During December of 2014, I was approached by Ian David Noakes to help participate in his book blog tour for his debut novel, Hourglass Heights. Ian initially asked me to refer or recommend anyone who would be willing to blog or promote the book. However, having read the book myself, and it making my Top 10 list for 2014, I happily offered to promote the book for him on my own blog.
Before we go any further, here is the blurb for Hourglass Heights:
Who is brutally murdering the male residents of the Hourglass Heights apartment complex? At first glance, it would appear that their spouses are the killers, but Detective Marcia Tanaka believes that a serial killer is responsible.
Through the course of her investigation, Detective Tanaka is pulled into a world of Japanese folklore and the supernatural as she explores the darker side of relationships, sex and psyche. She must learn to defeat her own personal demons before she can defeat one that is far more sinister.
Hourglass Heights combines the mystery and suspense of a supernatural murder investigation with the intense sexual exploration usually found only in erotica.
Having known Ian for some time, I was happy to promote Hourglass Heights. I haven’t seen an expert combination of genres like this in a horror novel for many years, let alone seen it pulled off successfully. However, since I wasn’t the only person doing a blog tour, I wanted to make mine a little different…a little more personal. In a world where the Internet is king, I wanted to make this blog stand out.
In that vein of imagination, I decided to do a short Q&A with the author himself, and include a Character Interview with Marcia Tanaka herself, the flawed heroine of the novel. I’ve already reviewed the book several times, on Amazon and Goodreads, not to mention my previous blog post (if you haven’t read it already, check it out), so retreading old ground wasn’t something I wanted to do, or bring to you once more. After speaking to Ian, he agreed it would be a nice idea. So, without further delay, with the blessing of Ian David Noakes himself, grab a coffee and a quiet room, and let’s get to it.
Book Title: Hourglass Heights
Author: Ian David Noakes
Genre: Erotic, Horror, Thriller
Word Count: 277 pages
Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.
My 5* review for Hourglass Heights can be read on Amazon here.
My 5* review for Hourglass Heights can also be read on Goodreads here.
1. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
My ‘writing’ calling came pretty late in life (an old git in my late-twenties!) for me. I’ve loved storytelling since an early age, but that included both books and the movies. It wasn’t until I reached those late-twenties that the idea of writing occurred to me. I guess like most people, I’d always believed writing books and movies only happened to ‘other’ people.
It wasn’t until I ‘scribbled’ down a short (very short!) story whilst working on a late-shift as a projectionist that I wondered if I would have it in me to write a novel. Two online businesses and tons of ‘how to write’ books later, I wrote an awful screenplay called ‘Past Out.’ The premise was good, but the execution of the story and script screamed out amateur. I did rewrite this story years later, and changed the title, and it is currently sitting in my screenplay inventory. I must admit, I have a soft spot for this story as it’s a horror story set during the night in a multiplex cinema. All those late nights working in the booth finally paid off!
My screen-writing developed over the years, and I met a lot of talented people along this journey. I haven’t had anything produced – this will change this year (twice)!! – but what it did do was put me through years of rigorous story training. See question 8 for more on this topic.
I should really wrap up this question now: so with all these years of writing scripts under my belt – and coming close on many occasions to breaking into the industry big time – I listened to my wife and penned my first novel. You will see something in my book bio where I mention being complimented on my visual screen-writing, and that writing a book will finally enable people to finally ‘read’ my words.
I’ve just scrolled up to your question, and realized I haven’t really answered it. I knew when I realized I could – the passion for storytelling was already there.
2. How did the idea for Hourglass Heights come about?
The original spark for Hourglass Heights came from the brilliant movie ‘Snake Eyes.’ I’d already seen the movie on a number of occasions, but it just happened to get me thinking on that particular night. I’d already made up my mind that I wanted to write a horror/thriller, but at the time Snake Eyes really tickled my creative thinking. I wanted to write something contained and claustrophobic too, and this movie just inspired me to push forward and start developing this rough idea.
