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The Qwillery

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Interview with Tarn Richardson, author of The Damned

Please welcome Tarn Richardson to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Damned was published by The Overlook Press on March 1st.

Interview with Tarn Richardson, author of The Damned

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Tarn:  Hello Qwillery! Thank you for having me. Well, I remember very clearly the age I was when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was eight and our teacher at the school I attended in Somerset, England, was reading us The Hobbit. I'd never heard anything like it before. The language, the scenes, the characters, the huge vision, all of it seemed so obvious to me, as if I understood entirely what Tolkien was trying to say. I was flabbergasted. I knew right then I wanted to write stories.

I started to write novels when I was at art college, a lazy good for nothing student with these big ideas but absolutely no finesse or ability to finish anything! Throughout college, university and various job in media, I kept writing, on and off for twenty years, a million plus words, never finishing a single novel, just trying to find my voice and something which would stick, everything utter rubbish until I discovered The Damned, or maybe The Damned discovered me?

Why did I write? I suppose like most writers, it wasn't a choice. Something inside has always compelled me to write, to tell my stories, to exorcise my demons.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Tarn:  I definitely was a pantser, although after the second book in the The Darkest Hand trilogy, The Fallen, very nearly killed me, I've since become more of a hybrid. I got lucky with The Damned. I had an idea of where I wanted to get to and the path to that point revealed itself as I wrote. My second unrelated and yet to be released novel which I wrote straight after The Damned followed in the same manner. Just poured out of me. I was on a roll! I then hit big problems writing The Fallen without a clear plan and ended up writing and rewriting it NINE times in 18 months. It was murder on me, my sanity, my family and my fingers.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Tarn:  Balancing writing with work and family. Being a debut novelist, the income from my writing is tiny at the moment, certainly not enough to pay for a household consisting of two hungry boys and hungrier cats. So I have to write around running my own business, which means evenings, weekends and holidays are often spent on my own in my office tapping away. The exhaustion of writing at the end of a busy day is one thing, but the sacrifice I make, but also my family makes, in the hope that one day things might turn favourable with my novels and they might start making an income, is a burden you have to bear if you want any chance of making it. But, in my experience, all the best writers are very very selfish individuals, so I shut out the guilt, shut the office door, drink strong coffee and get on with it.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Tarn:  Mrs Jones reading me The Hobbit at eight was the spark which lit the fire in me. Tolkien, Dave Eddings, the British comic 2000AD, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, John Wagner, Pat Mills, they're all literary touch points to making me the writer I am today. Certain music and songs can inspire and turn on my writing brain. I wrote much of The Damned listening to this Norwegian black metal band called Kvelertak. One whirl of that and I was instantly in the trenches of World War One. And everyday things around you influence and inspire, from injustices and horrors you read and see in the news, to watching people grey and diminished from their careers, commuting to and from work, it all goes into the mix. Much of the central character within the book, Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, was borne out of seeing these poor souls flogging themselves half to death on jobs they hated and then drinking themselves half to death on the train journey home.

TQDescribe The Damned in 140 characters or less.

Tarn:  A gripping work of dark fiction set in an alternative World War One, where werewolves roam and a ruthless inquisition still hold sway.

TQTell us something about The Damned that is not found in the book description.

Tarn:  As well as being a murder mystery thriller, The Damned is also a study of what makes people who they are, how individuals can become corrupted and broken by their past, become monsters on the power given to them, or crippled by the fear of expectation. I love writing about what makes us who we are, giving characters depth and setting them in situations where natural instinct reacts before they have the opportunity to consider their actions. I am very proud of bits in The Damned and almost all those bits are related to the revelations in characters' pasts and their development through the book.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Damned? What appeals to you about writing Dark Fantasy and also Alternative History?

Tarn:  It was 2012 and I had just come back from France where I had been visiting the trenches with my father and brother in law on the trail of two great uncles who fought out there in the Great War, one who came back and one who did not. It was an incredible trip, really moving and inspirational and I just felt I had to write about the experience.

So, when I got home from France I started planning this grand epic of World War One, sort of like Game of Thrones meets Band of Brothers. Which no one really wants! And pretty soon I had got myself tied into knots and wasn't making much progress. Then one night I was sitting down and reading a bed time book to my youngest son Will and he stopped me and said that the book I was reading was 'boring'. So I asked him what he would write a book about and he immediately replied, "World War One and werewolves" and a light came on in my head and after that I was off and running! Out of the mouth of babes!

