Tales Q&A with Tom Becker


Dark Room

The camera never lies…Darla and her dad are looking for a fresh start. But when they wind up in affluent Saffron Hills, Darla stands no chance of fitting in with the beautiful, selfie-obsessed teens at her new school. Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, she starts having visions. The gruesome snapshots flashing into Darla’s mind seem to suggest she’s going crazy…until she realizes they’re actually a horrifying glimpse into the future. With a killer on the loose, can she make sense of what she’s seeing before it’s too late?


I am currently reading Dark Room by Tom Becker and I am honoured to have had the chance to put some questions to Tom to celebrate the release of book five in the fab Red Eye series from Stripes Publishing.

As you probably know I have been loving the books in the whole Red Eye Series!

Check out my review of Frozen Charlotte, Flesh and Blood and Bad Bones in the series and also Q&A’s with Alex Bell and Graham Marks and well as guest posts from Lou Morgan and Simon Cheshire !

Today I am joined by Tom Becker!  Join us to discuss Dark Room, scares, Jive Bunny and selfies!


Hi Tom! 

Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday.  I’m so happy to have you here….although slightly scared of that camera in your hands!

No selfies today Tom please….we know what happens when we participate in selfies! #AngelTaker

*gulps*

Dark Room

The camera never lies…Darla and her dad are looking for a fresh start. But when they wind up in affluent Saffron Hills, Darla stands no chance of fitting in with the beautiful, selfie-obsessed teens at her new school. Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, she starts having visions. The gruesome snapshots flashing into Darla’s mind seem to suggest she’s going crazy…until she realizes they’re actually a horrifying glimpse into the future. With a killer on the loose, can she make sense of what she’s seeing before it’s too late?

Can you tell us a little about your contribution to the Red Eye series published by Stripes Publishing, Dark Room?

A YA slasher horror set in the US state of South Carolina, Dark Room’s heroine is Darla, a teenage girl who drifts from trailer park to trailer park with her deadbeat dad Hopper. When they wash up in the secluded and exclusive town of Saffron Hills, Darla is amazed by the opulent mansions overlooking the main strip. But Saffron Hills is a town with secrets, and when a vicious killer begins preying upon a group of beautiful and privileged teens known as the Picture Perfects, Darla is drawn into the horrifying world of the Angel Taker…

*Michelle jumps as Tom adds extra special dramatic effects to that synopsis*

What inspired you to write the story of Dark Room?

I’d been watching a lot of US TV drama, a lot of which was set in the South – True Detective, Treme, Breaking Bad. There was something about the eerie atmosphere of True Detective in particular that was incredibly compelling, and made me want to try my hand at a different kind of setting to my previous books. I also owe a long-standing debt of inspiration to the director David Lynch, who makes incredible films about dark, unsettling secrets beneath the glossy veneer of small-town American life.

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Can you tell us more about Darla’s bloody visions?

As she nears Saffron Hills, Darla begins to see visions of a dark, windowless room, where a killer develops photographs of his victims taken moments before their death. These horrifying snapshots give Darla premonitions of murders before they take place – but also serve to point the finger of suspicion at her and her dad…

Dark Room turns into a bit of a whodunit and The Angel Taker seems terrifying! Did you always know who the reveal was going to be?

Usually I have a very set idea of where a story is going to head before I sit down to write it, but Dark Room came out differently. It grew very much in the writing, and although I initially had an idea of what form I wanted the Angel Taker to take, this changed very early on. Then suddenly it all came together for me. I’d like to think that this means that the final twist comes as much as a surprise to the reader as it did to me when I thought of it.

I’m slightly scared to ask this! Do you see yourself in any of the characters in Dark Room or have you used any of your own experiences in the story?

Ha! Thankfully I’ve had a limited exposure to serial killers over the years, and nor have I any clue what it would be like to grow up beautiful and privileged like the Perfects of Saffron Hills. I guess Darla’s feelings of not fitting in and being an outsider are pretty universal – I think all of us have had experiences where we can relate to that, at one time or another.

Phew…that’s a relief!

What would your killer Angel Taker name be (I guess I’m asking you what you would call yourself if you were a killer like the Angel Taker!)?

Possibly the main reason I would be a terrible serial killer is the length of time it would take for me to decide upon a decent name. It took me long enough to come up with the Angel Taker!

