Interview with Paul Southern, author of Daddy Dearest

12:30 AM

An exclusive interview

with author Paul Southern

Doodles, doodles everywhere congratulates author Paul Southern on the release of his latest psychological thriller, Daddy Dearest! Let's welcome him on the blog for an interview with DDE today. Read on!

1. What inspired you to write Daddy Dearest?

The story came about through something my daughter did in the block of flats where I live. She always used to the call the lift there as a matter of course. And one day, she got in without me. I managed to get my hand between the doors before they shut. It was that image of her in the lift that I most remember, looking out at me. A second later, she would have been gone. From that moment, I knew I had a story. The idea of your child suddenly being cut off from you, trapped like that, filled me with every kind of dread. Every parent who has been in a busy shopping centre with their kids knows the feeling when they suddenly look round and can’t see them. For those first few seconds, your world just stops. The thought of them without you, defenceless, wandering around, looking for you, is really the worst feeling you can have. You spend your life protecting them, taking care of them, and suddenly they are gone. What happens to them next is down to the kindness or malevolence of strangers. Or blind chance.

2. Can you tell us what kind of research and planning went behind Daddy Dearest?

 There was very little planning involved. It’s a bit of a cliché but the story wrote itself. I always see the ending of my books before I see the beginning, so my approach to writing is a little bit different. Everything is back to front. But when my daughter got into that lift, it all fell into place. A child disappearing down a lift seemed like such an obvious thing to happen, I was surprised you didn’t hear about it more. But then that’s the annoying thing with good ideas. They’re staring at you right in the face all the time.

3. Who's your favorite character from Daddy Dearest and why?

Favourite would be the wrong word. The characters in the book have no names. This was a deliberate strategy. You judge a character by their name. You form preconceptions (and, often, misconceptions) about them. I wanted the reader to judge them on their actions alone. Names let people know who you are but they don’t always match. It was also really difficult living with the narrator in the book. Some people have said it is hard to warm to his arrogance and anger, but there is ingenuity there. He was a real struggle to get right. I’m guessing, despite the huge flaws in his character, that people would recognise a bit of themselves in him, however unpalatable.

4. What are some of the biggest challenges or learning experiences you faced throughout the writing and publishing process.

Goodness, where to begin. Having watched my previous publisher completely wreck my last book (Killing Sound), sticking a cheap Letraset cover on it, removing all grownup content, stretching out the edit of the book into years (the editor had a nice sinecure on the side telling writers how to write for her own company, so was quite averse to actually doing any work on mine), then failing to get it into shops or get it reviewed, I was quite committed to trying a different approach. I set myself a challenge of getting more reviews and more sales than them, just to see if it could be done. Of course, I didn’t have their monetary resources or their list of contacts, so that was a problem. Finding reviewers was very time intensive. But I had several things on my side. I was very angry and very determined, and I could write emails. I also had a lovely cover designer (who promised not to use Letraset). And Daddy Dearest is a great story.

5. Do you decide the character traits before you sit down to write the book, or as you go along?

I get to know the characters before I begin. I set them twenty questions which they have to fill in. After that, I may have some more questions for them. After a few weeks, we get to know each other quite well. It’s just like meeting someone on a train or a plane and engaging them in conversation and then, by the end of the journey, you’ve exchanged phone numbers. I’m guessing the last part, of course; I’m too reserved to initiate conversation and never exchange phone numbers. But you get the drift. 

6. Do you get creative blocks or burnouts? How do you get out of those, if and when you do?

I have periods when I am so tired I can hardly function, and moments when nothing comes at all. But I still write. Even if it has no relation to the book I’m writing, I get typing. You don’t know when it’ll unlock the creative block. It helps that I have a bit of a hairshirt mentality and don’t mind the suffering. It’s all part of the process.

7. What do you like to do when you are not writing or reading?

I have three children so my spare time is spent with them. I like to experience the world through their eyes. Their enthusiasm and boundless energy is the perfect antidote to my general cynicism and nihilism.

