I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Sowing Season by Chris Tetreault-Blay, and in welcoming him on the blog today.a
First-time author Chris Tetreault-Blay originally hailed from Basingstoke but moved to sunny Devon after graduating from Staffordshire University in 2005. He lives in Newton Abbot with his wife and twin children, and currently works as a logistics supervisor.
Being a fan of horror film & fiction, sci-fi and heavy metal, he naturally worked towards his own novel whilst writing three different short stories – all of which will have morphed in some way to form what will become The Wildermoor Apocalypse trilogy. Upon discovering and taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2014, Chris was finally given the chance to bring all of the pieces together to write the first in this series – his debut novel, ‘Acolyte’.
Welcome, Chris. Tell us a little bit about you…
I’ll start with the usual background stuff – I was born in Basingstoke and moved to Devon after graduating from Staffordshire University and currently live in Newton Abbot with my wife and twin children. I only started writing in 2013, messing around trying to put lyrics together for the imaginary band that I believed I would be in one day.
Then out of nothing I decided to try my hand at writing fiction, since I had a few ideas bouncing round that I needed to get onto paper. What materialised over the next few months became my debut novel ‘Acolyte’, and the beginning of The Wildermoor Apocalypse trilogy. The trilogy was born out of my fascination with the myth that the world was going to end in 2012 – but didn’t. I couldn’t shake the idea that a cataclysmic event could well of occurred but remained silent to us all, rather than being the Armadgeddon-style ending that everyone was expecting.
I secured a publishing deal with Bloodhound Books for ‘Acolyte’ within a few months of its completion and it was released last summer. With the release of ‘the Sowing Season’ I feel that the trilogy is gathering pace and will hopefully reach a blistering finale sometime next year.
In between writing both Wildermoor books, I wrote a few short stories and at the turn of this year I decided to take the plunge and release my first self-published title, bringing these tales together under the guise ‘House Of Courtenay’.
Aside from writing and being a family man, if there is any of my time left I am a big music lover and like to try and discover new bands that may have slipped under my radar whilst having my head in a book. As mention earlier, I once dreamed of being a musician and taught myself to play guitar when I was at university.
Your inspiration for The Sowing Season?
To state the obvious first, the inspiration for this book came mostly from its predecessor ‘Acolyte’. The things that happened in the first book and where it ended really did dictate where I took the story in ‘The Sowing Season’. Whilst writing ‘Acolyte’, I had a vague idea of the overall story and direction of The Wildermoor Apocalypse as a trilogy, but I only really had the main points plotted (e.g. how it began, how it was going to end, a couple of main turning-points). Mostly, I let ‘Acolyte’ write itself so some parts of the story were ever-changing. Therefore, certain characters and events were already put in place before I properly started writing ‘Season’, but again I let the story do its thing, characters to develop as nature saw fit.
If I had to reference a particular inspiration for The Sowing Season as a stand-alone book, however, I would have to say that it harks back to my love for suspense drama TV series such as
Prison Break and The X Files. The great thing about both series is that they kept me on the edge of my seat and would constantly be throwing twists that really made me sit and think whether I knew the story at all. That is one thing that I am trying to achieve with this trilogy; I guess that it reflects how the story is ever-changing even to me. But being able to knit these different, seemingly-separate, occurrences together into a coherent and gripping story gives me a massive sense of achievement.
Have you always enjoyed scaring people, or is it something that just developed over time?
To be honest, I wasn’t even that sure how much I would scare people. I’m certainly not like that as a person; I don’t think there’s anyone anywhere who would attribute that quality to me in my everyday life. I would definitely say that it is something that may have developed over time, or certainly since I have learned to communicate it through my writing.
It wasn’t until I started receiving feedback from people who read ‘Acolyte’ that I realised that I may have actually succeeded in some way as a horror author; many were asking where my ideas came from and were mentioning certain points (usually the same ones) that they found particularly freaky.
