Daniel Willcocks is a bestselling author and podcaster of dark fiction. He is one-quarter of digital story studio, Hawk & Cleaver, co-producer of iTunes-busting, and multi-million downloaded, ‘The Other Stories’ podcast, as well as the lead host of the ‘Great Writers Share’ podcast.
Your brand new book, The Mark of the Damned, is coming out 10/25 tell me about it and about your very cool cover!
The Mark of the Damned is a story I’ve had percolating for a while. I love stories in which you can mess with the fabric of reality and call in the forces we don’t understand, and this was a perfect opportunity to do that. Even in the actual creation of the story itself, it took on a life of its own. What had planned to be a 10,000 word novella, ended up demanding that it reach 30,000 words when finished.
The cover art was also something which gave itself to me. In cycling through pre-made horror book art I found the cover and fell in love with it instantly. It speaks perfectly about the book, from the beetle-black eyes, right down to the pentagram hovering around the text (which I didn’t actually notice until I’d paid for the work).
What was the spark that brought about The Mark of the Damned?
It has actually already (technically) been published on The Other Stories podcast. The podcast itself allows for 2,000 word short stories, and after nearly 4 years of the podcast, I’ve personally written 40-50 shorts which have been featured on the feed or on our Patreon page.
The Mark of the Damned was originally a Patreon-exclusive story under our ‘Strange Inheritance’ theme, with a slightly altered title. Something about the story wouldn’t let me go, and I wanted to explore the wider world around what had been written and give it some depth. I also had several listeners asking for an expanded version, so here we are.
What’s your writing routine like?
I try to be as rigid and into a routine as possible. I will primarily write in the mornings, and tend to block out 6-7am for writing, get my kid ready for school, then return to the words around 9.30-midday. Depending on the word counts I’m aiming for, I sometimes go further into the afternoon, but it’s pretty stringent as I know I can procrastinate if I don’t start the day on track.
How did your writing career start?
For fun. I worked as a freelance copy-editor for non-fiction and found myself with some downtime. I’d always wanted to dabble in writing, and after being inspired by Stephen King’s short story collection, ‘Everything’s Eventual,’ I decided to give it a go.
My first novella, ‘Sins of Smoke,’ took around 4 months to write. It was 17,000 words and I edited it myself around 17 times. When I finally published it to Amazon, it was fortunate enough to make it to the #1 spot in the horror charts on Halloween 2015 which, for a horror author, is like the holy grail.
What is Hawk and cleaver and how did it come about?
Hawk & Cleaver is an independent digital story studio. It came about as a way for four creators to create, while also lifting each other up along the way.
Writing can easily be one of the loneliest professions, so having a group of people you can rely on has been invaluable. All of the guys at Hawk & Cleaver are passionate about what they do and love to create. Uniting under one banner was one of the greatest things we could have done for four little-known creators, and now we have a backlist of stories and properties which are being listened to and read the world over.
How do you see British horror fiction being different from the American counterpart?
I don’t tend to differentiate the two all that much. There’s a universality with horror that translates to all countries. I don’t rate Adam Nevill any differently from Stephen King, or conversely, Kealan Patrick Burke from Josh Malerman.
What do you think Brits do very well in horror fiction?
We know how to be miserable. That often helps. I think London and some of the older British towns are perfect locations for some of the scariest horror, and there’s a history here that transcends many places across the globe.
What horror book or movie scared you the most and for the longest time?
My answer for this will be one that might take people by surprise. My earliest memory of being can’t-fucking-sleep-it’ll-get-me scared was The Simpson’s ‘Treehouse of Horror.’ Mr Burns as a vampire scarred my childhood, but I now use that fear to propel my writing. If I can scare 28-year-old me as much as Mr Burns scared 9-year-old me, I’m winning.
What do you do to take a break from writing? I know you recently jumped off an airplane.
Unfortunately the skydive wasn’t an effort to take a break from writing! Taking a break is difficult when you’re a full-time author. Even if you’re not directly putting words on a page, your mind is in your story. Every piece of media you consume is research. The majority of my day is spent in thought or typing on the keyboard so it’s rare I take a break.
Though, when I do, it’s usually because I can sense that I’m burned out and I play several hours of Pokemon on the DS.
What’s one book that you’d wished you’d written?
Adam Nevill’s ‘The Ritual’. It’s been one of the few books that’s engrossed me in a few years, and the horror is beautifully executed. Playing with the hidden beast is one of my favourite things to do. If you can scare someone without physically showing the monster, then you have succeeded, in my opinion.
Daniel’s Patreon page
Amazon author page