How you all doing? I know, it’s been months since my last FFI and I have to apologise for my tardiness. No excuses, well, perhaps one. I’ve been finishing up my latest novel, On Lucky Shores, which is due for publication on 16th January, 2016, (but don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it later). And with that shameless plug out of the way, let’s get on with the chat.
Today, I’m talking with an old friend, Tom Ericson who’s written an excellent thriller … well, I’ll let him tell you about that in a sec.
KJD: Hi, Tom, how are you?
TE: Not bad, thanks. Coffee’s good, and I need it after last night’s crossing.
TE: Like being tossed around in a tumble dryer. Thank God there were plenty of paper bags on board. Still, it was worth the discomfort to see where you live. Beautiful countryside around here.
KJD: Thanks, I think so, too. And I feel for you man, mal-de-mer’s a horrible thing. Feeling better now?
TE: Yep, and the coffee really helps.
KJD: Okay. Ready to start the interview?
TE: Fire away.
KJD: Let’s start with a couple of ‘getting to know you’ questions. Are you at all sporty? If so, tell me your best sporting achievement.
TE: Yes, I dabble. Currently, I’m moving to my black belt in karate.
KJD: Er, okay. Want me to freshen your coffee, maybe have a second slice of chocolate cake? Need me to shine your shoes, give you an extra cushion?
TE: (Frowns and leans forward) You are a funny man. (Winks)
KJD: And an inveterate coward. Pray, continue.
TE: Best sporting achievement? … playing football at County level, final trialist for Wales Schoolboys, and captain of my university side. You could say I was ok at football. Playing rugby at County level in South Wales during the infamous 1970’s is probably my personal favourite.
KJD: Fantastic. I love rugby union, but never played—told you I was a coward. My sporting career didn’t really amount to much. I was into cross-country running, and cricket. If you’ve ever played golf, give me your favourite golf excuse.
TE: Uh-uh, Don’t play—I’m with Oscar Wilde on that one.
KJD: What? Golf is a good walk spoiled, you mean?
KJD: Right. What do you see out of your office window (the office where you write)?
TE: My garden, trees, and sometimes a blue sky. I work out of a shed—very Dylan Thomas, I’m afraid.
KJD: Sounds idyllic, if a little cold in the winter. Describe a typical day in the life of Tom Ericson.
TE: I start work around six am, (Ed: Gulp!), take a break to see my daughter off to school, work through to lunchtime, take my daughter to her childminder, back to work until teatime. If I am working on a book then most evenings I am back in the shed, sometimes until very late.
KJD: A six am start? That’s the middle of the blooming night. I rarely turn in before three. Rather you than me. Still, I don’t have school-age kids anymore, so I can have a long lie in. Lovely.
Let’s slide a little more towards the writing side of things. What book genres do you read and do they differ from the ones you write? If so, why?
TE: Crime, thrillers—the same as I write. Plus historical non-fiction and biographies. Different to my writing—don’t know why, they just interest me. Real world v fictional one, perhaps?
KJD: A fine line to walk as an author. In general, how long does it take you to finish the first draft of a new novel?
TE: Six months, and then another six to re-write, and re-write, and re-write … you get the drift. That’s on a part time basis, but I’d possibly manage two a year if full-time (fingers crossed!).
KJD: Two books a year is a good target, I think. I do about the same. I’ve published two book this year, Sean Freeman, and On Lucky Shores. Teehee. See what I did there, plugging my books again.
TE: Absolutely shameless (smiles).
KJD: Always. What’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline, or are you a pantser?
TE: That’s easy, I start typing. That’s not a clever answer, it’s what I do. The story begins to flow and takes me along. I usually have an ending in my mind, along with an outline plot. The rest seems to arrive en route (thank goodness!).
KJD: Sounds similar to my process! Tell me a little about your latest work (one nearest publication). Where did you find the inspiration? What’s it about? When can we expect to see it on the bookshelves? How about a sneak preview?
TE: My latest work is A LIFE WITHIN. The inspiration for the story came from a simple thought—what terrifies someone in their own home? In this case it’s the ‘thing in the attic’—a sort of ‘monster under the bed’ theme.
KJD: I’ll let my readers in on a secret. I’ve read a draft of A Life Within and loved it!
TE: Thanks, Kerry.
KJD: Credit where it’s due. Carry on, please.
TE: The book is about a serial killer who is seeking revenge for a major trauma in their life. The victims are couples who become pregnant by means of IVF treatment.
A have no idea when to expect it on the bookshelves. I wish I knew! It depends on the success or otherwise of my first book, although I feel this is better written and may ‘carry’ my first one with it to traditional publication.
Here’s the opening …
The night comes, and the night goes. That is the way of things. It’s how it has always been.
Through the night goggles that changed the blackness of the small space into an eerie green, eyes followed the path along the boards of the attic floor; the boxes and black bags that held the normal squirrel’s hoard of a family home neatly stacked on both sides.
