Author interview with David Towsey

Author interview with David Towsey

One of the most genre-bending novels out this year is Your Brothers Blood from David Towsey. Like I mentioned in my review I was expecting something totally different with a book set in the zombie genre, they lend a hand to create a horrific, gruesome story. In Your Brother's Blood David Towsey changes the perspectives of a lot of elements, just for starters the main protagonist Tomas is one of the Walkin' (an undead yes) this change put the story into a completely different daylight, but moreover there is a strong current of humanness making you to abandon some of the stereotypical thoughts about this genre. Your Brother's Blood is a definite recommendation.

Read my full review here

Author Bio:
David Towsey is a graduate of the Bath Spa Creative Writing Masters programme. He is continuing his studies as a Ph.D. student at Aberystwyth University, where he lives with his girlfriend and their four cats.

His first novel, Your Brother's Blood, is to be published in September 2013 UK, October 2014 US, by Quercus' imprint Jo Fletcher Books. The rest of the The Walkin' Trilogy will follow in 2014 and 2015. His short fiction has appeared in numerous markets, links to some of which are available on this site. He regularly reviews for critical journals, including New Welsh Review and the BSFA’s Vector.


Hi David, welcome to The Book Plank and thank you for taking you time to answer a few questions for us.

BP: First off can you give us a short introduction of who David is? What are your likes/dislikes hobbies etc?
DT: I'm a twenty-eight year old lecturer in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University – where I've just finished my PhD. I used to play a lot of computer games, specifically MMOs, but my job and writing has kind of taken over. I've been into MMOs since I was fourteen and first got hold of Ultima Online. These days I get my gaming fix through weekly games of Magic: the Gathering – we have a pretty good community here in Aberystwyth. I try and keep active by playing squash and swimming at least twice a week. If I could, I’d play golf regularly too but it’s a little difficult at the moment.

BP: Your Brother’s Blood is your debut book, when did you know you wanted to start writing?
DT: My first serious thoughts about trying to become an author came at the end of my BA degree. Until then I enjoyed producing short stories for seminars but didn’t think I’d go much further with it. Friends were talking about what jobs they wanted to do out there in the “real world”. So I had the choice of joining them in the job hunt, or go back into education to work more on my writing. I felt I still had a lot to learn and wasn’t confident enough to go about it on my own. Working some dead-end jobs made the choice pretty obvious. The start of my MA degree was when I knuckled-down and focused on getting better at the craft.

BP: The current zombie genre is quite well established, however with Your Brother’s Blood you steered into a completely different heretofore unexplored territory. What gave you the idea behind Your Brother’s Blood?
DT:  Your Brother’s Blood is really the result of a few smaller ideas coming together. That’s how I tend to work: bringing threads together of images or character traits that appeal. The setting for the novel was inspired by a group called ‘Transition Town’. A while ago my girlfriend attended meetings in Aberystwyth. It's an organisation that, as far as I understand it, wants to prepare communities for a major change in our modern lifestyle, such as oil running out. This got me thinking about how the modern era might end, not in a fiery apocalypse like you see in many SF novels, but a slow winding down.

It’s harder to say where the Walkin’ came from. For some reason at the time I was thinking what it would be like to live forever. It’s an idea SF/F novels and short stories have dealt with before, but I can’t remember reading a particular book that started me planning. Often living forever turns about to less than great. So that’s why the Walkin’ don’t quite resemble traditional zombies – from the beginning they were closer to cursed immortals than the shuffling horde.   

BP: If you would have to sell your book in one sentence, what would that be?
DT: Ha! Good question. My editor says I’m terrible at condensing my ideas into snappy one-liners. In my very brief experience, the publishing world seems to like the ‘X meets Y’ format. So Your Brother’s Blood is:
Part road-movie, part zombie-western, that tells a story of love and survival as a family struggles to stay together.

BP: Starting with writing a book is a daunting task, how did you approach this? Have you learned anything that you will be using when you write your next book?
DT:  This book was a very long, and at times steep, learning curve. I like to try things first, blunder along making mistakes, and then go back and attempt to get better and fix whatever I did wrong. So, without much planning or thought about how it would turn out I wrote a draft of Your Brother’s Blood. After more drafts and rewrites than I care to admit, with a lot of help from my agent and girlfriend (who is also a novelist), I pulled the novel together. It wasn’t the cleanest or easiest process but I learnt so much from making the mistakes. Approaching the second novel in the trilogy I knew I wanted to have a strong plan in place for the structure of the story. I was confident I had the voice and style I wanted, but pulling the reader through the story was something that didn’t come entirely naturally. I worked on it. I feel I’ve learned a lot since starting on The Walkin’ Trilogy, and hopefully that will be apparent in the next two books.

