Author Spotlight – Darius Hinks
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Darius Hinks!
DARIUS HINKS works and lives in Nottinghamshire, England. He spent the nineties playing guitar for the grunge band Cable, but when his music career ended in a bitter lawsuit, he turned to writing. His first novel, Warrior Priest, won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award and, so far at least, none of his novels have resulted in litigation.
His latest novel, The Ingenious, is published by Angry Robot Books, and is out now.
Thanks for joining us today, Darius. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
The book that had the biggest effect on me recently is a novel called Goose of Hermogenes. It was written in the 1950s by a British surrealist called called Ithell Colquhoun. The plot doesn’t make a great deal of sense – the heroine goes to a spooky, gothic island and is ensnared by her sinister, alchemist uncle – but the writing is so odd and so vivid, that it gives you the weirdest sensation that you’re inside someone else’s dream. It’s haunting and peculiar and I’ve never read anything else quite like it. It gets quite dark in places, though, so it’s not for the faint of heart!
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I am the Wise Old Elf from Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom and my weapon is a trumpet. (I’m afraid I can only think through the filter of the programmes my children watch. I focus on Ben and Holly so I can avoid thinking about the abomination that is Paw Patrol.)
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Type! Are there people who still write by hand? Do they also brush their teeth with sticks and communicate by carrier pigeon? The idea terrifies me. My method of writing is to type something dreadful and then edit it for so many hours it becomes less dreadful. If I tried to do that on paper I’d end up with an ink-sodden rag and carpal tunnel syndrome.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
I always write to music, played through massive, 1970s dad-style headphones. I usually have just one or two albums per book that I listen to on a loop. You’d think it would send me mad, hearing the same songs, day after day, for months, but I rarely listen to anything with any singing in and the music acts as a kind of mantra, dropping me back into the headspace I left when I stopped writing the day before.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I write in a hysterical panic. However much planning I do at the start, I always find that my characters come to life and trample over the details, leaving me floundering in unexpected plot developments. I have a daily battle to stop myself prevaricating and editing rather than actually getting new words down but if I force myself to write every day, after a few months of internal wrestling I’m usually relieved to find that I don’t hate what I’ve produced. Then I have a have a novel-sized lump of stuff I can try and hack into an actual novel.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
I am such an obsessive David Lynch fan that if I ever met him I would burst into tears. I think Twin Peaks: The Return is such an incredible piece of work – terrifying, beautiful, funny and utterly unique. I watched some of the episodes over and over, on my own, in the dark, until I gained a new state of consciousness.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
See above, but also loads of crap I won’t admit to. I thought Fleabag was so funny. One of the best series of recent years. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is such a great writer. Beyond that, I love University Challenge, but that’s mainly for the hairstyles.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Walking with my wife and our two boys. We all love stomping about the Nottinghamshire countryside. We live just north of the city and there’s lots of nice walks around here. My three-year-old likes to pick up every stick he sees, though, so we usually end up with a miniature, misshapen wicker man staggering after us.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
The world would be a better place without apostrophes. Despite all that ‘Let’s eat Grandma’ rubbish, context makes the meaning clear and so few people know how to use apostrophes correctly they’ve become an elitist badge to brow-beat people with. Our current apostrophe rules were only invented by a few pompous Victorians who wanted to elevate themselves above the proles. (That might not actually be true but I feel like I’m on a roll with this so I’m not going to let actual facts get in the way.)
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
I’m writing about a vampire who travels the galaxy battling inner demons at the same time as battling actual demons.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I kind of feel like I have done this. I’ve written several novels in Games Workshop’s Warhammer universes and that’s essentially a huge, collaborative project curated by the (god-like) Black Library editors.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I think the danger with writing advice is that it can make people feel like they’re doing it ‘wrong’. I read some advice that said you will only finish your book if you force yourself to sit at your desk until some words come out. The opposite works for me. When I hit a roadblock I could stare at my screen all day and produce nothing but stress hormones. But if I turn the computer off, go for a walk, and try to NOT think about what I’m stuck on, my subconscious beavers away in the background and ideas force their way into my head. Then, even if I’ve spent hours walking, the little bit of day I have left will yield far more words than I would have achieved staring at my screen.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
See my answer above. Also, I think there are some days where it might be better to give up on the writing all together, do something useful and positive instead and then have another go tomorrow.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
There’s an amazing book called Narcopolis that I’ve not heard many people mention so maybe it’s underappreciated… It’s a kind of meandering, drug-induced hallucination set in the opium dens of 1970s Mumbai. I don’t think it’s what you’d traditionally call a fantasy novel, but it’s so dreamlike and strange that it reads like one. It’s written by an Indian author called Jeet Thayil and the prose is beautiful.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
I write books about sharks who overcome their seemingly insurmountable character flaws (small teeth) to achieve greatness and win the respect of their shark peers.
Thanks again for joining us, Darius, and good luck with your latest release!
Darius Hinks is the author of multiple novels set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer universe. His latest, non-Warhammer novel is The Ingenious, which is available now from Angry Robot Books.