In World War One, soldiers really weren't thought of as individuals, they were thought of more as tools by their commanding officers, the people planning this terrible war and who weren't on the front line themselves. These officers were monstrous, but would always counter any doubt by saying they were being 'monstrous to avoid becoming monsters' i.e "Monsters we are lest monsters we become." I've always liked this saying, something which can also be attributed to the poor souls who were in the trenches who actually did the fighting and these monstrous things simply to stay alive.

So armed with this quote, and the concept of werewolves in the trenches, I had a plan in my head! Dark Fiction and Alternative Fiction allow you to take these ideas and themes and stretch and extrapolate them out so they take on even greater meaning and resonance. It's the wonder of this genre.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Damned?

Tarn:  Visiting the sites featured in the book, Arras, Fampoux, the trenches of the front, was an incredible opportunity to really soak up the atmosphere and feel a little of the landscape and surroundings which would have greeted the men when they arrived on French soil. Of course, the land was ravaged by the first barrages of war at that time when the book is set, but the rolling undulating countryside still remains as it was back then and it's incredibly poignant to walk around it and imagine, or at least try to imagine, the terror and the horror of what happened there.

I also spent many hours at the National Archives at Kew In London reading these beautifully written army diaries of the soldiers in the trenches, detailing troop movements, activities and behaviour.

I also read a lot of research books on World War One and those early months of the conflict. I used to hate research but as I've got older and uglier, I've come to really enjoy immersing myself in a subject so I can give the reader as truthful an account as possible.

Lastly, I had a great time digging through old tomes and peculiar websites on werewolf folklore and its connection with the Catholic Church. Pretty quickly everything started to fall neatly into place; the locations, the events, the people and the superstitions, as if it was the novel was writing itself.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Tarn:  That's a great question! I think Lieutenant Henry Frost was the easiest to write, because I suppose he was the closest in personality to me - and English! He's an officer in the British Army, a career soldier, but with his conscience, and perhaps his naivety, still to be knocked out of him. He's trying to do his best in a complicated world he increasingly grows to despise. Interestingly, he became the hardest character to write in the sequel (which I have just finished).

As for the hardest character to write in The Damned, I would say that must be Sandrine Prideux, simply because she is so terribly complex in herself as well as wildly spirited in her personality. All her life closeted away, working and doing for others and suddenly she's set loose to live and be free and yet she's not free at all. I can't say too much, because it will reveal the book's secrets, but she was tricky at times but also wonderful to portray.

TQWhy have you chosen to include social issues in The Damned?

Tarn:  From the very start I knew I wanted to incorporate social issues into the book. Writing gives you the opportunity to raise serious points you feel strongly about, even if you mask them under a wonderfully fast paced and violent historical fantasy thriller! So they're there if the reader wants to acknowledge them, or they can just enjoy the action packed adventure on its own.

I was really keen to explore class and whether where we come from and what we experience as children defines us adults. And, of course, World War One was entirely about social issues, a war of class, a war where the rich sent the poor away to fight in order to prove who of the royal dynasties had the biggest and best empire.

TQWhich question about The Damned do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Tarn:  "Would you like to sign this contract here for the film rights to The Damned?"
"Go on then. And can I be an extra?"

Of course, this is a holy grail for a lot of novelists, having their book turned into a film. But everyone who's read The Damned describes it as 'very filmic'. So I am hoping there's something there! Being a big comic reader, twinned with my background in film and media, I think the book is very visual and I do think it could translate well, both as a graphic novel but also an 'epic' movie. Whether the end result would carry the gravitas and depth I've tried to build into the pages, or go for the easy option of an out and out action thriller, we'd have to see. I think often Hollywood settles for the easier of the two routes in the hope of mass appeal, rather than select artistic appreciation. I'd be happy to investigate!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Damned.

There came a sudden tumultuous roar of gunfire from the distance, followed by the strained cries of men, the blowing of many whistles, the steel ring of shells and the thump and bang as they landed. The noise sounded very far off from the bottom of the trench.

“Sergeant!” Henry cried, leaping down into the trench and scrambling along it. The relentless angry clatter of gunfire confirmed that he had missed the party. “What the hell’s going on? Why’ve the men gone over?”

“Received an order to make a forward assault, sir, from Major Pewter. The Major thought it would be prudent to keep Jerry on his toes, make him think we weren’t slacking, weren’t bedding in for the long stay.”

