Darren Craske began writing and illustrating comic books before his first published novel THE EQUIVOQUE PRINCIPLE in 2009. He has since gone on to write more books in The CORNELIUS QUAINT CHRONICLES the series, with books 4 and 5 both due out in 2013. Darren is also the author of the mad-as-a-box-of-frogs-comedy-science-fiction-adventure-in-space-with-musical-numbers, ABOVE HIS STATION, and its sequel BEFORE HIS TIME, with the next book BEYOND HIS YEARS due to be released later in 2013. By his own admission, Darren has a vivid imagination and even he sometimes wonders if maybe he should just go and find a dark corner to sit in for a bit.
1. Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from a cocktail of comic books, movies, books, music and generally living in a dream world for most of my childhood. I grew up watching the Star Wars films, James Bond, Star Trek - anything with a bit of escapism in it that would take me out of the real world. A therapist would probably have a field day analyzing my psyche!
2. Did you have to do any research for your books? If so what?
I actually had to do a fair bit of research when writing the Cornelius Quaint novels, as they are set (at the moment) in the Victorian era. It’s a nightmare writing dialogue from that period as you have to look into all sorts of idioms and phrases that have crept into the English language over the generations, to make sure that you’re not putting stuff in that won’t have been around at the time.
I remember when writing The Equivoque Principle (set in 1853) I needed to have my characters trapped in a giant fridge - so then I had to research the entire history of refrigeration, seeking that one little shred of evidence that would prove their existence. I have a fabulous copy-editor for the Quaint series that has worked with me ever since book 2, The Eleventh Plague, and she has an amazing knowledge for language so she always steers me in the right direction.
I also had to do a bit of research for Above His Station, as the MC is a guard on the Underground, and at one point I had to research how to drive a train. Other stuff too, such as London landmarks and the history of the London Underground.
For the sequel, Before His Time, I did a great deal of research into traditional Swiss folklore (seeing as it’s set in Switzerland and everything) and I had a lot of fun doing that, manipulating legends to suit my own needs, playing about with recognizable tropes that I could weave into the plot.
3. What are you working on now?
The concluding part of the first arc of The Cornelius Quaint Chronicles comes out in March with The Romulus Equation, and it also marks the end of my four book contract with The Friday Project/HarperCollins. I have decided to continue the Chronicles via the self-publishing route, which has not only reinvigorated my love for writing, but also enabled me to get around to finishing off plenty of books that have sat gathering dust on my hard drive for years.
With the advent (and sheer accessibility) of self-publishing, I can now release books as and when I decide, and not to a schedule set by the publisher - which can sometimes be years after the book is actually completed. Now I have freedom to write whatever I want and release it whenever I want.
The start of a new direction for Cornelius Quaint begins later in 2013 with the release of book 5 in the series, The Monarch Key - which continues a thread that I intentionally put into book 3, The Lazarus Curse, so that I could pick up on it at a later date. I have also fully plotted out books 6, 7 and 8…all I have to do is find the time to write them! Once I have finished the first draft of The Monarch Key, I will be starting work on the sequel to Above His Station and Before His Time, which is titled Beyond His Years.
I think that I’ve finally understood what kind of writer I am, and I plan to release one Quaint book per year, plus another featuring the cast of Above His Station, and maybe (just maybe) I’ll find time to complete a project that has been gestating in one form or another for about 8 years now!
4. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Easily without a shadow of a doubt is the time it takes to get a printed book published. This was especially excruciating when my books were released annually by my publisher, meaning that I was usually two or three books ahead.
5. What can readers expect next?
More twisty-turny adventures with a supernatural flavour from The Cornelius Quaint Chronicles - as well as more madcap hilarity via the Above His Station series. I had always intended it to be a trilogy, but I found myself falling in love with the characters so much that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say goodbye to them forever. I could quite happily write about the Station Guard and his foul-mouthed rodent companion until I am far too old to type.
6. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview and how would you answer that question?
Gosh…well, I think that this question is probably the one that I have always wanted to be asked, yet as no one ever has, I have never had the opportunity to formulate an answer! I think your questions pretty much cover all the right places, giving the author a chance to wax lyrical about their body of work, as well as expand their responses to shed a bit more light on themselves as a character.
