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The Real Writing Process of Adam Simcox
Episode 30130th October 2022 • The Real Writing Process • Tom Pepperdine
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Tom Pepperdine interviews Adam Simcox about his writing process. Adam discusses his favourite writing spots, the difference in writing scripts and novels, and why he will never collaborate on writing a book with his wife.

You can follow Adam on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/adamsimcox

Or follow him on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/simcoxadam/

And if you want to check out Mike and Zoe's discussion of the Rendlesham Forest Incident on the Stories of Strangeness podcast, you can listen here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/episode-15-the-rendlesham-forest-incident/id1515122258?i=1000501583639

And you can find more information on our upcoming guests on the following links:

https://twitter.com/Therealwriting1

https://www.instagram.com/realwritingpro

https://www.facebook.com/therealwritingprocesspodcast

Transcripts

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Hello, and welcome to the Real Writing Process.

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I'm your host, Tom Pepperdine.

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And this week, my guest is the filmmaker and novelist.

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Adam Simcox.

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Adam came to my attention when I picked up his debut novel, the dying squad.

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Which not only has a killer first line, but a fantastic opening page.

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And then a brilliant supernatural crime thriller for the rest of the book.

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I caught up with Adam as he was beginning the promo for the sequel

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called The Generation Killer, which is also a fantastic book.

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And Adam invited me to meet him in the private member's bar of Picturehouse

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Central in that they're London.

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Now, am I a sucker for glamorous locations?

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Yes.

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Did I squeal like the Yokel I am when I saw a famous landmark out the window?

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Also, yes.

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And did I leave such a childish and unprofessional noise in the

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interview for your amusement?

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Of course I did.

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But finally, before I play the jingle to introduce the interview, do I

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have one last duty tidbit for you?

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No.

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So I'm here with Adam Simcox.

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Hello, Adam.

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Hello.

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Good to be here.

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It's very good to be here.

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And we will talk about the location in a second, but my first question

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as always, what are we drinking?

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We are drinking quite unusually for me, Coca-Cola.

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Yeah.

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It's a little bit of a hangover drink.

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Okay.

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So I was at a gig last night.

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Oh, very nice.

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Went see Phoebe bridges.

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Oh, wow.

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And I could have slunk into the after party because it

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was a final night at the tour.

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Nice.

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But such as my commitment to the podcast game.

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Oh.

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I went straight home, mate.

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I went straight home.

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This is more important.

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Thank you.

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Oh, I appreciate your sacrifice and yeah, I hope it's worth it.

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And we are not on Zoom.

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We are in person.

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This is exciting.

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It's glorious, I think it's my first ever one of these where I've done it in person.

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Oh, excellent.

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And you've chosen the location.

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Would you like to describe to the listeners where we are?

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I have.

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We are in the Picturehouse Central Member's Bar, which is

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in Piccadilly circus, which is one of my regular writing haunts.

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It's like probably the best value members bar in the world.

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Like you, you pay like a hundred pound for the year.

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Yeah.

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And you get four free single tickets and it's overlooking Piccadilly circus.

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Yeah.

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You see a bit of Leicester Square there.

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It's just got one of those places that got a good vibe.

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Yeah.

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That's that is Big Ben, isn't it?

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Yeah.

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It's just the top of big Ben.

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Yeah.

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Poking out above the building.

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Uh, yeah.

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That was such a yokel in the big city moment, wasn't it?

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It was like, is that big Ben?

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But yes.

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Um, So in central London with a wondrous view.

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Very comfy um, armchairs and yeah, our own private bar and music that

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I will do my best to not have to pay royalty for and will filter out.

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So yeah.

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So how long has this been one of your writing haunts?

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That's a really good question.

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I tell you what, pretty much since it opened.

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And it was one of my genuine traumas of lockdown that I couldn't come

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to places like this to write.

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Cause I hate writing at home.

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Hate it.

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So this was what, this was right from the very start, it's been one of my

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favorite places to come in London.

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It is one of my top three places in London.

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This bar.

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Well, if you're saying top three, I need to know the other two.

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In terms, in terms of writing, there's also Foyles.

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Oh yeah, yeah.

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Top floor of Foyles.

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Yeah.

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In Charing Cross Road, it's a fantastic little writing spot.

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Mm-hmm.

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It's really fucking expensive, that place.

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Hot chocolate is four quid.

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Four quid!

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But it's a again, it's a place with a great sort of vibe to it.

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The other one is want like a local cafe to me, their hot chocolates

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are significantly cheaper.

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And I don't mind give giving them the money, cause it's like a local business.

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It's funny how a place, it won't even always be like the poshest

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place or the slickest place.

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You just got a good feel to it.

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It's not great.

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It's busy, but it's not crazy busy.

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I like a bit of energy and it's funny how that works out.

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But this is probably my number one.

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Okay, cool.

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Yeah.

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And so you've mentioned it twice there, I gotta ask, is hot

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chocolate your writing drink?

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It's either hot chocolate or decaf, I say.

