My latest interview is with author Paul Craig who published his first book “While You Are Sleeping”.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Paul Craig: I've always had a desire to write, even from a young age, and I guess every decision I've made has, in some way, had that need to write at the heart of it, whether that be changing university course from studying accounting (yawn) to English literature, or from doing temporary admin jobs to pay the rent while I spent every evening and weekends writing, or from going travelling or doing certain activities so I'd have a wealth of first-hand experiences on which to draw on and use in my writing. That said, life has thrown up some other events that from time to time put writing on the back burner (I barely wrote at all between 2005 and 2010) but then the more recent rise of the Kindle and publishing my novels for that format has brought me back into the game and now I'm more involved than ever. Looking ahead, the aim is to get into writing full-time and really push on with promoting my work and also that of other indie authors too.
Books & Writing: What inspired you to get into writing?
Books & Writing: Where did you get the idea from for your book, “While You Are Sleeping”?
Paul Craig: My wife will kill me for this but the idea of creatures coming into people's homes at night and messing things up came from the state of her room when we were first seeing each other. One word: messy. She blamed little elves and goblins and - boom - that's where the idea grew from.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us something about the book?
Paul Craig: It's a children's book at heart, telling the story of a young boy - David - who, by virtue of absent parents for one reason or another, is having a tough time in life and forever dreaming of escaping to a better life somewhere far away. Cue some bizarre events involving a ragtag group of mythical and magical creatures, and David finds himself "kidnapped" away to a strange world where his presence causes a few problems for one very troubled elf in particular. In many ways it's a comic fantasy novel, but it also touches on notions of friendship, good versus evil, coming of age and finding one's place in the world (even one that's not what you might have ever dreamed about). It has all the ingredients for a children's fairy tale, if you like, but a lot of the humour is written with a view to entertaining adult readers as well (perhaps appealing to fans of Pratchett's Discworld novels, in particular), so it has quite a broad range of appeal.
Books & Writing: What got you interested in writing fantasy?
Paul Craig: I tend not to write in just one genre specifically but it just so happens While You Are Sleeping is the first book I've made available as an ebook. I write about whatever comes into my head, let it flow naturally (though not entirely without some pre-plotting or research) and then I think about what genre to label it with after the event. Fantasy is a great place to start writing as it gives you total creative freedom to do anything you want.
Books & Writing: Are you working on a new book at the moment?
Paul Craig: I've got several books in the can and ready to be "ebooked" with those coming out during the next couple of years. But I'm also working on 2 or 3 other books with a sci-fi novel (set during Dickensian London) taking up most of my time at present; looks to be my best work to date, though time - and other people- will ultimately tell.
Books & Writing: What is the last book you read?
Paul Craig: I'm currently reading "Taunting the Dead" by Mel Sherratt. It's a police procedural / crime fiction novel. Thoroughly enjoying it so far. And it was as cheap as chips on Amazon so happy smiles all round.
Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?
Paul Craig: I have two novels available to buy for Kindle, Nook or iBooks ("While You Are Sleeping", which I've mentioned, and "Id", which is a dark psychological thriller told in reverse chronological order, a little like the film Memento by Christopher Nolan). I also have a blog at the-written-words-of-madmen.blogspot.com which, in addition to the odd rambling blog post, has links to my novels and, in future, links to other authors too.
Books & Writing: Which writer(s) inspires you?
Paul Craig: When I was very young I read a lot of Roald Dahl and then followed that in my teens with Terry Pratchett and I suspect those authors have left tangible marks in my writing. In more recent years, writers like Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Shadow of the Wind), Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveller's Wife), Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns), David Mitchell (Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas), Ian McEwan (Atonement), Julian Barnes (Arthur & George) have all left impressions on my mind for the quality of their writing and story-telling. But, lastly, I'd have to give a big nod to Charles Dickens, whose work I read at length during my university days and who is in many ways aspiring my new novel.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Paul Craig: Write. A lot. And let people read what you've written. Generally, in my experience, family and friends are not always the most helpful people to have reading or critiquing your work because they won't always tell it like it is and may give a misleading impression. If you can, get someone not connected to you to read and give criticism on your work and that way you'll get a better sense of where it stands as a piece of work that someone might one day potentially want to pay for.
