Inspiration for THE HUNT
Since 1997 I've written over 30 horror and fantasy novels, dozens of novellas, and scores of short stories, as well as a handful of screenplays. So why suddenly write a thriller?
Simple––because of my love of being shot at whilst running.
Well, actually that hasn't happened yet (although I'm sure some race entrepreneur will read this and realise there is a way to top the challenges of Ironman, Tough Guy, and Tough Mudder...).
In truth, The Hunt came about for a couple of reasons.
First, I've always wanted to write a thriller. I'd never written anything without a supernatural or fantastical edge, and I liked the idea of a challenge. Before now, anything I've written has always developed fantastical elements, whether I intended it or not. With The Hunt, that would not be the case (although interestingly, in the very first draft of the first couple of chapters, the character Rose 'knows' that something has happened ... I soon cut that out). It also felt like a good choice career-wise. I've been trying to spread my wings a bit, writing YA novels and screenplays as well as horror and fantasy. That's not really a commercial choice, more of a creative one ... I want to write for a living forever, so experimenting in different mediums is a way of keeping things fresh. It's all storytelling. And it has become very satisfying creatively to do this, resulting in books such as the Toxic City YA trilogy, the Secret Journeys of Jack London books (with Christopher Golden), and several screenplays alone and in collaboration.
The last piece of the jigsaw, and the main reason The Hunt was written, was discovering a sport I loved so much––endurance racing, marathons, and eventually triathlon and the epic Ironman.
I only started exercising properly a few years ago. Before that I was the fast-approaching-middle-aged chubby bloke at conventions, smoking and drinking and generally not really looking after myself. That changed in 2011 when I committed to tackling the national 3 Peaks Challenge with a few mates. I had to get fit for that, and pushing myself to achieve something I thought way beyond my reach opened my eyes to the possibilities. I've always believed it would take me committing to something outrageous to get fit, and I was right. Training for the 3 peaks, I lost a load of weight and started running.
The next year, I raced my first two marathons.
A year later, after learning to swim and buying my first road bike, I raced my first Ironman. From any sensible viewpoint, an Ironman is outlandish. You swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles, then run a marathon. Cut-off time is seventeen hours. You start at 6am, which means up at 3am to make sure you get enough fuel on board (bananas, porridge, toast, tea...). You can burn around 10,000 calories during the race, so you're eating constantly on the bike, too, to fuel your marathon.
Like I said, outlandish. Ridiculous. "You must be mad!" I've heard a few times. But I did it, and pushing myself to do something so beyond my comfort zone quite genuinely changed my life.
It also gave me a scorcher of an idea for a thriller!
So when all these threads came together, The Hunt was born. I decided to write a chase thriller, a really fast-paced, pared down novel about an endurance sports enthusiast being chosen as target in a human trophy hunt.
If he is caught and killed by the hunters, his kidnapped family go free.
If he escapes, his family are killed.
Into the mix, throw a woman who once escaped her own hunt, and lost her family in the process. She wants revenge. He wants to survive and save his family.
That's how the story began. A vague idea, building into something more rounded. I researched trophy hunting ... not nice reading. I'd always found it disgusting enough, rich fat cats paying huge sums for the chance to kill lions, giraffes, elephants. I couldn't really understand what they'd get from it. Then I looked deeper and realised that the animals are usually hobbled to make the hunting easier, and more likely a success, netting a 'bagging bonus' for those arranging it.
One small leap shifted the idea of trophy hunting from big game to people. And the scary thing? It really isn't that much of a leap.
So I had the idea, and I also knew enough about the subject matter to 'write about what I knew'. And writing the novel was an absolute pleasure from start to finish.
I wrote the book on spec, which means I was not under contract. This was written just for me (of course, always with the hope that it would interest a publisher), and I had fantastic fun writing it. A bit of research was required. In fact, probably more than with any book I've ever written. Reading about trophy hunting wasn't nice. But when the bulk of the research is spending time in Snowdonia, and running around my local mountains, it's not hardship at all. Especially when much of it was tax deductible!
Avon bought the book (and a follow-up which I'm working on now), and now it's out there in the wild. The ebook is going well, and on July 16th it will hit the shops. It's going to be a surreal experience seeing my book for sale everywhere, including the supermarkets.
