Can you tell us in your own words about your two recent publications?
The Leaping and The Thing on the Shore are both contemporary horror novels, but I tried to approach them as realist fiction. The first book is really about seeking a means of escape from guilt and from that panicky, general kind of fear that's driven by our mass media. The second is about the modern workplace and the gradual erosion of the dividing line between human and object. But they're also about the world of myth and folklore creeping into our own; werewolves and sea monsters and black magic.
Where did the inspiration come from for each?
Just from real life, really - the news, the things you see every day that seem interesting or strange. I keep notebooks, and write down lots of ideas - some of which are just stupid, but still - and jot down odd lines that occur to me, and make notes on what I watch or read. So I end up with an accumulation of stuff, and if I can draw connections between different things, or see echoes, or parallels, then that tends to be the beginning of a novel.
What is your process as a writer?
I'm not sure I have one. Apart from keeping notebooks, as I mentioned above. I don't have a proper routine or anything. There are things I try to do in general - read a lot, keep in touch with other writers, always get feedback on new work - but when it comes to the actual typing / scribbling, I'm quite haphazard and opportunistic.
How would you describe life as a writer?
A weird blend of egotism, self-loathing, fear, excitement, masochism, and pure joy.
What do you like to read?
Books that feel like more than the sum of their parts. I want to like a book and not be able to say exactly why. The language is important, and the style. They're indicative of soul in a way that, say, plot is not. I'll read from any genre as long as the book feels soulful. I know that's a bit vague, sorry. A book has to feel relevant, I think. You have to be able to recognise your own world in the book, and feel a connection. Regardless of genre.
What genre do you most like to write in?
I try not to think about it. My published novels are horror novels, but if I try to think 'horror' as I write, I lose the thread completely. I try to write without thinking about anything much apart from the scene in particular I'm working on.
Your novel, The Leaping was about werewolves, how do you feel about film adaptations and the latest buzz on this theme?
In general I'm in favour of film adaptations because they can introduce a story or subject to new audiences, and personally I believe that fiction is more powerful when it has reach. But I think adaptations are best when they try and play with the source, rather than just replicate it, so that they offer something different to fans of the original book as well. A good film adaptation should use the medium of film to do things that the book couldn't or didn't do.
As for werewolves - to be honest I haven't really been aware of much buzz about them apart from that around the whole Twilight franchise. If there is a buzz, though, then I'm pleased!
What advice would you give a budding writer?
Just make sure you do actually write. And try to finish pieces that you start - don't stop halfway through, as tempting as it might be. If you finish a story or a novel draft then you've got something that you can redraft and hone and make better. I think it's very important to get feedback on your work, too; writing is a very solitary activity, and it's very easy to just keep rereading your own words yourself and, really, you're probably your own worst critic. So unless you get feedback from somebody else - ideally another writer, or group of writers - it's very easy to become disheartened. In short; write something, get feedback on it, rewrite it.
And if you want to get published then make sure you do actually submit your work to places. Agents, publishers, the editors of forthcoming anthologies. It's scary but you have to do it.
How do you juggle your work with your writing?
I'm not in full time employment any more. I used to work full time, doing usual office hours, and then write in evenings and at the weekends. But last year we had a baby, and at around the same time I was offered a second two-book deal from Jo Fletcher Books (an imprint of Quercus). I knew that I couldn't keep the job, accept the publishing contract and be a father, so I had to make a choice - the job or the writing? I chose the writing. It felt like an opportunity that would be foolish to turn down.
What is your next project?
I'm currently about to redraft my third novel, The Ravenglass Eye, which will be published by Jo Fletcher Books later this year. And I'm thinking about the fourth. This stage, the working out what to write next, is one of the best parts of being a writer, for me.
The Thing on the Shore and The Leaping are out now.
A big thanks to Tom for taking the time out to talk to Female First!