Of course, perhaps most importantly, you're going to have to learn not to take criticism personally. You'll never grow as a writer unless someone points out the areas that need improving, so being defensive about your work or not seeing someone else's viewpoint for what it is will only be counter-productive in the long run. And the simple fact is, no matter how well written your book is or how amazing some people find your book to be, there will be some others who just aren't going to like it. So, enjoy the praise if and when it comes, and don't take offence at any negatives if they crop up.
Excerpt below from While You Are Sleeping:
The key turned in the lock and clicked quietly. The door was unlocked. Eric pushed down on the handle and slowly opened the door. The moonlight streaking through the window was illuminating the room just perfectly for him.
The first thing he noticed was that the room was largely empty. Not just empty as in no one was there, but quite literally almost empty. No furniture. No carpet. No curtains. No nothing. Eric peered round the corner of the door. Well, almost nothing. The only thing in the whole room was a strangely lumpy quilted bag lying on the damp floor. And lying just slightly underneath this bag at one end was what looked like a black sock. Relieved that the room didn't look as bad as he had played it up in his mind, Eric boldly strode into the room and bent down to retrieve the sock.
Just as he pulled it out from underneath the quilted bag, the strange lump shifted slightly. Frack. Eric jumped back and stood shaking like a leaf in the middle of the room. He stared at the bag and waited to see if it would move again.
"Must be my imagination," Eric muttered to himself. "Just stay calm, Eric. It's probably just an empty box or something under there."
Still wary, he waited another moment to see if it would move. Time passed. Nothing. Emboldened, and keen to check this last thing so he could leave and wait for the others downstairs, Eric crept back over to the quilted bag to investigate the strange lump and confirm that it was nothing. Slowly, he reached out and grabbed hold of the corner of the bag. In one fluid movement he pulled back the cover.
"Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!" screamed David, then clapped a hand over his mouth.
"Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!" screamed Eric, then he too clapped a hand over his own mouth.
For a moment, they just stared in wide-eyed horror and fascination at each other. Elf studied human child. Human child studied elf. And then, suddenly, reality hit home. Well, knocked quietly on the door at any rate.
"Eric?" Flik-Flak asked. "Are you alright in there?"
Eric turned and looked at the door. Then looked back at David. David looked at the door. Then looked back at Eric.
"Yeah, fine," Eric answered, his voice little more than a squeak. "I just stubbed my toe. Be right there."
"Well, just try and keep the noise down. Anything in there, by the way?"
Eric and David just stared at each other.
"No, not really," Eric replied nervously. "Just an empty room. See you downstairs, boss."
"Righty-o. We're leaving in a minute so hurry along. Meet you downstairs."
Eric continued staring at David. What in the Almighty One's name was he going to do? David sat up in his sleeping bag and wrapped his arms tightly across his knees. Eric suddenly noticed the gold bracelet on his wrist. You know what, it looked awfully familiar to him. Strangely, it looked awfully like the drawing the Watcher had given him earlier. Couldn't be, he thought. Could it? David noticed Eric looking at his bracelet and hid it underneath his other arm. With eagerness in his eyes, Eric reached towards David's arm, determined to get a look at the now hidden bracelet.
Scarcely believing what was happening, David lost his cool and let out a high-pitched scream which seemed to rock the whole house.
Eric's eyes shot out of his head and without thinking he clapped both his hands over David's mouth to shut him up. Hoping that no one had noticed, Eric shot David a pleading look to keep quiet.
Suddenly an almighty roar boomed round the house.
"WHO MADE THAT NOISE?!"
Eric didn't recognise the voice, but the look of fear on the boy's face seemed to indicate that he knew who it belonged to. Whoever it was, though, it was definitely Eric's cue to leave.
