Name Haydn Wilks.
Where are you from
I’m from Caerphilly, South Wales, but for the past four years I’ve lived in Seoul, South Korea.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I studied English and Film at King’s College London. I currently work as an English teacher.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’ve just released my first novel, ‘The Death of Danny Daggers’. It’s a blend of black comedy and murder mystery. The central character, Danny Daggers, is a mildly famous YouTube celebrity who videos himself downing stupid quantities of alcohol and similar stunts. He takes his video series on tour, travels to Cardiff, and within a few days he’s dead. The book shows all the characters he interacts with and annoys, and the mystery element is wondering who killed him and why.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve written for as long as I can remember. When I was about five years-old, I remember my teacher praising me for a short story I wrote about a hammerhead shark. I’ve been chasing that praise ever since!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I would say when I got this book released. Since I posted the link on Facebook, a lot of people have told me they were really surprised I’d written a book, as it’s not something I really mentioned to most people. I wanted to get something completed before I felt comfortable saying ‘I’m a writer’.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
There’s a lot of stuff in there from my real life. A few of the characters work at a call center and absolutely hate it. Cardiff is full of call centers, and I’ve bounced around four or five of them. Another character, Ji Eun, is from Korea, and she’s doing work experience at the local newspaper. She talks about how shocked she is by certain aspects of British culture, like the way city centers turn into warzones at the weekend, with drunken people running riot, getting into punch-ups, passing out or relieving themselves in the street, that kind of thing! A lot of my Korean students have gone on to attend British universities, and they’ve told me about having similar reactions to life in the UK.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
The writers who first really spoke to me, when I was a teenager, where Chuck Palahiniuk and Bret Easton Ellis. I loved the dark cynicism of their books. It was a world away from ‘Harry Potter’ and similar stuff I’d be reading up until that time. But I think I steal little tricks and aspects of style from more or less every good book that I read.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I was originally going to call it ‘The Haze’, as a lot of it is centered around an area of Cardiff called The Hayes, as well as putting set at the end of summer (‘the haze of summer’), a lot of weed being smoked by some of the characters, and the mystery element making the story somewhat hazy. But then ‘The Death of Danny Daggers’ struck me. The character’s name was always Danny Daggers, and I thought ‘The Death of Danny Daggers’ was both intriguing and memorable, with the alliteration giving it a nice ring.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I suppose a lot of it is about the unreliability of narratives. A lot of the comedy stems from confusion between the characters. For example, one character’s phone gets stolen, and then there are these other characters who are trying to hunt him down through a phone tracking app, and end up going after the wrong character. You see the characters who work at the newspaper following the wrong leads, and these ending up in print.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I think it’s a realistic portrayal of life in modern Britain. So far, the feedback I’ve gotten from people who’ve read the novel is that the characters and situations within it feel believable.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
As I said, a lot of its comes from my own life. For example, one of the main characters is this hard-drinking journalist who mentors Ji Eun, his name’s Rory Gallagher. He was pretty much completely taken from real life. Before I came to Korea, I did a short course on teaching English. There was this Scottish guy there who used to be a journalist. At lunch time, everyone from the course went to the pub together. Everyone else had a pint of lager, two tops, but he necked four or five pints in less than an hour. He was drunk as hell and goofing off when we went back to the course, and he ended up walking out about an hour later. He didn’t come back the next day. I thought the guy was such a force of nature, such a memorable guy to be around, that he’d really make a great character in a book.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I studied ‘Ulysses’ at university and it was pretty mind-blowing how dense of a book it is, especially when you think it’s all set on one day in one city. That last element, that focus on a short time period in one place, is part of the inspiration by ‘The Death of Danny Daggers’ being set over a few days in Cardiff. We studied ‘Ulysses’ for a whole semester, and if it wasn’t for the teacher guiding me through it chapter-by-chapter, I’m not sure I’d have a clue what the hell was going on. Before that, I already mentioned Chuck Palahiniuk and Bret Easton Ellis being huge influences as a teenager. Then when I was younger, I’m remember reading ‘Great Expectations’ at school, and that being one of the first books that really had some kind of impact on me.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently flicking back and forth between ‘IQ84’ by Haruki Murakami and a non-fiction book called ‘The Two Koreas’ about the post-Korean war history of both North and South Korea.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Murakami is probably my latest obsession, I’ve been working my way through a lot of his books. Also a guy who I used to work with, Giacomo Lee, has just released his first novel, ‘Funereal’. That’s a great read. It’s set in Seoul, and it’s about the crazy high Korean suicide rate, and a company that starts providing fake funerals as a way of convincing people life’s worth living.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m currently piecing together a crazy book that will feature a bunch of intersecting characters, set all across America. I’m thinking of going with the title ‘Americosis’. One character will be an incumbent President who starts having hallucinations, possibly the systems of some kind of brain disease, and there’s a psychologist who’s secretly meeting with him about it. Then there’s a time traveler who’s from a future where Hollywood movies are regarded as factual representations of our time. He thinks aliens are going to take out the world based on one movie, and he’s trying to track down the actors who appear in it. Then there is an actual alien invasion, but the aliens is more of a sexually-transmitted disease that starts infecting humans and killing them off.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Friends are important. Just as far as writing goes, a lot of friends have helped out, sharing links I’ve posted on Facebook, and guaranteeing me at least a few sales! Also, my friend Jack Skivens did all the cover artwork for the back as a favor to me.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I certainly hope so! I’m planning to try and get more books written in the near future, to try and make a career out of it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The release is too recent for me to feel regret about anything in it. A lot more relieve, really!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think I was quite imaginative as a child and wrote stories just to entertain myself. It’s something that I’ve never stopped doing really.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure! Here’s a scene from ‘The Death of Danny Daggers’, set outside a job center, which is a place in the UK that you need to go once per week and sign forms in order to receive unemployment benefit, or ‘the dole’ as it’s commonly known.
