Shadow Beast Beast Series Book 1
by Luke Phillips Genre: Thriller
We just lost our place at the top of the food chain. Man is just meat.
"This was on par with Jurassic Park." Courtney L.
"This story has heart and soul in the midst of its rampaging terror." Bevi Debb
"His hero has the potential to be one of the most loved adventure icons, in the mould of Indiana Jones." A.K.S Ford
It is only when the bones of its prey are discovered in a remote Scottish glen that the majesty and power of one of nature’s most successful predators is truly revealed. As it strikes silently from the shadows and on nights shrouded in darkness, a small village falls under siege to a remarkable creature. For thousands of years mankind has had the upper hand but now – suddenly, violently, bloodily – the balance of power has shifted.
When an isolated wildlife research centre launches an investigation, it is soon discovered that something out of place has made the Highlands its home and set its sights on the quiet village of Cannich. It will hunt, it will kill and it won’t let anything get in its way. Thomas Walker, a renowned wildlife specialist and former big game hunter, finds himself confronted with his past and an animal the likes of which he had never wanted to face again. As its devastating rampage goes unchecked and threatens his home, the woman he loves and his very way of life, an older and much more human adversary seeks him out. How long will any of them survive the presence of the beast in their shadow?
There are nearly 2,000 reported sightings of what have become known as mystery big cats across the UK every year. Some, such as the beasts of Bodmin and Dartmoor have become infamous. Their origin and identity remain unknown. Shadow Beast, the new chiller from Luke Phillips, offers a terrifying and deadly explanation.
The creature was startled by the sound and movement that suddenly erupted around it. It roared in angry warning as the young animals bolted back towards the older females and the stone dwelling behind them. It pounced instinctively towards the movement in front of it, cuffing the small thing with a swipe of its paw.
Louise watched in horror as something from a nightmare played out before her. She watched as the gruesome, rippling shape sent little Aaron Meeks flying across the playground. He landed in a heap and did not move once he had crumpled to the floor. Before she had time to think, she found herself running, screaming as she streaked towards the boy. Crying out in terror as tears formed in her eyes, she gasped for air and checked Aaron for signs of life. He was still breathing but looked incredibly pale. She turned his head carefully and as she went to pick him up, felt the blood under his clothes. She glanced towards the open doors of the hall, but instinct spun her back round. She stopped dead as she came face to face with something monstrous, and stared into the green flashing eyes of the creature as it stepped towards her, its face distorting into an angry snarl.
Louise and the creature stared at each other. She felt rooted to the spot, as if she couldn’t move. Instinct tried to pull her away from the hypnotic gaze of the monster. Somewhere in her subconscious, genetic memory of something sinister stirred. It triggered her body, resuscitating movement to her limbs as she took a step backwards and glanced again at the doors behind. Mrs. Henderson ushered in the last of the children, sobbing as they went. She looked desperately towards Louise, but she too was frozen in fear. Louise looked back to the creature. It snarled. The implied menace was clear and guttural this time. It had not come across an open challenge to a meal before, and the snarl was meant as a warning. Louise instinctively knew this, and could see the creature’s intent in its eyes. It wasn’t going to let them leave the playground alive.
The Daughters of the Darkness
Beast Series Book 2
"We often look to escape the everyday by seeking out the dark places, where something monstrous waits in the void. Luke Phillips takes you there, where man is still well and truly on the menu." SHANNON LEGRO - INTO THE FRAY RADIO
1898, East Africa. The Tsavo man-eaters kill 130 people over the course of nine months. The unusually large, pale-coloured, and maneless male lions mark history in what became known as their reign of terror.
Now, history is repeating itself. A new pride of killers has arrived in Tsavo, staking out their own bloody legacy. One that includes the murdered wife of conservationist and former hunter Thomas Walker.
Torn between the newfound happiness he has discovered in the Highlands of Scotland with his new fiancée, and his loyalty to the man whose brother has been taken by the man-eaters, Thomas must face his past and creatures feared as myth by his friend and the people of Kenya.
Arriving in Africa, Thomas finds the situation worsening as a local arms dealer and war lord declares the ‘critters of the bush’ are under his command to drive those not loyal to him from the land. With all not as it seems, the odds are stacked against Thomas and the small band of friends trying to restore balance to the region and its wildlife.
“Where is it?” Thomas cried out to Keelson.
“Back in the brush, behind the car,” she yelled back. “It’s big.”
“They’re never small,” Thomas replied, but under his breath.
“What?” Catherine asked.
