Rival Sons featured yesterday on here.
Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?
No, it’s definitely not full time for me, I wouldn’t even say it’s part time anymore with the limited amount I’ve written over recent years – although I’m changing that. By day, and occasionally evening and weekend, I manage a Marine Robotics Innovation Centre for the National Oceanography Centre and I absolutely love my day job. I feel very lucky to be able to do a job I love every day – if you have that in life it helps. My day job sees me working with a bunch of companies all either working to develop technologies that use robotics and AI, or end-users of that technology.
As a young man all I really wanted to do was play my bass guitar and be in a band. I would write songs, probably where the writing started really and dream of that a lot – I went to Uni to do a Media Technology course but I hated it and after about 18 months I dropped out. I ended up in an apprenticeship at the Oceanography Centre and never looked back. They put me back into Uni twice where I got a Degree in Business Management and a post-grad in Marketing. When I started there I was working two jobs and doing Uni, but I still found time to try to do a bit of song writing and so that’s always been in me, that creative side.
Your latest work Rival Sons was recently published by Shotgun Honey, can you pitch it to potential readers in a short paragraph?
With all my work I like to pack heart into stories. I like to tell crime stories, but I like those stories to be about the people and their relationships as much as the criminal element. I feel that Rival Sons is probably my most violent and yet most emotional work to date. It’s about a small criminal empire and the massive impact that has on a family and those around it. Paul Brazill recently said of it “Rival Sons is a brutal and brilliant blend of kitchen sink drama and gangster story. Like an urban western, Rival Sons is powerful stuff.” I think Paul has summed it up perfectly there.
How long from conception to completion did Rival Sons take?
Years. And I really do mean that. Not only do I write slow, but I do a lot of my writing without doing any writing at all. Rival Sons the concept started on a trip to Sicily back in July 2015. As we drove across the country I kept seeing all these broken down farm buildings and I started concocting stories in my head of gangsters putting pressure on the land owners for protection money etc… When I returned I wrote a 1,000 word short story called The Old Farmhouse that I think ended up published on the Near to the Knuckle website. But I wasn’t done with the idea and I felt it had more in it, and then I started plotting out what is now Rival Sons in my head. I finished writing it on New Years Eve 2016, I then started editing it and sending it around to publishers. In September 2017 I got the email from Ron Earl Phillips at Shotgun Honey and then just over a year later it was published.
* Old Farmhouse
Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?
It’s rarely a smooth process for me. When I was writing When the Music’s Over that took forever because I kept getting side tracked with short story ideas. For Rival Sons I didn’t allow myself to write anything else while I was writing it. I lost discipline a couple of times and knocked a few short stories out, but tried to keep on track because my writing time was so limited I wanted to ensure I was working on this. There were huge chunks of time when I didn’t write a word, I mean months and I found myself getting very down during the writing of this book. But I got there and I’m very proud of it.
Did it end up being the book you anticipated at the start of the process?
It did I think. It certainly didn’t end as I thought it would and I didn’t know every twist and turn. I never plot things out because if I do I get bored of the idea, it feels like I’ve already written it and the creativity is taken out of writing it. But it is what I intended in that it’s a crime tale with emotional pull.
How did you hook up with Shotgun Honey?
I have always admired their work and I’ve had a number of short stories published over on their website. At the time my previous publisher Number 13 Press had finished its project of publishing 13 books in 13 months and so I had to look around for other like-minded publishers. Shotgun Honey was the first choice. But it took a long time to get a response and I thought maybe they hadn’t liked it and so I started putting it around other potential publishers. I was on holiday in Boston when an email came in from Ron at Shotgun Honey say he wanted it. I was over the moon and went back instantly saying as much. Then over the next couple of months I got three more emails from the three other publishers all saying they would like to publish it too. This was a huge compliment and I’m very grateful to all of them but I had to say that I had already agreed to work with Shotgun Honey, it had been an ambition of mine when I first started getting short stories published to be one of their book authors so it was a real honour to be added to their list.
On your writing in general, do you have a typical writing schedule? Do you write every day?
