Today I am interviewing Tarn Richardson, author of the new horror / historical fiction novel, The Risen, final book of The Darkest Hand trilogy.
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DJ: Hey Tarn! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! Horror? Historical Fiction? How exactly would you describe The Darkest Hand trilogy?
TR: Hey DJ! Yes, there’s quite a mix of genres within the books! They’re hard to define. The trilogy could be called horror, but it’s quite ‘measured’ horror I suppose. The nasty bits are there for a reason, not simply to be gratuitous for the sake of it. There’s a lot of historical backdrop (of World War One), the wars and its events heavily researched by me before writing, details of the actual battles and specific theatres of the war. There’s a thriller aspect to the books, particularly books two and three. And a paranormal crime slant, as well. I tend to describe it as ‘Dark Fiction’. That covers all bases!
DJ: For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
TR: I live in England, near Salisbury, not far from Stonehenge! I’ve worked as a copywriter and have written Murder Meal Party Games. In 2012, I travelled to France and Belgium on the trail of a Great Uncle who went out to fight in WW1 and never came back. Whilst there, the idea for The Darkest Hand trilogy planted its seed and then grew within me. In 2015 the first of the books of the trilogy, THE DAMNED, was published by Duckworth Overlook and by Overlook Press in 2016, THE FALLEN following a year later.
DJ: What is The Risen and The Darkest Hand trilogy about?
TR: The Darkest Hand trilogy is an epic story set in the backdrop of the First World War. The Catholic Inquisition, still strong but now working in the shadows, sends its most powerful, but flawed, inquisitor, Poldek Tacit, to investigate the murder of a Cardinal within the city of Arras at the start of the war. Teaming up with the beautiful Sister Isabella to solve the crime together they uncover a dark conspiracy that leads to very heart of the Vatican and beyond.
THE RISEN, the final part of the trilogy, sees our heroes face Russian revolution and the rise of the Antichrist in the closing phase of the war, searching for a way in which he can be defeated before he assumes ultimate power within the world and casts it into endless dark.
It’s a vast and complex piece of work, but one which hopefully speeds through at a rate of knots and leaves with the reader at the end with that lingering sense of wonder that sometimes remains after reading a book set deep within true and startling events.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Darkest Hand trilogy?
TR: Certainly the places I visited when in France and Belgium and the stories of bravery, cowardice and horror during the war helped scope and envisage the piece. A lot of places I visited actually go on to make an appearance in the book. When back home, and looking for a way in which I could encompass fantasy elements within the work (which has always been my favoured genre), I stumbled upon a rich vein of folklore surrounding the Catholic faith, werewolves and their creation. Combining these locations, real life events, folklore and the injustices of life and war helped create what I hope is a really rich and enveloping tale.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
TR: What I like about the books I’ve written and the characters I’ve created within them, and what I always try and do with my characters whenever I write, is make the heroes all flawed in someway. After all, we all prefer Batman to Superman! Giving characters flaws makes them more relatable, more human. So each of the main characters has something that brings them down off any pedestal upon which they could have been set. Henry, the British officer, is indecisive and proud. Isabella is essentially a prostitute of the Catholic faith. Sandrine Prideux, well she has a whole host of issues bubbling under the surface! And Tacit, he is the most troubled of the lot, a sadistic, alcoholic bruised monster of a man, but with a very human heart.
Readers have remarked on the depth of the characters’ personalities, particularly Tacit’s. I enjoyed living with them for the last five years. They’re all heroic in their own way, but heroic in an alternative way.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Darkest Hand trilogy like?
TR: The novels follow the course of the First World War, from 1914 to the end of the conflict in 1918. We go from Arras and Paris on the Western Front in book one, to the Italian Front of 1915, a theatre so few know much about, in book two, THE FALLEN. Of course, naturally, the monstrous killing of the Western Front commands most scrutiny in history. But the Italian Front was an utterly ghastly theatre, fought on a horrific mountainous terrain, that achieved absolutely no tangle gain in ground or superiority between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies who fought there. And then, lastly, with THE RISEN we arrive at the Eastern Front and Russian Revolution, before returning to France via America and much of Europe. All the while, the Catholic Inquisition are loitering on the edges of society, waiting to strike against their enemies.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the previous two books of the The Darkest Hand trilogy? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
TR: I’ve been staggered at the response, if I am honest. I was immensely proud of what I had written but the reviews, from literary critics such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Foreword Reviews, fellow authors, such as Tim Lebbon, David Moody and Cal Moriarty, and everyday book lovers, have been sensational. What strikes readers seems to be the depth in the writing and research, the originality of the idea and the fact that the book surprises people. Many went into it thinking it might be one thing, but finding it turned out to be something altogether else; an intelligent and immersive read, full of darkness and light.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Risen and completing the final book The Darkest Hand trilogy?
TR: Actually my favourite part of writing the book I think it was the research behind it, discovering about the war, about the folklore behind the superstitions.