Is that a cop out??
7. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
“Waving At Strangers: the life story of Darren Craske, struggling author ‘til his last breath”
8. Who is your favorite author?
Bloody good question - but I could never choose just one. My favourite authors are Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman and Eoin Colfer.
9. What is your guilty pleasure?
1980’s pop classics.
10. Highest point of your writing career?
Another good question, and in some respects I don’t think I’ve reached it yet - I possibly never will, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.
I think one of the highlights early in my career was probably when The Equivoque Principle was first released and I had to sign 1000 limited edition hardback copies back in about 2006/7. That was the first time that I felt like a ‘proper writer’. And getting a review in The Times, followed by the joy of seeing my book in the Top 100 paperbacks in my local branch of WHSmiths. I used to sneak into Waterstone’s and muck about with their shelves to bring all my books to the front.
11. Advice for aspiring authors?
Things have changed a lot since I was first starting out, desperately trying to get published, spending more time researching agents’ and publishers’ submission guidelines than actually writing anything. Back then, being offered a contract by a major publisher was a real achievement. It meant that you had passed one of the hardest tests of all, and now surely you were destined for super-stardom and mega-bucks, with the major film companies banging down your door to buy the rights.
It doesn’t actually work like that, sorry to spoil the surprise.
Sending out submissions to agents and publishers is an arduous task, and every rejection letter you receive feels like another knife in your stomach. But no one is holding a gun to your head. You can quit. You can give it up and take up baking bread for a hobby instead. But we don’t, us authors. We believe in our ideas, they are our babies, and we have read enough books to know that our work can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best authors out there. So we start a brand new page and we begin again; continue editing that germ of an idea to get it just right, or start a brand new project, trying to type whilst simultaneously crossing our fingers - which is not as easy as it sounds. Nowadays, due to self-publishing, anyone can publish their book. It’s a lot easier…but where is the pain? Where is the rejection? What lessons have you learned? How have you grown as a writer? Where is the level of achievement if you have never suffered for your art?
The best advice that I can give is that just because you can publish your own book, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should - at least until you have followed the 3 Golden Rules.
1. Write - first draft’s are sexy things. Everything’s so new. You are exploring your Main Character and cast, you are fleshing them out, breathing life into them with every line of dialogue, every action and reaction. Focus on getting your idea onto the page. Don’t give a damn about typos, sentence structure, grammar or punctuation. You can fix them later.
2. Edit - you always hear this when authors give out advice, because it’s so true. You will read your book countless times before it actually gets published and every single time you will spot an error, or a line that you could have done differently, or perhaps one single word that makes you reevaluate the entire plot. Guaranteed. Don’t fight it. You haven’t done anything wrong. Making mistakes is perfectly acceptable and it is the only way that you will learn.
3. Re-Edit - especially in today’s world of self-publishing, the two biggest areas of criticism labeled at us is a lack of a good edit, and crappy cheap Photoshop’d covers. Both are within your control to fix. I always spend at least 2 - 3 weeks editing my books. Re-reading them over and over again. But sometimes you come across a chapter, or a paragraph that you remember writing so clearly. You absolutely love it to death. You’ve read it hundreds of times and it’s still awesome. But don’t let what you think the words are in your head blind you to the actual words on the page. Something will always slip through the net. By taking the time to Edit and Re-Edit you are risk managing the potential for errors - even if you might not be able to eradicate them completely.
12. Last song that was stuck in your head?
The last song that was stuck in my head (and still is) is “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift. I recently had a dream where I was, shall we say “romantically involved” with Taylor Swift, but she didn’t look much like Taylor Swift really. She started off as Taylor Swift, but then her face seemed to change into someone else’s as the dream went on. Dreams are like that, aren’t they? They don’t follow the rules of reality, in which - to the best of my knowledge - not only do I tend not to get “romantically involved” with famous (and super-rich) pop stars, but people’s faces generally don’t morph into a complete stranger’s during the course of a relationship. In my experience, anyway…