I’m delighted to welcome Chris to tell us about his book today for my stop on his fabulous blog tour .. I had the pleasure of reading this book early on & you can see my review below.
“Wildermoor 2011: Meet Colin Dexler a man plagued by visions of a monster. He turns to a priest for help but the priest is not who he seems.
Wildermoor 1684: An old man hunts for his daughter Evelyn, who was abducted in the middle of the night.
Wildermoor 2002: Detective Truman’s life is turned upside down when Dexler makes a fatal decision.
What connects these people over hundreds of years? Who will unlock the secret? Something is coming. Something big. And light must face darkness. The end is just the beginning… Acolyte is the first book in the terrifying Wildermoor Apocalypse trilogy.”
About the author
First-time author Chris originally hailed from Basingstoke but moved to sunny Devon after graduating from Staffordshire University in 2005. He lives in Newton Abbot with his wife and twin children, and currently works as a logistics supervisor.
Being a fan of horror film & fiction, sci-fi and heavy metal, he naturally worked towards his own novel whilst writing three different short stories – all of which will have morphed in some way to form what will become The Wildermoor Apocalypse trilogy. Upon discovering and taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2014, Chris was finally given the chance to bring all of the pieces together to write the first in this series – his debut novel, ‘Acolyte’.
Chris cites James Herbert, Dean Koontz, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe amongst his literary heroes.
FROM THE ANCIENTS TO ACOLYTE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
December 21st 2012. I am sure I was not the only one in the world who was waiting with bated breath for something catastrophic to happen on this day for, according to Mayan prophecies, this was the date that they predicted our world would end.
Well, kind of.
If you have ever watched Hollywood’s depiction of the end of the world you would probably be watching the skies for asteroids, aliens or adverse weather conditions to swoop down and take it all away. What the Mayan’s believed, however, went somewhat deeper than that. What they actually predicted was that some sort of cataclysmic event would occur – physical or spiritually – that would alter our world. Despite the fact that millions of us probably went on with our daily lives in much the usual manner on that day, and continue to do so today, who is to say that this event didn’t really happen?
This question is what sent my imagination into overdrive, pondering different explanations for changes that could have occurred in our world that went unseen, desperately wanting to believe the ancient prediction. It was this obsession that eventually gave birth to my ideas for ‘The Wildermoor Apocalypse’. I wanted to change the way that some people would think about how our world could end or, more specifically, how the end could begin.
New Life Breeds New Life
In reality, it took a further two years for the story to materialise enough for me to try and tell of its roots, in what would become my debut novel ‘Acolyte’. In amongst big changes that were happening in my home life in that time, the prospect of an alternative explanation for the apocalypse-that-didn’t-happen was far from my mind. That is, until the one day in September 2013 that I found out that I was going to be a father. Something clicked in me that day and made me want to write my thoughts (some would say ’ramblings’) down, so that one day my children could look back on them and be able to see what kind of person I was at that moment. A snapshot in time, you might say.
Until that point, my only writing experience had come at school when I was forced to be creative for a piece of homework or coursework. Writing was not something that I did for my pleasure. Years later, I taught myself to play the guitar and music took over my life as my constant; the one thing I would turn to no matter what mood I was in. In 2012, I decided to try my hand at writing my own songs. I still did not play in a band or even jam with any of my friends so the musical accompaniment was limited, hence my songs would exist in lyric form only. But just writing the words down, painting some kind of picture that was playing out in my mind, was therapeutic to say the least. Hardly anyone had ever read my lyrics until I put them up on my website some weeks ago, but I am vaguely proud of some of the songs that I have written. My first attempt was inspired by the horror video game series ‘Silent Hill’, as that’s what was taking up most of my spare time at that moment.
Plus I liked writing about creatures, monsters and the terror that they caused. As a player of such games as ‘Silent Hill’ and ‘Resident Evil’, I was finding myself battling these creatures on a daily basis and – thanks to the chilling soundtracks and mind-blowing graphics we have these days – I actually felt the fear and apprehension whenever I was in control of my character. When I decided to start writing horror fiction, I drew on the feelings that I used to get whilst playing these games, imagining that it was me who was facing these demons, what would be going through my head and what I would need to do to escape.
In truth, I still do this. When writing ‘Acolyte’, I tried to put myself into each of my characters’ shoes, describing the sights that I could see from their viewpoint and the thoughts that would be running through their minds. I hope that this has helped create a sense of realism within my book, despite the events that occur around them being fairly far-fetched.
Learning From The Best
My lyric-writing waned somewhat after I discovered the work of one author in particular: James Herbert.
I had not long finished a marathon of Dean Koontz’s ‘Odd Thomas’ series, but found that the Odd books were spurring a lot of ideas that were better suited to my songs rather than my fiction writing. However, once I picked up James Herbert’s ‘Others’ – which funnily enough my wife had tried to bestow onto me about ten years earlier, but I had resisted – something changed in the way I was thinking; the ideas and scenes that played out behind my eyes were growing in depth and intensity, the stories becoming bigger and more challenging to put into only a few lines of a chorus, verse or bridge. I was beginning to create my own new world, but it didn’t yet have a name.
I followed ‘Others’ straight away with ‘Ghosts of Sleath’. The idea of a tiny village, independent from other towns around it, that had its own supernatural past and present, struck a chord with me. It very much resembled the place that I saw when I looked for my inspiration. And the fact that the horrific events that occurred within Sleath may have gone largely undetected by the ‘outside world’ added a new dimension to my own creation.
