Monday 30 March 2020

Asking Writers Questions - a round-up

Following on from last weeks Mixtape round-up (which you can read here), as we move further into self-isolation I thought it'd be an idea to collect together some Q&A sessions I've had on the blog with writer friends.  In all cases, I review their latest book and then ask them questions around it (or, in some cases, on completely unrelated topics).  I had fun doing them, all the interviewees are excellent and the books are well worth a read so if you're looking for something new to try, you might just find it here.

As always, stay safe and happy reading!

Craze, by Steve Byrne
A wave of terrifying paranormal phenomena has swept the UK. A virulent plague known as the Red Death has decimated the population. Law and order has broken down.

The Crisis Powers Government, operating from the fortified heart of London, is attempting to regain control, whilst a shadowy terrorist organisation is rumoured to be harnessing the power of darkness for its own ends.

To escape a riot-torn inner city, a group of survivors must band together, but their flight will force a harrowing confrontation with the demonic forces at the heart of society’s collapse.

MW:   How much did the end result differ from the original idea?

SB:   Originally, in that first novel (that was consigned to the bottom drawer, and rightly so) it was really gung-ho, proper pulp—sort of like Jerry Ahern’s Survivalist series from the nineties, if you’re ever encountered that. People, mayhem and guns. Fast paced fun. I hope I’ve kept that feel, but as the characters developed  (particularly the female characters, who actually began to take over the novel), it evolved into what you’ve picked up on—a look at how friendship, love and loyalty are our only respite in a world of depravity.

Read the full post here

The Little Gift, by Stephen Volk
THE NOCTURNAL SCAMPERING invariably signals death. I try to shut it out. The cat might be chasing a scrap of paper or a ball of silver foil across the bare floorboards downstairs, say a discarded chocolate wrapper courtesy of my wife, who likes providing it with impromptu playthings. I tell myself it isn’t necessarily toying with something living, but my stomach tightens.

MW:  The novella seems to be a preferred length of yours, what do you like so much about it?
SV:  It didn’t start out as a novella, it grew from a short story into a longer one (same with many of my novellas, in fact). Generally, I just see how the story evolves, length-wise. Nobody is asking me to write these and nobody is giving me a deadline or word count. Yes, I could have written this as a 80,000 word novel but I don’t think I would have gained anything. Pitching and structuring a novel is entirely different, bulkier, more substantial in terms of the market and visibility, but in creative terms I like to think a good novella has everything a good novel has. Like it’s a novel shrunk down, condensed, but the intensity remains and nothing is wasted.

Read the full post here

The Smallest Of Things, by Ian Whates
There are many Londons. From pomp to sleaze, from sophistication to dark corruption, Chris knows them all. A fixer with a particular set of skills, he can step between realities, piercing the thin veils that separate one London from another to find objects or locate people that have fallen between the cracks.

When a close friend, Claire, comes to him fearing for her life he is forced to use his abilities as never before, fleeing with her through a series of ever stranger Londons, trying to keep one step ahead of the men who murdered her boyfriend and are now hunting her.   

At some point, Chris hopes that he and Claire can pause long enough to figure out why these mysterious figures from another London want her dead, but right now they’re too busy simply trying to stay alive.

MW:   A lot of Chris’ previous adventures are alluded to in the novella, have you written any of these?

IW:   This is actually the fifth of Chris’ adventures I’ve written (though the first at this length). One of the others, frustratingly, has been lost somewhere along the way without ever being submitted for publication. The first story, in which Chris attempts to save his sister’s life, is the safest in some senses, because it’s set entirely in our reality, although it relies on interaction with beings from other Londons (it’s currently available in my first collection Growing Pains). I wrote the second, which involves the Green Man (the creature of folk lore, not the pub), for an Alchemy Press anthology, and that’s now in my third collection Dark Travellings. The fourth, The Yin Yang Crescent takes us to the London that’s home to Jed, who has a cameo in the new novella. That one sold to an American publication a few years ago but for various reasons they never published it. I subsequently sold the Spanish language rights and it featured earlier this year in the excellent Windumanoth magazine, but has yet to appear in English.

