The Writing Life of: Duncan Thompson
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Duncan Thompson. Duncan Thompson will be sharing with us details of his writing life, telling us all about his upcoming new book ‘Shadows of the Woods‘, which will be released on 1st June 2020 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Duncan Thompson has spent most of his life in a small market town in West Yorkshire — the same town in which most of his stories are set under the guise of Ravenfield. Duncan has been writing works of fiction since the age of seven. In those early days, his stories often involved himself and his friends being transported to fantasy worlds. However, as a teenager, Duncan fell in love with horror movies and his writing took a whole new direction.
Duncan Thompson works in financial services and lives with his partner and their two young children. He also has slight obsession with Spider-Man, the actor Bruce Campbell, as well as having an addiction to vinyl records, coffee and Lego.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
An author – no doubt about it. I have had a few other ambitions growing-up; video-game designer, film director, and even then, those jobs involve telling entertaining stories one way or another.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
My earliest reading/book related memory was receiving a collection of Enid Blyton’s retelling of the Brer Rabbit stories; I loved how sly and wily he was and how his use of cunning got him out of some sticky situations. Discovering Roald Dahl and reading Charlie & The Chocolate Factory a couple of years later was the moment I wanted to become an author.
I devoured book after book; The Twits; James and the Peach; George’s Marvellous Medicine and Fantastic Mr Fox were the most memorable. I also enjoyed animal stories, reading all of Colin Dann’s The Animals of Farthing Wood series and Richard Adams’ Watership Down still remains one of my all-time favourite novels.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
Reading Charlie & the Chocolate Factory for the first time when I was about seven years old. It was the character of Charlie which appealed to me. He was an ordinary boy who was taken on an extraordinary experience. While the story was fantasy, Charlie lived in the everyday world – if such an adventure could happen to him, why couldn’t it happen to me? And other Roald Dahl books had similar themes (James & the Giant Peach for example), inspiring me to write similar stories of my own.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
It’s fuelled by copious amounts of coffee. When I sit down to write the first draft, much is already plotted out, so I don’t really aim for a word count, aiming more for milestones within the story. I try not to let word count get in the way of the story telling; I don’t want it to be bogged down unnecessarily, ruining the pace.
In the first draft my goal is to simply tell the story, from start to finish, and then either remove prose if they seem unnecessary or add more detail if needed during the editing/revision stages – so, some days I write a lot more than others. That said, I still work full-time, so regardless of which stage I am at in the story, I still try to write for a minimum of an hour most evenings.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
I’ve previously self-published four titles. Shadows of the Woods is a book of two parts; both parts were originally self-published as two separate novellas – Within the Dark Places and Where the Darkness Hides. Both novellas have now been revised and merged to form a fuller novel through Panther Publishing, as well as tying into a wider series of books I’m working on.
There is also a third part, Where the Darkness Reigns, which was also self-published, however, this is long enough to be a novel in its own right. I am hoping to also re-lease Where the Darkness Reigns as a sequel to Shadows of the Woods. I also wrote a standalone novella called The Church of Freyr, which is more a physiological horror rather than supernatural.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Definitely a plotter. I don’t even begin to write a first draft until I have a well rounded plot with a strong beginning, middle and end. In fact, for me, having a strong ending is the most important part of this process; it gives the writing direction and it keeps me motivated seeing the end in sight; although I do have moments of inspiration when writing which I didn’t account for.
I love seeing where this inspiration takes the characters and how it shapes the world of the story, but it’s important to know when to rein it in, otherwise the story will run away from you. That said, I’m currently writing the first draft of a potential new novel by the seat of my pants, just to see where it takes me. So far, I’m really enjoying the spontaneity of it.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – Panther Publishing
Release Date – 1st June 2020
Format – ebook
Faceless shadows, a night that will never be the same, and a sinister force. If you go down to the woods tonight, you’re in for a sinister surprise.
When a stag party decide to camp in the woods, they soon discover that a malevolent force has them in their sights. As the unknown creeps ever closer, Joe and his friends must survive. To survive, Joe must learn to fight. If he fights, he could lose it all.
A rollercoaster ride of blood, sweat and tears, Shadows of the Woods will keep you hooked, all whilst throwing nostalgic homage to slashers of the late seventies and early eighties.
A Night Terror that you won’t be forgetting any time soon.
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
Much of Shadows of the Woods is set in a wood. The setting is inspired woodland close to home and where I spent a lot of time growing up. When I started plotting the book, I took a few walks through the wood to refresh my memory of the landscape so I could make it as believable as possible.