I have just started one this December, my rule is that I must write at least one page a day. The way I see it by the end of the year I should have a full novel written. So far that rule is working out OK and I’m ahead of my target. Prior to that I just wrote as and when I found the time, no schedule just when I could or when I had an idea.
As well as the latest and the novella, When the Music’s Over, you have a few short story collections to your name – Criminal Thoughts, Urban Decay and Tales From the Underbelly, is it a different process writing a short story as opposed to longer works?
It’s very different. A short story usually comes from a tiny spark of an idea. Something I see or hear that triggers me to write. I don’t think I’ve ever sat in front of the laptop and thought, today I’ll write a short story, it’s usually a case of, I need to write about this and I’ll go to the laptop to start typing. With the longer stuff, I plan to write, even though I don’t generally know what I’ll write I have a story unfold in front of me, it[‘s more deliberate. That said, as mentioned some of my shorts do inspire longer work, that was definitely the case for Rival Sons and I have another short called Killing in the name of… that I’ve started to turn into something longer – but I’m not sure I’ll ever finish it, we’ll see
Do you have a preference between the two formats? Is one less daunting than the other?
I like the near instant gratification of short stories, the sense of achievement at having something finished. In the early days they were what kept me writing because I was trying things out, getting them published and seeing what people liked. Now that I’m two novellas in (soon to be three – more on that later) I prefer the longer stuff because there’s more space to unfold a story into. In terms of is one less daunting than the other, I think definitely the short stories, they’re kind of the warm up, the exercise, the friendly match to get a writer in shape for the season. When I started writing I foolishly thought I could jump straight to a novel. Damn it was terrible, you need to practise before you can jump in and short stories are a really great way to do that. That said I treat every one of them as seriously as I do the novellas, I don’t want to put out substandard work.
What’s the attraction to the darker side of the crime fiction genre? Were you never tempted to aim for more readers by penning work closer to the mainstream?
You have to write what you enjoy or you’ll never finish anything. I like stories that are dark, but that have a heart to them and so that’s what I write. I read that sort of thing and I watch that sort of TV programme. For me writing isn’t about whether I can be mainstream or sell thousands of books (that would be a nice by-product), but it’s about enjoying myself. If a writer gets into fiction with the idea that they’re going to make a load of money they’re probably firstly going to end up disappointed and secondly, probably not going to write something that’s very good because they’ll be aiming for all of those plot devices and clichés that you expect from mainstream fiction. And don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of mainstream fiction, but only the truly brilliant can pull it off well. I would rather tell a dark tale that I enjoy, than a mainstream one that thousands do and I don’t. The thing is, when I write something I spend a long time with it and have to read it a few times through in that process – I have to enjoy it. A reader only spends a few hours/days in a book’s company.
What can we look forward to next? Any hints on the current work in progress?
Well that’s two questions. The next thing from me will see me back at Fahrenheit 13 as part of a Brit Grit Double-bill. My novella Worst Laid Plans is being published in a book alongside a novella by another Fahrenheit author who I truly admire – It’s a massive deal for me. I’m not going to reveal who that author is here just yet, because I think that’s for the publisher to do but all I can say is that this writer is someone I read and enjoyed from my earliest moments of getting into short story writing, someone I looked up to as an example of how to do this thing we do and the novella I’m being published in the same volume with is one of my favourites… I really can’t explain quite how excited I am about this. Worst Laid Plans is a definite departure from my usual work, it’s very dark but it’s a dark comedy and there isn’t the emotional pull that I usually favour. It’s a tale of an accident that spirals out of all control and ends up with first time and unintentional criminals doing deeds they really have no idea how to execute.
I’m also working on a novel that’s more in line with the sort of flavour you get from When the Music’s Over and Rival Sons called Docklands. Again it’s centred around a family and the troubles and challenges that are bought to their relationships by crime.
What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?
There have been a few but one stands above all. I was responsible for pulling together an anthology of 16 writers from the UK and US for a charity anthology called Paladins in support of Henri Furchtenicht, the wife of a wonderful writer called Craig Furchtenicht. Sadly not long after the book came out Henri lost her fight with Multiple Myeloma, but she was an inspirational woman who faced everything with a great spirit and made me laugh, smile and cry almost daily through social media. Having that book out and knowing how happy it made her that we’d all worked together to achieve it for her was a special moment.
Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?
Not really, I do have a few unfinished pieces, like Docklands and Killing in the name of… but I’ve been pretty lucky so far and those things that I’ve finished have found homes with publishers
Any advice for prospective authors out there?
I’m no one to give advice, I barely follow my own. But I would say, write as much as you can, be that short stories or novels and always write something that you will enjoy first, don’t think about what will sell because you have to be passionate about something to give it your best.
What’s the best thing about writing?
Doing something I’m passionate about and getting great feedback from readers. If only one person bought my books and they enjoyed it, that’ll do for me.
Nothing, I don’t have to do this, if I don’t enjoy it I can stop. I still enjoy it, I’d like more time to do it but that’s not a bad thing about writing at all. I just wish there were 30 hours in a day
What are the last five books you’ve read?
I’m currently only reading Fahrenheit Press books thanks to the wonderful reader led initiative that is #Fahrenbruary. A month long celebration of all things Fahrenheit Press – a press I’m very proud to be a part of. I’m currently reading Todd Morr’s ‘If you’re not one percent’ it’s dark, twisted and a compelling read, before that I read the ever enjoyable Paul Brazill’s Kill Me Quick, also a Fahrenheit release. The two before that were mainstream books, The Doll’s House by M J Alridge, I fell for his books because they’re set in Southampton where I live, but they’re also great little page-turning thrillers. Prior to that I read Michael Connolly’s latest, Dark Sacred Night – I always enjoy a Bosch and I’m enjoy Connolly’s new character Ballard too – this book pairs them up to great effect. Before that I think it was another Fahrenheit book, Graham Wynd’s sexy and wicked Satan’s Sorority.
Who do you read and enjoy? Is there anyone I should be reading who has snuck under my radar?
I love crime fiction, as I’m sure you can imagine. If you haven’t read many Fahrenheit Press books I can recommend them, their logo on the spine is usually a mark of quality and something a little different from the norm. My favourite writer at the moment is Matt Phillips, I’m guessing you’ve read him, but if not Know Me From Smoke is my favourite book at the moment, it’s a perfect piece of noir. I also loved his latest Bad Kind of Lucky and was lucky (sorry) enough to be asked to read it pre-release and do a blurb for it. He’s prolific and brilliant, how he does it I’ve no idea.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
See above, Know Me from Smoke by Matt Phillips – a perfect book.
Favourite activity when not working or writing? From your social media posts, I’m guessing Southampton FC may figure quite high somewhere.
Yes, I do enjoy going to watch Southampton, although I have fallen out of love with football more generally these days. I also love music, as you may be able to tell from my books so I go to a lot of gigs. I also love the cinema and try to go at least once a week. I try to exercise every day as well, even if just for 15 minutes, I always feel low if I haven’t managed that.
What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?
So, this isn’t going to fit very well with my hard man of crime fiction image but I bloody loved Mary Poppins Returns. Mary Poppins is one of my favourite films of all time and so I was so happy that this turned out so well. I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack and I can’t wait to watch it again. That said, I go to the cinema all the time and I’ve seen a lot of great films over the last year or so… I could genuinely do a whole interview just on this topic, so I better stop now!
TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Thorn household?
I’m more of a film addict. I do watch TV, but not loads. That said one of my favourite writers is a TV writer, I’ll watch anything that Jimmy McGovern has written, I know that will be good – I was hooked from being a young lad in the 90’s watching Cracker. I did really enjoy watching You on Netflix recently too. It’s dark and I disliked all of the characters but they were compelling to watch and it was nicely written.
In a couple of years’ time.....
Hopefully a couple more novels/novellas and people are still enjoying what I do.
Many thanks to Aidan for his time.
You can catch up with him at the following locations
Website - http://aidanthornwriter.weebly.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/aidan.thorn.7
Twitter - https://twitter.com/AidanDFThorn
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/aidanthorn/
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