Hi Tom, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? Thanks for the invitation, Laura. I live in Brighton, on the sunny south coast of the UK, and after quite a varied career and some time as a house husband, I was lucky enough to become a writer about ten years ago. It was an ambition I’d had since very early childhood, and I went through many, many years of submitting work and getting nowhere before I finally broke through.
What are your ambitions for your writing career? I’m incredibly fortunate in being able to write full-time, and since I’m at an age where I’m virtually unemployable in any other field, my main ambition is to go on earning a living from making up stories! I’m also determined that each book should be better than the last, and I would love a chance to write in other genres such as horror, YA and fantasy.
So, what have you written? I’m the author of seven novels, almost all of them standalone thrillers, somewhat in the vein of Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay and Simon Kernick. I like to write about ordinary people whose lives are suddenly pitched into chaos.
What is your most recent novel? In 2016 I had two novels published: ALL FALL DOWN is the story of a family whose Sunday afternoon barbecue comes to an abrupt halt when a dying man stumbles into their garden. In trying to help him, they become the targets of a gang of very twisted individuals. In SEE HOW THEY RUN a couple with a young baby, Harry and Alice French, wake to discover masked intruders in their bedroom, demanding to know the whereabouts of a man called Renshaw. They deny knowing anything, but the truth is a little more complicated, and soon Alice and Harry are separated, and in a race to save their lives.
What genre are your books? Crime and thriller.
What draws you to this genre? What I’ve written has always been closely related to what I most enjoy reading, and that tends to be exciting, well-written popular fiction. My first love as a reader was science fiction and fantasy, then I became a big fan of horror fiction – Stephen King was a huge influence on me – and then as the horror genre lost popularity in the 1980s I found I was reading more and more crime fiction and thrillers.
When did you decide to become a writer? It’s been a lifelong ambition, practically. At the age of seven I learned that there were people whose job was to write stories, and I clearly remember thinking: “That’s what I want to do!”
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? I tend to walk or cycle to a cafe in the mornings and work there for several hours, with further bouts of writing in the evening and late at night, so basically any time and anywhere!
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? I try to get a minimum of 1000 words per day, but more often it’s around 1500-2000.
Where do your ideas come from? Everywhere! And that’s not a trite answer – I think once you set your brain the task of automatically thinking “What if…?” about any given scenario, then ideas for stories can come from everything you see and hear and read.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? I’ve done both, with varying results. I like the freedom of dreaming up a good opening sequence, then launching into the story with no real idea of where it’s going. But in a world of tight deadlines, that can be a very risky proposition, so I’m trying to plan out a lot more than I used to – and with the book I’ve just finished, I found that to be an incredibly enjoyable experience.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? It generally takes around four or five months to produce a (messy) first draft of around 120,000 words, and then another couple of months to get it into a readable shape, whereupon it goes to my editor and agent – and then usually another two or three months for the various stages of editing.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? That’s a difficult one, and probably better answered by someone with an outside perspective. I feel I’ve learned a lot about the techniques of thriller writing, such as being able to seed a story with the kind of unanswered questions that make the reader want to turn the page. I also think my writing took a big step forward when I understood just how much the reader brings to a story. Writing fiction really is a two-way process, with the reader’s imagination being just as important as the writer’s – that’s why, for example, it only takes the briefest description of a character to be able to visualise that person.
Do you read much and if so which writers inspire you? I read a lot, mostly in the crime genre, though I also like to read quite a bit of non-fiction – biographies, history, etc. There are so many writers I admire that it always feels unfair to start listing them, so I’m going to dodge that question!
What is your favourite book and why? I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to a single book, but one that had a huge impact on me when I read it – as a sixteen year old – was The White Hotel by DM Thomas. An absolutely stunning literary novel that shocked and amazed me in a way that no other book has ever done.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? The Silence of the Lambs – it’s an amazingly well-written, exciting thriller, and it led to thousands of imitations: if I’d written that I’d be hugely popular, critically acclaimed and very, very rich!
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Read voraciously, don’t look back once you’ve started a book – you’ll only get discouraged – and once you’ve finished, let the manuscript settle for a while, then rewrite and rewrite until it’s as good as you can make it.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included? I don’t think so. That was a great range of questions.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Bale/e/B002LFKZCA
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview. Thank you!