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Thursday, September 27, 2018

SPFBO: Interview with Dom Watson (Interviewed by D.C. Stewart)

Official Author Profile
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Boy Who Walked Too Far
Order The Boy Who Walked Too Far over HERE

Dom Watson is the author of The Boy Who Walked Too Far, one of Fantasy Book Critic’s choices for semi-finalist in the 2018 SPFBO. According to his Twitter bio, Dom is a “Writer. Tinker. Book Maker. Drinker of Tea, Eater of biscuits. Full time nutter, part time fool,” and, “Smiles for Merlot.”

These are all attributes that permeate his debut novel and first entry into the SPFBO, but they only scratch the surface of his madness. Through a series of long-distance questions, I sought to dive deeper into the mind behind “The Boy Who Walked Too Far,” a mind that spawned some of the most interesting concepts that I have read in my long history with the written word.

My thanks to Dom, for his time and his vivid answers. Enjoy them and then check out The Boy Who Walked Too Far:

FBC: Thank you for sitting down to answer a few questions, and thanks for being in FBC’s pile of entries!

DW: No, no. It's a privilege.

FBC: First off, can you give us some nitty-gritty personal details? Where are you from?

DW: Well, I'm a human, most of the time. I flit between being a badger and an owl mostly. I love the night. I live in Suffolk, a county in the east of England, in a small market town called Halesworth. Bit like the Shire without the dancing. Well, maybe on Saturdays.

FBC: Ah, a dancing shapeshifter. That explains a lot. What is your “day job” and does it get in the way of writing?

DW: I work as a printer's assistant (so I'm clad in paper and ink pretty much everyday, whether it's working or writing), I make sure a printer has enough paper or enough plates to print with. It's not too time consuming. I do it as a staggered shift rotation, so it gives me time to write, when, of course, I have done my dad duties. That takes precedence.

FBC: I can sympathize (17 month old, exhausting). What do you do for fun besides craft elaborate worlds and scenarios?

DW: When I do have some time I usually like to read, naturally, or maybe head off on my hybrid bike and get some exercise. It's good writing fuel, exercise. Many an idea has been spawned cruising the back roads of Suffolk (The Boy Who Walked Too Far included)

FBC: Why put yourself through the tortuous process of writing? At what age did you become a masochist?

DW: Oh, I think writing found me. I have always been a big thinker. Even at school I would always wander off into a dream or doodle toothy nasties on the back of my exercise books. I was a bit of an introvert. Not shy, I just wanted to be elsewhere. That pretty much began in middle school. So, in effect, I've been unplugged from society since I was about 12 (I have so much fun).

It wasn't until after high school that I found a passion for it - primarily college where for the first time tutors actually egged me on. They didn't really do that in high school. They expected to teach you and send you off into the system. I said I wanted to be a movie director and they just shook their heads and gave me a leaflet on becoming a bank manager.

FBC: I’m glad you didn’t become a bank manager, though that might lend itself to some healthy daydreaming as well. Do you have any professional training? A writing degree or an apprenticeship perhaps?

DW: I left college and worked myself through a variety of jobs until I fell into print. With this I joined a few writers workshops and just carried on imagining, or as I like to call it, imagineering. Writing, reading, living life so I had something to write about, typical university of life outlook. Recently I have joined a few online writers courses, and fell under the tutelage of Eliza Robertson, a Canadian shorts author. You should read Wallflowers, it's excellent. She has a real talent for observing humanity, which I have took on board.

FBC: ‘The Boy Who Walked Too Far’ is overflowing with humanity. The characters are alive in that book in a way that really floats it above and beyond, Xindii in particular. Tell us about the ideas that inherent in the book. Did you simply one day wake and decide to create something no one had ever done before? Can you give us any clues as to the ideas for some of your more creative areas, like the DNA house or the Story demon?

DW: 'The Boy Who Walked Too Far' has been gestating for years. Like a story parasite itself. It had been in my mind for a long while before I decided the time was right to exorcise it. If you read it carefully there is a mixture of depression woven into the prose - that was pretty much the basis of the big bad - a stain, moulded in illness. It is an inherent thing, forged itself in living: our own story. Sometimes for days it can sleep, and then one morning it wakes, goading you, mocking you. A sentient gospel. Your own.

I blame Neil Gaiman. I went to a book signing once. I was a very anxious boy, attending the launch of American Gods, and he just looked at me and smiled and wrote, 'dream dangerous dreams.' I didn't want to disappoint.

FBC: Uncle Neil. Always inspiring.

DW: The ideas that permeate the book are just me being philosophical on things. The DNA house was my thesis on haunted houses: that a house can contain such memories, imprinted in the walls, good and bad, soaking up emotion. A genetic blueprint itself for life, that the house can take all that and form new families. I like the notion.

FBC: So do I. Why SPFBO? Have you ever tried going down the traditional pub-route? Is self-publishing your preferred method?

