Nick Setchfield is a journalist who specialises in genre matters. His work includes writing for the BBC and as a scriptwriter for ITV’s Spitting Image. The Spider Dance is a sequel to his first novel The War in the Dark. We caught up with him to find out more…
STARBURST: So what is The Spider Dance about?
Nick Setchfield: It’s the next adventure for supernaturally-inclined British Intelligence agent Christopher Winter. This time he’s mixed up with the stolen hearts of the undead, unholy criminal empires and a contract for a kill that demands a very strange bullet indeed. It’s a quest that spans the stranger corners of London, Budapest, Venice, Normandy, and Naples and the map certainly gets spattered with blood along the way.
And how would you pitch that to someone who is about to jump out of a plane?
The Day of the Jackal – with vampires. I’m assuming they have a parachute? Don’t want to lose a potential sale here.
Where did the idea for the Shadowless come from?
I wanted to refresh the vampire myth. Keep the essential glamour and horror of the creature but create a breed of vampire that would slot into a ‘60s-set spy thriller. The Shadowless are ruthless, rich, immaculate and organised – the Mafia with an ungodly thirst for blood. They’re also considerably harder to kill than traditional vampires, which makes them even more of a challenge for Winter. I do like to keep him on his toes.
Which character is the most fun to write?
Libby Cracknell, who’s the new SIS agent I introduce in this book. She represents the next wave of the ‘60s, the new generation about to reshape Britain – I picture her as a weaponised Twiggy. She has a taste for speed and I liked her cheek, courage and weakness for vinegar-soaked chips.
Which character seriously needs to have word with themselves?
Cesare Zerbinati. He’s an absolute bastard – but if he wasn’t, I wouldn’t have a villain, so perhaps he shouldn’t have too much of a word with himself. Maybe a brief, not entirely committed tut.
If The Spider Dance had to be set in another world, what world would you choose? How would it change the story?
I couldn’t tell this story in any other world, I’m afraid! It’s absolutely anchored in the Europe of 1965 and part of the challenge of writing the book was capturing the texture of the times, the atmosphere of the cities that Winter finds himself in. I love putting places on the page. It’s the frustrated travel writer in me, clearly.
Is the genre world friendlier these days?
I’ve never really known it to be unfriendly – I’ve made so many brilliant friendships through the things I love. I do worry it’s all becoming horribly polarised. But hey, 2019 all round.
Always loved them. I was given the Thomas Salter Spy Kit for my seventh birthday and from its codebreaker wheel to bundles of counterfeit currency it’s still the most thrilling present I’ve ever received. And spies fit tremendously well into an occult story. It’s all about secrets and shadows, isn’t it?
How does magic change a society?
Society will never know. And neither will you.
Which writers inspire you?
Ray Bradbury’s probably my favourite writer, for the poetry of his prose and the big, beating heart behind his stories. Joan Aiken’s another wonderful stylist and fantasist. Ian Fleming’s an obvious influence – all spy writers walk in his shadow to some degree – but I’m equally inspired by movies -Hitchcock, Spielberg – and music – Bowie, John Barry. Multi-sensory inspiration is where it’s at – anything that triggers the imagination.
What tropes do you personally avoid the most?
I think all tropes are there to be embraced, subverted, gently mocked, punched in the teeth, dyed a peculiar shade or otherwise twisted inside out until they become something new again.
How would you describe your process?
Getting punched back by tropes.
The Spider Dance will be published on July 16th, and it reviewed here. The War in the Dark is out now.