Monday, 8 April 2013

Choices, Choices - An Editor's Quandary

This week I am delighted to welcome Darren Sant and Craig Douglas to my blog. Darren & Craig are the guys behind Near to the Knuckle site and a cracking new anthology called Near to the Knuckle: Gloves Off.
Here's Darren talking about some of the choices they faced when compiling the anthology.

I suppose one of the biggest problems when choosing which stories to include in the anthology was one of theme. Some of the submissions were an easy choice, they had all the boxes ticked. However, we had a number of beautiful written, well plotted tales sent in that were obviously from folk who had never actually visited the site and seen what we are about. We couldn't put a story in about a kitten called Tiddles next to a tale of murder and revenge. Much as I like kittens, cosy warm, fuzzy fiction just isn't us and more importantly it isn't our readership.  

We weren't looking for perfect grammar, although it always helps, we wanted the right kind of story written well enough that the idea or the twist struck us hard. Near To The Knuckle is about that shock factor and that can come from a subtle story or a blood and guts thriller. So whilst Craig and myself were looking for something very particular within our stories we never felt that we were tied exclusively to the crime genre. We have included a supernatural tale and a comic tale because they fit superbly our idea of what Near To The Knuckle is. 

There was one story that made me do a double take. The problem? It was too NTTK even for us. A very controversial theme and even the title made me wince. How can we put this story out without being lynched I thought? Well after furious emails back and forth between Craig and Myself and re-reading the story we realised that on reflection the author made a good point and dealt with the theme in an adult way and we should not shy away from the validity of his point just because aspects of it made us uncomfortable. Which story was it? You'll just have to read the anthology and make your own minds up. 

We also had to make a conscious decision not to favour friends and supporters of the site. We based anthology places purely on merit. For this reason you'll notice one or two new names that you won't have seen related to the site before. For me the most exciting part was opening each new submission to see what dark world awaited my eager eyes. I know you’ll enjoy the dark delights Gloves Off has to offer. 
The anthology can be bought from Amazon UK here and here

Darren Sant was born in 1970. He grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and moved to Hull in 2001. He is happily married to Julie who tolerates him with the patience of a saint. His childhood was spent in an area very much like the Longcroft estate and he looks back on it with fondness.  If you’d like to know more about Darren you can find his website here: And you can find him on Twitter as @groovydaz39 & @longcroft_tales

Craig Douglas hails from nowhere and lives in Rugby. He was born in Ely, Cambridgeshire, but his northern accent belies this fact. He has live mainly a nomadic lifestyle since as a child moving between MOD posting to another and subsequently feeding his appetite for adventure by joining the Army. Twenty two years has seen him playing out active roles in both empire building and stabilisation.

He knew of his writing potential when he was 14 and a teacher identified this. His work was read out to the class frequently much to his embarrassment. The years have seen a steady development in his writing and only since coming back from a particularly violent tour of Afghanistan he began to write again. His debut work in print was 'The Likely Lads' which featured in Radgepacket Volume 2. He has work in 3 other volumes in that series, one of which features the dreaded See You Next Tuesday word more than in an Irvine Welsh novella whose title had the very same despicable word.

Craig is currently studying for an English Degree with the Open University. He writes a weekly blog which can be found at He is partner in crime to the Near2theKnuckle website and has worked on the 'Gloves Off' Anthology.

He lives in Rugby with his wife and two children.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Mo Hayder Interview

Mo Hayder is the one author who can entice me across the broken line into the realms of horror. I have been a fan of hers for many years and when I auditioned for my role as a reviewer with it was her book Pig Island which I chose to base my first ever review on. 

I’m delighted that she found the time to answer a few questions about her latest book Poppet and writing in general. If anyone is interested my review of Poppet may be found here
Anyway, enough of me prattling on. Here's the interview.

Poppet is set largely inside a mental health facility. How did you research the various procedures inside Beechway?
I have a contact who was the clinical director of a facility just like Beechway. He couldn't have been more helpful. If I've got any of the facts wrong then it's his fault not mine! 

