Killing a work colleague

Autumn: Purification (Thomas Dunne Books, 2011)A clickbait post title if ever there was one, but there’s a genuine point to this so bear with me. It begins many years ago, when I worked as a manager in a processing centre for a bank, looking after around 100 staff as we wound our centre down to a close. The work we did was being farmed out to newly opened sites overseas, where it could be done at a fraction of the cost, leaving my team and I redundant. I’m glad it happened, all things considered, because leaving the bank gave me a chance to take Infected Books to the next level and turn my part-time writing hobby into a full-time career.

But that’s not what this post is about. I was working on AUTUMN: PURIFICATION at the time, and having to deal with the redeployment of so many people in the real world brought unexpected benefits to my writing. I was able to release my stresses on the page (ever wondered where the inspiration for Samurai sword-wielding Harry Stayt came from?), and if I found myself becoming frustrated by my bosses, members of my team, or other people I was having to deal with at the time, I’d often picture them as a zombie and give them a particularly gruesome death in the book (without mentioning any names, of course, as I’d already got enough to deal with without being sued by anyone who took objection).

My new book which came out last week, ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING, has again reminded me of the usefulness of creating characters based on facets of people you know or who you’ve had interactions with. I find that it really helps keep them grounded and real, and if the characters in a horror novel are believable, it can add an enormous amount of weight to the emotion and impact of the vile situations you drop them into.

At the weekend I went away with my wife, and on the way home we stopped at Crosby Beach near Liverpool where Antony Gormley’s spectacular ANOTHER PLACE is installed. If you’ve not come across it before, it’s a series of 100 cast iron figures placed facing out to sea across a 2 mile stretch of beach. We visited on an ice-cold, exceptionally windy day, and that added to the impact of the sculpture. There’s something really affecting about seeing so many motionless (and emotionless) figures being buffeted and beaten by the waves. It felt quite dystopian, and the picture I took which I’ve posted here reminded me both of Danny McCoyne in THEM OR US, and Matthew Dunne at the beginning of ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING. These characters are the intentional antithesis of each other, and both play pivotal roles in their respective trilogies as you’ll discover as the new series progresses.

When I was at a particularly low ebb a few years ago and my creative spark had been snuffed out, my wise wife said to me ‘how can you write about people anymore when you don’t know any?’. She was right, of course. I’d become a bit of a recluse, and my writing had suffered. I went back to work in an office, intending to stay there for a few months, and I’m still there after more than 3 years (and just by way of an aside, I now manage a team doing pretty much exactly the job I had Danny McCoyne doing in HATER all those years ago!). Though I have less time to write, the writing I produce is far, far better now that I’m mixing with other people on a daily basis again, and dealing with all the emotions of those interactions, both positive and negative. For me, the benefits of having a completely separate day job are clear, and right now it’s something I wouldn’t want to be without.

And that’s the reason for this post, I guess. ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING has been my first major release for some time, and it’s the first novel in which I’ve used characters inspired by the people I’ve recently worked with. Being around such a wide range of people while I’ve been writing the new HATER novels has been bizarrely therapeutic. I don’t really advocate killing your work colleagues, but do take inspiration from them. If you’re anything like me, it’ll help you in both your writing and non-writing careers. It’ll improve the quality of your characters, and it’ll help you get through those challenging business meetings as you imagine the horrific ending you’re going to give to the person currently giving you an ear-bending…

So thanks to the real Ronan Heggarty and Paul O’Keefe, for the inspiration they’ve both unwittingly provided. You don’t know who you are, but I do!

Feeling Genuinely Uneasy

Honest post time… I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so nervous for the release of a new book before. ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING hits the shelves in less than a week and I really don’t know what the reaction’s going to be like. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled with how the book’s turned out, but there’s a lot riding on this. It’s my first major release for a while, and after a few tricky years where writing and I didn’t get on too well, I’m back and I’m nervous to learn if/where I now fit in the modern horror landscape.

ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING is a very different book to HATER, and I worry that people will pick up the new novel expecting more of the same. If you do, you might be disappointed. The original three books exclusively told Danny McCoyne’s story while the new trilogy has a different focus entirely, much wider. I’m also mindful that this is the beginning of a trilogy, and whilst I already know how it’s all going to fit together and who’s going to survive, and where we’ll be jumping in and out of the events of the earlier books, you lot don’t. Perhaps it’s just the self-imposed pressure of following up my most successful novel that’s making me feel so uneasy?

I should shut up and stop writing this post. It’s probably just writer’s paranoia kicking in again. I’m sure any of you who write will have experienced something similar. When you’re planning a book, before you make even a single mark on the very first page, you’re certain it’s going to be the best thing ever. You then go through every kind of emotional up and down imaginable as you’re actually writing the damn thing, and you often end the job with a very real, but also temporary, sense of victory and validation. As you prepare to release your precious creation into the wild, doubt sets in again. You start convincing yourself (well I do, anyway) that no one’s going to buy it and read it, and the merest negative comment in a review hurts like a dagger to the heart whereas glowing praise is hard to accept and believe.

So I just want to say thank you to Peter Wolverton and all at St Martin’s Press for taking a chance on another HATER series, and thanks also to those of you who are planning on picking up the book (or have already). Despite everything I’ve said here, I genuinely can’t wait to be able to talk about ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING with you once you’ve read it. Until then, I’ll be sitting in front of my computer screen obsessing over sales ranks and combing the internet for feedback and reviews. I will actually do some work as well, because I’m almost finished with book two, and it’s been an absolute blast diving back into the deadly, grimy, trouble- and violence-filled world of the DOG BLOOD era. Did I tell you that the second book has been renamed? The new title perfectly sums up both the setting and the emotion of the book: ALL ROADS END HERE.

Hater books 4, 5 and 6

Over the weekend I shared this image to help promote the new issue of SCREAM MAGAZINE. It’s generated a fair few comments on Facebook and Twitter about the new HATER books, so I wanted to give you a very quick update/ explanation.

There are three new books coming in the HATER series: ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING (out later this year), THE OTHER HALF (which I’m currently writing), and THE LAST SUMMER.

This is NOT a continuation of Danny McCoyne’s story from the first three books, nor is it a reboot of the series (how I hate that expression). It’s actually a combination of both. The first book details the outbreak of the HATER epidemic (for want of a better word) from a different point of view to the original novel. The second book takes place alongside the events of DOG BLOOD, so you’ll encounter a few familiar faces and places but, again, they’ll be shown in a different light. Chronologically, book three takes place between DOG BLOOD and THEM OR US and fills in a few blanks I deliberately left vague first time around. Our guide through the apocalypse this time around is a gentleman by the name of Matthew Dunne who is a… no, I’m not going to tell you any more just yet.

Though ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING currently has a release date of 15 August pencilled in, this may change. I’ll let you know more when I do. In the meantime, here’s the back cover blurb…

Fifteen people are trapped on Skek, a barren island in the middle of the North Sea somewhere between the coasts of the UK and Denmark. Over the years this place has served many purposes – a fishing settlement, a military outpost, a scientific base – but one by one its inhabitants have abandoned its inhospitable shores. Today it’s home to Hazleton Adventure Experiences, an extreme sports company specialising in corporate team building events.

Life there is fragile and tough. One slip is all it takes. A momentary lapse leads to a tragic accident, but when the body count quickly starts to rise, questions are inevitably asked. Are the deaths coincidental, or something else entirely? Those people you thought you knew well, can you really trust them? Are you standing next to a killer, and will you be their next victim?

A horrific discovery changes everything for everyone. There’s no way home now, and a trickle of rumours becomes a tsunami of fear. Is this really the beginning of the end of everything, or a situation constructed by the mass hysteria of a handful of desperate and terrified people?

The lower the population, the higher the stakes.

Kill the rest of them, before one of them kills you.

Horror in the East – this Saturday

As I was saying the other day, time flies. It feels like only five minutes, but it’s five years this month since THEM OR US, the final Danny McCoyne HATER book, was released (note the careful wording there… the final Danny McCoyne book – the HATER story takes a new direction in next year’s ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING).

