Horror & Dark Fiction Author Tom Adams stops off at Kendall Reviews for a fascinating conversation.

Tom Adams is an imaginer drifting between lands of speculative fantasy, horror and bizarro. When he strays back into the realm called reality he finds himself in Middleland; a geologically beautiful gamut of scenery in the north west of England. The forces that drive him shift their shapes with sharp needles of inspiration, but at present include the art of Zdzislaw Beksinski, the music and words of Ronnie James Dio and a Frankenstein amalgam of word-scriptors such as Vonnegut, Tolkien, Clevenger, Leonard, King and Bradbury.

KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

I’m a horror and dark fiction author hailing from the North of England and a little known part of the world called Cumbria, sometimes called Middleland because it’s on the border between Scotland and England.

I’ve been writing stories since the age of eight, when I produced comic books inspired by Marvel and 2,000 AD. At the age of twenty-five I attempted to write an epic fantasy novel called ‘Aukben’s legacy.’ This was very much a craft learning exercise and remains unpublished.

Having learned from this, I took a leaf out of Ray Bradbury’s book, ‘Zen in the art of writing’ and churned out numerous short stories; some of which found their way into two collections I’ve published. Bradbury said ‘if you write a story a day for a year, there’s a chance that one or two won’t suck.’ I’m paraphrasing a bit, but I agree with the sentiment that a writer needs to have a work ethic. Since then, I’ve gone on to produce a full-length dark fantasy novel entitled ‘The Psychonaut,’ the sequel to which will be published on 28th February.

As well as writing, I narrate audiobooks, both for my own work and other authors. To date, I have over ten books available via Audible. I find the interplay between the spoken and written word fascinating, as one tends to feed off the other. As I write, I’m half way through the audio version of ‘The Psychonaut’ and it’s already influenced my decision to produce an updated version of the ebook and print version as the ‘reading aloud’ element has cast light on various character traits which only suggested themselves once I had actually recorded the chapters. It won’t be a major re-write as I’m happy with the way the plot has worked out and informed the next two books. It’s more a case of adding some subtle nuances to the narrative and dialogue.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

I’m a musician as well as a writer. At present, I’m just finishing a year’s tenure with a local covers band that has built up a solid reputation in Cumbria as a top wedding and party outfit. Between music and writing I don’t have much time for a lot else, although I’ve recently taken on a caring role for my parents who are in their late eighties. Other hobbies include walking, watching movies and serialisations and, of course, reading!

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

It would have to be Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ and all the other related books – The Hobbit, The Silmarillion etc. He was the original fantasy author and no one has quite managed to top his breadth and scope, despite being more prolific, perhaps. He basically invented the genre and, having read his biography and letters it’s clear to see why his work is held in such high esteem. The years he spent researching myths and legends, developing and inventing languages together with building the world his characters inhabited has not been equalled. His books were the first to see me longing for time alone where I would literally spend hours devouring the stories. I was heartbroken when I finished LOTR because I wondered ‘What next?’ It was three years later that I discovered Stephen King – but that’s another story.

KR: What are you reading now?

I have a number of books on the go. I like to read the latest from my favourite authors, experiment with new ones and dip into old classics or poetic works. So, I’m half way through the two King’s ‘Sleeping Beauties’ and I must say, their styles blend into and complement each other perfectly. My new discovery is B.P. Gregory. I’m reading her ‘Town’ novella and enjoying the quirky style and almost surreal narratives. I also dip into a couple of books every morning just for inspiration and research purposes. The first is ‘Brewer’s dictionary of phrase and fable‘ which I was alerted to via an interview with Neil Gaiman. On the passing of his friend and fellow author, Terry Pratchett, he remarked how they both found it an astounding source of history, facts, culture and general trivia. I thought to myself; well, if it’s good enough for Gaiman and Pratchett then I must get hold of a copy. I treat it almost as a bible—read a couple of entries, ruminate on them then move on to a piece of fiction. The other book is Fernando Pezzoa’s ‘Book of Disquiet’ which can probably be best summed up as stream of consciousness prose poetry. The book has a rather unique and intriguing origin which I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say, Pezzoa was a quite remarkable individual. Well worth occupying space on anyone’s bookshelf.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