I know a lot of people may find it weird, but knowing that I was able to evoke those kinds of reactions really excited me. By this point I had already penned one of the stories within ‘House Of Courtenay’ and its feedback spurred me to write more, trying to push other limits, delve deeper into my imagination, whilst also trying to keep my stories in some way vaguely believable. ‘House’ has not been as widely-read as ‘Acolyte’ but I am most proud of that book, mainly because the feedback I have received has shown that I have done my job and have made some people somewhat fearful of what lies on the page, yet they all still loved the book. That says to me that sometimes people like being scared too, which is good news for writers like me.
Where and when do you write?
So far, my writing has tended to take place on my lunch breaks at work, in the driver’s seat of my car with my laptop.
I wrote ‘Acolyte’, ‘House’ and ‘Season’ under fairly strict routines, setting myself word-per-day targets or reaching various “landmarks” by certain weeks/months. For these three books, I found that it worked perfectly and I was largely able to stick to my deadlines, but by the end of writing and editing ‘Season’ I was starting to feel the strain and was at risk of losing momentum and enthusiasm.
So going forward, I am trying to adopt a more organic approach; writing when and if I get the urge to, making notes in between when ideas come to me, but also learning to take breaks and not force the stories to manifest. I am fiercely proud of the work I have been able to put out so far and I believe that ‘Season’ could be my strongest work to date, but it has also taught me to re-think how I approach the third and final book in the trilogy.
This new method has helped me dip back into the first short story I ever started writing from a few years ago (‘Chasing Grey’), which I hope to release in some capacity before the end of the year. I am only adding bits to the story when they come to me. I may only be adding a few hundred words a day here and there but I love the new sense of freedom writing like that.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
Again, as just stated I believe I am transitioning from a pantser to a planner. My three books to date – although written to limits and personal targets – were written totally on-the-fly. I had no notes to work from, only sketchy ideas of what I wanted to occur in certain parts of the story. Some characters have changed completely beyond my control, and I loved that. I was learning more about the story as I was writing it.
But I believe that the final part of the trilogy needs to be as powerful as possible, everything about it needs to be tight, so a lot more planning will be involved. I am aiming to pretty much take a writing break over the summer to make notes and build the structure of the final book. Of course, I won’t have all the details down and some parts will write themselves, but I want to be confident before starting that I know exactly where the story – and indeed the series – needs to end up.
Do you do any research? If so, any sites or sources you care to share?
I tend to research any historical or scientific references, just to make sure that I get the details as close to the truth as I can manage. I don’t have particular resources, however – just whatever I can find that gives me the most relevant and interesting information. For example, the references to the Christian-Parliamentary struggle of the 1600s in ‘Acolyte’ was compiled from places such as Wikipedia and a couple of history education sites, as well as a touch of local history that I found online when adapting the actual Devil’s Pit in Newton Abbot to the one you read about in the book. (The parts about the clergy using the Pit to perform blessings and ceremonies, for example, were all based on fact.)
I also needed to research the components of the lethal injection to make that part as believable as possible.
Do you read inside your genre or out when writing?
I like to think that I have fairly open interests as far as reading goes and am happy to pick up any genre, as long as the story grips me. I have read thrillers, adventure tales and even romance in
the past, but if I am writing a book I do tend to gravitate towards horror. I guess that it is mainly due to me being in that zone and always seeking some sort of inspiration from darker stories.
If I am in between books, however, I try to give myself a writing break to catch up on my reading. I am a huge fan of reading autobiographies, particularly of my heavy metal heroes such as Ozzy, Tony Iommi and Metallica. ‘The Dirt’, the story of Motley Crue, is a must for any rock fan.
Your author heroes?
James Herbert and Dean Koontz have been my main influences in deciding to write my own stories. I can pick up any one of their books and lose myself in it, and maybe come out the other side with even more ideas for my own work. I find that their stories constantly keep me thinking and guessing and I have rarely been able to predict the ending before it hits me in the face.
The first author responsible for my love of reading, however, was Wilbur Smith. I was given a copy of ‘When The Lion Feeds’ by my wife’s parents many years ago and it remains one of my favourite books. It is not often that I can read the same story twice, but I have read most of his Courtney family series multiple times. They took me to a time and place that I had yet to discover when I first picked them up. The title ‘House Of Courtenay’ partly came from my love of this series of books.
Thank you, Chris, for joining us today.
And you can follow the rest of the tour: