It’s a Monday, it’s a wet #Orentober day and as you’re tucking in to your first strong coffee, what better way to relax than by reading this Q&A between myself and one of the most darkly twisted authors that I’ve ever come across? An author that has the ability to warp his readers minds with a collection of his words? Who’s work will have you metaphorically sweeping up your brain as it explodes? It’s Will Carver of course!
If you’re not aware of who this bookish Dementor is, then I don’t think we can be friends, or we can but you will be forced to read his Orenda published books!
Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age 11, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, while working on his next thriller. He lives in Reading with his two children. Follow Will on Twitter @will_carver
So, Will’s Orenda babies include Good Samaritans that was published last November and the hook that caught me on to this publisher. The most recent (if you read kindle books) / upcoming for the physical book readers amongst us is Nothing Important Happened Today that’s due to be published on the 14th of November. You can pre-order with @bertsbooks on Twitter or contact them here! Orenda Books also have their own ebookstore where you can purchase all their electronically published books directly from them!
One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach… Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans. But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…And someone is watching…
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.
That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.
Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.
How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?
Yes, okay, you’re here for the Q&A, I get it! My review of Nothing Important Happened Today is coming in the next few days so I suppose I better get a shifty on hadn’t I! I’d like to thank Will for taking the time out of his day to answer these questions as part of the #Orentober celebrations. Will and I did exchange how’d you dos and pleasantries, but I forgot what they were so we are going to jump straight in with the virtual chin wagging okay? Great!
As we’ve already seen, your newest novel Nothing Important Happened Today has a strong cult theme running through it – it’s both built and revolves around individual’s unknowingly being a part of a cult. I personally find cults interesting in dynamic and how people get drawn in. That being said, it’s evidential that you’ve researched into cult members / leaders. What was the writing process, what cults did you use to develop characters, plot etc.?
I did a LOT of research into cults because I had to capture that cult mentality. What makes people join a cult, what makes them leave, what makes them start…I looked into The Peoples Temple, Branch Davidians, Rajneeshis, Heaven’s Gate, The Manson Family, Aum Shinrikyo, Children Of God, to name a few.
I needed to find the similarities in the psychology of their members and leaders, why they were successful or why they failed.
What I found was that nobody joins a cult.
The quote in the front of the book explains this, but that was what interested me the most and sparked the idea that it could be possible to be a part of a suicide cult without even knowing you were a member. And that developed into how social media is a cult that we have all prescribed to without realising that is detrimental to a wellbeing.
So, none of my characters are based on real cult members or leaders but there are certainly overlaps in their psychology.
The quote that Will is referring to is:
‘Nobody joins a cult. Nobody joins something they think is going to hurt them. You join a religious organisation, you join a political movement, and you join with people that you really like’
– Deborah Layton – People’s Temple member
There’s a really eye opening podcast called Cults that delves into the actions and psychology of these cults, incase you’re interested in falling down *that* rabbit hole. Will, you’ve written a many crime novels, but your Orenda two are dark, disturbing and delicious. Did you find the writing process differed between NIHT and Good Samaritans? if so, how?
Absolutely. They are such different stories. Good Samaritans is very contained and mostly set in one location with a very small cast of characters. It gives you the opportunity to really know those characters and delve deep into their inner turmoil. Nothing Important Happened Today has a huge cast and a global scope. It deals with some similar issues – namely how connected we are technologically but how disconnected we have become emotionally – but on a grander scale where the events of these cult suicides seem to ripple across the world and affect thousands of individuals.
I was entrenched in the psychology of the characters in Good Samaritans but for Nothing Important Happened Today, I had to keep myself at a distance, remain critical, so that I could achieve the tone that I wanted to create. It’s an angrier book, so I had to approach it differently.
Saying that, the actual process of sitting in a chair and writing remains the same. It’s the preparation that differs and the way that you create the tone you desire.
“Namely how connected we are technologically but how disconnected we have become emotionally” really echoes through the storyline, especially the lack of any sort of human emotion, as though the characters themselves have become robots of the contemporary world. It’s really an interesting thought. As I’ve said, you’ve written a number of books, even before Orenda. What would you consider to be the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you overcome it?
