Clubhouse Guest Chat: Neil Walker

Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit the clubhouse is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.

Welcome to the clubhouse, Neil. What would you like to drink?

Thanks Paula for inviting me to the tearoom.  I’ll have either a pot of tea, two sugars and milk or a cold pint of Coors lager, thanks.

Now our drinks have arrived let me start by asking you When you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre? 

Well, Paula, my chosen genre’s should be Sci-fi and Fantasy but I end up going off and writing stories in other genre’s.  Horror is the main genre I’ve written, including a few zombie stories.  I’ve also dabbled in crime with stories about serial killers and even historical stories set on the D:Day landings.   Back to my chosen genre, I’m writing a Sci-fi novel now. What first drew me to Fantasy and Sci-fi is that they are the books I read the most of and love.  There’s nothing better than escaping to different fantastic worlds where anything can happen. 2020 is a great time to escape into them too. I first had a taste for the fantastic when I was in primary school and Mrs Yates read to us “The Dark is Rising” books. Also with Sci-fi and Fantasy you can make things up, creatures, lands, magic and names and there is little or no research involved.

The Amazing Neil Walker

What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?

I think I’m quite good at writing action scenes and some character work.  Although it’s hard to say because I keep having big breaks between my writing and so should be more consistent.  I joined Cleckheaton Writing Group in 2012 and not fully wrote a novel.  Although I was published in their Anthology – Reflections. I would like to work more on dialogue.  Especially different characters dialogue and different points of views.  Plus my grammar and punctuation need tiny bit of work on also.  I’m ok at scene setting but feel this could be improved.  I’ll  just have to keep practicing. 

Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?

I’ve actually two projects on the go.  Firstly a novella called The Cubbyhole.  A ghost story inspired by a Cubbyhole I had in my childhood home which terrified me, so hardly went in.  I started the story a couple of years ago so want to finish it this October. The second project is a Sci-fi novel I started three years ago which I want to finish soon – well first draft anyway.  It’s called Colony X where a military space unit are sent to a colony world where we have lost contact.  Think a cross between Babylon 5 and Alien with other bits thrown in.

How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?

Have started about two unfinished novels.  A vampire novel and a serial killer novel which I may go back to one day?  Think most of my short stories finished.

Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? If you write short stories do you plan your story or let the characters lead you?

Usually once I get an idea it usually is a start to a story or the ending.  Then in my head I flesh it out with characters, main and sub plots, action scenes.  Then if I remember I will write down a synopsis and character bios.  Then comes a timeline and basic notes on each scene.  This is because when I start writing the story more ideas pop up so I change things as I write.  Sometimes the notes I’ve written are nothing like the end product.

Choosing only five of your favourite authors? Can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?

This will mainly be fantasy authors here.

David Gemmell – Heroric fantasy author – my all time favourite author and underrated at the moment on Booktubes on YouTube. But he was quite big in the nineties and 2000s. He even got an award ceremony named after him which sadly finished in 2018.  It was David’s flawed and grey characters which influenced me, plus his eye for action putting you into a battle.  He also had some good female characters too.

JRR Tolkien – As a fantasy geek, this one is obvious.  He’s the great grandfather of fantasy whom without we may never have got this genre. What influenced me is his world building. Creating a huge world like Middle Earth complete with species, languages and history. Plus his character work is good also. Maybe one day I will create a world as immersive as his. Fingers crossed. 

Joe Abercrombie – Similar to David Gemmell in that he writes heroric and gritty fantasy.  I’ve only read two of Joe’s books and his work has impressed me. His fantasy is more grim and dark – grimdark – and his characters are even more flawed than David Gemmell’s with no good or evil. What influenced me as well as his character work is his prose. Easy to read yet detailed.  His books fly by.

Terry Pratchett – I’ve read a few of Terry’s books. Some of his Discworld books took a bit of getting into but some like The Truth were fast reads and hilarious. Comedy fantasy at it’s best with great satire. Terry influenced me not only because of his wit and satire in the books but his eagerness to carry on.  Even when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s he produced many books before he passed and possibly wrote them faster.

Helen Cadbury – I met Helen at the Cleckheaton Literature Festivals a few years back. Sadly she has gone too soon but was friendly and offered me writing advice both face to face and on messenger. I’ve read her Sean Denton books and very impressed as before I wasn’t a big crime fan. Her books are easy reads and set quite local. She has influenced me with her advice and her writing and sadly only wrote three novels.  She would have written many more and grown as she went on. Plus before her death there was talk of a TV series based on her books.

Other mentions include David Eddings, Graham Greene, Susan Cooper and Sue Townsend.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

When I’m actually writing I don’t have a strict work schedule. I should have then I’d probably finish my novels.  When I write I try to get to an end of a big scene or end of a chapter before I have a rest.  Whether this takes me half an hour to a full day I will get it done. So I don’t set a word count but should write for more hours.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Well no. Although looking on Amazon there is a Neil Walker who has self published some thriller books so I suppose I will have to change my author name now. Maybe to Neil C Walker or N C Walker. I’m not sure yet? Any suggestions? 

(I think putting initials does help a lot, that’s why I used mine.)

How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?

Most I make up out the top of my head especially if it’s a fantasy or sci-fi story as you can’t have a Bert going around riding dragons. It wouldn’t feel or look right.  The only problem with that is that I’ve found myself repeating names or borrowing from books.  I usually have a vague idea about them to fit the story like name, looks and some back story.  The rest comes as I write although I wish I created characters like Joe Abercrombie or David Gemmell.

If it is a horror or crime story or set in our world and I’m stuck for names I nip over the road to the local cemetary and borrow names from there. Usually mixing the names up.

What was your hardest scene to write?

It was for a D-Day landing story called “Photographic Memory”. Where the main character landed on the beaches to storm the Germans but with explosions got she’ll shock.  So behind a rock he’s looking at his family photo remembering them and so there are flashbacks into his life. I had to do quite a bit of research for that. Which beaches were stormed by who, hair styles of the day, weapons used.  It was quite fascinating yet scary what they went through. Although the hardest scene was when he got snapped out of the shell shock and had to advance the beach terrified yet had to fulfill his duty with mines going off, friends blown up, being shot at. It was a huge action scene and gory too as it would be then.

Well thanks for having me, Paula. The tearoom was a pleasure. 

It was lovely having you join me today. I hope you will stay and finish your tea.

To find out more about Neil’s writing and books check out his blog

It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.

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