For an author, there is nothing that quite beats the thrill of the publication of their first book. And today is that lucky day for Rolly Bastard and his debut Kill it All Away.
I worked with Rolly throughout the editing process and it was certainly lively! A thriller with twists and turns at every chapter, this is a novel that’s hard to put down. No matter how much you try, it’s almost impossible not to be lured in by Rolly’s charistamtic – albeit not always diplomatic – narration, and the shocking and entertaining story that he has to tell.
Rolly, welcome! Thank you for joining us here today. KILL IT ALL AWAY is your debut novel, isn’t it? Tell us a little more about it.
This book is a thriller at its core, with murder, mystery, and twists, but also an examination of one man’s attempt to put his life back together, especially the relationship with his twenty-year-old daughter. And I know that description doesn’t sound like it, but there is also a lot of humour – dark humour – but humour all the same.
Who inspired you to start writing? Have your influences changed since then?
My father was a big reader, so I was initially inspired by the art of storytelling from his dedicated reading practice. But my itch to write is Stephen King’s fault. I read Pet Semetary as a kid and was hooked by the terrifying ending of that book. I remember finishing it late at night and then sneaking into my parents’ room to sleep on the floor next to their bed. I was ten years old.
Why did you choose to write suspense and thriller?
I write what I like to read. I’ve always loved stories of everyday people stuck in horrific situations that they must figure out a way to survive. Watching fictional people squirm is cathartic.
Do you like to plan the action of your novels [plotter] or do you just let them write themselves [pantser!]?
I am a plotter, but what I’ve found is that the initial structure of an outline allows me to then “pants” a bit and to do it more efficiently. I know where I’m driving with the story, the ultimate outcome, but the highways sometimes change into backcountry dirt roads. We still get to the ending I planned, but by a much more scenic route.
So Renfro, he’s quite a character. Where did the inspiration come for him? Does he represent the inner conscious, do you think, the result of some crazy trip? Or do you believe that there are little alien creatures out there, guiding the world as we know it?
The ultimate answer to this will be revealed in future books, so I don’t want to spoil any of the fun, but I’ll say this: I believe the universe is far stranger than any of us realize. This is the first book in a planned series and introduces this strangeness to the reader, injecting it into an otherwise straightforward thriller in a way that hopefully people find a bit unsettling. One of my early readers described the book as Silence of the Lambs meets Californication with a dash of the X-Files. That’s pretty accurate.
What is the biggest challenge you faced when writing your first novel? How did you overcome it?
I wrote my first novella in seventh grade, a werewolf story, that I still think about rewriting to this day. I’d rush home after school and write until my mom called me to dinner. Back then, my struggle was I wanted to write more than do my homework. And even though many years have passed, I still struggle with time management; balancing creation time and real-world commitments. Of course, my self-discipline is stronger now, so I’m better at forcing myself into the chair, hands on the keys. But it’s still not easy. I’ve found myself using dictation for first drafts now. I have a small directional mic I plug into the bottom of my phone and talk to myself in public. People think I’m crazy. And they’re right.
Lockdown has affected everyone in different ways, giving some more time to use their creativity and for others, they’ve found it hard to make the most of their lockdown time as they just can’t connect with the reading they love so much. Has lockdown affected your writing in any way?
I live in China at the moment, so when this all first hit, I had front-row seats. In the beginning it was scary because no one knew anything. I stocked up on food and water (not toilet paper) and pretty much thought the word was ending. But then, after a few weeks, things got better in China and life got back to (mostly) normal. During the initial lockdown, my mind was too occupied with CDC and WHO statistics for me to concentrate on writing. After a month or so, I found my groove again and have felt more creative than ever. No idea if that’s correlated to the pandemic, but I feel more motivated and inspired than ever.
Are you working on something at the moment? Is there a Kill It All Away 2 in the works?
Yes! I’m writing the sequel now, and shooting for Summer 2021 release.
What is your desert-island read?
Oh wow, this is a hard one… I love Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I’ve read this book numerous times and it just scratches all my itches. If there was a book written just for me, this would be it.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a routine? A favourite place to write? Do you prefer starting on paper and then typing it up?
My routine has changed over the years, so much in fact, that calling it a routine seems charitable. I don’t write every day. Never have and probably never will. I do think deeply about the story each day though and take notes on my phone as ideas come up. Usually, this all builds up throughout the week and then bursts onto the page over the course of a day or two. I’ve been known to not write for a week and then pound out 10,000 words on a Saturday in a wine-induced frenzy.
Do you have any writing tips to share?
Read. I’ve met so many aspiring writers who only read 1-2 books a year. This is no good. I aim to read one book per week, across multiple genres. I don’t understand people who want to write, but don’t read.
Writing is hard work, so what’s your favourite writing snack to keep you fuelled as you scribble away?
A great California Pinot Noir or a Spanish Gran Reserva.
Finally, most important question. Maybe one for Mercury, what is the secret to the perfect Martini?
Sipsmith Gin with Sichuan Peppercorns. Smooth and spicy.
Kill it All Away is available for purchase now in ebook and in paperback.