Meet Mr Joseph D’Lacey, author, dad, prolific Tweeter, and my GoTo when I want to try out something new.

Joseph is known for his Horror, Fantasy and Sci Fi writing; his first published novel MEAT won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer. He has a children’s fantasy novel due out soon that his daughter Sparkle inspired and helped him write and has recently finished a draft for a new adult novel (I can’t wait!).

He currently resides in Northamptonshire with his daughter and co author Sparkle, his wife and some cats.

Can you remember the first book you read that made you think “I can do this, I need to do this”?

Even though I’ve written ‘stuff’ all my life – poetry and journals, to begin with – I never made that very obvious connection between reading fiction and writing it.

I remember the other-worldly allure of bookshops that kicked in when I was eight or nine and the luxury of reading a whole book in a single day. But of all the great books I enjoyed back then, there wasn’t one that made me think audacious writerly thoughts. It just never occurred to me at the time that I might try my hand at the same thing some day.

When it finally did happen, I was very late to the party. I didn’t tackle a novel until I was thirty and it was nine more years and five further novels before I had one published.

Have you had a defining “Oooh I’m an author, people buy and read stuff I’ve written” moment? When and where? What happened?

When I was working on my sixth unpublished novel in 2007, I came very close to packing it all in. That book was MEAT, which became my debut. Seeing it in bookshops all across the UK, after years of effort, made me feel extremely special. The best moment was at a signing in Borders on Oxford Street, where there were so many copies the staff needed trolleys to move them.

Read our review

Who was the first person you showed your writing to? What was their response?

I attended a lot of writing courses and groups before I finally got ‘serious’ and those were probably the people who first saw or heard my work. At one of these groups, I made friends with the editor of an indie print magazine called Cadenza. A few weeks later, I wrote my first short story – Getaway Car – and sent it to her under a pseudonym. She loved it and published it and, I believe, was pleasantly surprised to find out it was me who’d written it.

Are you a night writer or a morning writer? Do you have a work schedule?

I’d say I’m a morning person in most respects. I’m sharper at the beginning of a day and have some energy. By the afternoon, I’m often lethargic and unfocused. When I started out, and for many years thereafter, I stuck to very rigid daily targets. I’m so lazy that, without that kind of discipline, I’d never have written a word. I used to get extremely uptight if something came up that prevented me from writing or if, for self-created reasons, I didn’t achieve a day’s quota.

These days I write whenever there’s a spare moment around housework, parenting and everything else. I rarely have the luxury of several straight hours in which to work, especially during school holidays. Some days, I get a lot more writing done in between cooking and cleaning than I do when I have a clear run at it.

That said, I occasionally take a weekend away and try to really dig into a project. Then, when I get home, it’s just a matter of keeping the momentum going. In theory.

Do you have a favourite character you’ve written? Why them?

Thus far, it has to be Gordon Black.

Some of the ideas in the Black Dawn books go back to when I was a young teen. I’ve always wanted to chronicle a character’s entire life and, in doing that with Gordon, I came to live in his world and occupy his psyche intimately. He’s a tragic, ambiguous character – I always knew he would be – but he plays his part well. Black Feathers and The Book of the Crowman are rich, sweeping, indulgent works and I think I’m unlikely to write in quite that way again.

As well as being a favourite thus far, Gordon Black probably also marks the end of an era in terms of style and approach. Until now, almost all my characters have existed purely to serve my stories and bring my ideas to life. Recently, my attitude has changed a little. I’ve just finished a new novel in which the protagonist is both the story and the idea. This is new territory for me. I’ll be interested to see how it’s received when the book comes out and where it takes me next in terms of genre and theme.

Read our review

You’re a Horror writer in the main, have you ever written something then thought ‘actually, that’s a bit too graphic’?

There are a few instances of this. One was a short story called Old School Ties, which was nothing more than a tale of revenge. After I saw it in print, I did wonder whether the violence was appropriate or simply gratuitous.

Perhaps a better known work is MEAT. I turned myself – and many readers – vegetarian by writing that book. I held nothing back and did everything I could to bring the realities of slaughter to life, albeit in a post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy.

Honestly, though, there came a point about a third of the way through the first draft when it got so grim I just couldn’t face it any more. I saved what I’d done and started something new. I had absolutely no plan to continue. It was only very genuine interest from a publisher that prompted me to once again go wading through the miasma of depravity I’d created until it was finished. I’m very glad I did.

Do you take criticism to heart when it’s from a reader? Is a reader’s critique more important than a professional’s?

When someone doesn’t like a work that has taken weeks, months or years to create, it upsets me. Every time. It doesn’t matter whose opinion it is; it makes me feel as though I haven’t done a good enough job of sharing my vision. I still haven’t learned that you can’t please everyone.

It’s interesting that anyone can review a novel (or anything else) these days; to the point at which literary reviews in papers and magazines have lost their exclusivity. Now, readers can look at an average rating and get a broad, and relatively accurate, idea of a book’s quality – not such a bad thing.

However, the fact is that I always find uninvited criticism hard to take. But being an author puts you in the firing line and those harsh critiques are always around the corner. As a form of therapy, I usually share the worst ones on social media.

Do you have much interaction with your readers?

Not very much, really. But I enjoy it when I bump into people who’ve read my stories or have had a strong response to them.

I was particularly honoured in one instance, when a fan passed away and her family asked me to write a tribute for the memorial – apparently, I was her favourite author. Writing those few lines was, by far, the most profound interaction I’ve had with a reader.

Have you read any of your own books after they’ve been published?

