This week we're sitting down to chat with Richard Rhys Jones, author of horrific thrillers The Division of the Damned and The House in Wales.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Reg. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy your work, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.
I now live in Germany and have done since coming here as a young soldier in 1987.
My work is mainly horror, though I like to think of my first book, The Division of the Damned as being adventure-horror. It deals with vampires working for the Third Reich, but I added a lot of extra ingredients to spice it up a bit, including Biblical and Sumerian mythology and folklore, Teutonic Knights, the Eastern Front and werewolves to name but a few.
My second. The House in Wales, is horror through and through. A young man, traumatised by the bombing of Liverpool during the war and the loss of his mother, is evacuated to my home town to recuperate. There he’s met by a vicar and his housekeeper and is taken in by them. That’s when it really starts going pear shaped. The prim smokescreen soon falls on the first night as the pair terrorize and humiliate him, and plan to sacrifice him to the demon Astaroth. With the ghosts of their past victims and a lot of sexual subjugation thrown in the mix, it’s a very disturbing read if I say so myself.
Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?
My problem was that The Division of the Damned crossed too many genres for the established printing houses. War, horror, mythology, history, even romance, it was simply too hard for the firms that rely on the big distributors to pigeon-hole. So they didn’t bother. I have no idea how many rejections I received, but it was a very disheartening time.
My first break came at Night Publishing. They ran a poll every month, and the winner of the poll was awarded a contract. Nothing too constraining, but never the less, they overtook all the expense and I simply sat back and watched. When my proof copy arrived I was on cloud nine. After all the years of rejection, there it was, my book in my hands. I’ll never forget that moment.
Night changed into Taylor Street and they released my second book for me, The House in Wales, and since then I haven’t looked back.
When Taylor stopped and released their authors, I moved on to Thorstruck, who have kindly made new covers for both books and are working on releasing them again. It’s a very exciting time. I made some great friend along the way, and am really grateful for all the help my fellow authors at Night and Taylor have given me over the years. However, the present is Thorstruck, and hopefully for a long time to come.
Q: That kind of publishing turnover can cripple some careers - good to see you've found a way to thrive. In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?
The title, easily. The Division of the Damned was a collective effort by my friends, (all ex soldiers), and The House in Wales, well, it was the working title and it simply stayed that way.
Writing itself, when I’m in “the zone”, is easy. I love losing myself to my own little world, where I make the rules and characters, and then watch as they take a life of their own.
Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when developing a series that touches on multiple genres. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?
Ha!! ALL THE TIME!!
“Division” had a beginning and an end, with a bowl of idea-spaghetti in the middle. No wonder it took years to write.
“House” was different though. I planned every chapter and watched how the characters developed. Sometimes I reined them in, but mostly I ran with ideas, putting myself in the heads of the people and acting it out on paper. This method is way more satisfying than the seat-of-my-pants method and I’m employing that very same method now for my WIP, The Sisterhood of the Serpent, (working title…. Don’t chuckle).
Q: Actually, I kind of like the title! When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?
Definitely for my own satisfaction. I’m a reader too, a fan, and I try to write what I like. I have a good friend who acts like a second me, a devil’s advocate if you want? We’ll bounce ideas around but we don’t think for one second about what a critic might say. A fan of a good story, yes, but never someone who wants to review the work.
Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?
Some of my one star reviews were pretty nasty, actually. Some people wake up in a bad mood and go straight to Amazon/Goodreads and let it all splurge out on the page.
However… the strangest has to be the last review I was given for “Division”, which basically reviewed Sven Hassel’s, “Legion of the Damned”.
I considered correcting him, but it was a five star so I thought what the hell…
Q: Hmm, back-handed compliment, I guess (LOL). To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?
Ken Follet, Stephen King, Clive Barker… the usual literary heroes who manage to suck you into their world and make you want to stay there. Sorry, but I’m pretty lame when it comes to finding new role models.
Q: Can't go wrong with those three! Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were your work to be optioned for the big screen?
I have absolutely y no idea!
Seriously, I have obviously given the idea of one of my books being filmed thought, (come on, I’m only human…), but actual actors??
Perhaps one of your readers can make a suggestion?
Answers on a postcard please, to…
Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in your latest world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?
I have an anthology of stories coming out with fellow Thorstruck author Paul Rudd, called The Chronicles of Supernatural Warfare. It’s basically a collection of stories about warfare and beasts through the ages, and by “beasts” I mean vampires, werewolves, the Kraken, and the like. For example, the first story is The Wooden Wolf of Troy, the second is about the 300 Vampires at Thermopylae. I’m sure you get the idea.
My WIP is set in America in the mid nineties. If you can imagine a cross between The Shining, The Towering Inferno and Hellraiser, you’d be at least strolling in the right direction.
The chapters are planned, I’m halfway through, and hoping that Thorstruck are going to like it.
Many thanks for taking the time to read this, f you have any questions, gripes, pledges of money, please feel free to contact me on Facebook or on my Blog.
All the best.
That WIP sounds awesome - thanks for joining us!
About the Author
He left school at 16 to join Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, and served his time in Essex and Germany in an armoured reconnaissance regiment. After leaving the military he worked as an armed guard for the British Army, then in a workshop servicing and repairing plant machinery, and then on the building sites in various roles. He now earns a crust in the steelworks which dominate the town of Salzgitter, where he lives.
Writing came late in life and though he’d written lyrics for various German and British bands he’d never tackled a full novel. It was only when he bought his first computer that he finally decided to write one, using the ideas he’d collated over the years. The Division of the Damned is the child born of that first foray into writing. Set in WW2, it deals with vampires working for the Third Reich, biblical and Sumerian mythology, Teutonic orders and werewolves, wrapped in a story of betrayal and disillusionment.
His second novel, The House in Wales, is set in north Wales during WW2. The main protagonist is a young man sent away from Liverpool to live with a vicar and his very domineering housekeeper. The pious facade soon gives way to a story of sexual deviation, devil worship and human sacrifice, that takes the reader to the ash-blackened gates of Hell.
About the Book
by Richard Rhys Jones
It was a master stroke to redress the balance of the war. What if the Third Reich could own the night? What if they had a Division of Vampires? And if those Vampires didn't stop? If they had plans to conquer the whole world? Even Heinrich Himmler hadn't thought of that. But in Transylvania someone had. On the Winter Solstice of 1944 the world would be at their mercy.
The division of the damned is an enemy no one anticipated, their trail of merciless and cunning carnage makes this a noir thriller. Compelling and tense it will flay your soul.
AND here's the blurb for The House in Wales.
Orphaned by the bombing of Liverpool at the start of World War Two, Danny Kelly is evacuated to the relative safety of Colwyn Bay, unaware of the evil which awaits him there. Cast into the oppressive realm of Satan and his acolytes, Danny is ensconced in a world of escalating human sacrifice and voracious vices, lorded over by the village vicar and his seemingly pious housekeeper.
Will Danny, isolated, inexperienced and vulnerable, survive where so many others have recently succumbed? Or will there be another victim claimed by ‘The House in Wales’? Hurled into a war for his soul, Danny goes from human hardship to the forge of suffering.