This week I’m delighted to welcome Ceri Williams and Drew Neary Virtual Book Club, my interview series that gives authors the opportunity to pitch their novels to your book club. Ceri and Andrew both live in the Midlands and together, they write under the name, Neary-Williams.
The Clockmaker is their first project together. The intention is that it will be the first in a series of supernatural themed books.
All the stars and a few full moons, too, for this amazing gothic thriller!
The Clockmaker is the story of Annette and her son, Duncan, who are moving to an ancestral home in the highlands of Scotland. It is a tale set during the post-war era and has all of the atmospheric prose of that time period. The house is old, full of creaks and sounds that lend to the overall aura of the book. Of course the house comes with secrets, a somewhat supernatural element and an old man who is full of surprises. As murders begin to happen, Annette starts to wonder how this man is tied in with the murders and the other strange events that the small family is experiencing…
“The Clockmaker offers something for everyone’s tastes: history, horror, supernatural, thrills and suspense. I highly recommend it for all.”
“A fantastically different, slightly dark, very compelling read.”
Q: Writing is usually a lonely occupation – P D James says it’s essential for writers to enjoy their own company. But as co-writers, your situation is a little different. How did your partnership come about and how does it work?
Ceri: It was evident from their initial meetings and the snowballing of ideas that evolved, that we absolutely had to write a novel together. We do write separately on occasion, but the most important aspects and content of the writing and novels come from us blending what we have written, discussions around ideas and next steps, and what we come up with when writing together. We’ve been asked whether it is difficult to write together, and our response has been not at all – in fact, just the opposite.
When we’re co-writing, we are putting into words a dialogue we have with each other. If we cannot physically write together, a really successful method has been sending each other the writing via email and then discussing this, or we just ring up and have a chat.
We find that we have a very strong respect for each other’s ideas and thoughts, and as a result this respect leads to a meshing of quality text.
We blend our contributions during editing, so the text reads as though one person has written it. Readers can’t tell which parts have been written by which writer. Editing together is vital, it allows us to discuss what needs to be changed and or developed.
Drew: I’m definitely not a loner, I much prefer the company of people, admittedly when you are writing you have to get the words on the page which is solitary one-man job; but I write with music, or the radio on and I talk over scenes in my head, so I don’t feel like I am alone. But also when I have written some pages, I talk them over with my children and ask them what they think. My son in particular will always ask what happens next-and this spurs me to write. He is very good at giving feedback and thinking of other scenarios.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Ceri: Our inspiration comes from many aspects of our own styles and interests. Many readers and reviewers have asked where the inspiration for the Constructs (supernatural creatures) came from. The Clockmaker needed supernatural creatures to do violent acts so Drew designed them out of bone, sinew, and a range of materials that would appear frightening. These were the product of Drew’s imagination and came to him one day when he was in the garden looking at a tree that needed pruning.
Drew: My children were running around the garden, and the idea for the character of the clockmaker (who was, at the time, a very minor part of our novel, Optics,) just popped into my head.
Ceri: The unfolding of how the Clockmaker made his plans, his meticulous preparations and macabre creations, all builds up to a series of gruesome, horrific murders. These have just one end in view: his release from that which has held him captive for centuries.
Q: Did you know the ending to your story when you first put pen to paper?
Ceri: No – we have a few vague ideas but the ending will be the result of where the story line takes us, and we are very open to letting the words dictate the unfolding of the story content. The rough events of how The Clockmaker would end came to Andrew about halfway through the writing. Initially it was going to be a standalone novel, but when the ending ‘happened’ we knew then that it had the potential to be a series.
Q: Where is the book set and how did you decide on its setting?
Drew: The book is set in Balmoral in the Scottish highlands, in the village of Lochnagar. Western Scotland is a beautiful country dotted with little villages, with standing stones, mountains, lochs and mists that whisper of ancient secrets and hidden ancient powers waiting to be re- discovered. Powers which the clockmaker seeks to unlock.
Q: Who is the hero of your story?
Ceri: We have several. The clockmaker is in his own way heroic. But his heroism is self-serving. And without giving too much of the plot away-he is both a hero and the anti-hero. The second primary character – Annette, a woman very definitely of her time -1940s – finds heroism within herself when the time demands it.
