2. Other than writing, what is your favorite hobby or thing you enjoy for fun?
Travel. I’ve been lucky enough to crisscross the globe and visit some amazing farflung places. My travels don’t usually feed directly into my writing, though I’ll often pick up ideas for certain scenes while on the road.
3. How long have you been writing? How many books have you written? They don’t have to be published.
I’ve been writing full-time for more than eighteen years and have published close to forty books, but under a different name. Most have been in the YA market. I’m using the name of Darren Dash for my adult work in order to get away from the world of my other books, to allow Evil And The Pure to stand or fall on its own merits.
4. What genres do you like writing the most? And why? Is this genre the same as the one you prefer to read?
I like to mix genres up, which is one of the problems I’ve faced with books like The Evil And The Pure — they don’t fit neatly into a single category. I’d describe Evil as a dark thriller, and I think that’s a pretty accurate description in this instance, but other books of mine would fit more snugly into the horror or fantasy or sci-fi realm — some into all three (and others too) at once! One of the things I’m loving most about publishing independently is not having to tie myself down to established industry norms and say “This book is THIS” or “This book is THAT.” I read widely, and I like to write widely. My influences do shine through in my work — in The Evil And The Pure you will find dashes of James Ellroy, Hubert Selby Jr, Stieg Larsson and Fyodor Dostoevsky, among others.
I’m well advanced with the next book that I plan to release under the Darren Dash banner. It’s more streamlined than Evil, a faster paced and more direct book about a small group of friends who run into unpleasant difficulties on a holiday to Bulgaria…
6. How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?
I start with the plot. For me that always comes first. When I have a clear idea of where I want to go with a story, then I’ll sit down and start plotting. The characters tend to grow out of the writing process. I don’t usually know that much about them when I start to write, but discover their true selves as I go along. The Evil And The Pure was slightly different in that respect, in that I needed to find out a lot about the four main characters in advance, since the book focuses on the four of them equally — but even then, it was a journey where much about them only became clear during the travel.
7. What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?
I think I string together a mean little plot. I’ve become proficient over the years of rolling a plot forward, pacing it tightly, leading readers in one direction and then pulling the rug out from under them (or sometimes not) and taking them somewhere new. As for weakness… that’s something I prefer never to think about! Though my publishers would probably say that failure to follow a single party line from book to book is a major commercial weakness!
8. After publishing, the next trouble facing writers is marketing. What do you typically do when marketing your novel? Do you have tips you’d like to share?
This is new territory for me, and I’m only just starting to feel my way along. With my other books, I published traditionally, and there was a team in place to oversee and direct the marketing and publicity. With The Evil And The Pure I’m on my own, which is scary but also strangely liberating. I’ve begun by emailing lots of independent reviewers, and undertaking interviews such as this one. In fact, this is my first ever interview given as Darren Dash!
9. What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?
Follow your gut instinct and have fun with your stories. Writing is an isolated, lonely business. There are lots of easier ways to pay the bills. If you’re going to go down the writing route, do it because you love it, and create stories that fire up your imagination. Don’t just write to suit the market — I think you’ll gradually lose your soul and enthusiasm for life if you do, regardless of how successful you might become. In an ideal world, you’ll enjoy both strand, i.e. writing books you love and earning praise for them. But if you have to choose, choose freedom and go find some other job which will you allow you to pay your way in the world, and write in your spare time. I did that for a couple of years before I got my first break, and although it meant in effect I was working a seven day week, the writing at the weekends never felt like work — it felt like an escape. And that’s the way it always should feel. It’s can be hard, frustrating work too — I don’t ever want to give the impression that it isn’t — but being in a position to write is a privilege too, and we should never forget that.