With a belching roar, the thickly knotted elephant grass to their right exploded in a blur of movement. A glancing blow was delivered to the rear end of the crippled Land Cruiser as the enormous animal turned and ran alongside the vehicle. Thomas marvelled at its size. Startled by the glare of the Big Cat’s spotlights, the bull hippopotamus trundled to a stop. Its broad muzzle and over developed jowl quivered as testosterone pumped through its veins. It half opened its mouth, a sign of uncertainty. This new intruder had caught it off guard. Thomas watched closely. If it opened its mouth fully towards them, it would be a sign of submission. Keelson was right though, it was big. Standing over five and a half feet at the shoulder and weighing what Thomas estimated to be 4,000 lbs, it was old too. He knew that male hippos never stopped growing, only reaching that kind of size after a long and successful life of dominating their patch of river. It was unusual for a male to be so territorial on land and at night, but perhaps his size gave him confidence. As if sensing Thomas’s line of thought, the big bull shot forward like a juggernaut, its head down and tilted towards the car. Thomas lifted his rifle and fired a shot into the air, which had the desired effect of deflecting its charge back into the long grass.
“A fine way to be welcomed,” mused Kelly as she began to climb down from the roof.
Before Thomas could warn her, the hippo appeared out of the gloom like a freight train emerging from a tunnel, thundering head on towards the Land Cruiser. Thomas raised his rifle again, but didn’t have time to put a bead on the bull before it smashed into the vehicle’s side. He watched in despair as Keelson lost her grip and was thrown several feet into the elephant grass. As she scrabbled to her feet, the hippo dashed left again with a shake of its head. As it passed, it hooked the bull bars of the crippled Toyota with its lower right tusk and ripped them away from the car with ease. Thomas heard it grating along the ground as the hippo plunged back into the grass.
“Behind us,” Catherine yelled as it appeared again, crossing the track before entering the thick scrub on the other side.
“It’s coming for you Kelly,” Thomas warned, raising his rifle.
He tried to follow the path of the bull, closing his eyes for a moment to allow his hearing to tune in to its grunts and the smashing of the brush as it bulldozed through. He raised the gun, only to pause as another sound distracted him. It was the scream of a high revving car engine making its way down the track at speed. As Thomas opened his eyes, he saw it had caught the attention of the bull as well. It swerved away from Keelson and into the path of the oncoming vehicle, its bright lights now visible through the swathes of elephant grass it was ploughing through. The driver was clearly coming straight for them, possibly after hearing the shot he’d fired, Thomas considered.
The bull was in full charge, and opened its mouth in a giant four-foot gape that revealed the pair of two-foot long, tusk-like canines in its lower jaw, as well as the enlarged, knife sized incisors above and below. The car kept coming though, altering its course to meet the hippo head on. Just at the last moment, the driver hit the brakes, slowing down but still sliding towards the bull over the long grass with the momentum. The hippo bellowed before it smashed into the front of the car, its teeth locking over the top and bottom of the impressive bull bars at the front of the vehicle. Now bathed in the dazzling light from the other car’s array, Thomas only saw a silhouette as it popped up over the roof line of the jeep, but he caught the glint of the heavy rifle the stranger carried. The hunter stood over the hippo, separated by only a few feet of twisting and grinding metal as the bull thrashed and bucked in a test of strength. A moment later, a flash and a roar erupted from the end of the barrel and the bull slumped to the floor. There was a sudden silence.
“And may the good Lord take a liking to you too,” said a voice with an Irish accent out of the dark.
Luke Phillips has always had an interest in natural history. Its hard to say when that interest began to include the myths and monsters that haunt our folklore, but it may well have been as a young boy, standing on the shores of Loch Ness.
From trekking through California looking for Bigfoot to camping out in the Highlands on the trail of real-life reported big cats, his imagination has always been captivated by the darker side of our unnatural history.
Despite studying zoology at university, Luke has strayed from the mainstream into the eerie world of cryptids and monsters. And the truth may well be stranger and far scarier than fiction!
His first book, Shadow Beast, was launched in 2015 and his second, The Daughters of the Darkness, was released in 2017.
Can you, for those who don’t know already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author
I live in the county of Kent, which is the South East corner of England and I have always had a fascination with wildlife. As a kid, I would be the veritable Gerald Durrell, often bringing home the things I found, much to the annoyance of my family, and especially my sisters. I actually wanted to be a vet, and ended up studying zoology at university. But, from an early age, my teachers had encouraged me to write – advice which I ignored. However, over the years, creative writing has crept into virtually every job I’ve ever held, to the point that I finally embraced it – better late than never. And now, wildlife – both real and mythical, now features heavily in my writing. So, I definitely think it was meant to be and I took the path I was always meant to!
