14 Sep 2012

Journey from Darkness – a Q&A

Journey From Darkness 1 Comment

Gareth Crocker’s latest novel, Journey from Darkness (October, 2012, Penguin), was co-written with his father, Llewellyn Crocker. It tells the story of two brothers who, after surviving World War I, escape to South Africa. Following in their late father’s footsteps, they devote their time to trying to save the country’s last remaining elephants from savage poaching. However, soon after their arrival, they discover a badly wounded Desert Elephant – an animal believed by many to be a myth – following an ancient ghost trail to Bechuanaland. But the enormous matriarch is not alone. She is being pursued by a blackness that has followed the soldiers down from the war. To save her, the brothers will have to journey back into the darkness. A darkness, that is waiting for them.

Q:  So Journey from Darkness is, quote, ‘co-authored’. Can you tell us a little more about that?
A: One afternoon I was discussing various novels with my father when he just came out and said ‘Gaz, I have this story in my head that I think you need to write’. I then listened as my father dredged up the bones of a wonderfully ambitious story that had been buried in his mind for more years than he could remember. When he had finished with the basic outline, I was absolutely enthralled. We then spent several beer-soaked weeks adding plot twists and turns to the outline and developing the characters into what we hope are believable people.  I then began writing the book, presenting pages and chapters to my father on a regular basis. And that, really, is how Journey from Darkness came into being.

Q: So your father came up with much of the idea and you put down the words?
A: Precisely. I only hope that I have done justice to the story. It almost certainly deserves a more accomplished writer, but I gave it everything I had.

Q: We’ve heard that during the writing of the book, your father had to journey through his own darkness in real life?
A: Yes. Shortly after beginning work on the book, my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. His doctor gave him a 30 percent chance of survival. But, after numerous operations and months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, I’m pleased to say that he has made a full recovery (as much as is possible with cancer, that is). Between the first and last chapters of the book, my father was both condemned and then saved. A small, and I suppose rather childish part of me credits the book with helping to carry him through his ordeal. It’s an absurd notion, I know, but I can’t shake it. I suspect neither can he.

Q: So I imagine that this book has become more than just a story to you and your father?
A: Unquestionably. My father and I have a truly wonderful relationship, but this book has brought us even closer together. The word ‘transcendent’ comes to mind. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have enjoyed our debates around the story and those moments where we have come up with an idea that we know is special. It’s been a truly moving, and somewhat surreal experience for both of us. A treasure, really.

Q: So, in a nutshell, what kind of novel is Journey from Darkness?
A: We have no idea, to be honest. While on the surface one might draw parallels to what someone like Wilbur Smith may have put out early in his career, but I don’t think the book compares to your traditional African bush thriller much at all. It’s part thriller, part action, part drama and, mostly, a kind of love story. But it also has a real vein of darkness flowing through it. Another factor is that it hasn’t been written in period language. In fact, it’s been written in a somewhat modern way, to make it more accessible to a larger audience. Critics will probably murder us for that, but I think readers will be grateful for it.

Q: Is it a fast-paced novel? Or, like the mood of the African bush, is it somewhat more ponderous?
A: The start of the book is relatively slow, by necessity. But the story quickly picks up and becomes incredibly fast moving. In the end, I think it’s rather breathless … but hopefully poignant as well.

Q: Are you a fan of African bush stories?
A: While my father is (he is also a great fan of The Kruger National Park where the book is set), I’m not at all. And I think that’s one of the reasons why this book is so different to other novels in the genre. I do, however, have an abiding love for animals. Elephants, in particular.

Q: So why do you think readers should consider buying Journey from Darkness?
A: Well, there are a few reasons. One, it is something completely different and does not follow a formula-driven plot. Two, it is a fantastic story that I was very privileged to bring to the page. Three, it has something in it for everyone. Whether you like thrillers, adventure stories, horrors, love stories … trust me when I tell you that all your needs have been catered for.

Q: Although this is only your second novel, your debut novel, Finding Jack, has already accomplished a great deal. You must be very pleased with your career so far.
A: I think luck had a great deal to do with my early success. Finding Jack sold well around the world and was published by the much revered Reader’s Digest Select Editions in volumes together with the likes of James Patterson, Jeffrey Archer, Lee Child and several others. It was also translated into multiple languages and was made into an audio book. There is even some talk of it being adapted into a movie (film rights have been sold), but I’m certainly not holding my breath in that regard. They don’t call it Hollyweird for nothing.

Q: We’ve heard a rumour that, in addition to Journey from Darkness, Penguin is planning to release another two of your novels in quick succession. Is this true? Can you tell us more?
A: Yes, it is true. And I am very excited by the prospect. In short, Penguin (bless them) is planning to release my third book, Pulling down the sun in April 2013 and King in October of the same year. Of course, this means that I am writing like my hair is on fire, but I simply could not be more excited. I believe a great deal in these two books and am hoping that readers will feel the same way. I’m eternally grateful to all the wonderful folk at Penguin who seem to genuinely believe in my scribblings. I hope it’s a relationship that will endure for many years to come.

Q: Can you give us an idea of what the next two books are about?
A: Certainly. Pulling down the sun is a combination thriller/love story and tells the tale of a famous author who loses his young daughter in a botched kidnapping. However, on the day he plans to take his own life, he receives an anonymous envelope in the post. The envelope contains a single white card. The card carries six words. Words, that offer the impossible. I can bring your daughter back.
King tells the story of a policeman struggling to cope with the loss of his beloved wife. After quitting the force, he reluctantly begins to help his sister who runs a local animal shelter. Before long, they discover an emaciated white lion cub in a Detroit drug den and begin to nurse him back to health. As the lion grows and thrives in their home, so the former policeman begins to heal. But then, everything changes one day, and the man is forced into a decision that will ultimately not only define his life but that of the lion as well. It’s part thriller, part love story. Part utter madness.

Q: And what do you have planned after these two novels?
A: Sleep, buckets of it! But then, hopefully, books 5 and 6 … and beyond.

One Response to “Journey from Darkness – a Q&A”

  1. Debbie Haupt says:

    Gareth, Oh my this newest release looks yummy. When you have a chance give me the name of your US publicist, we need to get you back on the forum and get those books on shelves here in the states

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