<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - INTERVIEWS]]>Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:47:28 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[A SPARK OF GENIUS: AN INTERVIEW WITH ASH HARTWEL]]>Wed, 18 Oct 2017 08:06:51 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/a-spark-of-genius-an-interview-with-ash-hartwel
To help promote the new charity anthology Sparks an electric themed anthology to raise money for Resources for Autism, Ginger Nuts of Horror is bringing you a series of interview with the authors involved in the anthology.  Today it is the turn of Ash Hartwell to feature in the spotlight.  

Ash Hartwell was born in Maine in New England but lives in Old England. His stories have appeared in numerous anthologies including Rejected For Content, The Black Room Manuscripts and Monsters v Zombies. He had a collection of his own stories Zombies, Vamps and Fiends published in 2015 by JEA. 2017 saw Stitched Smile Publications (where he is a VIP Author) publish his debut novel Tip Of The Iceberg. He is currently writing his second novel and putting the finishing touches to a short novella which he hopes will be published early 2019.

Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
 
I didn’t start writing until I’d turned forty so came into it later in life although it had long been a dream of mine. I spent the previous years working in the retail sector then as a nurse, working in a busy ICU. I’m married to Nicki, who is my muse but always sleeps with one eye open, and we have four children, although they are nearly all grown up (or should that be “all nearly grown up). We share our house with many cats and a lot of dogs.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
 
Reading, obviously, and films. I also enjoy watching several different sports and generally spending time with the family.

Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
 
My grandmother encouraged me to read when I was young and she appeared to enjoy the more fantastical element in literature so I think it was instilled in me at an early age. My father enjoyed Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and several people had spotted his influence in my stories. My novel is set in 1912 and falls very much into the later Holmes era.
I also think my time in health care had an influence in twisting my creative side into something darker than it once was, there is nothing like a bloody trauma to corrupt the soul.

The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
 
I think people associate the term horror with the more extreme end of the genre. They expect blood and gore liberally spread throughout the book regardless of its relevance to the story. I think for that reason many ‘horror’ authors find themselves shoehorned into a different label ie ‘thriller’ or ‘paranormal thriller’ as opposed to ‘horror-paranormal’ or ‘horror-supernatural’. Most traditional book shops view horror as Stephen King with a dash of James Herbert and Neil Gaiman. Others such as Adam Nevill and Shaun Hutson are edging in but the limited horror space is still filled with safe anthologies featuring Shelly, James, Poe and Lovecraft.

How do we change it? Simple. Get people reading horror books from horror authors and shouting about it. Go and ask for horror titles from your local bookshop. They can order them. The success of the film IT should help refocus the public’s interest plus Sarah Pinborough topping the Sunday Times best sellers list gives us an opening to force our twisted beliefs right down the reader’s throats. (smiley face)
 
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
 
Apocalyptic fear or a search for a dystopian new world order. Look at American Horror Story; cult.  Zombies will feature but I think other fears will also surface, think Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
 
The one book that started my love of the genre was James Herbert’s The Rats. Him and Richard Laymon dominated my reading list for twenty years – and I still pop back and revisit them occasionally. I love the old Hammer films, and The Exorcist and Omen. So many films over the years have had an effect it’s hard to narrow it down.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
 
Adam Nevill, although I think it fair to say he’s already arrived.  Duncan Bradshaw, JR Park and Sparks own David Court are all under-appreciated so search them out. Gary Mcmahon, AJ Brown, CC Adams Daniel Marc Chant and many others I haven’t got space for. Oh…and me, obviously! lol

How would you describe your writing style?
 
Erm… Well edited! Lol I hate these types of questions because I think others are better placed to define my style. I write how I feel I want to write. I like to think it’s literal and unrestricted. Not sure how to define it really. I’ll settle for – brilliant!

Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?

Yes. Being compared to Conan Doyle was humbling. JR Park also waxed lyrical about Tip Of The Iceberg which left me speechless when I read it. I think when a writer you admire acknowledges your work it means so much more.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
 
Spooling and gamma. Lol. Really – letting the work go to an editor.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
 
Probably more than one but it depends on the angle you take on a subject. Will I use a subject for shock value alone? No.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
 
In Tip Of The Iceberg which is set on the Titanic many of the names are real people who were there. Other names I looked at passenger lists to make sure they were time period correct. Some names I use in stories have specific meaning some are just right for the character. You know when you hit on the right name. Think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind or Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
 
More economical with those horrible filler words. I listened to every piece of advice I was given and listened to every editor – especially those that rejected stories. If you want to improve these are the people to ask for advice. Many are surprisingly helpful if you ask nicely.  I have always tried to keep moving upwards in my submissions – it’s easy to pick low hanging fruit but It won’t help you develop.  

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
 
Thesaurus. Patience. Thick skin.          

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
 
Take your time. When you finish a story put it away for a while and look at it with fresh eyes.

Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
 
I’m really bad at this. Facebook, web page, readings and book signings. I also did a panel at Edge-Lit which was terrifying but fun. I’m looking in to things like Thunderclap etc so maybe you should ask me again in a few months.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least  favourite to write for and why?
 
My favourite is always the one I’m writing at the time – as is the least favourite. I liked a character in my novel so much I think they may get a second outing but I won’t say who as it will spoil the book (which you are all downloading now, I hope 😊)

And are there any that you would like to forget about?
 
No – because each is a part of my development as a writer and so important in some way to me.

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
 
Tip Of The Iceberg (my only novel) But I think the story I wrote for The Black Room Manuscripts vol 3 is a little special.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
 
Not really ever thought about it. Here’s one I like. The speaker is an old sailor giving advice to a young man out to make his fortune. They are playing cards. “Take my advice lad, travel through life like it’s a game of cards. Hold ‘em or fold ‘em, but do it with belief, not fear.”
 

