Author interviews, Thursday Themes

Thursday Themes – Gary Kruse

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Welcome back to my blog!

I’m thrilled to be kicking off a new season of Thursday Themes with fellow Darkstroke Author, Gary Kruse, who joins me today to talk about the themes of his fabulous debut novel, Badlands.

The Themes of Badlands.

The tagline on the cover of Badlands reads “Deception Betrayal Conspiracy” and while those are a pretty accurate summary of the main themes of the book, they only really scratch the surface.

Yes, they are key elements of the plot, and all of the main characters – Willow, Goddard, Raven – reflect at least one of these themes, either in their actions, their appearance or their role within the story.

But there are also deeper, more subtle themes at work in the story, the most prominent of which being the conflict between image and reality.

Each of the main characters hides behind an assumed identity, an identity that they either strip away or embrace as the plot develops, but the theme is also reflected in the setting of the story and in its title.

The story is set in St. Agnes, on the North Cornwall coast, and takes its title, Badlands, from the nickname that the original surf communities gave to the area to keep tourists and beginners out of the surf line-ups.

It’s a wild, rugged stretch of coast, full of secluded coves, granite stacks, surf beaches and glowering rocks. Abandoned engine houses from old tin-mines dot the cliffs and valleys in the area, and turquoise seas bring a hint of the tropics.

Traverse the coast by kayak and you may run into swimmers lapping the aforementioned stacks, or seals lounging on deserted beaches. Pods of dolphin chase bait balls of fish as seagulls plunge into their midst, opportunist thieves taking advantage of the chaos.

The ocean is wildly beautiful yet deadly. If you don’t know what you’re doing you can end up being swept out into the Atlantic in a rip or driven onto the brooding rocks by the swell. People die here. Some accidentally. Others…

It was those others that first gave me the idea for Badlands. Floral tributes tied to cliff-top fence posts got me asking what happened to these people? How did they die here? And of course, questions like that are what drive writers to tell stories.

I wanted to tell a story about beauty and death. About nature and human nature. And I wanted to take the nickname “The Badlands” and exaggerate it, make it reflect the beauty and the danger of the setting.

You can’t trust the coast. It’s beautiful yet treacherous, entrancing yet deceitful. The ocean can sooth you or drown you, and the rocks that offer such stunning views may crumble underfoot with just a moments notice.

When I started writing Badlands I wanted to capture that juxtaposition and reflect it in the setting, the characters and the story. I wanted to evoke the spirit of the area, bring it’s vibe to life on the pages. I think I achieved that.

But ultimately, it’s up to readers to decide if I was successful.


Book Blurb.

Surf. Sand. Smugglers. Murder.

 Willow has run as far as she can.

From her home.

From the friends she betrayed.

From the family who betrayed her.

From her own name.

But a cry for help will bring her back.

Back to face her family.

Back to face the sins of her past.

Back to face the darkness at the heart of Cornwall.

In the search for her sister, Willow will face deception and betrayal, before she’ll find love – and herself. But will she uncover how close the enemy is, or will she become another victim of the Badlands?


Gary Kruse is a multi-genre writer of flash fiction, short stories and novels. He lives with his family in Hornchurch on the Essex/London border.

He began writing as a teenager after seeing the Craft in the cinema and wondering what would happen if the coven of witches from the Craft came face to face with the Lost Boys (the vampires, not Peter Pan’s crew!).

His work has appeared online and in print anthologies and his short story “Mirror Mirror” was shortlisted in the WriteHive 2021 Horror competition, and subsequently featured in the “Duplicitous” anthology.

His short story “Hope in the Dark” won first place in the November 2021 edition of the Writers’ Forum Short Story competition.

His debut novel “Badlands” is published through Darkstroke on 21st January 2022.




Badlands Amazon Page:


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