Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Writer's Wednesday: A laugh a minute with Richard Rhys Jones

Today we chat with Richard Rhys Jones, also known as Reg, Reggie, C Reg Jones and others! Stay with us now and find out more about this Thorstruck author. He spins a good yarn and makes you laugh too :)

Richard Rhys Jones hails from the sunny shores of Colwyn Bay, in north Wales. Closer to fifty than forty, he’s married with two children and two cats. He writes, occasionally plays the drums for a hardcore band, and is a passionate supporter of Liverpool and Braunschweig.

He left school at 16 to join Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, and served his time in Essex and Germany in an armoured reconnaissance regiment. After leaving the military he worked as an armed guard for the British Army, then in a workshop servicing and repairing plant machinery, and then on the building sites in various roles. He now earns a crust in the steelworks which dominate the town of Salzgitter, where he lives.

Writing came late in life and though he’d written lyrics for various German and British bands he’d never tackled a full novel. It was only when he bought his first computer that he finally decided to write one, using the ideas he’d collated over the years. The Division of the Damned is the child born of that first foray into writing. Set in WW2, it deals with vampires working for the Third Reich, biblical and Sumerian mythology, Teutonic orders and werewolves, wrapped in a story of betrayal and disillusionment.

His second novel, The House in Wales, is set in north Wales during WW2. The main protagonist is a young man sent away from Liverpool to live with a vicar and his very domineering housekeeper. The pious facade soon gives way to a story of sexual deviation, devil worship and human sacrifice, that takes the reader to the ash-blackened gates of Hell. 

Welcome Reg!

What sparked your interest in writing? Your proverbial light-bulb moment?

I can’t say there was one instant, or Eureka moment that led me to write, as I’d always liked putting pen to paper. I wrote the song lyrics for my band and then tried poems, which were more like jokes about workmates that rhymed. I also tried the odd short story, but never finished one as my typing was ridiculously slow. I think the actually point where I said to myself that I’m going to write a novel was when I bought my first computer from my mate, (€50 it cost, then I gave it back to him a couple of years later, and he still has it in his cellar!! Man, I’m so easy…). 

We’d just set the computer up, and Dixie, that used car salesman of the computer world, had just left. I looked at the screen and thought to myself, “Right, no excuses now, let’s get to it”, which was exactly what I did. 

We're quite in awe of that kind of will! Which genre are you most comfortable writing in?

Horror, well sort of horror, with a fantasy sort of element in there as well. And adventure, so it’s horror, with fantasy and adventure … I’m not doing too well at this question, am I? 

Actually, I tried to label The Division of the Damned as Adventure Horror … it didn't take on. However, adventure horror fits the bill for Division perfectly. As does the anthology of shorts I’m about to release with Paul Rudd, The Chronicles of Supernatural Warfare. My other tome, The House in Wales, and my work in progress are more straight forward horror. 

Would you say you draw most often from your own knowledge base when writing or do you research for fresh material?

Division was literally EVERYTHING that had interested me over the last twenty years or so, crammed into a book. All the things that had hooked me and held my attention were cleverly weaved into that one story. I researched that to death, but it was a labour of love. 

The Chronicles of Supernatural Warfare are stories set in the past, so I did my damndest to sort my facts out before putting finger to key. I read up on Thermopylae, Troy, Caesar, Flanders, the lot. I hate reading a book set in the past and the facts aren't right. Although it isn't a book, the film Braveheart is a good example of Hollywood History. I watched the film and spent weeks after shouting at my English mates about taking my life but not my freedom, and various other stupid quotes from the film, (I’m Welsh BTW). Then a Scottish corporal told me to read up on what actually happened. So I did, and was bitterly disappointed about Mr. Bloody Mel Gibson’s version of the life and times of William Wallace … So facts are important to me, (even though I did change the setting and landscape for Thermopylae, and the timeline for Troy … DOH!!). 

Tell us a bit about your work. How, for instance, do you choose your titles?

My titles are generally the last thing I choose. I’ll have an idea, make up a working title and kid myself that I’ll find a better one later on … and then keep it. Hence The House in Wales.

The Division of the Damned was a joint effort by my mates. Originally it was entitled SS Division Vampyr. Unfortunately it turned out that this title was a little too close to a book called Operation Vampyr. Bogus.

So I asked my mates to come up with a title and they did, fair play.

I have no idea how Paul and myself stumbled on the Chronicles of Supernatural Warfare idea. Hallucinogenic drugs, mushrooms, broccoli? Whatever, I think we must have done it for a bet? No, wait, I do remember that our original idea was to have some really cheesy Grindhouse titles for the stories. The Wooden Wolf of Troy was going to be something like Trojan Werewolf Bloodlust Apocalypse, and The Zombies of Flanders was going to be something like Zombie Trench War Carnage Horror, all titles along those lines.

