Martin John - A Fascinating Ride Into a World Unlike Any Other
Martin John was born in Birmingham, England in 1970…something. At the age of 10, he moved to South Africa. There, he developed a love for campfire tales of ghosts and goblins but absolutely no love of camping. He spent most of his childhood and teens with his head buried in books written by the masters of horror: Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Herbert. Although some children would have been mentally scarred by reading these books at such an early age, Martin’s therapist assured him he was messed up long before then. In his twenties, Martin flitted between countries, even doing a small stint in Miami. Although tempted by the idea of being the palest and most unattractive person living in Coconut Grove, he decided to return to England. There, he pursued a career in sales and business development, quickly becoming a slave to the luxuries this lifestyle afforded him… such as food, electricity, and on occasion, warm water. Recently, he walked away from the rat-race to write full-time. Hope’s End is his first novel, which combines his love of horror, action, and quirky sense of humor. Martin lives in the countryside with his family and many animals. When he is not writing, he loves cooking and will shamelessly brag about how amazing his Italian dishes are. As our Author of the Day, Martin tells us all about Hope's End.
Please give us a short introduction to what Hope's End is about.
Hope’s End is about an organization, called The Switchers Guild, who hunt down and kill supernatural creatures. Our story follows a small ragtag team from this organization who are all, in their own way, outcasts in The Guild including rookie, Noah Wild.
Their journey takes them to the forgotten town of Hope’s End to prevent a cataclysmic event.
Whereas a lot of the story centers around action, suspense and horror, it is ultimately about friendships, both old and new.
What inspired you to write about a town that has its people trapped for almost a decade?
Ok, geeky confession time here! I’ve played games like D&D pretty much all of my life, so story-telling has been in my blood since I was a kid. I have always tried to create my own worlds rather than using the ones outlined in the games because they rarely seemed to encompass everything I was looking for.
Hope’s End came to me about seven years ago. I wanted to create a place that was small enough, that it could eventually feel like home for the players, but also had the potential to be the stage for high stakes, world threatening events. However, there also needed a reason why people (or sane ones at least) would not say: ‘Ok, I’ve seen just about enough monsters, vampires and demons for one life-time, thank you very much! I’m outta here.’ And so the idea of trapping them inside the town was born. If you’ve got nowhere to run, you have to fight, right?
However, it would have been very easy then to create a bleak, dark place where people are living in constant fear every single day. Whereas this could be fun for a little while, I think eventually I would have become bored of writing in such a dour tone (especially for the entirety of the seven books in the series that I have planned). So I decided it would be fun to create a place that its (human) residents have no idea they are imprisoned in. And so, while they get on with their mundane lives, it is actually the monsters who feeling the strain of their captivity and are desperately trying to find a way out.
Tell us more about Noah Wild. What makes him tick?
For most of Noah’s life, he has coasted along, never really achieving anything of significance. He tried being a cop, mostly due to family influence and, after a few years, quit to become a thief, also partially due to family influence. He is very capable but ultimately a bit lazy because he has never really been pushed in his life to be all that he can be. However, when he is recruited into The Switcher’s Guild he finally finds a purpose. But this brings about its own challenges. Noah is a complete greenhorn in the world he finds himself in, a guy who knows nothing about nothing. The more he tries to mask this fact the more he ends up looking like an idiot. He is also impulsive and impatient, which tends to steer him into dangerous situations.
That being said, Noah is a hero at heart who truly wants to do the right thing by his friends and will willingly put his neck on the line, time and time again for their safety and for the greater good.
Apart from the horror, this book also includes a lot of humor. Why do you take this approach?
I remember reading once that in order for the dark moments, in either a movie or a book, to stand out, you need to ensure that a) the audience doesn’t see it coming and b) they need to have been having a fun time of it up until that point. Then it feels more like a sucker punch.
That always stuck with me, and I have tried to follow that mantra. Additionally, I don’t like books or TV shows that have one tone throughout. Take Stephen King for example. He is the master of horror but when you read his books you will also discover that he is the master of the one-liner. I can’t count how many times, he has made me burst out laughing in one chapter and in the next chapter made me crap my pants. I also remember the old Die Hard and Lethal Weapon movies. They had balls to wall action but still enough chuckles to give the movies heart. That’s what I try to achieve with my stories.
Hope's End contains a couple of twists and turns. Did you plan it all out before you started writing, or did some of it just "happen" along the way?
Most of them were plotted outright at the very beginning. But some sorta crept up on me throughout the writing process. A couple came naturally but one or two more were born from a necessity to explain something I had not thought about at the time of writing the initial draft. They (writers far more successful than me) always say you should write the first draft with your heart and the second draft with your head. Well, what that advice taught me was that my heart has some damn good instincts, but was occasionally a dumb-ass and needed my brain to help bail it out. Fortunately, though, the result was a story that went a lot deeper and became richer than even I had anticipated.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Well, I have a diploma as a life-coach – courtesy of an abundance of free time due to lockdown. I was a manager for years, and my passion has always been to help people. So, getting some credentials behind my name to do it officially (you know, in case this writing gig doesn’t pay off) seemed like a good idea.
I used to think I was a great keyboard player as a kid but after recently digging out some of the tapes I made, I realized my music sounded a lot like the kind Ross on Friends played. All evidence of those tapes has now been buried under twenty feet of concrete!
Oh, I am a damned fine cook! I’m happy to brag about that. I started cooking when I was a kid and found a passion for it. I even went to college and studied to be a chef. However, when I went to do it for a living I realized I hated cooking for Joe Public. So now I only cook for friends and family.
Why urban fantasy? What drew you to the genre?
I find it easier to write in a world I can relate to. Also, I think readers have an easier time of it when they can do the same. Also, my style of urban fantasy leans slightly towards to horror side, and all of the horror stories I read growing up, were based either in suburban America or somewhere in England. It felt like a good fit for me.
Hope's End is your first book. What has the experience been like so far?
I remember laughing my butt off once when I read somewhere; ‘You’ve written your book…now the real hard work begins.’ I was like; ‘Yeah, right!’ How can that possibly be true? I spent years writing into the small hours of the night. I have torn up entire chapters and had to start them from scratch. I have had to mentally and physically drag myself back to the laptop to write when all I wanted to do was kick back with a beer and watch Game of Thrones. Whoever said this has not got a clue what they are talking about! Correction…I did not have a clue. Because OMG they were right!
After the writing was finished, came the line editing. Not once, not twice but about nine times, and even then I was finding mistakes that had slipped by me like grammar-ninjas. Then came finding, and working with, cover artists and internal design artists. Whereas putting it on Amazon is easy enough (once you know what you are doing) then came the marketing, promoting, and a whole minefield of things I had not even considered.
Maybe now is a good time to mention that Hope’s End is also coming out on Audible in a few months. Here is another area where I fell lucky in finding the wonderful talent that is Ben Hauck. He has narrated the book and working with him was an absolute joy and it ended up being far more collaborative than I ever imagined. Being a native American he was also quick to tell when I said something distinctly un-American and very British…and it was back to the laptop for a re-write.
I can honestly say, this has been the hardest education of my life. Rewarding – yes. But a challenge nonetheless.
Now when I read; ‘You’ve written your book…now the real hard work begins,’ my first reaction is; ‘Ain’t that the truth.’
You have lived and traveled to different countries. How has this influenced your world view and your writing?
I was born in a poor suburb of England. Even today, I cannot help but think if I had stayed there would I have ended up working in a factory and never traveling outside of the county.
When I was a kid, my father got a job in America, and my brother and I was excited beyond belief about the idea of going to live there. However, things went sideways and instead he dragged us all to South Africa…something my child mind was less than keen on the idea of. So from that moment on it always stuck with me that I needed to see the world on my own terms. Something I am happy to say I have done. In the process, I have met some amazing people, learned about the little quirks each country, state and, in some cases, villages have. I was able to broaden my horizons and I think I am a more worldly person for it.
The times when my imagination ran at its most rampant and gave me the best ideas were when I was either traveling along the lonely roads of Route 66 or out under the African sky late at night or lost in a wet forest somewhere in England.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
The cover was a matter of trial and error. I always had in my mind that for the first book it needed to show our heroes are arriving in the town. It was also very important to me to have a cover that did not appear cheap or look like someone had just used a bunch of stock photos to create. I wanted something that looked painted from scratch.
However, finding someone to deliver that concept whilst still producing an amazing cover was a challenge. I paid four artists to design covers and quite frankly they were rubbish. Then I got exceptionally lucky and stumbled upon Jeff Brown who has done numerous covers for books that have been on bestseller lists. We had a chat, I explained what I wanted and once again I found myself back at school as he talked me through the elements I had not considered when creating a cover that would draw people in. I have to say, I am over the moon with what he created – and yes that sucker on the cover, does appear in the book.
Which character did you find the most challenging to create?
All of the characters were challenging in their own way. Noah was probably the easiest to write but I wanted to make sure everyone else had their own distinct character. I did not want them blending into one another as it happens in so many books.
Oddly the characters that say the least (Wade, Bucky, and Gregorovic) presented the biggest challenge as I had to get across their personalities through their actions rather than their words.
Cricket, the story’s female lead, I wanted to be strong but at the same time incredibly likable. It was also important to make her believable.
Lastly, there was Brooks. He is grizzled, cynical and does not suffer fools gladly – in this case, Noah was most certainly the fool. But Brooks is also the ying and Noah’s yang, the Murtaugh to his Riggs. To some degree, this book is also a buddy cop story and if their relationship and friendship did not work then nothing in the book would work. I have already considerable feedback to say that Brooks is a fan favorite of this book, which tells me I did a decent job.
So, yeah, to some degree all of the characters were challenging, but with it came a lot of love. Even the bad guys I fell in love with a bit. Personally I think it is important for a writer to love their characters. If they feel vanilla to you, they will to your audience.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I used to write a lot at night. I would come home from work, do what needed to be done around the house and then retire to the office with a big ol’ glass of Disaronno and start writing. I would also make sure I had a bag of chocolate Brazil nuts next to my laptop so I could reward myself with one for every page I wrote.
However, recently my life has changed in many ways – all for the better. I write now, during the day sans Disaronno. I might still reward a hard day's work with some chocolate but in an effort to ease the ever-increasing burden on my jean’s belt I decided to stop eating chocolate at the end of each page.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a couple of things at the moment. First and foremost the sequel to Hope’s End. The current working title for it is A Dark Time for Hope’s End and features my all-time favorite villain.
I am also about halfway through a zombie comedy book. Both of these I am hoping to release early in 2021.
Lastly, I’ve penned a few short stories that are floating about in the ether.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
By the time you read this www.hopesend.co.uk should be up and running that will have a forum on it. I can also be followed on Twitter (https://twitter.com/martinjohn_e), Instagram (Martin John (@authormartinjohn) • Instagram photos and videos)