1. Give us the skinny on who you are?
Daniel Willcocks is an international bestselling author and award-nominated podcaster of dark fiction. He is one fifth of digital story studio, Hawk & Cleaver; co-founder of iTunes-busting fiction podcast, ‘The Other Stories’;’ CEO of horror imprint, Devil’s Rock Publishing; and the co-host of the ‘Next Level Authors’ podcast. Dan is furiously passionate about all things story. He has written 40+ books in four years for himself and on behalf of ghostwriting clients. Dan provides book coaching services designed to help authors take the stories that they are dying to tell, and getting them out onto the page.
2. How did you get into writing?
I first got the seeds for a story when I was gifted a copy of Stephen King’s “Everything’s Eventual” as a secret Santa present. I was blown away by the stories inside, and wanted to try my hand at the craft. A few months later (and 16,000 words), I had the first draft of my first novella.
3. Describe your writing style as if it were the demonic love child of 2 or more of your favourite authors, genetically spliced together in a lab and growing in a vat of green goo.
I would love to say a mixture of Stephen King and Michael Crichton. But I also like to compare my style to Nick Cutter meets Richard Laymon.
4. What was the first thing you wrote that made you think ‘I’m a writer’?
In college, in my English class, we had free reign to write a short story for assessment. I wrote a piece about a man on the run from a female vampire, attempting to make it gritty and dark. The piece was riddled with overwriting and overdescription, but I was proud of it. It showed me the first glimpse at what writing could be for me.
5. If you could take a writing class with one author, who would it be and why?
I would be deeply fascinated to take a class with Robert McCammon. There is a writer who knows how to create an atmosphere and plunge you into a story. Although King would be an obvious choice, I’d love to capture some of the magic that McCammon can sprinkle into his stories.
6. Tell us about your biggest achievement or proudest writing moment to date?
I’ve had a number of my books reach the #1 bestseller rank on Amazon’s bookstore, but I think my greatest achievement to date is the success of The Other Stories podcast. Knowing that our humble little podcast started with 1 download in 2016 and is now hovering at over 7,000,000 is an incredible thing to wrap your head around.
7. Now tell us about your lowest moment and how you overcame it? Go on, be a hero…
My lowest moments haven’t come from writing, but rather the circumstances of my personal life surrounding my writing time. When I was working a 50 hour a week full-time job as a marketing manager, while raising a 1-year-old, starting an author business and living in the throes of a failing relationship, writing was my solace. Writing was the space where I could be entirely me and vent and experiment and live and die on the page. While the world around me was testing every ounce of patience and resilience I had, writing was my life raft. Even in the darkest days, I never thought of laying down the pen. Writing pulled me through, knowing that I never had to impress anyone but myself with my words was a great gift to have.
8. I know you are prolific writer and ghost writer (spooky:). What does your writing routine look like?
As simple as waking up and putting my words on the page. Generally, I’ll wake up around 6.30 and put in some time to get at least 500 words on the page. It can be anything from a current project to a totally random piece of flash fiction. I do most of my writing in the morning, since that’s when my mind is its most keen, and it leaves the rest of the day to get on with the rest of the author business. When writing, I always ensure I have my Bluetooth headphones, my fingerless copper-lined gloves, my glasses, and a steaming coffee. Then I write to the playlist of instrumental horror tunes I made four years ago that I’m yet to change.
9. What’s the hardest thing about being an author?
Being in charge of your own time is its greatest challenge. Knowing that it’s okay to take time off when you’re sick, or that some days you are allowed to admit defeat, as long as you return to the page the next day with a renewed gusto. Being an author is understanding yourself, and knowing the difference between when you’re being lazy, or when you genuinely need to take some time away from the screen. I’m getting better, but I still haven’t got it nailed.
10. What the best thing about being an author?
Creating worlds and connecting with readers. Receiving emails from fans saying that they couldn’t put the book down… There’s no better feeling.
11. You’re something of a podcaster in the indie author space. Can you tell us about what you get out of helping other indie authors and sharing your insights?
Authors lie about their journey. I learned this first-hand. You can read a thousand blogs and articles that show overnight successes and tell of how romantic and wonderful the author journey is, and that just isn’t always true. Writing is hard, and challenging, and every day is its own experience. In my podcasts, I try to show the real author journey; whether that’s through my own experiences in conversation with Sacha Black on the Next Level Authors podcast, or in my interview format podcast Great Writers Share with a host of amazing authors. The truth is that there’s no one way to write and become an author, and by adding transparency to the process of writing, I hope to unlock authors and inspire them to continue their journeys knowing that it’s okay when things suck and things get hard. It happens to everyone.
12. What’s your all-time favourite horror movie and why?
Admittedly, I’m not much of a horror movie buff. I much prefer a horror book to a horror film. That said, I have a particular fondness for the Saw movie franchise which was my entry into contemporary horror on the screen.
13. What’s the best book you read this year and why?
Jack Ketchum’s “The Girl Next Door.” Although the content is brutal (and based on a true story), his method of storytelling is not only incredibly easy to consume, but plants you firmly into the head of the young protagonist to help you understand the struggles he’s facing. It’s clean, swift prose telling an amazing story. What more can you ask for?
14. Which character from someone else’s fiction would you most like to be?
Aragorn. Without question. I’m a big Tolkien fan, and the idea of being a Dunedain ranger would be amazing.
15. Which monster from fiction – books, TV or film – would you most like to be and why?
Pennywise. To be able to shift and become whatever the hell you want to be for your own personal gain… Isn’t that just delicious, Georgie?
16. Which one of your books would be best adapted into a movie? And who would you cast in the lead roles?
“When Winter Comes” is arguably the most cinematic of my works, with a wide range of characters, too. I’d probably look at the following to cover the main roles: Cody Trebeck – Tom Holland Tori Asplin – Halston Safe Alex Goins – Jeffrey Dean Morgan Karl Bowman – Jason Momoa
17. What scared you as a child?
Mr Burns as a vampire. Seems stupid in hindsight, but that Treehouse of Horror episode on The Simpsons screwed me up for years!
18. What scares you as an adult?
Surprisingly, not a great deal. I’m not a fan of mantids.
19. Where did the idea for your first book come from?
I wish I could tell you. I started out writing the first entry in a fantasy series, and before I knew it the book had turned into a novella about a man repenting for killing a shadow demon in his American Western town. Ideas are funny creatures.
20. Can you tell us something about your current ‘work in progress’?
A man, lost in the woods. A woman in a white dress, unhearing and unable to focus on the world. A rogue train able to take them to the fabled “Nowhere.”
21. What book of yours should people start with?
For those coming to my work from The Other Stories podcast, or my short stories published elsewhere, I’d recommend beginning with “Twisted: A collection of dark tales.” For people looking for longer works, strap in with “When Winter Comes.” It’s my largest and most delicious tale to date.
22. Have you got a newsletter/reader magnet?
23. Where can people stalk you online like a serial killer?
24. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
If you’re a horror author looking to connect with other like-minded horror heads, then you can also find me over at my Facebook group “The Horror Writers Collaborative.” (facebook.com/groups/horrorc) Get in touch, connect, and I’ll see you over there!