Previous Guests

Guest spot

Each month, I intend to have a guest author, band or artiste interviewed on this page. If you fit the above broad category and would like to see yourself here, please contact me at mike [dot] amos at michaelamos [dot] net (replacing the at with an @, removing the anti-spam spaces and replaceing the [dot] with a .).

Dave Cook

This month, I am proud to welcome my fellow author and veteran IT journalist Dave Cook to talk about writing, journalism and his upcoming novel Past Sins.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Whitley Bay, the youngest child of six, and a Geordie. My childhood was extremely happy, although at school I probably received more than my fair share of corporal punishment. Not that I was a bad lad. Most beatings were the result of getting caught retrieving a ball from the school’s prize flower bed! I was football daft in those days. But when a run of injuries put an end to my dream of playing professionally, I took up plumbing. It was a hard life. Eventually, I wised-up and got a job working in a library. Then I fell into IT journalism and never looked back. In between, I met Denise and we’ve been married for over thirty-five years. We have three daughters - two of whom are spoken for - and three grandchildren. My youngest daughter, Victoria, works the comedy circuit in Manchester and occasionally pops up on TV or BBC radio. These days, I’m cursed with a severe type of inflammatory arthritis that affects most of my joints including the spine. Things could be worse, though. I could have been born twenty miles down the road in Sunderland - a Mackem! ;-)

How did you get started writing?

Basically, I submitted a couple of reviews to a magazine called Personal Computer World. They were published and I got paid. But my writing career did not start in earnest until I met the editor of Practical PC. I’d purchased some software from the magazine, but for some reason it failed to turn up here. Did I say software? Okay, it was actually the PC game, DOOM. What did I do? I went online and told the world how disappointed I was with the publishers of Practical PC for cashing my cheque and refusing to answer my emails. A few hours later, Dave Dorn, the editor of the magazine, turned up at my door to deliver the software in person! We hit it off immediately. Dave asked me a few months later to write for Practical PC and the rest is history.

Was it difficult switching from IT journalism to writing novels?

The hardest part was the financial aspect, since it meant the end of the monthly salary. On the other hand, my arthritis was increasingly interfering with my work, and they say everyone has at least one novel in them. I’d been mulling over the plot of “A Gift To Die For” for some considerable time. There was a feeling that I had to take it forward or forever hang my head in shame.

Why supernatural horror?

Generally, because that’s the genre I enjoy reading most. That said, Science Fiction will always have a place in my heart. I was fifteen when I first came across John Wyndham’s, “The Day Of The Triffids”. It made such an impression on me that I refused to read anything but SF for the next fifteen years or so! I will occasionally peruse the odd thriller – John Grisham is very good - yet always I return to horror. Who knows, though, maybe my next book will be SF or even a thriller? We’ll just have to wait and see.

What part of “A Gift To Die For” do you consider the best and why?

The rude bits, of course! No, seriously, I’m not sure the book can be narrowed down like that. But if I had to choose one section, it would be the ending because of the twist in the tale. When writing a novel I aim for a strong plot, a bit of action - or the threat of some action – with preferably a smattering of romance along the way. I’ve been told that my writing is difficult to put down. That’s nice, because a story with a poor plot and lots of fancy words bore the pants off me.

Your story "Devil Games" will be appearing in the DEAD ENDS anthology. Do you find it easier to write short stories or novels?

I’m not really sure, to be honest. It’s very easy to put your life and soul into writing a novel. The trouble is, a novel can take years to complete - or rather they do in my case. Short stories certainly take less time, but they require a much tighter style of writing. All my stories thus far have a twist in the tale, although conjuring up a good one can take ages. “Devil Games”, published this spring by Screaming Dreams, is no exception.

Do you have any advice for people writing short stories?

Keep it tight, keep it simple, and don’t try to bamboozle the reader with overly complicated plots. Once your story is finished, forget about it for a few days and then go over it again. Correct all the mistakes that are now suddenly jumping out at you. Perform the same procedure several times more until you’re sick to death of the damned thing. Then do it again… and again… before sending it to your chosen publisher. Prepare for rejection, even though eventually you will get lucky. Above all, don’t let the critics put you off writing your next little gem. Most are great at telling others how to write, but when push comes to shove, very few critics can actually write a good story themselves.

Tell us about “Past Sins”.

“Past Sins” will be my second supernatural novel. It concerns a close-knit mining community that many years ago lost almost its entire workforce during a roof fall. The villagers are a twisted, isolated bunch. Bent on revenge, they set about punishing three innocent people for what they believe were the sins of their forefathers. But first the villagers must face another kind of justice, a justice from hell - hence the supernatural element to the story. The book is due to be published by Screaming Dreams this summer, and I’m delighted to announce that all royalties and publisher’s profits will go to the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC). The charity is dedicated to investigating arthritis in all its forms. It’s a charity close to my heart since it promotes medical research into the cause, treatment, and cure of arthritic conditions.

Who are your favourite authors?

The late Richard Laymon will always be a favourite of mine. Plot-driven and sometimes naughty in matters concerning the flesh, his books never fail to entertain. The early Dean Koontz and Stephen King novels are also shockingly good. James Herbert and Graham Masterton also take some beating – and they’re British!

Desert Island - one CD, one novel - which ones?

For the CD, there’s a temptation to choose something from Coldplay or Hard-Fi. But, no, I’ve decided to go for a golden oldie, a soul classic: “The Very Best Of Otis Redding”. The man was a genius. Plus it’s a double album, which means I get to play two CDs instead of one! My choice of novel would be George Orwell’s classic, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. Why? Because I believe this present government is threatening our personal freedoms greater even than Orwell’s imagination could manage. His book would remind me of the things I would NOT miss about the UK.