I started writing 10 years ago and found one of the biggest challenges for me when I had finished my first novel (or rather, the first novel I was happy for people to see!) was getting my name out there so people could find my work. I was interviewed last year by the lovely Lynsey Adams for her blog There’s Been a Murder and I enjoyed the process so much it got me to thinking I should do something similar for other new authors. So, without further ado I’d like to introduce you to Mark Tilbury, author of The Revelation Room which was published in May.
Hi Mark, how did you get started writing?
I’ve always loved writing as far back as I can remember. I wrote my first novel years ago when I was in the Royal Navy. I worked in the engine room of a submarine, so needless to say there were some pretty messy notepads in my locker. After I left the navy I enrolled in a creative writing school and wrote a short story and a novel as part of the course. The short story was later published in Best magazine. I’ll never forget the feeling of actually getting paid for the first time for something I love doing.
What drew you to write crime/dark humour?
I love the psychological aspect of crime, getting right inside the minds of the bad guys, but my instinct is to try to inject some humour into the story here and there. I don’t like wading through too much darkness without a little light relief. I think the same is true with comedy; there needs to be some serious stuff occasionally. I think stories can really benefit from having a good mix.
Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
I like lots of authors, so it’s hard to say who’s influenced me the most. I think I take something away from every good book I read. Anyway, I’ll try to narrow it down to a few. I must start with Agatha Christie because she was my first love. I read all her books when I was still at school. She lived about a mile away from me in this huge house and we used to go carol singing there at Christmas when we were kids hoping to see her. We never did, but I used to think it was cool that such a great writer lived there.
Catherine Cookson is an absolute legend. She brought to life a period and a part of England with such vivid realism. She created characters I cared about; characters that moved me and made me feel involved in the story. I love the way her dialogue flows and the way her stories make you forget that you are reading.
Tom Sharpe is the absolute king of farce. He was the first writer that almost killed me with laughter! I once tried to read a passage from one of his books to my girlfriend and I was laughing so much I couldn’t breathe. Most people will be familiar with Wilt, but his portrayal of the South African police in Indecent Exposure is scathing and brilliant. His superb brand of humour definitely influenced me, and even though I write dark tales, I try to inject touches of humour into them to lighten them up.
Stephen King has also been a massive influence. I’d advise anyone who wants to write to study his books. He is the best. I love the way his characters instantly come to life. Under the Dome has a huge cast, but every character is written vividly and with wit. I didn’t like the television adaptation, but the novel was nine hundred or so pages of fictional heaven for me.
When you first started writing did you try to get publisher interest?
Yes. I got an agent interested and then life events took over and I couldn’t write for a long time. When I started again, Amazon Kindle was quite well established and I decided to give self-publishing a go.
Do you have a favourite character (in your novels)?
Edward Ebb is the main antagonist in The Revelation Room. Frankly, I love him. He came to me one night and spoke (in my rather warped mind). He said the burnt bunnies must go down the rabbit hole! I had absolutely no idea who the burnt bunnies were or where the rabbit hole was, but then it was my job to find out. I spent weeks and weeks listening to his outrageous demands. Some of them were absurd, some grotesque and some downright unprintable. He took me into his childhood and showed me things no one should have to see! At the moment I’m creating another character for the second book that is equally warped and intriguing.
What kind of research did you have to undertake for your novels?
Most of it is to do with psychological stuff and investigative procedure, but because my characters are fictional, I give them license to roam outside what is strictly true. After all, fiction is all about escaping reality. I stick to certain guidelines and then see how far I can wander. Edward Ebb was interesting because he demanded that I push the boundaries as far as paranoid schizophrenics are concerned. But he was in charge, so anything that isn’t strictly true is down to him.
Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
Not really. Pastor Tom is based upon my experience with a Pentecostal church I used to go to as a kid. I’m not particularly religious, but the genuine goodness of those people rubbed off on me, and I hope I’ve showed that in The Revelation Room.
What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other novels out there?
I think the mixture of wit and grit definitely makes my novels stand out. I also think Ben Whittle isn’t your conventional private investigator; the role is rather thrust upon him by events in The Revelation Room. Ben also has to overcome an awful lot of self-doubt to come to terms with his newfound role. I also think that my bad guys, although intrinsically evil, have a certain amount of lightness in the absurdity of their thoughts and resulting actions.
Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
I think there’s a bit of an author in all characters. All writers have to look deep into their souls and dredge up all kinds of emotions that shape personality. I don’t ever consciously write thinking about my own personality, but equally, I think it’s impossible not to on some level. I’d like to think that the bad guys are nothing like me, but then again…
Do you have more books planned?
I’m currently writing the next book in the Ben Whittle investigation series. It’s got a working title: The Eyes of the Accused. It’s about a pregnant girl, Holly Heath, who has simply vanished off the face of the earth for no particular reason. She was by all accounts happy and about to get married when she went missing. The investigation leads Ben and Maddie to believe that a maintenance man at the nursing home where Holly works has something to do with her disappearance, but they have no idea of the awful truth waiting for them as Maddie befriends the maintenance man in an attempt to unravel the mystery.
The Revelation Room is available now on Amazon: http://t.co/yCnbL5nSV2