12 January 2016
Rhidian Brook, writer
Rhidian Brook is a novelist and screenwriter. Here he tells us how he came to be a writer and the role his faith plays in his work.
What does your passport say for "occupation"?
It says "writer". I've been writing for 20 years in various mediums. I've written three novels: my first was The Testimony of Taliesin Jones, which told the story of a spiritual awakening during family breakdown; my second was Jesus and the Adman, which was an exploration of ambition, fear and death; and my most recent was called The Aftermath and was set in Germany after the Second World War. I've also written scripts, including for Silent Witness, and Africa United, which told the story five children travelling from Uganda to South Africa for the World Cup in 2010.
Tell me a bit about your background and how you got into writing.
I grew up in Wales as an army child, so we moved around quite a bit. I didn't have clear ambitions to be a writer, but I came to faith and to writing at the same time during a period of illness in my mid-20s. I'd been living life as a bit of a hedonist, but after a near-death experience in Trinidad I was cared for by a Christian couple and began to read John's gospel while asking questions about why we're here and what happens after death. I started writing short stories while I was working as a copywriter, then wrote my first novel. Part of my calling has been to write – my faith matters and it finds its way into my work even though I don't explicitly write about faith.
You're a regular contributor on Radio 4 on the Today Programme's Thought for the Day - why do you think this continues to be important in an increasingly secular society?
Thought for the Day is a daily anomaly – there's a lot of opposition from both the faithful and those of no faith. I think it survives because it's unusual and is a significant gear-change within the hard-hitting news programme, and because it's steered well and protected by the programmers. It's hard to do, 15 years and 300 thoughts on and it's only a little bit easier! I hope it lasts.
How does your relationship with God influence your working life?
I'm fortunate to do work that's internal and imaginative, so I don't feel I have to compartmentalise my faith and my work. There can be a lot of hostility or resistance to faith in the literary world, but faith finds its way out. It's about acting and speaking with integrity.
How do you think the Christian community is doing when it comes to commenting on social issues?
The Church's willingness to speak on issues of social justice is giving it a bigger voice. There's been a significant difference over the last 10 years. Individually, it's what you say, how you speak and what you are that speaks most loudly.
What's coming up next for you?
I'm currently working on my new novel and it's too soon to say much about that. But my last book, The Aftermath, a story of forgiveness, reconciliation and justice in post-war Germany, is being made into a film and is currently at the casting stage. I wrote the book and the screen play together, so I'll be involved with that during 2016.
What are your personal career highlights?
My career has been full of little victories and small setbacks, but I've got a lot of highlights too. The first time I saw my name in print was really exciting – I won a Time Out short story competition in 1991. Getting an agent and winning the Somerset Maugham award for my first novel were both highlights, as was being on the set of the film for that novel, which was a good film although it only got a limited release. Seeing The Aftermath at number one in Waterstones was really special and the premiere of Africa United at Leicester Square will always stick out as a great moment, as well as Timothy Spall agreeing to be in Mr Hardy Lights a Candle, as he was my first choice.