Where did the idea for “The Maude” come from?
Henry Fuseli's painting The Nightmare (an incubus crouching on the chest of a sleeping woman) I think I saw it as a young child and was totally and utterly terrified by it. It's probably lingered subconsciously all these years and has at last popped out as the Maude.

Poppet tied up a thread which has been running throughout the Walking Man series. Was it satisfying as an author to close this chapter?
Satisfying?   Hmmmmm - I'm not sure I'll ever be able to use that word about anything I've written. There's always a sense something could have been done differently/better.

I detected a sense of finality in Poppet. Will we see more of Jack Caffery and Flea Marley?
No finality, and yes more Jack and Flea. The next book in the Walking Man series is out in 2014.

Some of your books have supernatural / paranormal elements. Would you class them as horror – crime crossovers or do you prefer the term crime thrillers?
If I'm honest I'd like to be a prima donna and have no term attached to my books. But that's just me being an artiste, so if pushed I'd say crime thrillers which have some horror elements.

Authors and reviewers such as myself, use words like haunting, macabre and disturbing to describe your books. Is it your aim to elicit these strong reactions from your readers?
I do like the word 'haunting', since that implies the story stays with the reader. Although Poppet has a closed ending, I've occasionally chosen open endings (The Treatment and Hanging Hill for example) - those were deliberate choices as I usually love fiction which leaves a little to the imagination and therefore lingers in the mind long after the fact.

When you meet readers do you have certain questions you ask them to research the elements of your books which are best liked or are most effective?
I used to, until I realised that the old saying 'you can't please everyone all the time' is so apt.  Ultimately a writer can't be a people pleaser - they have to trust their own instincts.

What are you currently working on?
I'm just tying up the next in the Walking Man series. It's called 'Wolf' and I'm proud to say my editor almost couldn't finish one of the earlier drafts she was so scared (at least that's what she told me).  

Which was the last book you read and would you recommend it to a friend?
For anyone who, like me, read Life of Pi and didn't quite get it, the film adaptation is brilliant and clarifies the book beautifully. But you didn't ask for a movie recommendation, you wanted a book, so I'd say... The Book Thief (Markus Zusak). 

What three books have made a lasting impression on you?
- The one which eclipses everything is Cormac McCarthy's Road. I had a two-year-long depression after reading it. 
- At a very young age I read Metamorphosis (Kafka) and since then I have read it and seen the staged version several times. I keep finding something new every time.
- Ulysses. It woke me up to the fact that it's ok to not like some of the things you're supposed to love.

Mo Hayder left school at fifteen. She worked as a barmaid, security guard, film-maker, hostess in a Tokyo club, educational administrator and teacher of English as a foreign language in Asia. She has an MA in film from The American University in Washington DC and an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University UK.

Her debut, BIRDMAN, published in January 2000, was an international bestseller. Her second novel, THE TREATMENT, also a Sunday Times bestseller, won the 2002 WH Smith Thumping Good Read award. Her third novel Sunday Times bestseller TOKYO, which was published in May 2004 in the UK, won the Elle magazine crime fiction prize, the SNCF Prix Polar, and was nominated for three CWA dagger awards. Tokyo was published as THE DEVIL OF NANKING in the US March 2005. PIG ISLAND her fourth best seller was published in April 2006 and was nominated for both a Barry Award for best british crime novel and a CWA dagger. Her fifth book, RITUAL, the first of THE WALKING MAN series, has been nominated for The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award and one of the 14 short-listed titles for the coveted title of Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2009. The third of THE WALKING MAN series is GONE.
Mo lives in Bath with her daughter Lotte-Genevieve.

My thanks go out to Mo Hayder for partaking in this interview and providing me with so many great book to read.
Feel free to comment below.

Keep checking back for guest posts and interviews
April 15th - Tom Bale
April 29th - Howard Linskey
July - David Thomas / Tom Cain
No date yet but I have a short interview with Lee Child which I'll be posting as soon as I get his answers back