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I had to kick caffeine, with apart from rare instances like this,

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cause I had this ringing ear thing.

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Oh wow.

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And caffeine makes it worse.

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But I need, I spend my life in cafes, so I need to drink something.

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So hot chocolate and decaf lattes are my gateway drug.

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They're my kind of come down from the caffeine high.

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As someone who writes about a lot of death and murder, those are very

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comforting drinks, it sounds like.

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They are.

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Should be like straight old bourbon at 9:00 AM or like arsenic.

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Yeah.

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Yeah, I think like the crime community, which I guess I'm in now and I've

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got to know over the last couple of years, like they're nicest people.

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They really are.

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I guess it's like horror, the horror community.

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Yeah.

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Like they, they're kind of nicest people in the world.

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If someone, if a dead body turns up, it's not gonna be someone in the horror

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community, or the crime community.

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Look at those romantic novelists.

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They're the shifty ones.

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You really gotta look at.

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Yeah, I think crime writers are a nice breed, on the whole.

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I think the best crime novelists, if you really understand the, the human

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frailty and like human flaws of people.

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And I think you can only really be effective in that if you've worked

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on yourself to like deal with that.

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I think, yeah.

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I think that's a good point.

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I think that's a good point.

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What I found with crime writers as well, is there's not loads of 21 year olds.

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There's not many kind of sickenly successful at a younger age people.

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Mostly they're kind of like late thirties to mid forties.

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It's come to 'em a little bit later in life, seen a bit more of life.

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They've had a few more knocks and bruises, so they're maybe

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not take it quite seriously.

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As some like literati 22 year old breaking through.

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Bit more cynical and weary.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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Nice.

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And I was gonna ask you sort of with, you know, identifying your genre, is

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that, was that always something that you aspired to write in that genre or as you

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say, is like coming to it later in life?

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Was it something that just, you found yourself being drawn to?

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I dunno, with genre it's funny.

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I don't really think of myself as writing in one genre because I, I

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wrote some books before The Dying Squad that nothing really happened with.

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And they were three different genres.

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One was science fiction.

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Another one was like a black comedy/sports book.

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And the third one, was a bit similar to Dying Squad, it was quite pulpy.

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So I don't really think of myself as writing in one particular genre.

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With Dying Squad, it's you could make a good case that it's fantasy or you

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could make a good case that it's crime.

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To me, it's a crime thriller, with like fantasy flashy, fantasy go faster stripes.

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Other people, I know that like those do straight crime think this ain't crime.

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But to me it is.

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To me it is.

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No, that's good.

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And when you are coming up with your ideas, do you find it's the crime

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itself that is your hook is your way in?

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Cuz sometimes it's the world is like, oh, what kind of thing would happen here?

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Or a character comes out.

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I was just wondering what draws you into a story?

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I think the crime itself is the main hook.

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And the main bit that interests me is, 1.

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Meshing like the fantastical with the real, because I think all these

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books, despite their themes are very much set in the real world.

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Like the first book is set in rural Lincolnshire.

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Which hasn't been massively written about, but I grew up there, so I know the place.

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The second book is set in Manchester, which I used to live, live in Manchester.

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I love that city, and also Tokyo.

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The third book, which is our next year, is set in Berlin.

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Oh, wow.

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So they're all kind of places I know quite well and all places that

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are just like rich to dig out from.

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That's really important to me.

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The other important thing is , I love the investigation bit, I

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love the solving the crime bit.

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Yeah.

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Because I never, when I start these books, I never know who done it.

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Or who's behind the crime or why they're behind it.

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Like, I'm doing the investigation as I'm writing it.

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Which in some ways is an enormous pain in the ass.

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because just like a normal investigation, you just go down a

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blind alley and like slam into it.

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And you have to backtrack and rewrite, which I guess you

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wouldn't get if I was a planner.

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But then even I've tried planning a couple of things, then I just

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go off pieste anyway with it.

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So yeah, in terms of the bit I find exciting, I like doing the investigation.

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I like working out who'd done it.

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Yeah.

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And to me, a twist is always much better if it's a surprise to the writer.

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Then it will be a surprise to the reader.

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If you try and engineer it from the start, I think it feels a little bit forced.

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Yeah, with the project you're working on at the moment, are you like

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editing that or are you on a new book?

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I will be editing that soon.

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I've turned it in.

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That'll be, I'll be editing within the next few months.

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So I'm a little bit ahead.

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So The Dying Squad, it was like a three book deal.

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Yeah.

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So the second one comes out in August 2022.

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The third one will come out next summer, yeah.

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And then I've actually written what would be my fourth book,

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which will be a standalone.

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Okay.

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I've already written that I, I wrote it between books two and three,

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Dying Squad books two and three.

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So I've got a bit of downtime.

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So I've actually been writing a couple of scripts over the last few months.

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And they could be future books.

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They might be something else.

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It's actually a really, if you've got the time, it's a really good way of working

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because you are essentially writing a super detailed breakdown of a book.

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It's thinner than a book, you know, you don't have the interiority

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or prose or anything like that.