I’m not sure what your sites policy is on swearing, but the book’s pretty laden with it, so it’s quite hard to find a decent section to share that doesn’t include any, sorry!
Joseph hated The Job Centre. He hated the passive-aggressive condescension from half the staff. He hated the air of hopelessness that tainted the smiles and good humour of the other half. He hated the stream of tracksuited dolemites that trickled in all around him, swearing loudly and berating staff when they turned up hours, sometimes days, after their scheduled sign-on time. The same tracksuited twats who’d celebrate giro day by blowing their hand-out on drugs and booze. He hated the red tape that he felt form a noose around his neck on any day like today, when circumstances forced him to arrange an alternative sign-on time. That thick red tape that’d grown thicker and darker since the government had turned blue and yellow. Despite this litany of grievances with the place, what Joseph hated most about The Job Centre on this particular morning was that it was fast approaching thirty minutes past the time the government advice line had told him was its scheduled opening time, and the doors were still locked shut.
Joseph reached into the front right pocket of his black suit trousers and pulled out a sky blue Nokia 3310; the time was now 9:00 exactly. He sighed to himself, then looked at and listened to the heated mumbling occurring beside him. Their voices were growing louder; he was beginning to understand little snatches of dialogue, all of it angry. The speakers in question were at that weird drug-induced non-age, the male especially, wearing dirty grey joggers and a black Nike tracksuit top, his eyes sallow and hollow, his hair tussled and greasy, his face unshaven and unwashed. Joseph knew him. Had seen him, at least. And her. Tight blonde hair pulled into a pontytail, pale face with thin lips and lines beneath the eyes that had surely come sooner than nature would’ve intended. Her clothing was clean and decent, especially compared to the battered old clobber her companion was sporting; a genuinely white white rollneck top, blue denim jeans, black boots. She had her arms folded defensively; his were swinging about, gesticulating, maybe threatening. Joseph caught the odd verb slip from their high-tempo dialogue, without a clue as to the subjects nor objects.
“Just fuck off!” she yelled loudly, finally.
