Today, we were lucky enough to have a chat with Tarn Richardson, author of The Darkest Hand Trilogy. If you're a fan of monstrous occurrences, set against the backdrop of the Great War, then you'll love these books. Without further ado, here's what Tarn himself has to say about them..
Hi Tarn! Congratulations on the completion of The Darkest Hand Trilogy. For those yet to embark on the novels, how would you best describe your series?
Thank you for inviting me, Nick, it’s good to be here. THE DARKEST HAND Trilogy is, in a word, big! Set across the entire time period of the Great War, it’s evocative, enveloping, moving, terrifying and, I hope also, inspiring. There’s something in it for everyone, and whilst it’s dark and fairly gruesome in parts, (hey, it was a terrible conflict, World War One), it’s full of light and love too.
It sits across lots of different genres; fantasy, horror, historical fiction, thrillers, love stories and a detective novel. I hope I’ve written something that’s a rich and fulfilling read and which leaves the reader breathless from a hair-raising exciting ride.
Poldek Tacit is a truly memorable character and the heartbeat of the series. Where did he come from?
Thank you. Tacit actually came to me on the Salisbury to London train, of all places. I was sitting there, watching these knackered ashen-faced commuters going one way into London, clearly hating the prospect of heading for work and to jobs they despised, only to see them again at the end of the day in the pubs around Waterloo Station getting pissed before heading home; and thinking to myself how dispiriting a life that must be. What a great idea of an anti-hero, someone doing their duty but masking all their resentment and pain in the solace of alcohol!
Believe it or not, Tacit was actually a late addition to the manuscript, even though the entire thing centres around him. It was only when Tacit came along that the manuscript really began to turn into something that I thought might have the chance of being taken seriously by publishers.
So Tacit wasn’t the original draft?
No! Well, he was, but he was a fundamentally different character, a war-hungry Russian Major who goes off to fight, sees the folly of it, and changes his ways. Yep, a bit dull, as was the first manuscript. My agent wasn’t particularly complimentary about it when he first read it! Tacit gave it what it needed, a clout around the head and a bit more venom injected.
I always tell budding authors that strong memorable characters give you and your novel so many more opportunities and make the job of writing it so much easier. When Tacit was on the page, I just found the words and the story flowed so much quicker and more naturally. I was lucky to have him.
I can clearly see my Tacit, I know who I’d cast to play him in a movie. Who would you cast?
I went through lots of different iterations of Tacit in my head. They’ve all proven to be wrong during the writing of the books. The issue is Tacit is big, big man, handsome but physically scarred by his service, a brutal cold killer, but with the seed of humanity still within him. I can’t see who’s around to encompass all that but would love to hear your ideas!
You use social media, Twitter in particular. Why is social media so important to the modern writer?
I was lucky enough to be published traditionally, and when I say lucky I mean lucky, because getting published is an awful lot about luck! What a traditional publisher gives you is a little bit more visibility to begin with, perhaps reviews in publications and with book reviewers not always readily accessible to self-published authors. But they will only do so much and it’s down to you to market yourself as much as them, even more so. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of books published everyday. In order to be heard, to be seen and considered by readers, you have to make as much noise as possible.
Some people plug away at their books on Twitter, and that’s their prerogative. But I like to share with readers not just my books but how I write, what constitutes the day in the life of an author, tips for getting published and the work and toil involved in creating.
You’re very open in regard to your writing process on Twitter and your blogs. It almost seems painful at times to write. Was the Darkest Hand particularly difficult to write or is this just your writing process?
Oh, I’m a nightmare - my own worst enemy in terms of how I go about writing. I must put hundreds of potential authors off when they read about the discomfort I endure when creating (good, less competition for me... ha)! When I write, everything has to be difficult, and as uncomfortable for me as possible. It’s about how hard I can push myself, both physically and mentally, once I start work on a project. It’s as if I relish the pain of creating, that I need this agony in order to be able to write. It’s like I feed off it. I’ve told my wife I need to change my ways or I will be dead within my next three books.
How do your family react to you writing in this way?
They hate it, but they have no choice. When I write, everything else comes second. I’m an incredibly selfish individual when writing. I think you have to be. Everything stops for writing; the wife, kids, friends, family. It’s the manuscript and only the manuscript for me until it’s done.
So is writing like an addiction for you?
I think it is for any one who writes frequently. They might hate it, they might love it, but they are all driven to do it. To stop just isn’t option. It’s what drives you, gets you up in the morning, gets you inspired and moving, gets the demons from out of you and keeps you sane - although there are many times it tips you over into the Abyss as well!
