Ready for a familiar face. We turn the tables on our editor, local writer Dale Hurst as he releases his second mystery novel – The Berylford Scandals: Sin & Secrecy…
At some point in our lives we’ve all said we’d love to write a book, right? Whether it be about our own personal experiences or a completely fictional story in a land of fantasy – it’s human nature to want to be creative. HQB’s very own Dale Hurst has done just that and has recently published his second novel; a murder mystery/thriller called Sin & Secrecy. Dale has been inspired by writers such as Charles Dickens, Dame Agatha Christie and Leo Tolstoy and has set sights on writing a series of works that all exist within the same universe. After years of hard work and juggling writing between college, university and two full-time jobs, Dale is glad to have finally finished and published his exciting new novel.
I interviewed Dale and asked him what inspires him to write, why he started writing in the first place and what advice he’d give to young, aspiring writers out there.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START WRITING AND HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU REALISED YOU WANTED TO PURSUE IT FURTHER?
I have been “writing” since the age of five – just nonsensical bits and pieces, of course. I first turned my head to writing a full-scale novel when I was ten, when I was obsessed by both mythical worlds and creatures, and 19th Century France – bit of an odd mix, I know! But it was actually a side avenue for me for a really long time; until I was 17, I had my heart set on being an actor and singer. But then I got a very high A in my English AS-Level coursework and an E in my Theatre Studies performance, which prompted me to think, “Actually… I think I might be in the wrong lane here.”
WHAT INSPIRED YOU FOR THIS PARTICULAR NOVEL, “SIN & SECRECY”
Sin & Secrecy was inspired by reading the classic works from the big 18th and 19th Century writers like Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Jane Austen, and watching adaptations thereof. I really wanted to write a story channelling my love for these styles and characters and language, but that placed them all in one common setting. I couldn’t tell you exactly what sparked the idea in the mind of a 15-year-old of four children conspiring to murder their headmistress, but that was the seed from which Sin & Secrecy and its prequel grew.
HOW IS “SIN & SECRECY” DIFFERENT FROM ITS PREDECESSOR, “LUST & LIBERTY”
The genres are quite different, for a start. Lust & Liberty is a mystery centred around an illicit romance, inspired by questions I had left unanswered when first drafting Sin & Secrecy (I wrote Sin & Secrecy first) and Lady Vyrrington is the central anti-heroine. Sin & Secrecy begins much more like your standard murder mystery, but there’s more of a crime thriller aspect to it. And this one is primarily centred around Abel Stirkwhistle, Lady Vyrrington’s cousin who we meet in the latter part of Lust & Liberty. The story is much more multifaceted and there are several little subplots going on, many of which Abel is connected to in some way, whereas in Lust & Liberty, there are really only two or three plotlines running.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE “SIN & SECRECY”?
I started the first draft of Sin & Secrecy in November 2008, so it took nearly 12 years to complete. That’s on-and-off, of course. I was still at school back then, so I had that to deal with, plus college, university, two full-time jobs, a freelance journalist career and Lust & Liberty as well. It could have been longer if I had written another book instead, which is what I had been tempted to do! It was only last year that a colleague of mine made me realise the logic behind finishing and publishing Sin & Secrecy, which had a full draft just sitting there on my laptop. After that long, I’m pretty glad it’s done now!
WHAT ARE THE COMMON STUMBLING BLOCKS FROM BEING A WRITER?
It seems like such an artsy cliché but losing one’s inspiration is a big one. Hitting a roadblock on a plot point that you really can’t get around easily can be a massive thorn in the side. I get those quite a lot – if it’s something that’s going in because it has to, not because I want it there, it’s a massive schlep to get through it – sometimes that can hinder progress for weeks, even months.
Another one is finding the balance between what the storyteller wants, and what the readers want. You find a lot of people online posting book reviews are more than happy to tell you how to do your job – as a writer, you have to remind yourself that these are opinions, so you can agree or disagree as you see fit. At the end of the day, it’s your story – you tell it how you want. Don’t be influenced by people’s comments too much – unless of course they are actually very helpful!
DO YOU WANT EACH NOVEL TO STAND ON THEIR OWN, OR ARE YOU TRYING TO BUILD A BODY OF WORK WITH CONNECTIONS TO OTHER BOOKS YOU’VE WRITTEN?
Lust & Liberty and Sin & Secrecy are the first two instalments in what I hope will be a massive series of works. Other novels in the series are planned, both a direct sequel to Sin & Secrecy and other stories just set in the same “universe”. My next piece of work will be totally unrelated, however. Entitled You Can Hear Chopin from the Attic, this will be a thriller set in the middle of World War II, in a luxury hotel in Berlin, touching on the largely unexplored subjects of the Nazis’ persecution of the mentally ill and how hotels had to run as normal during that conflict.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR?
Prior to recent events, my favourite modern author was J.K. Rowling (though she has gone down in my estimations now). For his vivid and rich descriptive style and use of characters and language, Charles Dickens has to be number one, with Agatha Christie, Leo Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, Mervyn Peake, and Shakespeare all not far behind. And, of course, Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell, as I mentioned earlier.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE GENRE OF BOOK?
I love a good mystery – something that keeps the cogs turning and my mind wondering, “Who, what, when, where, why and how?” However, I do try to keep an open mind when it comes to literature and read virtually anything that gets recommended – it’s all good for enriching one’s own literary skill and developing one’s style.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG ASPIRING WRITERS?
It’s an old, insipid one – practice makes perfect. Just keep writing (and reading) and planning and learning, jotting ideas down about settings and characters and events. One day, you’ll hit upon THE idea. Another point – don’t expect overnight success with writing. Like all art forms, there is a lot of rejection and hard work that goes into making it.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AND YOUR WRITING CAREER IN GENERAL?
I am going to resume work on You Can Hear Chopin very soon – there is a lot of research still to be done on that, so that will be the next couple of years or so covered for me as an author, all the while doing what I can to build my brand and market Sin & Secrecy. And, of course, continue to dedicate as much of my time to running and developing HQB Media.
Find out more about Dale and his work on his website, Facebook page and Instagram account. For more stories from the world of literature and theatre, click here. Plus, you can follow HQB Media on all our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.