Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Author Simon Dillon for his latest bone-chilling release, The Irresistible Summons. With the tagline of “How far would you go to bring the one you love back from the dead?” how could one resist the temptation? Especially when cutting-edge technology and evil meet.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I’d say it takes me about a year, on average, to write something like The Irresistible Summons or Spectre of Springwell Forest, if you include the initial inspiration, preparation and planning, writing the first draft, rewrites, edits, and so on.
Outside my usual psychological drama/supernatural thriller/horror spectrum, I’ve written some novels at record speed (my animal fiction adventure novel Echo and the White Howl, for instance), and others at a snail’s pace. I’ve got a fantasy epic I’ve been working at, on and off, for about twenty years. Still not sure if I’ll ever try and release it.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I can’t reveal that here, because it’s from a thriller/horror novel I’ve not yet published. Suffice to say, the scene in question was so disturbing and upsetting that I had to keep taking breaks every ten minutes to write that chapter. I’m made of pretty stern stuff, but that was fierce, even for me. It really had my stomach in knots.
From novels that are presently published, the finale of The Irresistible Summons was an absolute fiend to get right. Previous versions were either too gruesome, too repetitive, too bizarre, too long, or – incredible though it may seem – too optimistic.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I’m going to cheat and pick three books – The Bartimaeus Sequence (comprising The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, and Ptolemy’s Gate). This trilogy, set in a parallel London filled with powerful magicians, is particularly notable for witty first-person sections, told from the point of view of a highly intelligent and cunning demon summoned by the novel’s young protagonist. Highly recommended.
Or did you mean my own novels? Some of my children’s adventure novels are definitely under-appreciated, because they are just as much for adults as for children.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Out of what I currently have published, with the notable exception of the George Hughes trilogy (my children’s science fiction novels), all my novels and short stories stand-alone. Even the George Hughes adventures are each stand-alone stories, though they should be read in order, as there are recurring characters and references to previous incidents.
Having said that, my horror/thriller novels do share a certain DNA and express variations on a theme. One reader I know jokes about “Simon Dillon Plot Bingo” (imperilled heroine, religious oppression, big central mystery, haunted locations, supernatural elements, cults and/or secret societies, melodramatic overdrive, big twist ending – apparently). I don’t see this as a bad thing. I think it means I’m getting known for a certain type of story. Just as long as I can keep surprising people within that format, I’m pleased to be stereotyped to a degree.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
That’s a good question, because it follows on from what I said above. Actually, I think there is nothing wrong with following a formula and giving readers what they want. Agatha Christie did it. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did it. JK Rowling did it (all the Harry Potter books follow a very clear formula, except the last one). But within these formulas, the above authors consistently surprised and delighted the reader.
Every writer wants to be original and put their own stamp on the world’s literature. However, that isn’t at the forefront of my mind when I write. Rather, I want to master the form in whatever genre I am working with. To that end, I try to give the reader what they want – but not the way they expect it. That’s the clue to any fine dramatic writing, in my opinion.
Of course, you can’t please everyone. The Irresistible Summons and Spectre of Springwell Forest both have fairly clear-cut conclusions, but one or two readers would have preferred more ambiguity. On the other hand, my next novel Phantom Audition (due out in October) is a much trickier beast. The various ways it can be interpreted may frustrate those who prefer clear-cut endings. As an author, you have to decide what you think is the correct, most satisfying ending, and stick with it. In fact, I always do. I don’t write any story until I know the ending and love it. Then I work backwards from that point.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I’m not sure why I’ve been so foolhardy as to simply go by my real name, but I don’t really see what I gain by hiding behind a pseudonym. Privacy is the main reason cited, but if JK Rowling didn’t feel the need for one, I’m not sure I can be bothered either. I’d rather be loud and proud about what I put my name to.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I often lurk on the event horizons of social media black holes and get sucked into vortices of very dark humour. Plus the internet in general is so distracting.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
A bit of both really. But I can’t not write. It’s like breathing. If I don’t write at least a little each day, I feel like I’m wasting my life.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Watership Down, which I read at the age of nine, just before I read the second book that made me cry, The Lord of the Rings. I find it hard to imagine any intelligent, thoughtful reader coming away from either of those novels unaffected or unchanged. The final chapters of both had an incalculable effect on my young psyche, and the bittersweet truth that in this world at least, all things end.
Both books conclude with death, whether the literal death of Hazel, in Watership Down, or the figurative death of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings (not to mention the passing of the Elves, and the melancholy end of the magical eras of Middle Earth). However, although sad, neither scene is negative. It is simply the way of things, and, as Gandalf puts it, “not all tears are an evil”.
Where can readers learn more about you?
I’ve got a blog,which has regular updates on all my writing projects. It also features film reviews, links to my film podcast The Tangent Tree (which I co-host with Samantha Stephen), and other book/writing related articles. On top of that, I have a Facebook page.