Let’s talk about your influences. You cite Tolkien as your major one?
I think Tolkien is a major one for a lot of writers. This was a guy who thought big, built whole worlds, and in an age when conformity and conservative thinking was expected from learned writers and professors, he pretty much gave two fingers to the establishment and did his own thing anyway. That’s admirable, having the belief in your work to do that.
Of course, I loved his stories and his language, the whole package and I spent years and hundreds of thousands of years copying him, trying to emulate what he did and failing miserably!
Around the time I discovered Tolkien, D&D was just starting to creep across the Atlantic. And then Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson brought out their Fighting Fantasy books. All of it stirred the pot and my imagination. I would spend days writing adventures. I loved it. I was compelled to do it, never seeing it as a chore or pain, just loving the art of imagining and creating and then revealing to friends playing the games. I think it was there than I learnt my knack of storytelling and pacing, descriptions, settings and characters. It was the best education I ever had.
Horror is a very reactionary and often oversaturated genre of storytelling, how do you feel about the current state of horror, and is it ever difficult to remain both unique and relevant to modern audiences?
I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer this, as I don’t consider myself a horror aficionado! I know I have written a book which has been labelled as a horror / fantasy book, but I think it’s more historical fiction with elements of horror and fantasy entrenched within it. Certainly there are horror writers out there who are the 'real deal' when it comes to horror. I’ve written a historically rich book that draws upon horror to help illustrate the key messages I’m trying to bring across in my work.
But what I do see of the current state of the horror market is encouraging for the genre. The writing’s always been there, authors have always produced works of horror, but there appears to be a growing acceptance of the genre of horror by readers and critics alike, all starting to view it with the merit it deserves. Horror is a fantastic vehicle to reflect modern fears, worries and concerns within society and the world, and considering how messed up things are at the moment, horror is being used more and more with increasing acclaim and recognition. It’s encouraging. It’s about time.
Do you feel that the horror genre gets the the respect it deserves?
No, but like I said, things are changing and improving. Horror has always been there in books, it’s just those books might never have been sold as horror. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Jo Nesbo’s books, they’re all horrors, but they’ve been sold to date as thrillers or psychological literature. Now, more mainstream novels are embracing the genre ‘horror’ and still selling well, such as Neil Spring’s The Lost Village and CJ Tudor’s The Chalk Man, both bestsellers and both sold as horror.
Other than the Werewolf, what’s your favourite creature that goes bump in the night?
Ooh, ghosts, without a doubt. The werewolf was a fantastic mirror to the whole idea of ‘monsters we are lest monsters we become’, these lamentable souls who must kill and feed to exist. But ghosts are my ‘nighttime horrors’ of choice, always there, always watching and sometimes biting.
What’s outstanding on your bed side table on your ‘to read’ pile? What authors inspired you, what authors do you find yourself coming back to?
Currently I’m reading Michael Robotham’s BLEED FOR ME which is sensational. He’s so observant of the world around us and the way people fill it and interactive within it. It’s the little things he spots and puts into his writing which I find so wonderful.
As for authors who’ve inspired me, other than Tolkien, I’d have to say Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, Daphne du Maurier will be up there. I also love Mark Oliver Everett’s autobiography, THINGS TO TELL THE GRANDCHILDREN, just for its life affirming message and honesty.
If you could have written any book what would it have been and why?
James Crumley’s THE LAST GOOD KISS. Other than Lord of the Rings and McCarthy’s The Road, it’s one of the few books that made we weep at the end. But I wept because I know I’ll never be able to write a book any near as good as his.
What’s next for Tarn Richardson?
I’ve just about finished the third draft of RIPPED which is a book I wrote about four years ago but which I’ve only just managed to get back to sort out. It’s a modern day Jack the Ripper police procedural thriller, but asks a lot of big questions about who we are, why were here, where we are going. I’m immensely proud of it.
I’m also researching Berlin at the end of WW2 for a new book I’ve been thinking about writing, a thriller with dark undertones.
And I’ve also been asked if I’d like to co-write a novel with another horror writer, a sequel to his first novel but set several hundred years in the past. He read book one of the trilogy, THE DAMNED, and loved the historical descriptions, tone and backdrop and asked if I’d like to come in with him on his new project. I was honoured and jumped at the chance. It’s great to have so many projects lined up. I’m looking forward to getting going on them, but perhaps in a more measured and less demented manner this time around!
You can purchase Tarn Richardson's books, The Damned, The Fallen and The Risen, from Amazon.co.uk.