The back cover blurb of Killing God reads as follows:
Dawn Bundy is fifteen. She doesn’t fit in and she couldn’t care less. Dawn has other things on her mind. Her dad disappeared two years ago and it’s all God’s fault.Killing God is gripping and as gritty as it is powerful. The writing is tight yet fluid and is woven through with punk rock lyrics. The voice is so compelling that you find yourself living in Dawn Bundy’s head – and her heart.
When Dawn’s dad found God, it was the worst time ever. He thought he’d found the answer to everything.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
This thought-provoking story raises multiple questions and explores multiple emotions. It is dark and it is sad, but it is also about love and forgiveness. I don’t think there are many young adult writers who are as able to inhabit a teen landscape as fully as Kevin Brooks does, he is totally in touch with his readership, their feelings and their world. He doesn’t talk down to to his readers and he doesn’t offer them false hope – he just tells it like it is. As the book's title suggests, he is also not afraid to tackle any subject.
Killing God is an intelligent read and one hell of a story, and Kevin Brooks is at the top of his game as both a writer and an artist.
Dad was smiling too.
And he had a Bible in his hand.
And his eyes...
God, his eyes.
It was terrifying.
An interview with Kevin Brooks:
You don’t shy away from dealing with gritty themes in all your novels but in Killing God you deal with what is probably a particularly controversial theme for many, namely, religion. What prompted or inspired you to write this story? And were there specific questions you wanted to explore and why?
There were three main inspirations behind Killing God. Firstly, I wanted to write a story about the main character, Dawn Bundy, who I'd had in mind for a long time. Secondly, I wanted to explore what happens when a fundamentally good person does something unforgiveable – ie, how does that affect the rest of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. And thirdly, I wanted to examine some of the very basic questions about religion - ie what is it for, what does it do, how does it change people.
In Dawn Bundy (the main character of Killing God) you’ve created a particularly compelling and powerful voice. What intrigues me is how you are able to get inside the head of a 15 year old girl so effectively and completely. How do you do it? And where does the inspiration for the character come from?
I think it's simply a matter of getting to know the essence of the character in your head – what they think about, how they feel, what they are. Once you've done that, it doesn't really matter whether they're a boy or a girl, man or woman, old or young ... they're just a person.
As to the inspiration? Well, to be honest, I've no idea where any of my characters come from or what inspires them – they just seem to evolve in my mind.
You’ve drawn heavily on music in Killing God – to what extent does music influence how your write?
I spent a lot of my life writing and recording songs, and although songs are very different to novels, the fundamental processes involved in creating them are actually very similar. In my writing, for example, I'm always very aware of aspects that are probably more associated with music than fiction – ie, rhythm, melody, progressive themes, etc – and I owe my awareness of these aspects to my previous experience with music.
It’s been said that some of your “bad” characters are particularly dark yet I’ve found that you frequently balance this with love and caring in your books – for example, Dawn’s relationship with her mother and her dogs – and even bad-ass Mel. Do you set out to do this deliberately or do you find you’re simply portraying life as you see it? Or do you perhaps see a need to create a balance between the “bad” guys and others.
Bad people aren't necessarily all bad, and good people aren't always 100% good, and I simply like to reflect this in my books.
I found Killing God to be novel that I read not only as a story but also one which I viewed as a work of art. Do you see yourself as a storyteller, a writer, an artist or a combination of all three?
I've spent almost all my life working as either a musician, a painter, or a writer (to varying degrees of success!), and – to me – all artistic processes are just variations on the fundamental idea of expressing yourself creatively. So if I do 'see' myself as anything (which I'm not sure I do!) I suppose it would be as an artist ... if that's not too pompous a thing to say!
Some have said that your novels are not suitable for teens given the dark reality of your work, but the on the flip side others would say you portray the truth of the reality that is out there and which others often sanitize. How do you respond to these views?
I've never met a teenager who has any problems whatsoever with any of the themes in my books. Young people are astonishingly wise and open-minded, and I simply don't worry at all about whether my books are 'suitable' for them or not.