What are you passionate about?
I’m really passionate about wildlife conservation and protecting our natural world. Many real-world issues, such as ecoterrorism and the illegal wildlife trade feature in my books, and I also try to make regular contributions to animal charities off of my sales.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I have a veritable need to be in nature. Hiking is a real escape for me. I have a connection to mountains and the ocean that is always pulling at me. I live in a lovely rural area where I can disappear up onto the local hills quite quickly and easily. Identifying birds, insects, and other wildlife whilst heading into the woods is a favourite pastime. I also love to wild swim.
The draw of a good book or five is hard for me to resist. I’ve very happy engrossed in a novel, but also read some incredible books in the name of research. And I enjoy cooking, as well as being a bit of a film fanatic!
Do you have a favourite movie?
Raiders of the Lost Ark is the standout for me. I can’t remember exactly how young I was, but it was young, when my mum came up to my bedroom and told me to come downstairs with her, and to bring my duvet. I dutifully obeyed, and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark for the very first time. I was transfixed. I think it is absolute classic story telling at its very best. And to this day, I always celebrate my birthday by watching Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Pale Rider is a close second, and another that I always tend to watch on my birthday!
Which of your novels can you imagine being made into a movie?
I think the second book, The Daughters of the Darkness, definitely has a blockbuster sort of feel about it. It has the exotic location of Africa, a great villain, a sidekick, and spectacular scenery, action sequences, and wildlife. I’ve always imagined Henry Cavill as potentially playing my main protagonist, Thomas Walker; Rebecca Ferguson as Catherine Walker, and Chris Hemsworth as Jericho O’Connell. They’ve all played complex characters with damaged pasts, and they would of course be on any author’s wish-list! I would love to see my work make it to the big screen. I’ve had lots of reviews from readers saying what great movies make, so hope spring’s eternal.
Interestingly enough though, with the first book, Shadow Beast, I always imagined this making a great autumnal TV mini-series. It has a noire feel, and the setting of the Scottish Highlands makes it perfect for snuggling up on the sofa to watch, within the safety and comfort of your own home. I remember when I was writing it, I cast it in my mind. Thomas was played by Hugh Dancy – who was playing Will Graham in Hannibal at the time, and I thought the aloofness, intelligence and baggage that character had lent itself to Thomas, as well as Dancy’s rugged, athletic look. Catherine I cast as Kara Tointon, who I’d seen in a number of theatre productions – Gaslight in particular, and in a little-known horror film, Last Passenger. She portrays strong, independent characters brilliantly and was a perfect fit for Catherine. For Fairbanks, my human villain, I have always wanted Tom Wilkinson – partly because he was excellent in The Ghost and the Darkness, which depicts some of the historical accounts of what my books are based on.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
In 2016, I visited Paris for the first time. I stayed in Montmartre, which has always been popular with artists and writers – and especially the Lost Generation; Hemingway, Fitzgerald and of course Gertrude Stein, who christened the band of disillusioned, American writers who set up in Paris after the Great War, and ushered in a new era of freedom of expression.
I read Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ which depicts his time in Paris with a mouth-watering focus on its culinary delights. I also visited the cafés, bars and restaurants they favoured, as well as the places they went to for solace – walks along the Seine and little cobbled backstreets. And, of course, no writer’s trip to Paris is complete without a visit to Shakespeare & Co, the famous bookstore, where I spent far too much money on special editions, exploring the maze of floors and shelves, and then dipping into them over coffee in their conveniently adjoining café!
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I guess if I don’t say a large black cat, people are going to think of me as a traitor! I certainly have an absolute fascination with big cats. I am in awe of their power and ability – the fact that they are unapologetically predatory in nature.
But, if we’re talking a daimon, in a ‘His Dark Materials’ kind of way, it would probably have to be an otter; they’re playful, inquisitive, intelligent, and have the most joyful personalities. My absolute favourite animals, and less likely to drag you off into the forest and eat you compared to a big black cat.
What inspired you to write this book?
I think like a lot of writers, it was simply a case of not being able to find the story I wanted to read. My head was full of these creatures, and every now and then a story pops up in the press about something being sighted, or a terrifying encounter that can’t be explained. So, one day, I just started writing. And now I hope I never stop.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I think one of the joys of being a self-published author is that I’m not bound by a specific genre or certain characters. In my head, and actually now mapped out on paper, I have a book universe. I’m currently working on book three in the series, and I introduce a new character who will be getting her own book, which I’m also working on. That will take me into real monster territory.