DW: I tried a few agents with the 'The Boy Who Walked Too Far', but I noticed a few similar replies. 'Very interesting, but not for me', 'Not for me, right now,' pretty standard really. I remember saying to someone that I need an agent with a betting streak. Agents know their jobs, don't get me wrong, they need to eat too, but I think at the moment publishing is becoming quite safe. The world isn't safe anymore, we need story more than ever, and we need to push it further than ever before. We need to chuck the rulebook out of the window and drive over it. At least self - publishing gives the author a chance to share his voice with the world. An opportunity to showcase his/her wares.

FBC: I have a feeling many fantasy readers are tired of ‘safe’ as well. Do you consider ‘The Boy Who Walked Too Far’ to be a fantasy novel, or one with fantasy elements that is not easily classified? Were you concerned that a book set in the future might not be construed as fantasy?

DW: Oh it is fantasy. Dead cert. I'm not going to sit here and protest that I’ve discovered a new genre. That would be incredibly arrogant. The thing is, writers have been mixing fantasy and sci-fi for years. No one really thinks they do though. Look at Krull as a film - a medieval society invaded by a space faring army, exotic weapons (Excaliburesque), sorcery - yet the Beast and the slayers come from above. As a kid, I loved the fusion. It probably set me on this path. Thor does it now - the Bifrost, magic is science and all that. A Never Ending Story, the Nothing is entropy isn't it? Surely. Authors are doing it, now. Jen Williams, Ed Cox, Ed Mcdonald. I'm just joining their ranks.

FBC: I completely agree. Fantasy is imagination, first and foremost. What about the physical portion of the book? Where did you find the idea for your cover art? Is it yours, and would you change it if you had a wider release?

DW: The cover was done by a friend of a friend. The guy is called Steven Spicer and he's extremely talented. A friend recommended him after he did some album cover art for him. I love that cover, but all things need to evolve to continue. No, I wouldn't be adverse to a new design. The cover is as important as the pages. The whole package.

FBC: Hopefully this doesn’t sound too pointed, but was your book was edited by a professional editor?

DW: Wow. I edited about two hundred pages out of that book but it still needs a good edit. There were whole scenes taken out. Maybe even a chapter at one point. It needs a good editor. A professional eye. I'm honest, I won't lie. There are still some bits I think, well, do I need you? The time jump at House, that was a raucous one. But I felt it needed taking out. It would have been an unnecessary info dump at a crucial stage. So, if anyone is up for a challenge, email me. (smiles).

FBC: I’m tempted. There are obvious influences in this work, namely Doctor Who and Arthur Conan Doyle. What are some hidden influences that might not come across as obvious?

DW: Yeah, they are obvious. But, it works. As a template, it works. Story is made up of templates nowadays. A pairing. It's what I call gutter-sniping. Taking tried and tested formulae and using it as the foundation of your story. It's more a homage than anything.

Clive Barker is definitely an inspiration. Some of the Auditor stuff is quite him. I read a lot of Barker growing up. He has made up some particular grotesques in his time. The Gob is a definite part of that. Gaiman, for the God House stuff. I just like the idea of Gods sitting down and chewing the fat, talking about the state of the world and the latest coffee sensation at Starbucks.

FBC: Now that you mention it, the God House does echo Uncle Neil. Even outside of this book, who are your influences, and as a different question, who are your favorite authors?

DW: I'm loving Ed McDonald's Blackwing stuff at the moment. Joe Hill is on my radar, too. He creates some great moments of horror. Jen Williams and Ed Cox. Love those guys. Ed Cox has actually been very supportive toward 'The Boy'. Loved Jonathan French's The Grey Bastards. That's pushing story, right to the window and cracking it.

FBC: I’m actually reading The Grey Bastards right now! It’s refreshingly different, much like your own work. What’s next? Is Xindii your goal for the foreseeable future?

DW: He is. He has some sway over my brain. Doomfinger and Brick, too. Love those boys. I'm twenty thousand words into the follow-up. Working title, A Stage Of Furies. We delve a little into Xindii's time in the army and the people he pissed off. Also the Auditor mythology gets scrutinised.

I'm now putting the finishing touches to a novella called, Smoker on the Porch. It's set at the end of Thatcher's Britain in the late 80's. It's told in the first person and concerns a boy and the creepy neighbour across the street. I don't want to spoil it. But there's a blink and miss it connection to ‘The Boy Who Walked Too Far’. Everything is linked in my brain. Then, maybe a novel set in the Evermore, concerning a gay wizard and his lover. No joke. Don't be safe. I can see them in my head, already. There's no rule book here in my house!

FBC: What will you do if you win the SPFBO?

DW: Probably dance for a bit. Give my wife the biggest kiss ever and say thank you for believing in me. It's hard, writing. Especially when you have family. But she knows I love it. She believes I can do it. But most of all, if I won it, I'd switch the computer on and keep writing, because my brain is ready to let the floodgates open. Be warned. I have such sights to show you, walk with me...




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