Q&A With Tim J Lebbon – Author of The Family Man

Newport raised author Tim J. Lebbon is a New York Times-bestselling writer and has written over thirty published novels to date, as well as dozens of novellas and hundreds of short stories. He has won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award and a Scribe Award, while a movie of his story Pay the Ghost, starring Nicolas Cage, was released last year.

Tim’s latest novel, The Family Man is a pacy, suspenseful and darkly gruesome thriller designed to keep readers on the edge of their seats. The story follows a family, Emma, Dom and their daughter Daisy who live an ordinary life until Dom makes a horrifying mistake, exposing his family to grave danger. Their lives ultimately turn into a fight for survival as they try to escape the pitiless gang who track their every movement, and as they can’t tell the police, there’s nowhere to hide, they must simply run.

Andy Howells recently put questions to the author about his latest novel and his work.

You grew up in Newport, what sparked your interest in writing and can you remember the first piece you ever wrote that made you want to take it up professionally?
I’ve enjoyed writing from a really early age, ever since I could pick up a pencil. I wrote stories and asked my teachers at Alexandra Primary School to read them (anyone remember Mr Landers and Mr Benson?). I wrote all through my teens, usually cold war stories and adventure tales. Then in my early twenties I wrote my first horror story called Black Heart. I entered it into a competition, and although it didn’t win, the encouraging note I had back urged me to continue. Ever since then I’ve written with a view to being published, although it wasn’t until my early thirties that I went part-time, and I’ve now been a full-time writer for ten years. My new novel The Family Man is my 37th novel (including some written in collaboration).

Which books are real page turners for you and who is your favourite author?
Stephen King is someone I keep returning to. Ever his lesser novels are always incredibly well-written and possess that ‘page-turning’ quality. I also love Iain Banks, John Connolly, and many, many more.

How did you find yourself writing in the fantasy and horror genre?
I’m often asked this and I usually use a saying my grandmother had: It’s the way my mum put my hat on. Until I started writing thrillers, of which The Family Man is the second, everything I wrote had a fantastical element. It’s just the way my brain chooses to work, and I don’t feel qualified to question it!

What was the inspiration behind The Family Man?
Since becoming a parent almost 18 years ago, much of my fiction has been about families in peril. That’s what really scares me. Merged with a random, throwaway remark from a friend who shall remain nameless, and the concept for The Family Man quickly took root.

The Family Man puts an identifiable scenario of a suburban family in a horrific environment, how important is it to keep a foot in reality for these type of novels?
I think it’s vital. The more the reader recognises in the characters they’re reading about, the more they’ll empathise with them. For me, characterisation is the most important aspect of good writing. Although in the novel Dom is essentially a good man, it’s one very bad decision of his that puts his whole family in terrible peril. That idea fascinated me, as well as exploring how far he and his wife Emma will go to protect the ones they love.

A film of your story Pay The Ghost starring Nicolas Cage was recently released, what’s it like to see your stories visualised for the big screen?
It was actually released last Hallowe’en. It’s a nice experience, and one that every writer dreams about. I didn’t have anything to do with the adaptation, and neither was I able to visit set, so it was all something of a surreal experience. The first I knew it was even filming was when I saw location photos being shared on Twitter! But seeing an A-lister in a movie inspired by a short story I write 15 years ago … that was amazing!

What else are you working on presently?
I’m writing a big fantasy novel called Blood of the Four with my American friend and collaborator Christopher Golden, developing a couple of TV series (early stages for both), making notes for a new thriller, and also working on expanding a science fiction novella into a full novel. It’s best to keep busy, and I always like working on several things at once.

  • The Family Man by TJ Lebbon is available from Avon Books, price £7.99
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