You might remember, THEM OR US is set in Lowestoft, the most easterly town in the UK. I launched the book there back in 2011 with a special event at the library (which features in the novel). We had a great time and, as a result, the annual HORROR IN THE EAST convention was born. After a sabbatical last year, I’m thrilled that the event is back. It’s free, and it’s this Saturday. Hope to see you there.

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Up to my neck in Hate

Just checking in with a quick follow up to my recent update post and to explain the ongoing radio silence here right now. I’ve found myself buried neck deep in the HATER world once again, and man, I’m enjoying it. HATER was only ever Danny McCoyne’s story for me, but the more I’ve started to poke around that dark, brutal and relentlessly violent world again, the more the creative juices have started to flow. As soon as I can tell you what I’m dying to tell you, I will. Until then, here’s another piece of stunning artwork which Tomislav Tikulin produced to promote the release of the original novels. This one is a scene from the climax of DOG BLOOD which, incredibly, is five years old next month. Time flies. If you’re new to HATER, visit www.thehatertrilogy.com to find out more.

Dog Blood TT

Time for an update

Hello. I hate not posting here regularly, but there are times when it’s unavoidable. Now is most definitely one of those times. I’ve truly never been busier, though you’d be hard pushed to know given the gap between posts on this site. That’s not likely to change in the next few months, but I think some kind of update is long overdue.

Last weekend I finished writing KAI, a middle-grade novel. I say finished… what I mean by that is I got the book into good enough shape to be able to fire it over to my agent for his feedback, and I’m now waiting nervously for him to get back to me. I’m keeping the story close to my chest. For now I’ll describe it as a weird hybrid of ET and Godzilla, and I’ll leave it at that.

Next week I start a new novel – the first book in the SPACES BETWEEN series (at long last). It was called TOMMY, but it’s now been re-named ELYSIAN FIELDS. I’m in the habit of teasing future projects by referring to their influences, so how does Blade Runner by way of Breaking Bad by way of Nordic Noir with more than a touch of Quatermass sound?

I’ve managed to catch up with Wayne Simmons a couple of times recently, and we’ve been busily plotting and planning the future of Infected Books. We have a few IB releases scheduled between now and the end of this year, but much of our time has been spent working on something massive for 2016. That’s the whole of 2016.

It’s funny – there are some books which never seem to want to go away. That’s a good thing, I think. One of those books is HATER, and it’s been occupying a lot of my time again recently. I have a meeting scheduled for later this week. I can’t say too much just yet, but for those of you who’ve given up hope of ever seeing HATER on the big screen, don’t. More news as and when I’m allowed to share.

And a quick question to whet your appetites/ test the water… going back to HATER again has given me the spark of an idea for a (non-Danny McCoyne) standalone HATER novel. It’s almost four years since THEM OR US hit the shelves, so is that something you’d still be interested in reading?

Original HATER artwork by Tomislav Tikulin 2009

Original HATER artwork by Tomislav Tikulin 2009

So that about sums up what I’ve been doing in the first four months of 2015. It’s heads down again now, but please do keep checking back. I have plenty of film and book recommendations planned, the return of WHAT WORKS FOR ME, guest posts and much more. And if you want the scoop on any of the projects I’ve just mentioned, this is where you’ll get it!

Autumn: Horror in the East III

I’m very pleased to confirm that I’ll be at the HORROR IN THE EAST convention in Lowestoft again this year. As you might remember, this event is particularly close to my heart, as it was born from the launch event for THEM OR US I held in Lowestoft back in 2011. As you might also remember, Lowestoft and the surrounding area is where the final chapters of Danny McCoyne’s story are played out…

The convention’s taking place on 8 November, and this year we’re in a great new venue (The Marina Theatre, alongside a horror film festival). Admission to the con is FREE. Plenty of authors will be in attendance, and there’ll be loads of great panels and events taking place throughout the day. Find out more on Facebook.HitE3