Today I would like to give a warm welcome to acclaimed author Wayne Barton. His debut novel ‘Coal House‘ is a real page turner and filled with enough suspense to keep you awake most of the night. I have just finished Coal House and loved it. If you like your horror classic with a modern twists then this is for you. I must admit classic horror is not usually my bag but once I’d picked this up I couldn’t put it down and nearly had to sleep with the light on!
Here’s a brief synopsis:
When property developer Finn Harper impulsively decides to make an investment with his wife whilst away together in North Wales for their anniversary, it seems an opportunity almost too good to be true. But as the disturbing truth of the home’s abandonment unravels itself, Finn finds himself alone, and a martyr of the local community. He must confront some personal demons, forcing him to consider what, or even who, is real.
Thanks for joining me today Wayne.
NF: Can you tell me a bit about your writing processes. For instance do you draft an outline, do you have a set number of words you try and achieve each day or do you go with the flow and see where it goes?
WSB: I wish I was that organised! I have a ton of ideas for characters and stories, many of them written down, many not… From that, I’ll write down ideas of how a story might develop. I take great care in making sure it’s all organic, and that might come from – for example – either the theme of story I want to tell, or, the natural reactions and ways characters respond to certain things. So, ‘Coal House’ was very much a ‘scary’ suspense story, that was what helped me write it. My other fiction works are ‘drama’ and so I end up writing tons of comments, conversations and dialogue that fits the theme of the story. And then I’ll create the storyline, where the characters are, why they are there, that kind of thing. I do go into each day with the best of endeavours (something like 6,000 words a day is always an aim). Sometimes I can feel I’ve had a really productive day when I’ve written just two thousand words.
NF: Coal House is a great title for a book. I’ve just finished reading it and loved it. Where did the inspiration for the book come from?
WSB: Thank you! I wanted to write a horror book. I’m such a huge fan of John Carpenter’s Halloween and I wanted to try and see if I could recreate that sort of suspense and dread in written format. I guess you could say it’s a traditional ghost story but what I tried to do was to make it as plausible as could be; for instance, I wanted a person who doesn’t believe in ghosts to pick up the book and be creeped out by something that could easily pass as real. Each person’s interpretation is different but so far, it’s been great that some of the reviews say ‘Don’t read this if you’re alone/before you go to bed’!
Don’t read before you go to bed, I would agree with that!
NF: The book is set in Wales tell us something about how that came about?
WSB: I think one of the greatest devices anyone writing suspense can have is isolation; and there is so much of North Wales that gives itself to that kind of setting. My memories of Wales are of going there on holiday when I was a kid, and now when I’m older, visiting friends. There’s a friendly and inviting charm, so I thought it would be interesting to turn that around and make it uninviting.
NF: If you were to give a piece of advice to someone about writing what would it be?
WSB: I don’t know if I could necessarily advise about writing because creation is such an individual thing. What I would say is, use your network of friends, family, fellow readers, as much as you can. Use them for feedback during the creation process and for word of mouth after it. A support network can be worth its weight in gold.
I agree, using your networks is invaluable the whole way through.That’s a great piece of advice Wayne, thank you.
NF: When writing fiction, how do you find where to draw the line that says it’s fictional enough without becoming too far fetched?
WSB: Going back to my answer for the first question… it’s difficult to do with a horror, but there always has to be some suspension of disbelief. How many times do you watch a horror and get frustrated because someone leaves the haunted house and then goes straight back in? What I felt I had to do was create logical scenarios which would not only make such a situation believable, but, also to an extent almost the natural choice. Hopefully I succeeded!
In my other work I try to do that through conversation. If you develop your characters strong enough, hopefully you know them well enough to provide them with realistic dialogue, and not just dialogue which is contrived to fit your own narrative. People don’t just react to your convenience, they have their own things going on. It’s not easy to do and I don’t claim to be a master of it, but at least being aware of it is something that I hope helps create a more believable story.