Through the tiles above, thin shafts of light splintered the darkness as the low-lying sun illuminated the shape of a human in a one-piece black cotton suit. The outfit covered the whole body, with four holes created for convenience – one each for the eyes, one for the mouth, and one other.
Outside, was a world where people went about their everyday business, went to work, and came home. Two of those people would be arriving soon. Their uninvited guest did not plan to greet them on their arrival, but would meet with them later, and provide suitable entertainment in return for their hospitality.
The visitor made ready for the appearance of the hosts, lifting the hatch door to create a narrow viewing gallery over the landing and stairwell below. The wait began.
One hour after the sun had set, Declan and Gail Daley entered their home. The journey back from London had been much the same as normal; crowded train, no seats, little air, and even less conversation. The couple had shared the same train, but not the same space, Declan joining the crowd of ant-like London commuters at Moorgate, where he worked for an accountancy body, and Gail boarding at Alexandra Palace. She managed the marketing operation for the newly invigorated complex and by the time the train reached her it was always full. They met at their destination, Enfield Chase station, and walked the few hundred metres to their home, offloading the negative aspects of their day in preparation for an enjoyable evening alone.
Mr and Mrs Daley had been married exactly four years, but this was their first genuine anniversary, the date of their wedding being the 29th February. They were in high spirits by the time they opened the front door to their small but chic mid-terrace property, happy to close out the rest of the world until the return journey to the confines of the office tomorrow. Two more days in work and they would be leaving for the weekend, skiing in Italy.
“Get the steaks out and the wine poured, Mr Daley,” instructed Gail, as she closed the door and threw her keys and handbag on to the oak hall console table. “I’ll go take a shower and get your presents ready.”
“Presents… plural?” replied Declan, his face quizzical. “I thought we agreed we would only buy one gift. You suggested it.”
“Did I say I bought the second,” she teased, as she ran her tongue along the edge of her upper lip and winked.
“I’m doing it, I’m doing it,” Declan responded, feigning urgency as he hurriedly reached for the fridge door.
Gail Daley heard the pop of a wine cork as she undressed, and the sound of a second as she walked across the landing to the shower room, naked. White and red. Nice one, Dec, she thought. What she didn’t hear was the faint controlled breathing only a few feet above her head.
As the luscious shampoo foam washed away the smell of the city and the rigours of the day, Gail sensed a presence in the room and smiled. Closing her eyes, she faced the strong jet of steaming water and relished in its warmth, before a short draft of cold air told her that the shower door was open.
“Present’s not ready yet, sweetheart,” she offered, “but you know it’s worth the wait.”
The only sound she heard was the cascading water.
Gail Daley opened her eyes.
What she saw before her was not what she expected, and she gasped.
“Mister Daley! My word, is that all for little ol’ me?”
“I didn’t buy your second present, either,” Declan replied. He was naked with two glasses of white wine in his hands and a claret and blue silken bow adorning his manhood that had already responded to his wife’s soaking wet slim petite frame, full breasts, and long blonde hair.
“I assume you mean the ‘hammer’, Sir?” Gail giggled, her reference to their beloved West Ham United colours causing a huge smile to take over her husband’s face. “Should I unwrap it now?”
Passing over her wine, Declan raised his glass and said, “Happy Anniversary, Mrs Daley, and thank you for the happiest four years of my life.”
The couple emptied their glasses and Declan stepped into the cubicle, closing the door behind him.
The meal of fillet steak and mushrooms, accompanied by a superb bottle of St Émilion Grand Cru, was consumed later than originally planned. For a short time afterwards, Gail and Declan talked excitedly about Italy and exchanged presents, a platinum chain bracelet watch for her and a gold neck chain for him.
Finishing their wine, the couple returned upstairs and went to bed, falling into a deep sleep wrapped in each other’s arms.
The house was quiet, save for the heavy breathing of those who slumbered. Above the landing, the attic door opened. Two feet appeared, followed by two legs, then a torso, and finally a head, all clothed in black. Descending to the floor below, the visitor prepared to meet the hosts.
The night comes, and the night goes… but for some the night never ends.
KJD: Wow. Powerful stuff. Thanks for that. Back to the interview. If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?
TE: That’s easy. I’d be a full-time writer.
KJD: Ha! What’s next for Tom Ericson?
TE: That’s down to my agent—if I get a publishing deal there are a lot of books to come. If I don’t, it will hands to the grindstone and working for a living (with one book a year instead of more.
KJD: I hear you, Tom. Finally, tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know. Don’t worry; it’ll be our little secret. 😉
TE: That would cost you a large Jameson’s, my friend, plus there isn’t enough space …
KJD: Alcohol, at this time of the morning? No chance. Anyway, thanks millions for the chat, let’s carry on this conversation off-line. So, this secret …