Writers are strange creatures. They create stories that suck us in. They make up characters we love to hate. They set up adventures we’re glad to avoid but wish we could become part of. It’s not until we put down the book at the end of their great story that we realise, we don’t actually know anything about them, the writer, the author. How can a writer fill our mind with so much stuff and at the same time, be a stranger?
David Gatward is no exception to all this. With his two novels for teenagers, The Dead and The Dark, terrorising readers with demons, blood and more, it’s hard to imagine a hilarious, fun-loving guy writing them all.
When I first met David, he was silly, wacky and fun to be around. So how did he get into writing such fantastically scary stories? “I’ve always loved horror, movies particularly.” On the lead up to publishing The Dead, David published ghost stories and action thrillers, but that wasn’t the end, “In my drawer I had all these dark ideas.” This April sees the release of the third in his horror series, wonderfully titled, The Damned.
When I asked him to tell me more about his “gore-drenched” trilogy’s main character, Lazarus, David said, “What more do you need to know about Laz? He’s a tough kid and a loner who’s grown up with a ghost of a father, who’s never got over the death of his Laz’s mum. Lazarus is bright, self-sufficient and, like most teenagers, can’t wait to leave home. But when he sees a chance to get his dad back, to get to know him, he goes for it.”
Intrigued? Well, I am, but how does all of this feed into a dark horror setting? I guess you’ll have to read it to find out.
Horror is by no means the end for David’s writing career. Rumour has it he’s writing a fantasy story at the moment, but he won’t budge on the details, “Sorry, top secret at the moment!” Fantasy is as much info as I can give you guys. I guess we’ll just have to wait with the rest of the world for that one.
When I asked him where he gets his ideas from, he (perhaps worryingly) said, “In all honesty, my head!” Like a true writer, he continues with, “It kind of acts like a witch’s cauldron. I let anything fall in and hope it brews something up.” I’ve decided it’s probably best not to question the inner workings of a writer’s mind, but it seems anything that falls into this pot, can spark an idea; TV, films, things his kids say or even a feeling he gets in a certain place. David is always stirring his cauldron, letting the ideas come together. In a way, a writer never stops working.
It’s all very well having the ideas, but how does someone even get into writing? Well, if David is anything to go by, then there definitely isn’t a clear route to take, “I’ve been an outdoor instructor, a primary school teacher and even worked on a salmon farm… and now I’m writing!” These jobs don’t spell out ‘route to writing’ to me, but David says, “Looking back now, I was always writing. I’d spend evenings in front of the computer trying to get my ideas down.” So how did it lead to two published novels, I hear you ask? “I think it’s part persistence, part luck, part being in the right place at the right time, part getting my name out there.” That’s a lot of parts, but budding authors out there can take confidence from David’s own story. Anyone can become a writer, even fish farmers!
I asked David what it’s like being a writer and he had loads of amazing experiences to share, “It’s so much fun doing tours and meeting kids who love The Dead and getting creeped out by it. I’m in touch with people in Australia, the US, South Africa and Singapore who read my stuff!” David’s even been shortlisted for the Leeds Book Awards. “I feel proud of what I do. I’m not embarrassed.” It sounds like a lot of fun having a job you love. “Being a writer is everything you could hope for and a whole sack of other stuff too!”
There must be some tricky bits though, right? “I still find criticism hard.” David tells me, “It’s difficult when you’ve put your heart and soul into something, to be told it ain’t that good, but I’m not going to get anywhere if I get grumpy about it and don’t act on it.” So, is this David’s advice to wannabe writers of the future? “Definitely. Try and see criticism as a way of making your work infinitely better and not an attack.&rhttp://www.davidgatward.com/dquo;
Well there you have it, great advice from a real writer. It seems when you meet a writer, you realise how much you do know about them, just through the stories they’ve shared with us, the readers.