Ask The Author: Tom Vowler

After attending the launch of That Dark Remembered Day, I asked Devon-based author Tom Vowler about his writing process.

Tom Vowler - That Dark Remembered Day

Last week, I was flicking through my Facebook and came across a post on my Newsfeed by The Writing Cafe in Babbage (at Plymouth University). “Tom Vowler,” it said, “invites you to celebrate the launch of That Dark Remembered Day”. I’d never been to a book launch before and with the promise of free wine and nibbles, how could I refuse? 

On Thursday evening, my friend and I made our way down to the Waterstones in Drake Circus. We arrived at 6pm, nabbing two seats before it got too busy and took a handful of posh-tasting crisps. Soon enough, Vowler turned up and, after an introduction by Professor Anthony Caleshu, from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, began reading from his new novel.

That Dark Remembered Day, described as a thought-provoking suspense, follows the life of Stephen, a suspended university technician, and his memories of the tragedy that ripped his hometown apart.

The narrative, which is split between the Falklands war in 1982, and the disintegrating life of Stephen in 2012, provides a powerful perspective on very delicate issues. Full of beautiful imagery and intense emotions, That Dark Remembered Day approaches delicate subjects in a considerate yet compelling way.

Vowler is a novelist and story writer who lives locally in Devon and won the Scott Prize in 2010 for his debut collection, The Method. His first novel, What Lies Within, which is described as a tightly spun, atmospheric and powerful psychological suspense, received critical acclaim. Now completing a PhD, he’s also an associate lecturer at Plymouth University, and co-editor of the literary journal Short Fiction.

Tom Vowler author photo

I was interested in what makes an author such as Tom Vowler tick, and I was fortunate enough to be able to have a chat with him about his writing process. A love of storytelling he said, is what inspired him to start writing, and the idea that he might be able to produce something similar to his favourite novels.

“Mostly though, these things are a happy accident – a fanciful notion becomes a passion, then an obsession. Before you know it, nothing else makes you tick”.

Many writers speak of struggling to find inspiration but Vowler said that inspiration can be taken from “everywhere, anywhere”. He declared that “writers are great thieves, magpies who gather and hoard a notebook taken everywhere. I’m never not writing. Well, almost never”.

When I asked if there was anything he knows now that he wished he knew prior to being published, he replied with a harsh truth: “don’t read reviews. The bad ones hurt, the good ones encourage complacency”.

To a student going on to study an MA in Creative Writing, Vowler’s thoughts on the course were extremely encouraging. “As someone who’s both studied and taught the subject, I have a clear view of its benefits as well as the limitations. You can teach elements of craft, engender aspiring authors to take risks, to learn from what’s gone before”.

Further, such a course allows the student time and space to “devote all their energies to just writing a luxury rarely afforded once you’re published”.

After spending time on nothing but writing novels for the last five years, Vowler says he’s back to his first love – the short story, which he describes as: “a remarkably tough form to pull off, the high-wire act of the literary world – one slip and you’re done for”.

I’m sure I speak for many people when I wish him the best of luck for the future. The book launch on Thursday evening was extremely enjoyable, a fantastic experience for an aspiring writer like myself. Listening to Tom read extracts from his novel was great, we met some lovely people, and, according to my friend, the wine was fantastic (I knew I should have left the car at home!). It was amazing to be part of it.

Originally posted on The Knowledge.

Are you an author, or do you know one? If you’re interested in doing a similar interview with me, get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.

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