Author Interview: Gary Kruse

How long have you been writing or when did you start?

I started writing in 1996. I’d been to see The Craft at the cinema and had recently seen the Lost Boys movie, and when I came out of the cinema, I started thinking about what would happen if the coven from the Craft met the vampires from the Lost Boys. The next day I started handwriting my own witches versus vampires story in school exercise books. I wrote four stories in all, eventually mashing them all together into what became my first attempt at a novel, “Blessed Be”.

What inspired the idea for your latest book?

My current book, Bleak Waters, is a supernatural mystery. It was inspired by the landscape around Hickling and Potter Heigham on the Norfolk Broads. I went to Hickling in Spring 2019, and as I was walking around the village and Hickling Broad, I started making notes on the sights and sounds and smells I was encountering. From there I started wondering who would live in this area, what the conflicts would be, and also what would happen if a stranger arrived, and what was the stranger’s motivation for coming to the area.

When I returned home after the trip in Spring, I had some vague ideas, but nothing concrete until the autumn when, between drafts of what was to become my debut published novel Badlands, I went through the Hickling notes again. At the same time, I was reading about true-life mysteries of people who had vanished in broad daylight never to be seen again and so those became the basis both for my stranger to arrive in Hickling, and also for the central mystery of the story.

The stranger became Theo Sinclair, who has come to Hickling to try and solve the disappearance of Claire Baldwin twenty-five years earlier. For Lily West, a local barmaid grieving the suicide of her father the summer before, Theo’s arrival is a welcome distraction from her grief, but his arrival also stirs up her long-buried ability to see the dead.

As she and Theo work to solve the mystery, Lily starts to wonder if Claire’s disappearance is linked to her father’s suicide, and when the resistance of the village turns to violence, Lily is forced to decide what’s more important; protecting the people she loves or finding the truth.

How do you come up with character names for your stories?

It depends. Willow, the main character in Badlands, appeared pretty much fully formed on the page, name and all, while it was much harder to come up with Lily’s name. It wasn’t so much the name, it was more making sure that the name fit the character. I brainstormed about twenty names, but it was only once I started writing her character that the name stuck. But then, in my current work-in-progress, Trinity, I decided to change one of the character’s names mid-way through the draft because the name I had given him didn’t fit his character or the tone of the story. At times like this, search and replace becomes a lifeline!

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

It’s kind of a back and forth process for me. I’ll come up with an idea for a plot or storyline inspired by place or by theme, start thinking about the characters and then as I delve into their motivations and backstories, that suggests other plot points and storylines, which then feeds into further character development until the process reaches a point of no return where there’s nothing more to be gained from planning and I start writing.

How long did it take you to write this book?

I started writing the first draft of Bleak Waters in October 2021 and finished it around December 2022, so it was thirteen month’s in all. 

What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?

I completely re-wrote the book after the first draft, but the second draft didn’t work, so I ended up smashing both drafts together. The first book is probably 60 percent draft one, 30 percent draft two and 10 percent of sections written during draft three/four to knit everything together.

How much research did you need to do for your book?

I did a lot of the physical research whilst visiting Hickling, so I walked the paths and streets, took in the physical locations, gauged the general vibe of the area. When I was writing, I used Google Maps to calculate driving distances or walking times, plus photos and notes I took on my visit to help jog my memory. I did some ad-hoc research of candle-magic and indirect signs of hauntings etc to help support the spooky elements of the book, but probably the most important research I did was a practical exercise tying together the imaginary timeline for the central mystery; the disappearance of Claire Baldwin.

How many hours a day do you write?

Most of my writing is done on my lunch break, which works out about 45 to 50 minutes a day during the week, with extra sessions done as and when time is available. It takes about three to four months to write a first draft.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Bleak Waters is my second published novel after my debut Badlands came out in January 2022. But overall, I’ve written ten novels. I wouldn’t say I have a favorite as each book has it’s own individual qualities and also memories from when it was written.

If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?

Sorry for the hell I put you through!!!







Bleak Waters Link:

Author Bio: Gary Kruse is a writer of thriller and horror fiction about people on the edge of society struggling to find who they are, where they come from and where they’re going. He has won and been shortlisted for several short story competitions and his debut dark thriller novel, Badlands is an Amazon bestseller. His new novel, Bleak Waters is available on kindle now.

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