When Birmingham football club Kingsbarr United are relegated from the English Premier League they are seemingly rescued by a mysterious new manager from Transylvania, Professor Cezar Prodanescu and his stable of young superstars – who also happen to be a nest of vampires! Once darkness falls and the floodlights glow, their powers enable United to win games by incredible margins. Buried nearby is the world’s first vampire and Cezar’s plan is to resurrect a clone from the extracted DNA of his ancient bones. But Cezar did not legislate for falling in love with human girl, Lily, or for acquiring such admiration for team captain and local hero Johnny Knox and United’s other human footballers. But as Cezar struggles with his emotions and attempts to shield his identity as a master vampire, his finest example, star striker Andrei is eager to keep things on course. But will the cloning of the world’s first vampire materialise? Will Cezar lead United back to Premiership glory? Does Cezar hold any answers for the disappearance of Johnny’s long lost son? And when the evil Andrei takes a shine to Johnny’s teenage daughter, a dramatic showdown ensues in a desperate bid to rescue her – and the entire human race.
As an introduction, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I first gained some recognition for writing at primary school and won a couple of national competitions at that early age, but as I got older music was my first love and my initial literary output was songs. I had some success playing in bands including supporting the Fine Young Cannibals and a song I wrote and co-performed titled Raging Bull can be heard on Old Gold Anthems-The songs of Wolves FC. This probably gives you a clue about my personal interests which are football (mainly in the shape of Wolverhampton Wanderers) and music (usually in the form of The Beatles). I love being creative with words so once I got to a certain age I decided to extend my literary output to writing novels and my book Beneath The Floodlights obviously includes a strong element of football . I live in Birmingham, UK - a key player of the Industrial Revolution and I am proud to be a "Brummie".
What is your book about?
It marries the world of vampires with the world of football, two things that interest me a lot but two worlds I suspect that most people would not usually place together. It also explores the struggle of good vs evil which is acutely demonstrated in Professor Cezar Prodanescu's love for a human girl named Lily. Cezar is a Professor in both football and genetics. He is also a master vampire and his masterplan is to resurrect the corpse of the world's first vampire and clone his ancient bones which are lying in an unmarked grave in Sutton Park (a fascinating, extensive piece of rural land rich in royal and roman history deceptively situated in Birmingham). Cezar recruits vampires in the traditional way i.e. by drinking the blood of his victims, but if he is successful in cloning the world's first vampire then he can make vampires the most dominant species on Earth. The problem is he didn't account for falling in love with Lily or for becoming fond of the human footballers of Kingsbarr United. His choice of football club to manage and to introduce his stable of footballing superstars are conveniently in earshot of Sutton Park, in fact the team train there.
When and why did you begin writing?
As I have stated my first taste of literary success was when I was just seven years old as a pupil at Hawthorn Road Primary School. The school entered my story into a competition – the theme being road safety, and my story about a magic ice cream van that helped children across the road won first prize resulting in me as a young curly-haired scriber appearing in the local press. A couple of years later the school entered a second story of mine into a separate competition, this time the story needed to reflect the dangers of children playing on building sites. My story scooped top prize once again and I was rewarded with a T-Shirt depicting a monstrous caricature of a mechanical digger with the slogan “Building Sites Bite.” These early literary successes allowed me to believe that playing with words was something I could be quite good at and although in truth I didn't take school too seriously I did enjoy English. My first love was music though and for a long time I was convinced that my career would always lie in music, but these days I am really enjoying the journey when writing novels.
What genre do you prefer to write in?
I have declared that I like to specialise in the supernatural which to me should have the broad scope to include vampires, werewolves, monsters, ghosts, telekinesis or anything else that could fall under this very broad genre. However, I believe that all authors should have the freedom to write about any given subject if they get a passion and inspiration for it. I don't mind being labelled a "horror writer" for example but I am happy for the reader to define what genre my books could fit into. As I tend to include a lot of various themes and layers in my writing I am sure that my work must touch on a variety of genres and I prefer to write without the pressure of being rigidly genre specific. When you look at Beneath the Floodlights it appeals to lovers of vampires but would also appeal to lovers of soccer.
What is your biggest writing achievement to date?
You must mean apart from being interviewed by Rachael H. Dixon.
I guess just the fact that I have had my first novel published but I also have had a short story published in Words magazine, a condensed version of my yet to be published novel Divine Inspiration. I am pleased that my songwriting secured me a place on a recognised album and a chance to play with a bonafide pop group in the form of The Fine Young Cannibals (my song Saturn Rising won a BBC Radio competition to secure the gig). The after gig drinking session was quite an achievement in iself as well actually!
What inspired you to write this book?
I love football and I love vampires and as I have this wacky imagination it made sense to me to bring the two worlds together. I was intrigued to follow my idea through its journey to see how the two worlds could interact with one another. To be honest, being a Wolves fan (Wolves is the nickname for Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for those not familiar with English football) I initially thought about introducing werewolves into a football club but I felt this could be restrictive as traditionally werewolves only come out at a full moon and I felt that vampires offered more scope to drive the story. From a vampire perspective I was inspired more by movies than books, I particularly like "From Dusk till Dawn", "The Lost Boys" and of course "Dracula". I have always been creative with words which initially manifested as song lyrics but as I got older I really fancied stretching myself by writing a novel.
Who is your favourite author, and what is it about their work that strikes a chord with you?
Can I cheat and name more than one author please? Its just that I like different authors for different reasons.
Peter James is most definitely one of my favourite authors. I like the Roy Grace crime novels as well as Peter's supernatural work. The fact that Peter is open minded about the supernatural I feel allows his novels to explore such themes and he even manages to give these elements a sense of credibility for those cynics amongst us, in particular his exploration of mediums.