But, there’s also a science fiction story I really want to tell. And a children’s faerie story. I even have a crime thriller that I can’t seem to leave alone. Apart from book three in the Black Beast series, you can expect at least one more outing from Thomas and Catherine Walker after that, but from there, it gets interesting. The one thing I’m sure on is, the books will all exist in the same universe. My protagonist in the science fiction story will have gone to university with my protagonist from the Beast series. I am introducing elements of myths and the faerie realm into book three of the Beast series, which will set the foundation for the children’s story. There are some really exciting stories I’m hoping to tell over the next few years.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in the Beast series?
My protagonist in the Beast series is a former hunter and tracker turned conservationist named Thomas Walker. In his past, he was the star of a popular TV show called ‘Hunter Hunted’, which he presented alongside his wife, until she was tragically killed by a pride of man-eating lions. Following this, Thomas retreated to South America, where he waged an alcohol-fuelled, one-man war on big cats in general. It was only when a rancher/trapper based in Wyoming tracked him down and took him under his wing that he began the slow journey to healing and recovery. This journey eventually led him to his childhood home of Scotland, where he settled for a quiet life, until the events depicted in Shadow Beast challenged him to finally face his past.
Catherine Tyler is the head of a Wildlife Research Centre based in the Scottish Highlands. She is a former RSPCA specialist, who moved to Scotland following an affair with a colleague, and to start her own business, where she could choose the research and assignments taken on. She bought the old croft that she turned into a wildlife hospital and institute with money left to her when her father died. Her mother still lives in a nearby village.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I think that we have a fascination with the past, and especially the animals we’ve lost to time. It’s why books and films like Jurassic Park and King Kong have such long-standing appeal. But, I think the animals we’ve lost more recently are much more interesting, and just as terrifying. It’s also much more likely that they can be brought back. Cave lion specimens trapped in ice have been found very well preserved, as have mammoths. Their DNA is far more accessible, and they even have modern-day counterparts we can look to.
I spent some time at university investigating the reported sightings of big cats across the U.K, the likes of the Beast of Bodmin for instance. And although I was expecting to be able to dismiss the reports, I actually found there was significant evidence, and that many of the witnesses were very credible.
What was interesting, is the reported sightings don’t always match descriptions of known species perfectly, and there is a lot of speculation that there might be hybrids or unknown species of cats out there. These snippets combined with a writer’s imagination are really what got the seed planted.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
For a lot of the incidental characters, if I don’t have a name for them in mind, I often research the most common first and surnames in the country, county, or area that the story is based. I obviously keep the character’s ethnicity and background in mind too. But it often comes down to what I like the sound of and suits what I know of the character.
With Thomas and Catherine – I always had these in mind as names for children if I had any, and it sort of became kind of fitting in that they became the main characters for my first book. There were other influences – such as Pierce Brosnan’s character in the remake of the Thomas Crown Affair having some qualities that I liked and wanted. But, overall, I have a ‘feel’ for what I want before I get there, and have to try a few on for fit!
Tell us about your main characters – what makes them tick?
Thomas Walker is a little like a cross between James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, although perhaps a little more introverted than those characters. He likes to be challenged and pushed, but he does have limits – and he really only likes those challenges to come within his comfort zone.
He has a very close bond with his dog, a three-legged border collie named Meg. He is extremely passionate about conservation, and rewilding the British countryside with a balanced ecosystem.
Catherine Tyler is extremely passionate about protecting wildlife and bringing those who break wildlife laws and regulations to justice.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
It was a hard one. The first few suggestions were rejected by my editor, as she thought they gave too much away. It was actually by looking at the characteristics of how the stories of reported animals appeared in the press that helped in the end – they had a mythic quality of always seemingly disappearing back into the shadows. And, as it was never completely determined what they were, something generic like ‘beast’ seemed to fit – as well as suggesting a certain level of ferocity, power, and threat.
Who designed your book covers?
