Hi there everyone,
So the big countdown to Christmas has begun. Trees and decorations going up everywhere, except mine. I always do that on 11th December as I feel two weeks before the big day is soon enough for me. This year it will be a task and a half with a young cat who will no doubt have the tree trashed as it's going up! Fun and games...NOT!!
I digress! Today we have the hilarious, Darren Walker in our midst, so let the laughter begin!
Eva: Welcome Darren! Let's get started. Tell us all about yourself (as in, a bit of a biography).
Darren: Thanks for hosting me, Eva! I was born, at an early age, in Leeds as I wanted to be near my mother who
happened to be there at the time, so that was a happy coincidence. Although some might say that I have yet to do it, I grew up in a lower middle class home, which means that we had cutlery but it was stolen from Burger King and the Happy Eater restaurants. It was a close family, as in we were close to throttling each other. But despite that I had a happy time getting into the usual mischief that children got up to. Scrumping for apples, running through corn fields and knocking on doors and running away. Oh, who am I kidding, my childhood was not created by Enid Blyton, as a child I was a brat, just like virtually every other that ever lived. But I had an innate knack of not getting caught which I developed into an art form as I got older.
Having survived childhood, I found myself in the 1980’s which was a shock to the system as I had been quite happy in the 1970’s and nobody told me that I had to move into a new decade. But there I was in a time of mass unemployment, but I remembered the old warning from teachers and my parents ‘Work hard in school or you’ll end up working as a dustbin man!’ They lied as all those jobs had been filled by people who were not snobs and didn’t mind working hard to earn a living. That left me with the option of starving, which I wasn’t that fond of, or finding something else to do. That meant finding a job, a daunting concept for someone whose idea of living was slobbing about in my parent’s house, eating their food and sneaking booze out of their drinks cabinet and kidding myself into believing that they didn’t know about it.
In those days you didn’t turn down jobs so, when I was offered one working for the Ministry of Defence in a tank factory (not fish ones), as a buyer, I took it. I must admit that I had no idea what a buyer did and assumed I would be sent to the shops to get stuff for the mechanics, but it seemed that the first few weeks involved me having to go to places and ask for long stands or buckets of steam. But that was a waste of time as nobody ever had any.
Throughout my adult life, or as adult as I could pretend to be, I have mostly been in what is now called ‘the Supply Chain’ which means that I am responsible for ensuring anything I buy doesn’t contain horse meat. A task which I have always done with aplomb as I have worked mainly in the engineering or construction industries. I can assure you that any concrete that was used in building the local sewage works would not have any horse flesh in it. Not on my watch anyway.
As you can imagine my work was so scintillating that I had to find other outlets for my mind that extended beyond just making deals with builders merchants or screaming at them when a building site had come to a standstill because they’d failed to deliver a box of screws. It was then that I decided to try my hand at writing.
It was a simple beginning, I had an American friend who used to visit Britain on business trips and always insisted, whenever he visited Leeds, that he took me out for long drinking sessions, and he was adamant that he paid for everything on his business expense account – and it would have been impolite of me to refuse. Sometimes I was so polite I could barely walk by the end of the night. Anyway, one trip he was due to visit Newcastle for the first time, so I wrote him some sage advice to take while he was there. Obviously, it was full of misleading instructions which would have led to his sudden and unexpected death and mysterious disappearance if he’d followed them but, thankfully he wasn’t stupid and saw the jokes.
Anyway, I kept the notes and several years later I showed them to another American friend who I knew on Facebook. It made her laugh, and she told me to send it to one of her friends who ran a mid-west American arts website, assuring me that he’d love it too and would probably publish it or ask for more stuff. This I duly did but he diligently ignored me. As he was from Mississippi, I just assumed that it contained too many big words and he didn’t understand it, either that or it was not to his tastes. Then time went by, which it has a nasty habit of doing, and my friend asked me what the website owner had said. When I told her that he’d ignored me she got in touch with him and gave him a talking to. That resulted in him getting in touch with me and apologising as he had ignored my initial email but loved my work and wanted me to write regular articles for his website. However, that was only part of the story as it transpired that he fancied my female friend and wouldn’t have refused a shag from her if one had been offered so the reading of my message was done as a favour. But who cares? He liked it and I ended up writing weekly articles for his website and that was good enough for me. As the target audience was mainly the mid-west bible belt types, or red necks, I was given the strict instructions to avoid religion and politics and I managed to stick to those rules for about two weeks before I went to my default position of ‘taking the piss’ out of whatever I liked, or disliked. But I got away with it and, as he was a true Anglophile, he loved anything British, especially if it involved the Beatles, Sex Pistols or Monty Python, so I tried to indulge him with some of those subjects.