Come on give us your Angel Taker / Dark Room selfie!

There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

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That is actually quite Phantom Of The Opera ish and actually quite scary as it’s like your spying on me, hiding behind the corner!

*legs shake*

How important are names to you? Did you pick the character names in Dark Room for a reason?

This is a great question. Names are vital to me – I don’t feel the character is complete until I’ve found the right name for them. Often my characters change names as I’m writing. I don’t know what it is exactly I’m looking for, just a feeling. For example, Sasha’s surname was Miller for months but I knew that wasn’t right, and when I changed it to Haas I felt her character come together. But Darla and Hopper O’Neill were called that straight from the very first chapter, which helped me feel like I had their characters right from the off.

If you could cast your characters from Dark Room in a big Hollywood film adaptation, which actors would you choose?

I think slasher movies work best with unknown actors in the roles, as it doesn’t give the audience any clues as to who might survive. If someone really famous pops up you know they’re going to stick around for more than a scene or two, and certainty is a bad thing where horror is concerned. Having said that, my wife thinks Ruby Rose from Orange is the New Black would make a great Sasha, and surely Hopper would have to be played by Charles Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne in Nashville.

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That’s what I loved about the Scream movies….the shock of the fact that Drew Barrymore gets killed in the first 15 minutes was just genius!

Also fab actor choices!  Much love for Ruby Rose!

Do you like to scare your readers?

Absolutely. But horror is the most delicate recipe in the writing cookbook – it’s almost impossible to cater to everyone’s tastes. Fear is so personal – what scares one reader will leave another completely unmoved. And it’s hard to overestimate the bloodthirsty nature of some readers. I remember a reader at an event in Hull telling me a scene he thought I should have included in my Victorian horror While The Others Sleep. Suffice to say, it involved a dog with no head, and it was several days before I regained the power of speech.

What are your top 5 writing YA horror rules? (A bit like the rules of a horror movie like Randy lists in Scream if that makes any sense?)

  1. Creating an atmosphere of unease is crucial. Don’t spell everything out – let the reader’s imagination do some of the work for you.
  2. Horror is a very visual genre. You need to have a strong image of your characters and locations in your head.
  3. Use the past to add depth to what’s happening in the present.
  4. Never underestimate the power of a secret.
  5. Don’t forget your characters amid the blood and gore. Your audience has got to care about them, or who cares whether they die or not?

We would love to know a little bit more about you!  Can you give us 5 random facts we don’t know about Tom Becker?

My actual name is Tom Beckerlegge.

I spent most of my school life being called ‘Breakaleg’ (see Fact 1). Even now people I meet are prone to using it, grinning in the vain belief they are the first people to think it up.

As a small child I was once nearly kidnapped on the back of a camel.

My highest break in snooker is 4.

The first album I ever bought was ‘C’mon Everybody’ by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers. By all means, enjoy:

Can you tell us a bit about some of your other books?

Sure. Dark Room is my ninth book – I wrote a series called Darkside that went to five instalments, and since then I’ve been writing stand-alone books.

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There is a fantasy prisoner of war story called The Traitors

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 A horror set in a Victorian sanatorium called While The Others Sleep

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And a spine-chiller about grave-digging called Afterwalkers set in the northwest of England.

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I’ve also had a play published, called Until The Last Light Fades.

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I read that you won the Waterstones Childrens Book Prize when you were 25?

You read right – for my first book, Darkside. (I appear to have a thing for titles with ‘dark’ in them.) Quite a way to start a career, it was a struggle to take it all at the time. It’s probably one reason why I’m still writing today.

Are you still reeling from the break up of your two favourite bands?!

I spent years in mourning after both Rocket From the Crypt and Sleater-Kinney split up. But – joy of joys – they are both back together in various forms, and I have seen both of them live in the past 18 months. I name-check Sleater-Kinney in Dark Room by way of celebration.

Growing up who inspired you into writing? Are there any authors or books that inspired you?

When I was growing up Brian Jacques’ Redwall series was hugely influential – I immediately started writing my own stories featuring talking animals and sweeping battles between good and evil. I dimly remember creating a rabbit with martial art skills, although perhaps I have misremembered. it was rather a long time ago now.

