A privilege of my work as a book reviewer is to get acquainted with the authors of the books I read. Here is Simon Thould about his first published novel, Dark Water. Thank you for giving us the back story! See my Dark Water review a few posts back.
1. How much of Dark Water is based on your own experience and on Southampton area?
I lived in a small cottage in The New Forest for six months in the 80’s and nearby Southampton for a number of years. I kept a horse for a while on the edge of the Forest and it is one of my favourite places in England. The scenery at any time of year is very atmospheric and dramatic and a great inspiration for me. I find it quite amazing to think that, once you get off the established trails, you could be walking where no one has set foot before. I therefore have a good knowledge of Southampton where I have worked and lived. I had army training at school for four years and got my Army Proficiency Certificates to be able to command a rifle platoon in case of a national emergency. Like Rafter, I am adept at map reading, weapons handling (rated as a ‘Marksman’) and being self-sufficient.
2. Describe your writing process: do you write at certain times of day or for certain lengths of time? Do you write in chronological order or as scenes come to you?
My writing process starts when an idea comes to me about a subject I am interested in and my mind goes, ‘What if?’ It can be just something seen or heard and a story starts to develop almost unconsciously. I then find pictures of actual people ( famous or not – the US actor Dylan McDermott ‘is’ Rafter. I sent his agent in LA details to see if he would like to make a movie but no reply to date. Not sure if I sent it to the right place!)) that look like who my characters are. Then I write extensive ‘character charts’ for the main people and do deep research into every aspect of them and the location, situations, etc. Once I have and know my characters, I plan the beginning of the plot following the theme/s I want, chapter one in a few lines, the whole story to be about 80,000 words in chapters of 1,000 words or so. When at that stage, I will write in the mornings, 1,000 words a day, put down notes for the next chapter to write the next day and so on, as the story largely tells itself. I find that as I know my characters so well, I put them in situations and just watch and listen, then write it down. I am a great fan of Elmore Leonard and try to follow his ’10 rules of writing’ which produces stories of the type I like to read.
3. I became endeared to Rafter very quickly. How did his character develop?
Rafter came into being from the main character in the first full-length novel I wrote waaay back, and grew from my third story to be the Rafter in Dark Water. I wanted to show how difficult it is for ex-servicemen to adapt to civilian life after many years as a soldier without much in the way of support. It is a subject largely ignored by the Government here which annoys me and I hoped that my character would, in Dark Water, show how hard it is to lose the, ‘battlemind’, mentality. I did copious research into these problems which I tried to work into Rafter’s behaviour. His saving of Lonely is a kind of parallel to his own life and the dog becomes a reflection of Rafter himself – a lost soul in need of saving. I guess that I am drawn to the ‘man who walks alone’ type of personality as an introvert myself and very happy with my own company. In some ways, Rafter is the man I’d like to be.
4. Did you do much research into human trafficking or the Hell’s Angels?
As I mention above, I do extensive research before writing starts and there were, unfortunately, many newspaper articles about trafficking and drugs in the Southampton area that I gleaned from online investigation. Likewise with the Hell’s Angels, although they seem to have been a part of society for a long time and in recent years, in the UK anyway, their reputation has been improving. They recently helped arrange, and provided transport for, a special ‘Prom’ night party’ for a young girl who was afraid to go to the real one due to previous extensive bullying at school.
Simon was born in Somerset, England, where he went to public school and played rugby and cricket with more enthusiasm than he studied. He later managed to qualify as a chartered surveyor and practised for over twenty years in both public and private sectors in London and the south of England. Simon completed two Creative Writing night school courses and a Writers’ Bureau correspondence course in his spare time. He also worked as a restaurant and bar manager in Hampshire before moving with his two black cats to a mountain farmhouse in Andalusia, southern Spain for a year and a half. There he wrote his first novel.
He moved back to the UK and worked as a resident housekeeper and groom in Kent and wrote a second novel.
Then he relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, USA for several years and worked in warehouse stock control, sold insurance and then artwork in a downtown gallery. Returning to the UK once more, he worked as a postman and in several retail positions and wrote a third unpublished novel.
Simon moved to the island of Gozo in 2014 and wrote, ‘DarkWater’, a thriller introducing Alex Rafter. After a lifetime of rejections from publishers and agents with only minor success with magazine articles, Simon made a final push to try and get published. He sent the synopsis and three chapters to more than fifty UK agents before being lucky enough to be taken on by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency in London. ‘Dark Water’ is being published in August 2017.
Simon’s passions, other than writing, are reading hard-boiled, noir novels, watching classic movies, travel and following National Hunt horse racing. He has been married twice and has a daughter, Lucy. He currently lives in Almunecar on the Andalusian coast and has just completed the first draft of a second, ‘Alex Rafter’ novel.