Laziness. It’s so much easier to not write. I overcome this by writing. Sounds simple, but it’s not. I don’t mind writing 2,000 words then deleting them forever if they’re not good enough, at least I’ve learnt something. But I also think there can be a laziness that comes with success or acclaim or finding something that works. It creates a fear. A fear that it could all be taken away. So, you can find something that works and repeat it and continue to write book after book, it takes some of the difficulty out of writing, I’d imagine. But I kinda like that writing can be difficult. The best stuff comes from these places. I overcome this by writing things that don’t really work and nobody buys or reads.
I did see recently that you’d typed up 300 odd pages of your next novel, then threw it in the bin, but if that works for you (which it clearly does because you create incredible reads) then keep it up. Every author has their own style of writing, whether like Michael J Malone who focuses on the themes lurking in every society or Louise Beech who is wonderfully genre fluid, who i’m pretty sure could write anything. How would you describe your writing style?
Sparse. Laconic. Dark. Edgy. Stylish. These are the things that people usually say. I do like to push things and I do like to talk about things that are uncomfortable. And I like to use as few words as possible. I keep my sentences short and try to make a point as quickly as I can. I’m constantly thinking about rhythm, getting the words in the right place at the right pace so that the readers read it as I do and I can steer them in the direction I want.
Oh, and American. I’ve been influenced mostly by American writers and that seems to come across. (Yet none of my books have been published in the US, so go figure.)
I absolutely loved that about Nothing Important Happened Today, the short snappy chapters without the unnecessary extra words, it completely worked and had me dangling off every single sentence. I’ve spoken to authors who need to snack on M&Ms while they write, or they have a certain spot that they need to write in. I like to call them quirks. Do you have any writing quirks? If so, what are they?
Yes. I used to write the book out by hand before typing it up but I don’t do that any more.
There is one thing that I didn’t realise I did but my girlfriend noticed as I was writing. As I said, I think about rhythm a lot. When I read back through what I have written, it turns out that I hum/croak the rhythm of the words. I had no idea I did that until it was pointed out to me.
While writing Nothing Important Happened Today, I developed a quirk. I would listen to Eminem’s Kamikaze album before typing anything. It’s so angry. Essentially, it’s a message to all the people that panned his previous album. He’s so pissed off. It was the tone I was looking for with the book and it really got me going each day to capture the feeling I wanted. I wrote on the train journeys of the Orenda roadshow. People knew to steer clear when the headphones went on and I started hitting the keys of my laptop.
I bet now that it’s been pointed out, you can’t help but notice it when you do it! And really? You hand wrote full books? Ouch! Yes, I’m going to ask about *that* editing process that strikes fear into all authors! During the process of a novel, how many drafts do you go through? Could you give us an overview of the editing process?
I edit as I go along. Every day. I read from the beginning of the book every time I start writing until that starts to take too long. It means that, by the time the book reaches the editor, there’s not a huge amount to do. And, because of the nature and style of my writing, it’s quite easy to fit things in that I may have been missed or move chapters around.
That’s not to say that I don’t need an editor because I absolutely do, it’s a team game and you can’t see everything that’s wrong when you’re inside the story, but what gets printed in the end isn’t miles away from what gets handed in. But it’s always better.
That said, I wrote Nothing Important Happened Today, realised it could be told in a much better way and deleted the entire book.
I just hate the editing process so much that I have to make sure that any notes I get back are as few as possible.
That’s a super productive way of writing, at least it isn’t a huge gut wrenching process for you if you check it every time you add chapters etc. Writing obviously takes up a lot of time, but when you’re not doing that, what are you doing?
I love working out. It energises me to write and to take care of my kids and feel healthy and strong. I run my own fitness company, too, so I am training people every day to improve and get the most out of their time. It’s really great (and rewarding) to see somebody change themselves for the better. A healthy body promotes a healthier mind, I think.
