An English Literature graduate, he has a particular interest in writings that feature themes such as love, faith, separation and loyalty. Here, he tells us about his novel The Water Tower, which is due out shortly.
They say the scariest thing a writer will ever have to face is a blank page.
Well, what do they know?
I’ll see their blank page and raise them a few hundred full ones. Pages filled with the text of my first published novel, in fact. Blank pages, you say? Scary? Pah. Blank pages have got nothing on this. This is terrifying.
The Water Tower – my first novel – will be landing complete and unabridged at the beginning of next month.
In Waterstones (if you’re in the UK). In Barnes & Noble (if you live across the pond). On Amazon and Apple and Google and Kobo and a few others I’ve probably forgotten. You’ll be able to take it off the shelf, hold it in your hands or load it up onto your Kindle. Allow yourself to fall into the web of a young journalist, his best friend, and a village full of living, breathing characters that you’ll love and despair of in equal measure, knowing that – once they’ve got you – they’ll never let you go.
I always wanted to write a novel. But not just any novel. I was fuelled by a compulsion to write something grand in scale, yet at the same time familiar and everyday. A grounded tale of ordinary people who reach beyond the limits of their potential to do extraordinary things. It’s a novel told across five volumes, which will launch simultaneously on the first week of September; a Middlemarch for the modern day, a character-driven epic with a dash of romance and a touch of melancholy.
The Water Tower is the story I always wanted to tell, you see. Pure and undiluted. No compromises or strings attached. And I'm so proud of the end result. It's a proper heart and soul yarn, about these women and how they handle their men. About big secrets in a little hamlet, where pain and promise rest behind every door.
It’s a novel that means a lot to me, not just because of its characters and the ideas it offers up – but because of the way it talks about loss. All the sadness and grief we carry, coiled up inside us all, just waiting for someone to come along and heal it.
I started writing later that night. “Chapter 1,” I scribbled. “It was on the day she died that they finally brought down the Water Tower.”
Fair warning, faithful reader; for those who know me well, this may not be the novel you thought I’d write. Oh, I know what you were thinking: he’ll write a political thriller, he's bound to! He'll set it in the Corridors of Power, right at the heart of Westminster and Whitehall. It'll be full of Special Advisors, honest brokers and snakes in the grass; those fickle few who scramble for status as a way of coping with their mid-life crises. He’ll talk about the good that men do, the horrors of thirsting ambition, and showcase that world in all its blood sport and brilliance.
Nah. Too clichéd. Too obvious.
Almost too easy.
That’s not to say The Water Tower doesn’t touch upon politics, power relations and the art of the possible. There’s a flicker of every facet of my life hidden somewhere amongst these pages. (And they’re all in there, don’t worry: a friend or two long departed; a mad man in a box spinning through time and space; a piano player from Pinner.)
But – brace yourself – the last thing I wanted to do was write something safe. The Water Tower contains moments that will shock you; sudden, startling staging posts that will prompt you to sit up and double check the author’s name on the front because That Thing You Just Read was the last thing you ever imagined Chris Vobe would write.
That’s okay. If all I did was meet your expectations, it wouldn’t be half as much fun.
Sometimes, the truths we tell aren’t necessarily the most comfortable. But The Water Tower is honestly, authentically me.
To live this story, then (and believe me – you’ll live and breathe it), we’re going to go back to 2016. To the 16th of June, to be exact. It’s on that fateful Thursday afternoon that we join our characters. Across the pond, the Republican National Convention is only a month away – rumour has it, Donald Trump wants to be President. Britain’s about to hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union. The Summer Olympics in Rio are just around the corner. David Cameron is still Prime Minister.
And in a village called Little Bassington, somewhere between Hampshire and the South East coast, there are plans afoot. Plans to demolish an old Water Tower...
It’s a story about love – the love we live with, and the love we live without.
It’s a story that talks candidly about the way we deal not just with grief, but with the sense of losing in all its forms.
It’s the story of a reluctant journalist named Adam Chapman. Of a conflicted PhD student named Clarissa Clements. Of a sympathetic widow in a little painting shop named Hilda Stanton. Of a cantankerous art enthusiast named Martin Constantine. Of a misunderstood soul named Sally Lloyd. And of a recovering drug addict named Madison Carter.
But, most of all, it’s the story of a woman named Victoria Kendall.
I hope you enjoy what comes next; I really do. The Water Tower means so much to me. It was built on a simple truth that you’ll come to understand as you progress through its pages.
So settle down, make yourself comfortable. Grab a cup of tea and a slice of Battenberg. Tissues on standby.
Ready or not, here it comes...
The Water Tower (Books 1-5) launch in September 2023 from Next Chapter.
Chris Vobe's five-volume epic The Water Tower is a raw and uncompromising tale of love, loyalty and allegiance, which offers a candid exploration of the way we deal with loss.
When journalist Adam Chapman returns to the village of Little Bassington after inheriting his great aunt’s estate, what he finds at first glance is an English idyll, untouched and unspoiled. The fields are as green as he remembers, the WI still gossip in the Village Hall, and the annual summer fête draws crowds to the Market Square every year.
All is well.
Until one day.
The day it’s announced that they’re going to demolish the old Water Tower.
Suddenly, the perfect world of Little Bassington is fractured. Battle lines are drawn and long-buried secrets are on the cusp of being unearthed. The consequences, both professional and personal, that stem from decisions around the Tower’s fate will change the face of a village and the lives of its inhabitants forever.
Meanwhile, Adam Chapman – a man running from his own past – is drawn into an unexpected circle of acquaintances: a conflicted PhD student, an ageing art critic, a sympathetic widow, a recovering drug addict... and the woman from the Library to whom each of them will become inextricably linked.