So a little while ago I was lucky enough to be amongst the first readers of “The Cleansing”, and end of days tale with a twist that I loved very much. So much that it did get a mention in my 2013 Reading Year in Review. So I tracked Sam down to ask him some questions and here is what he had to tell me.
What, if anything, inspired you to write an “end of days” tale – I won’t say Post Apocalyptic just yet!
I have been fascinated by end of the world tales since watching the film The Omega Man as a young boy. There’s a scene where Charlton Heston wanders into a department store and starts picking out new clothes. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to be able to go into any shop I fancied and just take anything that caught my eye. I was too young to fully appreciate the downside to all this – the despair, the loneliness, the absolute hopelessness of being in such a situation – but the sense of wonder has never left me.
Since then, some of my favourite books have involved end of the world scenarios: The Stand, Riddley Walker and The Road, to name a few. When I started writing in my early thirties, it seemed perfectly natural to pen an apocalyptic tale and I wrote the short story The Third Coming around fifteen years ago. It contained the germs of the ideas that would be realised more fully in The Cleansing and its sequels. When writing that story, something in the back of my mind told me I would be returning to explore that world in more depth at some point.
It nagged at me on and off for the next fifteen years, but it was only when a review of my short story collection Pond Life mentioned that the reviewer would be interested in reading an expanded version of The Third Coming that I decided the time was right to return to that world.
Was it difficult to breathe new life into the genre and find a unique perspective for it?
To be perfectly honest, not once did such considerations enter my head. Of course, I was all too aware that similar stories had been told, and amazingly well, by writers with reputations I can only hope to emulate. More than once the thought crossed my mind, ‘Does the world really need yet another apocalytic novel?’ Moreover, by a writer no one’s ever heard of? But I pressed on regardless. Not through arrogance, but because I have to write a story once it’s in my head. The only way to get shot of it is to write it. A little like lancing a boil but without the mess.
Do you have a favourite character from the book?
Bishop and Simone both intrigue me. Without giving anything away, they are of the other sort yet neither display the hive mentality of their kindred.
Peter and Milandra, too, I find interesting. Torn between loyalty to their kind and sympathy for the survivors, I’m looking forward to seeing how they will act from here on in.
But my favourite character? Probably Ceri. I sense a strength of character within her that I don’t think even she’s aware of.
Is there a complete vision for the story as a whole, this being Book One, or are you expecting further developments from your characters?
I know (roughly) how the third book ends, so in that sense it’s plot-driven. However, I have no idea how the characters will reach that point. And there are new characters in Book Two (The Beacon) that I’m enjoying getting to know. Quite what their roles will be is not yet clear. That’s part of the fun, and terror, of the way I write: I don’t plot in advance – I’ve tried and I can’t do it – so it’s almost as much a journey of discovery for me as it will be for the reader.
Can you tell us a little about what is next for them without giving too much away?
Tom was the dominant survivor in The Cleansing, but I suspect that he has already plumbed the depths of his courage. Ceri will come more to the fore in Book Two. I know that at least one of the new characters, Bri (pronounced like brie, the cheese), will have a big part to play.
Simone will become a key figure, but possibly not revealing her full role until Book Three. Diane is still an enigma – her innermost feelings and motivations are still unclear. And Peter… hmmm. He’s hiding something. That’s all I’d better say for now.
Favourite Comfort author/book.
Since my teens, Stephen King has always been my go-to author, but I often return to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series for light-hearted escapism. So I’d have to declare a draw for my favourite comfort author. Book? No contest: The Lord of the Rings. I can revisit it time after time and never grow bored.
Favourite comfort food
Ribeye steak (medium/well done), onion rings, fried mushrooms, peas, golden chips, all washed down with a good Merlot.
Something you wish you were good at but are not.
Advance plotting. I’m a little envious of writers who can produce a 30,000-word outline then knock out a near-perfect novel in a few weeks because most of the hard work – resolving twists and turns, coping with characters who insist on doing their own thing, tying up loose ends – was done at the outline stage.
And self-promotion. I’m completely inept at blowing my own trumpet. When I try, I become all coy and self-deprecating. So that’s what I wish I was good at – and so do my publishers.
Apocalypse unleashed, the Cleansing begins. Relentless. Survival, uncertain.
Seven billion people inhabit this world, unaware our destruction is at hand. Death arrives unheralded—swift and nearly certain—not from meteors or nuclear holocaust or global warming, but from a source no one even knows exists.
So, this was brilliant. Yep. It really was. Mainly because, although it has as its basic premise a story told often before (The end of mankind etc etc), the author has given it a little twist, a little spark of new life, thrown in a spot of originality and mixed the whole thing up into a rather addictive adventure.
Its difficult to go into a lot of detail here without spoiling the sense and ambience of it – because of the variations on a theme, the discovery of those variations are at the heart of the enjoyment of the story so I won’t give anything away. Its certainly new to me and I was engaged and intrigued all the way through.
The writing is pacy and compelling, easy to read and sink into, and there are some terrific characters to be found here…all in all it is certainly one of the best books of its kind I have read this year.
This is very much Book One – the author has taken this opportunity to do some proper mythology, background and world building, to situate his characters and at least imply their purpose, all without resorting to mundane exposition which might bore the reader. Cleverly achieved – and when I reached the end I was ready to metaphorically kill people in order to get Book Two, but did not feel short changed at all by the story as a whole.
Excellent. Loved it. Highly Recommended.
Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/writersamkates?fref=ts
Follow Sam on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/_Sam_Kates_
Happy Reading Folks!