Just over three years ago, my very good friend Benedict J Jones approached me with an offer to co-write some stories with him based on the exploits of a secret government organisation during World War Two whose remit was to investigate and combat the occult machinations of the Axis powers. I, of course, leapt at the chance. We’d already collaborated on the Dark Frontiers series of horror western novellas and know each other’s writing inside out, it was a real no-brainer for me.
So we began writing. As usual, Ben already had a huge array of characters ready formed to throw into action along with tons of background information on the organisation he had called Damocles. Using that as my starting point I launched myself into the writing, creating my own characters (and appropriating one I’d already used in some short stories).
It was soon after we’d started writing that the idea came to create an overarching storyline and present the stories as a novel with a fractured narrative rather than a straightforward collection. Which only made the project more exciting as far as I was concerned. And more of a challenge, it has to be said. There was a degree of retro-fitting going on once the stories were finished and one story in particular was re-written four times to adapt to the evolving narrative.
I loved every moment of it. I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed a writing process as much as I have creating The Damocles Files. The solitary nature of writing appeals to my hermit-in-training lifestyle and outlook on life but the whole process of co-authoring was amazing, with ideas sparking back and forth between us and, I have to admit, generating a sense of competition - seeing who could come up with the next plot twist or development in the narrative.
On the whole, we would write the individual stories on our own but on a couple of occasions we co-wrote a story. Most notably we did this for the novella that concludes the novel which has four different timelines running simultaneously. From what began as an idea for a collection of shorts, a 110,000 word epic has emerged and I couldn’t be prouder of the final product. I think it contains some of Ben’s best writing (and one of his darkest, most compelling characters), and I’m really pleased with what I contributed too.
The history has been meticulously researched and a number of real life events (and people) are featured in the storyline. It’s an unabashedly pulp novel full of derring-do, grand heroic gestures and noble sacrifice. It also has werewolves, undead Vikings, ancient mariners and ghost ships. There are twenty two stories in total, plus an epilogue, which range in length from a few hundred words to the aforementioned novella and cover the entirety (almost) of the war.
The artwork which graces the cover of the book is provided by Peter Frain of 77Studios, the creative genius responsible for (amongst many others) the covers of the Dark Minds novellas. His idea knocked the hugely unimaginative ones I’d had into a cocked hat and what he’s come up with is a perfect encapsulation of the feel of the book. The nods towards the design of a famous comic are done with love and respect as well as a huge amount of skill.
The novel will be available this summer. By way of whetting people’s appetites, and introducing Damocles and some of its employees, we decided to write a short story which we’d make available prior to release. As these things do, the short story became an 18,000 word novella… Wings in the Darkness is an expansion of one of the stories in the novel and will be released on May 21st. It’s available for pre-order now at the bargain price of 99p.
I loved working on The Damocles Files and hope the end product is as enjoyable to read as it was to write. And yes, this is Volume One – we’re 80,000 words into Volume Two which follows the same format but focuses on an entirely different theatre of the war. There'll be standalone short stories and novellas to come too. Exciting times!