Here to talk dark cults, literature and book covers is Mesmeris Trilogy author K. E. Coles
Thank you so much, Jennie, for having me on your blog. I love these questions, so will do my best to answer them without waffling on too much!
Welcome! Getting straight down to it, do you think you judge books by their covers?
The answer ought to be no I suppose, but the cover definitely does play a part in my choice, especially in a book shop. Like most readers I would imagine, I assume the cover reflects something of the tone/content of the book. For instance, a picture of a hunky guy, shirt open, displaying an impossible six-pack tells me the book probably won’t be my kind of read. Having said that, there have been many wonderful books I’ve read where the cover is less than inspiring, but that’s usually because the book has been recommended by someone whose taste I trust. A good cover will definitely make me pick up the book and take a look at the blurb.
I think you know the designer has done their job right when you instinctively want to read what's on the back! Tell me about why you chose book cover one:
I have a passion for old orange Penguins, and collect them. This 1952 edition is my oldest one. Brighton Rock is one of my top five favourite books too, so a double whammy.
What are you reading at the moment?
My current read is In A Lonely Place, by Dorothy B Hughes. Written in the 1940s, it’s a ‘hard-boiled’ crime novel, written from the villain’s point of view (I think – haven’t finished it yet, so I may be wrong). It’s one of many brilliant reads I’ve found through recommendations on twitter.
Who are your main influences?
Writing-wise, they’re a varied bunch: The Brontes, Graham Greene, Iain Banks, Dennis Wheatley, David Mitchell, Thomas Hardy. There are probably others that I’ll remember as soon as this interview ends!
Name a book/author that had a significant impact on you when you were growing up?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It stunned me as a young teenager. It’s dark, bleak, heartbreaking, horrifying – pretty much everything I like in a novel – ha ha! When I was younger, it was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved it. A wonderful story, just terrific, with a fantastic atmosphere. I’ve had a real thing about secret doors and overgrown walled gardens ever since.
Where do you write?
I’m lucky enough to have my own writing room in our present house. It’s a bit like a nest with a bay window that looks out over a valley. In there, I’m surrounded by all my favourite things: my great-grandmother’s bureau, 3 bookcases, and a glass cabinet where I keep the oddities I collect, like bits of old china, old medicine bottles, the shell of an emerged dragonfly, an old, bronze inkwell – things like that. I think if I’d been born in Victorian times, I’d have been a proper collector - if I’d had the money, that is. Opposite my writing desk, is my old 1970s David Bowie poster. He’s my hero.
Tell me why you chose book cover two here:
I read Minty quite recently, and thought this gorgeous cover captured the essence of the story brilliantly. It’s evocative, ethereal, and lovely – very much like the story within.
Christina Banach's Minty is a fantastic read and, by lucky coincidence one of the very first book covers I had the pleasure of designing so thank you for that too! Your Mesmeris trilogy of novels is about the terrifying legacy of malign cult membership, from where did you draw your inspiration for the main characters?
From school, I think. I went to three senior schools. The first was lovely. The second was horrific. Lowood school in Jane Eyre is not too far removed. That may be a slight exaggeration, but there was a culture of fear and bullying that absolutely petrified me as a twelve-year-old. The third school was much bigger and more impersonal. A gang of older boys basically ran the place. I found them fascinating – horrifying, in the way they used violence to control others – but fascinating all the same.
What are you writing about at the moment?
I’m writing an historical novel set in the late 19th century. It’s a completely new genre for me, and I’m absolutely loving it. I started off trying to write something ‘nice’ that my mum would have liked, but it’s gone a little off-piste. It’s a story of love, jealousy, obsession and madness.
Tell me why you chose book cover three here:
The covers for A Clockwork Orange are some of my favourites and I had a hard job to pick one. However, I think the artwork on this 1972 edition is probably my favourite.
What is your best cure for writer's block?
I used to say I didn’t suffer from writer’s block, but lately I’ve realised that I do. If I have a day (or more) without writing, the prospect of opening the document fills me with paralysing dread. I moan, drink tea, wail that I can’t do it. Then I start writing on paper – just talking to myself really, like ‘So, where am I in this story?’ etc. Usually, as I’m writing, bits of dialogue occur to me, then suddenly I find I’m writing a scene and I’m off.
What elements of a WIP do you tend to find hardest to write?
The whole first draft is a complete slog for me. It’s incredibly hard work and I often feel discouraged. I’ve learned to just keep hacking away at it and eventually the story and the characters will emerge and come to life. Rather than building a story, it feels more like chipping away at a lump of rock until you find it already formed, like a fossil, underneath. It takes ages, and patience is not one of my virtues. It’s a case of gritting my teeth and getting on with it. Once the first draft is completed, that’s when I start to enjoy the writing. From then on, it’s a joy.
What would you say has been your most memorable moment as a published author so far?
I think it must be the day Mesmeris was first published. It was thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. The best thing about the day was the wonderful support I had from my family, my mates, and my fab friends on twitter. I found it quite overwhelming.
Tell me why you chose book cover four here:
I’ve recently discovered the author Sarah Perry and absolutely love her writing. The Essex Serpent cover is gorgeous – sumptuous. The story inside is fantastic too.
That is a very beautiful and intricate cover design for Sarah Perry's novel for Serpent's Tail Publishing. Reportedly the artist's name is Peter Dyer. I absolutely love it. Those greens are positively mesmeric! Thank you for answering all my questions, Karen. Here's one last one: do you have a favourite motivational quote and, if so, what is it?
Write what you love. I have no idea who said it - probably loads of people.
Thank you very much for a most interesting chat!
K.E. Coles's trilogy of cult thrillers Mesmeris, Infixion and Wormwood are available for Kindle and in print from Amazon here.