Yes, I think it was the hallucinogenic broccoli…

My work in progress is The Sisterhood of the Serpent, which will probably stay that way even though I promised myself that I’d change it before it goes to print …

We love to read excerpts. Share with us your favourite bit of writing from you latest book.

This is from my work in progress right now, The Sisterhood of the Serpent, (working title… ahem)

The wan light from the light tube clicked, fizzed and then flickered out, leaving the room in darkness. From inside their boxes, the two cats started to wail fearfully. Like irritating sirens, their voices wound up, climbing dramatically in pitch and volume, and Becca scowled in their direction.

"What the hell...?" she whispered to herself, and then to the cats. "Ah, shut up you two, will ya?"

Suddenly it blinked back on again, though markedly dimmer than before, the light now almost grey. Nevertheless, its return shut the cats up and Becca smiled as she reached up to tap the light to prod it into full brightness. However, before she could touch it, it blinked out again, leaving her in darkness. In the split second it took for her to decide on whether she should twist the tube to see if it was sitting correctly or open the door to the bedroom, it sputtered back on, weak and pallid, as if something was draining the power, thrumming unhealthily.

The cats hissed and meowed from the boxes and Becca stared at them, puzzled, before shrugging and looking back into the mirror. The figure standing behind her made her jump and shriek involuntarily. An old woman, bald and nude, stared back at her from the mirror, peering over her shoulder about five feet away from her.

Painfully thin, flat chested and sexless, her head and body were carved in an intricate scale-like pattern of thick, diamond shaped scars that left only her face, neck and lower parts of her arms and legs free. She opened her mouth as if in a yawn and Rebecca could make out all her teeth were missing except the canines, which protruded dagger-like from age-blackened gums. However, amidst the barrage of alien details, it was the eyes that held Becca's attention. The old woman's irises appeared to have been slit vertically down the middle, elongating the pupil in a manifestly serpent-like way. A tongue, cut to resemble a snake’s, flickered out as she closed her gaping maw again to speak in a low, sibilant voice that echoed around her head.

"Sgras nebal klan skraw tin sbal."

Becca closed her eyes as a surge of dizziness hit her, was she going to faint? She gripped the basin, and then shook her head to rid herself of the vision; surely she must be imagining this? Jerking her head up, she resolutely opened her eyes to look into the mirror again. The light was back on, burning its usual brightness, and the old crone now gone. She spun around to check she wasn't there, but the room was empty except for her and her silent cats, and quiet except for her deep gulping breaths.

Relief quickly morphed into panic as she turned and fled the bathroom. She shouted Jim's name and jumped on him to wake him up.

"What's wrong, what's wrong?" he blurted, throwing the sheets off to take her in his arms. "What's happened, you alright baby? What happened?"

Well, wow, that's scary! Well done! Who do you identify with most in your work? And why?

Of all my characters, I liked Michael Rohleder best, from The Division of the Damned. His irreverent, flippant attitude hides a deep soul and a much-wounded heart. He’s an intelligent, proficient soldier, but those who don’t know him see only the sharp tongued buffoon he likes to play, I like that in people, hidden depths have always impressed me and I like to think that beyond my enormous capacity to drink a lot of beer, that I also have qualities that I keep for myself. 

I don’t? 

Oh, how disappointing. 

If you could choose who would play your characters in the movie or series made from your work, who would they be?

I have been asked this a lot recently. I haven’t really thought about it, but I’ll make an effort and give an answer. 

Mmmm, I think for The House in Wales, Daniel Radcliffe would be the main protagonist. The eternal schoolboy would fit well as Danny Kelly. Miss Trimble would be Kristen Scott Thomas, (a personal fave of mine) and the Reverend would be Rhys Ifans.

For Division? That’s hard, but I’ll go for a young Richard Burton as Von Struck, James Woods as Rohleder, (with a lot of scar tissue make up) and Henning would be Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd. 

Good choices! Which four words would you use to describe yourself?

Optimistic, unpretentious, happy and loyal.

Which four words would you use to describe your work?

Tense, adventurous, researched and character-driven.

I have to throw this in! That list of favourites we’re all interested in!

Favourite book: SO MANY!! However, if I have to choose one, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.
Favourite movie: Again, SO MANY !!! Unfair… okay, one film, it has to be Heartbreak Ridge.
Favourite TV series: Game of Thrones, though The X Files was my fave for over a decade.
Favourite colour: Red (Liverpool red)
Favourite food: Curry.
Favourite drink: Beer, or water.
Favourite pet: Cat
Favourite season: Autumn
Favourite place: Old Colwyn, in north Wales, my home town.

Often personal fame and prominence for your work go together, but frequently authors prefer remaining in the background while hoping their work will assume the limelight. Is this true for you, or don’t you mind a bit of fame?

Oh bring it on, put me in the limelight and watch me bloom, lol. 

Actually, I’d like to be famous for three very good reasons. 

