Hello folks, it’s been a while, a nightmare run of seven night shifts in a row and a laptop exploding have seen my blog a bit neglected, but never fear I’m back. Today I would like to present to you an interview with UK author Thomas Emson.
AND BE SURE TO READ THROUGH THE INTERVIEW CAREFULLY, THERE IS A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF THOMAS’S NEW BOOK PARIAH AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW
Thomas was born in Bangor, Wales, in 1966, and raised on Anglesey, the island at the northern tip of Wales.
It was Stephen King’s vampire novel Salem’s Lot that fired his ambition to be a writer.
He was a journalist for more than 20 years, working for local, regional, and national papers as a reporter, sub-editor, design editor, sports editor, night editor, and deputy editor. His first novel, a Welsh-language vampire story, was published in 1996. He’s had three novels, two collections of stories, and two non-fiction books published in Welsh. He is also an award-winning playwright.
GNOH – Hi Thomas, how are things with you?
Things are very well and very busy, thank you.
GNOH – Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Wales but now I live in England. For twenty years I was a journalist, and then I stopped being a journalist and became a writer. While I was a journalist I did some writing. Now that I’m a writer, I still do some journalism. I write horror thrillers. I’ve had seven published since 2008, and I’m writing another right now. I am married to a wonderful woman and we have a dog and two rabbits.
GNOH – You live in Kent under an assumed name, is there a reason foe this, you’re not on the run from the law for a crime you did not commit, looking for that one armed man?
I don’t actually live in Kent under an assumed name, I live in Kent under my real name. My assumed name is used for publishing purposes only. It’s a fine old tradition in literature to have a pseudonym. As far as I know, I have committed no crimes and I have both my arms, fortunately.
GNOH – Can you remember what first inspired you to put pen to paper?
Comics. I read them as a boy – Tiger and Scorcher, Roy of the Rovers, Action – and I wanted to copy them. So I created my own comic strips. That got me started. Now that I am grown-up, I would actually like to write for comics properly.
GNOH – So other than King, who else do you admire in the horror field?
I think reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot actually made me think, “I want to be a writer.” In fact, I am certain of it. However, I’ve not read much of him in the past twenty years. Now I admire his discipline, his productivity, and his determination more than anything. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were a huge influence. I don’t really read horror these days. I would say that thrillers and suspense novels tend to influence my writing these days. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that my novels are suspense in genre but horror in character.
GNOH – How would you describe your writing style, are you happy with being called a horror writer?
I try to write lean, mean prose. I get straight into the action, and get out when things start to get hot. I try to write books that are referred to as “page-turners”. My primary goal is to entertain readers. Secondary motives include scaring and disturbing them. I suppose people will say I am a horror writer because I write what is classified as horror, and that’s OK with me.
GNOH – What do you find appealing about horror?
Nothing’s real and you can make it all up. That’s fun. And I think we like being scared. It triggers an adrenaline rush. Our brains must not know what’s going on, and reacts to these words (and images, if you’re watching a film) without actually knowing what they are. I read about research done in Canada recently that showed if you listen to music while exercising with weights you’ll lift more. They tested people of a leg press machine. Those who listened to loud music managed, I think, four more reps than those who didn’t listen to music. The reason for this is that the brain doesn’t know the boom-boom-boom is just music – it perceives it as a threat. So it releases adrenaline, which then floods the muscles with glycogen, enabling us to lift more weight – or run away from the sabre tooth. It must be the same with horror. Our poor brain has no idea what’s going on and is in a constant state of panic.
GNOH – I see you are an award winning playwright, how many plays have you written and for which one did you win the award for?
I’ve written about four or five plays. I’ve won the same award twice. It was at a cultural festival in Wales. I am very lucky to be bilingual. In fact, two-thirds of the world is bilingual. It’s a neat skill to have. I write my plays in Welsh. I’ve written for the stage and for radio.
GNOH – How does writing a play compare with writing a novel? Do you think writing a play helps with the structuring of a novel and vice versa?
My plays are very different to my novels. They are more serious. More theatrical. More challenging. I don’t want to write about the same things all the time. And I don’t want to write in the same style, either. In terms of structure, your basic three-acts are the foundation of all dramatic work. If you don’t like the word “act”, think in terms of beginning, middle, and end. It’s the same for books, plays, and films, the same for everything. Now if you like you can break up that beginning, middle, and end into however many acts or sequences you like, but fundamentally, the same structure remains.
GNOH – Can you tell us about the genesis of Maneater?
I started playing with the idea of a werewolf novel set in the north-east of England when I lived in Newcastle in the late 1990s. I wrote a draft, which I sadly don’t have anymore, which was nothing like the finished novel. I scrapped it and started again. I’d pretty much finished a rough draft when I left Newcastle in 2001. But I put it on the back-burner for a few years. Then, in 2006, I decided to give up full-time work as a journalist and try to focus on writing. I excavated Maneater and went about finding a publisher. After scouring bookshops, I discovered that Snowbooks published horror. I honed and toned the first 10,000 words of Maneater, and sent it to them.
GNOH – How many drafts did you go through before submitting it to publishers?
Three or four, I think. Maybe five with tweaks.
GNOH – How quickly was it snatched up? And what was it about the novel that Snowbooks liked?
In about three hours. I sent those first 10,000 words on email at about 1pm on a Saturday, I think it was, and at just after 4pm I got an email back from Snowbooks saying they wanted to see the rest of it. They said it was just the type of thing they wanted to publish.
GNOH – How well has Maneater been received?
I think Maneater and Skarlet, my first two books, have been the most well received out of those I have had published. Maneater, particularly, went down very well. I think some readers felt it was an antidote to the werewolf-living-among-us-as-detective/private investigator/journalist type of thing, where they use their powers to help humanity. The same goes for Skarlet, for sure. “Twilight it ain’t,” as one reviewer put it.
GNOH – You never meant to write a sequel to Maneater, so what made you decide to write Prey?
The publisher asked, “Are you going to write a sequel?” I’d honestly not considered it. I guess their query triggered something in my imagination.
GNOH – Was it easy going back to a world that you had thought was closed off?
Not very easy. I had to go through Maneater to remember details about the characters – eye colour, ages, that kind of thing. I now wish I kept files on all my characters. But I don’t. So I just have to get on with it.
GNOH – So will there be a sequel to Prey?
I’m coming to the end of my contract with Snowbooks. A Prey sequel is not part of the deal I had with them. But who knows. I’ve not an idea that might make a novel, but would certainly make a story.
GNOH – You kept a worksheet that tallied up the number of words written each day when writing Prey, is this something you do for all of your novels? Is there a reason for doing it? Does it help you keep to a deadline?
Because I write two novels a year, I have to be quite disciplined. I need to hit targets, so I set myself a goal of between 8,000-10,000 words a week. If I hit that, I’ll have a first draft in 10-12 weeks. The worksheet is all about staying on track and knowing where I am. If I didn’t have one, I’d be all over the place.
GNOH – How do you go about writing? Do you have set times where you lock yourself away from the world?
As I say, I have a weekly word target. If I miss a day’s writing, I don’t beat myself up about it. I have seven days in which to hit that target, and if it takes me seven, so be it, but if I do it in four, all the better – the other three days are usually free. I don’t lock myself away at all. My wife and I share a study. As a journalist I’m used to working among other people, so having someone else in the room is not an issue for me. I can work pretty much anywhere. I wrote most of Zombie Britannica in the garden. It’s far too easy to make excuses for not writing, which is why many would-be writers never finish their first novel. Treat it like a job. Go to it ruthlessly. Get in, get it done, get out. That’s what I say.
GNOH – You are also in the process of writing your Vampire Trinity series the first two parts Skarlet and Krimson have been published how well has this series been received?
Skarlet was well received. As with Maneater, I think it’s an antidote to the “nice vampire living among us” stories. The vampire suffering teenage angst. Krimson has had a decent reception, but it’s always difficult with the middle part of any story, I think.
GNOH – What type of vampires inhabit the pages of your novels?
They are ruthless killers. Their instinct is to kill. They don’t feel hate or love or jealousy. They are driven by one instinct: to feed. All the humanity has been stripped away when they become vampires, so there is no altruism, no shared purpose.
