A: As I discovered I’m actually following in the footsteps of a few people – Tim Powers, for one, who wrote Declare around 20 years ago. I didn’t know that book when I began writing The War in the Dark – I remember my heart plummeting when a friend told me about it! – but luckily the spy/occult genre’s still a relatively untapped seam, rich enough for many different stories and styles. The central idea of War came to me a while ago but adding the espionage element really made it catch fire in my imagination. I’m a huge Bond fan and I had so much fun blending that kind of vintage spy story with a demonic conspiracy. They fitted together beautifully.
Q: Karina is such a strong character in The War In The Dark. I’ve read that you were inspired to write her by the spy-fi heroines of the 1960s. If you had to pick just one, who would be your favorite spy-fi heroine and why?
A: It has to be Emma Peel in The Avengers. She was so ahead of her time – while also embodying her time. Deadly, accomplished, proactive, and yet killingly funny, too, brought to life with such wit by Diana Rigg.
Q: Do you write with any particular audience in mind? Are there any particular audiences you hope will connect with this story?
A: No particular audience in mind – just anyone who enjoys a good thrill ride and some scares in the shadows. I’m actually quite excited to discover some friends are taking the book on their holidays this summer. A beach read is a very noble calling, I think. Come on, get sand in my pages! But no Cornetto stains, please.
Q: What is the first book you read that made you think, “I have got to write something like this someday!”
A: I’m not sure I could pin it on a specific book, but as a kid I devoured the Doctor Who novelisations by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke. There’s such a wonderful clarity and simplicity to those old Target paperbacks. I think they probably served as useful blueprints of how a story is constructed. I was absorbing their schematics at a tender age and it must have helped shape The War in the Dark.
Q: We usually like to ask writers what made them choose x genre as their means of expression, but The War In The Dark defies such categorization. Instead, I’ll ask which process you prefer: writing longform fiction or the articles you compose in your day job as editor/writer for, among other publications, SFX magazine?
A: Same process, different muscles and impossible to choose between the two, I’m afraid! I get a certain buzz from writing up an interview (especially if the subject’s as compelling as someone like Neil Gaiman or Russell T Davies, two of my favourite people to talk to) or riffing on a movie I love – and an equal satisfaction from digging into my headspace to write a piece of fiction. But it’s all putting words on a screen, praying they hit it off together.
Q: How did you learn to write?
A: I’ve always written: in school, at home. I used to borrow my dad’s manual typewriter and bash out science fiction stories on the kitchen table. I still have the muscle memory of hammering the keys and winding the page through the roller until the heart-filling satisfaction of a finished page. Seeing my words set down in type, and not my usual scrawl, was a potent thing. It made a book seem vaguely possible.
Q: Do you adhere to any particular writing regimen?
A: Given the day job I have to carve out time in the evenings and at weekends. I’m still typing at the kitchen table but here’s a peculiar psychological wrinkle – I have to sit in a different chair to the one I use when I’m eating. Ah, the brain, in all its mystery and majesty…
Q: Are you a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) or a plotter?
A: Always a plotter. I think that’s essential with thrillers. They need to be precision instruments. But while I had the broad strokes set down before I started writing this book I kept myself very much open to possibility, and there were a few detours along the way that I’m really glad I took. I think they enriched the story in the end.
Q: What can you tell us about your next project? Will it continue in the same vein as The War In The Dark?
A: It’s another adventure for Christopher Winter so yes, essentially the same vein as The War in the Dark – but a different year, different locations and some very different antagonists…
Q: Given your experience in scriptwriting, would you consider pulling a Gillian Flynn and adapting The War In The Dark for the screen yourself?
A: Ha! I think the book as it stands is the movie in my head. And I’m way too attached to it! I’d love to see someone else take my story and make it work on the screen. That would be preposterously exciting – to see a whole team descend on it, from set designers to soundtrack composers. They’d have to throw me off the set.
Q: What are you reading at the moment?
A: Just about to begin Forever and a Day, the new Bond novel by Anthony Horowitz. And I’m also dipping into a collection of the great old Black Panther stories from the ‘70s (I’m an old school Marvelite!).
Q: Are there any new books or authors that have you excited?
A: I do like the sound of Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi, which is also a fantastical spy story – and one that has such a wonderful idea at its core. And I’m hearing good things about Rosewater by Tade Thompson.
Q: Tell us why you love your book!
A: I finished writing it!
The War In The Dark was published on July 17th 2018, and is available from all good booksellers. My review of the book itself may be found here.