Music plays a massive part in both my writing and general existence. As I said, I’m a musician, singer and songwriter and there’s a significant mutualism that takes place between the twin organisms of literature and music, in my opinion. My website actually celebrates this fusion and many of my blog articles (which I’m in the process of updating) draw on inspiration from song lyrics and classic albums. My band project, ‘Hot Flow Anomaly’ is currently putting together material for their second album. It could be described as progressive rock but blends in elements of blues and folk too. I actually invented a genre for it simply for the sake of giving it a unique category. I called it ‘Gothic Blues’ but, to be honest, it has little meaning other than drawing on a darkness prevalent in my writing. It’s made up in the same way that Lewis Carrol made up a frumious bandersnatch!

As to a favourite album, it’s very difficult to pin a single one down. Those who are interested might want to check out a blog I’m about to publish called ‘my top ten desert island discs’. There—I’ve now committed to another task on my ‘to-do’ list. For the moment, I’ll quote Rainbow’s ‘Long Live Rock n’ roll.’ It’s an album that defined ‘Castle Rock’ and combined the talents of two masters of the art: Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio. But if you ask me next month I’ll probably namecheck a Rush or Led Zeppelin album.

When writing in my study or ‘Dragon Cave’, as I call it, I’ll put on some ambient music. I particularly like an artist called ‘Paleowolf’ who writes dark, primal pieces which are both shamanic and meditative. So this, and the rising scent of sandalwood from my incense burner provide the perfect environment for the muse to flow.

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

In the beginning I was heavily influenced by authors in the horror and fantasy genres. So Tolkien was an obvious starting point, but I also read Stephen Donaldson, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guinn, and Madeleine L’engle early on. I got into horror and the darker side of things in my late teens and swallowed up anything by Stephen King, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon and Brian Lumley. All these have no doubt fed into the witches’ brew of my inspiration and I think I’m at the stage now where I’m moving away from mimicking anyone else’s style and being confident in who I am. As to being unique? I’m not sure I am in terms of storylines or plot. I like to think I can create unique characters and settings, however; and I try to aim at giving an entertaining read. If I can provide a gateway for someone to escape the everyday pressures of the rat race, then I’ll consider I’ve done a good job. I guess I’ll let the readers be the judges!

But getting back to those early-life influences, I think the reason they grabbed me was because they weaved stories that contained universal themes. You don’t realise this is happening when you read them because you’re so immersed in the story. But once you’re finished, you find yourself thinking about the characters and how they behaved for months or even years after.

Having only given my earnest attention to writing fiction in the last three years, there’s so much I’ve had to learn. Writing stories is so different to writing non-fiction, which I have done for quite some time now. Apart from generally having confidence in myself and committing to finish a project, one of the most revolutionary aspects of the writing craft I had to learn was ‘show not just tell.’ I didn’t even know this existed when I started writing fiction, but it’s so fundamental to bringing a reader into a scene you’ve created. I still have a long way to go, and when I read authors like Ray Bradbury and Craig Clevenger I contemplate hanging up my pen because they’re so good at it.

I wrote an attempt at a first novel back in my twenties, and it was rubbish. I needed to have a lot more life experience, read more, learn the craft – and there wasn’t the wealth of information back in the 80’s that the internet provides now. So I think I’ve benefitted from waiting. Some people are naturally talented from an early age and don’t need to put the years in. I wish I was one of them.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

For novels I produce a loose outline. The projects are so big that I think I would wander too far from the chosen path to ever find my way back otherwise. I’ve found Jim Butcher’s outlining method useful as it helps build the story up from the initial premise question right through to plotting character arcs, scene sequence, theme etc. There are a number of great tools out there like story grid, but this one hasn’t let me down so far and I don’t intend to try and fix something that isn’t broken.

