Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Conrad Williams. This blog post is part of the Hell is Empty Blog Tour.

Conrad Williams has written seven novels, four novellas and a short story collection. One won the August Derleth award for Best Novel in 2010, while The Unblemished won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993, and another British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (The Scalding Rooms) in 2008.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about Hell is Empty:

Joel Sorrell is recovering from the attempt on his life, but he is exhausted, drinking hard, and his personal life is collapsing. A hope-filled yet distant note from his daughter convinces him to stick around for the present. To distract him, an old colleague offers him unsolved case files, and Joel becomes dangerously obsessed by a string of murders from the 1980s – a killer nicknamed The Skylark who pushed construction workers from the top of the new Thatcherite skyscrapers. A surprise call from a childhood sweetheart he hasn’t heard from for years with a kidnapped child springs Joel into action, but as he looks deeper, nothing about the case seems to make sense. Everything is leading back to an old enemy of Joel’s, who has risen to prominence while incarcerated and the previous night, razed his prison to the ground. On the run and in fear for his life, Joel finds himself tangled in a web affecting both the present and the past, and most certainly the people closest to him.


My writing routine has changed a lot over the years. The first routine I developed was when I was seventeen years old. I was given a Brother electric typewriter for my birthday and I spent the summer between terms at sixth form college pounding out short stories – one or two a week – in our old house in Lodge Lane, Warrington and trotting down to the local post office on Folly Lane to send them off to whichever small press magazine I’d not yet received a rejection from. I had the house to myself and I worked hard – probably harder than I ever have – and amassed a lot of fiction, most of it derivative and undisciplined. I spent the rest of my time at the library or writing letters to writers I admired (I have cherished responses from Clive Barker, Peter Straub and Ray Bradbury) I look back on that summer with fondness and I see it as a necessary stage in my development.

In 1993 when I was working on a novel for my MA (using a PC with WordPerfect and a ten inch screen), I tried to write a thousand words a day before heading out to traipse around Morecambe and Heysham, listening to In Utero on my CD walkman and planning the next day’s work on what would become my debut, Head Injuries.

When I moved to London the following year, I discovered pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be enjoying that kind of flexible routine any longer. I needed to make some money. The only problem was that eight hours in an office (plus two hours travelling) meant that little of the day was left for any serious writing time, especially as I’d come home feeling wiped out and capable of nothing other than feeding myself and watching something on TV before bed. While I’d been studying as an undergraduate in Bristol I met a writer called David Peak who had published three novels with Fourth Estate. His work ethos was brutal and involved getting up at 5.30 am every day. I decided to emulate him. Better to spend brain cells on my own work before heading out to break myself on the 9-5 wheel. I wrote my second novel, London Revenant, in this way.

A deadline doesn’t half focus the mind and, with Titan Books wanting to publish the three Joel Sorrell novels within 18 months, I had to keep my nose to the grindstone most days. Knowing the character helps, but so does knowing the story. I find planning increasingly important and I use Scrivener to help me in this regard. It has been a godsend to me and having everything I need – photographs, notes, maps, websites, timelines – in the same document means that I can keep track of where everyone is and what is happening without the usual sense of panic hanging over me. I think seat-of-the-pants writing has its place, but not if you need to write a chunk of text within a tight timeframe.

At the moment, with piecemeal teaching work, a part-time PhD commitment and, for the first time in 18 months, no deadlines to give me grief, things are a little easier. But I still think it’s important to write every day, even if you’re not stoking the engines and trying to get a thousand words done. Keep that muscle flexing, that’s the trick.

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