Within The Dark Places is a rollercoaster ride of blood, sweat and tears, a novella that pays homage to horror movies of the late seventies and early eighties. The story follows a stag-party who finds themselves stalked by a malevolent force that hides within the dark shadows of the forest. What the party hoped would be one hell of a night soon turns into a night from hell. We spoke to the book’s Shipley-based author Duncan Thompson to find out more.

Hi Duncan, you must be excited about the launch of Within The Dark Places, is this your first published book?
Yes indeed, it’s a very exciting time. Although I have been writing works of fiction since primary school, this is my first published book. A lifetime ambition has been accomplished. Who could ask for more?

What is the book about and where did the inspiration come from?
That’s a long story. To answer that question we would need to travel back to the late ’90s. I was in my teens at that time and myself and a few friends used to make films on a home camcorder ‘borrowed’ from parents. At that time Scream was a big hit at the cinema and I had also discovered Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. Inspired by Raimi’s films and the stories behind how they were made, we were spurred on to make our own movies. Sadly people grow up and become adults. Fast forward to 2013 and I was sat in the pub with one of my fellow filmmakers and we began to reminisce. We had the idea to bring the gang out of cinematic retirement and make a new film which, now being adults, we could finance and generate a modest budget. With money-saving costs in mind I began to work on an idea for a film where a group of people were stalked by a presence in the forest, but the audience would never actually see what was pursuing the characters. The scares would come from the power of suggestion. And so, I set about writing the script; each scene was meticulously planned as to how it would be achieved in camera with a minimal amount of funds. Keeping the constraints in mind, I found a darker edginess appeared in the writing, which I don’t think I would have been able to achieve if we had bags of money to play with. Sadly, the project fell apart before the first draft of the script was even complete, but I was pleased with what I had written and felt it had the makings of a great story –  it would have been a shame to waste it. So, I reworked what I had written for the script into the start of a novella.
So, what is the book about? Essentially, it’s an homage to independent horror. The story follows a stag-party who find themselves stalked by a malevolent force that hides within the dark shadows of the forest. What the party hoped would be one hell of a night soon turns into a night from hell…
How has it been received so far?
The response so far has been amazing, better than anticipated. I think interestingly, the people who have given me feedback so far have all had a different favorite scene – they’ve not been drawn to one particular chapter. Readers are enjoying it for different reasons. One person liked the gory descriptions, another liked that they were always kept on the edge, guessing what would happen next. Someone else found they really identified with the characters. One person even contacted me to say they had recently booked a camping holiday but after reading Within The Dark Places they cancelled it, too scared to pitch their tent. I took it as a compliment. The only thing all the feedback has had in common is that the readers could not put it down. They had to keep reading to the end.
Why are you drawn to horror stories and what do you think it is that makes them so popular?
People want to be scared. They want the rush from being on edge, from the pumping adrenaline and the quickening of their heart. But they also want it safe and controlled. Horror, in any creative medium, provides that. Also, and the main reason I’m drawn to the genre, it also provides an escapism which might just be real enough to make you think “that could happen to me.” Even though vampires and werewolves are generally seen as works of fiction, it’s much harder to prove they don’t exist than to prove they do. It’s that uncertainty and fear of the unknown that truly draws people (myself included) to horror.
What is the best horror story ever written?
Wow! That’s like asking what’s the best rock song ever written. There are so many great works out there. You could argue that gothic classics such as Dracula and Frankenstein are the best, given the legacy they left behind. But for me personally, the story that really got me on the edge of my seat was Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. For those who haven’t read it, I’ll try not to give too much away. But as a father of two young children it really played on my worst fear of losing a child. Especially as, at the time of reading, my son was the same age as the little boy who features in the book. In fact, the way he’s described – King could have been talking about my son. When I finished the book I immediately had to give him the biggest hug ever, I was that shaken and moved by the story.
Is there a sequel to Within The Dark Places? What are you working on at the moment?
I don’t want to give much away, especially as Within The Dark Places has only just been published, but I can say I submitted the sequel to my publisher earlier this month and we’re aiming for a June 2017 release. With the manuscript in their loving hands, I’ve began the first draft of a third book I hope to publish. While this won’t be a second sequel to Within The Dark Places it will take place in the same universe.
What’s your relationship with Bradford?
I moved to the Shipley area of Bradford in 1991. I have lived, attended school and worked here most of my life. There have been times where I’ve wanted to up sticks and move away, but I have my own family here now and wouldn’t want to uproot them. Plus, the city is starting to bloom again. The independent quarter alone is worth hanging around for. Plus Bradford has a rich cultural heritage and there are so many creative people here in the city now too, from bands, to writers, to artists and photographers. Also the settings for nearly all my stories are inspired by Bradford and the surrounding areas, especially the Aire valley.
Would you like to get back into filmmaking someday?
I’d like to someday. I’d really like to take on a writing and production role. But who knows what the future holds. As long as there’s a good story to tell, it doesn’t really matter what medium it’s presented in. I would love to see Within The Dark Places become a film, as it was originally intended. But, I’d have to work with the right people – an indie studio/filmmaker, rather than a big Hollywood production.

Available from 31 August 2016 from http://www.rowanvalebooks.com/book/within-the-dark-places in paperback and e-book formats. Paperback RRP £5.99 Ebook RRP £1.99

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