PHANTOM AUDITION: AUTHOR Q&A with Simon Dillon @uncleflynn #blogtour


 Today's guest is psychological thriller author Simon Dillon. His new book is Phantom Audition and he is on a virtual book tour this month with Pump Up Your Book! We're very glad to have him here today to talk about his book, writing and what surprised him about getting his book published. 

Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  When did you come up with the idea to write your book?

There were two main sources of inspiration for Phantom Audition. Firstly, the idea of an actor taking advice on roles from a medium comes from the late, great Peter Sellers, who did exactly that during his career. In the novel, protagonist Mia Yardley’s late husband Steven, a famous actor, took a film role playing famous abstract artist Edward Bingley, who like Steven committed suicide in mysterious circumstances. When Mia discovers Steven took this role on the advice of a medium, she comes to suspect her husband may have buried himself in the role a little too much, to the point that supernatural forces were involved.

The second source of inspiration for Phantom Audition is A Fantastic Woman. This Chilean film, which won Best Foreign Film at the 2018 Oscars, might at first appear an odd choice as an influence on Phantom Audition. Nonetheless, it actually provided the initial spark that launched the idea for the novel. The film concerns a transgender woman dealing with the death of her partner, finding herself isolated and ostracised by his family. A dreamlike, magical realist quality permeates this film, and at times it even becomes a bit like a thriller (there’s a mysterious key which her partner left, for example). Moreover, there is something of a descent into the underworld/death and rebirth metaphor, a story arc very much echoed in my novel. One image in particular leapt out at me – a ghostly vision of the dead partner staring out at the protagonist from a crowded nightclub dance floor amid strobe lights. It’s an image I actually nicked… I mean “paid homage” to.

Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I discovered Dragon Soul Press when a fellow author friend submitted to one of their short story anthologies. After a great deal of belligerent encouragement, I subsequently entered a competition to pitch a novel, and won. Since then I’ve had three gothic mysteries published through them: Spectre of Springwell Forest, The Irresistible Summons, and most recently Phantom Audition – all within less than ten months of each other. It’s been quite a year, to say the least.

Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Despite all the excitement and buzz around the initial launch, even with a traditional publisher there is still that horrifying, anvil-in-the-stomach moment of anticipation around how readers will respond. I call this George McFly Syndrome (“What if they think I’m no good? I just can’t take that kind of rejection!”).

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

People judge books by their cover all the time, and to say otherwise is foolish. In the case of Phantom Audition, Salvation Creations did a wonderful job presenting the sinister mansion, and the blood splatter is a lovely touch. However, despite this unsettling imagery, Phantom Audition sits more at the psychological thriller rather than horror end of my gothic mystery spectrum. Although full of nail-biting suspense, it isn’t as frightening as my previous novels Spectre of Springwell Forest or The Irresistible Summons.

How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I have dabbled in a number of genres, but gothic horror mysteries are something I return to time and time again. They are, if you will forgive my use of an obscenity, something of a “comfort zone”. However, no writing is easy, and I do have some suggestions for authors who wish to write in this (or similar) genres.

Firstly, find a great ending and work backwards from that point. Don’t waste time on anything less than an ending that you are absolutely blown away by.

Don’t make your premise too outlandish. All the best horror comes from easily relatable real-life situations, often exaggerated and dialed up to eleven. For example, Stephen King’s classic Carrie is about adolescent bullying, puberty trauma, religious oppression, and so on. These everyday situations are then exaggerated into a horror tale of telekinesis and terror. Also, don’t overcomplicate the narrative but have a single, ideally sympathetic protagonist, who is easy to relate to and root for - even if they make poor choices.

Be aware of genre conventions and master them. Don’t break an honoured convention unless for this reason: to replace it with something better. Working within a formula is fine, but don’t be predictable. Agatha Christie worked within a formula, with consistently unpredictable results. As has been advised by a number of great writers, give the reader what they want, but not the way they expect it.