I do hope you'll take time to try The Hunt. And if it kick-fires an interest in running or triathlons ... I'll see you on the start line!
My review of "The Hunt"
She will hunt down the men who took her family. She will have blood. Rose is the one that got away. She was the prey in a human trophy hunt organised by an elite and secret organisation for bored super-rich clients seeking a unique thrill. She paid a terrible price - when she escaped The Trail murdered her family. Every moment since she has been planning her revenge. Watching, waiting ...And now her day has come.
Chris returns from his morning run to find his wife and children missing and a stranger in his kitchen. He's told to run. If he's caught and killed, his family go free. If he escapes, they die. Rose is the only one who can help him, but Rose only has her sights on one conclusion. For her, Chris is bait. But The Trail have not forgotten the woman who tried to outwit them. The Trail want Rose. The hunters want Chris's corpse. Rose wants revenge, and Christ just wants his family back.
The hunt is on...
Chris Sheen returns home after an early morning run to discover that his family - wife Terri and girls Gemma and Megs - are missing and a stranger is standing in his kitchen drinking coffee. He’s told by a shadowy operation called The Trail to run and that if he’s caught and killed, his family will go free - if he escapes, they will die. Into this maelstrom comes Rose, who was once hunted by The Trail herself but lost her family when she beat the chase. Now Chris needs help, she wants revenge and he’s the perfect bait.
Riffing on “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell, Tim wastes no time in setting up the situation and it’s beautifully simple. The Trail takes a person who can, in theory, handle themselves (Chris is a good distance runner), pits them against rich idiots who’ve paid for the pleasure of hunting a human, puts them into a games arena (in this case, it was supoosed to be downtown Cardiff until Rose stepped in) and monitors the situation so the rich never lose. The Trail members that we meet are well trained and vicious, though we only tend to see them moments before Rose kills them, except for Vey - she was the one who killed Rose’s family and is now standing guard over Chris’. Without any semblence of emotion, we see her through the eyes of Gemma, who is old enough and sharp enough to try and understand why she, her Mum and sister have been kidnapped. With Rose’s intervention, the hunt is moved to the Welsh mountains (somewhere around Snowdonia, though it’s never specified) where Chris has a slight advantage and she has enough space to figure out how to reduce the odds.
I liked this a great deal. I immediately identified with Chris (not the running part, but certainly getting fitter) and his fear for his family and because the book wastes no time in ‘cutting to the chase’ (sorry), you’re immediately thrown into the middle of things. His progression over the book - fearful, resilient, resourceful and, above all, determined - is well handled. Rose is equally good, at first a killer like the Trail until her character is revealed through flashbacks and we get a better understanding of what set her up in this way. The hunters are mostly seen from the distance, generally overweight and sloppy people who just want to get their jollies but when the tables are turned, it’s nice to see their arrogant facades melt quickly (especially when one is recognised and smiles at the attention, completely forgetting his situation). Tim uses the wild locations well, making us feel the elements and see the barren mountains and valleys that Chris has to traverse, where the ground is as liable to hurt you as those high-calibered rifles are (and the swim in the mountain lake is truly terrifying). Having spent time in Snowdonia, he not only captured the atmosphere of the place well but made the bleakness of the area - and the lack of other people - almost another character. The pace is relentless, barely pausing for breath as you’re dragged through lean and sharp scenes, whilst the set-pieces are superbly handled and thoroughly gripping. The book doesn’t shy away from the terror of the situation either, from Chris’ terrifying ordeal on a cliff-face to the sudden bursts of shocking, brutal violence, but it’s all the better for that.
Marking a tangent for Tim, who before now was better known as an award-winning horror/fantasy writer, this is an assured thriller debut, well written, told at a breakneck pace and engrossing from the first page. I highly recommend it.
He has had around 20 novellas published and hundreds of short stories, steadily building a dedicated following among the horror & dark fiction community. A movie of his short story PAY THE GHOST was filmed last year in Toronto, starring Nicolas Cage and Sarah Wayne Callies, directed by Uli Edel. He is also working on two TV series ideas, as well as a new original screenplay.
He has won 4 British Fantasy Awards (3 for Best Novella, one for Best Novel), a Bram Stoker Award and a Scribe Award. He has also been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award multiple times, the World Fantasy Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award.
Thanks to Charlotte Woods for all her help