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Are there any recent works or authors that you admire or books you wish you had written or that you would like to collaborate with in the future?

I think in the kind of area I write in, it will be a long time before I read a better book than Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines. The hook is so elegantly simple, and yet opens up a world of imaginative possibilities. I read it in one sitting, consumed with admiration and jealousy.

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When starting a new book or idea what does your writing process look like?

Usually I have an idea years before I get the chance to actually write it, so there’s a lot of plotting and planning, developing characters and plotlines, often down to sketching out each chapter. There’s still room for the story to grow and change in the telling, but I like to put down firm roots before I begin.

What do you think makes a good story?

A little bit of craft and a lot of heart.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I feel I should make some up in order to make myself sound more interesting, but mostly I try and save my strangeness for the page.

Over on Tales Of Yesterday I have recently been asking YA authors if music has any influence to their writing and/or characters. Is there a particular song that influenced Dark Room and/or its characters and if so how or why?

In the book Sasha mentions Poly Styrene of the 70’s punk band X-Ray Spex, and their track ‘Identity’ was a real inspiration for me as I was writing Dark Room. The lyrics draw on horror-style imagery of smashed glass and slashed wrists and touch on very modern concerns about self-image issues for young women. It really helped set the tone of the book for me.

What’s next? Any exciting plans that you are able to reveal? Any more contributions to the Red Eye series?

I’m working on a couple of hush-hush projects, including a historical fantasy which I’m really excited about. And if people like Dark Room hopefully I’ll get a chance to write another YA horror book – I’m keeping my blades sharp just in case…

*gulps*

Why are you waving that camera around again Tom?!

Okay, Okay….I will let you take a picture of me looking slightly terrified holding Dark Room up as you were good enough to play along earlier…..

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Now how do you like that for a selfie! Tom? Tom why are you looking at me like that? TOM?!

Your the Angel Taker!

Noooooooooooooo! 


About Tom Becker

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Since Tom Becker learned to hold a pen, he wanted to become a writer. In fact, when he was 5 years old, he wrote in a notebook that it was his dream was to be an author. Aged 25, Tom has realised that dream with publication of his first novel, Darkside in January 2007.

Tom’s early enthusiasm for books and reading was encouraged by his parents who were voracious readers. Their family home was cluttered with bookcases and piles of novels. Tom spent most of his childhood curled up in an armchair reading fantasy novels by Brian Jacques, and later graduated to grown-up novels by David Eddings and Guy Gavriel Kay.

Tom studied History at Oxford University and was struck by the otherworld-ly atmosphere of this academic institution. He used to spend long days studying and reading in the University library and always felt intrigued by the atmosphere there – perhaps that is why a library is such an important setting in Darkside.

Tom started writing Darkside in 2005, it took him three months to complete and he is now working on more books in the series. He drew inspiration from film noirs such as The Asphalt Jungle and The Big Sleep (hence the glasshouse scene in Darkside), and comicbook writers such as Alan Moore.

Aside from reading, Tom’s big love in life is music. He is still reeling from the break-up of his two favourite bands, Rocket From the Crypt and Sleater-Kinney. Tom’s other passions include supporting Everton Football Club and consisting on a diet of fry-ups and fish fingers.

Find out more about Tom Becker on his website here or follow him on twitter using @Tbeckerlegge


I would like to say a huge thank you to Tom for answering all of my question and Stripes Publishing for sending me the book to read and review!

 You can buy a copy of Dark Room here

Or why not checkout the other titles in the Red Eye Series here

You can find a guest post by Tom Becker about Twin Peaks here

Or a spotlight post on Dark Room for the #RedEyeReadAlong here or here

Also do follow the new YA community from Stripes Publishing – doyareadme.tumblr.com or on twitter @doyareadme for news, competitions and more.

Have you read this book or any of the other Red Eye series?  Do you like a scary read?  Who do you think the Angel Taker is?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this post or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy

Happy reading and no taking selfies!

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I am often known to be a bit clumsy and a little loopy! Book loving (obsessed), theatre loving, slasher film loving csi geek!

Winner of UKYABA Champion Newcomer 2015 and nominated for Champion of Social Media 2016 and Blogger Of The Year 2016!


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2 thoughts on “Tales Q&A with Tom Becker

  1. Pingback: Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell | Tales of Yesterday

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