NIGHTSHADE by Dr. Stuart Knott

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Who is Nightshade?

That’s the question that has gripped the townsfolk of Westbridge, a perilous borough in the Midlands beset by knife crime, drugs, and violence.

Who is Nightshade?

That’s the question that has dogged Blake Harte, a sadistic thug and co-founder of the Cougars, the most violent and dangerous gang in Westbridge’s history.

Who is Nightshade?

That’s the question that has tormented Chris Hauser, a troubled teenager pushed to the edge and lashing out with uncharacteristic aggression.

Who is Nightshade?
A teen pushed to the edge. A town on the brink. Both about to change forever. A life-changing event leads Chris Hauser to adopt a vigilante persona and sets him on a collision course with anarchy.

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Dr. Stuart Knott is a lifelong fan of horror, science-fiction, and action films, he has spent much of his free time between working and studying writing stories of varying length and quality. Having completed his PhD, he now applies his skills to critiquing the media he loves so much and has been branching out into self-publishing his stories through Amazon. 
Much of his writing comes from his own sordid imagination or is inspired heavily by his life and the people and events he has encountered and witnessed. At its core, his writing seeks to take the normal, everyday, and the mundane and introduce a fantastical element to it, be it horrific or dangerous, and focuses on dark humor and character-building.

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What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or fewer words, what would you say? 
It’s titled Nightshade: The Inception. It’s a thriller, something of a coming-of-age tale, in which a troubled teenager adopts a vigilante persona. 

Is the above book part of a series? 
It’s not, no, though all of my works are tangentially related in some ways. 

How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book(s)? 
I made it myself using a website called Canva. It’s a really good, user-friendly website for creating banners and logos and book covers and has some great options on there for independent authors like myself who can’t necessarily afford to pay for a cover to be created. 

I came up with it through wanting to use a simple, central image to kind of define one of the themes of the book: anarchy. I wanted something simple but also quite memorable and striking and I’m really happy with how it turned out. 

Did you listen to any particular songs while writing your book(s)? 
Absolutely, yes. I always have a few songs on the go when I’m writing, if not an entire playlist, but Nightshade: The Inception was started way back in about 2004-ish, when my love for nu-metal was really starting to blossom, so I listened to a lot of songs by bands like Linkin Park, Adema, and Disturbed.   As I edited and finalised the book, though, I was listening to Cold, Five Finger Death Punch, and Breaking Benjamin and basically anything that conjured up the feelings I was trying to evoke in the book. I actually put together a playlist on YouTube if people are interested: 

How did you come up with the title for your book(s)? 
The title actually has been pretty consistent over the years. It began really basic as Project: Mask and then, once I settled on the character’s vigilante persona, I knew that “Nightshade” had to be front and centre. When I started to finalise it for publication, I added the “The Inception” subtitle to indicate that it was the origin/beginnings of this character and to naturally leave the door open for potential follow-ups. 

Do you have a book trailer? If so, where can we watch it? 
I do, actually, yes. I cobbled it together on a website called Biteable and it can be viewed here: 

In your latest novel, who is the lead character and can you tell us a little about him/her? 
So my main character is Christian “Chris” Hauser, a nineteen-year-old boy who live sin the fictional town of Westbridge in the United Kingdom. He’s very much based on me at that age; generally a sarcastic and insightful character, his personality has shifted into uncharacteristic glumness and angst following a difficult break-up. Usually the cool-headed one, he lets his emotions overwhelm him and these drive him towards a somewhat self-destructive and violent path. He struggles a lot to reconcile these emotions, distancing himself from friends and family somewhat, and has quite an in-depth internal dialogue where he tries to come to terms with the impact his actions have on those around him. 

What is your character’s greatest strengths? 
His loyalty to his friends and family, for one, and his willingness to set aside his own issues and problems for others. What’s more paramount though is how selfless the character often is; even though his actions are often out of anger or selfish motivations, he always tries to do the right thing and I think that’s very important to his growth in the book. 