GNOH – Have you tried to give your vampires a different spin?
Well, they don’t worry if you wave a crucifix in your face. That comes from the mythology being Western/Christian in origin. Neither do they baulk at garlic.
GNOH – What’s your take on the watering down of a great monster?
I think it is part of the relativism that is prevalent these days, the idea that morality is subjective, that everyone has the right to their own truth. Although I think the term has been hijacked by the Press, it is political correctness, I think. I don’t knock the success – good on them; I admire all writers – but I don’t get vegetarian vampires. Horror has been cleansed. It has been taken from the grown-ups and handed over to the adolescent. And in the passing, it has been stripped of its menace.
GNOH – When can we expect the final part of the series?
Jake Lawton [the hero of Skarlet and Krimson] has really been a hit, with both Skarlet and Krimson, so the challenge in Kardinal is to make sure he is still interesting. He’s going through a few dramatic physical changes, and acquires a very unusual ally, who made an appearance in Krimson.
GNOH – Who would you say is the target audience of for your writing? I ask this because I’ve seen you books in nearly every bookshop I’ve been in, but the covers, especially Maneater and Krimson, and they don’t have a typical horror feel to them. Was this a deliberate design?
Snowbooks designed the covers. I don’t think there was an attempt to make them feel non-horror. I actually think they do feel “horrory”, particularly Skarlet and Krimson. I am glad you’ve seen my books around – that’s very pleasing. I’d say my books are targeted at anyone who likes a good yarn, with a bit of nastiness thrown in. They are page-turners. They are action-packed. I am not ashamed to say, they are beach reads, airport books. I’m proud of that.
GNOH – Your latest release is Pandemonium Road, where a car thief steals a car with the souls of thirteen people hidden in the boot. Sounds like a fun read. Just one question, I would have thought the devil would have had better security?
You would have thought so, but with humans doing the security, things can always go wrong.
GNOH – Pariah is your upcoming release from Snowbooks, can you tell us what it is about?
It’s my twist on the Jack the Ripper story. It is set in the East End of London. I’ve created a mythology surrounding the killings. Obviously there’s a supernatural twist to it. And it’s about who he really was and why he was doing what he was doing.
GNOH – What do you think is the almost eternal appeal of Jack the Ripper?
That he was never caught or identified.
GNOH – Who do you think he was?
No idea. I’m not a Ripperologist at all.
GNOH – I see you subscribe to Graham Masterton’s theory that horror novels should be grounded in reality by having them set in real places. Does this not make your work harder in terms of research?
The research isn’t that difficult. Most of my novels have a British setting, which I either know quite well or I know someone who knows – or I know Google knows. Research is much easier these days. You really don’t have to leave your laptop.
GNOH – Have you ever had a letter along the lines of, “if they took Albion Road South, they would have ended up in Knightsbridge, not Soho? (And before anyone says, yes I clearly don’t know where Albion Road would take me.)
Not yet. But I still make things up. If a street were in the wrong place for my plot, well, I’d move it. There’s still an element of make-believe. After all, it is fiction not fact.
GNOH – All of your books have been published by Snowbooks, it must be a great feeling having a publisher you are comfortable with?
It’s good to know that when you write something, it is going to get published. I have a very nice relationship with them.
GNOH – So what does the future hold for you, are there any tidbits you can feed us?
After my contract with Snowbooks is done next year, I might take a break from books. I want to write screenplays. I have a lot of pitches lined up that I will grow into full-length scripts. I also want to write more plays for radio. The medium really interests me. It’s fascinating. With regards books, I think I may give horror a break for a little bit, and maybe write a thriller – I do love a good thriller. But I’m sure I will return to the horror genre. It’s such a lot of fun.
GNOH – Thank you so much Thomas for taking the time to pop in for a chat.
You can purchase Thomas’s books at all good high street book stores as well as from all the usual on line sources.
Click the link below for Thomas’s Amazon Page
FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF PARIAH JUST ANSWER THIS SIMPLE QUESTION
WWHICH SERIAL KILLER IS FEATURED IN PARIAH
A) JACK DUCKWORTH
B) JACK SPARROW
C) JACK THE RIPPER
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