The Devil’s back – and he’s STILL not had a holiday.
There’s another mystery to solve – a woman kidnapped by terrorists and the world trying to find her. While he hates doing God’s bidding, The Devil can’t resist trying to put one over on Him. But nothing is EVER that simple.
While the Devil helps the London cops crack the case, there’s trouble in the Underworld. And two of humanity’s greatest backstabbers – Brutus and Cassius – are sharpening their knives with an eye on stealing his crown.
It’s a race against time to find the girl, be the bad guy and maybe stop the apocalypse.
- Which character would you like to be in this book?
Starting off with a toughie – that’s not fair! I’m not going to cop-out and give the usual politician answer of “I love all of them equally” – I am actually going to pick one.
But it is really hard. When you’re writing characters like The Devil, God, Brutus, Cassius and Laurie, you can’t help but fall in love with them that little bit. Especially those characters who featured in HellCorp. I always feel like I’ve been getting to know them that little bit better.
That said. I did promise an answer. So I’m going to go with Alice – The Devil’s omnipotent, all-knowing, all-sassy secretary. I was blown away by her popularity from HellCorp I just knew she was going to play a bigger role in The Man in the Dark. Alice is everything I WANT to be – organized, calm, collected and stylish. Three adjectives Jonathan Whitelaw has never had before his name.
- Do you always take a book/e-reader wherever you go?
I try to. I love to read, I always have done. Some of my fondest memories growing up are of packing away five or six books in my rucksack to read as we went on holiday. And then there was the adventure to actually go get books ahead of the vacation. I was very lucky in that I had an aunt who worked in the library in Saudi Arabia and latterly Dubai, where the royal family sent their kids. So she would always get her hands on new releases way ahead of schedule and I’d be the first port of call when she came back to the UK.
And that’s sort of followed me actually. I’m a journalist and a lot of work I do is for the arts and reviews. So I still have the great pleasure of getting early releases and special editions through. And it usually means wherever I’m going, whether commuting for work or traveling, I’ve got something to read. I say work but it doesn’t feel that way. It’s an honour and a real privilege.
- Say someone asks if they can use your name in a book. Would you rather be the ‘good one’ or the ‘bad one’?
Bad one – no question. Wow, that actually surprised me just how quickly I was able to decide that. No time at all. That can’t be good right?
I always remember reading an interview with Dave Prowse – the actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars movies (I’m a huge fan). Apparently he was given the choice of which tall character he could play – he was over 7ft. Legend has it that Prowse said “give me the bad guy – everyone always remembers the bad guy”. And it’s TRUE!
For every great hero in literature, TV, movies, poetry etc, there’s always a wonderful villain. And because the villain is usually so dreadful, they stick withthe reader and viewer. I’ve found that, both as a writer and a reader. I’m always more interested in the baddie – because there’s normally a fascinating story as to how they got there. Not every villain is born that way (with a few exceptions – including my Devil). So why are they the way they are? I love unravelling that mystery.
So yes, if I’m given the pleasure of being in a book – bad guy, all the way.
- Do you prefer to read/write a standalone or series?
A good question. They both have very different styles and purposes.
What I’ve found with The Man in the Dark is that writing a series is a very different process. When you sit down with a completely blank slate, no characters, no setting, no world, just an idea, you’ve got carte blanch. But when you’re writing for and in a series, as Man in the Dark is, suddenly you’ve got a whole ready-made piece of kit that’s there to expand upon. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to create something new. But you have an advantage of a set of rules, regulations and concepts that already exist for you.
Some writer friends see this as constraining. I’ve had the debate with them before and it tends to be 50/50 over who likes and dislikes what. I guess it’s personal preference.
For me, it’s the same with what I read. I love sitting down with a story and meeting the characters for the first time and getting to know them. There’s also something really satisfying with completing a story by the end, all the loose ends tied up.
Then again, a series can offer so much more when it comes to character development, world-building and general scope. You can have a character you love become hated, and vice-versa. It really is a difficult choice. And I think it all depends on personal preference – along with what mood you’re in at the time.
- Where can I find you when you are reading?
I’ll read anywhere I can sit down really. whether that’s catching some quiet time on a train or bus or sprawled out on the sofa at home, I don’t mind reading anywhere and everywhere. I draw the line, however, to reading in the car – as a passenger of course, not behind the wheel. I do have a tendency to get a bit queasy when I’m reading, even briefly, in a moving car. But apart from that – wherever I can.
- Where can I find you when you are not writing/reading?
Ah, now that is the question. I’m a journalist so pretty much ALL of my time is spent reading and writing – whether that’s my fiction or my journalism.
However, I am trying to be a bit better and bit healthier as I get older. Long gone are the days of staying up and out all night, home for an hour’s sleep and back out to a uni lecture etc. Middle-age is creeping up on me very quickly (I’m 33) so I’m trying to be good.