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But it lets you stress test the story.

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It tells you where it goes wrong.

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It tells you where you need to fix it.

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It tells you if the twists work.

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I mean that element of it is still the same, you know, you're finding

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the story and like what it takes to unexpected turn, you still get

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that kinda little thrill from it.

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And I think it's really good in terms of, does this work?

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Because you should be able to write a short story on the

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back of a McDonald's wrapper.

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And if it's good.

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Yeah.

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So it's really effective for that, I think.

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Okay.

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And um, with the books that have been published, did those

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go through a script process?

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No, I didn't, I didn't do it with that.

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So, The Dying Squad was like a fast write.

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I think The Dying Squad took me three months to write it, which was really fast.

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And Generation Killer took longer just because...

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it wasn't really difficult second book syndrome.

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I think it's easier if you write in a series.

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I think it's harder if you have to write a second book and start from scratch and

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do new characters and new blah, blah.

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I think it's easier if you are building on an existing world, but there is still some

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things you, you look back on the wealth of second books in a series and you just

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think about the ones that didn't work.

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And you don't wanna fall into that trap.

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So you you have to keep what works about the first one, but

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you have to make it fresh again.

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You have to have new ideas in there.

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You have to send the characters on a different personality path, whatever.

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And you have to make it exciting.

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There's a lot of moving parts and I was aware that it was a three book

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deal and I had a third book, so I had to set the third book up as well,

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because these aren't really standalones.

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They're kind of, they're all, intermeshed, certainly the first three will be.

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So those were the challenges writing the second one.

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Yeah.

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And definitely with The Generation Killer, the scope is far far broader.

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Yeah.

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There's a lot bigger stakes.

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The stakes are very personal in book one, but it's very much the

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stakes of the world in book two.

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That, that's a great way of looking at it.

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It did feel a bit at times like I was like an indie filmmaker on the first one.

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Yeah.

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And then like Warner Brothers had just given me 300 million

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dollars to make the second one.

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Yeah.

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I mean you, so really you look at the first one, it's like, yeah, that's

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a 5 to 25 million indie movie and the second one's like, no, this is

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a massive Hollywood blockbuster.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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I don't quite know why I did it like that.

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It's just, I guess it was almost a bit of wish fulfillment.

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It's if I was making a film, that's why I'd wanna do it.

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Yeah, I think like with the first book.

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The kind of the film touchstones were like Shane Meadows.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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And Line Of Duty, and like noiry local crime.

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Whereas the second book was more like Heat and Seven.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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They were my, they were like my touch stones.

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And the third one, I guess, is a little bit of a mix between the two.

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Yeah.

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Because there's only so big you can get before it gets ridiculous.

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Joe's in space in his book.

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Uh, so, you know, as a filmmaker who has been working a lot before that

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you started writing these books now going back and writing scripts, do

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you feel that the books have changed your approach or your outlook or

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the way you approach your script?

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It's a great question, actually that.

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Yes and no.

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I think writing scripts before I'd written the books taught me more.

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So the things that it really taught me and making films was like pace and tightness.

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If you're making any sort of film, whether it's like a feature or a commercial film,

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wherever, like each shot has to make the person wanna watch the next shot.

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If you don't do that, you failed.

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You've screwed it.

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So that taught me a lot about pace and the economy, when I've switched back

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to doing novels, I think I've still got a little bit when I'm writing a

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script as if I'm making this film.

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So it is getting out the mindset of it doesn't really matter that

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I can put that group of extras in.

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Yeah.

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Because it wouldn't be me responsible for getting them and ringing

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around mates, just like trying to get this group of people there.

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It's keeping that that, that bigness that I've got in the books when I translate

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to scripts, which I think I've done, but there's a lot more similarities than

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differences between novels and scripts.

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It is a different discipline, but it's not really.

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It's not, if you're a novelist, I'm gonna be a plumber.

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It's still writing.

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All the main bits that make a good book, make a good script.

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Yeah.

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There is more show than tell in a script, but there's not loads more.

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And it's still the things you need to get right in a novel are the

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things you need to get in a script.

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Yeah.

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Interesting characters, plot development, paciness.

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Why does this deserve my time?

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Sort of thing.

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Yeah.

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And you mentioned it, how you're not much of a planner.

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With the scripts you've been working on recently, is that been the same sort of

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thing that you'll discover as you go?

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I've yeah, I have actually, the last one I worked on, I did plan it out a bit.

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Okay.

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Not all the way through, but I was struggling on it a bit.

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So when I'd finished for the day I would plan out what I was going

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to do in the next writing session.

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Yeah.

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So just one day ahead.

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And sometimes it changed.

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It'd been a long time since I'd written a script and I didn't have quite

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the same confidence that I, there was sitting down writing a novel.

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So I almost needed to hold my own hand a little bit on it and say, okay,

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that's what I'm gonna do the next day.

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Cause I think writer's block.

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I know some people say they get writer's block, that's a luxury I can't afford.

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I've gotta earn money.

