SpeakableCassie's Top Ten Games of 2021! - Part 2
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Back with a new interview! This time it’s with Dominic Watson. I think he likes gin. I’m not certain of that!
First, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hello there, I’m Dom Watson, and I live in the green of Suffolk, with two children, three cats (I think) and a dog. Not to mention my poor wife. Life is exhausting, as I’m sure you can imagine. Any scraps of free time are dwelt within my study, crafting intricate tales of Acid Fantasy . . . wait, up, I just made that up. I suppose its Science Fantasy, dash of horror. I don’t know what I write to be honest, but it gives me joy, so I think that’s a good start. I’m terrible at labelling myself.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Plots usually form in moments of meditation and relaxation. It’s good to keep a routine in life, walking the dog, even work, out of that miasma you can see threads dangling like ripe fruit. I lay the groundwork first, and the characters tend to filter into the environment. When I wrote The Boy Who Walked Too Far the main character is the city itself, others fell into the clay, and they formed around that. The city of Testament has a lot to say, as it should.
Tell the world about your current project!
Smoker On The Porch. It’s done. Ready for an editor. It was never intended to succeed the Boy, but I was having trouble focusing on the sequel to The Boy Who Walked Too Far, so I started writing a weird tale about the grumpy old man over the street, just out of desperation because I thought I had the sequel all planned out, but I didn’t, and Smoker just flowered into this tale of childhood in the late eighties, drinking Soda Stream and messing around on BMX’s and having this virtually totally free life before media became all encompassing. We all miss that, especially now, with lockdowns and isolation. It’s fucking crazy. A more innocent time where kids could take a pack lunch and bike for miles and miles and their parents were okay with it. Yet there was this other side to the freedom we were granted in that mental health was never talked about and we had to buck up and face the world teeth and all. I am quite proud of it. For me, it is almost autobiographical in its depiction of bullying and torment, and yet we have the old guy over the street who watches everything through his yellowed net curtains, a dark wood where no one wants to roam, a house only seen in dreams, a Renfield in denim . . . The House of Sweet Things is waiting.
Who would you say is the main character of your latest novel? And tell me a little about them!
Smoker on the Porch is told through Jake Whittaker. He is immediately relatable and yet he has this verbose outlook on life and circumstances, which I cannot go too much into because it is integral to plot. But he is just a boy, doing boy things with his mates, messing around in his den, having a crafty fag, and yet the long road of adulthood is leering on the horizon, and he doesn’t want to grow up. It’s all the fears of future things, leaving childhood behind and yet the bogeyman is still very real, and living on his street. Jake is told through the first person, so you see bullying and depression first-hand through him. He is a strong boy, yet still fallible.
Have you been to any conventions? If so, tell me a little about them!
Do you know what, I never have. Out here in the sticks it is always a difficulty in getting to them, and even more so with responsibilities and family, but you know what I would dearly love to. Stuff like Fantasycon or Bristolcon would be great to visit. I nearly came close to Bristolcon, but Covid *shakes fist*. In my twenties I was in the boozer or at gigs so that was always first. But now, as a writer and a lover of all things cult I would love to.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Crikey, you know I was quite young. I’d say early teens. I was quite the introvert growing up so any time out of school or family functions I would be sitting at the back reading a Doctor Who Target novelisation. I remember one Christmas my mum got me the novelisations of Remembrance of the Daleks and The Curse of Fenric. I was made up, I had the TV serials literally in the palms of my hands and yet Aaronovitch and Ian Briggs expanded on the tales, made them deeper and more fascinating. Then I had trifle. (smiles). But for a long while in my teens I made up some ridiculous pieces of fiction and then when I got to my twenties the pub took over for a bit. What’s life if not for living? So, I needed to write about something. I remember my aunt and uncle came to visit one weekend from London and my uncle had a few authors under his banner. He was a solicitor and he asked one of them if they would look at some of my work. It was bloody terrible; I still have it somewhere. But she was kind enough to give me this amazing critique, in which she said, you have the right idea about things, but live a little, get drunk, fall in love a few times, miss the train, get stoned – I’m serious – maybe go travelling or just walk the street of a city you’ve never been to before. She’s still writing now, but I shan’t utter her name. (laughs).
If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year, while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
Wow, that’s a tough one. This may come across as slightly odd, but I have always had a fasciation with British Columbia, Vancouver mainly. I watched too much Highlander the Series in the nineties, but I loved the scenery, and I missed the chance to go there as an old friend lived there for a bit. Gutted, should had taken that opportunity. Epic fail. He teaches English in South Korea now, so maybe I’ll go there (laughs).
What advice would you give new writers?
Be ready for disappointment. And don’t let anyone tell you how to write a book, and don’t be given a set of parameters you have to adhere. Jesus, you are the masters of your worlds. And if those dwarves want to eat jelly than that’s what they do. Patience is key, never finish something and immediately send it off, leave it on simmer for a few weeks, maybe a coupe of months. Publishing isn’t going anywhere and don’t think anyone else has the potential to get in before you with the next Harry Potter, it isn’t going to happen. Be at one with the keyboard. Breathe.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from the worldbuilding?
Chips. It is something we all need, and when we have a bad day, we reach for the chocolate or the booze. They still have chips at the end of the universe you know, well my universe does because chips are fantastic. I think within the first two pages I mentioned chips. But if I waiting for the universe to end, I would want chips. But in all seriousness, I mostly drew from friendships. The whole of the Boy is about friendships, old and new. They are what form us, make us, friends claim more space in the soul.
What inspires you to write?