I am lucky to be friends with the brilliant husband and wife design team called Valle Walkley. They have designed book covers for some very high calibre clients, and I’m very pleased to say they have designed all of mine to date.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think the BLM movement has really brought the conversation about white privilege to the fore, and I think I would want to look at my characters anew with this lens applied. There is an element of the ‘great white hunter’ that I definitely wanted to avoid, and I deliberately included real-life issues such as Kenya’s unstable political theatre, terrorism, and drug trade. I didn’t want to shy away from these topics, or that there is significant racial unrest in Kenya, but I also wanted to show that there are thriving black businesses involved in ecotourism, extremely well-educated black people in government, and very motivated and engaged communities throughout the country. I hope I’ve succeeded, but it’s something I’m very conscious about being unable to truly appreciate simply because of my own ethnicity and status as a result.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I wasn’t aware of how deeply impacted by terrorism Kenya has been, nor quite how significant the illegal wildlife trade was in funding it. It became a key part of the story for me.
What is your favourite part of this book and why?
From the beginning, it was important for me to be able to tell party of the story from the animal’s point of view. This goes back to favourite books from my childhood, like Watership Down. But, it was also going to be vital to show that this animal experienced emotion, and reacted to its environment and pressure upon it – in line with scientific research that supports this. I’m very glad that in both books, the animal POV is expressed clearly, and many readers have said it’s a favourite part of the story telling.
If you could spend time with a character from your book, whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
That’s a hard one, as they all have different virtues! I think in terms of just spending time with someone to enjoy their company, it would have to be Catherine Tyler. She’s kind, she loves animals, she’s definitely a dog person, and she’s funny. Maybe we could go on a hike together, or even a forest run. Thomas Walker is a little too sure of himself for me to want to really spend time with one to one, but I’d like to watch the Hunter/Hunted TV series he was in.
And, I’d definitely go drinking with Jericho O’Connell from the Daughters of the Darkness. He is pure alpha, in a cigar chomping, whiskey swilling, punch first ask questions later kind of way. It would not be a dull night.
Are your characters based off real people, or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
The characters are definitely based in my imagination, but life imitates art and vice versa. There are certainly elements of real people, or things I’ve observed in real people in my characters. For instance, Catherine Tyler, who plays the love interest to my main protagonist would definitely find a few things in common with a former partner or two. And, sometimes, real-world scenarios are difficult to ignore; I can neither confirm nor deny that the big game hunting Texan cheerleader from The Daughters of the Darkness has a real-life counterpart for instance.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel like you have the reigns? Convince us why you feel your book is a must read!
They do occasionally hijack the story, but that’s only because of how well I have gotten to know them as the story develops. Sometimes, what I’ve written in the outline might not practically work – or perhaps they wouldn’t do a certain thing, or say a certain phrase. It’s one of the reasons I strongly believe in having highly detailed character profiles before starting on a story.
The book is a must read because you’ll not read anything else like it. The years of zoological knowledge I’ve accumulated in my training and research means this is a monster story with a difference, because reality might just not be too far behind. Plus, it simply isn’t defined by a single genre. There’s a little bit of romance, more than a dash of horror, and certainly plenty from the chiller cabinet.
Is there a writer, whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who, if so, and why?
Stephen King. I find his ability to develop characters mesmerising, and his story-telling ability is simply in a class of its own. He is a master of his art; there is something that captures the familiarity of scary hand-me-down tales told around a fire and blends them with an ever-expanding universe filled with new direction and ideas.
What are your top ten favourite books/authors?
These are in no particular order, but;
The Beast in the Garden, by David Baron. A non-fiction book about the return of the mountain lion to Colorado in the early 90s, and how its mismanagement resulted in the first human fatality attributed to a cougar in over a century. It is expert journalistic writing that reads like a whodunnit.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Basically, comfort food in book form for me.
Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.
The Food of Love by Anthony Capella. I read this whilst travelling through Puglia, Italy. Incredible book.
Hunting Evil by Chris Carter.
Sahara by Clive Cussler.
Along Came a Spider by James Patterson.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.
Tripwire by Lee Child.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I think research is absolutely vital to getting the foundations of a book right. In my books, I have to know the fauna and flora of the landscape especially, as so much happens out in the wild in my books – it really plays a part. Readers have said they feel like they are stepping into the landscape, and that’s really important, as they need to buy into the story as being believable, so they can picture it.
Things like ethnicity, politics, and current affairs all need to be taken into consideration when your book is based in real geographical locations. My animals also have to react realistically to that environment, as do my characters. And as one of my characters is a skilled hunter and tracker, I need to have a very well-grounded understanding of those basics, or those in the know will quickly point my mistakes out. I’ve even consulted doctors and brought them in to fact-check how the creature’s human victims succumb to their wounds, and how the body should and would react.
Do you see writing as a career?