And what are his/her greatest weaknesses? 
He’s far too sensitive for his own good, for one thing. He’s also young; while he might see things differently and have a logical head on his shoulders compared to his friends, he’s still a teenager and hasn’t yet realised how things can be sometimes so he has a steep learning curve in the book. What are some of his/her favorite foods?
He’s based on me so he loves a greasy cheeseburger and big, chunk chips/fries.  

What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?
He doesn’t realise how much of a positive impact he has on people; he just kind of sees himself as “there” and not as a pivotal element in his friendship circle or even in the town once he starts going out in a mask and such. Things very quickly spiral out of control for him, which makes things a bit intense and scary for him, but he goes largely unaware of how much his actions affect the criminal element of Westbridge until probably the very end of the book. 

Will readers like or dislike this character, and why? 
I hope they do like him. He’s meant to be flawed and vulnerable and sympathetic; he routinely chastises himself and his actions so even if he does something wrong it’s not really from a place of malice. I try to make him layered and complex so that he could be someone you know and surround him with characters who don’t have quite the same balance of emotion and logic as he does so he appears more grounded even when he’s losing control.  

What first gave you the idea for your latest book? 
A very similar event happened to me that Chris goes through; I had a rough break-up and turned those feelings inwardly in destructive ways and writing was a good way of coming to terms with those conflicting feelings. I also read a lot of comic books and watch a lot of superhero movies and one big influence on my book was the film adaptation of The Crow, a fantastically dark and gritty urban story. As the years went by the likes of Kick-Ass and Super came out and I was excited at how similar they were in their premise to my book, so they may have influenced me later in the edits. 

What is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter? 
“Pantster”? I like that! But no, I’m definitely a “plotter”. I get the germ of an idea, jot out the basic premise, then map out the main characters a bit before deciding on how the story will go and then, once I have a rough idea of the chapters, I start to break down what’s going to happen and when and let it evolve from there. 

Have you come across any specific challenges in writing or publishing? What would you do differently the next time?
So many when trying to publish! First of all there’s the fact that it is incredibly hard to get published traditionally as literary agents and publishers either just ignore you or aren’t interested. It wouldn’t be so bad if you were given some feedback but you rarely are and, if you do get feedback, it’s either very general or it’s a lot of different criteria that fundamentally change your work. 

Also there’s the threat of so-called “vanity publishers”, who try to woo you with praise and promises to publish your work and then ask for thousands of pounds/dollars with no guarantee of your work actually being published or successful. The marketing, too, can be very difficult; if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that “likes” and followers don’t equate to sales or reviews so you really have to be bold and network and put yourself out there constantly to get your work seen. 

Are you a self-published/Indie author or did you publish through a traditional publishing company?
I’m self-published. My dream/goal is to one day be traditionally published and see my book sitting on a shelf in a book shop (or even a thrift shop!) but it’s so hard to go that route. Self-publishing through Amazon is a much better solution, especially for independent authors.

If you’re a self-published/Indie author what made you go that route instead of the traditional publishing route? 
Not just because traditional publishing is almost impenetrable but also because self-publishing allows you to reach a lot of readers very quickly. E-books and Kindles and such have become tremendously popular and are very cheap to download so it’s great for independent authors who have a lot of short stories or novellas to get their work published. 

What’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing? 
Just to stay the course and stay focused. It’s so easy to become disheartened or frustrated but you have to keep at it; plug your book, writing, and content as much as you can and reach out to other writers on social media to build a network. It all helps and will help to raise your author profile over time but, at the end of the day, nothing happens unless you make it happen so you have to do something. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to start writing?
Be prepared. Have a plan, do your research, and decide what route is best for you. Invest in an editor or proof-reader, fi you’re not confident at that, and in a cover, banner, and website as well if you think it’s going to help. Most of all, though: write! Even if you’re having a bad day, something is better than nothing and you can always turn a “bad” piece of writing into something positive.