Peter is also very good at laying out his books in the style of a "page turner" and I don't ever want to put his books down once I start reading them. But I have to say that the master of the "page turner" is most definitely Dan Brown of "The Da Vinci Code" fame. The success of "The Da Vinci Code" was one major reason why I felt inspired to seriously begin to write novels.
For quirkiness and amazing imagination I rate the Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The fact that he named a book Norwegian Wood, in sync with one of my favourite Beatles' songs helps too.
For horror books I don't believe there is anyone better than Richard Laymon and I urge everyone to read The Traveling Vampire Show.
I also like Martina Cole for her honest and realistic approach to her writing - "telling it like it is."
What book are you reading now, and would you recommend it?
I am currently reading Hound Dog by Richard Blandford. It tells the story of a psychopathic Elvis impersonator who actually hates Elvis! The character discovered whilst he was in prison that it kept the heavies off his back if he could do a few Elvis numbers because unlike him they all loved the King! I would definitely recommend it because of its comedy appeal, I have found myself laughing out loud a few times, and it is one of those books that I haven't wanted to put down. I must point out however that it is very adult orientated and not for those who are easily shocked by language or sexual references. It isn't for those who would be offended by jibes at Elvis either!
What are your current projects?
I'm currently working on a novel called Mind Guerrilla. It is a crime thriller with spaghetti western overtones and a supernatural twist. The heroes of the book are a couple of detectives from West Midlands CID. The book explores many layers including serial killers, religious cults, football hooliganism and telekenesis/mind control and by weaving all of these ingredients together I hope I am going to produce a very appetising novel. Having lots of different things going on is typical of my imagination and approach to writing and I hope the finished product will keep the reader entertained, engaged and surprised. I am pleased with the way the plot is progressing but obviously don't want to give too much away at this stage.
I actually have a full novel written entitled Divine Inspiration which is set in the Peak District and is a spooky traditional haunted house story, I'm sure that it would appeal to readers of The Woman in Black . The plot centres largely around a rock star who is no longer enjoying the success as a solo artist that he once enjoyed in his band. Could the house and its spooky elements perhaps inspire him to resurrect his career once again? I will release this novel one day but I aim to give it a final polish beforehand so watch this space.
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
In my home I am the only natural early riser and my imagination is always at its most fluid in the morning, I am blessed, or cursed, to automatically produce a fountain of ideas at this time of day. Therefore I mainly try and write Saturday and Sunday mornings before the rest of the household decide to greet the day.
What would you say was the hardest part of writing your book?
I've never been to Romania or Transylvania so I couldn't inject my own personal experience into writing about the parts of the book that feature in the Fagaras Mountains or the Black Sea coast for example. I had to piece together internet research with my own experiences of holidays in other parts of Europe and perhaps allow a little bit if literary licence. I'm not too concerned as I understand that Bram Stoker the creator of Dracula never visited Transylvania either!
Who designed your book cover – and was the cover something you deemed important?
I think a book cover is important as it can draw readers to the book before they even know what it is about, whether it is displayed on instore book shelves or even as an ebook. I knew that I wanted to get over the point that my book was about football and vampires. My skills as an artist or graphic designer leave a lot to be desired so I knew I would be relying on help from elsewhere. In saying that I was able to offer complete direction for my cover. My publisher allowed me to look at a huge gallery of photographs and pictures and I personally chose two pictures that suited well, one of a football in a spotlight and one of a colony of flying bats so I asked the book designers to merge the two pictures and I must say I am delighted with the result.
Did you try to go down the route of traditional publishing first – or did you feel that self-publishing was right for you from the beginning?
I did try and go down the traditional route of publishing by sending my manuscript to both publishers and agents. I did have an agent for a while who contracted me on the strength of my Beneath the Floodlights manuscript. The agent couldn't place me traditionally and I was told by him that the feedback from the traditional publishers was that although the story was strong I lacked a substantial literary profile i.e. no-one had ever heard of me in the literary world! I therefore decided to self-publish as I simply wanted the book to be out there and available, albeit it I knew that I wouldn't have the luxury of a publisher pushing and marketing the novel. Unfortunately I had to make a very tough decision and split with my agent for reasons that shall remain private but I know it was the right decision.
On the whole, how have you found self-publishing?
I can't deny that I wouldn't still like to have the strength of a publisher marketing me and pushing all the right buttons in important areas. To market yourself as a self-publisher is very time consuming and at times can seem like a huge effort for very little gain. On a positive angle I really like the freedom of writing how I want to write without having to fit into a "flavour of the month" or certain category that a traditional publisher may demand. I feel I have the freedom to take my novels anywhere I choose without the fear of an editor censoring or changing aspects that I feel are key. Writers should not have to write wearing shackles!
Where can we buy the book?
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstone's and other websites are stocking it too. I would also be happy to supply a signed copy from my personal stock if anyone was interested - I can be contacted via my website for this or on my email address email@example.com.
For any readers situated in the Heart of England, I will be signing and selling copies of Beneath the Floodlights in Waterstone's, Walsall on 1st September 2012 between 11.00am and 15.00pm.
Do you have a website or blog where we can keep tabs on you?
Follow me on twitter @MartinTracey1
and I have facebook pages for Beneath The Floodlights and a Martin Tracey Author page.
I could do with some more "likes" please.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
It might sound a bit cheesy but don't give up and follow your dream no matter how disheartening the journey can sometimes become. Remember what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and always try to find a positive from a negative experience.
And, finally, do you have anything else that you’d like to say to everyone?
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and who has purchased or simply read Beneath the Floodlights. I hope that Mind Guerrilla and my future work brings you some pleasure and entertainment too. I would love to hear from anyone in connection with my work, the supernatural, football or anything at all really and I can be contacted via my website or other electronic avenues including directly on my email address of firstname.lastname@example.org