Earlier this year, Tarn Richardson wrote an excellent essay about Werewolves and the Catholic Inquisition! (if you missed it, shame on you, but, I’m a nice guy and so I will point you in the right direction. Go here-LINK)
The essay coincided with the release of book 2 in his Darkest Hand trilogy called ‘The Fallen’.
Tarn’s books have received a lot of great blurbs and reviews. Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, The Daily Mail and one of my favourite writers Tim Lebbon have all given his work high praise. Book 3 in the trilogy ‘The Risen’ is dropping any day now (May!!) so I thought it was about time we had a little chat about writing, the books, life and perhaps most importantly, CRICKET!
TGR: Tarn, thanks again for the essay you wrote for ‘The Fallen’, it is definitely one of my favourite posts. Let’s get straight into the books. I love reading about history (both factual and fictitious) and ‘The Darkest Hand’ books certainly are steeped in the fictional horrors of the past. History must be something that holds great interest to you?
TR: It is now, but it wasn’t! When I was at school, twenty five years ago now I’m sorry to admit, history was taught in a very different way to how it seems to be largely taught now, where it’s more fun and interactive. Back then it was a case of the teacher telling you to ‘open your text books and start reading’. I found the whole subject incredibly lacklustre and dull. What changed me, and my perspective and my appreciation of history, were those ‘Penguin Classics for a £1’ books, brought out in the early to mid-90s? They were a revelation for the poor student I was then, being able to afford to feast on these amazing historical works, such as Moby Dick, Last of the Mohicans, Diary of a Nobody, Jules Verne’s books, all of them spell-binding, utterly riveting – and only a single English pound! I devoured them, probably the whole series, and out of that came this genuine interest in world history and the world around us. It grew from there.
TGR: Did you originally set out to write a trilogy or did writing the first book, ‘The Damned’ suddenly take on a life of its own and the ideas kept getting bigger and bigger, leading toward more books?
TR: Originally I set out to write five books, one for each year of the First World War! Writing three books very nearly killed me. Five certainly would have been the death of me! Thankfully I saw sense and eventually nursed the story into something which felt right for three books, not that I had everything worked out by the time I came to write them. I’m what people I believe call a ‘pantser’, whereby I write quite literally by the seat of it. With The Darkest Hand trilogy, I knew scenes A, B and Z. In fact, the very last scene was one of the first I wrote. But, when I properly considered and imagined the whole story, I could see a three book story arc within it. And, thankfully, Duckworth Overlook, my publisher, agreed with me!
TGR: Let’s talk Werewolves! I love a bit of lycanthropic action. The Werewolf is one of horrors greatest monsters. Still, after all these years, writers are still exploring the Werewolf mythos, coming up with new situations and stories to include them in. What is it about these shape-shifting beasts that made you want to include them in your books?
TR: Believe it or not, the idea of using werewolves came about courtesy of my youngest son, who was seven at the time! (Out of the mouths of babes!) In 2012 I’d just returned from France on a tour of the Western Front on the trail of a great uncle who went out there in 1915 to fight and never came back. I knew I wanted to write a something set on the front and was searching for something allegorical to encompass the monstrous things men did to survive the conflict. And my son suggested, quite out of the blue, werewolves, and I thought, ‘ooh, hang on a minute, there’s something there!’ The whole thing of ‘monsters we are, lest monsters we become’ fits so well with soldiers who did these terrible things simply to survive, to try and not become monsters. And with werewolves, if you delve deep enough into their folklore, you discover the same of them, these poor unfortunates, cast down by the Catholic Church and also forced to be monsters in order to survive. The connection between the two seemed uncanny. Suddenly I had the setup; World War One, werewolves and the Catholic Inquisition in a single volatile and exciting package. Then Tacit one day walked into my life and, after that, we were off!
What I definitely didn’t want do, and the ties to folklore history would never have let me do this anyway, was cast the werewolves as your stereotypical slavering, devouring unhinged, hairy beasts. I wanted them to have depth, as I hope all the characters in the books have, not simply be cast as the villains of the piece, as they almost always are. What I like about how they’re portrayed is that they are as much victims as everyone else caught up in the war.
TGR: How would you best describe ‘The Darkest Hand’ trilogy of books to a newbie?
TR: In a word, unexpected. That’s what people tell me after reading it, that it wasn’t as they expected (in a good way) and that’s what I love to hear. So many people think it will be one thing when they hear the premise; a Hammer horror werewolf romp, with bare chested maidens and heroes with silver bullets for teeth, whilst actually what they find is a considered and, in parts, moving story as to what makes us what we are and why we do what we do, underpinned with a huge but hopefully accessible true historical backdrop. Oh, and there’s also a lot of killing, unhinged blood-letting, explosions and total war thrown into the mix!
TGR: Let’s chat about your writing journey. Where did your love of reading come from and when did you say to yourself “I’m going to write a book!”
TR: I can tell you exactly when and where I was when it happened! Truly a bolt from the blue moment! I was eight, sitting in a lesson in my class at Taunton Junior School and Mrs Jones was reading us The Hobbit. I was sitting there, utterly transfixed by the words, the story. It just hit me, unlike anything which had happened to me up to that point, the realisation that there were other worlds and places and people and adventures out there, ready to be explored through words. And Tolkien’s writing, it just chimed with me. In that very moment I knew I wanted to write books!
TGR: What does a typical day in the life of Tarn Richardson look like?