Over the years I wrote a mixture of comedy and serious articles and even ended up writing poetry and having that published there too but, sadly, all good things come to an end. I wasn’t being paid so I did it for the enjoyment and to hone my skills, but the website wasn’t making any money either, so he decided to close it and get a proper job. That left me with a Muse, I think the Muse of writing is called Ethel, who was jabbering in my ear ‘Oi, big nose, keep writing’. Well, who can ignore that much nagging? I had to listen to her so I decided to keep writing, but what should I write? The graffiti market had pretty much been cornered by Banksy and the guy who spray painted ‘Mary is a slag’ on the walls of the local railway station, so what could I do? Then it came to me, there were such things as books so why didn’t I write a novel? An interesting idea but what story should I write? William Shakespeare had already stolen my idea for Romeo and Juliet 370 years before I had even been born, the plagiarising bastard. I thought about writing a story called The Comedy of Errors, but I was too young to write my autobiography, so what was a man to do?
Then it came to me, write a comedy novel and that was a true lightbulb moment. So, after I had replaced the lightbulb, I got on with writing my first novel and the rest is history. Okay it isn’t history of the magnitude of WWII, the Industrial Revolution or even the First Punic War, but it was a big deal to me.
How many books have you written up to now? Are they published or self-published? What genre are they?
I struggle to take myself, or the world seriously, and when I do it depresses me, so I try and see the funny side of most things. That is why all of my stories have been comedies, thus far. To date I have written twelve novels with the thirteenth close to being completed. Nine of them are comedy fantasies based in Hell and Heaven where good fights evil and both angels and demons come to earth and cause trouble. Along with that I have a stand-alone story set in a fictional South American country. Think of an Ealing comedy if it had been hijacked by the ‘Carry On’ team. And the rest are comedies set in mediaeval times. Plenty of mythical creatures such as giants, ogres, unicorns with attitude and even living Gargoyles who might be small, but they can give your groin a nasty bite.
Of the completed works, the first two books, Closing Shop and The Sword of Uncreation, were published by a traditional publisher and they both made it to the finals of the People’s Book Prize. A great honour for me and, for the first awards I lost out to an author who was also an actor who died in the Game of Thrones, so, even if I don’t tell you his name I am sure you’ll know exactly who I mean.
As it was my first venture into novels, I thought that, at the time, having a publisher would be fantastic. They would do all the work and I could just sit back and let all the royalties come rolling in. Oh, what a naive fool was I! As they were a small company, with no budget for marketing other than the initial push to publicise my book in the first week of release, and putting my book forward for the award, they did bugger all. I was expected to do all of the marketing while they took the lion’s share of the profits form the book sales.
It was then that I decided to try my hand at self-publishing. A great idea, in theory, but as I hadn’t a clue as to what I was doing the ‘self’ part of the process was mainly self-doubt. I procrastinated, delayed, procrastinated and procrastinated some more until, several years later (can I use Covid and an excuse for not doing things online?) I finally found a friend who owned a small publishing company and had released lots of his own books via several self-publishing portals. He offered to help me and in return I gave him a rather nice bottle of red wine.
It was then that I published Dead Gods, the third in my Hell and Heaven series and now that I know, roughly, what I am doing I plan to get the rest of my work out in front of an unsuspecting public at regular intervals. Although scheduled release sounds like something I do first thing in the morning, hopefully after I have got out of bed, I plan to release my books on a regular basis with two pencilled in for 2024. One of which could be accused of being a Christmas novel, but only if you think that Die Hard is up there with a Christmas Carol as a traditional seasonal story.
Of all the genres there are, is there any genre/s that you feel you wouldn’t be able to write and why? Is there any genre that you really wish you could write, but feel you wouldn’t be able to do it justice?
Having planned out a trilogy of thriller novels revolving around assassins I did try to write serious stuff, but I found that I couldn’t do it. I always have to lighten the mood, so it is impossible to create suspense with my mind. I always think knobs and have to slip them in somewhere. However, I do realise that I run the risk of becoming a one trick pony when it comes to writing so I know that I have to diversify, if only to try and find a new audience and perhaps capture the zeitgeist so that millions of people buy my books and I become rich, baby, yeah!
