Interview with Kevin Wignall

Author of To Die in Vienna

Kevin Wignall is a British thriller writer whose books have successfully made the transition to Hollywood movies. Since his first published novel - People Die (2001) – Kevin has been a full-time writer.
His first novel to be adapted for cinema was For The Dogs, renamed The Hunter’s Prayer for cinema. The film version received mixed reviews from critics – certainly not a reflection on the novel itself, which marries pace and energy with seamless storytelling.
More recent novels to have been adapted for film include To Die in Vienna and When We Were Lost. When We Were Lost is a YA survival novel and a coming-of-age story, featuring a plane crash in Costa Rica which leaves a party of schoolchildren facing death. The film version of To Die in Vienna (which will be titled ‘Welcome to Vienna’) is in production, with Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role.

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What's the storyline?
  • It’s about a freelance surveillance contractor, Freddie Makin, who’s been watching a Chinese academic in Vienna for the last year. When the academic disappears and someone tries to kill Freddie, he realizes he’s seen something he shouldn’t have – only trouble, he’s no idea what it is he’s meant to have seen.
Does any of this story come from your life?
  • There are always some aspects of my own life in all of my work, particularly in the central characters. I’m one of those authors for whom writing is a kind of therapy!
Which writers provided inspiration for To Die in Vienna? Or for your writing in general?
  • I’m inspired by so many different writers, including those I don’t like (as in, not wanting to write the way they do…). And I continue to be inspired – just before starting work on this, I read “The Winter of Frankie Machine” by Don Winslow, a great book that made me rethink how I wanted to handle the backstory for “Vienna”.
Why Vienna?
  • I know Vienna quite well and set a story in the city years ago, but had always wanted to set a novel there. Trouble is, I wanted to find a story that wasn’t just a pastiche of “The Third Man” and all the other great espionage tales of the Cold War. As soon as I came up with the story of Freddie Makin, I knew it was the perfect setting.
Jake Gyllenhaal – stars don’t come much bigger. Who did you have in your mind’s eye when you created his character? He’s also the producer, so must have loved the book?
  • I didn’t have anyone in mind when I was writing it, but the minute I heard Jake was interested, I knew he was the right person. I’d say there are only three or four big actors in Hollywood who would be the right fit for this role, so to get one of them, and have him so enthusiastic, is incredibly rewarding.
Which of your books are you most fond of?
  • Such a tough question, and it’s often different books for different reasons. But “Who is Conrad Hirst?” means a lot to me.
What kind of reader reaction have you had for To Die in Vienna?
  • So far, it’s been great. People have responded really well to Freddie and to the female characters, and a few have asked me if the Hotel Madhouse is based on a real place (it is – The Hotel 25 Hours in Vienna). What more can you ask for as an author, that people enjoy your work so much that they want to write to you about it? It’s a good life.
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Soon to be a major motion picture starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

He’s seen something that could get him killed. But what?

Freddie Makin is a spy for hire. For a year he’s been watching Jiang Cheng, an academic whose life seems suspiciously normal. To Freddie it’s just a job: he never asks who’s paying him and why—until the day someone is sent to kill him, and suddenly the watcher becomes the watched.

On the run from whoever wants him dead, Freddie knows he must have seen something incriminating. The only trouble is, he has no idea what. Is the CIA behind all this—or does it go higher than that? Have his trackers uncovered his own murky past?

As he’s forced into a lethal dance across Vienna, Freddie knows one thing for sure: his only hope for survival is keeping the truth from the other side, and making sure the secrets from his past stay hidden.