Tom Bale Interview
Posted by Michelle on December 17, 2008
Tom Bale is the author of a new crime novel, which I recently reviewed. Tom kindly answered some questions, about the book, and his writing.
Q. Could you start by telling us a little about Skin and Bones?
A. It’s a fast-paced thriller, set in the Sussex countryside. A young woman gets caught up in a shooting spree, and after being chased and nearly killed, she discovers something that no one else knows: there was a second gunman involved. She joins forces with the son of one of the victims, and together they go in search of the truth about what really happened. But as they uncover the conspiracy behind the massacre, they realise the killing didn’t begin on that cold winter morning, and worst of all, it won’t end there…
Q. Where did the ideas and inspiration come from?
A. It sounds corny, but this one came from a dream – I literally dreamed every detail of the entire opening sequence, where Julia goes into the village, discovers a massacre taking place and then gets chased by the killer. (Admittedly, it was the night after a boozy Christmas party!) I woke up in the early hours, ran it all through in my head to see if it made sense, and thought: “Oh my God, I’ve got to write this!” For one thing, I wanted to know who was trying to wipe out an entire village, and why…
Q. It’s always interesting to read crime books set in England, do you write about areas you know, or are they fictional?
A. A bit of both. The setting is very much the Sussex that I know and love, as I was born in Brighton and have lived down here most of my life. But with SKIN AND BONES, I had to create a fictional village, bearing in mind the grisly fate suffered by so many of the residents.
Q. Have you always enjoyed writing, or is it something you’ve started recently? Have you written any other novels before this one?
A. I’ve been writing stories since I was seven, or thereabouts. Over the years I’ve written probably millions of words: novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics, a sitcom – you name it, I’ve tried it. For years I collected rejection slips, then had a few agonising near misses before finally crossing the invisible, magical line to publication.
Q. Do you have a ‘day job’, and does it help or hinder your writing?
A. All the good advice on this subject suggests keeping your job until your writing career is well established, but I ignored that advice! Actually, I left my last job in what was probably a bit of a mid life crisis. The company I worked for was taken over by a new management team with very different ideas about running things, so I jumped ship and had a couple of years where I did some consultancy work and tried to make it as a writer. We were scraping by on my wife’s salary and our rapidly dwindling savings when the deal with Preface came through.
Writing full time should make it easier, but I never seem to be as productive as I expect to be. For one thing, I often get more done at night than I do during the day – probably because of all the years when I’d come home from work (or school) and write in the evenings. And I suspect the Internet has had a devastating effect on most writers’ productivity – to combat the isolation of working from home, it’s all too easy to spend hours online when you’re supposed to be writing.
Q. How about the characters in the book, good and bad.. are they based on anyone you know?!
A. I never consciously base my characters on people I know, though I’m sure that various traits slip in that could be traced back to friends and family – and of course I think there are always elements of the writer in all of his or her characters.
Q. Do you enjoy reading crime fiction.. any favourite authors?
A. I love reading crime and thrillers, and it’s almost unfair to list my favourites, as I’m bound to leave some out. But here are a few, in no particular order: Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Lee Child, Carol O’Connell, Martin Cruz Smith, Carl Hiassen, Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Mo Hayder, Michael Robotham.
Q. Do you enjoy reading other genres? Again, if so, which are your favourite books and authors?
A. I love the comic novels of David Nobbs and Sue Townsend. And I used to read quite a bit of literary fiction, but I must admit I find a lot of it nowadays is just too pretentious and long-winded. I want something that really grabs my attention and spirits me away to another world. But my favourite literary writers include Hemingway, John Updike, Ian McEwan, Lisa St Aubin de Teran, Pete Dexter, Peter Benson – and the mighty Graham Greene.
Q. Is there a book that you wish you’d written?
A. There are lots! Anything that Graham Greene wrote, for a start. And a really remarkable novel that should have won the 1981 Booker prize: The White Hotel by DM Thomas.
Q. Finally, can you tell us a little about what we can expect from you next?
I’ve just finished the first draft of another Sussex-based thriller, provisionally called TERROR’S REACH. It’s set on a fictional island in the Emsworth/Bosham area of West Sussex, amongst a very wealthy community not unlike the famous Sandbanks resort in Dorset. A criminal gang take control of the island, with much more than just robbery on their mind, and the only person who can stop them is a disgraced former undercover cop, now working as a bodyguard to one of the island’s families.
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