Today we travel to the UK’s West Country to chat with British writer, Derek Thompson. We’ll talk about how writing in two distinct voices, badgers, Film Noir, Verity Lambert, journal writing, The Beatles, and Top Cat come together as part of Derek’s writing and his life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a British writer and I’m fortunate to live in the UK’s West Country, not far from the sea. I write novels, short fiction and some comedy material. I think humour is a dance between content and context, and I try to include it in both my creative writing and freelance work.
I believe passionately in the power of the written (and spoken word) to conjure up inner and outer worlds that enchant us with possibilities. Good fiction takes us on a journey that engages the senses and makes us invested in the ride!
In which genre do you write?
Mostly thrillers, but I’ve also penned a magical fantasy and a mid-grade tale about bullying and transformation. In addition, I penned a standalone transatlantic dark comedy that’s currently doing the rounds with agents and publishers.
How many published books do you have?
Eight altogether: five British spy thrillers (the Spy Chaser series) plus books 1 to 3 as a single volume, a magical fantasy (Covenant) and my mid-grade book (superhero club).
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I learned to read before I started school and books were doorways to other worlds, other times, other lives. Story time in class fired up my imagination – that power to hold a room’s attention and transport eager minds somewhere else. I became serious about writing in my teens (although I had to go through the terrible poetry stage first!).
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I write in two distinct voices – one British and one from the US. When I finally get around to putting a collection of short fiction together. some stories will be distinctly American. The book will be called Into the Void and I already have the cover design ready,
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
I’m fond of badgers (but not honey badgers!), hares, crows, rooks, and ravens.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
A cabin in the woods, overlooking a lake. But I’m pretty happy writing in my attic or on long train journeys.
What are you currently reading?
A collection of Raymond Chandler stories, some of which are embryonic Philip Marlowe tales. Also a brilliant subscription magazine called The Idler.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
I attempt yoga, or find woods and beaches to explore. I love Film Noir and other black & white movies (check out Rafifi!), and I enjoy listen to a wide range of music. I’m an average backgammon player!
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
The late and wonderful British TV producer, Verity Lambert, would be my perfect tea date. I’d ask her how I could improve the chances of my spy series making it to the small screen.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
How much ‘stuff’ I’ve squirreled in the recesses of my mind – past situations, dialogue, ideas from childhood, dreams, etc. Allied to that would be the uses I can put that material to, including the feelings that went along with it all.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot?
I don’t know if this counts but I still have an audio letter home to my family from my early 20s – on a cassette tape! Playing that helped me reconnect with scenes and situations for one of my novels.
Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?
I’ve written a journal, fairly regularly, for a long time. Sometimes I’ll jot down short story ideas or plot elements of novels while I’m working on them. Journals are great ways to ‘go deeper’ but only if you’re prepared to tell yourself the truth! I have burned old journals for breaking that cardinal rule.
What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?
This is probably one for a niche audience. When I attended my brother’s funeral the officiant turned to his coffin and used my name instead. Despite the tragic circumstances, genuinely one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed and my brother would have loved it.
You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?
If I wanted to feel mellow I’d listen to Chet Baker, but my uplifting song of choice would probably be Rain by The Beatles or My World by Secret Affair. My best preparation would probably be to sit with the audience first.
What do you miss about being a kid?
In a word: innocence and wonder. The feeling that, given the right opportunity, you’re only a few steps away from adventure. I still have the wonder now, of course, but it’s tempered by experience.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
Top Cat, assuming I’d be part of the gang! They were funny and always getting in and out of scrapes.
If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? If you write non-fiction or memories, what fictional character would you invite into your story and why?
I’d enjoy being Thomas Bladen, my working-class spy. He has a complicated life but a straightforward way of looking at the world. Plus, I could learn more about his secrets for further books in the series!
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
A Woman at War, which is an Icelandic comedy drama about a woman who takes environmentalism to another level! It was recommended by a friend and has the same ‘heart’ as Amelie with humour and a focus on characters and their quirks. But it also has a message about the difference one person can make and in ways they never expected.
A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?
He asks me if I have any suntan lotion to spare because he’s lost his wallet.
Do you believe things happen for a reason?
Yes, but not always for the reason we think when they’re happening. Time can shift our perspective and change our understanding. I think that something momentous can even happen in an instant that then affects us long afterwards, down the years. We tend to think that of experiences in terms of success or failure – we get fired or relationships end, or promises are broken, or opportunities evaporate – but sometimes there’s a seed of ‘something’ in that loss that bears fruit elsewhere and in another form. Writing is a way of making sense out of what has happened to us and giving new life to that seed.
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
The ability to live in my own head!
Tell us about your most recent book.
My most recent book was Flashpoint, the fifth book in the Thomas Bladen Spy Chaser series. It takes place at the time of the 2005 London Bombing, when the capital suffered a series of coordinated terror attacks. It was a tough book to write because what happened in London that day affected so many people. My story follows on from those terrible events and develops plot lines from the previous four novels (they can be read as standalone books but there are overarching plot lines).
We love black and white movies too Derek! It was great to learn more about you and your writing style. Thank you for being a part of MTA! – Camilla
Where to find the book:
UK Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Derek-Thompson/e/B0034ORY08
US Amazon: https://amzn.to/35Jlk3R
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