The most interesting work I was coming across was all indie published, and I liked the idea of having complete control, both artistically, and in terms of the business aspects. Of course, at that stage, I had no idea how much work was involved!
Paul Fairbairn – 18 April 2017
The Back Cover
Death is just the beginning…
Jim seeks redemption. Kate seeks answers. Science and the supernatural collide when fate brings them together. But sinister forces want Kate back…before her horrifying secret is revealed.
Ex-doctor Jim Carter almost kills Kate Marlowe in a shocking accident, but he’s drawn to her immediately. Is it because she reminds him of his long-lost daughter? Or is it because she claims to be in terrible danger?
Kate’s past is almost as mysterious to her as it is to Jim, but that doesn’t stop it from catching up with her, and when it does, it throws both of their lives into terrifying turmoil. There are immensely powerful forces at work who want her back – at any cost.
In this compelling thriller, Jim and Kate are pursued across Europe by a relentless and merciless hunter. Before this desperate chase is over, they must finally face the past, and come to terms with life and death, with love and loss.
And with Kate’s horrifying secret.
About the book
What is the book about?
Dark Places is a thriller, but it’s heart lies in darker territories.
I guess it’s about loss, ultimately. The three protagonists – Jim and Kate, and the bad guy, Renfield – have all lost something, and the book is about their quest to try and regain these things, if they can. There’s a mystery at its core, which I don’t want to get into in case it spoils the story. Most readers don’t seem to see it coming, so I won’t let the cat out of the bag!
When did you start writing the book?
I actually wrote a first draft of this 16 or 17 years ago, but, back then, I had a day-job that involved a lot of travelling and pressure, and I just kind of put it away. I rediscovered it last year, and when I read it, it wasn’t terrible, so I decided to have another crack at it!
How long did it take you to write it?
The original draft probably took about six months of weekends and evenings. I revised (or should that be rewrote?) it in about six weeks.
Where did you get the idea from?
People often ask where my ideas come from (especially the really weird ideas), but most of the time, I can’t even remember. For Dark Places, I started with the opening scene, which just appeared in my mind unbidden – I had this notion of a girl jumping out in front of my car on a dark country road (there are a lot of dark country roads where I live), so I just wrote that down. Where the rest of it came from, I have no idea, but I do remember thinking that it would be nice to approach a well-worn genre trope from a completely new angle.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
One thing that did cause me a few problems were the situations that Jim and Kate kept ending up in. The three protagonists really came to life for me, and they were constantly doing things that I wasn’t expecting and weren’t in the plan. And, on occasion, I struggled to extricate them from some scrape that they’d gotten themselves into without asking me about first!
What came easily?
Because the characters were so fully realized in my mind, I found that writing the dialogue was very easy. It was almost as if I wasn’t writing it at all, but merely listening and transcribing it. It’s a weird thing to try and describe, and people look at you in a certain way when you do, but I think other writers might get what I mean!
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
They’re entirely fictional, just in case any libel lawyers are listening! Actually, that’s not true, because Jim Carter is probably a lot like me – I think I’d be as hopeless in an action-packed crisis as he is!
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Oh, there are just so many! I often find that I’m most influenced by whoever I’ve just read, but, obviously there are some writers who really have shaped the kind of writer I’ve become. Clive Barker, for one, especially the Books of Blood; I’d never read anything like that at the time (actually, I don’t think anybody had!), and it made me realize that ‘dark’ fiction could be extreme and literary all at the same time. The biggest stylistic influences on me have come from Ramsey Campbell. I don’t think he’s written a bad sentence in his life, and his prose is just so perfect, it’s like an immaculately-cut diamond. He makes the rest of us look like we’re scratching words on a wall with a bit of broken charcoal.
Do you have a target reader?
Yes – myself! I try to write the kind of stories that I enjoy reading. I’m a pretty ordinary kind of guy, so if I like them, maybe other ordinary folk will like them too!