8. Tell us something personal about you that your readers may be surprised to know.

I am a vegan and I speak Urdu (sach mach). Mera pasandeeda khana aloo saag hai. Desi khana ke baghair, meh mar jata!

Translation: I am a vegan and I speak Urdu (really). My favorite food is Aloo Saag (Potato Spinach Curry). Without Desi (local; indigenous) food, I would die!

Me: Wow!

9. What's next?

I am working on an adult supernatural thriller called Pendle Fire, set in Pendle in Lancashire (a northern town synonymous with witchcraft), about a police officer and a social worker getting caught up in a chilling and harrowing child prostitution ring that seems to have links to an apocalyptic, end of the world cult. Pretty nihilistic. And not very PC.

10. Lastly, any special thoughts for the readers?

Other than hoping they are interested in my work and will take the plunge and read Daddy Dearest, I hope they keep flying the flags of discontent round the world.

Daddy Dearest

by Paul Southern

Published: June 1st, 2016
Publisher: Independent
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Fiction, Suspense

An estranged father’s weekend with his beloved five-year-old daughter turns into a nightmare when she gets into the lift of a city centre tower block and goes down without him.

She vanishes without a trace. It sets off a race against time, and a nationwide manhunt, to find her. As the police investigation closes in, suspicion falls on those closest to her - with devastating consequences. Daddy Dearest is a terrifying story of love, obsession and psychological meltdown.

'My daughter has always had a thing about lifts. There’s something about the thrill of pressing a button and seeing the lift doors close which excites her imagination. It terrifies me. Every time she walks in, I imagine it’s the last time I’ll see her. What if she hits the button before I get there? What if the lift doors close and I can’t get her out? It drives me nuts. There are eight floors in the Sears building, nine if you count the basement, and the lift is fast: more like a fairground ride, really. It does top to bottom in twelve seconds. I’ve timed it. Taking the stairs, I’ve done it in forty-two. That leaves a gap of thirty seconds. You’d be surprised what can happen in that time. I was.'

Buy the book

About the author

Following an induced labour some time in the 1960s (due date: Halloween night), I had my subscription to a normal life revoked by itinerant parents, who moved from city to city. Lived in Liverpool, Belfast, London and Leeds, then escaped to university, where I nearly died of a brain haemorrhage. 

After an unexpected recovery, formed an underground indie group (Sexus). Met the lead singer through standing on a bee. Made immediate plans to become rich and famous, but ended up in Manchester. Shared a house with mice, cockroaches, and slugs; shared the street with criminals. Five years later, hit the big time with a Warners record deal. Concerts at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Melody Maker front cover, Smash Hits Single of the Week, Radio 1 and EastEnders. Mixed with the really rich and famous. Then mixed with lawyers. Ended up back in Manchester, broke. Got a PhD in English (I am the world's leading authority on Tennyson's stage plays), then wrote my first novel, The Craze, based on my experiences of the Muslim community.

Immediately nominated to the Arena X Club (the name Arena magazine gave to a select group of creative, UK-based men responsible for shaping the way their readers lived and enjoyed their lives). Wrote a second book, Brown Boys in Chocolate, which predicted the London bombings. Fell foul of the censors and subsequently gagged by the press. Got ITV interested in a story on honour killings and inter-racial marriages and was commissioned to write a screenplay (Pariah) based on my life story. ITV balked at the content. Subsequently, trod the Wasteland before finding the grail again: a book deal with children's publisher, Chicken House. Killing Sound, a YA horror set on the London Underground, was published by them in September 2014.

The book, originally written for older teens (16+) and adults, was censoriously edited by the publishers to fit a much younger demographic, and inevitably failed to reach either market; the grail proved elusive and I returned to writing something it was impossible to dilute. Daddy Dearest, a dark, psychological thriller, will be released in 2016.

You Might Also Like