Woodcutter by Shaun Baines
Some family trees are meant to fall.
On the run from his criminal family, Daniel Dayton returns home to Newcastle Upon Tyne when his abandoned daughter is attacked.
But his family have problems of their own. Targeted by a brutal mercenary, their empire is destined to be destroyed should Daniel refuse to help.
Betrayed by his parents. Despised by his brother. In love with his sister-in-law. Home has become a dangerous place to be.
Daniel wants his daughter safe. And he wants his revenge, but in the shadowy streets of Newcastle, things are never what they seem.
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) When I completed my degree in English Literature, I found myself in the real world with no idea what I wanted to do. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be a writer, but that’s not a proper job, is it? So, I drifted from office to office before starting my own gardening business in the middle of a recession. But I was successful and got me thinking about what else I could achieve.
Woodcutter was the answer. It’s the story of Daniel Dayton, who is on the run from his criminal family. He returns to Newcastle when his daughter is harmed by an unknown assailant and Daniel wants revenge.
Daniel’s family have their problems, too. They are targeted by a criminal mastermind who is determined to destroy their empire. Daniel’s father wants to use his son as a weapon. His brother wants him dead and his mother has an agenda of her own. Everyone becomes a suspect in the hunt for the person who hurt Daniel’s daughter.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) The initial idea came from a move from Newcastle to rural Scotland. I wondered what the neighbours thought of two Geordie’s moving in next door. Some sort of dark imaginings stirred and I decided they probably thought we were criminals on the run. That was the starting point for Woodcutter.
I was going to self-publish, but in a moment of rare confidence, I began submitting to agents. I was lucky enough to be picked up by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie agency. He had faith in my writing and me as an author. I’m pleased to say, he was right because I’m now published with good reviews flooding in.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) I’m obsessed with John Connolly. Not quite Annie Wilkes Misery-style, but close enough for it to be disturbing. His Charlie Parker series never disappoints and The Book of Lost Things was sensational. He rarely puts a foot wrong and I would happily read his shopping list. John, I’m your No. 1 fan.
I think we’re in a golden age of writing with so many excellent authors to choose from. I can also recommend Mark Billingham, Chris Carter, GX Todd and Stephen King himself, of course. One of the most arresting books I’ve read recently was Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House. You’d be right to finish the book with a round of applause.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) My first author crush was on James Herbert, an English horror writer. I was eleven at the time and too young to borrow them from the library. My solution was to stay there, hiding behind bookshelves while I devoured his books. I read most of James Herbert standing up.
As it happens, the librarian was right. I was too young and impressionable to read Herbert. One of his famous books is called Rats and the reason why I have a lifelong phobia of rodents.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) My favourite moments keep on coming. Signing with an agent. Getting a publishing deal. Seeing the cover for the first time. Reading through the positive reviews. I’m incredibly lucky to be in this position. It makes all the previous struggles worthwhile.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) My wife has been a relentless supporter of mine. From helping me out of literary cul-de-sacs to doing the dishes so I have more time to write. Woodcutter wouldn’t exist without her. I have a small team of beta-readers who, with editorial support of my agent, keep me on the straight and narrow. Or rather, steer me down darker and more twisted avenues. I also have to say thank you to the readers who give me a reason to keep going.
They say writing is a lonely profession, but I’ve found the opposite. Like you, Abby, there are huge swathes of people out there ready to support writers. I salute you all.
*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.
Charles Bronson woke with a start. He was five foot five, thick set with wavy blonde hair. Like his namesake, he sported a handlebar moustache, but it wasn’t so he looked more like the movie star or that lunatic in prison. It was to detract from the nervous tick in his cheek coming alive from the moment he rose to the moment he fell asleep.
He rubbed his eyes and gulped. “Are you still up there?”
The room was a bedsit in an abandoned block of flats known as the Devil’s Playground, home to junkies and rat faced dealers. The tatty furniture was pushed against the walls, clearing a space for a tin bath filled with slurry. He’d obtained it from a farmer in Crawcrook who was paid enough not to ask questions. Above it was a naked man called Enoch, suspended by his ankles to a beam in the ceiling. His arms were either side of the bath, braced against the floor. Enoch’s skin was slick with sweat as he struggled to stop his head dipping into the slurry.
Bronson checked his watch. “That’s almost two hours. Sorry I nodded off, but if you’re not going to talk, then there’s nothing for me to do, is there?”
“I don’t know anything,” Enoch said, squeezing the words through gritted teeth.
“I wish I could believe that. You know, I’ve drowned two people in that tub so far and they all keep telling me the same thing. They don’t know anything.”
Bronson approached, smoothing out his moustache. His nostrils had become accustomed to the smell of the slurry, but he was annoyed about his clothes. This kind of stink couldn’t be washed out and he’d binned two suits already. He lived on a budget and the organisation he worked for weren’t the type of people to dish out clothing allowance.
“Enoch, I’m going home for a shower. Don’t worry. I’ll come back, but I live a fair distance away and I love long showers. Do you think you can hang around for me?”
He smiled at his own joke, though he’d used it before.
“Please, Bronson. Let me down. I don’t know anything,” Enoch said.
Who had scared these people so badly they would rather drown in cow shit than spill the beans? This was going to go wrong again, Bronson thought. His boss wanted answers, but no-one was talking. He’d be left with another dead body to dispose of and an awkward conversation to be had with his superiors.