Today on Love Books Group Blog, I am delighted to host an author interview with Paul Burgess for his latest release Through Hollow Lands as part of the
Love Books Group Tours, book blog tour.
Set in the US on 11th September 2001, Through Hollow Lands tells the story of George Bailey, a charming but feckless opportunist who finds himself trapped in Las Vegas.
He is followed there by Lou Plutus – his boss and a pornographer – from whom he has stolen a Kompromat video of great importance to the Russian mafia.
George un-expectantly encounters Jaffé Losoko there, a naïve, young Ethiopian woman whom he wronged six years before. She now works in the Vegas sex trade.
To escape, George must face his Russian pursuers – the terrifying Triptych – head on and make amends to Jaffé. Beset by angels and demons, truth-tellers and liars, he must pay for the sins of his past in order to find salvation beyond Vegas.
Through Hollow Lands is the author’s compelling second novel, following the critically acclaimed White Church, Black Mountain.
| Interview |
- What book from your childhood still has a place in your heart today?
I was one of those ‘intense’ children and as such, developed something of a penchant for the old Gothic literature! Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’, Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, Guy Endore’s ‘The Werewolf of Paris’, etc. That’s how I first came to Edgar Allan Poe. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a small dark green and gold, leather-bound copy of his collected works. The pages were like tissue paper and the print in elaborate font. I still have it. Somehow, it seemed like the only way to read this master of macabre suspense. ‘The Masque of the Red Death’, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’. As a boy with an over-active imagination, how could you hear those titles and not be drawn into his world?
- Which fictional character stayed with you long after you finished the book?
Jude Fawley, in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Jude the Obscure’. A working-class hero of sorts. As a stonemason, who dreams of becoming a scholar, the themes of snobbery, elitism and the indifference of fate toward working class aspiration, are some that I felt I could relate to. (I only really exorcised these demons when I made it to Oxford University, and on my own terms!)
- Can you tell us a little about your journey with your new release?
‘Through Hollow Lands’ takes place in the US on the day of 9/11. I was embarking on a honeymoon trip with my wife to the West Coast. We were leaving from Newark Airport, NYC. A late change of plans meant flying first to Las Vegas. I later realised that –had we chosen the San Francisco option – we would have been on board the doomed Flight 93 that was to tragically crash into a Pennsylvania field later that day. With all flights grounded and rental car stock exhausted, the ensuing days spent trapped in the seeming purgatory of Las Vegas were to prove the most surreal of my life and afford a creative catalyst for my writing.
- Do you get an emotional connection to your character’s?
If I begin writing a novel or short story and am forced to leave it for a period, due to other commitments, I envision my characters, stuck in limbo and debating whether I will return to give them animation once more! I feel awful… like an errant parent who is failing them!
- Can you please, share a photo with us that tells a story.
Above is the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. Much of ‘Through Hollow Lands’ is set here. Rather than tell you a story about my time there and how it partly inspires the storyline to my novel…you’ll have to read it to find out!
- What was your favourite read of 2017?
‘Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People’ by Julia Boyd. Fascinating anecdotal accounts of the emerging Nazi state. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. George Santayana. Enough said!
- If your book came with a theme song what would it be?
A sinister, ironic re-mix of ‘Viva Las Vegas’ by Elvis Presley
- Is the genre you write your favourite to read?
As a young undergraduate, studying for a degree in English Literature, I was fortunate to become immersed in some incredible writing via modules of study like; ‘20th Century Thinkers’; ‘American & Russian Short Stories’; ‘Contemporary Irish Literature’; ‘Literature and the Enlightenment’.
Unfortunately, at the time, I really had no understanding of how incredibly lucky I was to be given a grant and the opportunity to read books all day and be praised for doing so!
From the many influences of that time, it was the genre of ‘Literary Fiction ‘that endured. Having been a rather ‘serious’ young man, I was drawn to a number of literary devices (allegory, magic realism, simile, etc.) as mechanisms to critique everything from the human condition to political systems, morality and social inequality. I’m not particularly drawn to ‘genre fiction’ and my angst is fuelled by the fear that – because my writing sometimes employs aspects of traditional ‘thriller’ plotlines – I’ll be misrepresented as a ‘police procedural’ or whatever!
Literary fiction is more character-driven and less concerned with a fast-paced plot. It can be more subtle, less frenetically-paced, more beneath the surface perhaps. But of course plot must be there…and compellingly so!
All that being said…I’d be as happy to secure a block-buster, page-turner, mega-success deal as the next novelist!
- If you could ask your readers anything, what would you want to know?
Other than the meaning of life or some such banality, I would seek their advice and feedback on two synopses I have been working on. (See Q10 below).
- What are you working on now?
I’m awaiting publication of my next academic book, ‘The Contested Identities of Ulster Catholics’ in August/Sept (Palgrave Macmillan). https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9783319788036
This is a companion to an earlier book I published in 2015, ‘The Contested Identities of Ulster Protestants’ (Palgrave Macmillan). https://www.amazon.co.uk/Contested-Identities-Ulster-Protestants/dp/1137453931
After that, I have two plotlines vying to provide the impetus for the next novel. One is provisionally entitled ‘The Kho Lak Haunting’ and the other, ‘Sykia; Water from the Moon’. However, I can’t decide which to pursue!
Website link – http://www.thomaspaulburgess.co.uk/
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