I think writing is actually more of a calling. It has crept into every part of my career to date, and the dream of course is to make it my full-time job. But I started doing it when I made no money from it, and I think, even if I was just writing stories for myself, I’d still do it if I couldn’t make money from it ever again.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
I think traditional publishing is now in a situation where it is almost talking itself out of a future role in the industry. The book “business” relies so heavily on huge promotional advertising, events, and publicity, that only the sure-fire hits from big hitters are really making it through. In the meantime, self-publishing is enabling many excellent writers to get noticed by new audiences.
That said, self-publishing does also weaken the publishing market, as it also exposes books of poor quality – in terms of both production and content, to be exposed to those same audiences, impacting their perception of self-publishing and independent authors. Self-publishing is perfectly viable for any writer, and has and was adopted by many of the greats (such as Stephen King), but the same discipline and attention to detail must be practiced to get the best results. That means professional design and editing.
And, ideally, self-publishing platforms need to pay their authors more fairly and consistently than they currently do, but again, the popularity of these platforms and the quality of some of the content going through them does also affect this.
Do you write one book at a time, or do you have several going at a time?
I usually write one book at a time, as I feel this allows me to really become enveloped in that world, so that I can be aware of the changes that I need to make – what feels right and what doesn’t fit etc. I basically need to have tunnel vision, or I run the risk of being distracted, or missing smaller details if I spread myself too thinly on other projects.
However, currently, I am working on two books side by side! This is because I introduce a new character in book three of the Beast series who gets her own spin-off book, which I would like to come out very quickly after – and again, I need to make sure the foundations I am laying marry up with the later story.
Pen, typewriter, or computer?
I have a little ritual, where I always carry a notebook with me to restaurants, cafés, etc. And I always write my first few pages longhand, in ink, to make sure I have a feel for them and I have the interest to take them further. But after that, it’s over to the computer.
That said, I would love the romanticism of sitting down to a typewriter. There is something about the noise and old-fashioned style that I really like. And, just like writing by hand, mistakes aren’t easily or invisibly erased, so I kind of think it makes you pay more attention to what you’re writing – taking more care and being more thoughtful as a result.
Tell us about a favourite character from a book.
I have always liked the Dirk Pitt character from Clive Cussler’s adventure series. He is a classic action hero, who has never really been given justice on the big screen. The stories are fantastic, and full of action. There is definitely an element of Dirk Pitt in my own protagonist, Thomas Walker – although I hope he is far less chauvinistic, and a little more of a modern man. But he does like his cars and his toys in the same way, and has some of his cool confidence too. Not a bad thing!
Describe your writing style.
Cinematic. I like to describe scenery in detail, and there are lots of action set pieces linked by the drama.
Do you try to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Whereas you never want to really disappoint readers, I don’t think it’s wise to try and pander to them or to try and write to market as such. Ideally, a writer needs to write the story they want to tell. That doesn’t mean they have to be deliberately abstract. Just themselves. I write the stories that my mind can’t let go of, and that I ideally want to find out what happens in the end!
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Basically, not getting it right. As a man, I will undoubtedly have assumptions and misconceptions about how a woman is impacted about the scenarios and situations I put them in. I may say something offensive, or just incorrect. I will literally never know what it’s like to be a woman, so, if I get things wrong, it’s very arrogant. That’s where my beta readers come in. At least one of my male characters is quite misogynistic, deliberately – so I always have a lot of women, and especially one feminist friend, challenge me on where the line is and what’s okay for me to say and do on behalf of my female characters.
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
On average, it takes me two years to write a book. But the ideal is for it to become my main work and vocation, which means I’d be able to write one book a year.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I think it’s easy to be distracted. It’s easy to get lost, but to be actually blocked is quite a serious thing. It’s certainly possible to be creatively blocked, which always has psychological roots. We don’t believe in ourselves, or we weren’t believed in by others usually, which stunts our creative growth and makes us doubt our abilities and potential. But this usually happens when we are starting out.
Writing is a muscle that needs to be exercised. So, even if it’s garbage, a writer needs to write. There’s no point waiting around for inspiration. Stephen King said, “amateurs wait around for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work”. You have to be pragmatic about it. Go to work. Write nonsense. Write something terrible. As Ernest Hemingway said, “the first draft of anything is shit”, and it really is. Whatever it is, just write. Being blocked is often a subconscious act of will. We think we have to write our chapters in order. Or stay on that project. We don’t. We just have to write – be it a poem, or a journal entry. That way, sooner or later, the words will come.
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