Author Q&A with Tom Bale
It’s exactly a month until All Fall Down is published and the brilliant Tom Bale has been kind enough to do a Q&A session here at Bloomin’ Brilliant Books. I absolutely loved his last thriller See How They Run, and have been able to ask him some questions about it. To see the description for See How They Run and my review click here!
I am also thrilled to be featuring the description and cover for his upcoming book All Fall Down, which is published on 1 September 2016 and available on pre-order now. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this upcoming book, I have literally been counting down the days. So, onto his Q&A –
How long from the first idea to the final draft did it take you to write See How They Run?
It was written in a couple of stages, with work on another book in between, but altogether it took about six months to do the first draft, and then another three or four months of rewriting to get a finished draft.
What inspired the storyline for See How They Run?
The inspiration came from a night when I heard a suspicious noise shortly after going to bed. When I opened my bedroom window, a man hurried away from the patio doors and escaped through the garden. Afterwards it struck me that, if I’d been asleep, I probably wouldn’t have heard him break in – which was particularly worrying, as my son slept in a room downstairs at that time. From this incident came an opening scene where two men appear at the bedside of a young couple, Harry and Alice French, demanding to know the whereabouts of a man called Renshaw…
Do you use real-life experiences when writing a book?
I very rarely use specific incidents, but in a general sense there are many different life experiences which get jumbled up, merged, reconfigured and then put down on the page in a completely unrecognisable form.
The one striking exception to that – though it isn’t actually a real-life experience – was an incredibly vivid dream I once had, of a young woman who stumbles upon a shooting spree in a small Sussex village. I woke up with every detail of it clear in my head, and that formed the opening of my novel, Skin and Bones.
Do you work to a plot outline or do you prefer to see where your writing takes you from the initial idea?
A bit of both. Usually I tend to plan out a few chapters at a time, and then start thinking ahead as I reach the end of that section. I tend to know roughly where the story is going, but occasionally I’ll get stuck and have to puzzle it over for a while.
If a film was made of See How They Run who would you have playing the parts of Harry and Alice?
That’s a difficult one. I must admit, I’m always reluctant to offer names, because as readers we all picture the characters differently in our minds – but let’s aim high and say Tom Hiddleston and Emily Blunt!
Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Sadly, no. It’s a deliciously tempting idea, but aside from the risks of litigation, I just don’t think it would work to place a real person in a fictional world.
While writing you must go on such a journey with your main characters. Do you get attached to them? And how do you feel when you have finished writing about them?
Oh, I definitely get attached to them – and I have to guard against a tendency to become too sympathetic towards my bad guys. At the end of a book the overwhelming feeling is usually one of relief, but tinged with regret that the story has come to an end. Most books have at least one character that I hope to write about again – in See How They Run it would be Ruth Monroe, whose (unwritten) backstory intertwines with another character of mine, Joe Clayton, from Terror’s Reach and Blood Falls.
There are some pretty gruesome parts in See How They Run. How do you come up with the different ways characters are killed?
That’s a great question – and one I’ve never been asked. Obviously most fictional murders involve guns and knives, but I like the idea of occasionally bringing in something more mundane and domestic. Since my bad guys tend to be ordinary people pushed to extremes, rather than slick super-villains, it seems more fitting that they’ll use whatever comes to hand.
How did you decide on the title for See How They Run?
That was down to my publisher, Bookouture. In recent years I seem to have lost the knack of coming up with decent titles, so I’m more than grateful if someone else can think of one.
How much say do you have in the covers of your books?
Again, that’s an area where I’m very happy to defer to the expertise of others – and it’s hard to think of a publisher with more effective cover designs than Bookouture.
It must be pretty nerve-wracking waiting for public opinions. How do you feel when the first reviews come out?
It is extremely nerve-wracking waiting for any kind of reaction, not just from readers but from anyone – my agent, editor, partner or other family members. The response to See How They Run has been extraordinarily positive, and on a scale that I couldn’t possibly have anticipated. I am thrilled that so many people are enjoying this book.
When did you first start writing?
It was virtually from the moment I learnt to read. I remember drawing and writing little Tarzan comic book strips when I was probably five or six years old. What I think of as my first proper attempt at fiction came when I was thirteen. Until that point I’d always been embarking on huge science fiction epics that ran out of steam on page two, whereas this time I’d started and finished a self-contained story, and that opened up a new world to me.
Are you now able to write full time?
Yes, I was very lucky in that I got deals in the UK and Germany back in 2007 that enabled me to write full-time. As with most writers, it hasn’t all been plain sailing since then – and a couple of times I thought I’d have to put the writing aside and go back to a proper job – but I managed to keep going, and I hope to be able to continue for a while longer if I can!
When writing do you aim for a set number of words or pages per day?
Yes, during a first draft I try to do at least 1000-1500 words, and sometimes I manage around 2000. Similarly, during the rewriting phase I often try to cut a thousand words a day.
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so how do you overcome it?
It’s more a case of days where every sentence is a struggle. I’ve found that the best antidote is to think through what I’m going to write before I sit down. Usually I’ll walk or cycle to a café, so that time is very useful for preparation – and if I have the first sentence or two ready in my head, that seems to help it flow once I sit at the laptop.
Do you like reading? If so what are your all time favourite books?
I read a huge amount, though still nowhere near as much as I’d like. Listing favourite books or authors is so difficult, but anything by Graham Greene – he is the absolute master in my eyes.
What are you currently reading?
I tend to read several books at once, and I have a lot to catch up on from my fellow Bookouture authors, so the Kindle app on my phone is loaded with books by Angie Marsons, Rob Bryndza, Caroline Mitchell and Kathryn Croft, among others.
It’s been great to see the amount of support you have had for See How They Run. Who does your support come from when you are in the midst of writing a book?
My wife has the unenviable task of coping with my moods while I’m working. If there’s an upside, it’s that apparently I am even more grumpy and difficult to live with when I’m not writing.
When can we expect the next Tom Bale novel (no pressure!!)?
Ha ha, there’s pressure, all right – especially after the amazing response to See How They Run! The new book is called All Fall Down, and it’s due out 1st September 2016.
Upcoming Book – All Fall Down by Tom Bale
You tried to save a life. Now you’re fighting to save your own.
It should have been an idyllic day for the Turner family – until a dying, beaten beyond all recognition, arrives at their home, uttering the words, HELP ME.
Rob and Wendy Turner and their children try to explain away the horrific scene as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in the days that follow their lives are threatened in ways they could never imagine.
The family is unaware that they are being watched by someone with their own terrifying agenda, who will stop at nothing to fulfil their own twisted desires.
But when hidden secrets come rushing to the surface, it’s clear not everything is as it seems in this happy family. Are the Turners a victim of circumstance – or does the key to their fate lie closer to home?
Forced to fight for everything they hold dear, can they save themselves before time runs out – or will their act of compassion see them paying the ultimate price…?
To Pre-order a copy of All Fall Down click here!
A massive thank you to Tom Bale for agreeing to feature on Bloomin’ Brilliant Books.