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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Paul Graham talks about the inspiration behind his new book, In The Shadow They Cast, and his creative writing process.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Paul Graham about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the story of his new book, In The Shadow They Cast.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
An ex-bookseller and ex-computer programmer, currently a teacher of EFL. I was born in Brighton and have lived in Reigate, London, Barcelona and Bournemouth. I now live in Hove. I am the father of two wonderful children both of whom have dogs and partners.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I toyed with the idea for years, but initially couldn’t find a plot I found interesting. I went on a short creative writing course and formed the opinion that I could write as well as or better than the others on the course. That was about 20 years ago. I wrote brief pieces in my notebooks but still doubted if I had a book in me. Finally someone gave me the necessary shove saying “because you have the ideal imagination for it”.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I used to send little pieces of writing to my daughter. She would add to them or change them or reply with ideas of her own. Although we stopped doing that after a while, I re-read them later and realised that the ideas and characters had potential. That was about 15 years ago.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Six years in the writing process plus about one more for editing, proofreading and publication.
What made you want to write In The Shadow They Cast?
I have asked myself more than once why people do things, how they get into a situation that makes them commit cruel or criminal acts. I have also wondered about the consequences of what we do and of their unforeseeable nature. I wanted to create a situation which allowed me to explore the possible causes and effects.
What were your biggest challenges with writing In The Shadow They Cast?
When a character is written, it appears they develop a life of their own. They want to behave consistently. On many occasions solving that problem entailed introducing new characters or new events into someone’s life by way of explanation for their actions. A second significant challenge was presenting information in the right order. Events are interdependent and on many occasions I found myself having to change something because the character and the reader did not yet have the information. The third observation I would make is that as the book advanced and the structure became tighter, errors became increasingly difficult to correct.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
There are two main characters. One developed from the writing game I played with my daughter, as mentioned earlier. The other is based on someone I know who has an uncanny knack for finding out everything.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
There was no one person. The character is a distillation of people I have known and the lives they have lived.
What is the inciting incident of In The Shadow They Cast?
There is not really any one incident, rather the cumulative effect of events and experiences.
What is the main conflict of In The Shadow They Cast?
There are three:
1: The way we misunderstand each other (ie: interpret the messages we receive in a way that suits us which is not necessarily the same as the intended meaning);
2: How little of our lives we control;
3: The impossibility of predicting the consequences of anyone’s actions.
Did you plot In The Shadow They Cast in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I knew the ending when I started writing, what I did not know in detail was how to get there. It was necessary to create lives for the characters and to allow the readers to draw their own conclusions as to the effect what they live through would have on the people involved.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did In The Shadow They Cast need?
The first draft was edited very patiently by a very good friend. It was hard work, because although I considered the book finished there was a huge number of mistakes and inconsistencies, not to mention errors of punctuation. When he had finished and I had implemented his changes the book was very skilfully and professionally edited by Chris Newton (www.chrisnewton.co.uk).
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Read. A lot. Stephen King commented, “If you don’t have time to read you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” I have tried to emulate some of the ways in which a plot twist has been revealed, a character developed or a passage written.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
There are a couple of strands in In the Shadow they Cast which I would like to follow up on, and a couple of hints in the text that might set the reader to wondering. I am working on those in a follow-up book at the moment. Similar to my first novel I know the destination but am as yet unsure of the route.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, I am proud of my achievement. It was very hard work, far harder than I imagined.
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In the Shadow they Cast by Paul Graham is published by Mereo Books (paperback, RRP £15.99) and is available from bookshops and internet booksellers. It is also available as an ebook.
Connect with author Paul Graham:
Facebook: Paul Graham
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