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I do my best work in the morning, so I like to start early. I don’t function without regular infusions of tea, so that’s the priority, and then I just get straight into it. My office overlooks the forest behind our house, so I’m constantly distracted by the view, but when I’m writing, I try to finish in the middle of something interesting or exciting (in the middle of a sentence sometimes) so that when I start the next day, I find it easier to get going. I’ll write until lunchtime, and then break for an hour or so. I usually write for a couple of hours in the afternoon, but my mind’s generally starting to wander by then, so I don’t do a lot after 3pm unless I’ve got a deadline. Oh, and I always leave my phone out of reach. Because, as all writers know, it’s impossible to write anything without watching cats falling off tables on YouTube instead.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
If outlining was an Olympic sport, I’d have a medal by now. I produce what I call a ‘plan’ which is basically a scene by scene outline, each scene numbered, and all written in the present tense. This will typically run to 20,000 words, so I guess it’s really a first draft, even if I don’t think of it as such. Because it’s a collection of discrete scenes, I find it easy to move them around, or add/delete them. And because it’s (relatively) short, I find I can get a better overview of the story. I usually produce a much shorter version after this ‘plan’, where I boil each scene down to a sentence or two, and that lets me get a feel for pacing and structure. I only start actually writing the thing properly when I’ve done that, and I use the ‘plan’ as a blueprint. Of course, I still sometimes deviate and have to start all over again!
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
Nope, no editing allowed until I’m finished. I find that editing kills any kind of creativity – I end up too preoccupied with getting every little thing just right, and the story doesn’t flow as it should. So, I just write very fluidly, ignoring typos and inconsistencies and spelling and grammar. I can fix all of that later. When I’ve finished, I’ll put it away for as long as I can bear before looking at it again. The idea is to try and see it as a stranger might.
Did you hire a professional editor?
I used to use a professional editor, but I am a professional editor myself these days! However, I do hire a proofreader to go through for typos and the like. It doesn’t matter how OCD you are, you always miss a few if you try to do it yourself!
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
I do – I couldn’t do anything in silence! I’m a guitarist, so I love guitar music, but my tastes are pretty wide-ranging. I like trying to play music that matches the mood of what I’m trying to write. For example, there’s a chase scene near the end of Dark Places, and I remember playing Race With the Devil on a Spanish Highway by Al Di Meola while I was writing that – it’s fast, frantic and a little bit unsettling, and it was just right for that scene! I’m sure others would find my music hopelessly distracting, but for me it gets me in the right mindset.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I submitted Dark Places to just one agent, who I won’t name. It did get a ‘rave rejection’, but their list was pretty full, and they weren’t prepared to take a chance on an unknown. In the end, I didn’t pursue it further, because I’d been thinking about self-publishing anyway.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
I don’t think there was any particular event. It seemed to me that ‘trad’ publishing was a long way from where I was – the kind of stuff I was interested in writing (and reading) just wasn’t being published any more by the big houses. I mean, even Ramsey Campbell seemed to be struggling to get a deal! The most interesting work I was coming across was all indie published, and I liked the idea of having complete control, both artistically, and in terms of the business aspects. Of course, at that stage, I had no idea how much work was involved!
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
I did have a little bit of design training years ago, so I did Dark Places myself, but I’m intending to hire a pro designer for the future. If you’re not using Photoshop every day, it can be pretty bewildering at times!
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
Haha! I don’t think ‘winging it’ quite covers it! I have no clue what I’m doing with marketing, and self-promotion really isn’t natural to me. It’s by far the hardest part of the whole process, as far as I’m concerned.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
I’d just say, be aware that actually writing your book is probably only about 40% of the work involved. If you’re going indie, not only are you the author, you’re the publisher, and the marketing department, and the art director (and possibly artist and graphic designer too); you’re the sales team, and the PR manager, the finance director and accountant, the advertising agency and the editorial department. You’re probably also the receptionist, cleaner and intern that makes the coffee too. In other words, don’t think it’s the easy option!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the north east of England, not far from Durham.
Where do you live now?
After various spells of living all over the place, I’m back where I was born, probably no more than five or six miles away from where I grew up. The circle of life, eh?!
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’d like readers to know that I’m an International Man of Mystery. No wait. That’s Austin Powers. Me, I’m just an ordinary guy. 😊
End of Interview.