1.) I get to scrounge free stuff. It’s so much easier to blag giveaways if you’re well known. Free bling and shoes, (for the wife, not me), clothes, concert tickets, metal tee-shirts, invites to swanky parties, free drinks… you know what I’m saying. Hey, I’m a working class lad, I know how to cherish freebies. 

2.) It’d make my mam proud. Up to now she hasn’t really had much cause to brag about me being her son. It’d be nice for her to be able to hold her head up when someone asks if I’m her offspring and say, “Yes, he is and he ROCKS!” Instead of mumbling something about a dentist’s appointment and hurrying off. Same goes for my poor wife now I think about it, (sighs). 

3.) Then, of course, all my mates and family can make a rook of money selling stories about me being a drunken idiot in my youth to the gutter tabloids, (The Scum, The Daily Toilet, etc etc). They’d be happy, I’d be happy they’re happy, and we’d all be happy except for my mam, maybe? I've tried to keep those tales away from her delicate ears. 

Now we're really laughing! Tell us about your next book (we love to know what to look forward to!).

Well, my WIP (which I mistakenly put up as an excerpt earlier) is a sort of mash up of The Towering Inferno, The Shining and Hellraiser. It’s set in 1997 in a Las Vegas hotel, but starts off on death row, with an inmate who has just lost his final appeal against his execution, and is telling a priest his story of how he arrived there.

It’s been a slow burner, and I’m having trouble finding the time to finish it. However, I do have a plot down, that I’m following like an Ikea construction sheet, and the characters are talking to me, so it’s on the right track. My current book out is an anthology of short stories, written together with Paul Rudd, the author of “Sharc” and “Wild Wild Dead”.

It’d be easier to put the link up for the trailer, rather than explain it all, so here it is:

From zombies to werewolves, from ancient Rome to Sparta, Nazis and Kraken, world war and carnage, this anthology has them all. Nine tales of action, war, and the supernatural, twisting history in a way that makes you doubt the records, leaving one wondering what our ancient wars were really about.

Noir fiction saturated with the paranormal and impossible, The Supernatural Chronicles of War will take you into a darkness deeper than the rivers of blood staining this planet.

Strap in and start praying.

What comes next, besides a new book project? A holiday, an event?

Nothing. Work, eat sleep, repeat seems to be my immediate future. I play the drums in a hardcore band, and we've a few gigs coming up, but otherwise my free time is being taken up by Thorstruck, house, work and family, (the order varies and is directly related to timing and people present).

And finally, if you could choose one person, living or dead, you would like to meet, who would it be and what would you ask of that person?

Mmmm, well I've had this question before, and I put down my Gran. No questions though, I’d just like to spend time with her again. 

However, you’re obviously after someone famous, some rugged hero or heinous villain? Or maybe a brilliant scientist or an artist of international repute? Perhaps you want me to interview a world leader, someone responsible for saving a nation, or alternatively, for the death of millions? It’s a toughie alright, so I guess I’ll have to go with a personal hero of mine, Mr Oliver Reed, and I’d ask him if he actually did down 106 pints of beer on a two day binge, and whether he was up for a couple of shwallies or not? 

Thanks very much for having me on your site, Elaina. If any of your readers are interested in what lurks in the murkier coils of my frontal lobes, then perhaps they’d like to pop over to my Facebook page, give it a like and have a read? 

OR… alternatively, give my seldom updated but still cherished Blog a go?

And finally, here’s my Thorstruck Press page:

It was a pleasure having you! You made us laugh and you made want to reach for scary books! Yours, of course! 

The second world war is weighted in strife. On the front lines a squad of SS soldiers are sent on a secret mission, to enlist the help of the last vampire, to raise an army which would win the war for Germany.

Ruthless massacre, mayhem and action fuelled rage ensues. Broken, beaten, and turned on by their superiors, the squad end up fighting side by side with an order of fallen cavalry. Their last two loyal members engage the squad into a fight not for Germany, but to save mankind itself from demonic world domination. On the Winter Solstice of 1944 the world would be at their mercy.

The division of the damned is an enemy no one anticipated, their trail of merciless and cunning carnage makes this a noir thriller. Compelling and tense it will flay your soul.

Daniel Kelly is orphaned by the bombing of Liverpool, losing his mother in the carnage and evacuated to Colwyn Bay in Wales. Separated from the only friend he's made, he's isolated in an ancient church with the Reverend Davies and his malicious housekeeper Miss Trimble.

Humiliated and trapped, Danny's days becomes deplorable while his nights are desecrated by the ghost in the closet. The spectral visitations plague him more than his mistreatment at the hands of the housekeeper. The mystery starts to unravel just as Danny leeches life saving information from the ghost.

Painted a sexual deviant with homicidal tendencies, Danny can't run to the law for help. Framed for murder and about to become the sacrifice in the church's next Black Mass, Danny comes face to face with a demon, the spirit of his mother, and an abyss straight to hell.

The House in Wales is no mere house, its occupants chose an orphan to fulfill their nefarious plans, the outcome a sordid puzzle which has everlasting consequences.

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