Name of the book:
Black Hill Farm (Book One) By Tim O’Rourke
$1.13 (US) and £0.70 (UK)
Amazon Kindle US and Amazon Kindle UK
I have aspired to be a writer for many years. Working away in the dead of night, I have written many short stories, plays and novels.
My most recent book is a paranormal Romance entitled 'Black Hill Farm' and the second in the series ‘Black Hill Farm: Andy‘s Diary‘ has just been released. I also love writing adventure books for young adults and the first in the 'Zachary Black' series is available to download from Amazon and the second book will be published soon. My new project is entitled ‘The Rugged Shore’ and will be published in August 2011.
My interests other than writing include watching the Muppet Show, listening to U2, Bruno Mars and Adele. I'm never happier than when I'm reading Dr Seuss or The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
My favourite films are the Dark Crystal, Tootsie and Back To The Future.
How would you describe your story/book?
I would describe ‘Black Hill Farm’ as a dark paranormal romance for YA, but a lot of the people that have reviewed the book on their blogs have described it as a psychological thriller and a crossover book for adults and YA alike. The book is dark and a bit gory in places but nothing is quite what it seems.
The book is made up of twelve police interviews which are conducted with the suspect in the murders that have taken place at Black Hill Farm. As the interviews unfold so does the story.
The suspect, sixteen year old Ben McCloud, gives a disturbing confession about his relationship with his beautiful cousin Andrea and how his love for her became a dangerous obsession. But finding themselves on a remote farm and desperate to stay together, Ben and Andrea’s world spirals out of control. As they fight for survival, every step they take leads them into an ever darker world of despair and murder.
But there are lots of twists throughout the story and it’s not until the end of the book that the reader will discover who Ben really is, and where he has come from.
What will readers like about your book?
I hope the reader will like the way the story is told. The book is made up of the notes and interview transcripts made by the detective in the story. I wanted a different way of telling my story and so far so good - those that have commented on it say they really enjoyed the book in this style.
I hope the reader will also like the pace of the book. It doesn’t start slowly but each piece of the mystery of what really happens on the farm is revealed bit by bit. But what I hope the reader enjoys the most is the twists. From the reviews left about the book on Amazon and different blogs, people are left shocked and stunned by them - which is what I wanted when I started the book.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
I wanted to write something that was different for young adults. I have two teenage son’s, but the YA market seems to be flooded with books about vampires. Although both me and my son’s like reading these books, I wanted to write something original and hopefully hadn’t been done before. So I set about writing a paranormal romance. Why was this different.? Firstly the story is written from the point of the boy in the story - so you get to see how it is for a teenage boy that falls in love. Most of the paranormal romance books that I have read are mostly written from the female leads perspective. Us boy’s do fall in love too! I thought it would be interesting to see the story through the eyes of the teenage lead - Ben McCloud. I hoped the boy’s that bought the book would enjoy this and the girls that read it would find it interesting to see how it might feel for a teenage boy to fall in love and how he might deal with the range of emotions which comes with that.
Also in most of the other Paranormal Romance books that I’ve read, the mystery always revolves around the male lead. Who is he? What is he? And the female in the book always seems to hang off every word that they say. Well, I wanted to turn that on its head too. I wanted my female character (Andy) to be the mystery. I wanted Ben to be besotted with her and have to try and work out who she was.
But what about the paranormal element? I wanted that to be different too. I didn’t want vampires, shape-shifters, werewolves or anything like that. But I can’t say what the paranormal element is as it doesn’t get revealed until the end of the book and I don’t want to spoil the story for those that haven’t read it yet.
When did you start writing?
I started writing short stories at the age of thirteen. I’d struggled to read and write for many years, but my head was always filled with ideas. I was always making up stories which I would tell to friends and family. It wasn’t until I grasped the reading that I learnt how others put their imagination down on paper. I was given a very old typewriter by a friend of the family, and there I would sit and write story after story. Most of them were horror/ghost stories and I would share them with my family. They seemed to enjoy them and this spurred me on to write more. I probably wrote my first novel at the age of fifteen but when I look back at it now I cringe. But we all have to start somewhere.
I carried on writing throughout my teens and also tried my hand at plays and poetry. Some of my plays were put on at college and I always found it quite surreal to hear the actors saying the words that I had written.