For short stories and novellas however, I am a complete pantser. I like how a story can grow organically from the characters and theme. All the stories in my two collections originated in this way.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I don’t do a massive amount of research, but occasionally I have to set aside time to get the facts right and provide the necessary authenticity. For example, in my current release, Demonslayer, I had to look into the geography of Jerusalem, both ancient and modern. I also found it necessary to check out the structure of the Israeli army just to get the reference in a single sentence correct. In the previous book I spent ages looking into the world of multinational conglomerates and corporate take-overs. I’ve no doubt that a real expert in these areas could pick holes in what I’ve written, but hopefully they would appreciate I’ve made the effort.

Fortunately, the World Wide Web is a wonderful place for extracting all sorts of information. The danger is getting lost in an area of undiscovered fascination.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

I wish there was a typical day – then again, maybe I don’t because it’s good that life is varied. An ideal day might look like this:

– Wake up at 6 o’ clock

– Read and meditate for 90 minutes or so

– Go on a long walk to get the creative juices flowing

– write for at least two hours and get down two to two and a half K fresh words

– edit a WIP

– have a light lunch

– Audio-narrate at least two chapters

– dip into social media, make some posts to fb or, less usually, twitter. Carry out some marketing, newsletter/blog writing or book formatting.

– Practice and or write some music

– Cook tea

– Catch up on the day with wifey and facetime my children

– relax – if I can!

More often a day starts with a bout of Insomnia at three or four o’ clock in the morning where I listen to an audiobook to get me off to sleep. Then I wake up too soon and crawl through the day fighting fatigue and a host of other events which impinge on this lifestyle. I don’t want to make out that I have a hard life, after all I get to write every day and have a certain degree of control over what I do. So I try to be grateful for what I have. There are so many who don’t have the privileges I have.

KR: Which is your favourite of the books/stories you have written?

I tend to get obsessed with the piece I’m writing at a given time. It’s only when I look back and re-read (sometimes in preparation for recording an audio version) that I can decide whether a story has much, little or no merit. But if I had to choose a longstanding favourite it would be my novella, Lusus naturae (Latin for Freak of Nature.) It’s a fantastical, horrific romance and is one of those stories that unfolded as I wrote it. I felt satisfied that the ending was ‘the only logical ending there could be.’ Subsequent reviews by those I respect seem to have born this out.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

I’m a self-publisher so, yes, I read every one. I can usually tell if the reviewer has been fair and honest and I pay attention to their remarks. If I find a repeated message in reviews then I use it as feedback to improve. I’ve had a couple of one star reviews on Amazon so far but in both cases they were from readers who didn’t realise the stories I write are very dark (they didn’t look at the 18+ tag) or clearly hadn’t persevered beyond the first page or chapter. As a reviewer, I always take the time to read a few chapters before giving up on a book—some need time to set the scene and bring their rewards later. The Fellowship of the Ring chapter 1 anyone?

KR: What scares you?

As a youngster I was particularly frightened of a monster who lived in our coal-shed called ‘Billy Green Teeth.’ He was an invention of my father who helpfully told me about him, then gave me the job of getting the coal in for our fires from this shed—often at night and in the pouring rain and wind. I remember having to hold the door open against the raging gales, then shining the torch up into the rafters, all the time expecting to see the fiend crouched up there like a predator, grinning malevolently before dropping down to rip me limb from limb.

