In the Shadow They Cast by Paul Graham | Magazine | Crime | Interviews
In the Shadow They Cast by Paul Graham

By Paul Graham

I started with curiosity. I had written some very short stories before and wanted to know if I could write something longer. Could I develop it fully? Six years later the result is In The Shadow They Cast.

In one of my early stories some people find themselves in a strange situation. After reading it someone asked me “but how did they get into that situation in the first place?” It was a fair question, and I asked myself the same about my embryonic novel. Why were the events happening? What caused the events to unfold as they did?

The biggest problem was credibility: would a person simply act like that or was it cumulative? An innate characteristic or a slow change brought about by circumstances and experiences? In the latter case I needed enough events to provoke the required response. I spent a long time inventing backgrounds for the characters. Sometimes they didn’t make sense and had to be discarded. Even if not, the reaction of the character after an incident had to be realistic within the character and the plot.

Profile photo of author Paul Graham wearing a yellow shirt and glasses

I am not a fan of the big reveal where a few chapters before the end the reader is presented with the previously lacking information and is thus persuaded that the great detective was in fact right all along, even if he didn’t know it. Therefore, I started filling in details, but I found that I was explaining things, effectively setting out a list of facts. The approach had two disadvantages. It was boring to read and more importantly left no room for the reader, so I had to adjust the way I was providing information. Rather than say “he had a row with his boss”, I wrote the row scene, leaving the reader to decide how the character would have felt afterwards. As the novel developed I became increasingly aware of the size of the task I had set myself, and that it was not enough to produce little vignettes, they had to be links in a chain, forming part of a whole and leading the reader to draw conclusions and having a cumulative effect. Sometimes I could not find a way of linking scenes. Other times when I reread them they made no sense and had to be discarded. On occasions there were problems I could not solve which led to me stopping writing. I chose not to think of it as giving up. but there were some significant gaps between writing one chapter and writing the next.

One of the solutions to barren periods was to skip about. When I had an idea that fitted into the chapter I was writing last week or last month, I went back and inserted it, not worrying about what I was in theory writing in the current week. The approach brought with it some difficulties. I knew that what I had written was right, but it didn’t read well. In many cases the paragraphs were in the wrong order. Although changing the order did not materially  affect the sense it made a significant difference to the flow of the text. There were other times when my solutions were implausible. At those times I sat and thought, or stopped and got depressed – sometimes for days on end, sometimes longer, sometimes just overnight.

Characters, once they have taken form, seem to develop a life of their own. They refuse to do things that I might want them to do  because it’s out-of-character. All the more so once they have a name. “He walked down the road to the baker’s” is very different from “Albert King walked down the road to the baker’s”.

And then a very important character almost played the role of Wonder Woman, she seemed capable of anything and everything. In the end that would have stretched the reader’s credulity too far, she seemed ridiculous. I had to go back and stop her doing things that were impossible or incredible and then enhance the role of someone else because the reader still needed the information.

Then there are the mistakes. Early on in the writing process mistakes are relatively easy to fix. The nearer I got to the finished book the more complicated they became. That character cannot say or do that because they are lacking a key piece of information, therefore the information has to be provided earlier or even inserted, which can call for a new scene or a new character. I also found that there was one character, a key personality, on whom I depended too heavily. The role I had assigned was simply incredible, so another character had to be given a bigger role.

The final problem was hypercorrection. Very late on in the writing process I fixed an error which wasn’t an error at all. Therefore there is something which I had got right originally but which is now wrong…

(c) Paul Graham

About In the Shadow They Cast:

In the Shadow They Cast, a book by Paul Graham featuring an individual walking in a dark wooded scene

In the murky world that surrounds the Vignone family, not everyone is quite what they appear to be

Paolo Vignone, after surviving an impoverished and loveless childhood, has carved out a new life for himself by building a thriving, if morally dubious, business empire. His ruthless, controlling attitude to those closest to him has created distance, distrust and hostility. Then chance brings together two of Paolo’s own kin, and the chain of events that follows leads to horrifying and murderous consequences.

Order your copy of In The Shadow They Cast online here.

About the author

After graduating in Spanish he spent some time working in the book trade. He then moved on to IT and worked in computing, mostly as a programmer, for 30 years. After being made redundant, he changed career path again and started teaching English as a foreign language on line. He dedicated the extra free time to writing. In The Shadow They Cast is his first novel.

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