I had a quiet spell during my twenties as I helped raise my family and get a career, but always carried a note book with me which I would be forever writing down ideas, pieces of conversation between characters and sometimes even sketch the characters that I imagined.
Come thirty, I started hitting the keypad again and haven’t stopped since.
When did you realize that you were a serious writer?
When my wife said, ‘Tim what are you going to do with all these boxes of books and stories you’ve written? What’s the point in writing them if you don’t share them with anyone?’
I knew that I was serious about my writing as I’d written so much of the stuff!
When did you decide that you wanted to write a book?
I’ve never had a problem with coming up with ideas - my head is full of them. So at an early age I decided to put those ideas down on paper and give some of the characters a life between the pages of a book. Once that particular story was down and out of my head it made more room for other stories to develop. The process of writing a book for me is to shed those ideas and characters and then move on to the next.
What is your writing process?
I usually have to have a rough idea of where the story is going and pretty much what happens to each character. I don’t write pages of notes of detailed character outlines. I find that if I do that it becomes more a recipe. I do sometimes draw a sketch of the character. It helps if I have a visual image of them. I like the process of writing to be an organic one - so it grows and develops as I write - I don’t like boxing myself in from the start. Once I’ve started on a new book, I have to keep at it until its finished. I try not to take breaks for a day or two as I find I loose the flow. I like having music playing in the background - usually movie soundtracks or classical.
Once I’ve written it, I let my wife and son’s read through it and take any advice that they give. My wife is my harshest critique and goes through the draft with a big marker pen hacking away at it - slashing words, sentences and sometimes even whole paragraphs and chapters. Sometimes I sulk at the changes she’s made but she is usually right.
I then go back and make the changes and then read through myself and make any changes that I feel need to be made. I think two to three drafts is good but any more than that and I feel that the work looses its initial spark and can become stale.
How long does it take you to write your first draft?
Even though writing is my passion it isn’t my day job. So I write in my free time and on my day’s off. Black Hill Farm was written in twenty days and that was me spending almost all of my free time writing. When I’m working on a new book I try to write at east 2,500 words in a sitting. On a weekend I try and make the most of the full days and write anywhere between 6,000 - 7,500 words.
Why did you publish on Kindle?
I found the whole process of approaching agents and publishers very frustrating. I did send work out to them, but you could end up waiting weeks and sometimes months for a response. Sometimes they didn’t respond at all even though I always enclosed the cost of return postage. When the response did turn up, it came in the form of a pre-printed letter saying basically “we read your submission with interest, however…” Sometimes you could tell that the work hadn’t even been looked at as it hadn’t been thumbed through etc. I carried out some research on the internet and other unpublished writers had sent in copies of their washing machine manual, the first three chapters of books by Thomas Hardy etc and they all received the same response from agents/publishers.
I then heard that one agent threw any new manuscripts straight into the rubbish if it didn’t come with an elastic band wrapped around it! I heard loads of horror stories about agents/publishers who would just throw the submissions away without even so much as looking at the title page so I kind of got the idea that I was wasting my time and a lot of postage.
I then discovered agencies that for a fee would read your MS and if it was good enough they would pass it onto an agent and then if the agent thought the work was good enough they would pass it to a publishing house and if they liked it they would pass it to…and so on it goes. How many people do you have to go through to actually share your work and ideas with other people?
In the UK there are about five or six people that are deciding what children read. So every time you go into a book shop to buy a new book for your child the books on display have been put there by that select few. Is that really choice?
So I believed in my writing enough to take the plunge and put the work out there myself. I believe that if my books are good enough they will find an audience.
Being published by a big publishing house still doesn’t guarantee success.
What kind of advice would you like to share with an aspiring writer who’s looking to publish a book for the first time?
Believe in yourself and your skill as a writer. There are lots of people that wont. But hey, writing is so subjective that you will never please everyone. Write for yourself. Write stories that you enjoy and if others like them then that’s great. Read as much as you can. I always try and read more than I write. And don’t’ give up ! If you want to go via the established publishing route remember that this doesn’t always mean success. I have a friend who is published by an established publishing house and they didn’t spend a penny on promotion and in fact they didn’t even get the review copies out on time so when their book was published it didn’t even go into any stores. He is making about 7p for every book he sell’s via the established route.
I went the indie route as it gives you more control over pricing, content, cover design etc. You can write what you want, when you want and I enjoy that freedom.