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Article Published on: 09TH JAN 2024 |


Jonathan Stetson’s life has not turned out the way he envisaged. Just shy of forty, his limited theatre work has dried up and he finds himself alone, broke and depressed, waiting tables just to get by. Consumed by addiction and self-loathing, he attempts to reconcile with his estranged and highly successful older brother in a bid to get his life and career back on track. When his advances are met with resistance, Jonathan spirals further into his own dysfunction and twisted sense of reality, developing an obsessive interest in his brother’s family, especially his young nephew, as he struggles to come to terms with a world that continues to reject him.

  • The book starts with a very disquieting prelude where two individuals are waiting to give a performance. They appear to be in a cellar, and there's just one piece of furniture, a shabby sofa. "Uncle Simon" comes down the rickety stairs and demands to see what they've prepared. Michael has nothing, his brother Jonathon is word-perfect with Hamlet. Fast forward and Jonathan is an actor whose life is spiralling out of control. He's having problems finding acting work, he's cruel to his on-off girlfriend, drinking too much, taking drugs, and getting into fights. He's obsessed with his brother Michael, a successful businessman with a wife and son. Michael tries to hold him at arm's length. Eventually the traumas of childhood and PTSD resurface with devastating results.

  • The novel is well-written and fast-paced, with short chapters that create a sense of urgency and suspense. The author does a good job of portraying the symptoms and effects of borderline personality disorder, as well as the challenges and stigma that people with mental health issues face in society. The novel also raises questions about family, identity, morality and reality, as Jonathan’s perception of himself and others is constantly challenged and distorted.

  • "Tears of a Shadow" marks the remarkable debut of author Oliver Silver, a masterful dive into the complex psyche of Jonathan Stetson, a talented yet struggling actor burdened by the weight of borderline personality disorder. Within the pages of this gripping novel, readers are immersed in a haunting and intense psychological thriller.



Born in the Middle East, Oliver Silver is a British writer who grew up between the U.K and the United Arab Emirates. He studied French and Spanish at The University of Nottingham and has lived and worked in Mexico City and Paris. After several years spent building a successful career as a professional actor in Europe, predominantly in commercials and independent films, Oliver first began writing in Los Angeles after moving there from London in 2017. He immediately dove into screenplays and television pilots, quickly establishing a reputation as an exciting writer to watch with his scripts honored by numerous international competitions including Austin, Launchpad, Bluecat, The PAGE Awards and Screencraft.

In 2019, Oliver began working on a manuscript that would later become his first novel, Tears of a Shadow. A dark psychological thriller set in modern-day London, the novel delves into the insidious, long-term effects of childhood trauma, and explores the terrifying consequences of living with an untreated mental illness. In February of this year, Oliver signed a deal with The Book Guild, an independent publisher based in the U.K., will publish the novel, due for release on the 28th of October. Now based back in London, Oliver is developing several screenplays and has just started working on a second novel, a thriller set in Morocco.

With a focus on character-driven stories within the drama and thriller genres, Oliver's characters are deeply conflicted individuals, wrestling with inner demons, past choices, and their place in the world. Sexuality, power, addiction, morality and fame are recurring themes found in his work. As he balances his love for writing with his acting commitments, Oliver is also beginning to take his work from the page to the screen, having directed his first short film earlier this summer in Europe. The project is currently in post-production and will serve as a proof of concept for a television series set between Paris and London. Inspired by writers such as Albert Camus, Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski, Oliver is a young writer with a unique voice, intent on developing his craft, inspiring others and bringing light to the world.




Q: Your journey as a writer began with screenplays and scripts for television. What prompted the shift towards novel writing, and how does your experience in screenwriting influence your approach to storytelling in your first novel, "Tears of a Shadow"?

A. Initially, I tried to write this book as a screenplay, but I could only hear one character talking. The experience felt very singular, almost claustrophobic, so I decided to write it as a novel. In screenwriting, structure is hugely important. I took that into this experience. Before writing, I had a clear blueprint for how the story would unfold.

Q: "Tears of a Shadow" is described as a character-driven story within the drama and thriller genres. Can you tell us more about the central characters in the book and what inspired their complexity?

A. Jonathan Stetson, the protagonist, is a struggling actor suffering from borderline personality disorder. However, he is not aware of his condition. Much of the novel is inspired by my own life and my own mental health issues.

Q: Your book delves into themes of sexuality, power, and addiction. How do these themes interplay in the narrative, and what message or insight do you hope readers will take away from them?

A. Jonathan feels powerless in his life and is stuck in a cycle of self-destructive behaviour, unaware of the shadow within his psyche. Unable to confront the trauma from his childhood, he begins to unravel. I hope that readers see parts of themselves in Jonathan, and through witnessing his pain, they can better understand their own.

Q: The protagonist, Jonathan Stetson, appears to undergo a turbulent personal journey. Could you share more about his character development and the challenges he faces throughout the story?

A. Broke, isolated and depressed, Jonathan is wrestling with addiction and a deep sense of self-loathing. Out of work, he fears what the future holds. Increasingly manic and unstable, his problems worsen when his own brother, the only person who has ever understood him, expresses reservations about letting him back into his life.

Q: "Tears of a Shadow" explores the concept that ‘I am not my thoughts. My thoughts are not me.’ Please elaborate on the significance of this concept within the novel and how it relates to the characters' experiences.

A. This speaks to the chaos that lives within Jonathan’s mind and his constantly shifting self-image. Impulsive, reckless and highly dysfunctional, he identifies with every thought he has. The concept refers to a central theme of the book - the shadow - a psychological theory coined by Carl Jung, that analyses the subconscious components of our psyches that control our behaviour.

Q: Jonathan Stetson's struggles with addiction and self-loathing are central to the story. How did you approach the portrayal of these sensitive topics, and what research or personal insights informed your writing on these subjects?

A. I’ve struggled with addiction and mental health issues for much of my adult life. That experience informed the emotional core of this story. Initially I found myself holding back, somewhat embarrassed by my own past, my own weakness. Then I thought, maybe someone needs to read this? Just write it.

Q: Your writing journey has taken you from the Middle East to the UK and the US. How has your diverse background and global experience influenced your storytelling and the settings you choose for your stories?

A. Meeting people from all walks of life has helped me observe the different challenges people face. I’m interested in all aspects of what it means to be human, and I am inspired by different cultures, landscapes and ways of living. I believe the more that you see of the world, the deeper your learning can be. I find that immersing myself in diverse cultures, landscapes, and lifestyles not only broadens my perspective but also deepens my understanding of the human experience.

Q: The book is set to be published by The Book Guild. Could you tell us about your experience with this publisher and what readers can expect from the release of "Tears of a Shadow"?

A. The publisher has been fantastic. They are hugely supportive, proactive and communicative. It feels like we are in this together, and that they believe in me as a writer and the value of this story. Readers can expect an unsettling, visceral and emotional novel from a new voice they haven’t heard before.

Q: "Tears of a Shadow" is your first novel, and you're already working on a second. Could you provide a sneak peek into your upcoming projects or share any themes or ideas you're exploring in your future writing?

A. I am currently working on several different film scripts. However, I recently traveled across Morocco and found inspiration for a new novel there. I am excited by what I found.

Q: You mention being inspired by writers like Albert Camus, Jack Kerouac, and Charles Bukowski. How have these literary influences shaped your writing style and the themes you explore in your work?

A. Their work has given me the confidence to write without fear of judgement. Their characters are outcasts, misunderstood, at odds with the world around them. I find their writing to be visceral, original and fearless. Uninhibited, they share the darkness at the core of themselves and write towards the light. I strive to do this also.

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