caitlin and Anthony had different names until my cousin in New Zealand asked me to put his kids in the book. Although their names are in there, there’s a little bit of their personality in it too but, well, they’re only kids so it’s not really a direct characterisation.

What gave you the idea for the PP girls?

The original idea, without giving anything away to people who are yet to read it, is you have these girls being taken, disappeared, from Poland. I became somewhat fascinated and disgusted by the scope of pornography and noticed that much of it comes from Eastern Europe, where it’s not so controversial for girls to do a bit here and there. But beneath that glossy veneer there is some really dark, horrible stuff, where these girls are not just disappeared in real terms; it’s like their souls are gone too. I imagined PP as this acceptable route through that, something fluffy on top and evil underneath. PP matched up with that and fitted nicely as a Polish phrase.

How do you feel the book has been received?

So far so good. Really, I’m blown away. I wasn’t so happy with Pigs because I felt I maybe got about half of the stuff in there that I wanted to, but now The ordinary complements it and I feel it’s a much, much better book in every way. Reviews mostly say the same. The first reviewer was so enthusiastic about it that you might have thought I’d paid him, but I promise that isn’t the case. When I sent the final manuscript to my publisher, he was blown away. His confidence in it is a large part of the decision to write another.

What is your inspiration when you’re writing?

I’m not a dark person but I find it very easy to go deep into some nasty places in my mind. I find it quite comfortable there. I don’t struggle to find inspiration because it’s all around us. I reckon most writers of fiction would say they find very often they start writing something and just let their mind do the rest – you can start off with an idea and as soon as your fingers start tapping the story seems to develop itself and take off into new areas you hadn’t thought of. That’s what I love about writing. Characters are easy to draw because if you observe people enough it’s very obvious – certain traits scream out at you while others are more hidden away. Observe, think, write.

Which of your characters would you say is your favourite?

I loved writing George Lazarou – the stereotypical rags-to-riches, no-nonsense bastard. I guess Stanley was the most fun though. He gets the best lines, the best scenes and people seem to like him, despite who and what he is.

If you had to choose just one character who you relate to, who would you say that is and why?

I can’t say I really relate to any one of them. There are different aspects of each I relate to: Jez’s teenage lust takes me back; Bleach’s messy mental state; Stanley and Asmann’s precise pedantry; Piotr’s misguided love… but I should state it’s not autobiographical!

Are you working on anything right now? If so, what can you tell us about it?

The first part is set in Greater London and follows a man who can reach a higher state of consciousness, with a little help from illegal substances. But his “talents” keep him in employment with the local police. There just so happens to be something major going down and he’s right across the street from it. That’s where I’m at right now. I have big plans for this one. It’s going to be a stonker!

Do you have any words for aspiring authors?

Absolutely. It’s often said that everyone’s got a book in them, but I say that doesn’t mean they should write one. There are hundreds of thousands of books coming out every year, most now self-published, and getting noticed is all down to luck or major marketing budgets. So if you have a story to tell and think you can write it well, then go for it: push yourself to get it done. It doesn’t matter if it takes a while, and that is probably a good thing as your brain will be cooking those ideas for you in downtime, but motivation to sit down and get on with it is important. Also I’d say if your idea isn’t original, or you’re not a particularly confident writer, just don’t bother. It’s not worth the trouble for writer or reader. If you are good though, you’ll have a chance, so go for it.

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