10 Questions with A.B. Finlayson
A.B. Finlayson was born and raised in a small town in the North East of England and slowly moved further away. Now he lives and work in Australia with his wife, two kids and a constantly changing cast of supporting animals. He spends too much money on wine and never enough on books (you can never spend enough money on books).
1. Tell us a bit about yourself! Where do you call home and what do you write?
I'm a Pom... a Yorkshireman living in Australia, near Brisbane, wondering how I ever got to be so far from my hometown of Redcar in the North East of England. I'm a high school teacher by day and an almost exclusively nocturnal author. I have an amazing wife who I bounce ideas off all the time (and she's not fed up of me yet) and two kids who are more than used to their dad coming up with ridiculous stories. Speaking of which, I started out writing for them, but invariably my tales tended to drift towards the dark and macarbe and it was those ones, particularly those with a twist of sarcastic humour, that started to get attention.
2. What drew you to that particular genre?
I'm honestly not sure. I think I just like putting twists on the normal or deviating from the expected. Sort of attempting to think outside the box while weirdly trying to keep it grounded in some semblance of reality. Horror allows for that. Take, The Book and the Blade for example (my debut novel... out 28th Feb... available everywhere books are bought... wink wink!) the main character gets horrendously drunk and accidentally unlocks an ability to talk to the dead. Lots of chaotic events happen over the course of two nights that leave him more than a little shell-shocked. So in the second novel I sent him home to his mum and dad to try and make sense of it all... horror followed by reality.
You know what, now that I'm thinking about it, the first novel I ever read was Stephen King's Misery when I was about eleven years old (I was a late starter) so it's probably his fault!
3. What’s your best known work?
I've been advertising The Book and the Blade for about two years now so that's probably my best known work... although it isn't released yet... I hope people aren't so fed up of hearing about it that they won't give it a chance.
I'm currently writing a fantasy novel called Won't Somebody Please Think of the Orcs?!
4. What inspired you to write it?
The Book and the Blade... in my first week of university we were drunk in York and trying to find our way through the city streets and back to our digs. I had been reading stories about the famous ghosts earlier that day and when I woke up in the morning I had this nagging idea for a story hibernating beneath my hangover. The basic premise was there, fully formed... drunk guy sees dead people but he's so drunk he doesn't realise they're dead.
It only took, oh, about seventeen years before I put pen to paper.
5. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter, pantser or somewhere in between? How do you research?
Great question! I wish I had a process... it would make things a whole lot easier. I tend to have periods where I write like a dog attacking a packet of hot chips and then equally long periods where I do nothing. I have planned stories in the past... especially ones that deal with real locations or historical events... I try to map those out to get an idea of where I'm going, but the "plans" certainly aren't detailed. It feels good to have a few bullet-points to rely on but more often than not I just write and see what happens. All the really fun stuff happens that way... when characters suddenly do things you weren't expecting and all the plans (such as they are) go out the window anyway. I LOVE that.
6. What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing?
Yesterday I spent a bizarre amount of time researching the feasibility of de-extinction for the Tasmanian Tiger. That was odd. For The Book and the Blade I put a LOT of time and effort into researching the ghost stories. There are details in that book that might seem like throwaway lines but are actually the product of hours and hours of scouring archives (particularly historical execution records and the associated crimes)
7. What’s the most personal story/scene you’ve written and why?
I've written two prequel stories to the Arthur Crazy series... both are based on my ancestors. One was my great, great, great, great grandfather who was born in Cairo and one was my actual grandfather who was a soldier in the second world war (North Africa... part of the LRDG). Both of those novels were deeply personal in the fact they were about my relatives, but more than that, I used real letters, real family stories, and real phrases and sayings that I grew up hearing. Giving a "character" a pattern of speech that you remember from your grandad when you were a kid is a deeply personal way of approaching something. I don't know if I'll ever try to publish those stories.
8. Who are your literary influences? In what way?
Sir Terry Pratchett is far and away my favourite author. I truly believe he is a genius and a master and his style and depth of understanding about the human condition is something that will be studied alongside the likes of Dickens and Shelley... or at least, they should be. The problem there is, he's so good, that when I read his work and then sit down to write my own, I often feel like throwing my laptop (and self) out of the window. I've always been fascinated by the emotional rug-pull that humour can have in storytelling. Some of the most heartfelt, gut-wrenching scenes of drama I've witnessed have been in comedies. The sensational Phoebe Waller-Bridge said, "Disarm the audience with comedy, then punch them in the gut with drama when they least expect it." She, like Sir Terry, is a master at that. The comedy and fantasy gives us a little light relief from the world, the drama pulls us straight back in. I'd love to emulate that but honestly, my stuff is just badly crafted cat jokes and weird horror.
Not sure I answered the question there, sorry.
9. What books are on your bedside table right now?
Oh, it's a mess. Let's see... there's a lamp in the middle. The books on the left are closer to me and the books on the right are judging me from under their layer of dust. On the left, The Last Continent (current read) and The Colour of Magic by Sir Terry Pratchett, Fool Moon by Jim Butcher (a new find... recommended by a friend... loving it!), Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (in case I wake up at 4 am and need to know some random fact), two children's World War 2 novels by A.R. Channel, and a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula that I think, by now, has probably been reported as stolen from my school/work library.
On the right, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, The Regimental Diary of the King's Dragoon Guards, The Dhammapada, two copies of The Beano and about ten different guitar picks. I really should clean up.
10. Last and most important, where can we find your books/stories?
The Book and the Blade is available wherever you can buy books but let's be honest, most people will go to Emperor Bezos's Amazon, however, buying/ordering from indie publishers and indie bookshops is massively encouraged! So, for that one, I would strongly recommend/hope/beg people to go to their local bookstore and ask for them to order a copy, or buy it direct from the publishers at www.parliamenthousepress.com
Oh, there's also a Christmas novella called Reindeer Games on Amazon for a dollar. A lovely, cheerful little story about the horrific murder of Santa's reindeer.