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You don't have writer's block if you're like, working in McDonald's,

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or doing any other number of work or working as a nurse or a doctor,

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you've just gotta do the fucking job.

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That's not a luxury I can afford.

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I can't just afford to sit and stare into space for eight hours.

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So yeah, I, that just kept me honest.

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If I knew what I was doing the next day, then that just

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took the pressure out of it.

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Yeah, and on that as well, sort of, I want to go a bit more into

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your daily writing schedule.

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As someone who doesn't write at home and you know, this being a number one writing

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spot, but also having a couple of others.

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Yeah.

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Do you treat it like a nine to five where you have a commute setting, you get

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there for a certain time and do you plan to write for a certain number of hours?

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Or do you have a word count or just like certain number of scenes?

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Yeah.

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How do you map out your day?

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A hundred percent, yeah.

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It is about, one of the appeals is like, I get dressed, I take the

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kids to school, I get on the train, I go to a place, I do my words.

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It is a job.

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It's a cool job, but it is a job.

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And if you are, I think where people come unstuck a bit at the start is they're

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expecting it to be this sort of back flippingly wonderful experience every

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day where they're one with the muse.

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That's just not the reality.

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Now you will have those days where it's just genuinely exciting.

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You'll have a lot more where it's just a bit of a fucking slog and you've

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gotta sit down and do the words.

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Yeah.

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Cause no one else is gonna do 'em for you.

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And I find that whenever it feels really good, you've had a brilliant

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day, it's never quite as good as you remember when you read back.

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But also conversely, whenever you think, oh, this is terrible.

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It's never that bad either.

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Yeah.

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There's always like a middle ground that it's in.

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So yeah, it is about coming down, getting the words down.

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If I've got four or five hours, which if I'm doing like school runs or I've got a

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shoot or whatever, that's very achievable.

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I I would look for 1500 words.

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I know some people struggle with that, but to me I've got a lot

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more time than a lot of people.

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I owe it to myself.

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And those people that don't have as much time to like get the work done.

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Even if it's rubbish.

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I'd say very much a cliche, but it's a lot easier to fix something on

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the page than yeah fix a blank page.

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No, absolutely.

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And are you someone who edits as they go?

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Is it something that that you start your writing day reviewing what you

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wrote the day before, maybe tweaking a few things or do you like to go, I'm

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gonna write X amount of words, maybe 10,000 words and then do a review?

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It honestly, it changes from project to project and it

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depends on how well it's going.

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If it's, I feel uncertain of it and I don't feel it's going that

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well, I won't stop, I'll just keep going to get to the end.

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Because I think that's where you could come a bit unstuck.

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If I'm feeling calm about it and confident then yeah, I'll probably

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spend the first 45 minutes just reading what I've done before.

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It honestly changes from project to project.

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Um, Sometimes I think, particularly if you're not totally sure about

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the idea, it feels quite fragile.

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I think it can be detrimental to look back too much on it.

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If you're confident, this is the right thing, then yeah, you can do that.

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Yeah.

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And when it's actually then sent to someone to read it and edit,

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who's the first person to read it after you've finished the project?

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Usually my wife, who is also a writer.

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And yeah, like we've been working on each other's stuff for quite a long time.

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It's always been a part of our relationship.

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So yeah, she's still the one I want to impress.

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She's still the one.

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Yeah.

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I want to be just, you just tell me it's good.

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We do like, we critique each other's stuff.

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I really enjoy that.

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I think she would say that I'm worse at receiving feedback than her,

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but we are pretty good on that.

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Well, we are pretty honest and brutal.

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I mean, she's, she's writing this thing at the moment.

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I have more I guess like arrogance is not the word, but

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I have more self-belief in her.

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Yeah.

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But this thing she's writing at the moment, it's so good.

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And it's gonna be, it's gonna be a monster.

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It's gonna be a monster hit.

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So it's just about my, I want critique it, also I wanna say like, you need

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to tell other person it's really good.

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I think that's also really important at the start, you wanna give what doesn't

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work it's important to give what does.

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Cause they are, we are the first person to seeing each other stuff.

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Yeah.

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And how is that?

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Because obviously, yeah.

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You are both established writers but write very different types of work.

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And yeah, she's coming along with some great success at the moment.

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So are you, cuz you're not in direct competition.

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No.

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But, would you say like her writing informs your writing and vice versa?

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Or is it just it's nice to read, but I wanna do my own thing?

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Yeah.

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In a lot of ways we've got similar tastes, in terms of like TV or film.

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There's, There's very few times where I would like really love something

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and she would hate it and vice versa.

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Yeah, but we do write very different things, but all I

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mean, good's good and bad's bad.

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And like her, You Had Me At Halloumi, which she's got out at the moment.

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That's just a great read.

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Like I'm not obviously the target audience for a romantic comedy set

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in Greece, but it's just, it's great.

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I can really admire the writing or admire how she structured it.

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I can see how good she's got and it's quite thrilling to see yeah that.

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But yeah we are pretty brutal with each other.

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I mean, we are, we are very straight talking with each other.

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Doesn't work, it doesn't work.

