The New Dark

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It’s been one year since the publication of The New Dark, a story that began with a one-line pitch: what happens if the world enters a new dark age? That simple, ten-word sentence gave rise to an epic tale of mutants and slaves, revolutions and war, love won, and friendship lost.

The New Dark explores a world where knowledge from the Before times has been lost. In the event of a massive catastrophe, such as nuclear war, this would happen within a generation. Without continual maintenance, buildings deteriorate, cars rot, and nature takes its course. We’ve all seen buildings in towns and cities with trees growing in gutters and shrubs rooting in wall cracks. It only takes one harsh winter to fissure a road. Imagine the change over fifty, one hundred or even two hundred years.

Now imagine a world where all the big animals have been wiped out and creatures once small have grown large. Badgers as big as bears, woodlice the size of lobsters, and you really don’t want to find yourself in the company of blood-sucking ticks. In this mutated world, even the plants can bite back.

Connectivity is gone, the strands of the web long-since snapped. Communities live in isolation, each with their own system of beliefs, but even in small villages, people are not always what they seem, and close friends make the bitterest of enemies.

Told over three books, The New Dark is a tale of betrayal, and vengeance and contains scenes of violence and bloodshed aplenty, but it is also about overcoming fear and challenging prejudice. Ultimately it is a story about the importance of friendship.

Published by Bastei Entertainment, The New Dark, The New Dawn and The New Day are available to download from Amazon.

 

 

Literary Smorgasbord: Anthony Neil Smith

I hate almost everything in my Twitter feed. I mostly go there just to annoy myself when there’s not enough anger in my day already, but every so often a wee gem crops up in the form of a particularly amusing tweet, a great pic of a shark, or an interesting new connection. Anthony Neil Smith was one such connection. We share a publisher in Bastei Entertainment and, as I discovered in the course of this interview, we have the same scalpel-sharp editor, Allan Guthrie. I know most of my Smorgasbord guests in real life and I look forward to meeting Neil the next time he comes to the Highlands.

NerdyNeil

Hi Neil, after I invited you to take part in the Smorgasbord, I discovered that you are the author of Sin-crazed Psycho Killer! Dive, Dive, Dive! I couldn’t resist a title like that and downloaded it to my Kindle straight away. Was it as fun to write as it was to read?

Yes, incredibly fun to write. I think I stole a lot from Event Horizon, but that was the fun of it. War is Hell, after all. The title was inspired by men’s magazines of the 50s and 60s, before Playboy. Most of them had tough guy war stories in them. The only real issue is that I wrote it so fast and loose that it has a major error in it (I won’t tell you what it is) and lots of smaller ones. True pulp.

I picked up on a couple but it was such a fast and entertaining read that it didn’t matter. Let’s get serious for a moment. Tell me about the evolution of the author, Anthony Neil Smith.

It started with the Hardy Boys in second grade. The librarian let me read it because I wanted to check it out so badly, even though I was a bit young. Then I discovered The Three Investigators series, even better than the Hardy Boys, and I knew I wanted to write. Between then and college, I swerved between wanting to be a lawyer, a computer geek, a comic book artist and writer, a rock star…but I eventually came back to my first love, sending out my first short stories when I was 19. Then I read James Ellroy’s White Jazz and was blown away. I didn’t realize you could do that in a crime novel. So I focused on creative writing classes, then grad school, where I received a PhD in creative writing, and now I’m a professor and a cult crime writer.

Having written noir crime, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and now, unexpectedly, historical fiction, I’m all over the book shelf. I think I’m correct in saying that you have specialised in dark crime books, but have you ever been tempted to cross genres? Is there a romantic comedy lurking in the heart of ANS?

I don’t think there’s a romantic comedy in me, no. Mainly, I think plotting is my weak spot, so it helps to have the crime or investigation aspect to centre on. I am interested in making sure each book feels different from the last, even if they are all dark crime. I also don’t think I’ll ever write fantasy or sci-fi.

Your latest book, The Cyclist, features a Scottish character. What’s your connection to Scotland?

I love Scotland, have been there twice, and I want to go again. I’ve long admired Scottish writers, made friends with quite a few crime writers of there, and I love the land and history as well. The beer, the haddock, the Highlands, the accents, all of it has had a big impact on me. I had a Scotsman, Allan Guthrie, as my agent, who then became my publisher for five books, and is now my editor at BE. He’s been my anchor in this business for a long time.

How would you describe your writing style?

Broken. One professor once said it felt like my sentences had been splintered apart and then nailed back together in a weird way. I just want it to be as “voicey” as possible, so that it flows in someone’s mind better than it does on the page.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

For me, it’s the fact that it takes a long time. I get impatient. I always do the math and think, I should be able to write a book in three or four months. But it always takes eight to ten.

And the easiest?

Not “easy” easy, but I think first chapters are not as hard as some people make them out to be. I love writing first chapters. It’s a new world, new characters, new possibilities, and I’m ready to let them all live in my head for a long time. I like the challenge of coming up with a great first line and last line for that first impression. All The Young Warriors is my best first chapter, I think. Everything worked, and it was a great hook for the story.

What were you like at school?

Like, middle school and high school? Awkward. Never comfortable in my own skin. College was a little better. It wasn’t until grad school that I felt I’d found my place.

But earlier, I at least think I was funny. I was always drawing, which impressed a lot of other students, but I never had a lot of friends. Always shy, with a close circle of them. And now I teach in front of full classrooms and read in auditoriums just fine, but I still hate calling people on the phone.