Setting The Scene
Since moving to Devon, I have been in love with the scenery and the amount of places that you can go to and – if you wanted to – just disappear. Newton Abbot lay only a few miles from the edge of Dartmoor, and the moors are one of my favourite places to go whenever we have the chance. On one occasion, a friend from our uni days came to visit and we spent the day ‘letterboxing’ on Dartmoor, with no particular fixed route agreed beforehand, just following wherever the journey took us. When we reached areas around Princetown and Postbridge, the land around us felt more foreboding, more sinister. It was barren and isolated – and I loved it.
The sights from that day are the ones I imagined when I started writing Acolyte and describing Wildermoor. I took a lot of detail from places around me when building the place itself, even down to the housing estate that surrounded me when I did much of my writing; from the front seat of my car, on my lunch break, on the edge of Exeter city centre. It was there that I first encountered the man who would inspire one of the first characters that I brought to life – Colin Dexler.
Meeting Colin Dexler
In creepy yet harrowing fashion, there was a man who lived in the road that I used to park my car for work that, each lunchtime without fail, would walk past my car and just stop and stare in through my car window. At times I noticed his mouth moving as if he were talking to himself, and I started to wonder what it was that he could be saying – or what he thought he was saying. His mannerisms made me think about a sad, antisocial and disturbed individual, battling his own demons whilst being shunned by society around him. Maybe he was talking to someone who the rest of us could not see? Maybe someone was haunting him? In that moment, I devised the idea of ‘The Reaper’, a demonic character who could latch on and control people to commit heinous acts in his name.
I found myself soaking up every little detail around me and somehow using them to create more aspects of the story, giving depth to Wildermoor and the evil that was manifesting itself. The other characters themselves are based more on those I have watched on TV and either hated or admired, sometimes in equal measures. However, I do believe that fractions of my own personality has come through in all of them in one way or another. It would be extremely difficult for an author, in my opinion, to devise a character that doesn’t show even one of their own traits, whether they are aware of it or not. Sometimes the not knowing is the most exciting aspect of our own creativity.
Crafting The ‘Write’ Style
The most important lesson I learnt whilst writing Acolyte was getting to know my own writing style. Due to the nature of how it was written – mainly writing from ideas as they formed in my mind, rather than working from a plan – this is the most natural piece of work that I have achieved to date. This being the first time that I had properly attempted writing fiction, I had no idea what to expect from myself. I did not set out with an aim to emulate anyone else’s work, but do feel that I was heavily inspired by the authors that I was immersed in at the time; Dean Koontz and James Herbert. It was Herbert’s directness that I loved; when describing a scene or action, he makes it so believable by just telling it like it is, no-frills. Much like the opening of ‘A Christmas Carol’ – “Marley was dead, to begin with” – lines like these are quick, powerful and smack you in the face, even catching you by surprise. The impact is unmistakeable, and always keeps the readers on their toes because you will never be sure where the next sucker punch is coming from.
Dean Koontz’s ‘Odd Thomas’ series introduced me to the idea of first-person narrative, which I found to be a hugely effective way of getting to know the central character. You get inside their head, which is otherwise more difficult to do from a third-person. It gives a story another dimension that, again, is very hard for the reader to shake off and helps the story stand out if presented in a line-up of great novels of that genre. I am hoping that more of this Koontz-style influence will come through in my upcoming novel ‘The Sowing Season’, where I will be experimenting with sections of first-person to help build one of my new characters.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye…
To sign off this post, how about a stab at a hard sell – why should you read Acolyte? Well, luckily for some, I am a very poor salesman. I will never be very good at telling someone that they should read my book. I want each reader to have made that decision themselves, be it due to word-of-mouth or maybe the striking cover. Those who seek it out of curiosity, I hope are rewarded with a story that they are not expecting. Yes, it is an apocalyptic story. But I have tried to attack the subject from a different stance, that of ‘the beginning of the end’, which I have not seen done too often (although I have only scraped the surface of this type of fiction that is out there). I would love it if Acolyte – and the two remaining parts of The Wildermoor Apocalypse – could one day stand alone within this field, viewed as an exception to the rule.
For those who read Acolyte, I wish for you to read the final words and be left wanting more. Because there is more to come, trust me.
Remember, the end has only just begun.
Thanks for that wonderful insight Chris it’s a privilege to see ‘into’ your mind & with the benefit of hindsight I can understand how some of the characters were formed. Maybe I can to urge the readers to give it a whirl because I always love a good recommendation so for all of you itching to get a copy you can buy it here: Acolyte – Amazon
Firstly many thanks to Chris for allowing me to read this in return for my honest review.
We begin this story in 2001 in Wildermoor with Colin who appears to be suffering from paranoia or is he really seeing a ‘monster’! While drawn slowly into his situation I figured this was going to be a mystery/thriller novel. Wildermoor gives the impression of being very bleak & it becomes apparent it holds many secrets. Just as you think you know where the story is going you get transported back to 1684 .. the writing is very descriptive & the sense of foreboding begins.
Who is the Reaper .. what are the eyes .. you are cleverly taken on a journey between the two time periods, lots of characters to explore all the time sensing the murky depths of the caverns, the pit & the woods. What evil lurks around the corners linking all the folk together? It soon transpires that it is a mix of mystery/horror/fantasy .. enough to suit all tastes .. it moves along at quite a pace with plenty of action, not for the light-hearted. There is a smattering of romance which enables the reader to connect with the sweeter characters.
This is the first in a trilogy so the ending ramps up to leave you wanting more, will the secrets be revealed or what other direction can the next instalment take … I’m keen to find out! Keep an eye on this author this was an excellent debut novel. My review policy is = Loved it, will happily recommend, would buy for a friend & keep a copy.
You can find Chris here:
Paperback: 234 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (26 July 2015)