Hope everyone had a great, spooky Halloween! This weeks spotlight features an author who loves the dark side of the craft, maybe as much as I do.
Tell us a little about yourself and where you live.
I am 35 and live in the frozen climes of Scotland, UK, with my wife and daughter. Although born in London, I was fortunate enough to travel the world through work (I was an asset manager), and got to see some amazing places and meet some memorable people. Outside of all things literary, my passions are music – I play guitar (badly), and obsessively follow dark rock and heavy metal bands, like Paradise Lost, Fields of The Nephilim, and Serpico.
As I write this, the clouds are graying over (it looks like snow), and I’m listening to Inkubus Sukkubus’ new album “Queen of Heaven, Queen of Hell”, which is the just the most fantastic slice of pagan rock.
Tell us about your book/books:
I write a series of books called “The Spirals of Danu”, and the current release is “A Gathering of Twine”.
Each story is set in the same universe, but follows different characters. A tertiary character in one, may appear in a supporting role in another, but no prior knowledge of the series is necessary.
The premise for the series is this; There is a Creator… but She is not a Curator. Quite the opposite – She is bent on destroying what she has made, all for Her own reasons.
I borrow heavily from the genocidal madness of the Old Testament, as well as the Greek and Egyptian myths. Each story follows a character as they try to make sense of their only place in a universe of pain and suffering. Sometimes they discover the truth, and at other times they are led astray by the beings that would call themselves angels.
I was brought up watching Star Trek, and I loved the utopian ideal that if we all pulled together we could form The Federation and explore space. Sadly, I don’t see it happening. If anything, we are becoming more tribal as a species, and this really feeds into the dystopian settings of my work.
One of the central themes is this; “When all you read isn’t true… that’s The Spirals of Danu!”
We seem to live in a world where people point to manuscripts that are thousands of years old, and claim these to be the absolute truth. No consideration is taken of political or economic bias, and equally if anyone else has a different scripture, then they are wrong. It’s just unbelievable.
So I like to play with the idea of the written word; people will believe what is in the newspaper or in their scripture… and they may even act on it. But are they really being told the truth?
What would you say your writing style is?
Dark with a side of gothic. I am massively influenced by the likes of Poe and Lovecraft. I don’t do the “happily ever after” but instead love the idea of “… and then they were all either mad or dead.”
One of the first horror books that knocked me sideways was “Tengu” by Graham Masterton. It’s a great read, and all the time you think that the good guys are going to defeat the demons… but when the end comes, it just left me stunned. Not every story has the protagonists gaining victory… simply because life is not like that. Graham Masterton is such a great writer; when I read “Mirror” it really made me consider the idea of alternate, and more shadowy, realities. That comes through a lot in my own writing.
A lot of the reviews compare my stories to Stephen King – which is very humbling – but I’m more of a fan of his shorter works. I loved “The Sun Dog” and the title story from “Everything is Eventual.”
My work tends to include a lot of inspiration from rock music. If you’re a fan of Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Machine Head, then you’ll probably appreciate some of the references.
When I write I tend to listen to movie scores. I was addicted to “The Lord of The Rings” sound track when I wrote “A Gathering of Twine”. I’m planning a sci-fi horror trilogy at the moment, and when I work on that, I’m listening to Bear McCreary’s immense Battlestar Galactica works.
Out of your characters, who are your favorites?
Wow, you know that is a really hard question… I’ve never been asked that before. You know I’m really not sure. Each character contains an aspect of someone I know.
In “A Gathering of Twine”, the main characters are George Tate (a disgraced archaeologist), Celus (his seemingly un-aging assistant), and Freeman Sullivan, who is narrating. I have an affection for them all, but they are deeply flawed people. George’s obsession costs him his job and marriage. Celus doesn’t care who he uses, as long he achieves his own ends. And Freeman… well he’s a workaholic who is so engrossed with telling the story that he can’t see the truth in front of his eyes.
I might have a drink with them in a bar, but I’d never invite them for dinner to meet the family. You know, it will probably be one of the tertiary characters… maybe Eric Kandian. He’s an artist in “A Gathering of Twine”, and is in the adjoining room to George in a nursing home. George is trying to cross over from our dreamland, to the “reality” of The Land of Sumer, and Eric accidentally sees behind the curtain… and he paints it. His mind is deteriorating, and he does not understand what he sees… but his work is this beautiful oil on canvas epic. He is based on someone I knew a long time ago and, like Eric, he was so confused by everything about him. Yeah… I’d say Eric, this time around. The guy needs a hug.
What was the publishing experience like for you?
Ha! How is it for any author?
But you know, I never let my chin dip. I think that is the key. I’ve kept every rejection letter, and I’ve thanked each of them for their response. You know, I’m still getting some, three years after submissions were made. I feel like writing back and saying “you’re too late”… but I know I have to be professional about these things.
