Tuesday 13 September 2011

The Big Break with Andrew Hammond

I am pleased to welcome debut author Andrew Hammond. His first book in the Crypt series: The Gallow's Curse is out to buy now and is one of the scariest books I have read this year, so I really needed to find out if his intentions were to scare the hell out of me! 
To read my review of The Gallow's Curse, please click here

Firstly, can I thank you for joining me today on my blog. 
 It’s a real pleasure to be asked – thank you.

The Gallows’ Curse is the scariest and goriest book I have read this year, did you intend for it to be so scary?
That’s an interesting question. I wrote it whilst still teaching full time. I read early drafts to my pupils. Each time I read something they said, ‘No, it needs to be scarier and gorier, Sir.’ So I scurried home and made it a bit scarier. Then I would read another excerpt to the children the next day and again, they’d day ‘No, still scarier please.’ Eventually, I read the final draft to them and there was an eerie silence in the room. After a few seconds someone dared to say, ‘Sir... we’ve made a monster out of you.’

Do you enjoy reading horror books?
 It might surprise you to hear that I seldom do. I find them too frightening. And I avoid horror films too. I’m easily scared. But I think that’s a good thing – I know what fear feels like inside – so I can write about it more vividly. I’m now starting to read horror books because I think I should, but only when I’m at home and my wife is there with me. When I’m staying in hotels by myself I read P G Wodehouse for comfort.

Where did you get your inspiration for the scenes on the London Underground?
Well that’s another interesting story. When I was twelve I tripped down some stone steps entering a tube station. My hands were in my pockets so I couldn’t prevent my fall. My head hit the stone step and there was an awful crack. I stood up, rubbed my head and boarded the train with my parents. After the train had set off, I took my hand away and saw blood gushing out of me. It ran down my coat. We couldn’t get off the train until it had reached the next station, which seemed to take forever. I’m afraid I panicked a little.

What research did you carry out before writing the book?
Lots and lots and lots. I read so many web pages and books on Tyburn and Newgate Gaol. I went to every place featured in the story to see the sites for myself. I even saw the execution bell, displayed inside a glass cabinet in St Sepulchre’s Church. After many attempts I managed to find a brass commemoration plaque too, on a small traffic island near Marble Arch - it reads ‘The Site of Tyburn Tree.’

Within the book, Jud is a very intense character because of his past. Will he learn to live with past events and relax a little?
I don’t know. Characters can surprise even the authors who created them sometimes. But he has a great deal to cope with –wrongly accused of murdering his mother, locked up, then being given a new identity, which he must protect at all costs. No wonder he’s short-tempered. But then that’s how I wanted him to be. There are too many soft, soppy heroes in books with no real personality. I wanted someone who was real, with flaws as well as strengths.

I loved the blossoming friendship between Jud and Bex, will their friendship grow into a relationship?
You’ll have to wait and see.

Will The Gallow’s Curse become the first book in a possible series?
Yes, it’s the first in a series of five books. The second one, Traitor’s Revenge is out in March next year.

What was your first reaction when you found out that your book was to be published?
Delight rapidly followed by a sudden realisation that I needed to write four more, and quickly. But it’s very exciting.

How many rejection letters did you get before it was accepted?
Oh, hundreds over the years – not for this book but for other novels, poetry anthologies and picture books I’ve tried to get published in the past. Despite writing over forty titles for a range of educational publishers for over ten years, this is the first time I’ve managed to land a fiction deal. It’s hard won and you have to take the knocks.

How long did it take for your book to reach publication after the initial agreement?
About a year and a half.

How did you keep yourself occupied as you waited for publication day?
I’m a workaholic. I have several jobs: educational author, editor, teacher trainer and workshop leader in schools. The fiction writing remains what I do very late at night. This year I’ve been working
hard on the Independent Curriculum, which was launched exactly the same day as the CRYPT series bizarrely.

How did you celebrate on publication day?
Spent the morning running a teacher training conference in a school in Kent, and then spent six hours stuck on a motorway after they’d closed the M20. I’ve still not got to a book shop yet – but I will.

What are you working on now?
Fiction-wise, I’m writing Book 3 right now. I’ve just returned from Venice, which is the setting for the book. It’s an interesting place and packed to the rafters with ghosts.

Do you write full time now?
No, I continue to juggle and then juggle some more. Needs must.

Tell us what a typical writing day would be like?
My day job is speaking at conferences and writing educational books and curriculum resources. But at night time, I dim the lights, close the curtains and write words that terrify me until I can’t sleep. It’s a weird existence at the moment and I look tired all the time. I haven’t sat and gawped at the telly for many years now. I don’t know who Cheryl Cole is and I’ve never played a Wii. But is that a bad thing?

What advice would you give to aspiring and unpublished authors?
 How much do you want it? Work, work and then work some more. Be prolific. Never stop. Send work off, take the knocks and then send something different off. Watch the trends. Think about your audience. Sense what the next ‘big thing’ is and then write something that fits that genre. Write early in the morning before work and late at night after work. If you want something hard enough, you’ll get it, but you have to learn how to squeeze every last drop out of your daily allowance of twenty-four hours. I rarely sleep.

Thank you Andrew for coming on the blog today. I don't think I have ever found a horror author that scares so easily. That is obviously why your scary scenes work out so well. Don't worry about know who Cheryl Cole is, you are not missing anything!

The Gallow's Curse is available to buy here
To follow Andrew on Twitter - @HammondCRYPT


  1. Nice to see you featuring a male author Vivienne. Thanks for a great interview Andrew.

  2. Fab insight - I'm amazed Andrew hadn't read much horror...and that students had a big hand in such a feast of gruesome stuff! - It obviously worked though :) Hubby absolutely loved this book, and is eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

    Thanks for the fab interview & to Andrew for sharing his secrets to writing :)

  3. Petty Witter - it does make a change, doesn't it. I think I have only featured about three so far this year. I must rectify that.

    Michelle - I was amazed too. How can he write such horrors. It must add to the suspense. I can't wait for the next one either.

  4. Excellent interview. Having not long finished your book, it was interesting to hear where you got your inspiration from. Hope you don't have a big scar. And good advice to aspiring authors.

  5. Ooh, I won a copy of this on Barts Bookshelf this weekend and I can't wait to read it. I have to ask Andrew a personal question though: Are you Richard Hammonds brother? You look so alike ...

  6. That many hours in a car, and on your big day, well I hope you celebrated the next day :)

  7. Nice interview. The Gallow's Curse sounds like something I'd enjoy reading.
    That's cute that the author only reads scary books when his wife is home with him :)

  8. Susan - I still can't get over how scared Andrew is of horror books! Amazing that he could write such gory stories.

    The Slowest Bookworm - now you come to mention it, I thought he looked familiar. I am off to investigate that one.

    Blodeuedd - I hope he did too.

    Naida - you would love this book!

  9. I can confirm that Andrew Hammond is Richard Hammond's brother! I can't believe I didn't pick up on this at all!

  10. Lol I thought the similarity was too much to be coincidence :)

  11. I thought the similarity was too much of a coincidence :)

  12. What a wonderful interview, Vivienne. I've been writing a few questions myself but now I had to go back and change a couple of them LOL

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