Despite my dodgy take on the world, as I am mildly bi-polar and have many wonderful friends with mental health issues, I have started to plan a serious fictional novel about suicides, or how to survive the thoughts about them. Perhaps it might end up as an extremely dark comedy, but I hope that people will be inspired and helped by it rather than left feeling depressed or disgusted by any flippancy. It is easy to get lost in the real world and I have no desire to make life any worse than it already is. Hopefully my serious side doesn’t disappoint but, if it does, I can always pick up my comedy mask again and carry on with smut and non PC inappropriateness.
Do you have any favourite ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ words that you like to use in your books? What are those words? Also, what words used by other authors irritate you more than they should?
I am not some pretentious tosser who likes to show off their vocabulary to make themselves look superior, so I am not Melvin Bragg or Stephen Fry, but I do not like to talk down to my readers. I am not afraid of using interesting words in my stories if they are appropriate. Also, even though they might be comedy fantasies, I do like to get details right so I do a lot of research that could have the Police asking me why I have been Google searching so much information about guns or nerve gas. (it is just for the books, honest).
Other than the Oxbridge types who try and sound smug in their novels I tend not to be bothered by the use of words, as long as they are the correct words. I have seen ‘alot’ used in books and, even if it is acceptable to Americans, I despise the word ‘Gotten’. No America, it was ‘got’, is ‘got’ and always will be ‘got’. Either learn English or just don’t bother. Sorry, rant over and I will now go sit in a corner of my room with a wet towel over my head. (Eva: I have to agree with you on 'gotten' Darren. I dislike it too. Another couple of pet hates: 'normalcy' instead of normality and 'off of' instead of off!)
Do you sing at all, be it karaoke, in a choir or have done so professionally? Whether you have or not, have you ever written (or had the urge to write) any song lyrics? Have those lyrics been used at all?
I love karaoke however those that have to listen to me might not share my passion. Recently I went for a long holiday in the Philippines, and it is massive there. They rent karaoke machines for the day, put it on full volume and just sing away. There were lots of songs in the local language but there were plenty of songs in English which I knew and my renditions of everything from rock to pop soon had the neighbours coming around with request. I now know the Filipino term for the most popular request “Shut the feck up!” Although I couldn’t find that song in the machine.
My lack of singing talent is one thing but, as I have written poetry in the past, I thought I’d try my luck by writing a song and sending it to Dolly Parton, in the insane hope that she would record it. Sadly, she didn’t but her company did get back to me with a thanks, but no thanks, email which, in itself was a wonderful thing to get as I am sure most would-be song writers would not even get that from most musicians. However, undeterred, I am currently collaborating with a Scottish Prog Rock band called Long Earth. I am writing the lyrics for a possible concept album about a man who loses his job, his home and then disappears from existence as people refuse to make eye contact with someone living on the streets. Yes, cheerful stuff!
What question would you like to pose, (if you were to ever interview your favourite author), which never seems to get asked in author interviews? And who is that favourite author?
As my favourite authors are Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams are both dead, I think that asking them any questions would be easy, but their answers might be difficult to get. However, if they were alive, which I truly wish they were, I would ask them lots of probing and in-depth questions relating to their own comedy influences. Although I see traces of Monty Python and the Goon Show in their works there must be other elements that made their minds go down their own surreal paths. I also can’t help wondering what would have happened if they’d collaborated with a novel. It would either have been the funniest book ever written or the clash of styles and personalities would have made it a train crash.
If you were to ever write a children’s book, (and those of you who already do) would you/do you do the illustrating yourself, make use of a family member or friend’s talent or pay an illustrator? Do you solely write or do
you have any other creative pursuits?
For the two and two third novels that I have in the mediaeval genre they were originally meant to be children’s novels, however as I added more and more knob and fart jokes the target age began to increase. Providing the readers are not woke, they are now acceptable to Young Adults and the more mature readers who loved the Carry on films or the double entendres in the better Bond films.
When writing them I did create my own map with key locations on it but that is too messy to be used in any book and it is only as an aide memoire to enable me to ensure that I do not contradict myself when placing key characters in key locations.
With other creative pursuits I must admit that my talents are totally lacking. My paintings have been compared to those of a four-year-old who was sneezing while holding a paint brush and I did take guitar lessons for two years and by the end of it I could play two chords. ‘A’ and ‘A’, badly. However, all is not lost, as I do know, without a shadow of a doubt, that when drunk I can dance better than John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
Suffice to say I stick to enjoying other people’s art rather than trying to create my own. To that extent I will have been to at least 64 concerts by the end of 2023 and might get to even more in 2024.
Of all the characters you have created, who is your favourite? And why?
Although I have loved creating lots of characters, all with their own level of depth, intellect and mannerisms, my favourite has to be Dedan. He is the senior demon hunter and I chose his name because it is a) A person mentioned in the Bible and b) It also has a different translation and can also mean breasts.
He is me in a parallel dimension, that I truly hope exists as he has lots of sex where as me, in my dimension, doesn’t get any. But I am open to offers. Oh, please, somebody make me an offer!
Have you ever killed off a character in your books (I’m sure you have)? If so, was it because…it fitted nicely into the storyline? OR…Did you start to really dislike the character and, with too much work involved to re-write without that character, think it the easiest option to have that person die?
As many of my books involve demons and angels it is hard to kill them off as they have immortal souls. Yes, they might die on Earth but so what? The souls just return to the appropriate dimension, and continue to be themselves. To get around this problem I wrote a whole book, called The Sword of Uncreation, which is about a weapon whose mere scratch to the skin can completely destroy a soul so that it no longer exists. There is a race to find it and a battle ensues on Ilkley Moor involving the angelic souls of Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix, but you will have to read the book to find out what happens.
Despite the existence of this weapon, so far I have only ever used it to kill off one character and that was because it was based on a real person who had pissed me off so I contrived to get rid of them. If the person hadn’t been such a bitch to me, they’d still be appearing in my stories. So, let that be a warning to you, be nice to
Are any of your characters based on family members or friends? Have you kept their characters totally true to life or have you given them bonus traits that you wish they possessed in real life?
Many of my characters are named after and loosely based on people I know, or their ex’s. For example, one of my closest friends is an Italian author living in Germany, called Rossana, or Roxy for short, and she has been arguably the biggest supporter of my writing. Without her helping me to believe in myself I might never have published a single word after the website closed. As a thanks to her I created a character, in my Hell and Heaven novel, which is named after her. She is a kick arse demon hunter and, although the person in my stories shares Roxy’s back story and her addiction to smoking, the fictional version of her has evolved as the books progress so that she is barely recognisable when compared to the real thing. Also, Dedan, the central character, based on me of which more about him later, does fancy the pants off her but she sees him only as a brother/ good friend and knows that it would be a disaster if they ever did get physical, so nothing can ever happen between the two of them. Talk about art imitating life.
Also, her ex-husband could best be described, by me at least, as a right royal bastard (and I cleaned that last word up), so he also features in all the stories as a demon whose ongoing joke punishment involves his rear end and a cricket bat. I will not say more but I am sure you can use your imagination with what happens to him on a regular basis.
Relationships/family life aside, what are your TWO main regrets in life?
Other than consistently failing to pick the right lottery numbers so that I could win £ millions, my biggest regret is not that my marriage didn’t work but that it might have hurt people I care about when it eventually failed. But I know that my sons are intelligent and wise young men, and they probably knew that it was over long before their parents did. Grown ups can live for a long time in denial.
What was your passion as a child? Did that passion stay with you during your adult life OR did you, as you grew up begin to detest what you once enjoyed?
I am sure that most young children do not have dreams of becoming chartered accountants, quantity surveyors or even buyers when they grow up and I was no different. Other than being an international jet setting spy I always wanted to be a policeman. However, when that dream briefly came true, I soon discovered that reality was more of a nightmare. Disillusioned, I saw that the justice system was broken beyond repair, so I left and have not looked back since.
What was your best subject throughout your school years? And your worst?
I could never have been accused of being a swot at school. I was lazy and knew how to do just enough work to allow me to pass the exams with grades that were far from being ‘A Star Plus’. It was thanks to this indolence that I never really pushed myself. Most of the teachers were uninspiring as well so they did nothing to motivate me to try harder. But there were exceptions of which, one drama. I might have chosen the subject as I thought it would be an easy skive but the teacher had a passion for the subject that was contagious, and I even joined the
after-school drama club and that is where I started to come out of my shell, believe in myself and stop being painfully shy.
With the least favourite lessons none of them were due to the subject, instead they more down to the teachers. When I was at school, bullying and physical torture was usually overlooked, especially when done by the teachers. The cane might have been history, but other forms of punishment still existed. I honestly have not only seen heavy blackboard rubbers being thrown at pupils, I have also witnessed pupils literally, and I DO mean literally, be picked up and thrown at blackboards. It is hard to appreciate the beauty of maths or geography when there are psychos watching your every move and looking for any excuse to inflict pain. Oh, for the old days of school discipline.
Tell me about your favourite teacher throughout your school years? Was it a crush you had? Were they just an excellent teacher of your favourite subject?? Or some other reason…kind, fun, generous…?
Although there were the psycho teachers from Hell, I do not remember many of their names and have no desire to perpetuate their existence by mentioning them here. But when it comes to favourite teachers two names spring straight to mind. The first was Mr Edgerton. He was an English teacher and dressed like one too. He seemed to have a wardrobe full of various chalk dust coloured corduroy jackets with the obligatory ‘TV’ patches on the elbows. But he was a good and kind man who taught his pupils how to use their brains and think for themselves. He wanted people to learn how to appreciate the subject and use it properly in real life rather than just learning what was needed to pass the exams. Although I might not have shined with my grades, I learnt the true beauty of the English language and for that I will be forever grateful to him. It is a wonderful tool if people know how to use it properly and, even if I might be a bit crass and smutty at times, I hope that I honour his hard work with how I interpret the world.
The other teacher who I remember was the drama teacher, Vic Clarkson, quite possibly mad but a great guy who knew how to inspire people to seek out whatever tiny spark of creative genius they might have possessed. Some of his students went on to be full time actors while one went onto be a full-time drama teacher at Hull University, so the expression about those that ‘can do’ springs to mind and not even he could win them all! He also lived in the same street as me, so I used to babysit for him and I fancied his wife as she was, and still is, HOT!
Did either of your parents ever express a wish to write? Are they supportive and proud of your work? Or do they just choose to not get involved, but they are pleased for you?
I wish that I could say that my parents were supportive of me, but they weren’t. Not that they were against me doing my own things, but they never really understood it. Then, when I did get published, I proudly gave my Dad the signed copy of the first printed version of my debut novel, Closing Shop. As he was religious, or as religious as a Methodist could be, he didn’t approve of my humour or the subject matter and didn’t like it. I doubt that he ever finished reading it which hurt at the time but, later on, he did say how proud of me he was and that I was writing. That meant the world to me and as he died in May 2023 I just wished that he could have lived to see me publish more novels and, maybe, he would have liked some of those.
Tell us about your ultimate ambition, be it personal, travel, writing, work, hobby related or other?
Fame and riches would be nice but realistically I’d love to be able to make enough money from writing so that I can give up ‘work’ and become a full-time author. Perhaps go and live in some country that is warmer than Britain and isn’t ruled by inept idiots. Once there I would sit on the porch drinking beer and writing while the world leaves me in peace. I am in the process of trying to sell the movie rights for my novels to an American producer so, who knows, my dream might not be as so far fetched as it sounds.
Do you have any phobias and if so, what are they? Have you ever conquered any phobia and if so, how did you do it?
I am not great with heights, but only certain ones. Put me in a plane, miles above the ground, and I love it. But send me up the Eiffel Tower or the Shard and it will have me sweating and I’ll be clinging onto any convenient handrail as if my life depended on it. I did partly cure myself of this fear by going to the top of a tall building and forcing myself to look down until the world inside my head stopped spinning and I could let go of the window ledge that I was gripping onto. The irrational fear is still there but it is not as bad as it used to be.
Most people I know are not happy with something physical about themselves (face/body etc.,) but if you could change anything about your personality, what would you wish to change?
Although I am going bald that doesn’t bother me and I recently took the plunge to get rid of my combover and I had my head shaved. It felt strange at first and I had to do a double take in any mirror to check who it was in the reflection but now I am happy with the new look.
I am also overweight and go to the gym to work on that but my love of cake and bacon (not on the same plate I must add) ensures that I will forever be podgy.
What is your ‘go to’ snack, whatever the time of day? And drink of your choice?
Anyone who knows me in person, or is friends with me on Facebook, will know that I am a coffee addict. If any of you ever meet me and want to make me happy it is strong, black and no sugar. Say no more!
Cats or dogs? What do you have? Do you introduce any pets into your books?
I used to be a dog person and love Golden Retrievers while cats were evil creatures for sad or weird people who were just like the cat lady character in the Simpsons. That was until I made friends with someone in Hartlepool, and I started to spend many a drunken weekend staying with them. She has a daft and lazy cat called
Huxley and he took an instant liking to me, and the feelings were quickly returned so I now spend a lot of my time, while there, with him laid on my lap demanding fusses and who am I to refuse?
AND FINALLY, Hit me up with all your Amazon book-links? And the links to your website and social media profiles?
And the books:
Thank you so much for keeping us entertained Darren, and for being a part of this, my author interview series!
On Friday we have author, Kate Kenzie (Katie Wells) under the spotlight!