- Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
For me it’s definitely more a question of the stories those authors tell rather than the authors who tell them, so you could argue it’s the stories themselves that have inspired me the most. Actually, it all started with black and white movies that were made decades before my time. As a boy, I saw Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein on the TV, which was a lot of fun and had a lot of the actors from the original Hollywood horror movies, and I was hooked on the genre from the first moment.
When the entire ‘golden age’ of Universal horror movies was shown on TV in the early eighties, I watched them all. Frankenstein with Boris Karloff, Dracula with Bela Lugosi, and the Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jnr got me started, and I loved them! A little later, I read Dracula by Stoker, it was the first classic of the horror genre I ever read. Of course, Frankenstein by Shelley followed, but then there was a gap for no planned or particularly good reason.
In the mid-nineties, I randomly picked up a copy of Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice in a newsagent shop a few weeks before the movie came out. Let’s just say I read every single book in that series as soon as I could get my hands on them after that… I loved them so much!
- As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Among the earliest memories I have, and we are talking the early nineteen seventies now, I really wanted to be Elvis Presly when I grew up, I thought he was so cool. But he was quickly replaced by TV’s the Six Million Dollar Man. Then I wanted to be Bruce Lee after seeing him on the TV. I did achieve a karate black belt in later life, and I still love martial arts to this day, all inspired by Bruce Lee as a boy. The most dominant figure for me in my teens was Spanish superstar golfer, Severiano Ballesteros. All the golf kids who grew up Europe in the eighties wanted to be Seve. He was one of those rare and truly magnetic characters who never tried to be anything other than himself, and he was extraordinary. Tall, dark and handsome, women wanted him and men wanted to be him, that’s what they used to say about Seve. I still hope to be tall one day, but that ship may have sailed!
So that covers quite a few people I’d liked to have been, but as a profession, I wanted to be in the movies. I took acting classes when I was ten, appeared in a few amateur productions at a local theatre. I once played Freddie Eynsford-Hill in Pygmalion, which made my mother very proud. I’d have loved to have pursued that passion, but at that time, my father’s business failed, we lost our family home, and the next few years became more difficult for us. There was no longer any money for things like acting classes.
- How long did it take you to write this book?
It was literally around ten years, but in my defence, there was a nine-year hiatus not long after I started. It goes a little like this… My brother passed away when I was twenty-two and he was just twenty-five. He died of a sudden and unforeseen illness, and I found life difficult for some time afterwards. As I started to find my feet again, we found out that my mother was dying too, and the tide came back in again. Ten years on, after the death of my father, I started to write about how my experience of life had made me feel, but that book just didn’t make it all the way into this world.
I decided to write Il Lupo when my wife Dee said to me one day, “you know, you should just write about stuff you’re passionate about. You know, monsters and all that stuff.” So I did.
This was in 2011, and I found the writing much easier this time around. Quickly, I drafted the first sixty or seventy pages, and then life, or to be more precise, work got in the way. I just stopped writing, and it would be nearly ten years before I would start again.
- Have you listened to any audiobooks? Which did you enjoy the most?
Dee started using Audible a number of years ago and that’s how I became truly aware of the medium. Predictably enough, the first book I listened to was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It was narrated by Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame) who was utterly spellbinding, and I highly recommend it. Unquestionably though, the most important audiobooks of my life came around Christmas 2020, the pandemic Christmas.
We’d both resisted the Harry Potter sensation for years, but Dee decided to give it a try on Audible. She was hooked from the first chapter.
“As soon as I’m finished with this, you need to listen to it,” she told me. So I did, and it had the same effect on me too. They were narrated and truly brought to life by the wonderful Stephen Fry, which undoubtedly helped, but the next three weeks were very quiet in the Sharp household, as each and every book was devoured.
I finished the Deathly Hallows, and I said to Dee, “do you know what? I’m going to finish that damned book.” Working from home as many of us did at that time, I immediately repurposed what was previously my commuting time, and I wrote like mad. I couldn’t stop, it was exhilarating. My first few chapters were rewritten, and the complete first draft was ready by early May of 2021.
