My thanks to Ray Cluley for tagging me as part of THE NEXT BIG THING, a chain of writer interviews that takes a peek at what we are working on next.

1.What is the working title of your next book? It’s called The Clearing and it’s my first novel.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book? I have quite vivid dreams and work in a very visual way. I dreamt of a particular image and drew it the next day and let it stew in my notebook for a while, knowing there was a story there but not knowing quite what it was. I began to write it as a short story but soon realised that it was much, much bigger. I wasn’t sure if it was a novel either at that stage but I didn’t want to curtail it in any way, so I kept going with it and now it’s pretty weighty.

3. What genre does your book fall under? Horror but I think it could appeal to a mainstream reader as well.

4. What actors would you chose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? I like Romola Garai and Emily Mortimer. Rufus Sewell would be pretty good.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? I don’t want to give anything away I’m afraid, but what I can say is that it is about our relationship with the landscape and its heritage. I’ve always been really interested by settings in novels and I’ve allowed the setting in this novel to be as significant as a main character.

6. Will your book be self published or represented by an agency? I hope it will be picked up by an agent but it’s not quite finished and needs redrafting, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. However if you are a publisher reading this, it’s going to be a bestseller, honestly, so get in touch!

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I started making notes and writing small sections over a year ago, but at the time with my job and a bout of short story ideas that really got me excited, I put it on the backburner. I began in earnest in May of this year, finally realising that a story in my head isn’t anywhere near as good as a story on the page. So I adopted a really rigorous regime in the summer, trying to achieve a weekly word count of 10,000. I’m in the final stages now of my first draft but I have still a long way to go. Editing is the most important part of the process and before I even get to that I’ve got to know that the story works. So I envisage a few more months of hard graft to get the story to where it needs to be.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within this genre? I wouldn’t want to make comparisons or to suggest that my novel is in a similar realm to some of the excellent works of fiction out there. It’s my first novel and I’d be happier to let readers make those links. But in writing a novel driven by setting it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by some of the canonical wild spaces, in particular the heath in Hardy’s Return of the Native or the moors in Wuthering Heights. Within the genre, Mythago Wood was a revelation to me. I was completely and happily lost in the Holdstock’s forest. Graham Joyce’s intoxicating, liminal spaces within Some Kind of Fairy Tale similarly resonate at a subconscious level, drawing you into a familiar landscape, though you may have never ever ventured into a wood. I also enjoyed the depiction of ancient woodland in Adam Nevill’s The Ritual.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? My mother was a great lover of the outdoors, a perpetual tree hugger (quite literally) and a keen observer of the changes in the seasons. Growing up, I was pretty oblivious to the natural world and was certainly more influenced by the landscape of fiction than what was outside my front door. Maybe it’s because I’m a city dweller and pine for wild, open spaces or maybe it’s down to some kind of strange inheritance, but I feel a very physical need to connect with the natural world on a regular basis. Long coastal walks or hiking through the forest are a necessity for me rather than a pleasure. I am also inspired by the artistic work of Spanish Surrealist Remedios Varo. I love the way she links the organic to the architectural, and in the image below, asserts that there’s a divinity in nature.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? The novel draws quite heavily on English folklore and myth, fables and fairytales, exploring a kind of literary legacy of the woodland. Where we belong is, quite literally, the subject of my story.

Remedios Varo Vegetal Cathedral

It’s usual now for me to recommend five more writers to complete the same questions as above but alas everyone I know has already been tagged! So I’m going to recommend instead that you check out Nina Allan’s recent blog The Trouble with Horror, which deals, I think rather fittingly, with the difficulty of being original in a field with so many well-established tropes and conventions. Nina also lists her recommendations of writers who manage to bring something new to the genre.

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