Friday, 22 August 2014

Author Q&A - Dan Thompson

Hey guys! So, today I am here with Here Lies Love author, Dan Thompson. I've asked him a couple questions about the book, and his life, so let's hear what he has to say, shall we?

Warning: This session contains slight spoilers for the book, (within answer to question number 3- it's the last paragraph, so you may wish to skip that section if you haven't finished the book yet!)

What attracts you to the dark genre? I mean, even your new planned novel is about an assassin!

I must confess, I do love a dark read. They tend to be more intense, more emotional and captivate my attention. Although, I guess there is too much of a good thing. I always try to balance out my reading habits, so if I’ve read quite a few dark books in close succession, I opt for something a little lighter.

In my writing though, I guess I write what comes to me. Here Lies Love is a very dark read, and at times, I even had to stop writing it and take a break. I always knew from the beginning that it would be a dark book, and Abbey’s journey wouldn’t be an easy one. I do feel though that some of the more intense themes in the book are necessary and I don’t glorify any of the macabre actions within. The general feedback has been quite positive though, so I'm absolutely thrilled with the reception. It’s always touch, not knowing whether or not readers would be able sit and ‘enjoy’ a book so dark.

My upcoming release (The Black Petal, published early 2015 by Ghostly Publishing) is much lighter though, I have to say. It is a teenage fantasy novel, inspired by my love of mythology. If you love magic, action and fantasy all in abundance, then I’m sure you’ll love that when it is released. I currently writing the sequel to it now.

The world-building of Here Lies Love was incredibly detailed and well done- talk us through that. Was it difficult to come up with a reason behind the sun turning its back on humanity, and about the blue haze?

Here Lies Love was inspired by Runners, a dystopian novel by the wonderful Sharon Sant. It was the first dystopian novel I’d read and I was intrigued further by the genre. As I explored what dystopian genre was all about, I really savoured the opportunity of writing a novel myself. I started off with the question: What would happen if the sun disappeared? How would people live and survive? What kind of world would it be?

I was on a roll after I initially researched some of the ideas I had in my head. Despite being dystopian, there are a lot of realistic aspects to the novel. Although they may not seem like they are, everything is based on my research. Scientists have in fact come up with a method of growing fresh produce without the need for the sun. It’s all interesting stuff! The blue haze was my own invention - I mean there had to be some sort of illumination, otherwise the story wouldn’t be able to move forward as I’d liked. I rather like the blue haze - I feel it adds atmosphere to the novel, and it looks fantastic on the cover, don’t you agree.

Are Tristan, Ryan or Abbey based - however loosely - on people you know in real life?

None of the characters are based entirely on people I know in real life, but some of their characteristics most certainly are. Abbey, when nervous and unsure, draws her hands into her sleeves, which is exactly what I do. I thought it was important to add real mannerisms into the story; it fleshes out the characters and elevates them in my opinion.

Ryan’s name at least was chosen by a lucky winner who took part in my naming competition. I wanted to get readers’ involvement into the story somehow, and by allowing a winner to name one of the characters really helped with grabbing their attention about the book. They were eager to see who ‘Ryan’ would become.

When I was a little younger, I had a friend (sadly we grew apart as children do) who was epileptic. It was a very scary situation when an attack occurred, so I felt I was able to portray Ryan’s epilepsy realistically as, not only am I a first aider, but also had first-hand experience with the condition.

How did our world influence the society portrayed in HLL?

What a fab question! Have you ever read the newspaper, or watched the news, and thought to yourself: How awful! Everything always seems to happen to everyone else, but despite our blissful ignorance, bad things do happen to people every day. It isn’t fair or right, but bad things still happen. And that is with the sun. Imagine how cold society would be if the sun wasn’t there anymore - would those bad things still happen? I thought so. Some very bad things happen to Abbey. But what makes it slightly worse for her, is that she is very naïve of how her world works. That was deliberate from me actually. I wanted the reader to be on Abbey’s side, discover things as she discovered them.

In today’s world, we live on technology, electricity and such things. When I took all of those aspects out of the situation, Here Lies Love became about surviving, getting your next meal etc. You didn’t have a career, no TV to watch. You just exist for another day, and as bleak as that sounds, that’s all that’s open to the characters.

Talk us through the writing process a little bit- did you have a specific playlist in mind when sitting down and writing? Who did you envision as playing each character?

I recently discovered, while chatting to some of my other writer friends, that I’m quite abnormal in the way I write. I can’t listen to music; it distracts me too much. I end up singing along to the words and accidently writing down the lyrics! I know, silly, right?

I do like to be organised though. I have an extensive plan I follow; chapter by chapter until I have a first draft. I also have sticky notes and pieces of paper stuck to my wall, so if an idea pops into my head whilst I eat breakfast or while doing something mundane like washing the pots, I quickly write it down on a sticky note and come back later to see where it could fit in to the story. I also have to write things down by hand. It means a lot of messing about later when I come to write it up, but if I sit in front of a blank screen, nothing happens. I struggle to write.

As for who would play my characters on screen? Hmmmm? I’ve always admired Saoirse Ronan, who I first saw in Atonement. She’s a wonderful actress, who has gone on to do some diverse roles - especially films adapted from books. I think she could pull off Abbey’s character. What do you think?

Besides spending your time as a writer, do you have any other hobbies?

I work full time, as well as having my daughter to look after. She’s five going on fifteen, let me tell you! A real handful at the moment. I’m sure she does things just to test me. I do love reading - which I guess isn’t much of a surprise is it? I love many different genres including YA, fantasy, historical thriller and the occasional autobiography. I’m currently reading two novels: the first A Time of Darkness which is the second instalment of Dionne Lister’s fantasy trilogy, which features dragons! As well as the second novel in Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s Odysseus novels.

I also grew up loving tennis, so I try and watch some tennis when I can. I’ve recently started to go for a jog three times a week too. I’d love to lose a little weight, but the focus is on clearing my mind. You’d never have guessed how useful the time is when you are jogging around, thinking about how to move your stories along and what character appears next.

Where is your favourite place to visit in the UK and why?

When I was a kid, my mum could never afford to take me and my sister on holiday, so it is only now as an adult that I’m discovering all the new and wonderful places inside my own country! I love historic towns. I’m lucky enough to live near Lincoln, which has an old cathedral and castle, as well as really old streets and hills. I recently discovered Chester, which is so lovely! Wonderful cobble-stone paths, ancient city walls as well ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. It is so relaxing to get away and visit these lovely, forgotten places. I had a daytrip to London only last week and you know what? It was too busy, too hectic, stressful and too much hard work. Give me a small scenic town any day.

And finally... Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for aspiring authors?

As clichéd as it sounds: never give up! I received hundreds of rejection letters before getting published. It was hard work and so often debilitating. Your confidence sinks and you feel pretty crappy. But if you persevere, you’ll eventually get there. The best, single piece of advice I can give is to get an editor. Pay for an editor to work with you and polish your story to the best it can possibly be. That way, you are presenting your best work, as well as (hopefully) learning something new along the way. I learnt many news things when I worked with an editor. I discovered all the silly mistakes I was making time after time. Good luck!

Thanks for the questions, Paige!

Thank you so much, Dan, for taking the time to answer all of these! (And I definitely can't wait for The Black Petal to be released. And Saoirse is amazing, especially in Hanna.)

If you want to get into contact with Dan, you can find him at his website, on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


  1. Great questions, Paige. I had fun with these! Thanks for having me :)

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed them, thank you so much for taking the time to participate! :D