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Definitely Dying Squad is not something Kirsty would normally read.

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But she can, it's almost good in that respect.

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Yeah.

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Because if she's out of the genre, so she can just gimme quite a

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clinical what doesn't work in terms of the story and what does.

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Yeah.

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And I'm guessing that we are not gonna get a collaboration, sort of crossover?

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No, we're fucking not.

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I, I think some people, I really admire people that, couples that

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can work together like that.

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And we've done a couple of films together and it just didn't work.

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Cause we were both doing, wanting to do the same job.

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And I was not anywhere near tolerant enough.

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I was the bad guy in that situation, I'm sure.

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No, like we work, collaborate very well in other ways.

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But in terms of, I just think when you're both trying to do the same thing.

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Yeah, it doesn't work very well.

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Yeah.

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And we're back post jingle with a new drink.

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We're on the comfort drink now so you've got the decaf latte, we are on the coffee.

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So yeah, what I want um, talk now is actually more about your process

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uh, with the story, obviously we've covered that, you know, it's the crime

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that sort of initiates the story.

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Are there elements of fleshing out the world that you find challenging?

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Is it quite hard to do authentic characterization?

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Does that come quite easy?

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Is that quite fun to do?

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And the world building, how long does that take?

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Is that something that you plan out a lot of the world beforehand?

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Or is it just on the fly, you're inventing the mythology?

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Uh, Yeah, it is on the fly.

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I did a book club once and they couldn't quite believe that I'd be

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insane enough to just try and world build to the extent I do on the fly.

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And it is, it is insane.

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even though all there's all these fantastic elements, I

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always try and make it real.

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I try and make it like a tangible thing that people will recognize.

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You find you're good at some things and some things come

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easily and some things are harder.

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The world building is one of the harder things to do.

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And I think most of my edit notes, when it got to the edit stage with

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Gollancz, were about world building.

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And with my agent as well, "explain this, how does that work?

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That seems inconsistent with something else you've done."

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Because it doesn't matter what rules you write, you just have to stick to 'em.

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Yeah.

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You can't break them.

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I saw something recently and it was like a supernatural crime thing and it just broke

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its own rules and really wound me up.

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Yeah.

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Like you have to, if you don't want the reader of viewer to feel cheated,

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you have to stick to the rules.

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Yeah.

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And no matter how weird or crazy they are.

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So the, yeah, like I love dialogue, that's easy.

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When it's a dialogue day, I think I'm gonna be done in two hours.

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When it's a world building day or if I'm writing action, you just

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think this is gonna be a slog.

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This is gonna be hard work.

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Yeah, each word is gonna fight me on this.

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That's just the way it is.

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So with the challenges of world building, is it, you are just strongly reliant

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on editors that pick stuff up or do you actually now have the murder whiteboard

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with the bits of string and pictures?

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Like, how do you keep track of it all?

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I should have that.

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It was good in a way, because I'd pretty much written the second book

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before the first book came out.

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So I could go back and retrofit little bits.

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The same with the third book as well, because I'd written that

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before the second book came out.

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I think if there'd been a bigger gap, I would've really struggled and that

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it would've been better to plan it.

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But in terms of the world building, you can let your imagination run

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wild, which is brilliant in a way.

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But when it is, you are trying to write a realistic urban fantasy novel,

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you have to reign yourself in a bit.

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And it's, again, it's getting that balance of bringing loads

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of new ideas into each one.

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But not like gorging it in ideas.

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You read some stuff that's so brilliantly inventive, but I feel like I can't

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catch my breath because there's a new thing coming half a page up.

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I think you need time to let it simmer a bit and linger and let the idea soak in.

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Yeah.

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And with the challenges of world building, is there an appeal

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to write more real world stuff?

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I like, I definitely, with the Dying Squad series, particularly I like the real world

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stuff is the bit I really like writing.

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It's the stuff I enjoy the most.

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It's the biggest challenge because you are in the real world, there are

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very specific rules you adhere to.

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Yeah, but it's the bits that just all set in The Pen, which is

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like the afterlife purgatory bit.

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I'm always trying to balance that with thinking, oh, this is just all made up.

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This doesn't make any sense.

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Yeah.

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This is fucking nonsense.

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It's trying to keep that under control a little bit and trying to make that

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as realistic as the bits that set in like a dingy part of Manchester.

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Yeah.

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Cuz obviously the real world bits are based on like locations you've

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actually been to and know, is the fantasy world building and sticking to

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locations, a real aversion to research?

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Is research something that you would never do?

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Actually, I mean, Tokyo, for instance, I haven't been to Tokyo.

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Okay.

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I was intending to go to Tokyo.

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But for the pandemic, so I had to research Tokyo.

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I had to make that as realistic as possible.

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And I like, it's my way in actually.

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Finding a real place and maybe doing a little bit of a backstory

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about certain area of it.

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That's my way in.

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I find into certainly that start a chapters.

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The third book, which is set in Berlin, and it's almost

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historical thriller element to it.

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So it follows this character through Berlin throughout the decades.

