Author Spotlight With Stephen Black
Stephen Black is a dark fantasy and gothic horror author from Northern Ireland. He is author of the 'Kirkwood Scott Chronicles' a four book fantasy series set primarily in modern day Belfast. He has previously had short stories published by Quill & Crow Publishing House in the 'Crows Quill' magazine and the 'Grimm & Dread' and 'Haunted' anthologies. Stephen is married with three children.
Stephen, I am so pleased I finally got round to interviewing the Genius at hand! How are you? So this interview is based around your first novel in the 'Kirkwood Scott Chronicles' for those who haven't yet got round to reading it, could you tell us more about the plot?
‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square’ is the first book in a supernatural fantasy series that alternates between modern-day Belfast and events surrounding the Battle of Waterloo, in June 1815. It follows Kirkwood Scott, a twenty-something loser in a dead-end job, who has just been dumped by his girlfriend. Kirkwood also struggles with a debilitating form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the result of a childhood trauma that sees him performing a series of tortuous mental and physical routines at the behest of Colonel Augustus Skelly, a manifestation of a toy solder Kirkwood used to play with as a young boy. Kirkwood intends to blot out his troubles with a pay-day drinking session, accompanied by his equally useless friends Gerry and Grogan, when he encounters a young homeless woman, Meredith Starc, and forges a friendship that reveals Skelly is not all he seems, plunging Belfast into a nightmarish battle where Napoleonic ghost soldiers roam the streets and only Kirkwood and Meredith can save the city and world from an ancient evil. As I conveyed in my review about this particular book, it was one of the best books I have ever read, it was completely unique in all levels. How did you come up with the inspiration for this?
Firstly, thank you for your kind words. I got the idea sitting on my sofa one day, when the name Kirkwood Scott popped into my head. I have OCD myself, and had been blogging about my experiences for a couple of years as part of my recovery process post-diagnosis. The blog had been well received and several people had suggested I write a novel, which had always been a dream of mine. I wanted the main character to have OCD so the story just grew from there.
Even though the plot was back and forth in a time shift narrative, it was executed perfectly, did you have troubles when drafting to get the plot times perfect?
Yes, I did, but my wife Fionnuala was my chief beta reader and did a fantastic job pointing out plot holes and continuity issues. What made you hybrid your genres? It's quite hard for an Author to achieve this well, as sometimes it gets confusing, but yours didn't, it was very well written. Was this in your mindset from the beginning to incorporate all of these genres in one? I think it’s classic ‘first-time author’ syndrome where you have all these ideas and you just want to cram them into the one book. My degree is in Modern History and my dissertation was in military history, which I’ve always had an interest in. Combining that with my other passion of mental health led to ‘Skelly’s Square.’ I was raised reading J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King so it was always going to be a story based within a supernatural/paranormal setting. Your book contained a lot of awareness for certain mental health disorders, was it your aim to highlight how this affects each, individual person? What made you write about OCD at the centre fold?
Yes, definitely. I wanted to write a classic ‘underdog saves the world’ story, but also one where the heroes were battling their own personal demons as well as external ones. So, Kirkwood has OCD, Meredith is struggling with alcohol and bereavement, and my third character, Harley is a wheelchair user. Harley is based on my teenage daughter, Hannah, who is a wheelchair user. She has never allowed her disability to stop her enjoying life and I wanted that bravery and determination to come across in the book. The book was my attempt to educate and inform people about OCD, a very misunderstood mental illness. I am trying to get across a serious message, laced with a fair dollop of Belfast’s famous dark humour. Having writing a full four book series around the 'Kirkwood Scott' chronicles, were any of your characters based on anyone you know? As I said, Harley is based on Hannah and all of my immediate family feature at some point during the story. Skelly is based on an old soldier I once met, while Gerry and Grogan are loosely based on old drinking buddies of mine. Mark the doorman is based on Fionnuala’s grandfather, who was renowned for his sayings and pearls of Northern Irish wisdom Other characters are exaggerated versions of people who I have known but I will protect their dignity by not naming them.
Tell us something your readers may not know about you?
Hmmmm. I’ve ran 10 marathons, had tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and once followed Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner (Arya and Stansa Stark from Game of Thrones) into a jewellery shop in Belfast to get my photo taken with them! What does writers success mean to you? Do you believe in writers block? If so, how do you try to pull yourself out of it?
I’m very fortunate to have never struggled from writer’s block...yet. I tend to write in blocks. I will write every day for four months, finish a project, and then do nothing for three months. As for success, what’s that ha ha? I’ve yet to make my first million but have had a lot of fun and made a lot of new friends along the way. I would like to write full-time when I leave the ‘day job’ and it has also allowed to take on the role of Acquisitions Editor at Quill & Crow Publishing House, who specialise in dark fantasy and gothic fiction.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? What ignited your passion to start? As I said, it’s always been a dream but only one I started to take seriously when I hit 40 years of age. It’s my ongoing mid-life crisis. The spark was my OCD diagnosis and the loss of my father to prostate cancer at an early page. Writing allowed me to process a lot of anger and confusion, as well as being a tribute to him. Thank you so much for taking part in this interview, it was great to have you here, what's next in the future for Mr Black?
Thank you Aimee for your ongoing support of my writing. It means a lot to me. Next up is the third book in the Kirkwood Scott series, ‘No Longer Forsaken,’ which will hopefully be out before the end of the year with Potters Grove Press. I then have a standalone dark historical fantasy, ‘The Famine Witch,’ being released by Quill & Crow Publishing House in early 2024.
Follow Stephen Black on Social Media:
Twitter: @stephenRB4 Instagram: @stephenblackauthor Goodreads: Stephen Black (Author of THE KIRKWOOD SCOTT CHRONICLES) | Goodreads Amazon: Amazon.co.uk: Stephen Black: Books, Biography, Blogs, Audiobooks, Kindle