You’ve said you don’t do happy endings, yet your endings are not necessarily sad ones either. Your books just end – generally leaving the reader with multiple questions. Is this deliberate or again, do you feel it’s more of an honest reflection of how life really is?
A bit of both, really. I don't like books in which everything is wrapped up and explained at the end, as this tends to prevent the story from living on in your mind – which, to me, is what a story should do ... and what I hope my stories will do. And, yes, because I try to write honestly about life, I think I'd find it very uncomfortable to end my books in a manner that, to me, would feel somewhat artificial.
You studied philosophy and this comes through quite strongly in the style of your books – you pose many questions, usually “big life” questions – are you searching for answers or just asking – and, as such, are you asking your readers to consider the same kinds of questions and come to their own conclusions?
No, I'm definitely not looking for answers. Mainly because most of the 'big' questions don't have any answers (which is why they're big), but also because it's more enlightening to look at the questions than to blindly look for the answers. I'm quite happy for my readers to consider the questions if they want to – but I'm just as happy if they simply want to enjoy the story. It's entirely up to them.
What would you say influences and informs your writing style and your choice of themes?
Absolutely everything and anything.
It often strikes me that you seem to set out to break new ground in teen fiction, to go where many of your peers don’t go – would that be a fair assessment and if so, what do you want to achieve?
Well, I don't consciously set out to break new ground, I just write what I want to write. And if that results in a bit of ground-breaking, that's fine with me. I suppose all I ever want to achieve is to write the best possible story I can.
You write in the first person voice – very effectively – yet I’ve been told by editors that writing in the first person voice is the “easy way out” – how do you feel about that and why do you choose to write in the first person?
Firstly, I just like first person narratives. I like the intimacy and the relationship that develops between narrator and reader. And, secondly, it's really important to me to get into the hearts and minds of my characters, to find that voice, and I find that a first person narrative is the best way to achieve this, particularly with teenage characters. As to it being an 'easy way out' ... well, that's news to me! In many respects it's actually a lot harder.
You have both myspace and bebo accounts which put directly in touch with your teen readers. How important is it to you to have that contact and do you find their comments and views inform what and how you write?
Yes, it's really important to me to have direct (and honest) contact with my readers – it makes the entire process of writing a novel complete. I think, however, that it would be dangerous for a writer to be overly influenced by the views of his/her readers – a writer has to have faith in themselves and what they write.
You’ve written 12 books in the past eight to ten years – that’s prolific output. How long does it take you, on average, to write a new novel – and how do you sustain your output?
Discounting the thinking time (which can be anything between 12ish months and 20ish years) the actual writing of a book usually takes me about a year. I sustain this by simply sitting down at my desk every day and writing.
Of all the books you’ve written, which is your personal favourite and why?
My books are kind of like my children, and we all know that parents aren't allowed to have favourite children
I’ve noticed that certain successful writers seem to almost bypass the editorial process. What is your view on that and what role do your editors play in bringing your work to the finished product.
My editor plays an extremely important role in creating the finished book – all editors should. That's what they're there for – to help make the book better. And that's what they do. It's hard for the writer sometimes, because deleting/changing/amending anything is always a kind of tacit admission that you did it wrong in the first place. But once you've learned to accept that you're not always a 100% error-proof genius, and that sometimes your editor knows better than you, it's really not so bad. The book is the only thing that matters, and whatever makes it better has to be embraced.
I’ve heard that you’re working on something new – can you tell us about it?
No, sorry! It's a secret.
This blog is frequented by many writers – some published and others still seeking publication – what advice do you have for new and aspiring authors and how long did it take you to first get published?
I started writing when I was five years old, and I didn't get published until I was forty. So it took me a while. And, as such, I've been an aspiring author for a lot longer than I've been a published author, so I know exactly what it's like.
Advice? It's really tricky, because there aren't really any short cuts or pearls of wisdom that can help. You simply have to keep doing it – write, write, write, write – and keep sending your stuff out to everybody and anybody, and – most importantly – never give up. The ones who don't make it are the ones who give up.
Many thanks to Kevin for agreeing to this interview.
And as to the rest of you - if you haven't done so already, read Killing God, I've no doubt it is destined to become a bestseller.