The second part of the book takes place in a police station. I read various books on police procedure, especially ones aimed at writers of crime fiction. I wanted to closely recreate the workings of a police station, but I admit I took some artistic licence for the purpose of telling a good story – after all, it is a work of fantasy. I was also given the opportunity to visit a local constabulary and this formed the basis of the layout of the police station featured in the story.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
It is difficult to say. The project was very much start-stop for the first draft. I’m not entirely sure where the initial idea came from; in the back of my mind I had the idea for a movie about a group of friends being attacked by their own shadows. In my teens, I would make horror movies with my friends using a camcorder. Fast-forward to late 2012 and I was sat in the pub with one of my old friends. After a few beers we got talking about the old movies we used to make and we had the idea to make a movie again. Now being adults and working, we hoped to raise a modest budget and I began playing with ideas for a film we could make with little to no money – a creature feature where you never really see the creature seemed the best option.
This then linked to my earlier idea of “the shadows” and I set to work on a screenplay. I wrote about a third of the screenplay when the plans to make a movie had all but been forgotten. Still, I liked what I had written in the screenplay and was disappointed I couldn’t take it further. So, I began to turn it into a book. The initial conversation in the pub to the point if writing the final word of the first draft took the best part of three years. Nowadays, a first draft takes about three months.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
I always struggle to come up with titles. The title changes numerous times while writing a book, especially in the case of Shadows of the Woods. I think the original treatment for the screenplay was called From the Shadows. I can’t really recall why I scrapped that title, but at one point in the early drafts it was called Dark Shadows, which I then realised had been a recent Tim Burton movie.
The original title, Within the Dark Places came from a piece of dialogue by the protagonist, which had a ring to it. However, after some discussion with the team at Panther Publishing, we agreed to change the title to something catchier. We brainstormed a few alternative titles and Shadows of the Woods seemed to stick.
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
The protagonist is a young man named Joe Costello. He’s somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, as we see when we first meet him, and he has always dreamed of joining the Royal Marines. Unfortunately, his ambitions remain a dream, being responsible for his sickly, younger brother Tony. It is this responsibility for his brother and his dreams of being a soldier which drive Joe and influence the decisions he makes when he and his friends encounter the dark entities in the woods.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
I originally self-published as two separate novellas. I wanted to test the waters and see what sort of reception my writing received. I then wrote and released part three and I later had the idea to self-publish an omnibus edition – with all three parts in one single book. The problem was the third instalment, Where the Darkness Reigns, is almost a different style of genre; its more dark fantasy rather than horror. However, parts one & two sit well together and read back-to-back flow as a continuous novel.
I had liaised with Panther through Twitter and saw they were looking for unknown horror writers. Within the Dark Places, as it was known then, ticked all the boxes for their submission criteria. So I merged the two novellas together, rewrote a few parts to link it to a wider series I’m working on and the rest, as they say, is history – Panther offered a contract before they had even read the full manuscript.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
2020 is going to be a busy year for writing. A revised version of Where the Darkness Reigns has now been submitted to Panther, which I hope they will also want to publish. Presently, I’m giving my current project a once over, trying to weed out any spelling and grammar errors, making sure there are no plot holes. My current project is a fuller novel, compared to my previous books. It is set in the same small town as Shadows of the Woods – the town of Ravenfield – but it is a standalone story, introducing new characters and areas of Ravenfield we didn’t visit previously.
I have a few more books in the Ravenfield series planned, along with ideas for more standalone novels. I’m also mid-way through the first draft of a new novel, the one I’m writing by the seat of my pants. I can’t say too much about that one right now, as it is very much in its infancy and I’m making it up as I go, so anything could happen.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
That’s a tough one, the possibilities are endless. I think I’d like to be able to time travel; I love history and would also love to see how the world turns out over the next few millennia.
2) Do you have any pets?
I do. With my partner, I purchased our first family home last July and the previous owner had a three-legged cat called Roxy. The previous owners said they had difficulties re-homing her, so we let her stay and now she’s part of the family. In the photo she is making herself at home on my son’s bed.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
Hmm, I’m not entirely sure. It would depend on which part of my life I was writing about… If I did write one, I think I’d like to write about life up to publishing my first book. With that in mind I’d probably call it “How NOT to Write a Novel: An Author’s Guide to the Art of Procrastination.”
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
Shadows of the Woods began life as a screenplay, I was also going to direct the movie with a Hitchcock style cameo. I was going to play the role of the camper who dies in the opening chapter. I’d still like to play that part.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Does Center Parcs count? My family book about two breaks there a year and we love it. As a long-term sufferer of depression and anxiety, I’m not great with travelling and I don’t like to venture too far from home. Luckily, there are two Center Parcs villages within a two hour drive, so it’s pretty handy.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
“Quack!” For fun, I asked my seven year old daughter this question and “Quack!” was her answer. My alternative answer is, “Don’t mind me, I’m just borrowing a pen,” as if it were an everyday occurrence.
I would like to say a big thank you to Duncan Thompson for sharing with us details of his writing life and for a wonderful interview.