Your next book, Gallows At Twilight, follows on directly from Dawn Of The Demontide, doesn’t it?
Yeah, I’m trying to ramp it all up really, take all of the things that worked in Dawn Of The Demontide and just make them a bit more epic. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but you’ve got time travel via Egyptian scarab beetles, there’s zombie civil war soldiers and all kinds of nastiness like that, but I think basically it’s just that kind of continuation of the story – we’ve now got the Demonfather released from Hell, and he’s trying to smash through dimensional barriers in order to bring his dark children to this world, and it’s really up to this small band of fighters, led by Jake, to stop him. I think a lot of readers, once they’ve finished Dawn Of The Demontide, think that they know the secret of Jake’s identity and all that kind of stuff, but there’s little clues peppered throughout the books, and I’m just finishing up the last one now where all is revealed. That’s not a very good plot summary, is it? I’m awful at those. We ramp up the peril, though; in this one we discover that the British Government has been infiltrated by dark witches as well, and the Demonfather’s witch is high up in there as well. It’s looking a bit grim.
Were you pleased with how the first was received?
Yeah, it was brilliant. I was really pleased actually, because it was my first children’s book, after doing a couple of adult horror books. When you do your first one – I did a lot of background research in terms of tone in children’s horror – it’s kind of like walking that line between being thrilling enough for the kids, but you’re not stepping over the boundaries of what’s acceptable. But what I found interesting when I did this research was how much you can push the horror envelope with kids’ stuff now. I found it really refreshing – decapitations, the mass slaughter of children’s families is fine now. But it was a brilliant reception and it’s kind of gratifying because there was a point where I finished the first book and I thought brilliant, this is all working. Writers are generally a paranoid bunch, I call it the Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome, where I think even the most successful writer walks around thinking one day everyone will go, ‘This isn’t that good actually, and I will be exposed as being terrible.’ But the reception has been wonderful.
Is it a different experience from adult book promotional events, where you’re just signing books?
Well I do events with adult books, readers groups, and you can go through the whole event and not be sure whether the people in the room like what you’ve written or not, because adults don’t give anything away. Then they’ll come up at the end and say they enjoyed it. But with kids’ events, it’s an honest, emotional event – if it’s rubbish, they’ll tell you straight away, but what’s been gratifying is during readings I’ll do a jump moment where I just scream at them about five minutes in, and they all jump out of their seats. And at the end where they’re all whooping, you’re not going to get that from adult events. That’s what’s great about writing kids’ books – they’re not going to go in-depth with analysing events and what works
and doesn’t work, they just know.
Witchfinder: Gallows At Twilight is on sale from 6 January priced £6.99 courtesy of Oxford University Press.