These days it’s not demons, monsters or ghosts which keep me awake at night. Things like the possibility of dementia, losing my loved ones or the threat of obscurity. Oh—and the colour beige—it is a terror more ancient and malevolent than Lovecraft’s Cthulhu.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

All of them but in reverse order. I once gave away all of my fiction collection to charity and stocked up on e-book versions. But I started to miss the feel and smell of a physical book. So, if purchasing a new volume, I’ll go for hardback as the first option. If it’s too expensive or unavailable I’ll get the paperback. I tend to read e-books if it’s a review copy. As someone once said, there’s no such thing as too many books— just not enough book shelves.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

Demonslayer’ is the second book in my Psychonaut trilogy. It follows the continuing dilemma of a corporate negotiator called Merrick Whyte as he struggles to come to terms with an awesome supernatural power, while trying to cling on to an increasingly irrelevant humanistic atheism.

The blurb reads as follows:

Merrick Whyte is the Psychonaut; mind reader, Master of the Gateways, destroyer of worlds. He is also bereft of power, stolen by Aiwass the dark demi-god, for reasons which are far from clear. But Aiwass is explicit about the impending uncreation of the multiverse—an atrocity machinated by Orthon, a first order demon. To avert this abomination, Merrick is tasked with seeking out the Dancer—an emissary of Orthon and member of a swelling infestation of adepts called the Enclave. This will prove to be just the start of a treacherous road.

Merrick’s journey will lead him to worlds both bizarre and mind-unhinging. It will see demi-gods threaten those closest to him, the return of old enemies and will be opposed by a fanatical group intent on destroying any adept possessing magical powers, including Merrick himself.

Aided by his Outcasts and Hierophant allies, Merrick will seize objects of power and learn arcane invocations never before granted to mortals. But even these may not suffice. For Orthon is always a step ahead, and no one has ever slain a demon before. Above all, a Psychonaut can often be his own worst enemy.

 

It’s interesting to write a scenario that reverses my own philosophy of life the universe and everything. I’m like Clive Barker in that I’m irreligious. Horrors and fantastical entities exist only in our imaginations.

KR: What are you working on now?

I’ve got three works on the go, but the one I’m desperately trying to finish is a horror story called ‘Mycophoria.’ It’s set in my home county of Cumbria and adopts a James Herbert-like structure consisting of unnerving and shocking vignettes, all centred around the premise of a long dormant fungus-like organism that awakens and occupies the minds of susceptible individuals. Needless to say, the ‘infected’ don’t find a sudden urge to take up macramé or work in soup kitchens. Their symptoms have a much more violent expression. Underlying it all is the notion that we all have dark desires and imaginings lying deep in our consciousness. For most, they stay there. But for some, it only requires the bad moral luck or the particular circumstances to release them.

KR: Fast forward ten years! Where do you see yourself?

Hopefully still alive! Hopefully with a larger body of work under my belt, and hopefully a bit wiser.

KR: Thank you very much Tom.

Please visit Tom’s Official website at: http://tomghadams.com

Tom’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tomghadams

Tom’s Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/user/ridgemoterider/  

Tom’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Moteridgerider

Merrick Whyte is the Psychonaut; mind reader, Master of the Gateways, destroyer of worlds. He is also bereft of power, stolen by Aiwass the dark demi-god, for reasons which are far from clear. But Aiwass is explicit about the impending uncreation of the multiverse—an atrocity machinated by Orthon, a first order demon. To avert this abomination, Merrick is tasked with seeking out the Dancer—an emissary of Orthon and member of a swelling infestation of adepts called the Enclave. This will prove to be just the start of a treacherous road.
Merrick’s journey will lead him to worlds both bizarre and mind-unhinging. It will see demi-gods threaten those closest to him, the return of old enemies and will be opposed by a fanatical group intent on destroying any adept possessing magical powers, including Merrick himself.
Aided by his Outcasts and Hierophant allies, Merrick will seize objects of power and learn arcane invocations never before granted to mortals. But even these may not suffice. For Orthon is always a step ahead, and no one has ever slain a demon before. Above all, a Psychonaut can often be his own worst enemy. 

Demonslayer is available on Amazon via this link – it will be available at half price for the first 3 days of publication

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