It's great to have the elusive cheeky chap, Danny Weston, on the blog once again talking about his latest novel "Mr Sparks". This is a spooky killer read featuring the best character in a book that I've read in a long time. Just look at that winning face. You'll soon find yourself dazzled by his good looks and humour. Look into my eyes reader and you will do as you're told......
What inspired you to write Mr Sparks?
After such positive reactions to The Piper, (it’s shortlisted for the Scottish Book Awards) I wanted to do something fairly creepy… and I asked myself ‘what is the single thing in the world that most freaks you out?’ And the answer came back, ‘ventriloquist’s dummies!’ There’s just something about them… those horrible grins, those glassy eyes that seem to suggest they know much more than they really should. The idea grew from that starting point.
How did Mr Sparks as a character evolve in the writing process?
Well, I wanted a character that you can’t really help liking. A reader needed to identify with Owen, the young boy who ends up risking everything for Charlie Sparks. And in order to do that, the reader has to care about Charlie too. But of course, once he’s established, then I start to introduce the less appealing aspects of his character. And you begin to realise why he’s been around as long as he has… that he’ll do what he has to in order to survive.
What did you learn most from writing your second published book?
Ah, the ‘difficult second novel!’ Well, I wanted the book to be quite different than The Piper and I believe I’ve achieved that. I don’t know if I learned anything other than the fact that I like writing spooky stories and I intend to do more of them.
How much research do you do in preparation for writing a book?
Every book is different. This one is set just after the First World War and the historical background must be accurate. Luckily, the internet is a wonderful research tool and the answers to most questions are only a couple of clicks away.
How have you found working with illustrators and cover designers?
To be honest, I don’t have a lot of input into that. I usually get sent a rough sketch for approval. So far, I’ve been incredibly lucky with my covers. James Fraser, who did both of them, really knows how to create a striking image.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them if they are good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews, even though I suspect it’s not a great idea. Happily, they are usually positive. On the rare occasion that I get a bad one, I never respond to it, no matter how unfair I think it is. At the end of the day the reader is entitled to his or her opinion. Responding to it just makes you look needy.
How would Mr Sparks respond to a good or bad book review?
Charlie would deal with a bad review in the most severe fashion. The reviewer would end up regretting his or her words. A good review? He’d just say, ‘yes, of course!’ He’s his own biggest fan.
What tips would Mr Sparks have for anyone seeking a life in entertainment?
1. Always ensure you outlive your partner.
2. Keep an eye open for a young replacement.
3. Get them on your side quickly – then start laying down the law.
4. When time comes to go your separate ways, don’t be sentimental. Be like Henry VIII – always chopping and changing!
What do you think makes a good story?
Interesting characters. You can have the most amazing plot ever, but unless you fill it with fascinating, conflicted characters then you have something that nobody wants to read.
Are you currently involved in any writing projects that you can tell us about?
I am currently trying to generate some interest in a stage/screen adaptation of The Piper – and I have started work on a new novel called The Haunting of Jessop Rise. As the title may suggest, it’s another ghost story.