Tom Easton

Tom Easton

About Author

Tom Easton grew up in Australia and Papua New Guinea and now lives in Farnham with his wife and children. He enjoys playing cricket and football and also plays the drums and guitar.

Tom has previously written YA rom-com novels under a variety of pseudonyms for Hodder. HAV3N is his first under his own name, and explores the best and worst of human nature in a gripping psychological thriller.

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A pandemic is sweeping across the world, killing all those who succumb. Just one small village in Surrey is spared the disaster following the discovery of a vaccine.

But while they have been spared death, other challenges await them. The villagers have to decide how they are going to shape the new world they find themselves in and become increasingly divided between science and religion, control and tolerance, old and young...

Q: What made you decide to write about a pandemic?

A: It was during the swine flu scare a few years ago. I was on the platform of Farnham station waiting for my commuter train up to London and the front pages of all the newspapers were screaming 'We're all going to DIE!'

My first thought was that it was a storm in a teacup, a media brouhaha. These sorts of pandemic scare stories pop up regularly. But then I had a sudden, unpleasant thought. What if this time it actually happened? What if everyone out there had already succumbed? What if my town were the only town to have escaped?

Q: Is this scenario realistic that a virus can have a 100% mortality rate and kills within four hours?

A: Sort of. The ebola virus kills within hours, though usually more than four, and it has a 90% mortality rate. Meningitis can be caused by viral infection and can kill within hours.

The first draft of the story had the virus escape from a military laboratory. But then I decided that the bird-flu source was just as likely and even more chilling. The potential certainly exists for something like HAV3N to happen.

Q: Did you base your virus' symptoms on the plague rather than bird flu, and if so why?

A: I combined the symptoms. There's something quite delightfully sinister about the idea of a buboes appearing somewhere on the body.

In reality it would be unlikely to appear on the back of the neck, that's just artistic licence. Buboes would usually appear around the groin, armpits or on the side of the throat, just under the ears, where the lymphatic nodes are.

I think humanity is still haunted by the bubonic plague outbreaks during the Middle Ages. Historians estimate that up to two-thirds of the population of Europe died of the plague during the 14th Century.

It changed everything. The economoy, government, law, science, art and culture. The fear of an epidemic is ingrained in us.

Q: The descriptions of how people die and decay are quite graphic, do you enjoy writing 'gore' or do you find it hard to write?

A: I wouldn't want potential readers to get the impression that HAV3N is a wall-to-wall blood-fest, though it's true there are a couple of rather gruesome chapters.

To answer the question though, yes, I do enjoy writing gore and don't find it hard at all. I'm not sure what that says about me...

Q: Do you think we are more likely as a race to meet our end (or something like it) through a virus rather than something like warfare?

A: Yes, without a doubt. An outbreak of influenza in Europe just after the First World War killed more people than the war itself. Some historians believe 100 million people died in Europe alone. Malaria kills millions every year even now.

War gets all the headlines, but disease is by far our greatest threat. It might not necessarily be a virus though. The bubonic plague was not a virus, it was bacteriological.

The danger of viruses, is that they are very hard to treat. Vaccines can be created to give a measure of protection, but vaccines are usless to those who already have the symptoms. Anti-viral medicines offer only limited help.

Q: Did you research into likely scenarios given the outbreak of a pandemic, such as the motorways being blocked etc?

A: No. That was all imagination. It seemed logical that hospitals would be swamped and roads blocked. The HAV3N virus hits people so quickly that the emergency procedures and protocols would be useless.

Q: Did you have the plot for the full novel before you started writing it?

A: No. I just had the events of the opening chapters. I wanted a scenario in which just one small village survived a global pandemic because I found the idea fascinating.

I had to figure out a way to make such an event come about plausibly and so I introduced the character of Michael Pirbright, family man and the saviour of the village, but driven to madness by fear and guilt.

His character helped me to develop the more psychological drama of the later chapters.

Q: Was it hard to have four main characters rather than a single lead character? Do you have a favourite among the teens?

A: I didn't find it difficult, but I know not everyone likes a novel's point of view to be split.

I think it was necessary for the plot to tell the story this way. Sam was my favourite character to write, but I love Martha, strong, sensible and totally kick-ass.

Q: How hard was it to plot the shifts within the village community, from normal to the very strict, religious and controlled community it becomes?

A: It was tricky. It had to be gradual. Getting the deepening tension just right was something my editor and I worked hard on.

The theme of science versus religion was one that I found fascinating. I didn't want the split to be simply Wheatsheaf Goodies vs Church Baddies. I think the debate is more subtle than that.

I didn't particularly want HAV3N to be either Anti-Religion or Anti-Science. It just seemed likely to me that the split between the two would survive the virus and carry on causing trouble in the new world.

Q: Was any part of the book more difficult to write than the rest of it?

A: Yes. The part where they teenagers escape from the church I had to re-write a few times. I found the timings confusing, I was worried I'd made it overly complex and the reader might be irritated.

I needed it to be fast and exciting but I kept getting bogged down with who was where, with who and what did they see, and who heard which gunshot and what car was she in and etc.

Q: Are you writing a sequel to HAV3N?

A: There is no sequel currently planned. The book was always intended to be a one-off. I'm writing another book at the moment, in a similar genre but not with the same characters.

Having said that I do have some ideas about what might happen to the HAV3N teenagers next. Once you create a character they do tend to live on in your head, so the door to that world is not entirely closed.

Q: Why do you write for teenagers?

A: I think most YA authors would agree there's more freedom writing for this age group. I feel able to tackle big questions without necessarily needing all the answers!

I read voraciously as a teenager and now I'm trying to write the kind of books I'd have loved 25 years ago.

Q: Do you have a day job?

A: Yes, I work in publishing. I'm a Production Manager at Hachette Children's Books.

Q: Where do you write?

A: On the train. During my commute. With people coughing all around me. I plug my earphones in, put on whatever album I'm enjoying at the moment and lose myself in my writing for the hour or so it takes me to get into London.

People raise an eyebrow when I tell them this, but It works perfectly for me. I think if I ever quit work and became a full-time writer, I'd still need to get on the train every day just to get some work done.

Q: What do you do to relax?

A: I have three young children so I'm rarely allowed to entirely relax, but I sometimes get away to play cricket, or football. Then there are the all-night poker sessions with my friends every couple of months...

Q: Any tips for budding writers?

A: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Try different styles. Try writing for different age groups.

Brainstorm, on your own or with friends, come up with mad ideas and don't be afraid to drop them or change them or mix them up.

Try writing a story backwards. Think of a clever title then write the story to fit. Have fun with it.

Above all be patient and enjoy writing as an end in itself. If you gain success or acclaim, then that's a bonus, but first of all write for yourself.

Q: Where can we find out more about you and HAV3N?

A: Thanks for the opportunity to talk about myself and HAV3N. I'm on Twitter @tomeaston or check out the book's page on Facebook at You can also check out my blog at

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