Ultimately, Hourglass Heights ended up nothing like Snake Eyes. It was my plan to set most of it inside the Hourglass Heights apartment complex, but as I started to write the story it just burst out of the ‘contained and claustrophobic’ wrapping and started to find its own identity.
I guess Brian De Palma & David Koepp played a big part in the creation of the ‘idea’ behind Hourglass Heights. David for writing it, and Brian for making the movie.
Another tidbit – How I came up with the title:
Hourglass Heights is the name of the apartment building. Best known for killing and eating the male after mating, the female black widow is a killer with a red hourglass on her black body. I won’t reveal much more just in case I give too much away, but I can assure everybody my serial killer isn’t a giant spider.
An hourglass also signifies time running out, which works perfectly as Marcia hunts a killer.
3. What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on turning ‘Partners In Crime’ from a novella, and into a novel. The response to these dysfunctional characters – and the edgy style of story I threw them into – has been nothing short of fantastic. I had the original work proofread by a literary agent, and after his first read through, he said: “When I first read through them I had tears in my eyes. I honestly believe that it was the first time I have ever laughed aloud at a piece of fiction.” He also went on to say that he believed a full-length novel adaptation with these characters would go on to be a U.K. best-seller.
So, I picked this project to work on next. I must admit though, on more than one occasion, I’ve been unfaithful and seen other projects behind this project’s back. But we’re back together, and stronger than ever.
4. Which writers have inspired you?
Okay, let’ start with the obvious answer to his question. But this is a double-barrelled answer and you’ll find the second part further along.
If we’re talking authors, then I wouldn’t look any further than Stephanie Meyer. Sure, the likes of Stephen King and James Patterson have astounded me and inspired me. Who haven’t they inspired and astounded? However, when I was floating between screen-writing and novel writing, I read the Twilight books. The book that gave me that final push was New Moon, and did it push me! I was captivated by it, and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it. I was exhausted by the end, but ready to pick up the next chapter of the amazing series. It was at that point that I decided that I wasn’t going to write another screenplay until I completed my debut novel. I also couldn’t believe that this amazing author managed to write this book while raising a young family; a child on both knees as she tapped her story into her computer on the kitchen table. Cool. Inspiring.
And here comes part two to my answer:
It isn’t only the best-selling authors or big box-office big boys and girls that can inspire me! It’s the ones that are on the verge of this success, or striving towards it like me.
Since I started writing I have met and worked with a number of great people along the way, many of whom I am proud to call a friend. I still collaborate with a screenwriter I met the best part of a decade ago, and we have even spoken about working on something else in the future. This buddy from across the pond is even mentioned in the acknowledgements at the beginning of my book: Brian Paisley. A very talented screenwriter and script consultant – and film-maker! Since day one, Brian’s positive attitude and character has had an impact on my writing in many ways, along with learning from him whenever we collaborate. One of Brian’s strongest qualities is how he handles pressure and never panics when a problem emerges with a project. The word ‘re-write’ ruffles up the best of writers, or a bad review or critique, but Brian takes a deep breath and never allows a problem to get too big for its boots. Inspiring.
Stuart Keane, who has asked me these questions, also inspires me, and reminds me that it is worth taking time out to help other authors. I’d like to think that I have helped many writers along my journey too, but it can be a long and lonely ride this writing lark, and sometimes you forget there are people facing the same problems and obstacles that you are confronting each and every day. Stuart (a hard-working, talented author himself) always offers advice to fellow authors, shares an encouraging word or two with them, and offers to spread the word about their books. Inspiring. Stuart offered to run a feature on Hourglass Heights in his blog for me. Thanks!!
Finally, I couldn’t banish this question to my rear-view until I mentioned Matt Shaw. I don’t know Matt Shaw very well, but I follow all his posts online. Why? Because this guy stands by what he is writing, and my God – this guy works SSOOO hard! He has vowed to pen a hundred novels by the end of 2015! I’d be happy to complete Partners In Crime, and be well underway with the sequel to Hourglass Heights. But I read his posts, and his enthusiasm and humorous approach to his craft drives me on to work even harder. I’ll admit it now: sometimes these hard-working writers like Matt and Stuart inspire shame me into pulling my head out of my ass and work even harder to create.
5. Do you have a process for your writing? (certain words a day, music that inspires you, working in silence etc?)
My moods can severely impact my working day, and this involuntary mood disorder that I possess pops up most days and turns into acute procrastination. So, establishing a process always goes out the window as soon as I wake up and start my day.
I would also like to add that I tend to work in bursts. Sometimes, I can go days (sometimes weeks) without really producing much – but then I can have a day when everything just clicks and I can write thousands of words that pop on the page. These vital days balance my working year out, and just knowing they will arrive keeps me going.
Back to the question: the closest I could come to creating a process would be a fucked-up list with O.C.D. stimulated diva-weirdo conditions that could never come together in a million years:
(1) Work in Starbucks, Walsall.
(2) It needs to be busy – customer white noise!
(3) I need a comfy seat (not a rock-hard stool!
(4) My Starbucks drink (they know it!)
(5) Fully charged Macbook Pro (so don’t need to locate a plug)
(6) Dropped off in town (so don’t need to piss around with car)
(7) The sun needs to be threatening to descend when I start!
(8) No headache, cold, or aches – rarity.
(9) Change it to a fresh font for a fresh session.
(10) I signed off last time midway through an exciting scene!
(11) There is something to look forward to on the night.
Okay, I’m stopping now before you call the men with the white van!!
6. If you could give other authors one piece of advice about writing, what would it be?
lf I could give on piece of advice, it would be write something every day. It doesn’t matter what it is, but I have found it is very easy to get out of the swing of writing. I know, that sounds like a really absurd thing for a writer to say – ‘you get out of the swing of writing.’ For me though, this is very much the case.
It doesn’t even matter if you write a load of rubbish. It’s for your eyes only, and you can even delete it when you’re done.
If I don’t write something for a while, I get a little rusty. I have found that if I can make sure I write ‘something’ on a daily basis when I don’t get to work on my manuscript – then it keeps my writing cogs rotating and I can jump back into the swing of things far more easily.
7. Do you remember the first ever book that you read?
Yes. The book was Stephen King’s Cujo! I can’t recall the precise year that I read it, but I can vividly remember that big chunky ‘laminated’ library book (that was in awful condition!) sitting in my under-developed hands when I read it.
The book may have been dropping to pieces, but there was nothing wrong with the powerful words that were typed across the coffee-coloured pages inside. I must had read a number of books around this period, but this one sticks out whenever I’m asked what the first book I’d read was. I remember how deep the characters were detailed, and how King had hooked you into their lives and thoughts. I also remember being too young to fully understand some of the story too, but I’d understood enough to wow me, and ensure that it would be the first of many Stephen King books I would read.
I’ve been asked this question more than once over the past few weeks, and I really should read it again. I can’t recall the story in a lot of detail, just some of the heart-pounding chapters – but I can recall how I FELT when I was reading it… just as though it was yesterday.
8. Through conversation, I know you started off with screen-writing. How different is writing a novel to composing a screenplay?
Yippee! This question gives me the opportunity to include one of my favourite quotes in my answer:
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” –MARK TWAIN
A lot of people believe writing a screenplay is easier than writing a novel simply because it is doesn’t require as many words to complete it. It is true that a screenplay consists of far fewer words and pages, but it doesn’t make it much quicker to write as you’re part of a much bigger machine – a production. You’re the first part of the puzzle, and you have to adhere to rules. These rules add to the challenge.A novel gives you a lot of freedom to tell your story, and it is a big undertaking as it does end up a larger manuscript with far more words than a screenplay. But I think if you take into account all the rules and conditions you have to stick to with a screenplay – they can take as long to write as each other.
I’m a firm believer in story structure, and I like to know where I am going before I start writing a novel OR a screenplay. This doesn’t mean it is the right way to do this, it is just a way that I prefer to write – and I put this down to my background in screenwriting.
Once I have my outline, I know I have all my plot points and reversals are in place, and I know roughly where I want to hit them within my story. When I’m writing a novel, I do not need to hit these points with as much precision as with a screenplay. I have a rough word count I’d like to reach, and not exceed, but I have a lot more freedom. Now, with a screenplay, I need to make sure I hit my plot points at the right times with perfect precision. In a feature script, one minute of screen time roughly equates to one page. I like my screenplays to stay under one-hundred and five pages. Why I hear you ask… because producers don’t’ like long stories from unproven screenwriters Why? Because they generally cost more to make. Sure, there is a reason, and I will quickly run over a few of them below – but if you don’t adhere to the rules your work will scream out amateur. If this happens, nine times out of ten your script ends up in a trash bin!
There is a reason there are so many rules, and I will hold up my hands and admit that I am not aware of all them in great detail. But here is a quick overview:
You always need to keep ‘budget’ in mind, unless you’re a proven, successful screenwriter like David Koepp or Shane Black. Novels cost you paper, and it would cost a publisher the same amount of money to blow up a shopping mall as having a young couple express their inner most feelings to each other on the back-seat of their car.
I’ve been guilty of writing budget heavy screenplays in my earlier years, but when you realize you won’t sell them – you stop writing them! 😉 I still have a treatment I co-wrote for a movie that involved a mass-scale earthquake with total destruction. It has a nice little story inside of it too, but it would never see the light of day. Especially now, as Dwayne Johnson is starring in the big budget actioner called ‘San Andreas.’
Censorship: Yep, this one word is a big pain in the ass! The novel version of Hourglass Heights could never been turned into a movie without some cutting and/or clever film-making. You would have far more innuendo and suggestion included in the movie. All this said, the story is the most important part, and Hourglass Heights would make a brilliant, successful, Oscar-winning movie – wink/wink!!
There are two distinct differences between writing a novel, and writing a screenplay. A book enables you to tell people a story, but a screenplay limits you to showing them a story. This doesn’t mean the end result is less dramatic or entertaining – but ‘showing’ a story requires more discipline and craft as you have to be more creative to find ways to ‘show’ somebody is upset, happy, angry, depressed etc.. I find the challenge very exciting, but it does require you to consider the production side more closely when writing.
Writing for television is far more brutal, as you have to take in to account ALL OF THE ABOVE… and the inclusion of ad-breaks. Over the past years censorship has become more friendly due to there being more independent cable televisions stations producing quality material. The big networks are far stricter though! But in both cases, you will need to hit those breaks with great precision every time. And each break needs a juicy cliffhanger to make sure the viewer comes back after they’ve made their cup of tea or grabbed a beer from the fridge.
There is one more difference – but an obvious one. I won’t go into detail, but a screenplay is presented differently to a novel. A novel is made up of chapters, which are made up of paragraphs. A screenplay is made up scenes, and each scene is clearly stamped with a location and time of day. These scenes can be as small as an establishing shot, or a short montage. Characters are introduced in capitals, and their dialogue is also presented differently through the story, integrated with action paragraphs, parentheticals etc.. The good news is there is some fantastic screenwriting software out there – and once you get the hang of it, all this becomes second nature.
9. What lays ahead in 2015?
When you’re an author, you do most of your work alone. It can be a very lonely craft (start the violins), as you work alone, create alone, and find yourself alone with your fictional world and creations. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing, but I will be mixing it up a little during 2015!
Any fellow authors out there will know things can change quickly on the to-do list. For example, if when Hourglass Heights smashes the bestseller charts I will switch things around and jump onto the sequel. However, I do have other genres and projects I’d like to work on too. So, this is what lays ahead for me in 2015:
I am going to complete my current novel: Partners In Crime. I’ve already mentioned this above, so I won’t irritate you by repeating myself.
