Today its the turn of Mark Hill to fall under the spotlight – The Two O Clock Boy is out in ebook today – I have read it. A bit like poor David Young though Mark is having to wait for a review (watch this space you MAY find it magically appears sometime in the next 48 hours but I’m awaiting my local magician) – I can say though that you do NOT want to miss this one. No no no. Go get it. Linky link at the end of the, ahem, interview. Look I was nice ok? He got to talk about his book WAY more than the other victims got to talk about theirs…
The Two O Clock Boy…. idea came from….?
No idea. I mean, I know I always wanted to write about a compromised protagonist, someone who is both hunter and hunted, but when you sit down and write, and the days become weeks become months, I don’t think you make too many conscious decisions, a lot of the best stuff slips in the backdoor. Ray Drake’s journey evolved as I was writing it, Flick Crowley’s journey evolved. But I did make some decisions about the book beforehand. For example, I knew I’d probably write two timelines, one set in the modern-day and one set in the past, because I wanted to make the story EPIC.
They say you’ll love it if you love Luther. Do you love Luther like I love Luther?
Clearly Luther’s influence on the protestant reformation is without question, and he undoubtedly changed the course of Western history, but I’m afraid the jury is still out on his crime-fighting techniques.
What did you have for breakfast?
A cup of coffee and avocado on wholemeal toast. Wait, if that sounds sickeningly healthy, I can confirm it’s usually cereal, or a pastry down the café… and then another pastry. My life is just a series of desperate sprints from one pastry to another, really.
Twisting the plot comes easy to you or keeps you up night after night crying?
It’s kind of a first world problem, innit, thinking about twists? It’s a beautiful anxiety. I don’t think there’s ever a moment in a day when my manuscript is not transmitting to me, or those characters aren’t whispering in my ear. Of course, all the best ideas come when I’m trying to concentrate on something else. Somebody will be giving me important information or directions – ‘whatever you do, make sure you pull the ripcord at 2,500 feet!’ – and I’m, like, whatever, because I’m too busy thinking about what terrible bit of business has befallen my characters.
Favourite character you wrote into The Two O Clock Boy and why…
There are a couple of characters in The Two O’Clock Boy who are pensioners, Myra Drake and Harry Crowley, and both are forces of nature. People who have lived life by their own rules and see no reason to change in old age. Both are strong-willed, ambiguous, manipulative characters, and neither will go gently into that good night.
What is your favourite kind of cheese?
Last time I was in your neck of the woods, Bicester, I bought some Stinking Bishop. That was a fine cheese, a very fine cheese. And, what’s the word – pungent.
The book you’ve read this year that you wish you had written if only you were better at this…
Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me blew me away for its incredible control and laser-sharp prose. Honestly, her sentences can slice through steel. You Will Know Me is a great mystery, but it’s also a brilliant and heart-breaking tale of self-deception.
What was the last thing that literally made you laugh out loud?
I think I may have laughed out loud in 1987. I vaguely remember it. I think it may have involved a short-sighted clown and a mantrap.
Cats or dogs? Or giraffes?
My cat is lying behind my laptop right now, taking up all the space on the desk. I could watch my cat all day doing nothing. And he watches me all day doing nothing. But I grew up with dogs, and I like them both. Giraffes take up too much space on the desk, to be honest.
In The Two O Clock Boy two children end up in very different places. How do you feel about nature v nurture?
My goodness, that question is way above my pay grade. The famous psychologist Donald Hebb once answered the question of “which contributes more to personality, nature or nurture?” by retorting, “which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?”
I didn’t know that quote, by the way. I just cut-and-paste it from the interweb to make myself look dead clever.
Covering the covers. The Two O Clock Boy has a brilliant cover. Name a book that is not yours where you saw the cover and went WOW.
My god, Liz, I’ve got better things to do that go searching around my bookshelf. These pastries won’t eat themselves. But, wait, lucky for you I recently received a copy of Darktown by Thomas Mullen and its perspective-skewing cover blew me away. Funnily enough, I think it’s by the same guy as did mine. Again it’s a simple idea, well-executed. Check this out…
Emotional hard hitting themes in your debut. how do you handle the writing of those, keeping it authentic but still entertaining.
There are some dark themes in The Two O’Clock Boy. As soon as you see it’s partly set in a children’s home you go, uh-oh, here we go. But the dark stuff is all done off-the-page. It’s very important to me that The Two O’Clock Boy is an entertainment. There’s violence, though.
One thing that makes you mad as all hell and makes you want to kill people…
Luckily, I have a job that allows me to kill people whenever I feel like it. Which is, you know, a lot.
How scary was it when you realised people (other than close family/friends or your publishing team) were actually reading that thing you’d written.
It’s just started, really. People are getting their hands on the book and it’s both a relief and a scary proposition.
Extraordinarily naughty as a child or a suck up?
I’ve always been a good boy, Liz, you know that, but maybe I was a bit distracted. I was the kid chatting at the back of the class, looking out the window, juddering his chair legs up and down, a pencil in his ear. I wasn’t exactly Bash Street naughty, and I was – am – kind of weedy. But my Dad ran a boxing club, so all the hardnuts who went there left me alone, which was useful.
If you could have any one author read, love and provide a super quote for your cover who would it be? Living or dead…
If we’re aiming high, William Shakespeare would be nice. ‘My kingdom for this book!’
Stephen King would be top of my list for living authors. A quote from him and I think I could drop dead happy, then and there. Although I’d rather not.
Favourite flavour of crisps?
Prawn cocktail, definitely.
Habitual writing spots…
My attic desk in the winter. In the summer it’s like sitting in a blast furnace, so I’ll go sit in the kitchen. And there are about half a dozen cafes in North London. I’ll go in and watch the world go by and get to know the pastries.
Post it note plotter or reliably efficient…
I use file cards to plot, and I’m fastidious about it. However, I don’t think there’s any decent idea that I’ve come up with that hasn’t stuck in my head. If something’s good, it stays with you. Which is just as well, because my handwriting is bloody awful. I’ve bought a millions of notebooks with the best intentions to write down ideas and I’ll probably buy a million more, but the truth is, I don’t use them efficiently. Can never have too many notebooks, though. If nothing else, I’m a champion doodler, as you can see.
How much do you hate me right now?
Hate is such a distasteful word, Liz. I would never say I hate you. Loathe, maybe. Yeah, loathe has a zing to it.
You love me really! Thanks Mark!
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Purchase The Two O’Clock Boy HERE