Focus: Chris Rickaby | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Who are you?
I am Chris Rickaby and now – in a slightly surreal turn of events – also Ben Creed. (The pen-name I co-wrote the thriller City of Ghosts under along with the former Financial Times journalist Barney Thompson.) 

In my mind’s eye, Ben is much more sophisticated than me. He drinks shaken-not-stirred martinis and dines on The House of Tides tasting menu. I prefer a pint and a scotch egg.

What is it you do?
These days, I divide my time equally between writing advertising copy and creating concepts for various brands, and writing fiction. I have also written and produced some TV programmes for both ITV and FIVE, including a drama, Harry and The Hormones, which starred the comedian Sean Hughes.

How long have you been doing it?
I have always made my living from writing. Initially, through advertising and eventually from writing books. Nearly thirty years in all. (I have the grey hairs to prove it).

What inspires you?
In the case of Billy Quiz, my book set in Newcastle in the 1970s, everything about the city, the Geordie language, and the unique culture of the North East. 

When you get to my age and think about what your values are and where they came from you realise that the city you were brought up in is the biggest part of who you are. And its values – being straightforward, down-to-earth, and hardworking – the ones you admire the most and try to live up to. 

Tell us about your work.
I’m happy to be proven wrong but, as far as I can see, Billy Quiz and the Mission to Mars is the first full-length novel written entirely in Geordie. There are lots of great books set in the North East by amazing writers but they seem to be written in the third-person (he/she did this) whereas because Billy’s written in the first-person (Me mam said etc.) it uses dialect all the way through. That said, I have tried to write it in a way that people outside the region can engage with and appreciate. So, using a basic vocabulary and concentrating on the rhythm of the speech rather than going what you might call ‘the full radgepacket’ (really broad Geordie) which would limit the potential readership. 

It’s the story of Billy Agnew, AKA Billy Quiz, a 16-year-old trainee postman in the Newcastle of the 70s, who begins to find letters in his post-bag that are written, it turns out, to people who are already dead. 

What have you got coming up in the future?
As Ben Creed, I am currently writing the sequel to City of Ghosts which is due to be published next year. It’s a three-book deal with the publisher Welbeck so after that it will be straight on to book three. 

Writing as myself, I’m looking to develop some other Newcastle-based stories; the first one in a different format for me – a play.

Where can people find out more about you?
My website is www.chrisrickaby.com. I’m also on Linked In and Twitter.

Billy Quiz and the Mission to Mars is available on Amazon, Waterstones.com, directly from the publisher One Word Press and selected independent bookshops.

City of Ghosts was one of The Times ‘Books of the Year’ and is widely available.

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