In my younger years, I read quite a bit of horror. King, Straub, and Koontz were my go-to authors. While I write thriller-crime-mystery, and while the subjects I sometimes tackle can be horrifying, I don’t think I can be classified as a horror writer.
I have been intrigued by J.T. Atkinson for quite a while now. First of all, his book covers are fabulous. Eye-catching. Intriguing. Bold. But I became a fan because of the topics he writes about. I think you’ll find this interview fascinating, and I hope you might discover another author to read and enjoy.
How did you become an author?
I was always writing at school; I used to drive my teachers mad by writing several stories a week and then asking them for them to be marked! I just loved telling stories, and I had so many trying to find a way out. As I got older, the need to write just grew. My first book took me forever to write, but finishing it remains one of the greatest achievements of my life and paved the way for what has and will follow!
What genre do you write, and why that particular genre?
My first book was general fiction. But, as Stephen King once intoned, the demons will out. I now exclusively write horror thrillers. I have always been fascinated with the darkness, the gothic tradition stemming from the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein (the old, black and white Universal pictures were a constant staple of my youth, much to my parents’ chagrin). In my teens I discovered the works of Stephen King and James Herbert, the latter remaining a constant influence to this day due to his astonishing ability to create a suffocating, claustrophobic, and downright scary atmosphere. As for why I write horror, two reasons immediately spring to mind. The first is that it allows me to express my own fears and concerns in a safe, controlled environment. The second is that there is something satisfying about scaring other people!
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be? How did they impact you?
The Hound of the Baskervilles remains a massive influence. The sublime blend of detective story, gothic romance, and, of course, horror remains a standard bearer in terms of what a book can do. It has an astonishing sense of place, the depiction of Dartmoor so sublime that you can almost smell the mossy peat of the Grimpen Mire. It has beautifully drawn characters, Sherlock Holmes’s absence from much of the story barely noticeable. And it builds to a nightmarish climax that continues to take my breath away. And, most astonishingly of all, it does all of this in under 250 pages!
What authors do you read regularly? Why?
James Herbert remains my constant go to, but my reading is wide and varied. J. R. R. Tolkien (his detailed descriptions make Middle Earth so real), Gore Vidal (the way he mixes history and humor), Ernest Hemmingway (for the clarity of prose), Ian McEwan (who so chillingly reveals the worst in people), Guy N. Smith (simply great pulp fiction), and Charles Dickens (possibly the greatest storyteller; certainly the greatest writer).
What would be a reason you don’t finish reading a book?
If I’m not gripped by it when I reach a quarter of the way through.
What is your writing routine? When you write, are you a planner/outliner or are you a “pantser”?
I think I might be the last word in planning! The collated notes for each book I write tends to exceed the page count of the finished book. And I won’t write one word of the actual novel until I have every aspect of it tied down. The reason? For me, writing is all about the prose. Planning a book in detail means that I can focus on the prose and focus on trying to build a cloying atmosphere of dread that would make Edgar Allan Poe proud (well, I can dream, can’t I?).
Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you? (in terms of writing, or something else you felt was important to you at the time)
My third novel was going to be much more like my first novel, a dark, semi-autobiographical work of general fiction. I wrote the first half of the first act before I realized that I would be rather be writing another horror-thriller, a follow-up to my second novel Amongst Demons. There is something about the fantastic, whether it is a fantasy novel, a thriller novel, or a horror novel, that is so liberating.
What tips do you give to new or even experienced writers?
Read a lot. Read everything you can. Read the classics and the pulps. Read the bestsellers and the cults. Read writers that you know and love and read writers that frustrate and terrify you. It will all help you become a much better writer. And in between all of that reading, make sure you write a lot too!
Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write? Why?
Science fiction. This might come as a surprise considering what I do write is a mixture of fantasy, horror, and thriller, but there is something about hard sci-fi that just seems to be beyond my reach. I suspect it is the focus on ideas and technology that I find difficult to work with. At the end of the day, I would rather just tell a good story.
You have a strong female character, yet you are a male. How were you able to come up with the character? What difficulties, if any, did you encounter? Research?
Much of my third book (which I have just finished the first draft of) is told from a female perspective. I am not sure why this is either! I suppose having many close female friends might be one reason. But another might be my love of the horror of the genre and my disappointment with how female characters I portray in horror novels and movies.
Tell us about your most recent book?
- How did you come up with the concept?
- How did you come up with the title?
- From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?
My most recent published book was Amongst Demons, a terrifying story of retribution and revenge involving a young boy who makes a deal with dark, malignant forces. I came up with the idea many years ago, inspired by, of all things, a Billy Bragg song. But then I have often found that many of my ideas come from songs or pieces of music. There is something about donning a set of headphones and letting my mind wonder that just brings in a constant welter of ideas.
The title Amongst Demons just seemed the perfect for the story. This was because of its directness (what could be more apt for the title of a horror thriller than demons?). But it was also because of its ambiguity (who does the word demons really refer to and who is amongst them?). I like titles that work on more than one level – it helps if they sound creepy too!
My favorite character from Amongst Demons would be Lilith. I love her no-nonsense approach to everything, her unfettered sexuality, and her willingness to speak her mind. But I also love that she always speaks the truth. She doesn’t care what people think; she just goes her own way. As for my least favorite character, that is a tricky one. If you didn’t feel something for all of your characters you wouldn’t write about them in the first place, I feel.