Dragon Soul Press proudly announces author Simon Dillon has joined the ranks! His horror novel titled The Spectre of Springwell Forest will be released this December!
- How important is research to you when writing a book?
Every book I write involves research, which can mean multiple trips to the library, scouting of potential locations (many of my novels are set locally, where I live in the south-west of England), and even interviews where required. Of course, Google makes research a lot easier these days, and I refuse to be snobby about using it, as some authors are.
- When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
I think I had an inkling in school, when teachers became concerned about some of the dark subject matter in my stories. Still, I didn’t know for certain immediately, and my first ambition was to be a farmer, oddly enough. After that I wanted to be a journalist, then a film critic, then a film director, then a screenwriter, and eventually I realised that what I really wanted was to be a successful novelist. I’ve been working towards that goal ever since, but from around the age of about sixteen I’ve always been writing something, whether articles, reviews, short stories, screenplays, or novels.
- What inspires you to write?
The voices in my head. I’m joking. Sort of.
I have ideas for stories almost every day. Most of them never become more than a sentence or two in an ideas file. Some get developed into a few paragraphs of story treatment. Then an elite few go beyond that. Those are the ideas that nag and pester me until I have no choice but to silence them by putting them on paper.
I honestly can’t imagine a life where I don’t write. It would be akin to not breathing.
- Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I am a control freak when it comes to writing, so I always have to know the ending and work backwards from that. I will only write a story if I discover an ending which (in my mind at least) is so thrilling, exhilarating, moving, traumatic, unexpected, profound or perhaps simply hilarious, that it absolutely has to be written. From there, I develop character profiles, do research, and plan the narrative. I don’t plan so rigidly that my plots can’t take unexpected detours in the writing stage, but whatever route the plot ends up taking, it will arrive at the finale I originally foresaw.
I know some authors dislike this approach, viewing it as restrictive and perhaps preferring to create a character, start a story and see where their protagonist takes them. I couldn’t do that. I have to know my ending first.
- Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
You are going to wish you never asked this question… Yes, I read loads, in many different genres. I enjoy established classics – Great Expectations, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Dracula, Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, In Cold Blood, Treasure Island, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, Pride and Prejudice, Birdsong, The Remains of the Day, Life of Pi, Far from the Madding Crowd (and the poetry of Thomas Hardy in general), not to mention books about the Arthur legends (The Once and Future King for instance) or Greek legends (I recently read Stephen Fry’s Mythos)… Really, I could go on and on.
I have a particular soft spot for classic children’s stories – everything from AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories and Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. More recently, I’ve loved Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider books. That brings me neatly into the “young adult” bracket, and there’s much to be enjoyed there too – everything from Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, to Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games.
I also love murder mysteries by Agatha Christie (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Sleeping Murder are two absolute gems), Michael Crichton’s thrillers, Stephen King’s horror stories, and of course Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. Oh, and anything by Daphne Du Maurier, especially Rebecca and some of her short stories, such as Don’t Look Now. I love the ghost stories of MR James too. In fact, pretty much anything that falls under the banner of “gothic mystery” is a must-read for me.
As far as fantasy is concerned, sorry to sound like a cliché, but my favourites are the usual suspects – Tolkien, CS Lewis, JK Rowling, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and so on. Oh, and my all-time favourite science fiction novel is Frank Herbert’s Dune.
Sorry for the length of that answer. Now I bet you wish you hadn’t asked.
- Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?
I asked my wife this question, and she said that these days, my characters don’t all sound like me. I also like to think there is less unnecessary description in my writing. I don’t believe that all adverbs are the work of Satan (some writers cling to that particular orthodoxy), but they are like ice-cream. Too much will make you sick.
- What is your writing Kryptonite?
If by that you mean what throws a spanner in my writing process, then two things come to mind immediately:
- The internet and social media (incredibly distracting).
- What I call “George McFly Syndrome”. Remember George McFly in Back to the Future? He would always say “What if people say I’m no good? I just can’t take that kind of rejection!” Typically, when I start a novel I think it’s going to be the greatest book ever written. Then somewhere in the middle of act two, George McFly Syndrome kicks in. I ignore it and soldier on, and by the time I finish the book I think it’s a disaster. Then I leave it on the shelf for a few months, review it with a fresh eye, and most of the time think it’s not bad but not brilliant, thus finally arriving at a sober assessment of my work.
These days, my bouts of George McFly Syndrome are a lot less severe, but they still crop up from time to time.
- What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
An entertaining story, first and foremost. I dislike any novel that comes off as condescending, sanctimonious or preachy, even if I agree with the message. I believe writing a story with the specific intent of delivering a social, political or spiritual message is a mistake, and patronises the reader. Instead, I try to simply write a good story with no conscious agenda. Then, what is important to me is inherent in the text in any case.
- Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?
Stop worrying about people thinking you are anti-social. Spend less time going out drinking and more time reading books and watching films. Think of all the money you’ll save. As a general point, learn not to give a damn about what other people think. It will save you a lot of aggravation. Also, stop feeling the need to argue with idiots. As the saying goes, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.