Read the full post here

Hell Ship, by Benedict J Jones
1944, The Malacca Straights; Blood slicks the deck of a Japanese ship as a terrible ritual is enacting to aid the failing Imperial Forces against the Allies. The ritual rends the very fabric of our world giving access to another realm beyond the ken of man.

Nine survivors from the torpedoed Empire Carew are left adrift in a lifeboat but after weeks in the water they find haven on an abandoned ship they find floating in a strange fog – The Shinjuku Maru.

Nine souls are heading straight for hell.

MW:   How much research was involved?

BJ:   A fair bit. Some things I knew already from reading and previous research but I was drawn to find out more about the merchant seamen during World War two. My family is originally from the north east of England and we have strong ties to the Merchant Navy, as well as the ship building industry and the Royal Navy. Once I started researching shipwreck survivors I came across some really interesting accounts and all that fed into Hell Ship – including that of Poon Lim who spent 133 days adrift.

Read the full post here

Closer Still, by Richard Farren Barber
Keep your friend close, and your enemies closer still.
- Origin contested

“Closer Still is about childhood friends and childhood enemies. It is a story about how the two are often not as far apart as one might believe. It is my thoughts on the strength of children to navigate an environment in which they are often powerless. It is about love and betrayal. The casual pain inflicted by friends. It is the visceral cry of youth against the injustice of life.”

MW:   Obvious question but I’m intrigued - have you ever had a supernatural experience?

RFB:  I haven’t had a supernatural experience. The closest I’ve come to was going into St Mary’s Close in Edinburgh and having a ghost tour in the semi-darkness. By the end of the tour I was living on the edge of my nerves – the place was genuinely eerie. I found myself at the very back of the group and constantly looking over my shoulder into the darkness. Did I see anything moving behind me? I don’t think so, but I realised that if anyone had put a hand on my shoulder I would have screamed loud enough to wake the dead.

Read the full post here

A Summer To Remember, by Sue Moorcroft

WANTED! A caretaker for Roundhouse Row holiday cottages.

WHERE? Nelson’s Bar is the perfect little village. Nestled away on the Norfolk coast we can offer you no signal, no Wi-Fi and – most importantly – no problems!

WHO? The ideal candidate will be looking for an escape from their cheating scumbag ex-fiancé, a diversion from their entitled cousin, and a break from their traitorous friends.

WHAT YOU’LL GET! Accommodation in a chocolate-box cottage, plus a summer filled with blue skies and beachside walks. Oh, and a reunion with the man of your dreams.

PLEASE NOTE: We take no responsibility for any of the above scumbags, passengers and/or traitors walking back into your life…

MW:   Where did the idea come from? Clancy is another in your line of strong, if slightly wounded heroines.  What prompted you to make the choices for her character you did?

SM:   The spark for the story, which also formed a chunk of Clancy’s issues, was a Tweet. It depicted a couple caught in an intimate moment on the guy’s video conferencing software which, somehow, he’d managed to leave running. Because he was fully dressed it wasn’t pornographic but the activity in which they were engaged couldn’t be mistaken. I began to wonder whether the man and woman were single or, if not, who they were cheating on. How did the video, or a still from it, make it onto social media? Where were these people employed? Did they lose their jobs? Did it cause embarrassment to the employer as well as to the couple? Or, as the still didn’t show faces, did they get away with it? Who else had been involved in the video call?

Read the full post here

And because it never fails to make me smile (we look like a boyband the world's forgotten, just about to launch a new tour), here's a picture of me with Richard (plus Stephen Bacon and Wayne Parkin, taken by Sue), at FantasyCon Scarborough, September 2016 (you can read a full report of the Con here)
from left - Richard, Steve, me and Wayne

Stay safe, people and happy reading!

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