I read. I watch more films than anybody in the world. I play the guitar pretty well, the banjo not quite as well and the harmonica is improving. I’ve been teaching myself the piano, too. There’s something very disciplined but also relaxing about playing an instrument. There’s a dedication that is similar to writing. For people craving more headspace, pick up an instrument.
Wow, that’s a lot of activities out of writing, the only instrument that I can play is the recorder and not that well may I add! On the subject of music, what three songs would you include on the Nothing Important Happened Today soundtrack?
Lucky You by Eminem feat. Joyner Lucas. This sets the tone of the book.
No Name #5 by Elliott Smith. Haunting. I listened to it when I sat on Chelsea Bridge and wrote that opening chapter. Also, the title is very fitting with the cult members.
Day is Done by Nick Drake. This MUST be playing after that final punch in the story. (You’ll know when you get to it.)
Those songs work perfectly, more that perfectly. Listen to them before, during and after reading Nothing Important Happened Today people, they fit and I think makes the story even more chilly! Authors have favourite authors, right? So, what authors and books inspired you to become a writer?
Chuck Palahniuk. I’ve said it a million times but I love him. Fight Club changed things for me. I wanted to be a playwright but reading that opened up so much, I didn’t realise you were allowed to write in that way. See also Choke, Survivor, Snuff, Lullaby… Hemingway and Fitzgerald just slay me with their brilliance and beauty. I love the dirtiness and rawness of Bukowski. I know that none of these are crime writers but I don’t think that matters, and is probably the reason that my books aren’t textbook crime novels.
Currently, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone better than Sarah Pinborough. Does ‘crime + weird’ better than anybody. I still also read anything that Julian Barnes produces and I was really sad at the passing of Paul Torday – The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce is sheer brilliance.
Not that I need to add anymore books onto my ever growing TBR pile, but I think I need to look into those, especially Sarah Pinborough, who doesn’t love weird and crime together?? If you could travel back in time and give your younger self advice about the author life, what would it be?
Don’t drink the Kool Aid. (This saying, actually, originated from the Jonestown massacre – the Peoples Temple cult – where over 900 people committed suicide by poisoning themselves and their children with cyanide. The children’s Kool Aid drinks were laced with the poison.) Take from that what you will.
Just the mention of Jonestown gives me the shivers! Such a terrible thing to have happened and possibly one of the most infamous cults. So, I’ve already mentioned about you throwing what looks like a completed manuscript away, so my next question is do you have an idea for your next book? If you do, could we get a hint?
I have an idea for my next five books. But I think the next one will be about Detective Sergeant Pace. We have been hinting that he has a story in both Good Samaritans and Nothing Important Happened Today, it’s about time that we hear what it is. But it will not be narrated by the person you expect…
Ohhh I am on tender hooks! I can’t wait to read what you come up with! And you have the concepts for the next FIVE books?! Wow! At least we can rest assure that there’ll be more Carver reads coming. When writing Good Samaritans, did you plan on keeping DS Pace as a requiring character in Nothing Important Happened Today?
Yes, I wanted him as a bit of a cameo in GS. Then in NIHT we learn a little more about him. In this new one, it will be his story entirely (kind of). You’ll also notice that Maeve showed up in NIHT. She will also be in the new one a little more and I plan on giving her a book herself, too. I also placed January David – my previous series character – as an uncredited cameo in NIHT. I plan to link them together. Even though they can act as standalone books, I want to give readers who follow all the books something that links them together.
*Picks jaw up from the floor* Well, I for one, cannot wait to see where these characters journeys lead to. Remember, you heard it here first! One last thing, could you share a random fact about yourself with the readers please?
I can complete the Rubik’s Magic in under 1 second.
I had to double check this, maybe he meant minute…. Nope, one second! Shocking! That’s super fast! If you don’t hear from Will, he’s been kidnapped by the Avengers!
So, there you have it, my Q&A with Will Carver! I’d like to thank him again for visiting The Reading Closet, it’s been an insightful joy! My review of Nothing Important Happened Today is coming towards the end of the month so make sure to keep your eyes peeled. For more #Orentober posts, make sure to follow the hashtag on Twitter.