Today, I’m briefly paying homage to my creative inspiration over the early years. I’ve been quietly inspired in my life through all kinds of media.
The books of Roald Dahl
Author of the children’s books to have when I was growing up, ever accompanied by Quentin Blake’s frenzied illustrations.
The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine were my particular favourites. I must have found the nasty, gross characters of Mr and Mrs Twit and George’s grandmother funny. Maybe it was the overall grimness which appealed to me as a kid. Roald Dahl pushed the limits and crafted some very dark stories. I wonder if a book about a boy who is basically tying to poison his granny would be published today?
I had also had a tape cassette of Revolting Rhymes to listen to at bed time. Revamped tales were Red Riding Hide was armed with a pistol, and Goldie Locks was rightly eaten by the three bears in the end. There was a sense of dark justice in these versions, and I appreciated the humour.
Quentin Blake also illustrated a safety booklet for trains and railways, and was never shy about being comically gruesome – creating the kind of imagery that would stay with you.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
Fantastic stories with real humour, borrowing from real life and twisting our sometimes strange modern world into whimsy. I first read Discworld in our school library, and the cover art for Mort is what started it all. I was eleven years old at the time, and I remember my English teacher being impressed that I understood the narrative. I hope that was a compliment, anyway.
To me, Terry Pratchett personified smart, British humour. There is an interlacing cast of memorable characters throughout the series, who all star in their own stories and occasionally pop up as bit players in others. It created a fully realised, vivid world filled with tales. The Grim Reaper is a fan favourite, and his humanity easily inspired the concept of Ace Mcdagger.
Resident Evil 2
I never played the first game. I was too young at the time. When the sequel rolled around, everyone at school seemed to be playing it and I sneakily asked for this mysterious video game for my 14th birthday, just to join in. No regrets at all. Resident Evil 2 is considered a classic and the clear highlight of the series. A cloying atmosphere painted up by Japanese artisans, memorable monster encounters, all tied into a fairly straight forward story. Every moment of that game is a joy, and hugely influential with its visuals.
Final Fantasy VII
I had always wanted to make the Bloodfest series into a video game around the time of 1997. I imagined a stand alone arcade style, single player action game with maybe five stages and multiple characters. Those kinds of games used to exist during the first Playstation era.
A chance encounter with the game Final Fantasy VII showed me that an interactive story could pull together multiple characters on a huge, sprawling adventure that could take weeks to finish. The setting pulled me in at first, then the characters and the story; finally the sense of a huge world with its own rules unlike one I had experienced before. It inspired Bloodfest greatly, particularly in the involvement of magic in the series. But above that, it helped to keep the characters of the story together as a unified force. One of the big themes of the Bloodfest series is teamwork. The characters fight together. It makes the triumphs and losses all the more impactful. A Japanese RPG beloved by many helped me to realise that.
My dad advised me to watch this one night when it was on telly. I must have been about fifteenor sixteen. It’s funny to think that Peter Jackson is so well known now for the once thought of unfilmable Lord of the Rings movies, when this gem was making the rounds in the early 90’s. Known as Dead Alive in the USA, Braindead is gloriously gruesome. It’s disgusting and shocking and hilarious. It’s great. The lawnmower scene is the kind of moment I wish I could create; a bloody, violent, side splittingly funny visual that perhaps only the New Zealanders could pull off. This scene is something that has definitely stayed with me and I like to retain the humour even during the most violent moments of the Bloodfest series.
Children of Bodom
I stumbled upon Children of Bodom when I was about sixteen years old, somewhere between 2000 and 2001; tuning into a heavy metal radio station on a complete whim at one in the morning. They played Follow the Reaper, the title track from Bodom’s third album.
A little bit of research shows that it was released internationally in February 2001. I was working on the script of the old movie version of Bloodfest at the time, and so this song’s emergence and relevance put a huge smile on my face. It turned me into a fan of the band, and a lot of their songs come to mind when I’m writing even now.
Following their review, today I am interviewed by The Literary Titan on Typhoon of Fire.
“A Creepy Science-Gone-Wrong Scenario…”
In Typhoon of Fire we follow Ace Mcdagger who teams up with Captain Loxwell of November squad to rescue her teammates scattered in the forests of Malaysia. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
During Call of the Conjurer, when the characters were new recruits to the hidden world of modern, magical combat; they spent a lot of time in a regulated, clean environments. The characters were usually safe. I wanted to go the opposite way in Typhoon of Fire. I wanted the situation throughout to be very rough, challenging and dangerous. My very first thought, visually, was of Vietnam era war films like “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now”.
The jungle is wild and hostile, and Malaysia is a location brimming with different environments which greatly inspired the events throughout. The characters explore flat, arid plains and damp rainforests, a rundown laboratory overrun by plants, an abandoned mine, a floating fortress above the clouds… I had a great time using colour schemes to set the mood. The use of natural environments also helped me to emphasise major themes in the book. Subjects such as ‘corruption of life’, ‘man versus nature’ and ‘Hell on Earth’.
I felt that the novel was very well paced and kept me engaged throughout. Did you plan the novel as you wrote or did it all happen organically?
It happened organically, for the most part. From my perspective, Typhoon of Fire is a prequel to another book I have written – but I decided it would be better to publish them chronologically. Certain events had to happen in Typhoon of Fire, and with that in mind I just had fun writing what I wanted: a creepy science-gone-wrong scenario!
Developing the supporting cast and their stories happened organically as well. They were new characters, who would not necessarily be seen again; so their personalities, roles and fates were all blank slates. I enjoyed unravelling these characters, adding little twists to their personalities to surprise the reader. A lot of the characters are very different people by the end of the story, for better or for worse. I suppose in essence, the main plot of Typhoon of Fire was an after thought for me. The subplots, however; the individual character arcs which pave the way for future instalments, are the real meat and bones of the book. Away from all the magic and sci-fi, this is a book about humanity and frailty.
Ace, Shimon, Tiffany, and Loxwell have brilliant dialogue and they feel like living characters. What things did you focus your character development on to bring your characters to life?
I absolutely adore writing flawed characters. I like my characters fumble their dialogue, on occasion, or misunderstand information given to them. It makes them more human, to be far from perfect. I enjoy the concept of the “unreliable protagonist” and bear that in mind when I write. Sometimes the characters make mistakes, and sometimes they lie, even to themselves. They are supposed to be human, despite any super human magical powers they possess. Careful dialogue keeps them grounded and relatable.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
Tricky one! I actually have two books in the proof reading stage now. One is a direct follow up to Typhoon of Fire, called Bloodfest, which was the book I had written before this one but decided to release later. The other book I’ve completed is a supplementary story called The Sardonyc, which focuses on the Science Department mentioned throughout Typhoon of Fire. The Sardonyc is a very different book to what I have written before, but it is still within the same self contained universe.
Bloodfest will be a straight up action horror / macabre comedy, continuing the adventures of Ace Mcdagger. He is more grown up and world weary by now, and is deployed to a mysterious island to dispatch a rising army of the undead. Definitely one for zombie fans!
The Sardonyc is more of a psychological thriller, about a troubled new character named Sidney. He is part of a research team stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean, and everybody is slowly going mad. Sidney must figure out why it is happening before he succumbs as well, and there are plenty of twists along the way.
I hope the Literary Titan will review my next book soon – whichever one is out first!