The rest of his team seemed to have the same idea too. Pigkiller and Chuckles, who had been in the master bedroom when the big male human had woken, flew out of the room onto the landing in a panic and, forgetting all need for silence, banged loudly on the door to the third bedroom to warn Eric.
"Abort! Abort!" Pigkiller shouted. "Eric, we've been rumbled! Get out now! Go, Chuckles, go! Fly like a short man with really quick legs!"
Eric's heart was racing all over the place. Frack. What was he going to do? He couldn't just leave the boy alone because now the boy had seen him. And he couldn't just leave without taking the bracelet on the boy's arm because maybe, just maybe, it might be what Tony was looking for. Eric's head started to swim. This was one eventuality that his training hadn't even come close to preparing him for. Oh how he wished he had paid more attention in college.
"It's you making that infernal noise, isn't it, boy?! I've had enough of this! I'll sort you out once and for all!"
Eric glanced over his shoulder at the half-closed door. The big human was coming.
"What's going on, Daddy?" another voice shouted.
The look on the boy's face spoke volumes. The big ugly thing was coming. The half-human, half-elephant – whatever it was – had been woken from its slumber.
Eric's nerve suddenly evaporated. In a blind panic, his hands moved to his belt and found the vial of sleeping powder that all the Chaos-makers were issued with. He pulled the cork out and quickly threw the contents over the boy, instantly sending him into a deep sleep. David slumped back unconscious onto the floor. Without thinking, Eric opened his sack, picked the boy out of his quilted bag and stuffed him deep down inside underneath all the stolen socks.
Suddenly, there was a loud THUD and the floor shook violently. It was quickly followed by another THUD that seemed to come from a little closer. Slightly off-balance, Eric heaved the now very heavy sack onto his back and staggered as quickly as he could towards the door. As he wrenched the door open, the floor shook violently once again. Swaying badly, Eric stumbled out onto the landing.
"Who the hell are you?!"
Eric glanced up and caught sight of two of the fattest beings he had ever seen in his entire life. An audible gasp escaped his lips, took one look at the sight that had caused its creation, then bolted straight up into the darkness of the ceiling.
"Get him, Daddy!" shrieked the fatter, and uglier, of the two.
Eric's life flashed before his eyes as the angry-looking male human thudded his way across the landing towards him. Eric froze to the spot and grimaced in anticipation of the end that was to come.
Suddenly, there was a flash of metal through the air, followed by a resounding THWACK as a warhammer connected fully with the human's face. Like a great oak tree being cut down, the human fell flat out onto his back and landed unconscious on the floor with an almighty THUD. The fat ugly being let out a high-pitched scream.
"Come on, Eric," Chuckles said grumpily.
Eric puffed out his cheeks in relief and quickly followed his stocky friend as he legged it downstairs. The fat ugly creature bellowed in rage, but due to its massive bulk wasn't able to chase after them. As Eric bounded down the stairs, the dead weight in his sack knocked back and forth against his back. He ignored the discomfort and soon both he and Chuckles were being waved urgently towards the open front door by an anxious-looking Pigkiller.
As Chuckles, Pigkiller and a weighed-down Eric raced outside, the sound of a taxi revving its engine pierced the calm silence of the night and Flik-Flak poked his head out of the front passenger window to urge them on. The rear-door window rolled down quickly and one by one they dived through the opening into the back of the cab.
Flik-Flak tapped his pocket-watch once and looked at the time. Exactly five past three.
"Well, I think that went rather well," he said a little sarcastically over his shoulder, then added, to a bemused-looking Lenny, "time to go, Lenny, thank you. Drive on."
"Oo-oo," said Lenny, as he put the cab in gear and floored the accelerator.
Soon they were speeding along the deserted roads back towards Charing Cross train station. Eric settled back silently into his seat and stared uneasily at the big lump in his sack. Could his day possibly get any worse?!