British-Australian multi award-winning author Alan Baxter writes hard-hitting supernatural thrillers, often with a heavy dose of horror. Novels, novellas, short stories, typically featuring monsters, magic, and often, martial arts. He runs the Illawarra Kung Fu Academy, so he definitely know what he’s talking about. Alan is the author of Bound, Obsidian, and Abduction (The Alex Caine Series), Hidden City, Manifest Recall, Devouring Dark, and a short-story collection Crow Shine. He rides a motorcycle and loves his dogs.
“Alan Baxter is an accomplished storyteller who ably evokes magic and menace.” – Laird Barron, author of Swift to Chase.
What was the impetus for writing this story?
AB: I’ve experienced a lot of grief in my life. Most of us are touched by it at some point and to varying degrees, but for me it started early and has been a regular feature of living for me, sadly. It’s no surprise that this comes out in my fiction. I’m often addressing themes of death and mortality, the justices and injustices of a life well-lived and so on. This came out most deeply in a story I wrote for the Suspended in Dusk anthology edited by Simon Dewar. My story was called ‘Shadows of the Lonely Dead’ and it delved deep into those justices and injustices mentioned above. It took me a few tries to write the story I wanted, but I finally got it down and I must have done an okay job because it won an award and got reprinted a few times. But I knew the subject hadn’t been dug into as deeply as it could be and I always knew I wanted to expand those ideas into a novel at some point. Eventually the stars aligned and I developed the story of Devouring Dark, where the protagonist from ‘Shadows of the Lonely Dead’ becomes co-protagonist with another person who shares a version of her dark power.
What lessons—good and bad—did you learn writing this story?
AB: I learn something new with every book. With this particular book, I’m not sure what particular lessons I got. I certainly learned again how hard it is to actually construct a narrative that seems so well-developed in my mind before I have to get it down on paper! I also learned the value of good friends with unique skills who can beta read for me and clear up potential errors in stuff like medicine and police procedures.
If you were to write this again what would you do differently?
AB: I’m not sure I would do anything differently. It sounds kinda trite, but I’m really happy with how this book came out.
Describe your writing routine whilst writing this story and how long did it take you from first draft to final edit?
AB: It’s tough to say because I started this one and then had to put it aside for a while as I had another book to write, then I came back to it. But my routine remains the same for most things. I have to teach in my school as I run a martial arts academy. Outside of those hours, my wife and I split our time taking care of our son and working (I write, she paints). On writing days, I make coffee, check through social media, then crank up some good music and get into it. I listen to a lot of heavy metal, especially stuff where the lyrics aren’t too clear, as then they can’t distract me. I also listen to a lot of movie and video game soundtracks. With Devouring Dark, as it’s a dark and angry book, my music during the writing of it reflected that. I listened to a lot of Meshuggah and Strapping Young Lad while writing this one. I don’t really have much in the way of writing habits or rituals otherwise. It’s a job, and I sit my ass in the chair and get the work done. If I get stuck I tend to walk my dogs or go for a motorcycle ride to clear my head and have some thinking time.
What stories, films, tv shows, and art directly and indirectly influenced this story?
AB: A lot of my work is influenced by Clive Barker and this book probably reflects that more than a lot of my other stuff. Someone described Devouring Dark as “like if Clive Barker wrote Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and I love that. It’s a great description and high praise at the same time. There’s definitely a British crime drama/mobster vibe to the book—I was born and grew up in England and knew I would write a British crime novel one day. That, combined with horror and supernatural influences is what led to this book.
I read a lot of comic books too, and those are a definite influence. Things like Garth Ennis and Jamie Delano writing Hellblazer back in the day had a huge affect on me. Then there’s the noir aspects—movies like Dark City and the stories of Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett. They definitely influenced Devouring Dark. (All these things also had a heavy influence on my previous book too, Hidden City).
What were the biggest challenges you faced writing this story?
AB: This story deals a lot with dark themes, especially guilt, terminal illness, death and murder. It’s a trick to explore those deeply without making the whole thing so damned bleak that people quit reading! And it’s important to maintain a level of empathy with characters in terrible situations having to make awful decisions. Keeping readers along for the ride with a story like this is a balancing act. Thankfully, if reviews so far are to be believed, I pulled it off.
What do you hope readers get out of this story?
AB: Same with all my books, I hope first and foremost that people have an exciting, entertaining read. I want folks to enjoy it. But after that, if there’s some provocation of thought, that’s awesome. As mentioned, the book deals with death and terminal illness and the justice that goes into a good life or a bad one. If people take some food for thought away on those subjects, then that’s fantastic. There aren’t any great answers or lectures in the book—it’s me exploring those ideas as much as anything else. If anyone wants to chat about it after reading, I’m easy to find on social media and love a good discussion.
Plagued by a strange darkness that wants to consume him, Matt McLeod spends his time as a vigilante, a lifetime effort to control his personal demons. After a botched hit, Matt discovers he’s in too deep with a criminal enterprise web caught between a mobster and a cop on the take.
Then he discovers a young woman who also has the dark power.
Unfortunately, she’s got evil plans of her own.
Devouring Dark is a genre-smashing supernatural thriller that masterfully blends elements of crime and horror in an adrenaline-fueled, life-or-death rollercoaster ride that’s emblematic of the fiction from award-winning author Alan Baxter.