Well, I’ve never actually sat down with a bottle of wine and a packet of biscuits and had a pleasant evening with myself!

Every now and again, though, something about a previous novel will bug me until I have to go back and check it. Otherwise, no. Redrafting is such an exhaustive process that you get tired of looking at your own work after the tenth or fifteenth pass. I’m just happy to see a book in a shop and know that other people are reading it.

What is the essential ingredient you put into all your books?

That’s a great question. It’s great because I don’t know the answer and probably ought to.

The thing is, I’m not a planner. When I set out, I usually know very little about what will appear on the page. Even on the rare occasions that I use outlines and projections, once I’m actually writing, things happen that I can’t explain or anticipate. Either I’m downloading this stuff or it comes from somewhere so deep I can’t consciously see it until after it’s on the page.

I write the ideas that go round and round my head and won’t go away. The reason is that I know they’re ‘strong’ enough to withstand a novel’s worth of exploration. The ideas that don’t have that fascination for me don’t get written.

What do they all have in common? I love the ideas enough to write them. They’re the kind of books I’d love to read.

You’ve written sci fi and fantasy (and now Children’s books) too, do you have a preferred genre or is it just whatever is in your head at that moment?

I’m fickle about genre. I’m much more interested in story and concept. Whatever fascinates me at the time is what I write. In the past, there have been a lot of horrific themes. More recently, I’ve been using fantasy as a backdrop. I also love writing SF and sometimes my stories are a mix of all three. However, I need to be careful not to write too widely or I risk having no audience whatsoever.

Most of your novels have an ecological theme, a moral; are you concerned for the future of the planet, ecologically speaking?

I wrote those stories because I was troubled by the things we humans do to our environment and, yes, I’m still troubled now. Some of the problems we face are to do with planetary rhythms beyond our ability to affect. Others are a direct result of human activity in the last 250 years. Our population now is such that everything we do affects the Earth.

Rather than waiting for governments to sort these problems out for us, we each need to take responsibility for the little patch of Earth we occupy and look after it. Maybe then we won’t nose dive into another dark age or worse, destroy ourselves and every beautiful thing around us.

What authors do you enjoy reading?

I tend not to read more than one book by the same author these days because I always feel pressed for time and I want to read widely. However, some of my favourites of all time include: Margaret Atwood, DBC Pierre, David Vann, Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, Adam Nevill, Iain Banks and Douglas Adams.

What’s been a memorable moment in your career as a writer?

Winning the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer was a biggie. I was attending FantasyCon but didn’t know anything about the award. I’d done my best to avoid the awards ceremony by going out for a curry with some friends. These same friends knew what was coming, though, and gently steered back me to the banqueting hall where the event was almost over. When my name was called out, I was floored. I had nothing prepared to say and had to ad lib my thank yous. Big celebrations that night!

Stephen King has commented on your writing, how did you find out he’d read your book and how did you feel?

Beautiful Books sent him a copy of MEAT. By some miracle, he actually read it and, of course, you know what he said (I do, he said D’Lacey Rocks).

That was the defining moment of the last fifteen years. In fact, when I received the message from my publisher, I needed to sit down.

You have a new children’s book coming out. How does a Horror (OK I stand corrected, multi genre ~ Shan) writer end up the author of a children’s book?

I never think about faeries when I’m writing for adults and I never think about horror when I’m writing for children. It’s as though I hook up to a different feed for every type of writing I do.

The curious thing is, my first ever submissions to publishers – in my late twenties, before I tried writing adult fiction – were of illustrated nonsense verse for children. I had a lot of fun writing poetry back then, though it remains unpublished, and it was what led me onto writing novels.

Once my daughter was old enough to enjoy stories, I suppose it was inevitable that I’d write something for her. As it turns out, she’s been very involved in creating our series of stories around a faerie named Mary Moffett. Writing for and with her has been tons of fun and has led to me giving writing workshops in schools.

Click here to find out more and to pre-order Hairy Faerie

Is there a book out there that you wish you had written?

Honestly, no. I enjoy reading great books, of course. As an author, they can be both inspiring and intimidating. But it’s important for any writer to remember that they’re best off writing the stories no one else can tell but them. That’s what I try to do. I aspire to improve every day and I aspire to write books that will be loved and remembered. But the only book I wish I’d written is the one I’m writing next.

For budding authors everywhere, what’s the one thing you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

Most important thing: never take advice from other writers. Especially me.

Seriosuly, most people don’t learn anything by listening to what more experienced people tell them. As a writer, neither did I. I just kept blundering along until I realised that what I thought I knew was actually nothing at all. It’s the best method – hurts but it works.

All any writer can do is be willing to write hundreds of thousands of words and make mountains of mistakes. Even if you attend all the courses and follow the advice of great writers, you still have to roll your sleeves up and get mucky. We learn to write by writing.

Do you listen to music when you’re writing? Fancy sharing your playlist?

I can write with almost any kind of white noise going on in the background – jackhammers, traffic, washing machines or a room full of chatter. But if I hear a particular conversation or song lyrics, it stops me from getting into the groove. So, whilst I probably could work to something instrumental, rhythmic or ambient, I never put music on. There are no props; just me and the keyboard.

And finally: If you had been asking you questions, what would you have asked you and how would you have answered?

Q: “What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream?” A: “Chocolate.”

I hope you enjoyed reading this little Q&A session. Joseph was a gentleman and very accommodating considering I had no idea what I was doing.

We’re hoping to add more authors as and when I can cajole them into giving up their precious time, so if there are questions you’d like an author to answer, please let us know in the comments section.

And please, take a look at Joseph’s bibliography, he really is rather good.

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