Henry stared beseechingly to the east. “Madness!” he screamed, his hands to his temples. “Sheer fucking madness! Why would the Major do such a thing?”

“Respectfully, ours isn’t the place to ask sir. We just do as told.”

“Tell me then,” snarled the Lieutenant, “how many did we send over the top?”

Holmes blanched and then seemed to take hold of himself. “Too many sir.”


“So, you don’t think we’re winning then, Tacit?” asked Isabella, “winning the fight against our foes? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Winning? No. But that’s the point, Sister. We never will. It’s war without end. And that’s why I’ll keep squeezing the life out of our opponents, correcting our superiors’ mistakes, washing the blood from my hands and breaking the unworthy, because it’s the only life I know. There is no other direction to go other than onwards, spiralling ever down, down, down.”

“And what about you, Tacit?”

“What about me?”

“Have you lost your way?

He shook his head. “No, you and your Vatican lackeys don’t need to worry about me. Because there’s only one way we’re going so it’s impossible to get lost.”

TQWhat's next?

Tarn:  The sequel, The Fallen, comes out in the UK and Australia in May this year and I am currently writing the third and final part of the trilogy, The Risen. Then? A very long and nourishing sleep!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tarn:  Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.

The Damned
The Darkest Hand Trilogy 1
The Overlook Press, March 1, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Tarn Richardson, author of The Damned
A gripping work of dark fiction set in an alternative World War I where unspeakable creatures roam and a ruthless Inquisition still holds sway

In this "sublime work of dark fiction" (Intravenous Magazine), set in an alternative World War I, unspeakable creatures roam the grisly trenches, and a ruthless Catholic Inquisition holds sway ― still powerful, but working in the shadows.

When a Father is brutally murdered int he French city of Arras, Poldeck Tacit―a determined and unhinged Inquisitor―arrives on the scene to investigate the crime. His mission: to protect the Church from those who would seek to destroy it, no matter what the cost.

As the Inquisitor strives in vain to establish the truth behind the murder and to uncover the motives of other Vatican servants seeking to undermine him, a beautiful and spirited woman, Sandrine, warns British solider Henry Frost of a mutual foe even more terrible lurking beneath the killing fields―an enemy that answers to no human force and wreaks its havoc by the light of the moon.

Faced with impossible odds and struggling with his own demons, Tacit must battle the forces of evil―and a church determined at all costs to achieve its aims―to reach the heart of dark conspiracy that seeks to engulf the world, plunging it even deeper into conflict.

About Tarn

Interview with Tarn Richardson, author of The Damned
Tarn Richardson was born in Bristol in 1972 and developed an unhealthy interest in ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night from a very young age. When he was seven, he moved to a remote seventeenth century farmhouse near Taunton, Somerset, rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl - the news being the icing on the cake as far as Tarn was concerned.

Attending Taunton School, his education was remarkably unremarkable except for one thing. At the age of eight, his class teacher, Mrs Jones, read him and his class The Hobbit. “I can still remember the moment very clearly. I’d never known, let alone heard, anything like it. The language, the scenes, the characters, they all seemed to talk to me. I knew exactly what Tolkien was trying to say, as if I too inhabited his world. It was as if a light had gone on in my head. I knew after that what it was I wanted to do with my life. Write stories.”

Growing up on a diet of Tolkien, David Eddings and 2000AD comics, after school Tarn attended art college, spending most of the year writing when he should have been drawing, and he’s not stopped for the last twenty years.

He’s worked for IBM working as a copywriter, writing scripts for CDs and content for the very first web sites, as well as murder mystery dinner party games, including titles for The Whodunnit Murder Mystery Company.

In 2014, he was offered a three book deal with Duckworth Overlook. THE DAMNED is his debut novel, the first in a trilogy featuring troubled inquisitor Poldek Tacit.

He lives in Salisbury, England, with his wife, two sons and two cats.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @tarnrichardson

Review: The Damned by Andrew Pyper

The Damned
AuthorAndrew Pyper
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster, February 10, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $25.00 (print)
ISBN:  9781476755113 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Damned by Andrew Pyper
ALREADY OPTIONED FOR FILM BY LEGENDARY PICTURES (Inception, the Dark Knight movies, Interstellar)

From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist, called “smart, thrilling, utterly unnerving” by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, comes a spine-tingling supernatural thriller about a survivor of a near-death experience haunted by his beautiful, vindictive twin sister.

