Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Interview with Ian Thompson

My special guest today is the talented author, Ian Thompson.

Thank you for taking some time away from your writing, Ian, and joining me for this interview.Before we get started on the questions, can you tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Liverpool, UK, but have lived most my life in a smaller town in Cheshire. My non-writing career was originally in the textile industry – I was involved in areas such as quality control, laboratory work and fabric trials. After ten years, I became a Carer and that is what I currently do as my main “occupation”... although writing is what I live for.
I have a great interest in fantasy and science fiction, ranging from artwork (such as Boris Vallejo) to TV shows (such as the pre-2000’s Star Trek), movies (a wide range, from Aliens to Lord Of The Rings) and novels.
I also love reading detective novels – particularly the hard-boiled types, like Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, and the original and newer Sherlock Holmes adventures. I enjoy computer gaming, model-making and travelling when I get time.

 Why and when did you decide to start writing?
From being a young school kid, I desperately wanted to write. I would take a notebook into school and jot down stories in my spare time. There were times when the passion was subdued for a period, like when I was very heavily involved at work, but I’ve always been working on a story in some way.
The origin probably comes from my father, who wrote scripts for comics such as the Dandy and Beano. I found the process of creating a story for others to read magical, and I still do.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I can spend a few months planning and brainstorming before I actually begin to write. I get a plan for the overall arc of the story set out, and a range of sequences prepared. Also, I set down characters, locations, back-stories, technologies and other aspects. However, everything is devised in a flexible manner so that as the proper writing starts and the characters and plot start to evolve, my plans can evolve with them. I think you need a careful balance between “sticking to the plan” and “adapting to story evolution” – otherwise your plot will either be too rigid or meander all over the place.

What is that one moment you have had as a writer that made you realize you were actually a real author?
Having the paperback edition of my first novel arrive in the post. I remember examining the cover and back, then the internal layout... and marvelling that I had created this thing. Even the smell of the paper was wonderful. Possessing a physical edition really brought it home that this was real. It also gave me a sense of accomplishment that drove me to continue harder as a writer.

What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?
I find coming up with ideas the easiest part: from the concept for a story, to basic outlines of a scene (especially action sequences), to the seed of a character. It’s also great fun and easy to note down (notes, doodles, storyboards, filling in a pre-printed “Character Sheet” or “Location Sheet”).
Everything after that is hard, but also immensely rewarding.
The hardest part for me is the revisions. At that point it becomes your job to criticise the work you lovingly created – to tear apart sections of it when necessary. It can be very brutal and intense: a chapter you love may need to be cut out for the good of the narrative, for example. 

How has your writing improved over time? Who or what has helped you become a better writer?
When I first started writing, I was literally a pre-teen kid, so for a long time I was just learning how to structure words and story. As I progressed and I grew more confident in my ability to write, my focus was more on story-telling. My early attempts at novel-writing were all about big action sequences and conflicts. It took me a lot of time to learn that what drives stories isn’t the explosions, shoot-ups or battles with monsters, it’s the characters. That was a turning-point: to realise that without characters that draw you in, a novel is just a list of incidents.
One of my influences in understanding the importance of characters was when I started to read Stephen King books. Although his novels are generally described as “horror”, they’re really all about characters – he draws you into the lives of these people, makes you care about them and makes you want to find out what happens to them. I haven’t found another writer who does that better or as consistently.

Your latest novel is entitled God Of War.  What inspired it?
The basic reason for starting it as a project was that I was sampling genres: I’d written a thriller and a fantasy novel, and I wanted to try horror next. I spent some time brainstorming different ideas, wanting to create something different. The idea of Cause and Effect was the main inspiration: could I tell two stories side-by-side, one telling the Effect and the other the Cause? The Effect was the easier to gain insight into: a group of people who were trapped and hunted by “something”. For the Cause, I decided that it would be interesting if this occurred long ago – during the Roman Occupation of Britain. The challenge would be to interweave the two stories so that they melded together.
My second inspiration was for the Roman storyline, when I started thinking of my main protagonist as one of the doomed characters from an Edgar Allan Poe tale. I soon had him pictured as a man with a mission, capable of risking more and more to get what he wanted... Even if it meant murder and the risk of his sanity.
The modern-day “Effect” story gave me a chance to really focus on a small group of characters, and that was really interesting for me. As their situation grows worse and worse, we get to see how each one reacts. Despite the strong horror element, I wanted a really human story.

Would you tell us a bit about previous books, and how we can get our hands on them.
My first release was a whodunit thriller entitled ‘Paradise Exhumed’. This features a pair of reporters who stumble upon a murder and decide to investigate it. They are quickly drawn into a web of baffling mystery, uncovering more and more murders as they progress. There is a blend of Sherlockian investigation and desperate action, combined with quirky characters and locations, and humour from the camaraderie of the reporters. Readers won’t learn the full reason behind the slayings until literally the final pages.
My second release was the first half of a fantasy war saga: ‘Era Of Darkness Volume I: The Apocalypse Begins’. The initial concept for this came from our modern-day world: our planet is so divided by politics, races, religions and other factors... so, if an alien invasion occurred, could we possibly all unite to stop it? The world of Emeran is similarly divided, with many of its races in constant conflict, and the invasion of hundreds of thousands of merciless demon warriors threatens to extinguish all life. We see the invasion through the eyes of numerous characters across the world. Amongst the turmoil there are massacres, immense battles, a siege upon a walled city and a desperate suicide mission. No one knows what to expect from the invaders – their technology and magic is unprecedented – nor do they know who commands these armies or why they seek global genocide.
To promote Era Of Darkness, I released three Short Tale volumes (Bloodfury & Fear; Out Of The Light; and The Fate Of Luminar). I have also recently released the first volume of a novella spin-off series, entitled ‘Survival I: Slaughter At Ghastar’. This features a handful of simple villagers who are caught up in the demon invasion – people who will not change the destiny of their world, but are merely seeking survival. The Survival tales are designed to be an exciting, action-packed, quick read, driven by strong characters.
Just before God of War, I released Into The Hole – a promotional short story.
My releases are available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. There are direct sales links on my website. Here are some useful links: 
My website: http://ianthompson1701.wix.com/authorsite
My Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/Ian-Thompson/e/B00T56KHNK (US)
& www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Thompson/e/B00T56KHNK (UK)
My Smashwords Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Iant1701