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I did a lot of research for that.

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Particularly like the East German stuff, the kind of the punk movement in Berlin.

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And I loved it.

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I mean, I really, it wasn't research, it was like, it was just enjoyment.

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I do wonder how the hell people did research before the internet.

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Because I can just like Google East German punks and you've got

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50 entries or like what kind of car they would drive in that time.

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In the olden days you had to actually earn it, you had to come and go

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and find a library and find out.

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Yeah, or speak to someone who was around at the time.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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I think I'm way too lazy to do that, so it's good that I'm in this era.

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Yeah.

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With that experience with the third book, actually having to do

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so much research was that actually then quite an enjoyable experience?

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And are you looking to do maybe more historical stuff in the future or?

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Yeah, I did.

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That's another good question.

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I dunno.

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I did enjoy, I enjoy it if it's something I'm interested in.

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Yeah.

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And something I wanna learn about.

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And I, I read this specific book called Burning Down The Haus, which is H A U S.

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About Berlin and that kind of punk era thing and it, again,

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it didn't feel like school.

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It was just genuinely enjoyable.

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Yeah, and it was my real way into the story.

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In a way that I didn't really appreciate at the time.

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It depends if it's something I'm into, if it's something like pop culture, and

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music or sport, something like that.

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Yeah.

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If it's just historical for the sake of it.

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Yeah, probably not.

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So is there a personal interest that you would like to include in a future

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story, or that you're considering using in a story and use this knowledge or

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to deep dive and expand your knowledge?

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The, the first novel that I wrote that I thought this is like a genuine

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banger, that nothing happened with, was following this, it was about this kind

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of really degenerate tennis player.

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He'd wasted his potential.

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And it was following him around the challenger circuit in tennis.

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And that is something that really interests me.

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And it was set in the nineties?

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Yeah, I really like that.

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I like road trip books.

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My love and interest in that book was not shared by the publishing

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community, unfortunately.

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But yeah, I mean I, another one, actually.

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Another one was the third book I wrote, I'm a bit of a trainer

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head, a trainer collector.

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And it was about this kind, its like Indiana Jones, but if he was

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like a famous trainer collector.

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Cuz like these things go for hundreds of thousands pounds,

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like it's a huge industry.

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So it was like a pulp noiry adventure in that.

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Again, my love for this was not shared by the publishing community.

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You can detect a theme.

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It's it's really, it's the internal struggle between finding

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something that excites you and something that's gonna sell.

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Yeah, that bit is really important, unfortunately.

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Yeah, otherwise it don't matter how good it is.

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And talk a bit industry now, cuz obviously you're midway through

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your three book deal with Gollancz.

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How far along was the three books when you pitched it and when they got it?

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So I I went to see, like, I had this very specific agent in my mind that I wanted.

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So I went along and pitched him.

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It was a pitch night.

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And he, one of the things he said on it was that publishers like series.

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So if you're pitching something, say it's like the first in a series.

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And I hadn't thought of it particularly as a series at that point, but I did then.

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And so when I pitched it to him, I said I've written the first

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book and have plans for the second and third book, which is true.

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I had a vague idea what I do for the second book.

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I genuinely had no idea what I'd do for the third book.

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So when he said you know, Gollancz, can you send in your plans?

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Fuck.

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So the third one was a bit of a back of a fag packet idea, but

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it was, I think that's normal.

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Because you just, you haven't written a second where you don't

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know which way it's gonna go.

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It is, I think if you are writing a series like publishers do like them.

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Because they're could something they can potentially build up.

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They don't, doesn't always work like that.

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Yeah.

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Yeah, so I didn't really know which, I knew how the last

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scene of the last book would be.

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I knew that, yeah.

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I didn't really know beyond that.

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Yeah.

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And you've written another book since that's a standalone.

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Yeah.

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I'm going out and submission with that.

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I was gonna say, what stage is that at?

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So it's done.

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I've done the kind of edit notes with my agent.

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My agent, sorry, my editor at Gollancz is actually leaving.

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So we are having to pitch it to someone's different in Orion.

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It'll be really interesting to see what happens with it.

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Yeah.

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People seem pretty excited by it.

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I, it's a really interesting time to be in because it still feels

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quite fragile, the whole thing.

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So you have this huge effort to get an agent and then you have

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this huge effort to sell a book and then try and build your career.

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And it's been like a wonderful experience, but still quite fragile.

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Like these three books will be over next year.

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Hopefully there'll be more.

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I'm not finished, I've got plenty more stories to tell, but it's still,

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unless you I think you're Stephen King or Ian Rankin or Aaronovitch

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like the rest of us are just kind of, it's a little bit, you're never

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quite sure which way it's gonna go, but that's exciting in a way as well.

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Yeah.

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So the standalone, is it in the same universe or is it a whole new thing?

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It's a different universe.

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Yeah, but it's paranormal and with a crime element.

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Again, it's sort of Stranger Things crossed with Gone Girl.

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Okay.

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And it's based around the Rendlesham incident, which was in 1980.

