The eternal question – what happens when we die? Is there a consequence from how we lived? Is there a reckoning?
Henry Ashton’s turbulent life is at an end. As he moves on from this world, he discovers how elusive the final peace can be.
With a spirit companion by his side, Henry learns there can be no peace without reconciliation, no rest without acceptance. He must walk his own path to absolution.
“For some souls the transition from mortal life to eternal peace is an easy one, soon completed. For others, who have been troubled in their life or who cannot reconcile the events and their part in them, the journey is longer…and harder. But every soul will find its rest.”
What is your favourite thing about writing books? Who is your favourite character in your book and why? What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
My favourite thing when writing books is that moment when you hit the synergy. You’ve got the idea, you’ve figured out how you are going to express it and – finally – you’ve got the right words to set down. I have been sitting chuckling away to myself, sometimes with tears, sometimes with electricity crackling in my veins at that moment when it all comes together.
That’s when you don’t care if it’s a best seller or just one that your Mum likes. It’s the moment that you validate yourself as a writer and enjoy the achievement.
In a wider sense, the great thing about writing books is that you have time and space to develop your ideas, opinions and present them in a measured way. In the heat of discussion, debate, argument and confrontation it is often hard to remain focused. At the desk, you can take your time, articulate your thoughts and let the words flow.
My favourite character in my new novella Into the Summerland is the main protagonist Henry. He has all attributes we admire and find frustrating in the war baby generation: Stoic and principled, stubborn and prejudiced. His development and eventual reclamation, whilst keeping his dignity intact is what I’d wish for to all those souls.
My favourite writing drink is tea (of course!) Steaming hot, strong with a little sugar to taste.
If I’m wanting to relax my mind into the nocturnal zone, I will quaff some Southern Comfort with Coke.
Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Since I quit smoking (5 years and counting!) I’ve been on the look-out for a new bad habit.
Since most of my downtime waiting for the next burst of inspiration involves walking miles and miles along the Essex coast, I don’t really suffer from indulging in any foodie treats.
I guess the worst thing that those around would say is that when I’m in the writing mindset, I get real tunnel vision to the point that the house could be on fire and I’d keep typing. But they’re all pretty considerate and I do take everyone out to dinner to celebrate once it’s all done!
How do you research your books?
With Into the Summerland there were many references to faiths both old and new. Not overtly, I wanted to keep them subtle! But it’s critical if you are going to stray into areas that are special to people that you get it right. The old religions as well as new ones, along with general philosophies and modern life coaching tips have more in common than their followers would admit, but woe betide you for a misplaced edict! My collection of online bookmarks and library of reference books grew quite a lot during that period.
If I’m writing in the ‘real’ world then I spend a lot of time checking timetables for planes, trains and ferries. Time zones, languages and currencies all have to be right if you want to be taken seriously when writing an international thriller.
It’s also always good fun to go out and meet the experts where you can. I walked into Chelmsford Police station a few years ago to check the exact wording of a caution, much to the desk sergeant’s bemusement. Maybe I should have reflected that “You do not have to say anything…”
On a very practical level, when I’m reviewing the manuscript, I’ll make sure the story is hanging together, whilst drawing big blue crosses next to the entries where something needs to be checked. It’s important to get things right, but not as important as making sure you’ve written a great story!
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
When I get the first sketch of an idea, I figure out how it’s going to start and end. What the key plot slices are and which characters need to end up where. Then it’s just a case of how they all get there.
Which I guess makes me the classic Planster. I need the signposts, but I need freedom so the story can be flexible.
I can’t imagine having everything worked out in advance. That would be too restrictive. But I can’t imagine an open-ended writing odyssey without even the slightest notion of a destination.
When writing a previous book, things were really not working out right. I’d completed the manuscript but wasn’t happy. So I changed the ending, removed a couple of chapters and gave one of the main characters a wife.
All of which needed new back stories and a new plot line to get the now-married character to the critical part of the story. As well as a forensic line-by-line re-examination for impacts.
It was at times tortuous, but I came out with a much better book. Upshot being I guess that I need to work on my inner panster!
If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
As my Steampunk style would suggest, something within the 19th century, where the worlds of Charles Dickens and HG Wells would come together in a cacophony of social rectitude and dazzling, anarchic adventure!
I’d revel in the exchanges of social niceties, knowing the underlying tensions that crackle under the surface. I’d join the mad inventors, reaching to the skies and beyond in challenging all known laws of physics, time and gravity.
I’d pick from the finest collection of gentleman’s attire and walk out along the fine streets of London, then donate the rest to the desperately poor that even to this day still live among us.
I’d attend the presentations of the most overblown, sumptuous launches, toasting the lunatics pledging to venture to the moon and back before the smoky chimes of Big Ben call all good subjects to their beds.
There must be fun, or life has no meaning. And there must be compassion or life has no purpose.
If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities. A tragic hero. A waster who falls in love with Lucie Manette, already pledged and then married to Charles Darnay.
Sydney has no time for social niceties and apparently has no concern over how he is perceived. His careless manner belies the relentless drive – initially we believe catapulting him towards an early demise.
Whatever Dickens plugged into to bring this fascinating character to life, I recognise and understand totally. In a world that requires conformity, the rebel shall find mischief, mirth but a long road to peace.
His triumph – and final valediction is by laying down his life for the man who makes his true love happy. He has no affection for Darnay, but complete devotion to his unattainable wife.
I’m sure that Sydney would be highly suspicious, if not highly amused by my interest in him. But he would be splendid company. And spending an evening with a bowl of punch in a tavern with him would be wonderful!
About the Author
Living in Westcliff-on-Sea Essex, Julian Cundy is a British adventurer, dedicated day dreamer, wordsmith and observer of life and all its absurdities. He is a recognisable character in his home town thanks to his eye-catching outfits comprising fine hats, cravats, tails and spats.