Which of your books was the most fun to write?
Looking back, probably Paradise Exhumed. God Of War is horror and there’s a lot of gruesome deaths and nastiness. The Era Of Darkness is a bloody war, with a lot of death and despair. Paradise Exhumed is more of a quirky, fun read, so was more fun to write. It is realistic and deadly, but the character interaction takes the edge off the harshness of the story.

Your novel, God of War, is a Horror Story. What draws you to write horror? Do you write other genres as well?
Horror is one of my favourite genres in books and movies. Done well, in a way that makes you feel close to the characters, it can be really gripping. Also, horror can present you with dangers beyond the normal understanding of your characters, which can be interesting. And I enjoy designing fantasy/horror creatures – it really appeals to my imagination.
I have also released fantasy war fiction and a mystery thriller. I’m looking at several ideas for sci-fi novels in the future.

Can you tell us anything about any of your current work(s)-in-progress?
I’ve begun a new series of short stories entitled “Short Horror Tales”. I hope to release these approximately monthly, at least for the first six. For these, I’m looking at the market of people who want a quick read, perhaps during train journeys to and from work. They will all be fast-paced and strongly character-based. The first has just been released and is entitled Glancing Blow. This one has a very simple beginning: a man driving through a storm at night on a dark forest road, who hits something in the gloom. When he investigates, he discovers that the injured creature isn’t a dog or even a deer – it’s something monstrous, huge and very, very angry.
My personal deadline for the second Short Tale is Mid-November, in order to have it processed and released before the month’s end. I’m in the lucky position of having sketched out several outlines to choose from – but the unlucky position of not having chosen and started writing!
At the same time, I’m polishing the final drafts for the conclusion of Era Of Darkness – Volume II: Extinction.

When you think about your future, where would you like to be in 5 years time?
Ideally, I would like to have established a reader base and to be selling releases in quantities which reflect the work put into them. I know this is going to be a long hard road, since I’m learning marketing as I go along and there are many other authors (including many fantastic indie authors) seeking the same goals.
I’m very willing to follow what my readers desire. If the mystery thrillers dominate my sales, for example, I’ll concentrate my greatest efforts into those.

How do you schedule your day? Do you have a special time to write?
My Caring role is always my number one priority, throughout the day and at night too. I fit my writing in between and it can be very erratic. I try to spend 6-8 hours on writing and related work, which can often lead to late nights to catch up. There are occasions when I don’t get to write for a number of days – returning to the work afterwards is always very difficult.

And how do you relax?
I love reading, and watching TV and movies. I also play video games, though multiplayer games have never appealed to me – I like role-playing, action, wargames and point-and-click adventures. I’m currently hacking and slashing my way through Shadow Of Mordor.

So you love reading! What book are you reading at the moment?
I do love reading, and try to read a little each day – even it’s for just twenty minutes. One of my goals for the year was to start trying the work of other indie writers and I’ve just begun this.
I’ve just started ‘Blood and the Hunger”, an excellent vampire novel by Mike Reynolds. Can’t wait to read more of this!

Who is your favourite author and what is it that strikes you about their work?
Stephen King would be my favourite, due to the richness of his characters and his general storytelling ability. I find that he draws you into a world, makes you genuinely feel for his cast of characters and gives you a longing to know more. He also has a nasty habit of killing of people you really like – which is really hard-hitting. I think his greatest achievement was the Dark Tower series... and especially managing to thread many of his other tales into the world.
Another aspect of King’s storytelling which I like, is that although his books can be very long, he never wastes words. Some authors will describe an insignificant object, location or characters in great detail – King measures you out just enough description, and often in blunt and simple ways. It makes very easy, pleasurable reading.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about your book(s)?
To be honest, I cherish anything someone says – the fact that they took the time to say something makes me feel great. One simple message sticks out in my mind, though. I was having a really lousy day, really suffering with a migraine, and I got a Twitter message from someone I didn’t know: “Hi Ian. Just to let you know I loved Into The Hole and can’t wait for God Of War”. That completely changed my day and I was very grateful.

Where can your readers and fans find you to tell you how amazing we think you are?
The best information is on my website, at http://ianthompson1701.wix.com/authorsiteI’ve also started a Monthly Newsletter which people can sign up to on the site – subscribers will get advance news when I have it, plus special offers. Every subscriber gets four short story ebooks free as a thank you for joining.
I’m also on:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ianthompson1701
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ian-Thompson-995938977100104/Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13830038.Ian_Thompson

One final question before you leave. Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
This is the hardest question! I suppose if I had a time machine, I’d pop back to visit Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – since he created one of the greatest and well-known literary characters, Sherlock Holmes, and also because of the quality and originality of some of his tales. Writers of his era really were pioneers – they created writing genres that didn’t exist – and I have great respect for that. Unfortunately, I’d probably try to talk him into writing more Holmes stories... which might interfere with history (or might just make him angry, as he did want to get rid of the character!).

Thank you for joining me today, Ian, it's been very interesting. Glancing Blow looks great, I'm going to be adding it to my to-read list. I wish you all the best on any and all future publications.

I read God of War back in September. You can read my review HERE.

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