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In Rendlesham Forest, aliens were purported to be spotted within the forest.

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And the thing that gave this a legit element was it was a US air

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force base that happened over.

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So they they did the reports.

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So the premise of the book is the main character's mother went missing

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on the night of the incident.

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And then 30 years later, they start to get transmissions from beyond.

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Yeah.

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There's actually I'm gonna give a shout to my friends, Mike and Zoe, Stories of

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Strangeness podcast cause they've actually done an episode on the whole incident.

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Excellent.

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So I will put in the show notes of this.

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Yeah.

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I'll have to give that listen.

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Yeah, more context to that, cuz yeah it was um, the UK Roswell,

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isn't it like pitched a s?

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That's exactly what it is.

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That's also in the pitch, yeah.

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So, um, I actually understand what you were referring to, so that's

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yeah, that's a really exciting thing.

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And yeah, I guess you've got the eighties setting with that.

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Exactly.

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So it yeah, it starts in the eighties and it pings forward 30 years.

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Okay.

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Yeah, it was one from the start that kind of, when I gave it to

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beta readers, everyone was like, everyone was quite excited by it.

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My wife was like actively asking me for the next bit, rather than just oh, Christ.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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He's giving me 30 more pages.

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Which is always a pretty good sign.

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Yeah.

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And that's a really nice thing, I think.

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Linking it to not an urban legend, but you know, actual like factual

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historical, with a bit of mystery.

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Is that something that's you are attempted to do again in the future?

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Sort of looking at sort of real world mysteries and setting stories around it?

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Yeah.

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Potentially.

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And I guess I did it a bit with which will be the third Dying

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Squad book, The Ungrateful Dead.

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It's it's again, it's using that real life thing as my way in.

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Yeah.

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And then that, that lets you kind of burrow in and build the world from that.

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I always find I do much better if I have that little in.

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It also legitimizes it a bit.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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If it's a real life thing.

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It just, it, especially if you're dealing with the paranormal or the

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extraordinary, it just gives you a bit more grit and credence, I think.

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Yeah, no.

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And it's like something to anchor the events around.

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A hundred percent.

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And I think also like they can save your ass a little bit in a writing stage.

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If you're struggling, you've always got this kind of real thing to go back to.

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Yeah, and it does ideas germinate from it.

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Yeah.

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Absolutely.

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No, that's really cool.

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Yeah.

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I can see why there's a lot of excitement around that and

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I'm excited for that as well.

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Thanks man.

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Cheers.

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Is it just cuz yeah, as a a filmmaker for like most of your career, was there

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a strong desire to go back to scripts as just because the length of time that

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books take and they're very solitary.

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Yeah.

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What was the draw back for screenplays for you?

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I think I, I would feel I've failed on some level if I don't

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get something made as a script.

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I would feel like that's how I got into the creativity, writing scripts and making

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films, I would feel like I'd failed.

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Whether that's right or not, that's just the way I'm built

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and the way I would feel.

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So yeah is it unfinished business?

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And also screenplay far more collaborative as a process.

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Is the collaboration uh, something that you really enjoy or do you

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prefer to be like a writer director?

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Do you want the control over the story?

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I've got better at ceding control as I've got older.

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I think the control thing is there's a little bit of

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insecurity when you're younger.

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Because you don't, you're not quite confident enough to delegate stuff

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to people and you hide behind it.

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My vision is absolute, this is the way it must be.

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I think as you get a bit older and a bit more relaxed about

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it, you can cede control.

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And if you feel like in the writer's room doing something for Netflix, like

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you, you are with the best of the best.

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Like that's not something to be afraid of.

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That's something you should embrace, I think.

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In terms of novels, it's a little bit different.

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But in general, I like the editing process.

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I know a lot of writers just hate it, but I really like it.

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If you've got a good editor, like they're gonna make that book better, they are.

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They're gonna call you out on your bullshit.

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Where your bits where you've just tried to write extra confidently

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to cover this is just rubbish.

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And they're gonna make the book better.

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So I've loved working with my editor at Gollancz.

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Rachel Winterbottom, she's a gem, like she's really good.

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And then they shouldn't tell you what to do.

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Like they should say this doesn't work, how can you make it better?

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And then that will make you make it better.

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You might not know straight away, but I think that's the art of a good editor.

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Yeah.

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And would you ever, either with scripts or with novels, collaborate

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and like co-write a story.

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Yeah, I dunno.

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I'm up for it in principle.

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Yeah.

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I'm up for it in principle.

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Probably not Kirsty, my wife.

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For the sake of our marriage, but she's too good anyway.

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She show me up.

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I yeah, in theory.

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Obviously, yeah, with, with a script, it can be passed through so many hands.

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Yeah, exactly.

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Either until it gets to you or you give it to someone else.

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So yeah, the collaboration thing, I think once you get over working with someone

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again, after working so long with novels, I'd be quite excited by it, I think.

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Yeah, cool.

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And I'm going to wrap up with the final two questions I always ask.

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So it's my belief that writers learn and grow with every story that they write.