I was lucky that I found an agent and a publisher that shared my twisted vision of the world. Don’t get me wrong, they want their return on their investment because, whilst writing is an art, publishing is commercial beast and there is very little overlap between those two worlds.
But I’m enjoying it. I had a short story out over the summer – “The Demons of Emily Eldritch” – and that is still selling. “A Gathering of Twine” is doing really well, and I am so lucky to have a legion of fans – many of whom I’ve never met – who have gone out and bought my work, and told their friends to buy it… and those friends have told their friends. As an author, those fans are your lifeblood. I’d never be where I am today without them. I hope one day that I can repay them… maybe I could pay for them all to come over, and I could take them out to dinner or something.
I have a novella out in December – “The Call of The Black River” – and it features many of those same fans in the story. It is my ‘thank you’ to them. The fans are really the best part of the whole process, and they share so much with me so freely.
What are some of your favorite books?
How long have you got? There are books that have impressed me, but I’ve never read again; Stephen Donaldson’s “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant”… they are amazing pieces of literature, and I’ve read six out of the ten books, but I doubt I would ever re-read them.
But then there are other books; “The Way of The Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman. I was given that when I was 19 by a martial art instructor and I re-read that at least once a year.
Lian Hearn’s “The Tales of The Otori” series… just amazing pieces of fantasy, and she possesses such a clear vision of her fictional world. That gets a fairly frequent re-read.
James Clavell’s “Shogun” – the book goes far beyond the miniseries with David Chamberlain, and again it is such a beautifully described world.
I am also a fan of the children’s books “Redwall” by Brian Jacques. I read “Mossflower” when I was 12 and it just took me away.
Authors who have inspired you:
This may sound trite, but it is a lot of the older writers who blow my mind.
I recently read “City & The Stars” by Arthur C Clarke… I want you to understand that this was written in the mid 1950’s, and in that book he describes things like cloning technology, wireless communication, quantum energies, faster than light travel… but these aren’t just abstract ideas. Clarke describes each of them in detail. He has such an amazing understanding of technological development, and I don’t think that there has been anyone like him for so long.
I also have a love of Rod Serling and his “Twilight Zone” series. I can see straight line from Lovecraft to Serling… onto The Outer Limits, The X-Files, and up to Lost. His books are great… real unnerving tales of the weird. I think that Lovecraft had some amazing and original ideas – and I have all his works – but sometimes his construction in almost unintelligible. I think that Serling took that basis and made it readable.
I’m also going to put Peter Straub up there as well. I first came across him when he collaborated with Stephen King on “Talisman”. I’m not going to tell you that I love all his work, but he is brilliant at writing dialogue. He can capture inflections and accents so well that he puts many others into the shade.
But I have a broad palette, and many of my inspirations actually come from song writers. I have a strange fascination with artists who tell stories; so the likes of Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, and Fear Factory. I’m following a band at the moment – Serpico – and their debut album is “Neon Wasteland.” On the basis of the song writing, you’d think these guys had lived ten lives. “Glass Eye” is a stand out track, and I play that at least once a day at the moment.
All of that inspires me and feeds into my work.
What do you do for fun?
Ha! I have a two year old daughter – my life is not my own!
But seriously, my wife is really supportive. I have a love of live music, and on Halloween I’m going to Glasgow to see Paradise Lost supported by Lacuna Coil. Then in December, The Field of The Nephilim support The Mission.
When I’m not writing or catching up on the admin, I try to keep in touch with old friends. I’m very much into my martial arts, and when I lived in London I trained in Ishin Ryu Ju Jitsu. Although I now live 400+ miles away, I still keep in touch with the fantastic instructors – they’re like family.
Do you have a favorite genre?
In books? Fantasy and horror with a bit of sci fi. I have most of Clive Barkers works, and I’m rediscovering my love of Terry Pratchett and Isaac Asimov.
In movies – I like tense horrors with a psychological edge. I don’t like slashers or splattergore. If you have seen Michael Shannon in “Bug” or “Take Shelter”… those are the sort of films I love. Equally, some of the foreign language flicks like “A Tale of Two Sisters”, “Ju-On” and “The Orphanage”. I like good sci-fi once in awhile as well – I adored the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica”.
I play a lot of computer games too – I’m really into my RPG, and can be found in persistent worlds like Neverwinter Nights, The Elder Scrolls, and WoW.
Links to your website/blog/where to buy your book/s:
My books can be found on Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Martin-Adil-Smith/e/B007B9P5C6/
There is a pretty lively community of Facebook, where we chat about movies and TV series and books - https://www.facebook.com/SpiralsOfDanu
And there is growing community on Goodreads where we discuss certain themes or characters from the books, and what I’m working on at the moment. https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116997-the-spirals-of-danu