Happy Halloween

I’m going to be away for Halloween so I’m posting a little early. Here is my Halloween Celebration post including a guest post and interview with Jack Croxall and review of his book, X. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Halloween Guest blog – Jack Croxall

Image of Jack Croxall

I love Halloween. Not just because of the fancy dress and mischievous hijinks, but because of all the spooky stories that rear their creepy heads to give us goose bumps, shudders and, most importantly, that little something extra to think about. A gory supernatural horror is all well and good, but I find a spooky tale is all the more unsettling if it is driven by something real; by a theme or character we can relate to, or even by a situation we recognise from real life.

Throughout the beginning of this year, I’d been mulling a horror story over in my mind constantly. I had a character, a claustrophobic setting and an unforgiving menace, but no actual theme – no real point to the story. Luckily though, I got one idea and just ran with it. That true-to-life idea turned out to be the very thing that gave the story meaning, and turned it into a tale worth telling. The story is called X and you can read an extract from it below:

“What follows is the contents of a journal, found in the basement of a farmhouse somewhere in the English countryside.

I spend all of my daylight hours in this musty old cellar now. It’s woeful, and I bet it smelled this bad even before everything turned to crap. Great. My second sentence and I’ve already resorted to swear words. When I decided I’d start this diary (five minutes ago) I thought it would be my poetic and deeply-moving goodbye to the world. Maybe I’d write about love and loss, or maybe even the splendour of nature. Then, if anyone ever found it, at least I’d have left something to be remembered by. As well as my corpse, of course.

This was a bad idea.”

Interview with Jack Croxall, Author of X.

 What made you want to be an author?

 I got my first taste of writing whilst at studying university. I wrote a few articles for student publications and websites which was great fun and an immensely educational experience. I suppose I was immediately bitten by the writing bug and, as soon as I left, I signed up to study communication at postgraduate level to better my writing skills. Unfortunately, a term into the course I was struck down with glandular fever and suddenly left with a lot of free time on my hands whilst I recovered. I had always felt I had books in me so I sat down with the laptop and Tethers and X were the results

Do you have a favourite author/book?

Like most readers, I have too many favourites to name! At the moment I’m reading through the Benny Imura series and I absolutely love those. I also recently read an exceptional book called Into That Forest – I still think about that one all the time.

What would you say is your biggest inspiration?

I find music is really good as an inspirational tool, but, really, just the things that happen in everyday life are what fuel my process the most. Simple things like arguments you might overhear, or seeing someone laughing; these ‘normal’ things are what books need to have in them otherwise people just aren’t going to be able to relate to your story.

Your debut novel, Tethers, has been compared to Philip Pullman’s work, how do you feel about that?

Astounded! My stuff isn’t really in the same league as Pullman’s writing, but to hear my story and characters mentioned in the same breath as his is a complement that can’t really be topped!

Both of your books have received a lot of praise, are you happy with the feedback you’ve received?

Very. The response has been incredible, especially as I originally thought maybe only two or three people would actually read anything I wrote! I always take the time to read reader/reviewers comments – not just because it’s so lovely to read nice things about your work, but because I can learn so much about what people want from the story. The ability to listen to constructive criticism is important for any writer I think.

Are you working on anything now, if so, what can you tell us about it?

I’m writing two books right now! One is Unwoven, which is the sequel to Tethers, and the other Is called Wye. It’s a story from the same world as X and, just like its predecessor, it’s written in journal format. I don’t really want to reveal too much at the moment because I’m not that far into it, but I will just say that it’s set about a year after the events of X.

For you, what is the most important aspect of a book?

The characters! Personally, I need someone to get behind and relate to. My favourite writers create characters I would follow even in a book about the weekly shop or something mundane like that!

What would you like to see more of in the writing world?

That’s a really interesting question. I think it would be really helpful to have more accessible avenues for new talent to get spotted as, currently, if you can’t spare the time to devote to serious, and I really mean serious, promotion, then you won’t get anywhere. I dread to think how many great writers are struggling with this problem.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

 Firstly, I would say read as widely as you can – not exclusively books from the genre you intend to write in. I’m not only talking about fiction either; blogs, newspaper articles, pamphlets, menus, billboards, DVD boxes, E-mails, all can be sources of great writing – you need to absorb as much of it as you can. Secondly, get involved with the larger writing community. With social networking it’s never been easier and most writers and readers really are wonderfully supportive. I’ve found talking to fellow bookish types incredibly helpful so, get involved; my twitter handle is @JackCroxall, if you’re interested, add me for a chat!

Review of X by Jack Croxall.

 So, this is the first book I’ve read by Jack Croxall and to be honest I quite enjoyed it. I was excited by the concept that it’s a diary which has been found, so because of this, the only narrative you have is what “X” decides to write. You get to piece the story together from what she tells you and the rest is up to your imagination.

Now, I do have a pretty good imagination with books, I can visualise characters and surrounding pretty well. However, that does not take away from the fact that this book has as much description as a book of this genre needs. If you’re reading someone’s diary you can’t expect script, you can’t expect a lot of description. If you do expect a lot of description and character development then I’d love to see your diary, it must be a masterpiece!

Keeping it simple has worked really well in this instance and it doesn’t feel like anything is missing. There is enough feeling on certain entries to make you realise that she’s feeling regret and sadness, and then on the other hand you can see that she’s trying to be light hearted so she can cope with what’s going on around her.

 The nicest thing about this book I think is that there are no dates on the diary entries and nothing that could really date it fast. The thing I hate is when books date themselves within seconds.

 I’m looking forward to reading more of Croxall’s work and by the sounds of it, I had better get reading because he’s working on more!

 5/10

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