Hi everyone! As 2014 gets under way I have my first Bag of Good Writing guest blogger visit of the year and its a mighty fine one: Darren Wearmouth, co-author of the ingenious sci-fi novel First Activation: A Post Apocalyptic Thriller, which Kirkus Reviews says “delivers the goods.”
A: First Activation is my debut novel which deals with an end of the world scenario created by mind control. The victims are convinced that they have to kill a person before committing suicide, this happens in an instant to most of the global population.
Q: Who is M.P. Wearmouth? What are the advantages and drawbacks of writing a novel as a team?
A: My brother Marcus. The advantages of writing as a team is the ability to throw ideas around and discuss the plot in detail with somebody who genuinely wants to listen. I’ve tried with family or friends and could almost feel the boredom bouncing straight back at me. The drawbacks are trying to work on the MS at the same time, and deciding on a part of the story when we disagree about the direction.
Q: If I am a reader who is getting a bit shell shocked by all of the post-apocalyptic fiction out there, please tell me what makes First Activation a book I don’t want to miss.
A: It’s a new twist and concept in the genre. At the moment the market is flooded with zombies, plagues and aliens. I’d like to think we’ve created something a little different. People the protagonists come across who have been affected, still have their faculties, but their motivations are very different.
Q: Your excellent Kirkus review says: “The coda provides a fitting denouement, and leaves the ending open to readers’ interpretations.” Do you agree with that comment, and, if so, did you know how you were going to end the book before you started writing it?
A: I do and I don’t. Some readers loved the ending, some hated it. If I were to rewrite the book, I’d probably do it differently the second time around. I wasn’t sure how it was going to end when I started writing, and my excellent editor Harry Dewulf helped a lot in that respect. It was my first shot at a novel, and although I’m proud of it, I know there’s room for improvement. That’s the plan for the sequel anyway, I’ve picked up a lot on the journey so far.
Q: Can you tell us how you ended up with 47North as your publisher?
A: After publishing First Activation, much to my surprise, it shot up the rankings and managed to reach #1 in both the Horror and Post-Apocalypse categories on the Amazon. I started to receive offers from the small press, agents and audio-publishers, keen to work with us. I decided at that point to get in touch with an agent that I wanted to represent our work. Paul Lucas from Janklow & Nesbit is a great guy and represents some pretty successful former indies, I sent him an email and he read our book. Luckily he liked it and we had a chat, the thing that impressed me most was his understanding of the industry in current climate, and wanting to read an author’s work and talk to them before deciding if we would be suitable for each other. Paul got us a deal with 47 North and I’m delighted to be working with both him and the publisher.
Q: Who are your favorite authors to read? Who are your favorite authors whose styles you sense might influence how you approach your own writing? Are these two lists the same?
A: I enjoy reading a mix of indie and ‘traditional’ authors. On the trad-side I love most Michael Crichton’s books, I’m also a sucker for some of the older post-apocalyptic novels like The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham and I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Indie-wise I liked The Remaining series by D.J Molles and the Jet books by Russell Blake. When I wrote First Activation, I wanted it to be original and not formulaic so just went with the flow without thinking about how other authors approached their work. For my next two books, I’m hoping for a Crichton-type style, we’ll see!
Q: Please name a few characters from literature and film which you can identify as influences on the characters you have written.
A: I enjoy a dislikable antagonist with likeable traits, although they have to be subtle ones. In literature, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and Robert Doninger in Timeline fit the bill quite nicely. Some people may argue, but in film I think Robert De Niro’s greatest roles have been as the bad guy. Gil Renard in The Fan, Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and Max Cady in Cape Fear. When I create a villain, I try to shoot for the same thing, instead of a one-dimensional evil puppet.
Q: Are you a plotter or a Top Gun pantser?
A: Top Gun pantser for First Activation, which led to a lot of back-end work. I’m firmly in the plotter camp now, with sole exclusivity to change my mind at any stage.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the genesis of your lead character, Harry?
A: To realistically survive and lead in a post-apocalyptic world, a level of weapons training and tactical experience would be very beneficial. I didn’t want to create John Rambo or Leonard Lawrence so made Harry a former soldier with a technical trade. As the book is first person narrative from Harry’s point of view, I thought it would be easier to make him the conscience of the group, and others more of the action types. Meaning he could describe a lot of the scenarios, but also be involved in the key decisions. The whole idea was to have him starting out as just another person in a crazy world, but evolve and learn from his experiences to become effective in the environment around him as his old skills came flooding back.
Q: What’s next?
A: We’ve just finished drafting the sequel called Second Activation. Both books will be published in the summer by 47 North. Besides that, I’m working on sci-fi techno-thriller with Colin Barnes which will hopefully be completed by March, and I expect to be starting something very similar with Rachel Aukes very soon. 2014 is going to be an exciting year. Thank you for inviting me, sir!
You’re welcome, Darren – thanks so much for taking the time to answer the questions!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: If you are interested in Darren Wearmouth and his books, please check out the BIO info below.
Darren and Marcus are brothers who live in Northern England and both enjoy reading, writing, sport and going out for a few pints. Keep your eye open their sequel, Second Activation, which shall be published by 47North this summer.