- How did you come up with the title for your book?
At the time when I started writing Il Lupo, the classical crossover group, Il Divo, was catching quite a bit of publicity in the UK and you could hardly turn on the radio or TV without hearing their name. With much of my story being set in Italy, the idea of Il Lupo as the name just popped up in my mind one day. It seemed obvious.
- How do you come up with character names for your stories?
I try and make them mean something somewhere along the line. I’ll pick a couple of the main characters here.
Nicholas Frobisher needed to be quite upper class. He shares a surname with a character from a nineteen seventies sitcom in the UK named ‘To the Manor Born’. The lead character’s best friend was Marjory Frobisher, and I always remembered thinking what a posh surname that was.
Charlie Mortimer’s surname was inspired by Terry Pratchett’s character, Mort. The name Mortimer suggested to me that something dark and deadly lay ahead for him.
The anti-hero, Telemaco, was a twist on the name of the son of Odysseus (who was named Telemachus). In the Adventures of Odysseus series by Glyn Iliffe (which I loved), Telemachus comes up frequently, and I loved the way his name alliterated, so I went for a modern version of that.
- What characters in your book are most similar to you or to people you know?
Nick Frobisher is a composite of myself and a number of friends and relatives. His sense of humour is occasionally unfiltered, and he has a propensity to just plough on regardless, I’ve had to learn to temper those aspects of myself over the years. Frobisher is also crushed by his relationship with grief, and that’s something I understand well.
Charlie is average height, slim build, brown hair and blue eyes… can’t think where I came up with that idea! More importantly, anxiety and panic attacks knock Charlie off his feet at first, I know how that felt.
- What inspired the idea for your book?
I’d always wanted to write about the horror genre, even as a boy, but particularly a werewolf story. I’d written essays about Frankenstein’s monster, about werewolves, about Count Dracula, all purely for my own entertainment while I was diligently rejecting the idea of writing essays at school. It wasn’t until after the turn of the century that the itch became unbearable and I had to do something about it, but even then, it took me many years to find the time to complete my first novel.
In 2007, after my father passed away, Dee and I took a trip to Rome. I was grieving and I needed a complete change of scenery to help me process things. We drove from there in a little hire car to the breath-taking Amalfi Coast and pottered our way across to Pompeii and then Naples. But wait… Pompeii! Wow!
I’d been reading the Trojan War books and Adventures of Odysseus by Glyn Ilife and my head was kind of in an ancient world where swords and adventure were front and centre, so to suddenly be confronted with that incredible place was just mind blowing. It may have been a relic of ancient Rome rather than ancient Greece but the effect was profound. That trip provided a great deal of the impetus, and the inspiration I needed a few years later when I decided to write Il Lupo.
- What part of the book was the most fun to write?
There are a lot of end-of-chapter cliff-hangers, and I have to say I really enjoyed those. But top of the pile would be some of the dialogue at key moments. There are parts of the plot which hinge around the ability of certain characters to not only think of a way out of certain situations, but to convince those around them that a course of action is the best and most appropriate thing to do. I lean in on my experiences in negotiating and closing deals in the business world there. In that world, it’s essential that you believe in what you are selling if you’re to be any good at it, people are inclined to be attracted to honesty. But most of all, passion when delivering a message can move mountains, and I absolutely reflect that in some of the interactions. It was a lot of fun working in the anxiety of potential failure into those interactions too.
- Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?
It can certainly be tiring. I read somewhere that the brain uses about twenty percent of our energy each day, and that must go up significantly when writing. I certainly sleep pretty soundly after days when I’ve covered a lot of ground. That said, the buzz I get from figuring out how the characters navigate this situation or that, or from closing out a difficult junction in the plot, that is a real thrill. There have been numerous occasions when I’ve been literally punching the air from behind my desk. It’s that thrill that keeps us coming back.