Most people who have a near-death experience come back alone…

After he survived a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ashleigh, Danny Orchard wrote a bestselling memoir about going to Heaven and back. But despite the resulting fame and fortune, he’s never been able to enjoy his second chance at life.

Ash won’t let him.

In life, Danny’s charming and magnetic twin had been a budding psychopath who privately terrorized her family—and death hasn’t changed her wicked ways. Ash has haunted Danny for twenty years and now, just when he’s met the love of his life and has a chance at real happiness, she wants more than ever to punish him for being alive—so she sets her sights on Danny’s new wife and stepson.

Danny knows what Ash really wants is him, and he’s prepared to sacrifice himself in order to save the ones he loves. But to do this, he'll have to meet his sister where she now resides—and hope that this time, he can keep her there forever.

Deb's Review

Twins enter the world as a ready-made team; two distinct halves of one eternally bonded whole. In Andrew Pyper's The Damned, Ashleigh Orchard and her brother Daniel also share an even more remarkable distinction. They were both stillborn, only to be revived at the desperate plea of their mother, by a doctor with a particular set of skills. Dead and then not dead on their very first day in this world. Of course, such an extreme reversal of fortune almost always comes with a price, and sometimes the reckoning for hastily made promises isn't apparent until it's really too late.

Ash and Danny have the twin bond, but there are distinct differences between them that go far beyond their being fraternal twins. Danny is awkward and introverted, while Ash is a unique beauty who is popular, intelligent and accomplished. But only her family knows that she has a side far darker and colder than anyone suspects, and that she is slowly destroying the family from the inside. On their 16th birthday, Ash and Danny die in a fire in nearby crumbling Detroit. Unlike the first time, Ash remains dead, but Danny returns. Ash is not about to take Danny's revival lying down. At the minimum, she will haunt her twin's footsteps from beyond, chasing off friends and lovers, and ensuring that his existence is as lonely as hers.

Years pass, and awkward teenager Danny grows into an equally awkward adult who makes a modest living off of his book about returning from the dead. Still living in fear of Ash, Danny meets Willa at an Afterlifer meeting, where people share their near death experience stories. Their common ground of returning from The After gives them a quick rapport. A brief courtship leads to marriage, and with Willa's son Eddie, they form a family, giving Danny the will to fight for more than the miserable husk of a life Ash has allowed him. His defiance ups the ante for Ash, and Willa and Eddie wind up in her tightening circle of vengeance. If there's a way to put Ash to rest, Danny must discover it before she destroys his family a second time.

This book was a mixed bag for me. Ash is truly wicked. Without conscience. Tireless and unpredictable. If nothing is happening, chances are that she's only letting Danny develop a false sense of security; she has nothing but time. Danny is definitely the "good twin," but his character suffers from the nice guy mantle that is his birthright. It was sometimes a bit of a stretch to believe someone with such a tepid personality could be a worthy adversary to the formidable Ash. And while Danny's relationship with Willa is an important shift for him, it happens so quickly that it did not resonate with me. The depth of their bond should be Danny's new driving force, but there wasn't enough time to develop a true emotional connection. Danny adores Willa, and this may be because she is willing to stay, even in the face of Ash's torments. But it's difficult to understand Willa's motivation to stand by Danny, putting her young son at risk when so little time has been invested. It's not really surprising that the evil twin is lavished with a delicious story while the good twin pales in comparison because he simply wants a family and a normal life. In the end, it was this unfairly matched fight between good and evil that made this book a page turner.

Pyper has written a solid story, with an interesting premise, and a larger than life villain. His descriptions are lovingly detailed, whether he's relating Ash's nightmare vision of Detroit, or the oozing texture of burned, rotting flesh. The Damned has been optioned by Legendary Pictures, and I think the strong visuals in Pyper's story will translate well to the big screen. In spite of unevenly developed characters, there's a lot to praise about The Damned. It doesn't matter whether Ash is living or dead: what she does for fun and sport brings pain and ruin to everyone in her path. If you're looking for horror, Ash and Pyper won't let you down.

2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July 2012 Winner

The results are in and the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars winner for July is Megan Powell's No Peace for the Damned (The Damned 1) with 104 votes equaling 35% of the votes cast. We'll let you know who the cover artist is as soon as we know.

2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July  2012 Winner

The final results:

2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July  2012 Winner

 The July Debut Covers
2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July  2012 Winner

Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue in August with voting on the August debut covers.
Interview with Tarn Richardson, author of The DamnedReview: The Damned by Andrew Pyper2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July  2012 Winner

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