David Watkins lives in Devon in the UK with his wife, two sons and three legged dog. He is a teacher by day and writer whenever the day job allows. He has avidly read horror books since his teenage years and it remains a feature of the novels and stories he writes. The Original's Return is his first novel and he is currently editing The Devil's Inn, a horror story set on Dartmoor. He has published a short story "Presents of Mind" in the collection "When Red Snow Melts", which also features two stories by best-selling author Joe R. Lansdale.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I live in Devon in the UK with my wife, two sons who alternately make me proud and drive me mad and my three-legged dog.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Horror. Call it what it is. When I was growing up, nobody needed the terms ‘dark fiction’ or ‘teen fiction’ - a book is a book. What is weird fiction anyway? Surely anything made up could be construed as ‘weird’ to some degree by someone, somewhere in the world.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
King was my mainstay throughout my teens and twenties. I’ve kind of drifted since but will still read the odd book by him. Joe R Lansdale is a brilliant writer, but for some reason his books seem to be hard to get hold of in this country (for example, you can currently only get the Kindle version of The Drive In 3 on Amazon UK). For something different, I love Alastair Campbell’s sci-fi books and Joe Abercrombie’s fantasy series.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
Hap Collins from Joe R Lansdale’s books would be a good neighbour. Whilst a flawed individual, he has a great sense of right and wrong.
Nightmare would be any one of The Famous Five. Precocious and borderline racist, and they are always in trouble. Bad guys these days would just kill the lot of them on a matter of principle.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Vibrant. Self-publishing has brought many new authors to the scene, for good and bad. For one, it gave me an outlet to publish my stories and also find some new authors that you just don’t get in the bookstores. Unfortunately, there are many out there who do not take the time to proof read and double check their work leading to error filled manuscripts. Some of these are clearly rubbish, but some would have been superb books had the authors taken the time to get it right. I imagine those authors will blame the lack of editors, but I’m afraid the responsibility is yours and yours alone.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Great book: The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo. Wonderful plot, great characters who you could imagine as real people and in Harry Hole one of the best police characters out there. He is a deeply flawed individual, but he always tries to do the right thing - even if what he believes is right isn’t necessarily so. Brilliant books.
Disappointment: Doctor Sleep by King. Now, I’m not saying this to be controversial as I think it was one of his best reviewed books, but I found the ending a bit ‘meh’. It was a brilliant book for two hundred pages and to say more would contain spoilers. I think my main problem was that the ‘bad guys’ were just not scary.
How would you describe your writing style?
Terse. Economical. Those are two words a friend (who had read an early draft of my next book) used, and I was pretty chuffed with that! I think it was David Gemmell who said that if two characters are sat in a bar, let’s get to what they are talking about, not spend three pages describing the bar. That struck a chord with me and I hate books that are full of overly descriptive passages.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I am far too new to have received negative reviews, as for the most part only people I know have reviewed me so far. However, one review is from a guy I am vaguely related to but have never met and he said ‘The book is exciting and very fast paced - a real page turner’ (you can see that review for THE ORIGINAL’S RETURN on Amazon). I was very pleased with that as that was what I had tried to do with the book. That made up for my disappointment at discovering he was a distant relation: however, my wife pointed out that he wouldn’t have written the review if he didn’t like it. The biggest problem for indie authors is getting reviews, and reviews that other people trust. I have not solicited any reviews for THE ORIGINAL’S RETURN, and am pleased with the response it has received. I am still waiting for that review by someone I’ve never heard of or met. Anyone?
What’s your favourite food?
Pizza. Put it in the oven, twelve minutes later you are eating. Brilliant.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Elbow. The Gaslight Anthem. Bruce Springsteen. M83. Led Zeppelin. I have a large CD collection and also subscribe to a streaming service (legal!) so what I listen to changes on an almost daily basis - something that irritates my wife hugely. I am currently enjoying Augustines a lot, and the new Elbow album is excellent.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
One word at a time. It doesn’t matter how great the story, how three dimensional your characters, you still have to sit down and write the bloody thing. One word at a time.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Editing. Going back over the same passage time and time again. Is this comma in the right place? Should I use a semi-colon there? It is so important to get it right, and luckily my wife is brilliant at that side of language use.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I used to struggle to finish anything. You know, start with ‘this is going to be the greatest novel ever’ and then realise after two pages (or two hundred) that it really is a massive pile of crap and stop. Now, I finish what I have started. This is mostly because I mull the plot over and over in my head before I start, so I’m reasonably sure I like the plot before I start. I think that if I like it, then hopefully someone else out there somewhere will also like it.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and basically every page of that is gold. Anyone starting out should read it. In it, he says repeatedly “A writer writes”.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Carruthers from THE ORIGINAL’S RETURN. He is basically a grunt in the army, but he’s also hugely intelligent with a vocabulary that confuses those around him. He is based on an ex-marine I know.
How about your least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Steve, also from THE ORIGINAL’S RETURN. Quick to blame everyone else for his problems, but also devious and manipulative.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Fortune and respect. I’d love to do this full time and for that you need money. Respect - doesn’t everybody want that, regardless of their line of work?
Fame has never interested me. I’ll leave that to the vacuous reality TV stars like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
The last thing I wrote.
And are there any pieces that you would like to forget about?
Pretty much everything I wrote in my teens and twenties. Fortunately, most of that is never, ever going to see that light of day.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
THE ORIGINAL’S RETURN is a fast paced horror novel. A man, Jack, falls into a cave and when he comes out he has changed. The army are watching him and kidnap him. Another group want him to be their leader, their god. All Jack wants to do is return home to his wife and child. It is action packed, and hopefully you won’t be able to put it down.
Next up is THE DEVIL’S INN. There is a pub on Dartmoor where a fire has burned every day for over 200 years. It is said that if the fire goes out, the Devil will appear to claim the souls of everyone inside. Take a guess as to what happens….
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
Hi Dave, can I give you this Breitling? Alternatively, “Can I give you £50000 so you can write a book?”
Sergeant Peter Knowles has seen it all: in Afghanistan he witnessed death on a level that no-one should walk away from. Returning to Britain, he jumps at the chance to lead a small team in Devon. The task sounds more like a holiday; exactly what Knowles and his men need.
The mission: watch Jack Stadler.
Jack has always led a quiet life, but now he is suffering blackouts and has violent outbursts.
When the first dismembered body is found, Knowles begins to realise he has made a terrible mistake…
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