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Ferguson says he tends to spend more time outlining a book than writing it. His editor at Simon and Schuster even told him at one point that The Finder seemed like four novels rolled into one. But the far-flung locales are just as important as the twisting narrative. Ferguson says he wanted to write a novel that takes place in the “outer edges of everything.” Hateruma is just the first of such places. There’s also the Australian outback, an earthquake-ravaged Christchurch, New Zealand, a sheep farm in Lavender Bay, New South Wales, and a small rural community in the Trossachs hills of Scotland named Brig ‘o Turk. All are real but suitably isolated backdrops for lost people or lost objects waiting to be found by a seemingly omnipotent fiend with a talent for disappearing and appearing at will.
In some ways, The Finder seems like a culmination of Ferguson’s past work, which began with travel books and humourous novels and essays before taking on a darker hue with his Giller-winning 2012 novel 419, his pull-no-punches 2015 memoir Road to Rwanda: A Journey into the New Heart of Africa and his occasionally disturbing and darkly comic 2017 psychological thriller The Shoe on the Roof.
“I’m attracted to broken people and broken countries,” says Ferguson, who will join son and fellow novelist Genki Ferguson for an online Wordfest event Sept. 8. “You start with just an idea. OK, Lost objects. Then you think: Who are the people? I wanted a broken-down travel writer. Tasmin and Rafferty are both broken, but he actually handles it better. She is in denial. Even though she’s stronger and tougher, he’s facing it and she’s resolute in not facing the ramifications of what they’re doing or how they do it. I put the Finder in Belfast. Initially, I had this idea that you would never know where he’s from and that got boring real fast. I’m always fascinated by the idea that once you remove God from the equation, once you remove any kind of foundational belief in morality, then the logical next step is that you can do what you want. If someone is in your way, kill them. He has a very distinct code. To me, the Finder was always a fallen angel. He was an angel who has been cast out.”