Today I'd like to welcome novelist Mark Tilbury to my blog. Mark has recently published his first novel, The Revelation Room. Congratulations, Mark! I really enjoyed reading your book.
I thought my readers would be interested in hearing from someone who's new to the wonderful world of novel-writing. Let the interview begin!
Tell us about your forthcoming book, The Revelation Room.
The Revelation Room is the first in a series of psychological mystery thrillers written with a touch of dark humour. Ben Whittle, the protagonist, works in the office of his father’s private investigation business. When Ben receives a terrifying call from his father requesting help after being taken captive by a cult, Ben is forced to act to rescue him. With his friend, Maddie, Ben joins the cult in a last ditch attempt to save his father.
The leader of the cult, Edward Ebb, is a psychopathic egocentric who uses his position to control his small group of followers in The Sons and Daughters of Salvation. When he initiates Ben and Maddie into the group, it soon becomes apparent how sick and twisted Ebb is, and how he tricks and coerces his followers into believing they have no choice other than to follow his barbaric regime.
Ben and Maddie must find Ben’s father and escape from the cult, but the odds are stacked against them and time is running out.
What drew you to that particular genre?
I love exploring the dark side of humanity. I get a thrill from inventing a character who is doing something so bad, so terrifying, that he/she beggars belief, and then figuring out what motivates them. I’m also fascinated by people who just vanish off the face of the earth. Where have they gone? Why? I like to imagine what has happened to them, particularly if the person has gone missing in mysterious circumstances. There are some extremely bizarre disappearances out there which can get the creative juices flowing.
As a new novelist, what challenges did you face during the writing process?
Taking that leap of faith to do it, especially with social media, because I didn’t have a clue. I’d never been on Twitter or Facebook before, and I’d never even heard of Goodreads or Pinterest. It was only with the fantastic help of my girlfriend and a lot of kind and generous people out there who give their time and expertise freely that I realised it was possible, even for someone who’s just getting used to mobile phones! Other than the technicalities of the modern world, I found the editing process an enlightening experience. I tend to write with a loose idea of where the story is going, and that can prove to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in the sense that I can sometimes surprise myself (in a good way), and a curse because there’s quite a lot of stuff to put right when the dust settles. I’m still trying to strike the right balance. I would describe myself as a ‘plantser’ – somewhere between a planner and a pantser.
Have you always wanted to write fiction? Before The Revelation Room, had you written anything?
I’ve always written since I can remember. I don’t even think it’s a matter of whether I want to write or not; I feel compelled to do it. Poems, short stories, novels, daft little phrases that float into my head without warning. I’ve had long periods where I’ve not written anything, almost convinced myself to do something else, and then I’d wake up with another idea and off I’d go. Even when I was serving on submarines many years ago I’d be scribbling away in a dark corner somewhere and guarding it with my life! I’ve had a short story published in Best magazine and a novel that an agent expressed an interest in, but to be honest, I soon realised I was going around in circles with agents and publishers. It was the emergence of Amazon Kindle and the opportunities for self-publishing that motivated me to try a different path.
Who are your favourite authors, and to what extent have they influenced you?
I like lots of authors, so it’s hard to say who’s influenced me the most. I think I take something away from every good book I read. Anyway, I’ll try to narrow it down to a few. I must start with Agatha Christie because she was my first love. I read all her books when I was still at school. She lived about a mile away from me in this huge house and we used to go carol singing there at Christmas when we were kids hoping to see her. We never did, but I used to think it was really cool that such a great writer actually lived there.
Catherine Cookson is an absolute legend. She brought to life a period and a part of England with such vivid realism. She created characters I cared about, characters that moved me and made me feel involved in the story. I love the way her dialogue flows and the way her stories make you forget that you are reading because you are so engrossed in the story.
Tom Sharpe is the absolute king of farce. He was the first writer that almost killed me with laughter! I once tried to read a passage from one of his books to my girlfriend and I was laughing so much I couldn’t breathe. Most people will be familiar with Wilt, but his portrayal of the South African police in Indecent Exposure is scathing and brilliant. His superb brand of humour definitely impacted me, and even though I write dark tales, I try to inject some humour into them to lighten them up.
Stephen King has also been a massive influence. I’d advise anyone who wants to write to study his books. He is the best. I love the way his characters instantly come to life. Under the Dome has a huge cast, but every character is written vividly and with wit. I didn’t like the television adaptation, but the novel was nine hundred or so pages of fictional heaven for me.
How much of yourself did you put into The Revelation Room? Personal views, experiences, those kinds of things?
There are some of my thoughts on religion in The Revelation Room. I went to a Pentecostal church when I was a kid, and that influenced my way of thinking about religion in a positive way. Even though it was many years ago, those images have stayed with me. As for the darker side of religion, you only have to look at the news to see that in all its glory. Edward Ebb, the antagonist in The Revelation Room, is an example of evil masquerading as a man of God. It fascinates me how people can be manipulated and coerced into doing anything if the conditions are right.
When can we expect the next novel in the series?
I’ve written the first draft and I’m hoping to publish it later this year or early next year. It depends on how much needs doing to it to lick it into shape. I’m also trying to move house and relocate to the Lake District, so it’s quite a hectic time at the moment.
Are you drawn to writing in other genres? If so, which ones?
Stephen King has inspired me a lot, and I like horror stories as long as they have a plausible plot. By that, I mean I don’t like heads flying off and blood everywhere for the sake of it. Misery is my favourite book of all time, and Annie Wilkes one of my favourite characters. I have the plot for a horror story kicking about in my head, so maybe one day. It’s one of those ideas that doesn’t seem to want to go away, which is quite a good sign for me.
What advice would you give to other wannabe and newbie novelists?
To write what you are comfortable with and to explore all the avenues of social media. I can’t emphasise the social media bit enough. There are so many tools out there to help you and opportunities which never existed when I started writing. And there are a lot of good people out there who are at hand to help. I have to admit, the generosity of other people has surprised me, and I am so grateful to all those who have helped me. Be prepared to work hard, listen to invaluable advice and keep learning. Always keep learning.
Finally, tell us a little about Mark Tilbury. When you’re not writing, what fires you up? How do you spend your time?
I’m pretty obsessed with playing the guitar. For years I used to strum along to records and play a bit of rhythm. And then I heard a blues artist called Stevie Ray Vaughan, and he made me realise that there’s playing and then there’s playing. I’m trying to learn to play guitar like him, but to be honest, I’m about a million miles away. I also love reading and have a list of so many books that I want to read and re-read in certain cases. Football is another passion, but my team, Reading, are having a pretty bad time of it in the league at the moment. They had a great cup run though, so it’s not all bad.
Thank you, Mark, and I wish you every success with The Revelation Room!
You can purchase The Revelation Room from Amazon via this link. To find out more about Mark, visit his website and blog. Or connect with him on Twitter, Google Plus, Goodreads andPinterest.
Questions for Mark? Post a comment for him!
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