What are you working on right now?

I took a long time off after The Cyclist (five or six months) but finally rediscovered a story, based on true events, of someone I knew back in my church days – a guy who seemed like he’d turned his life around for good, but who later killed a man and chopped him into little pieces to get rid of the evidence. I found a way to get into that story as a novel (because I just can’t do it as true crime. That’s not me), and it’s coming along well, I think.

That sounds interesting. What has been your best writing moment so far?

The entire process of writing All The Young Warriors was a blast. From the outlines to the final product, everything was right. I really had high hopes for that one as far as finding a larger publisher, but we had a couple of close calls only. One editor originally wanted it, then changed his mind three weeks later (which was the WORST moment of my writing career). So instead, Allan began a digital publisher called Blasted Heath, and I decided to take a chance with them.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t do it. There are already too many of us.

Kidding, kidding. The best advice is to read a lot of stuff you love to read, then try some literary fiction from the last fifty years, then read Chekov’s short stories. Find people who will give you a good read, usually other writers. Grow a very thick skin so that criticism doesn’t get to you as much (because it will always get to you a little bit), and be prepared to wait.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to the young ANS?

That’s a tough question. Probably to not get so anxious about the future. Take things a little easier.

Who would play ANS in the film of your life?

He’s older than me, but I’d still go with Sam Rockwell. He is also who I would want to play my series character Billy Lafitte (with Johnny Knoxville a close second).

If there was one person – contemporary, historical or fictional – you could spend a day with, who would you choose and why?  How would you spend the day?

My dad. He died when I was ten, and he was larger than life. Always smiling, always laughing. He missed out on the path I took in life, and if he had lived, I think I would’ve gone a different direction. I would like to hear what he thinks of me now – a professor and writer. We’d spend the day cruising the coast in his old Chevy van, listening to seventies rock bands.

Nice. A few short questions to finish. Favourite book:

White Jazz by James Ellroy. Wouldn’t be here without it.

Author:

Very tough one. But this week, it’s Walter Mosley.

Food:

Mexican. Tacos and burritos. Very spicy.

Drink:

Mexican beer.

Film:

Pulp Fiction. I saw it the same year I read White Jazz, and together, those cemented my choice to be a crime writer.

TV show:

The Shield.

Music:

Sammy Hagar.

What are you reading right now?

The Cuckoo Wood by M. Sean Coleman, and The Room of White Fire by T. Jefferson Parker.

Thanks Neil, it’s been a blast.

Follow Anthony Neil Smith on Twitter.

The Cyclist by Anthony Neil Smith was published by Bastei Entertainment on 8 May 2018.

Books by LG Thomson are available from Amazon and from bookshops in Ullapool. Writing as Lorraine Thomson, the Dark Times dystopian trilogy, published by Bastei Entertainment, is available online.

Find out about the Isle Martin Writing Retreats 2018 here.

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Top Ten Classic Books I Haven’t Read

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme over at The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Classic Books I Haven’t Read.  Great theme.  We’ve all got books we haven’t got around to reading, but let’s face it – life is short and while you might manage to work your way through the long and worthy list of Most Best Classic Books Ever To Read Before You Die, I’m never going to do it.

There’s a ton of things I do because they have to be done – unblocking drains, cleaning up dog sick, replying to my accountant’s emails – but when I read a book I read it purely for pleasure.  Yup, just for the sheer and utter enjoyment of it.  There aren’t many areas of life where I get to be so indulgent and I have no intention of turning my lifelong pleasure of reading into a chore any time soon. So while there are plenty of classics I haven’t read, the books on my list are all books I want to read.  Just because I want to.

  1. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre.  I have no idea why I haven’t read this already.  This year for sure.
  2. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.  Bought it last week.  This month for sure.
  3. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.  The back story of the mad woman in the attic from Jane Eyre – this has been on my to-read list for years.
  4. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.  Ships lured to their doom by wreckers on the Cornish coast.   Can’t wait.
  5. L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy.  I’ve read several books by Mr Ellroy, but somehow managed to miss this.  Love listening to him on the radio.  Great voice, great writer.
  6. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Remains of the Day is one of my favourite books, yet it’s the only one of his I have read.  A shameful oversight on my part.
  7. Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser.  My favourite parts in the TV serial of Tom Brown’s Schooldays were when the young Brown was being mercilessly tortured by nasty bully Flashman.  The Flashman books look like a rip-roaring read for this summer.
  8. Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence.  I love a bit of dystopia but only recently heard of this book.  Fear of atomic war was at its height during my formative years so I look forward to it scaring me witless.
  9. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel.  This is a bit a of a cheat.  The only reason I haven’t read the final instalment of Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy is because it isn’t out yet.  Perhaps a little premature then to have it listed as a classic, but going by Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, I hope not.
  10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I know.  I know.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Top Ten Books I Would Want My Book Group to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  Every Tuesday they post a new Top Ten list and invite everyone to join in.  I found out about Top Ten Tuesday via Leona’s Blog of Shadows.

My Top Ten, straight up:

  1. The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
  2. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  3. Pop.1280 – Jim Thompson
  4. The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M. Cain
  5. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  6. Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  7. Perfume – Patrick Suskind
  8. This Perfect Day – Ira Levin
  9. The Snowman – Jo Nesbo
  10. Children of Men – PD James