Be sparing with blood and gore and deploy it selectively. Gruesome, gross-out sequences tend to result in either lurid fascination or revulsion, not fear. The more you use them, the less effective they are. Instead, focus on building suspense, mystery, and something that gets the reader consistently turning pages.

Finally, this may seem like odd advice considering the genre, but don’t try too hard to scare people - at least not at first. You want to draw them in, lulling them into the narrative, seducing them into your world… until they cannot escape. My favourite horror stories are those that don’t overtly scare the reader whilst the plot is in progress, but then send them back into the real world feeling profoundly disturbed and unsettled by the finale. Covertly getting beneath the skin of the reader is a skill to be mastered in this genre.

What other books are you working on and when will they be published?

I’m currently outlining my next gothic mystery horror/thriller. The details are top secret at present, and I don’t even want to reveal the title, but it has a killer ending that I’m really excited about. Like several of my other stories, it is set in south-west England, and it involves sinister supernatural shenanigans. I’m not sure about a publication date yet.

What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

I’m not sure if this answers the question, but I’m a great believer in the reader being the final component of a story. What they bring to the novel completes the sum of its parts. Phantom Audition allows for a greater variety of applicability in this way than some of my other gothic mysteries.

Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

I’m not a fan of consciously trying to force a “message” into my novels in a sordid, self-important way. Grinding the social, religious, or political axe is for preachers, politicians, activists, and so on – not authors writing spooky mysteries. I greatly dislike being preached at in fiction, and am increasingly intolerant of it, the older and warier I get.

Instead, I simply try and concentrate on telling a good story with no agenda whatsoever. If an author does this, I believe what is important to them ends up inherent in the text in any case. What’s more, said beliefs come over far less condescendingly, and far more convincingly.

In the case of Phantom Audition, I’ve had readers come back to me with a variety of interpretations about my themes (“themes” being distinct from “messages”). The themes of this book explore everything from being in love with something that doesn’t exist, to abuse of power, how artists can become narcissists who think moral codes don’t apply to them, dangers of tampering in the occult, obsession, madness, and so on. These “interpretations” by the reader are often surprisingly close to my own beliefs. So, whilst I didn’t intend any domineering “message”, what is important to me has ended up woven into the fabric of the novel.

Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

That sounds like you are about to pronounce sentence… In any case, a good way to end this interview will be to enter Oscar Acceptance Speech mode, and thank everyone at Dragon Soul Press, your good selves, and of course my readers, who have been so encouraging. I am also thankful for reader reviews in places like Amazon – not because I am insecure and require constant affirmation, but because the reviews, however brief, encourage those all-powerful algorithms to show my work to more people. Reviews are bread and butter to unknown independent authors like me, so they are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Meet the Author

The spirit of Simon Dillon took human form in 1975, in accordance with The Prophecy. He kept a low profile during his formative years, living the first twenty or so of them in Oxford, before attending University in Southampton, and shortly afterwards hiding undercover in a television job. In the intervening years, he honed his writing skills and has now been unleashed on the world, deploying various short stories and novels to deliberately and ruthlessly entertain his readers. He presently lives in the South-West of England with his wife and two children, busily brainwashing the latter with the books he loved growing up.

website & Social links



Inside the Book

Title: Phantom Audition
Author: Simon Dillon
Publisher: Dragon Soul Press
Pages: 300
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Small-time actress Mia Yardley, recently widowed wife of renowned actor Steven Yardley, discovers her late husband’s secret acting diary. The diary details appointments made with a psychic medium, who advised Steven on which roles to take. It also raises questions about his mysterious and inexplicable suicide. Seeking answers, Mia speaks to the medium, but in doing so is drawn into an ever- deepening mystery about what happened to her husband during the final days of his life. Eventually, she is forced to ask the terrible question: was Steven Yardley murdered by a vengeful evil from beyond the grave?


Amazon →


  1. Hi - Thank you for publishing this interview. However, you've got my information mixed up with that of Gordon Campbell! Please can you tweak the bio and links? Thank you.

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