I have a big feature movie production that I am very excited about. Contracts will be signed soon, and I ‘should’ have the rights to pen the spin-off novel too. A big name actress is involved, and a very impressive crew. If you want to hear the ‘who’ and ‘what’ make sure you like my Facebook page where I will announce it: www.facebook.com/iandavidnoakes
I have a short film in the pipeline based on my short story: Tables Turned. This one is very close to my heart, and I can’t wait for it to move forward. I will be in London with the director and crew in June… so, fingers crossed on that one. If you’d like to read the book first, you can find it on Amazon for less than a pound!
BIG FAVOUR – if you do download it (it will be FREE on February 1st / the day of my live Facebook Q&A event), then would you mind posting what you thought about it on my timeline? I ask, as I want to take all this ammunition to the investors who are going to pay for the film production!
Er, what else? I really want to make a start on the outline for the sequel to Hourglass Heights. I want this one to be bigger and badder than the first, but I want to stay true to what hooked people into it in the first place: a traumatic continuation of Marcia’s journey through life, along with a new case that will **** Marcia AND you up for a long time. I’ve got ideas already, so stay tuned.
If I have the time, then I have a screenplay that I’d like to adapt into a novel too. A supernatural horror story set during the night at a multiplex cinema!
Before we go, here is a Character Interview with the main character herself, Marcia Tanaka. One of the more flawed, but hardcore heroines of modern literature, she makes for riveting reading.
Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you? What’s your role in Hourglass Heights?
My name is Detective Marcia Tanaka, and I’m a big city detective in my early thirties. Don’t cheer for me just yet, because that position feels like it has been more in name than anything else lately. Three months ago, I was ordered to stay behind my desk until I got my shit back together.
I’ve had a bit of a rollercoaster life since my late teens, and although I’ve managed to climb the ranks and earn my stripes, fifteen years on I am still struggling to come to terms with an indiscretion from my youth that led to a tragic loss in my family. If people knew how I was dealing with it, then I’d more than likely be wrapped up in one of those white jackets with strings on the back! And then Crimple dropped a murder case in my lap and ordered me to try and get my career (and life) back on track. An open and shut case was the prognosis, but it turned out that I was to embark on a brutal serial killer case where the questions far outnumbered the answers. As the case developed, the more my boss wanted me off the case, but I was committed to seeing it through to the bloody end. My role was to catch a brutal murderer, a killer that those around me believed was already sitting in a padded cell.
What’s the challenge you are trying to overcome in the story?
My inability, and unwillingness, to move on, and forgive myself and accept I wasn’t to blame for my father’s death has prevented me from leading a fruitful happy life, and it has resulted into a misguided attempt of retribution by punishing my body! It is my wish to overcome these personal demons in time to defeat the demon that threatens the lives of the people I have sworn to protect.
Name one thing that you want and how far you are willing to go to get it.
I want a fruitful, happy life, and I’m willing to punish myself from the inside out in order to rid myself of the self-loathing I battle within meand if one day I manage to achieve this goal then maybe, just maybe, I will be considered worthy of living out a normal life.
I’d like to thank Ian David Noakes (and Marcia Tanaka) for taking the time out of their busy schedules to answer these questions.For more information on Ian, and his upcoming work, you can catch him online at the below links.
Hourglass Heights, and other work from Ian, is available here. Pick up an entertaining read!
Ian David Noakes is a former projectionist who now loves writing stuff: funny stuff like Partners In Crime; Scary stuff like Hourglass Heights. And even serious stuff like Tables Turned.
As Ian had too much time on his hands with only his wife, five children, screenwriting, novel writing and Mocha drinking trips to Starbucks, he decided to train to become a behavorial therapist too.
Ian started writing his debut novel, Hourglass Heights, during the of summer of 2012 after producers were complimenting his ‘dynamic writing style’ year after year, writing that would never be read more than a handful of times in a window-less office.
He completed it a year later, but during the publishing process he completed two novellas (Partners In Crime, Tables Turned), as well as his second novel, The Ancient Lawman.
Hourglass Heights has been nominated for the People’s Book Prize™ in the U.K., and it is also a contender for the National Book Awards.