Drew: Some of the secondary supporting characters demonstrate heroism through their actions.
Q: How do you create distinctly individual supporting characters?
Ceri: The novel has four key characters. As two of the main characters are supernatural – the clockmaker and the dybbuk – in order to provide balance, we felt the need to make Duncan and Annette solid and reliable. So that these primary characters function, we developed a range of secondary characters to reflect 1940’s life in a small Scottish village.
Each character is an individual with a personality, so you match them to the role you want them to play in the narrative. Basing the characters on people you know who have similar occupations, or from similar environments. Because it is historical, we undertook intensive research as well in order to make all the characters believable.
Q: Andrew has already mentioned input from his children. Would you say that being a parent heavily influences your writing?
Ceri: I think when writing about the children and their parents in our story it’s very hard for it not to. Although we would never write about our own children, or base any of the characters on them or ourselves for that matter, as a writer you subconsciously tap into the things that worry you as a parent when it comes to your children and also on the things that bring you joy from your own children.
Q: How important is historical accuracy when writing fiction and how faithfully does your novel stick to the written record?
Drew: Oral history (such as radio interviews) if available is vital for historical accuracy and to give voice to an historical period. For example, details of the Allies and the Soviet invasion of Berlin – all these had to be meticulously researched using various reference sources. We also researched things such as what type of trains were Annette and Duncan likely to travel on as well as the day to day details of how people lived without going into too much minute detail. We thought an excess of detail would overburden the story, but you have to have enough for it to be believable. The historical aspects of the novel are props rather than the fine detail and point of the novel.
Q: Who designed your book cover and what brief did you give them?
Ceri: Ana Priscila Rodriguez Aranda. Priscila Rodriguez was born in Mexico City and now lives in The Netherlands.
Drew: Although her background is fine art, she discovered the magic of antique photographs and old papers left behind in flea markets, which she’s been obsessively collecting for more than a decade. The fascination for the old and the forgotten are key elements of her work and the stories she tells. The Clockmaker is actually her first venture into book cover design. The atmosphere of the novel and the nature her “time based” visuals are the perfect match.
Q: How did you feel when you finished writing the novel? Were there any particular characters you found it hard to let go of?
Ceri: At first we were relieved and proud that we had finally got it to the point where we knew we were ready to publish. But Drew, after that initial exhilaration faded, began to miss the characters.
Drew: “I wonder what Duncan and Annette are doing today?” As writers, we immerse ourselves so deeply with the characters we are birthing, that it’s a wrench when you know you won’t write them again (some of them!) Ceri was responsible for being the voice of Annette – and when she finished writing the character, she couldn’t wait to see the back of her!
Q: What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?
Drew: This one of those books where you feel great sympathy for the main characters and their struggles which grabs you and takes you along for the ride (or read). A young mother and son flee to the country from war-torn London to seek peace, and find duplicity and the sinister twisted revenge of the clockmaker.
Ceri: Readers pay for a book. We want to make sure that the purchase is worth their while for the following reason s- that when they sit down, they are escaping into the world we have created. That they enjoy visiting and spending time with the characters. That they can love them, loathe them but find the characters 3-dimensional and identifiable. And when they close the book for the final time, a small bit of the characters and the journey they were on, remain in their thoughts. And at the end of the day that the reader can say, hand on heart, I enjoyed that book and I’m glad I bought it.
Q:What is your current writing project?
Ceri: We’re currently engaged on two projects. Optics – from which the character of the clockmaker emerged, and The Perfect Child.
Optics is the next in the series following The Clockmaker. As a novel it contains a range of tight knit genres similar to The Clockmaker. The primary genre is dystopian fantasy. Based in the future on another world- the Beast has risen from the pit and slain God. A supernatural artefact gathers together a group of rebellious slave workers in an attempt to break the Beasts rule.
Q: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Ceri: If you feel you have a story in you, go ahead and write. Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, spelling or any thing that strangles your creative flow.
Never ever give up. Have a good group of people around you who will read what you have written and give you honest constructive feedback. We had a range of people (of all ages) who gave us sound critical advice that we could follow if we thought it appropriate. And be prepared to “murder your darlings” and be ruthless with your editing.
Q: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/ceriw1497/
If there’s anything else you’d like to ask either Ceri or Drew please leave a comment.
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