Here's a bit about John Clewarth:
John Clewarth is a writer for Children and Young Adult readers. His first novel, Firestorm Rising, is a chilling tale, inspired by a visit to a gothic graveyard one dark, rainy day. His second novel, Demons in the Dark, is a horror story, broadly aimed written for the young adult market. John believes that horror should be scary but fun, and loves to lace his stories with humour.
John and his wife are both teachers. He is also a football (UK style, not American) fan.
Why did you pick to write books for Children/YA?
Two main reasons. When I was around the age-range I generally target, it was really difficult to get my hands on anything scary or spooky, unless I went into the ‘grown-up’ section of the library. It was either The Famous Five or Tin Tin, or the like (nothing wrong with those books, by the way!). They just didn’t float my boat. So, from a young age, I ended up getting into the likes of the legendary Pan Books of Horror Stories, and James Herbert, Stephen King etc. I remember well-thumbed copies being shared around my friends at school! So, I try to write some of the things that I would have liked to read when I was ‘middle grade’.
The second reason is that I’ve been a teacher for more than thirty years – and have loved pretty much every minute. The majority of that time has been spent with 7 to 11 year-olds. Boy, do they provide inspiration – for characters, storylines, crazy ideas and notions that, along with a good dose of imagination and a fair infusion of poetic licence, can be woven into story ideas. I’d like to think that I have a bit of a head start on many authors when trying to get the narrative voice right, too. I spend countless hours talking to these guys, so their way of speaking kind of sticks! And if they like you, they stick with you.
I’m becoming more eclectic with my reading but always like my reading material to have a dark, spooky edge. I read more MG and YA than adult material these days; the market is in great shape and has such a lot of quality to choose from – which makes it even more difficult to make your mark as a writer for this market! I also enjoy classic ghost and horror stories and am currently reading a collection of short stories by E. F. Benson, selected by Mark Gatiss. Having a great time with those.
When I’m not writing (or reading) I enjoy getting out there in the open – not so easy at this time of ‘lockdown’. I find running and walking in nature to be a wonderful way of relaxing and mulling over storylines. And, of course, you feel great and get fit. Win win! I enjoy good TV and cinema drama and also enjoy going to the theatre, as a treat!
Tell us about Firestorm Rising and how the story came to be.
I’m really proud of this book as it reached the finals of the People’s Book Prize when it first came out – and the sequel is almost ready for publication; just a couple of months will see its release!
Firestorm Rising was my first book baby – up until then I had written a lot of short stories, mainly for the adult market, with a good degree of success. But this book was my first serious, get that bum down in the seat, attempt at seeing a novel the whole way through. It’s the story of three young friends who unwittingly stumble upon something other-worldy and dangerous, one Halloween night.
The opening scene takes place in a graveyard, and it was in a graveyard that the story first suggested itself in my mind. We were on a family holiday to bonny Scotland, with our two young boys, and on this particular day we decided to visit the highest village in Scotland, a place by the name of Wanlockhead. It held particular appeal because it was steeped in history; old lead mine; street of quaint, olde-worlde shops like blacksmith, etc – and, of course, a graveyard. The heavens opened and as the rain pelted down, we dashed for cover under the spreading limbs of a tree, in the old graveyard. The gravestones were so weathered that the words had long since been obliterated, and the tombs were pock-marked and mottled. A ‘what-if?’ thought popped into my head. What if those gravestones could speak? What tales could they tell? What secrets do they keep? This was rapidly followed by another: What if someone, or something, had buried something there, that they wanted no one to find? And what if a bunch of schoolfriends found it, and the something wanted it back? From there, it gathered momentum quickly. It was super-fun to write and it’s great revisiting the characters now for the forthcoming sequel.
Here's a Peek at Firestorm Rising:
Raingate Cemetery is the spooky playground of Tom Allerton, Daniel 'Doc' Studd and Jasmine 'Jazz' Baxter, and provides a great opportunity for them to play a practical Halloween joke on their schoolmates. Events take an unexpected turn when a freak storm occurs and lightning strikes an ancient and crumbling tomb. The children flee in terror, all except for Jazz who decides to investigate.
