Please welcome Tim Lees to the blog! His new book, the supernatural thriller THE GOD HUNTER just came out in ebook from Harper Voyager, and will be out in paperback in Sept.. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions!
Tim, you’ve written quite a bit of short fiction (including a British Fantasy Award nominated collection) as well as Frankenstein’s Prescription, praised as a “literary tale of terror.” What inspired you to write your new book, THE GOD HUNTER? Will you tell us more about it?
This goes back a few years to the first time I visited Chicago, where I now live. I caught sight of a book in my (now) wife’s bookcase called Ghost Hunters. Hardly an unusual title, but for some reason a story immediately started forming in my head. I upped the ante to “God Hunter”, combined it with an idea from an early short story, and wrote much of the first episode sitting under a statue of Joe DiMaggio, the influence of whom I’m still not sure about.
THE GOD HUNTER is a thriller with a strong fantastic element. There’s a simple conceit at the heart of it: that you could mine the psychic energy from churches and other religious sites, converting it to usable electric power. Of course, it all turns out a lot more complicated than that, and lots of things go wrong. That’s where the fun begins.
On another level, though, the book is about the way the past comes back to haunt us, and unfinished business can sometimes rear its head again when least expected.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I started to enjoy reading. I’d read a book and want to write my “own” version of it (see below). I had a period when I wanted to be a musician, but proved a little short on talent. I realize that’s not necessarily an impediment, but in my case it was. Writing’s what I do best, and, having discovered that, I intend to carry on with it.
I spent most of my life in Manchester, England, with spells in Scotland, Leeds, Greece and elsewhere. Worked in far too many jobs, some in education, then in psychiatric health care. The last was eye-opening, to say the least. It gets you about as close as paid work can to the question of what it means to be human, to be good or bad, to be sane or otherwise. And, like my character’s job in THE GOD HUNTER, it can occasionally be “challenging”. Or, as we non-management types say, dangerous.
Tell us more about Chris Copeland. Why do you think readers will root for him?
He’s funny and he has integrity. There’s a bit of Philip Marlowe in him, though he’s a lot less macho. He gets scared and he makes mistakes and you probably wouldn’t want to marry him. But he tries to do what’s right, even when he doesn’t want to. That’s my definition of heroism.
The God Hunter is a globe-trotting supernatural thriller. What kind of research did you do for the book?
With THE GOD HUNTER I took the easy route, and set it in places I’ve visited. I’m now writing a sequel, and that presents a few problems – it starts off in Iraq, for one thing, somewhere I’ve never been and, given the current political situation, am not about to go. So I did a lot of research on the internet, mostly seeking out personal accounts, both from Westerners and Iraqis, then let my imagination loose. The big trick, it seems to me, is not so much what to include, as what to leave out. My last novel, Frankenstein’s Prescription, set in 1901, was praised for its historical veracity, but there’s actually very little in it that’s specific to the period. It was more a case of checking what was around then and what wasn’t – did they have lightbulbs? Public electricity? Get it wrong, and someone will know, and they will cease to trust you – or to trust your story, anyway.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Too many to list. Ballard and Burroughs (William, not ERB) were huge influences, though I don’t know how much of their voices you’d hear in my work now. Very little, I hope. M. John Harrison, in his later work, has done some extraordinary things. Michael Moorcock is a constant inspiration. Brian Aldiss has a wonderful backlist. The early Lucius Shepard work was great for the way it side-lined the weird elements, introducing them almost as intrusions into someone else’s story.
A lot of my influences are non-genre, though. Christopher Isherwood, Barry Gifford, Gore Vidal, Milan Kundera, Charles Bukowski, Derek Raymond, Don DeLillo… It goes on and on. Just about everyone I’ve ever read, I suppose. And I haven’t even mentioned comic books, or films…
Len Deighton was a model for The God Hunter. I like his humor, his notion that espionage will have as much bureaucracy as any other job, and his compassion for his characters (even when his narrator doesn’t share it).
What’s one of the first things you can remember writing?
“Return to the Lost World”, a masterpiece of non-stop action, featuring every single prehistoric animal I had ever heard of. I don’t know how old I was, but I must have only just learned to read. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (not the Michael Crichton book) was the first book I ever read – in fact, I can remember my father reading me the first few chapters, and then I just picked it up and powered through it on my own. Kids will read anything if it interests them. Anyway, “Return to the Lost World” must have been in part a school project, or at least, something I was allowed to work on in school, because eventually I was asked to take it to the Headmaster. He read it through and then, immediately following the text I’d already written, thus interrupting the story, he wrote his comments. I was very annoyed by this. Didn’t he know reviews went at the end, on the back cover?
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. It’s very short, and almost perfect, from the introduction of the Time Traveler in the first chapter and his initial explorations of the future world (there’s an incredibly spooky passage where he’s just arrived, and sees a Morlock in the morning mist – it still sends shivers down my spine). There’s adventure, political commentary, and a wonderful final chapter which, rather than closing the story, invites us to speculate where he might go next. Half the beauty of the piece is its brevity, its selection of what to tell and what not.
Failing that… I still remember the excitement of picking up the second volume (which, perversely, is where I started) of Ennis and Dillon’s Preacher comics, and thinking, what the hell is this? Part crime comic, part western, part religious fantasy, and with a level of obscenity I’d never seen before in a mainstream comic – yet a quality of story-telling that absolutely demanded to be taken seriously. That was a wonderful moment, and so unexpected.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your free time?
Please explain the concept of “free time”.
What’s next for you?
At present I’m writing a sequel to The God Hunter. It may go on to become a trilogy, which I think would round things off nicely. I also have a number of incomplete MSS I was working on before that – some I’d describe as “fantastic adventures”, which have SF, fantasy and horror elements, and a couple of more naturalistic pieces. In particular there was a very weird piece set in Europe just after the Second World War that I’d like to get back to. I think I’m looking for some of that “free time” you mentioned above.
About THE GOD HUNTER:
Registry field op Chris Copeland arrives in Hungary on a routine mission: find a sacred spot, lay down a wire grid, and capture a full flask of a god’s energy. But when his arrogant new partner, Adam Shailer, sabotages the wires, things go very, very wrong. The god manifests as a mirror image of Chris himself. Chris quickly destroys the god and, for the good of the company and his own career, buries the evidence.
Six years later, Shailer is a rising star among the energy industry’s corporate elite, while Chris has taken a break from operations. But when a mysterious serial killer begins stalking Budapest—a psychopath who bears an eerie resemblance to Chris—the operative is forced back into the field.
With the help of Anna Ganz, a brusque, chain-smoking Hungarian detective, Chris tracks the monster across the globe. Only the real danger isn’t a killer on the outside … it’s Chris’s treacherous colleagues at the Registry, who refuse to acknowledge the terrifying forces they’ve unleashed in the name of profit—forces whose origins lead back to the dawn of man … and beyond.