I’ve recently taken up running and of course, turned it into a competition with myself. Seriously, if I could race myself to finishing a draft or re-write, I would. That copetition serves me well when I’m playing football though – something I really enjoy. I’ve been lucky enough to play for Scotland at football for the Scotland Writer’s Football Team – alongside some huge names like Chris Brookmyer, Ian Rankin and Doug Johnston.
I was given a record player as a birthday gift last year so I’m slowly recreating my music collection from my teens in vinyl form which has been a real revolution. Getting to enjoy all the brilliant bands and music I adored, in album and long-form again really has been brilliant. You don’t realise just how disposable music can become when you can select what you want, when you want it, with no real consequence. That said, digital stuff is a LOT cheaper.
And you can also find me on a pub quiz team too. This is a relatively new past-time but one I’m throwing myself in to. My wife and I go out with some friends, usually at least once a week, and flex our grey matter. If you’re ever in Glasgow on a Monday night I highly recommend the Sparkle Horse – it’s a hoot!
- Can you walk past a bookstore without going inside?
I can – but it’s incredibly difficult. Actually, let’s just say I can’t.
As I mentioned before, the digital age is really changing everything for everyone. And for the most part I think it’s a good thing. People’s lives are being helped on a day-to-day basis, from the everyday tasks to medical and social breakthroughs. It’s a welcome arrival.
And that stretches to the literary world too. I know we’ve all seen the stats of e-book sales against traditional print. More importantly, we’ve seen predictions for the future too – with a lot of them being ripped up and started again.
I enjoy going into bookshops – not just for the shopping, but for the atmosphere. And that can be a big high street chain or an independently owned store. Staff are always friendly, willing to help and cultivate a strong, welcoming community. Surely that’s as good a reason as any to always head in for a snoop around.
- What are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of HellCorp and the characters that inhabit that series’ world. And I’m proud to call myself a writer and to be able to carry on thelong-standing traditions that role affords to both me and society as a whole. Seriously, there are no days that pass where I don’t pinch myself and am grateful that I get to do what I do for a living.
What came as a surprise to me when HellCorp was released was the impact my work can have on people. Shortly after the book came out, a reader got in touch with me to tell me how my book had, quite literally, changed her life. She had fallen out of love with reading and, after picking up HellCorp, she said she had her appetite back. I was absolutely blown away – humbled of course – but completely flabbergasted.
It’s a very special feeling to know that you’re helping others with your work and your creations. And for that I’ll forever be proud of HellCorp, TheDevil and everyone else who features in the novel and who helped make it possible. I can only hope that everyone feels the same about the latest installment!
- What goes through your mind when you hold your new book in your hands for the first time?
Is this actually happening? Am I about to let this thing loose on the world? I hope I’m wearing those water-proof pants I keep for these occassions!
Any one if not all of the above. Except for the pants one – I’m only joking with that one!
It’s a really special feeling and sensation. When you open up the box and get your hands on the new book. I’ve been lucky enough to have that feeling more than once and every time it’s been just as wonderful. Different, each time, but no less special.
Other writer friends have told me that it’s something that never goes away. Which is a nice thought. I’d hate to ever be in a position where that moment isn’t special and isn’t marked with it’s own little tradition or celebration. And I love that we live in a time when unboxing and these moments can be shared on social media with the wider literature community. To be able to share something like that with other writers, readers and fans is as much part of the experience as any other element of writing. The old adage goes that writing is a lonely business – but that really isn’t the case. It’s a community of scribes, bloggers, influencers and readers who all celebrate each other’s successes. The world always needs a little more love and I’ve found nothing but that from this wonderful community.
- What piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Just write. It sounds simple and even a little flippant. But it’s the best advice I can give anybody who is serious about writing.
I know people are busy – it’s just a part of modern life. I always ask the same question to people who ask me for advice or are looking to get into writing for the first time: “How do you think your idea will become a reality if you don’t get it out of your head?”
Again, I know that can sound flippant. But it’s simple. If you want to be a writer then you’ve got to get down to the nuts and bolts of actually writing something. A journalism tutor of mine once said to me “You can’t edit a blank page” – and it’s so true. If you write something, even just a sentence or a character profile or something like a setting, it’s a start. You can go from there.
No writer comes up with a masterpiece on their first go. And if they do then they are very, very, VERY lucky and rare. Writing is a craft – it has to be honed and learned. I know that I’m a better writer than I was last year. But I also know that I’m not as good a writer as I will be next year. Theonly way you get to those points is to knuckle down and actually write, revise, edit and make it better. You can’t do that to a blank page.
If I had any other advice for aspiring writers – it’s embracing the active community and culture online. As I mentioned before, there are lots of great, established writers, bloggers and readers out there who are always happy to help. Whether that’s tips and hints to beta readers and sounding boards – use them, they want to help you, become a part of that community and pay it forward when you can. Simples!
Thank you, Jonathan Whitelaw and Love Books Group Tours.
About the author
Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster.
After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste – with everything in between.
He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV.
HellCorp, from Urbane Publications, is his second novel following his debut, Morbid Relations.
Social Media links
FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JonathanWhitelawAuthor/