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Author Ian Backhouse describes his new book Beneath The Dark. Perfect for fans of horror stories and James Herbert style thrillers, on The Table Read, The Best entertainment magazine in the UK.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed author Ian Backhouse about his career, his love of horror stories, and what inspired his new book, Beneath The Dark.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

When did you first WANT to write a book? I can remember getting into James Herbert and M R James in a big way when I was about 10 and was fascinated with their tales of the supernatural. But even before then, I can remember how much I loved English lessons when it came to writing a story.

Ian Backhouse, author of Beneath The Dark, interview on The Table Read

So as far as I can recall, I had wanted to write a book since I was around 7 or 8 years old!

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When did you take a step to start writing?

I can remember researching advice on how to get going on an actual novel when I was about 16. The best advice I was given was – finish it! No matter what you do, finish it! It was made clear to me that the hardest thing for new writers to do was actually finish a book. So, no matter how bad it was going, or how much I didn’t rate my work, I was not to stop.

That’s exactly what I did and wrote my first book called ‘Disciples Of The Oak’ about a pagan cult. It was absolutely awful! But I quickly learnt the discipline of writing every day and actually having the commitment to finish it.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

‘Beneath The Dark’ is my first professional book, which I wrote during the second lockdown. It is the sixth novel I’d written but I’d never sent any others out before this to agents or publishers as I didn’t feel the standard was good enough.

This idea just suddenly got hold of me during lock down, as if it came from no-where. I was like a man possessed. From plot to planning seemed to just come together so naturally that I had a gut feeling it was going to finally be the novel that would stand up to my own harsh scrutiny. From very start to finish, it took about 6 months.

What made you want to write Beneath The Dark?

The reason I write at all is always the same. I want people to love reading the story, to get lost in it, to be drawn in, and away from their problems and everyday lives. To be excited, scared, wowed and not be able to put the book down. that is the core of it all for me. No literati subtext, no hidden meanings, just great stories and escapism, and I make no apology for that.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Beneath The Dark?

For me it’s always the chapter planning. I have to get everything right at this stage to get those creative juices to start flowing.

That means ensuring the essential details that progress the story are in each chapter, (some might be just hints, other’s red herrings, or foreshadowing for example) as well as putting them in a sequence that will keep the reader engaged. Not putting the same character’s POV in two consecutive chapters if not necessary, keeping the pace going, ensuring the chapters end in a way that makes the reader want to carry on and so forth.

This is always a nervous time for me, and by far the hardest part of writing – well, planning, I suppose.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

This particular book draws on my own experiences a police officer in the Met, but that’s the only time I’ll be doing that. It gives the book gravitas as I can write comfortably and realistically about the character, as well as with creativity.

Ian Backhouse, author of Beneath The Dark, interview on The Table Read

But I also had to have a protagonist who was grounded and no-nonsense to rack up the risk and tensions she eventually has to completely re-order his view of the world to deal with the terrible events that he is faced with.

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Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

One of my major self-imposed rules is to stay far away from the usual, tired, rehashed ‘demon’ plots and ‘monster’ plots.

So, I had the time to come up with something as unique as possible. I suppose nothing is truly unique – even subconsciously we borrow from past authors – but I do my best. So, I tend to take what are accepted theories in the paranormal world and take them off in a completely new directions, or unpick them, as if they are perhaps incorrect, and reveal how it really is!

I can’t give too much away, but although the plot is based loosely around the afterlife, and where we go, it takes it to a much darker place, reimagining those accepted ideas, and revealing something that most of mankind does not know even exists as part of this life and death circle we go through.

What is the inciting incident of Beneath The Dark?

It starts immediately in the book – several people fall victim to the antagonist – in a way I can’t reveal as it would be big spoiler – and their fate is extremely cruel and unusual: not death, but worse. And this triggers a chain reaction involving the police office, our main protagonist, the only one on two small islands of the coast of England, and his attempts to stop any more horrific events, which as you can imagine, does not go well at first!

What is the main conflict of Beneath The Dark?

Don’t screw around with things you know nothing about when it comes to the occult! But there are smaller conflicts to – internal ones for several of the characters, that are worldview changing.

Did you plot Beneath The Dark in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I’m a massive planner! (Does that sound like a euphemism?) I start with an idea, write it down, then start questioning that idea – is it believable,  even in paranormal terms, if so does x, y ,z work, if this happens does that make sense, does it all link together, no lose ends or hideously contrived plot turns, if they can do this, then why wouldn’t they do that.

The plot just has to work or the whole story falls apart, but not only that, if it does hold water, then the creepy parts and scary parts  should be making you jump, look around the room for any dark shadows – that will simply not work. And then, why would anyone enjoy the story?

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Beneath The Dark need?

My publishers are brilliant. we went back and forth about six times with the whole manuscript, myself usually making creative changes, and Victoria my publishing coordinator highlighting grammatical errors etc. for me to sort out. So, editing took about a month.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

As was told to me, when you start your first book – always finish it. don’t move on before it’s finished no matter what you think of it. And never give up. Everyone is unique and has their own way of writing. I’m not saying everyone can write, but if you can, you will have a unique voice, so be proud of that and don’t be afraid to put it out there for some agent or publisher to grab it and run with it.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Yes indeed. I’m already a third of a way through ‘Alice Malign’, the second book. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely pleased with ‘Beneath the Dark’ and the reviews I’m getting are 4 star which I’m utterly thrilled about. But ‘Alice Malign’ is even stronger, in a couple of ways. I’m so pleased with how it’s going, which is rare for me as I’m very hard on myself.

But again, I’ve got that gut feeling, and when I get that, I know it’s going in the right direction. I really can’t give anything away – all I can perhaps say is Alice is one hell of a character, and it all starts when she’s only 8 years old!

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment?

Was it worth the effort? I’m over the moon. As a writer, you are always doubting yourself. I think it’s the nature of any artist, especially if you truly care about your work and want to do it as well as you possibly can. I genuinely did not think I’d ever be starting a writing career at 53, but it goes to show that as I say above, never give up. I’ve spent many years honing my writing skills and have just reached that stage where I’m confident and proud of my work. 

However, I think it is so important to stay humble, and never get above yourself. Feet on the ground. It’s book writing – I’m not saving lives. But I do hope my books will give people joy. That’s all that matters to me – that is the very reason why I do this!

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

https://www.instagram.com/ibhorrorauthor/

https://www.ibackhouse.com

https://www.facebook.com/ibackhousehorror

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