Peering into the smoking rubble of the sepulchre, she is strangely drawn towards a weird pendant which unleashes a chain of terrifying and supernatural events. As the unearthly owner of the pendant endeavours to get it back, the friendship of the central characters is put to the toughest test, and they discover the true meanings of friendship, loyalty, truthfulness and fear. The children learn that there are far more things in the universe than they ever learned at school, as a terrifying monster is awakened from a long hot sleep...
How do you go about researching for your stories?
Each story is different but I always try to thread through each story sprinklings of myself: conversations I’ve had, people I’ve met, dreams I’ve had, experiences I’ve enjoyed or have moved me in some way, snippets of news reports etc. Once I have the idea for a book, I like to visit, or revisit, the locations to soak up the atmosphere first hand, use obscure archive material and, of course, good old Google is a gold mine of research information. I find it’s the weaving together of many or all of these things that lends a richer texture to the narrative.
Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.
I have another novel, called Demons in the Dark. This one is aimed at the 10+ market (and has even, I’m told, scared grown-ups!) The material is a little more gritty and the story centres around the adventures of a boy whose visit to the Wookey Hole Showcaves, in Somerset UK, turns into something far more scary than planned! I had a blast dreaming up the monsters and sub-plots in that one. I have a collection of stories, called Nightmares from the Graveyard, which is in e-book form on Amazon (for a small charge) but which is also on Smashwords for free. There’s a narrative that links each tale, focusing on a boy who lost a bet to spend a night in (yes, you’ve guessed it!) a graveyard. Here, he meets a mysterious stranger who passes the night telling him spooky stories. What could possibly go wrong?!
What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m almost finished on the sequel to Firestorm Rising (as yet untitled). This picks up the story of the central characters one year on from the events of Firestorm Rising. The friends have moved up into high school and all appears to be going well until, one night, a mysterious circus rolls into town – the leader of which seems to have a charming, Pied Piper, effect on the local children. Lurking not too far away, is the threat of a return from a terrifying foe that the children thought had long-since been defeated. Exciting stuff!
I’ve outlined the plot and drafted the opening chapters for another new book, this time aimed at the 7 – 11 market, which brings in elements of Ancient Greek myths and infuses them into the lives of a group of modern-day children. But who are the heroes and who are the villains? I’m really motivated by the ideas that are coming together for that.
Also, I’m in the early stages of a collection of (scary, of course, but!) fun tales, aimed at the 7 – 9 age range. No linking theme as such (not yet, anyway), but I’m aiming to use some of these as story-performance pieces, on some of my future school visits. Other ideas are brewing – I could do with a 25-hour day!
What advice do you have for other authors?
Write for yourself, first and foremost – and enjoy it! Write about something you know about, and then ask yourself a ‘What if?’ question. For example, most of us, at some point, have been sat in that incredibly boring meeting, listening to the seconds clunk by. What if someone next to you in that fourth-floor room stood up, opened the window, and jumped out? And what if other people started to follow? What could cause that?
Try to write at least a little every day. Sometimes the words will flow like wine, others they’ll stick like mud. Don’t worry – just write. You’re getting something banked. It’s like keeping a car engine turning over. Get it warmed up enough and it will roar. Ooh, and don’t expect a multi-million book deal to fall into your lap. It’s a hugely competitive market out there. Make writer friends, connect on social media, and don’t give up after one bad review or a thousand rejections. Remember, the next one could be the deal that turns things big for you and changes your life. Just don’t quit. Keep writing. It’s what we do. Writers write – wannabe writers just wanna write.
Anything else you want readers to know?
For full information on all my books and upcoming projects, please check out my website or my Facebook page, and do swing by to my Twitter and say hello.
It’s a great way to interact, ask questions, get to know me and others, and to have fun.
Where can readers find you and your books?
Alternatively, you can contact me via my website, and I’ll gladly sign and personalize copies for readers, at no extra charge, and post them out to you.
My books can be found – or ordered from – all good book stores, or from Amazon. Also, please check out Silver Quill Publishing for information on my work and a host of other great authors and their books.