Anger. Believe it or not a lot of things piss me off. I have hard job turning off mood, even if it is low or high. When I’m angry I am for days. When I was writing the Boy I was diagnosed with depression, and I was so angry with myself that I let this thing in – although it wasn’t my fault – so I carried around this anger for so long and channelled it into the narrative of the Boy, and the depression essentially became the antagonist. You’ll see if you read it. With Smoker it’s the bullying I endured as a wee youth; think I was seven. I have been seeing a counsellor for a couple of years now and we delved into that place, and I exorcised it, essentially into the book (Smoker). The next one is about capitalism and the shit card army veterans get. That pisses me off totally.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Spelling things correctly. Especially when the wine runs out.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
Routine is hard. Especially with a family. I never try to write anything when I have my son. He’s a three-year-old and he tries to ride the dog like a horse, so I must be on the ball. It’ll get easier as he gets older. Evenings is usually my time when everyone has settled. I don’t really need quiet as I have music in my ears, so the evening is solely for interruptions. If I know the wife is going out for the afternoon and I’m home (like now) she’ll take the kids to leave me to my own devices. So routine is always changing here, but I’m sure it will get better as time moves on.
What is always your favourite chapter (or part) to write in any of your books, and why?
I always dread writing the big confrontations, or some finales. In the Boy it was the fight in the abandoned subway. It had been playing in my head for weeks and I exactly knew how to play it, but it is always your confidence in yourself to deliver on that scene which sometimes stops you forging ahead. It was recently the same with the finale of Smoker. But I nailed it. Even if you must give yourself days to prepare it’s worth it. Don’t rush. But when you do it, and do it well, it is pure elation.
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?
That I can do it again. Write another book. Boy took so long. About four years, on and off. But within those four years we had our daughter, money was tight, and I was diagnosed with depression, so it does take time. But the fact I have done it again is elating.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
An architect of doom. A plotter of hi-jinks.
If you had to give up either snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?
Which is your favourite season to write in, and why?
I am a baby of Spring. I find it immensely purifying for the soul. Idea’s flow and the sun shines. An excellent balm. Though I am partial to the transition of summer into autumn. But Spring wins, hands down.
It is sometimes difficult to get into the characters we write. How do you go about it?
I always need a doorway in. If I don’t have something to anchor myself to then it is a no show. He could be a cop or a baker, it doesn’t matter, but unless there isn’t an aura of solidarity then it becomes hard. Xindii is a total wanker really, but there is a light within him that anchors me. Doomfinger is a brilliant character in that all he wants to do is sit within the cloisters drinking tea and yet his intellect demands courts and governments. Jake, Jake was easy, he’s me. (smiles)
What are your future project(s)?
Well, after Smoker I’m heading back to the Construct and Testament. The sequel to The Boy Who Walked Too Far is coming. A Stage of Furies. I’m angry. A vagrant has come to Testament with a bleeding sack of old magic, and he has scores to settle. After that I have a novella to finish, I dubbed Water, Soap & Elbow Grease. I wrote a little of it a while back and I want to return to it. But the sequel to the Boy has waited too long and I’m ready to hang out with those boys. It is going to be mental. Also have an author collab in the pipeline, expect traditional fantasy dialled up to Dom.
Which is your favourite book ever written?
Damn, Clive Barker’s Weaveworld. Close second is his Great & Secret Show. The prose within those novels is something else, and when I read them in the mid 90’s they spoke reams to me. I was feeling quite lost at the time, and they were my totems of hope.
Who are your favourite authors?
Clive Barker, funnily enough. Frank De Litta – you ever read his novel, The Entity? absolutely chilling -, Ed Macdonald, Peter Mclean, RJ Barker. Those guys are dishing out some serious pieces of paper at the minute. Jen Williams, Dog Rose Dirt, par excellence.
What makes a good villain? What makes a good hero?
You must have shades of grey from both parties, man. If you’re going totally evil then the best thing to do is the Jaws technique, don’t show, just show its appetites. But more grounded villains need to have that semblance of familiarity. It makes for great reading and the writer has more fun too.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Sleep. (laughs). I usually go out on my bike in the more clement months. Fresh air does some remarkable things for the soul. Failing that I love trip to the cinema or roasting meat on my barbecue. But sleep tops the list. And gin.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Most recently through my troubles I have gained a massive resect for people who work in mental health, so if I had the time or the wonga I would study to become a counsellor or something. Or a gin taster.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
You can travel anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
The moon. Lots of cheese, they say.
Do you have any writing blogs you can recommend?
How To Drink Gin.
Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?
Yes of course, Clive Barker, we go way back. Neil Gaiman, he owes me a fiver. Got quite pally with Luke Tarzian (nudge nudge, wink wink). Ed Cox was brilliant in my initial days of Wattpad. Jen Willams, Trudie Skies, Dyrk Ashton, Michael Fletcher, Clayton Snyder, RJ Barker and his nemesis, Forrrrrbes. Sebastian Renholder – though you won’t find him. Last seen floating down the Amazon in a Ford Cortina.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your road trip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Geralt of Rivia, Bilbo Baggins, Roland Deschain. Prague. Zombie Bar.
What superpower would you most like?
Captain Gin ………he drinks, gin (hic)
What are your two favourite covers of all time? (Not your own.)
Probably one of the early ninety’s covers of IT. With the red balloon and the eyes in the drain. Recently, though Zamil Akhtar’s Gunmetal Gods cover. Blew me away.
It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and the pandemic eventually comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?
I’m going to hug everyone I care about. And give them a ruddy big kiss. Including you, Michael.