TR: Sadly, extraordinarily dull! Despite my best endeavours to be edgy and non-conformist, I’m incredibly regimented and boring! I get the kids out the door for school by 8am, I write for one hour, on the dot. Then I do the day job (I’m lucky enough to work from home – running my own digital agency remotely – so no commute) until lunch time when I write for one hour. Perhaps I’ll get out for a run in the wonderful Wiltshire countryside (if the weather’s nice – I’m a fair weather runner only!). I write for two hours in the evening and try and grab some time with the kids and wife in between. My wife also works from home in her studio – she’s a portraiture artist – so she’s rather pleased when I’m neck deep in a writing project and I’m not constantly interrupting her with cups of tea and opportunities to chat.
TGR: You site Tolkien and David Eddings as being a part of your literary diet growing up. Does Tarn Richardson have a heroic/quest-style fantasy book or trilogy in him?
TR: Actually, I think The Darkest Hand is probably the closest I’ll get to a heroic quest-styled fantasy. Cal Moriarty, the author of brilliant crime novel The Killing of Bobbi Lomax, described the trilogy as ‘evoking the spirit of Tolkien’. That’ll do for me! As my literary diet suggests, I’ve always had a soft-spot for the grand ‘fantasy-epic’. The problem is, whenever I’ve tried my hand at ‘true fantasy’, my work always becomes clogged with cliches! I know people come along and constantly break the genre mould, but Tolkien, Eddings and, most recently, George Martin have rather sown up that market and genre, from my perspective.
Also, I think, as I’ve got older, and perhaps more cynical towards society, my focus in writing has moved away from the fantastical and more towards the injustices of life, using epic themes to bring them across to readers in a more accessible way.
TGR: Both Eddings and Tolkien are epic fantasy authors. ‘The Darkest Hand’ trilogy is more dark fiction/horror, though it does have fantasy elements, so my next question would be, where does the horror love come from?
TR: Goodness, I really do not know! I am certainly not a dark person. I remember the first time my agent met me, he did a double take because he couldn’t believe this smiley happy chap waiting for him in reception could have written such darkly-themed material! Trust me, if I could write perky, shimmering young adult comedy which sold by the sackful, I would, but I can’t! When I sit down to write, this darkness is what comes out. When I write, and I’m sure it’s the same for many writers, it feels like the exorcising of demons, although what those demons are, and from where they come, I do not know. There’s a melancholy in me that I can feel sometimes, and perhaps that is the source from which my words flow, although why that melancholy in there, I’m not entirely sure.
I grew up in a big old scary house, which was rumoured to haunted, in the middle of the Somerset countryside and spent quite a lot of my childhood on my own. Sounds awful, but it really wasn’t. It made me resourceful, quite happy to spend hours and days and weeks on my own quite happily and developed my imagination which eventually turned into these books. But perhaps something in that isolation is to blame? Who knows? Whatever, I see it as a positive force to my creativity and would hate to lose it.
What I would say is that for all the darkness, there is much light within my writing. There has to be. There has to be balance.
TGR: ‘The Darkest Hand’ trilogy culminates with ‘The Risen’ – the final part of the trilogy due out in May of this year (2017). Without giving too much away, what can readers of the series expect from ‘The Risen’?
TR: I am hoping a fitting conclusion! I’m immensely proud of it, how the story arc rises and falls into the climax I had imagined nearly five years ago when I first started planning and writing the trilogy. There are shocks, plenty of shocks, some which will hopefully put people onto their backsides, people who thought they had it all worked out by the end of book one! And, of course, plenty of rampaging inquisitors, the insanity of war and the insidious creep of the Antichrist’s reach towards power. There’s a lot within it, two years condensed into 350 pages. It was fiendishly hard to write and then edit down, but between my editor and I, we’ve got there, and I’m really really proud of the final result. The climatic battle at the end is one piece of writing I’m most proud of and had the most fun writing.
TGR: Will Tarn Richardson be taking a well-earned break from writing now that the trilogy is complete or have you got other books currently in progress?
TR: Well, my wife wants me to take a well-earned break from writing, at least until the summer! And I started with best intentions, but writing is like a drug and writers are addicts! I’ve found myself starting to plan for my next novel, nothing to do with Tacit and set in a completely different war. Early days, and still lots of research to do, but early signs suggest it might just work.
Also, between book 1, The Damned, and book 2, The Fallen, I found time (it was that rare moment of inspiration when everything aligns and you just have to get the words down) to write another standalone book about a modern-day Jack the Ripper killer. My agent and I are kicking that around at the moment, wondering how to proceed with it. But it contains probably some of my strongest writing and perhaps my clearest message. Whatever we eventually decide to do with it, it’s nice to have another manuscript written and ready to go.
TGR: Tarn, your previous essay was a very popular post on the site so thank you once again for that. Where can folk
stalk find you on the world-wide web?
TR: Thank you very much. That’s really kind of you. I enjoyed writing the piece for your excellent web site. People can find me at , on Twitter at and on Facebook at
TGR: One last question before you go! I know you are a huge cricket fan (as am I). What are your predictions for the forthcoming Ashes series down here in Australia coming later this year?
TR: Haha! Yes, I am a huge cricket fan. Once April arrives, on goes the cricket, and come July, Test Match Special is on constant play in my office. Thankfully, my wife likes the commentators’ voices, so she doesn’t mind the ‘endless chatter’ from the radio.
I’m worried about the Ashes, as I suspect most English supporters are. Those fast wickets, those riotous Aussie crowds, the way Australia seem to be rebuilding belief in their team and packing it with players with the aptitude for the big games, I think it’s going to be a tough ask for us. But you never know, a good start might do it. We need a good first Test to build momentum and belief. And we’re a stoical lot, us English cricket fans, even more so when you’re a Somerset fan as well, which I am. Have been all my life. You get used to disappointment, which is why writing these books, and enjoying the success from them, has been such a revelation!
Tarn, you’re a gentleman. Thanks heaps for your time!
Thank you! It’s been a pleasure.
Check out Tarn Richardson on Amazon by clicking here.