The man’s purple-ringed eyes shot straight over at Joseph, a hint of menace simmering beneath scolded-dog shame. Joseph stared back, emotionless, unblinking. The man looked away, then, following his eyes, walked away. Joseph watched him disappear in the direction of Queen’s Street. Joseph’s eyes returned to the woman. She was watching him. He looked away, back towards the man; he’d gone, disappeared back into the city. Joseph definitely knew him. Well, he’d definitely seen him. Her, too. They were always on Saint Mary’s Street. Couple of crackheads. Always bothering people for twenty pences. Fuck knows who would’ve ever given them one. They’d hang around outside Central Station, trying it on on all sorts. Someone’d be soft enough to give them one, no doubt. His eyes returned to the woman. She was now staring at the door, arms still folded. Joseph hadn’t seen the pair around in a long time. Maybe they’d turned their lives around, gotten off the gear. Maybe she had. That’s when he noted the bulge beneath her white rollneck top – pregnant.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Sometimes defining a character is difficult, getting their personality nailed down. The character of Ji Eun felt a bit flat on the first draft of the novel. I think I was trying to draw from too many people I knew to create her character, so she didn’t have a distinct personality of her own. The more I rewrote, the more she came into her own, but for some reason I found her more challenging to write than many of the other characters.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It’s hard to pick just one writer, but I think when I read Doestoevsky’s novels, I feel I can totally understand the minds of his characters, even though their mostly 19th century Russian aristocrats, a world away from my own life experiences! To me, that’s what good writing is; you can get into the mind and understand the motivations of characters who are superficially very different to you.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I love travelling, so I wish that was the case! I should probably be in the UK right now, as I’d guess that’s where the bulk of my sales will come from. I’ve got friends putting posters up and heading to literary festivals to hand flyers out and that kind of thing – there’s not much I can do to contribute from Korea, six thousand-odd miles away!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover was designed by my good friend Jack Skivens. He’s a really talented artist and we’ve be friends since we were kids, so there wasn’t ever any doubt who I’d ask to design my novel’s cover. He’s also someone I’d send a lot of drafts to, just to get his opinion on them.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Redrafting. You think it’s finished, but nope, there’s still so much more to do. I did the final draft in pretty much 8 to 10 hour stints sat in front of my laptop, until 3am or later. Then I’d have to wake up just after 7am to go to work, then come home and repeat the process again! But the desire to get it finished and meet my desired release date powered me through towards the end.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
So much! It took about two years to write this book, but I think I’ll be able to write my second novel a lot more quickly. I really learned a lot about plot development, and also the importance of planning ahead. For ‘The Death of Danny Daggers’, I started off writing scenes with all these different characters, with no real idea of where I wanted the story to go. That’s why it took so long to write! I’d get to a point where something interesting was happening, but the story would start falling apart, and I’d have to almost go back to the beginning again and put all these extra little things in to try and get the story to where I now knew I wanted to take it. But I’m very pleased with the end result and the way it all hangs together, but for the sake of my sanity, I think I’ll go in with a much clearer plan of where the story’s heading from page 1 next time!
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Planning will make your job a lot easier! But really, I think there are so many different ways you can go about writing, the only advice that would be applicable to all writers would be ‘write lots’, because however good some of the stuff you come up with is, there’ll always be a lot more that ends up getting cut out, or being rewritten until it’s unrecognizable.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I think I want my story to be entertaining and perhaps a little unsettling for readers, and to make them feel like they’ve had an insight into places and characters that could really exist.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I’m struggling to think of it… Charles Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ was something we read together as a class at a school, but I was 11 then, so I don’t think it was the first! Maybe something by Roald Dahl? I remember reading a lot of his books during my childhood.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I’m a big fan of comedy, and there are so many TV shows that make me laugh. Louie, Alan Partridge, Peep Show, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, that kind of thing. Generally darker comedy! As for crying, it’s not something I make a regular habit of really!
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
One person – that’s a tough choice! Actually Louis CK seems like a good person to meet, to sit around and pick his brains. He has a really interesting approach to comedy, and to the business of comedy, where he wants to do everything himself and be involved in all the different stages of booking his act and arranging to have his shows filmed himself, where most people in his position would have agents or managers doing all that for him. Also Larry David. And I have a goal of one day appearing on the Bret Easton Ellis podcast!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I don’t know, I think that’s something for other people to decide!
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Nothing particularly productive. Watching movies, reading, boozing, gambling, that kind of thing.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’ve mentioned a few TV shows already, so as for movies, my favorite film of all time is probably Raging Bull. I love that it’s so dark and serious, but has some of the most laugh-out-loud funny moments I’ve seen in any movie. I love a lot of the New Hollywood 1970s stuff – films like Apocalypse Now, Dog Day Afternoon, all that kind of stuff. I’m a massive Tarantino fan as well. And Twin Town is probably the movie that’s closest to my novel, being that it’s about a bunch of Welsh reprobates causing mayhem.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I love eating out here in Korea, the culture is very geared towards groups of people going out and sharing meals together. You typically cook the food at the table in front of you, which is great. Barbequed meats, lots of spicy soups, that kind of thing.
Colors – blue springs to mind. The color of Cardiff City football club!
And as for music, I’m a huge fan of a lot of different genres – rock, hip hop, all kinds of stuff. I’ll just rattle off the first few artists that come into my mind: Manic Street Preachers, Arctic Monkeys, MF Doom, Immortal Technique, there’s loads more, I could bore you all day listing bands or rappers I like.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’d love to direct a film at some point. Just a low budget thing, organized myself. I hope that it’ll happen at some point!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes, my web site is haydnwilks.com.
Amazon link http://www.amazon.com/Death-Danny-Daggers-Haydn-Wilks-ebook/dp/B00X1AQB3Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431955583&sr=8-1&keywords=the+death+of+danny+daggers
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