Today’s guest is Mark Kirkbride, author of Satan’s Fan Club. Before we begin the interview, let’s have a look at his book:
Rebellious twins James and Louise meet a man while out for a night of fun who invites them to join a dangerous and exciting club. While they yearn to join Nick’s club and escape their staunchly religious upbringing, entrance requires they commit a crime tailored just for them. The twins find themselves trapped in a shadowy world they only half-believe is real and contemplating horrible acts that no sane person would consider. But sometimes the most fertile breeding ground for evil is innocence…
Welcome, Mark. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Dorset but moved to London after university. I now live in Shepperton. I write fiction and poetry. In terms of reading, I enjoy horror, crime, science fiction and literary fiction. I’m especially interested in fiction that blends genres.
When did you begin writing?
I wrote my first novel when I was about 16. It was called ‘The Wind in the Windsock’. (I had a holiday job at an airfield.)
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
It’s a novel called Satan’s Fan Club and it’s about a pair of twins, James and Louise, who meet a man at a nightclub who tempts them with the prospect of joining a secret society. In order to be able to join, they have to commit a crime, tailored to them, and theirs is the worst one imaginable. Will – can – they do it? What are the consequences if they don’t?
How did you get the idea for the book?
Someone once told me that she’d met someone who’d claimed, “I can get people to do whatever I want.” That was probably the seed of the book, or at least of the Devil character, Nick.
Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
My favorite single character is probably Nick, because of the power he exerts over the other characters, but also the twins, for their struggle with darkness.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
With elements of dark fantasy and the supernatural, the novel pulled in different directions at times. It still all had to be grounded in a recognizable reality.
What is your primary goal as an author?
To devise plots that are different to what’s out there.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on a love story set at the end of the world… next Tuesday.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
Write for its own sake. Anything else is a bonus. Keep trying different things and different avenues of approach in terms of the market. Theoretically, if you can marry exactly the right book to exactly the right publisher, it will get accepted. It sounds simple but of course it’s not. Research saves postage, or time.
With all the blood in his body going oomph, oomph, oomph, James ran up the stairs and down the corridor.
He burst, panting, into Louise’s room: “There’s been another murder. It’s just been on the news.”
The blazing light shade hung UFO-like between them.
Sitting at the head of the bed, propped up by pillows, his sister let the magazine she’d been reading fall and looked up. “Where?”
He dashed over to the bed. He dropped to his knees on the rug at the side of it with his forearms out in front of him, parallel on the coverlet.
“Larksmead Avenue? That’s just up the road.”
“I know. And that’s not all…” He pulled out the map of London he had stuffed in his back pocket, opened up the left-hand half. As soon as she’d moved back, he laid it out on the bed between them. “I’ve marked and numbered each of the murder sites.” He spun it around so that she could see properly. “Look at the recent ones, in order.”
“What am I looking for? Some kind of pattern?”
“You could say that.”
“My God, each one’s a little nearer than the last.”
“That’s right. The Devil’s closing in, Lou.”
She lifted her gaze, locked eyes with his.
“Wanna check out the crime scene?” he said.
She blinked, swallowed.
He touched her shoulder. “Don’t if you don’t want to.”
One of us has to.
They hurried downstairs, slipped into their shoes and threw on their jackets. James yanked the front door open and they stepped out into the night.
Harsh, unearthly high-pitched cries issued from it.
James’ heart thudded.
It’s just an animal. Isn’t it?
As soon as they stepped outside, the garden turned into Wembley Stadium— which at least silenced the cries.
They’d tripped the security light. As they made their way up the path, he thought he spotted a pair of red eyes stare at them from underneath the hedge. He raised his arm to point them out to Louise but they disappeared, and the light clicked off.
He kept a lookout as he and Louise turned left out of the gate, and again when they turned up the alleyway that ran down the side of the property. Yet the light from the last streetlamp on the cul-de-sac merely sheared off a bit of the entrance. The levitating white and colored squares— the clear or curtained illuminated windows in the upper stories of black-backed houses— didn’t add much. What had been pockets of night murk back on the cul-de-sac engulfed them in the alleyway.
They picked their way along it.
The clattering drum and bass of a helicopter gathered around them. Then a cone of light slashed through the night like a spotlight from heaven.
Solid black against nebulous city sky, the sleek rig slowed, stopped and parked in the air above dark, jagged rooftops, with a jewel-like white light, a tiny winking red light and the massive twitching searchlight.
“Honestly, it’s like Gotham City, isn’t it?” Louise raised her voice to be heard over the yammering of the rotors.
“Except the searchlight should be directed upwards, not downwards.”
The chopper tilted, flung itself off.
They came to the end of the alleyway, crossed a road and continued, right, up the opposite pavement.
A pair of kids raced past, and two girls strolled hand in hand the other way under the streetlamps on the opposite side of the street speaking French.
“Hard to believe there could have been a murder anywhere around here,” he said.
“It is a bit.”
“We’re the murder-obsessed ones now, not Mum.”
“Got too many problems of her own to care anymore, I suppose.”
Footsteps ringing in the hollow night, they turned left up Larksmead Avenue and, sure enough, there ahead, silent blue rotor-blades of light whirled atop silver vehicles with yellow and blue checks down the side.
Parked at a slanty angle across the road, the nearest police car’s front doors hung open. The lettering on the side read LICE.
Onlookers clustered around the front of the house. More arrived, beating James and Louise to it. They jogged the rest of the way, to join them.
Fluttering blue and white tape kept everyone back. White plastic sheeting hung from the porch. A constable stood sentinel. James looked up at the play of police lights across the front of the house, like blue flash photography.
Glancing around at the other bystanders, he noticed a yellow-haired woman with her back to the building. She stood at the far corner of the tape, where it had been wrapped around and around a lamppost. She held a microphone, and a cameraman got into position opposite her.
Kids rode around on bikes. And conversation crackled and spread.
James’ neighbor, a short woman in a camel coat, saw him peering around.
She cleared her throat. “Waited till she was crossing the threshold. Charged in after her… Katie, her name was. Lovely girl… Her husband died in a car crash last year.”
James’ mouth dropped open.
“What kept her going was the fact she’d fallen pregnant beforehand. Of course, that only made the miscarriage even harder to bear.”
The woman’s voice quavered on the last word and something twisted inside him. Where the previous murders had all seemed peripheral, tabloid-sized, more like entertainment than news, this one left him with a stitch in his side that wouldn’t go away.
He glanced at Louise but she had her head down.
She walked off, pulling him with her.
“That was a bit awkward,” he said, “for friends of The Fiend.”
She stopped, looked up, with wild, flashing eyes. “It isn’t just that we could have told the police and reporters who committed the crime, though, is it? We could have prevented it.” She clapped a hand over her mouth, turned away.
He caught a glimpse of the filmy eyes she struggled to keep averted and he coughed to clear the choking tightness in his throat.
“Hey, it’s not our fault if the police can’t get it right.” We can’t help knowing. Can we? “They’ve got Nick’s address. They’ve already questioned him. And they can again if they want to.” He shuffled round to face her. “We’re on the Devil’s side, remember, not the Moral Policeman’s. And it’s too late to change allegiances now.” He patted her arm. “Listen to me. If we just keep our mouths shut, we’ll be safe.”
“From which side?”
He sighed, and his arm dropped.