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With the last thing that you wrote, which sounds like it was this standalone.

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Was there anything in writing that you felt, oh, that's gonna make my

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writing better or was there a specific thing that you will now apply you

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think to the next thing you write?

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Yeah.

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I think in terms of last novel.

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The last novel was actually the third Dying Squad book.

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And I only bring that up because that has got some of the

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best stuff I've ever written.

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And there's not, I'd love to say, oh, I changed my process to do that.

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I just something sometimes you get a bit inspired.

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And it's magic, it's auto witchcraft, and you just go with it.

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And it's not even you writing, you're transcribing for something.

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Like, it's you almost can't take credit for it.

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It's not all like that they're days as well you think, God, this is

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shit, this is just my careers over.

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This is finished.

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But that has got some of the stuff I'm proudest of.

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Yeah, and I wish I knew how to do it.

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I wish I could bottle it and say, just do that all the time.

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It doesn't work like that.

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Unfortunately.

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Do you think it's the confidence of finishing projects that you're not getting

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in the way of your creative muscles?

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Yeah.

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I think with the third one as well, like you see so many like trilogies

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and the third one is just rubbish.

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Yeah.

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Whether that's books or films.

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Yeah.

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It's like they've run out of ideas and stretch the one idea over three books.

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I felt like pressure on myself that this needs to be the

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best book, this third book.

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And it was also like with that, cause I didn't have a plan,

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it's is this gonna work out?

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Am I gonna be able to end this in a decent way?

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And I felt like pride that it does.

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I think it is the best book and it does end it strongly.

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But again, I think you just do it enough times and you think it's gonna be alright.

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You learn that despite when you're having a bad day, that doesn't cripple you.

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You know you will have a good one tomorrow or the good one

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is not far around the corner.

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Yeah, I think that's really important.

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Yeah.

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And is there one piece of advice you've ever been given or something that you've

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read that really resonated with you?

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I think the best bit of a writing advice I've ever been

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given was write how you talk.

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Only you sound like you.

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Only you have your voice.

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If you're gonna try and create a bit of a voice, which is really important.

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Um, and people say, how do you do that?

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I think you just write how you talk.

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Write how you talk to your friends.

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Write in that same sort of style, no matter what.

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You don't need, you shouldn't really need to change your style.

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If you are write historical fiction or something about a guy trying to be a rock

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star, you still doing it in your voice.

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Yeah.

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And it's easier said than done, but if you can do that, yeah.

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You've got a good chance, I think.

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Do you ever read your stuff aloud?

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I've done a couple of readings.

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I hate readings.

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I hate attending them and I hate giving them.

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I just think, why would anyone want this?

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Yeah, I do do it aloud, sometimes.

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Yeah.

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It is a good way.

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I don't, I know some people will just sit down and read the whole thing aloud.

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And that helps.

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I can't think of anything worse.

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But yeah, I do.

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And it's a good way of yeah, finding the flow.

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Yeah.

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It's just yeah.

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Cuz some people have a strong internal voice and just read it through, but

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some people just need to externalize it.

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Yeah.

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And it is, it's like when you're editing film.

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It's incredible the difference between taking it from one

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screen to another makes.

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You see it almost in a different way.

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Bits that you didn't see before that don't work.

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And the same is true of writing, I guess.

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If you read it aloud, you just hear things when it clunks that you don't

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hear from when it's in your head.

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That's cool.

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Adam Simcox, thank you very much.

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Thank you mate.

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It's a genuine pleasure.

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Cheers.

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And cheers to you.

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And that was the real writing process of Adam Simcox.

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Now he said it in passing, but I'm pretty sure I got an exclusive on his third

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book being called, The Ungrateful Dead.

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There's no publishing information about that out there, at the moment.

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And even Adam doesn't know the exact release date, just summer 2023.

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So if any of you are journalists and want to cite this podcast as a source

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and announce that title, that's fine.

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But if anyone tries to claim an exclusive title announcement, at some point

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in the future, I will retweet them.

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And I want you all to know I'm doing it sarcastically.

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I also want to take a moment to shout out to my friends at the

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Stories of Strangeness podcast.

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It's run by Mike and Zoe.

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They're wonderful people and they've been doing it for years.

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And episode 15 is their breakdown of the Rendlesham forest incident.

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So if you want to have a bit of background to Adam's next big

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thing then do give it a listen.

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You should also give it a listen anyway, because it's a great show.

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But for Adam and fans of Adam, episode 15 is the one to listen to.

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Uh, so yes, buy Adam's books, they're good.

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His wife, Kirsty Eyre, is also good.

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Buy her books too.

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Uh, she's written two books, uh, but one is under the name Ginger Jones.

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And I don't know if it's a loophole to try and win a debut novel award.

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Um, I'm not sure not going to pick at that thread.

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I'm not judging book competitions.

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So just read the books.

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That's it for me.

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Would it be another four months until the next episode?

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Maybe.

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Uh, in the meantime though, outro music.

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Look after yourselves and keep Until the world ends.

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