As to my favourite bit, there are so many scenes within it that I adore but I think my particular favourite is in Book 2 when Tacit is rampaging through the prison within which he was held. People who’ve read it have told me it’s clear I enjoyed writing that scene and they’re right!
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish The Risen?
TR: That the events within the book actually happened in real life! Okay, they’re cut with a heavy slice of fantasy, but historically the novels follow true events in the Great War. So, hopefully people will be entertained by what they’ve read, but also educated and amazed, and perhaps finish it with a different perspective both of the war but also the machinations of power behind it.
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing The Darkest Hand trilogy? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
TR: I suppose the main theme I’d love people to take from the book is to follow your dream in life, don’t be limited or harried by others to going down one particular path, that we’re only here once so you have to live and live for yourself. Don’t immediately trust those in a position of power over you, question your masters, push against your boundaries, don’t be afraid of scaring yourself with actions from time to time.
Power corrupts and changes people. Whilst writing The Risen the 2016 US Presidential Election was playing out over the news and I was struck by the similarities between the forces of darkness looking to snatch power over good within my book and political forces trying to claim power in real life. It’s a terrifying world within my book and it’s a terrifying world today.
DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a series, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? The evolution of your characters?
TR: Well, I am what’s called a ‘pantser’, by which I write by the seat of them. I knew scenes A, B and Z of the trilogy, but nothing else. In fact, very last scene was one of the first I wrote. So I knew where I wanted to get to but had no idea how I was going to get there! This meant that the novels were great fun for me to write, but at the same time torture when I realised I had gone wrong during the writing of them and had to rewrite them time and time again. In fact I rewrote book two 9 times and book three 5 times till I was totally happy. Horrendous. Soul-destroying! But we got there in the end, and I am so pleased with how we eventually arrived at scene Z.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Risen that you can share with us?
TR: Goodness! There are so many that I love. I think I’ll give you this one, part of a speech given by Henry. It sort of sums up a soldier’s view of war, once they’ve been through it, and my opinion too.
“I saw many dreadful things on the western front, of men broken by what they had seen, what they had done, were forced to do, things no man should be made to confront or commit. We think ourselves a robust and stout creature, that we can be prepared for horror in all its guises, trained and sent out with our bombs and our bullets and our commitment to our nations, our leaders. Sent out to face our enemy, an enemy we then discover is so much like ourselves, caught also in these places, these predicaments, these events. These visions. These visions of Hell made real.”
DJ: Now that The Risen is released, what is next for you?
TR: Between book 1, The Damned, and book 2, The Fallen, I found time to write another standalone book about a modern-day Jack the Ripper killer. I’m really pleased with it and my agent and I are wondering how to proceed with it.
I’m also working on a thriller set in WW2. It’s very early days. Very much at the research stage of things, but ideas are growing and I think it might be quite a strong idea. But I’m also taking a break, at least until the summer. I’ve earned it, I think, and so has my family!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
TR: You can find me at the following places;
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tarn-Richardson/e/B011LWRQ20/ and https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1468312464/
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Risen and The Darkest Hand trilogy that we haven’t talked about yet?
TR: The French town of Laventie is featured in the final book. This is the place my Great Uncle is buried. When we, my father, brother-in-law and I, visited his war grave during our visit to France, three white doves appeared from out of no where and landed on the path just in front of us as we were leaving the military graveyard. An incredibly strange event, uncanny, so I decided to also include that event within the book.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
TR: Only that if you’ve read any or all of the books thank you and hope you enjoyed! All of the books were written with love and care. I hope they move readers and perhaps make them think and question the so called Great War, and subsequent wars and those responsible for starting them. And, of course, if any one has any comments or questions, let me know! I’m always happy to talk to readers!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
TR: Thank you!
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*** The Risen is published by Duckworth Overlook and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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The final, thrilling instalment of Tarn Richardson’s Darkest Hand trilogy (‘a remarkably original premise [with] damn fine characters’ David Moody), The Risen serves up a fittingly visceral, relentlessly gripping and action-packed climax to this epic series of dark fantasy.
1917. War and revolution are consuming the world, and the apocalypse is imminent. The world is desperate for a hero who can push back the relentless tide of darkness, and save humanity from the return of the Antichrist. But where is Poldek Tacit, the only man capable of defeating these terrifying forces? As old allies unite in a frantic race to unmask the Antichrist and thwart his plan to bring everything into his power, the Darkest Hand continues to terrorise the innocent – while in the Vatican’s vaults long-buried secrets are about to be unveiled, and humanity’s chance of redemption from the forces of evil hangs by a single thread…
Tarn Richardson is the author of The Darkest Hand trilogy, published by Duckworth Overlook in Europe and Australia, and Overlook Press in the US and Canada.
Consisting of THE HUNTED (free prequel novella), THE DAMNED (2016), THE FALLEN (2017) and THE RISEN (2018), The Darkest Hand trilogy unleashes the flawed but brilliant Inquisitor Poldek Tacit upon a Europe engulfed by the First World War. The Damned was one of the book depository’s ‘Books of 2015’.
Having grown up in Somerset, England, he now lives in Salisbury with his wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson.