What Inspired Mark Thompson’s Debut Novel, Dust

Dust Author


Today is my blog tour stop for debut author Mark Thompson and today he’s talking about his new book, Dust. Dust will be released on the 8th of September. He’s also has 3 copies of Dust to giveaway. More details on how to enter is at the end of this interview. 

What’s your book about?

DUST is a fabulously irreverent novel about two ten year old boys growing up in small town America in the late 1960s – set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, race riots, and the small stuff of life –  like sex, murder, music, guitars, coffee & girls – ten year old boys don’t think the way that their parents imagine them to…

Who is the central character and what problem are they trying to solve?

The central character is Tony ‘El Greco’ Papadakis – ten years old when their story begins, and, in the mind of his best friend (the narrator) J.J. Walsh, a genius. Their problem is simply their youth; how they try to overcome it is the essence of the tale.

What inspired the storyline to your novel?

I have a passion for both American literature and character observation – with those things in mind, I set myself the challenge to write a novel that I would love to read. Thinking about my own childhood, it struck me that my view of my friends’ ten year olds had become rose-tinted; that I regarded them as innocent, naïve and childlike – then it dawned on me, that at their age I was far from innocent, naïve or childlike in my thoughts – so I decided to place myself back into the mind of my ten year old self, and recall my view of the adult world as I saw it. The result was DUST.

How long did it take you to write your novel? 

It took me about a year, on and off, due to life getting in the way – working in a fast-paced job, playing in bands, writing songs, – basically having several fingers in several pies – but the re-writing and editing process has never stopped – I must have 60 saved versions!

Which do you prefer to do first and why, Character or Plot?

Characters are what entice me initially – I think the storyline is a fairly organic process; that ideas create yet more ideas to link in as the story progresses, but the initial characters are the bones on which to build the story for me. The thing that always draws me to pretty much anything is passion, and the people who most impress me in life are passionate people – agree with their view or not, you simply can’t ignore or disregard passionate people! I am incredibly passionate about my characters, and my story – something deep I have a burning need to tell.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Losing myself in the characters. Believing in them, visualising their look, speech, mannerisms, thoughts, feelings, observations and assessments – their very existence – becoming them. Believing in them has to be the end result. If the writer doesn’t believe in his characters, then he has no right to expect that his readers will.

What did you research the most while writing this book?

There was so much to research. I deliberately set the book in America so I had to research everything from the dates of events I referenced, to trees I described. The Vietnam war has a wealth of information (and disinformation) written about it, and I often found myself spending huge amounts of time researching as I became engrossed in the history of events, only to use one small incident within my story. I have travelled extensively in the U.S. and my experiences there, and my observations of American life, provided a wealth of material for me to use within DUST – to build both the descriptive elements and the characters.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I was a Detective Sergeant in The Metropolitan Police. Before that I was a ‘stringer’ for a provincial newspaper with ambitions to become either a foreign correspondent, or a music journalist – I wrote some test reviews for the N.M.E. which were well-received but then I changed path. Life sometimes doesn’t take you on the path you had mapped out…

For those who have not discovered your novel, how you describe it to them to get them interested?

Imagine ten year old boys who swear and curse, drink black coffee and smoke cigarettes, who cause arson, witness murder, think of sex, dream of road trips and the Pacific Ocean, and who hold views more grown up about the Vietnam war and racial discrimination than their parents ever dreamed.’

What’s a typical writing day like for you?

Writing days are lost days – I start with coffee, and a re-read of my last few paragraphs – sometimes a few pages, then I’m down with the characters, and I become the narrator, the story-teller, and before I know it, hours have passed. Where there are areas I have to research, then that research can lead to hours of fascination and discovery – and before I know it, it’s time to watch the evening news.

Who’s your favourite character arc of all time, fiction/or onscreen and why?

Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. He starts as an aloof and uncommitted figure, damaged by a broken relationship, who then faces an unexpected opening of deep wounds. Despite his apparent bitterness as the story progresses he reveals himself to be an incredibly committed person, and a man of great compassion.

What do you think makes the best character arc?

That’s a tricky one. Sometimes simply the fact that a character remains steadfast, despite facing harder questions to answer about him or herself is a fabulous proposition, as is the evolution of a character from good to bad, or vice versa. I recently read American Rust by Philipp Meyer (a fabulous recommendation from Anna Burtt, my editor) – the character arc of Isaac English from frustrated academic to killer and hobo survivor is fascinating, and beautifully crafted.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Yes, I have two novels on the go – one set in the USA and a crime novel set in London. They are both character-based – for me, the character is often the story.

What is the theme or take home message of your book?

Don’t underestimate the understanding and depth of ten, eleven and twelve year old kids. They may just surprise you, and teach you a thing or two about insight and values. Adults often see things as murky and ill-defined. Children often possess a clarity that is dulled as we age, and we forget or disregard what we once knew as truth.

Thank you for your time.     

Thank you for having me.

Blog/Website: http://www.markthompsonwrites.com

Twitter: @MarktWrites

Facebook Author Page: Mark Thompson Author

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Thompson/e/B01HZCVD9M/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dust-Mark-Thompson/dp/1910453226

WIN one of 3 copies of Dust tweet #WIN #DUST or enter your details in the form below.  Competition ends 25th August at 12 midday.

Dust Cover


Enter Here



Anne loves writing, reading fiction and is a Mum of two. Get updates and tweets from Anne on Twitter at @BooksNAuthorsUK and her author Twitter page at @AnneJohnLigali Q & A’s, author profiles, blog series, giveaways, reviews, stories, daily tweets, Facebook updates and book news.

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