The Bad Neighbour by David Tallerman
When part-time teacher Ollie Clay panic-buys a rundown house in the outskirts of Leeds, he soon recognises his mistake. His new neighbour, Chas Walker, is an antisocial thug, and Ollie’s suspicions raise links to a local hate group. With Ollie’s life unravelling rapidly, he feels his choices dwindling: his situation is intolerable and only standing up to Chas can change it. But Ollie has his own history of violence, and increasingly, his own secrets to hide; and Chas may be more than the mindless yob he appears to be. As their conflict spills over into the wider world, Ollie will come to learn that there are worse problems in life than one bad neighbour.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) I don’t know that there was a single idea, more a lot of nebulous somethings floating around a certain period in my life, when I moved back to the north of England and, like Ollie, bought a very cheap house in a relatively poor area, after months of looking at mostly grim and grotty properties. There was a lot in that experience that felt like it could be explored, and that I’d never really seen addressed anywhere else. But I guess the catalyst was the point when I found out, to my shock, that there was no dividing wall in my roof space and so nothing to separate me and my neighbour. That was really the point where all of the ideas began to swirl together and become the core of what felt like it could be a novel.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) Well, my favourite authors would take too long to list, but the ones that led me to shift toward writing crime after a decade as primarily a fantasy and science-fiction author were the excellent Charlie Huston, whose Hank Thompson trilogy was a definite influence, and Geoffrey Household, whose classic Rogue Male is surely the best thriller I’ve ever read. But, since I read a lot of nonfiction as research for The Bad Neighbour, I should put in a nod to that as well: Mathew Collins’s Hate was probably the best of those, a vital insight into what draws people to extreme right-wing politics and then what keeps them in that crowd when any idiot could see it’s not a great place to be.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) How far back are we going? At one time and another, I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton, Willard Price, series like The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators, and C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books. All of which probably makes me sound a bit older than I am; I pretty much lived on second hand books! By the time I hit double figures I’d graduated to more adult fantasy and science-fiction – I remember Frank Herbert’s The Green Brain as making a huge impression, and Asimov was an early favourite – and also to classic authors like Joseph Conrad and Henry James. Somewhere in the midst of that muddle I think you can find the roots of the kind of stories I’ve grown up to tell!
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) I used to be quite shy, and one of the biggest shocks of being published was that suddenly I was expected to sit on stages and talk in front of crowds of people. My first panel was probably the biggest I’ve done and was a hell of a wakeup call! But I realised quickly that I loved doing that stuff, and went from being terrified to appear on panels to cheerfully moderating them at any chance I got. I think the ultimate point in that process was when my frequent editor Lee Harris talked me into an event where me and a bunch of other writers had to concoct stories based on random prompts in precisely sixty seconds. It was exactly as difficult and terrifying as it sounds, or maybe a thousand times more difficult and terrifying than that, I’d never put myself through something like that again, and it was a total blast.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) I’ve had different readers on different books, and a great many people have been supportive in various ways over the course of my career, but the one person who’s always been willing to read my work, and critique it, and fight me like a sonofabitch if he feels something doesn’t work, is my friend Tom Rice. I think he’s beta read every book I’ve written, as well as a fair few short stories, and I honestly don’t know how I’d do this stuff without him anymore.