‘A Departure’ is the story of 18 year-old Michael’s journey across Britain, following a natural disaster that has decimated the population. On his journey to the continent, Michael learns about the darkest aspects of human desire as society breaks down around him.’
Tom Ward is a 23 year-old British writer and winner of the GQ Norman Mailer Award. He is represented by the Johnson & Alcock Literary Agency, and also writes for Huffington Post and Sabotage Times. He has been described as ‘Quite possibly the best young writer in the country’ by bestselling author Tony Parsons.
Tom Gillespie : Hi Tom, Tell me about ‘A Departure’ in thirty words or under.
Tom Ward : A Departure is a road novel. A passion project born from my love of road movies and dystopian novels. It’s also a coming of-age novel, and one that seeks to comment on Britain as a whole.
Tom Gillespie : What’s your fascination with post-apocalyptic fiction?
Tom Ward : My fascination is more with dystopias, the idea that it wouldn’t take much for things to come apart. Day of the Triffids, The Road, Lord of the Flies all tackle this aspect. I like to read about our world, but changed , and about what we’d do in such a scenario.
Tom Gillespie : Who and what inspired you to write A Departure?
Tom Ward : Zombie movies, such as the early George A Romero works and 28 Days Later. A Departure is not a zombie novel, but it has those elements of a group trying to survive in a changing environment.
Tom Gillespie : Could you give us an insight into your writing process?
Tom Ward : I usually start out and write something which I think is brilliant, then go back over it and realise it was shite. Then I re-write until I’m happy with it. I can usually write anywhere quiet, maybe some background music. Green tea is an essential.
Tom Gillespie : Which writers and film makers float your boat?
Tom Ward : Too many to list. Writers: Hemingway, Bukowski, Steinbeck, Angela Carter, Cormac McCarthy, Sam Slevon, Patrick DeWitt, Fante, Hunter Thompson, John Dos Passos, Graham Greene, Joseph Heller, Vonnegut, Mailer…
Filmmakers is quite an eclectic list too: Scorsese, Danny Boyle, Jim Jarmusch, Alfonso Cuarón, Cronenberg, Ridley Scott, I could go on and on, all I do is read books and watch films…
Tom Gillespie : How did you feel when you landed your publishing deal with Crooked Cat and what have you been doing in the run up to your book launch on May 3rd?
Tom Ward : I was staying at Norman Mailer’s house in Cape Cod when I received the offer of publication, so the whole thing became even more surreal. I was ecstatic, it felt like everything was coming together. Since then (last November) I’ve been editing my second novel, making sure ‘A Departure‘ is the best it can be, and writing a few pieces of journalism for various websites.
Tom Gillespie : Last year, you won the prestigious 2012 GQ Norman Mailer Award. How did that come about and what did you say to Mohammed Ali when you met him at the award ceremony in New York?
Tom Ward : I think we’d just finished our last exams and the school of English sent out an email about the award. I applied, as I applied for many things, and never thought I’d win, but I received the email when I was in Berlin, working on my second novel. It was incredible. It didn’t feel real.
When I met Ali, I said ‘Hello Champ’, but he’s not the man he used to be (with the greatest respect) and I’m not sure he really heard me, or knew why I was there. I also met Alex Baldwin that night, and he was fantastic, but meeting director Oliver Stone was my highlight. I’ve admired his work for years. He’s an extremely down to earth guy and always replies to my emails. Norman Mailer’s son, John Buffalo Mailer, is another gent whom I met that evening.
Tom Gillespie : I see you have recently been taken on by Johnson and Alcock, the literary agency. Why did you decide to go with an agent and how are they helping with your writing career?
Tom Ward : I decided to go with an agent because that just seemed like the thing to do. It’s the traditional approach to publishing and it was a course of action recommended to me by Tony Parsons. He told me ‘get an agent and keep writing and you can do this for a long time.’ A Departure is my first novel, so my experience of publishing is limited, but I’d love to do this for the rest of my life, so an agent does not seem a bad place to start.
So far, it’s been early days with Johnson and Alcock, but I met with my particular agent and he gave me some fantastic critiques, and I think my writing is 100 times better for it. It’s also a nice ego boost, knowing someone believes in your writing enough to want to represent you.
Tom Gillespie : What’s on the cards for 2013?
Tom Ward : We’re editing my second novel, ‘City of Arsonists’, so I’d love to get that out this year. In the meantime I’m promoting ‘A Departure’. I’ll have to do something to earn some money too, unfortunately, so I’ll be pursuing freelance journalism and/or getting familiar with how to make Costa de-caff lattes. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve got the third novel all planned out, and think a first draft by Christmas is not unlikely…
Tom Gillespie : Thanks Tom.. and good luck with all your future adventures in Writerland
This interview was first published on Tom Gillespie.com. It has been republished with permission from the author.