BP: What was your biggest challenge in writing Your Brother’s Blood?
DT: The biggest challenge by far was Black Mountain. It changed dramatically through all the different drafts of the novel. I had plenty of ideas of how to show a Walkin’ community – a kind of utopia where people had all the time in the world to pursue whatever interested them. But the problem was it didn’t fit the McDermotts and their story. I knew from the outset that I wanted to tell Thomas and Mary’s story in a very close, fixed way. I didn’t want to spend hundreds of pages world-building. There are plenty of readers who enjoy that kind of writing and plenty of novels that cater for them. I wanted to show the reader the world as it impacted on my characters, and only then. Each different version of Black Mountain just didn’t quite feel integral to the plot – so in the end I cut it back until all that was left were the important bits. Black Mountain casts a long shadow over the trilogy, for me and the McDermotts. One day I’d like to give it the full story it deserves.

BP: Did you encounter any specific problems during the writing?
DT: Maintaining narrative tension was a problem I had to work through. This was mainly a structural issue. Things like characterization and dialogue are the parts of writing I feel I have a better handle on. But they can only go so far – the reader can’t get bored by the plot because that’s when you lose them. Things like Black Mountain and characters that were cut in later drafts were slowing down the action. I don’t think anyone would describe Your Brother’s Blood as “action-packed” but it is a novel that does clip along at a reasonable pace. That wasn’t always the case.

BP: There are many different elements in Your Brother’s Blood, that produce quite a diverse story from a compelling point of view with Thomas and his daughter and the tension in the witch hunt with the clergyman of Barkley. What was your favorite part to write of Your Brother’s Blood?
DT: It sounds a little grim, but I really enjoyed putting Thomas through some terrible things. Walkin’ characters give me an opportunity to explore nasty moments in a uniquely detached, self-aware way. From the very first chapter Thomas has to deal with the physicality of his situation. Water rushing between his bones and muscles, animals crawling inside him, fingers being torn lose, etc, are all gruesomely enjoyable to imagine and write. If these things were to happen to another character I would have to focus on the pain that would eclipse all other ideas or feelings, but not so with Thomas. 

BP: Your Brother’s Blood was published last month, upon reflection, if you would be given the chance to rewrite any chapter, would you do so? If yes which would it be and why?
DT: Tough question. The answer is really: all of it. If I could, I’d write the whole thing again. I doubt I’m alone in feeling like that. There’s something about seeing your work in print that transforms sentences that looked great on the computer screen into abominations. But I’m not sure if it would be a better book if I was able to rewrite it. Sometimes you do more damage than good if you over-think things.

BP: The characters in Your Brother’s Blood all come over as quite human and relatable. Did you base any characters or their vices and virtues on real people?
DT: Well, I’m glad that you think so. It’s certainly something I strive for in my work; in both human and Walkin’ characters. Are they based on real people? Not directly. Like most (if not all) writers, I borrow from everyone I meet. Little ticks and character traits make an impression and I draw on them when I need to. Sometimes it’s more conscious a process than others. I recently finished my PhD novel which is much closer to a personal story than The Walkin’ Trilogy, with characters and themes that are based loosely on real people. It might feel different having that novel published…   

BP: The world of Your Brother’s Blood lends itself for further exploration in a sequel. Have you planned more books to make it into a series? Or do you have other projects you wish to pursue now?
DT: Yes, it’s definitely a world I’m really excited to explore more. At the moment there is The Walkin’ Trilogy which tells the full story of the McDermott family. There’s a good few narrative years between each book so the reader gets to see characters like Thomas and Mary in different stages of their lives. Beyond that, I’m planning another story in the same world, which I unfortunately can’t talk too much about.  I’m also interested in finding a publisher for my PhD novel and I have a few ideas kicking around for SF novels. Like many writers, I’m never short of an idea or two.

BP: Everyone enjoys fantasy on different level. What do you like most about writing fantasy?
DT: That I can do whatever I want. Realism feels limiting. I want undead characters. I want to write about a world without technology. Fantasy (and SF) let me do that with a readership that is not only ready, but excited to see different things.

BP: and just lastly, if you would have to recommend 5 books, which would they be?
DT: That’s not easy; ask me again in a week and the answer might be different. But right now: I Am Legend – Richard Matheson, Woman on the Edge of Time – Marge Piercy, Blood Music – Greg Bear, Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein, The Dispossessed – Ursula K. Le Guin.

BP: Thank you for your time David and good luck with your future writing!

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