Can you tell us about what you are working on next?
 
 I’ve just finished a novella about a paramedic who arrives at a call out, then sits back and lets them die. Taunting them as they slip away. But he encounters the daughter of one of his victims when she starts work as a student paramedic at his ambulance station. Who knows the truth of what happened the day her father died?

If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
 
The predictability of the order of death in slasher movies.

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
 
Rich Hawkins The Last Plague was great. If a book disappoints me I don’t ever tell.
 
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer
 
Do you want this pallet full of bundled up cash?
 
Yes.


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<![CDATA[ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN HARGADON]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/enter-the-shadow-booth-an-interview-with-stephen-hargadon
As part of Ginger Nuts of Horror's support of the Kickstarter for Tales From The Shadow Booth, we have teamed up with some of the contributors for a series of exclusive interviews.  Today Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes Stephen HargadonBorn in London, Stephen Hargadon now lives and works in the north of England.


His short stories have been published in a number of places, including Black StaticStructo and Popshot magazines, the Irish Post, and on the LossLit website. His non-fiction has appeared on Litro.co.uk (including a well-received article on the joys of secondhand bookshops).

He has recently finished a novel.

To support this wonderful Kickstarter click here for the full details 
 Hello Stephen, Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?


I’ve had stories published in a number of places, online and in print. But Black Static is where my work has appeared most often – they’ve published nine of my stories, the most recent being ‘Langwell Sorrow’ and the first being ‘World of Trevor’ back in 2014. In fact ‘World of Trevor’ was my first story to be published anywhere – so, in terms of writing, I’m something of a newcomer, a stripling, although my face and hair suggest otherwise. I have an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University. have yet to publish a book. I was born in Ilford, Essex, and now live in the north of England. I’ve done a variety of jobs over the years, most of them with ‘assistant’ in the title. I’ve recently finished writing a novel.

You have a very interesting viewpoint with regards to your fiction, “the finished thing, the completed text, is not as interesting as the act, the process of writing, the way in which words spark more words. Once it’s done, it’s time to move on” from this would it be fair to say that you write because you have to write, is writing something that you have to do? 
 
I’d like to say I write because I have to write. That’s what most writers say. And certainly the process of writing, of being led by the words, of trying to harness them into something new and unique, something true, well, it’s a peculiarly absorbing task, occasionally rewarding, often frustrating. It’s a kind of involved daydream – which makes it sound easy, as if it’s a question of waiting for the words to arrive. Of course it is not easy at all. You hunt for the words. Sometimes they want to be found. Do I have to write? Probably not. The truth is that I spent much of my adult life not writing. Hours, days, weeks went by without a word being written on paper. I seemed to get by. I muddled through. I got drunk. I always wanted to write. But who doesn’t? There were plenty of words and stories in my head. Tomorrow I’ll write. Tomorrow I’ll be a different person. The urge or need to write – if indeed it was truly there at the time – came out in other forms – in booze, mostly. (Or rather drink thwarted or perverted the impulse. That’s another story, one I’m going to write.) The pubs are full of mumblers. I was a mumbler. Now, I suppose, I mumble on paper. If I stop writing I know I will not die. It’s not like breathing or eating or sleeping. But I know that if I stop writing something bad will happen.

With this in mind, if you don’t have  any particular favourites, how would you go about selecting stories for a career spanning collection of your own work? 
 
I don’t tend to read my stories once they’re finished. I don’t re-read the ones that are published. There’s always something I want to change. But I suppose I do have favourites. And others that I am not so keen on (it’d be rude of me to name them). As for a career-spanning collection – I wish. Although I’m silver-haired, and no longer lean, I’m still in my infancy when it comes to writing. But I have enough stories for a decent collection. Perhaps a collection of weird or dark tales. A lot of my stories seem to go down that route.

You have been shortlisted for a number of prestigious awards do you think these awards once they have been announced have any lasting impact on an author? 
 
Well, I was shortlisted for the Observer / Anthony Burgess prize for arts journalism earlier this year. That was a treat. Burgess is one of my favourite writers. I never made it to the prize giving. Storm Doris was on the rampage, up-ending dustbins from Maidstone to Morecombe. All the trains to London were cancelled. I went home and watched a film instead as Doris ransacked the back garden. So I didn’t even get to see myself lose. In 2016 I was a runner-up in the Irish Post writing competition, another surprise. The Irish Post is a paper I remember from childhood. I suppose such things boost one’s confidence. They have a certain utilitarian value. I’m not sure about lasting impact. You write a story. Someone thinks it’s good. Someone else gives it an award. Someone else thinks it is rubbish. The story itself remains the same.

Your stories have been described as ‘strange beasts: wise, witty, and wonderfully dark. Each one is a thing entirely of its own kind, capable of surprising as much in the first reading as in the second and third.’ Do you always set out to write a story that ticks these boxes, or have you ever been tempted to write a more basic point A to point B type of story? 
 
I’m always tempted to write a nice, simple story, full of good clean fun. I don’t know what happens. I don’t set out to write ‘weird’ or ‘strange’ stories at all. That quote is from Helen Marshall, who taught me briefly while I was studying at Manchester Metropolitan University. We had a couple of good chats about writing. When I start a story, I’m not always sure where it’s going to go. I start with a line of dialogue, perhaps. Or a situation, a voice. Perhaps I have an idea of how it’ll end. But the journey can change everything. Sometimes, as I get deeper into a story, there’s a click, a moment of recognition, and I know how it all comes together. Then it is almost a race to get the thing finished, before the arrival of boredom, before the thing goes flat. That click can be a moment of danger. If you suddenly realise what you’re writing about – ah, this story is all about this or that – well, that’s the point at which all the magic, all the ambiguity can be written out of the story.

You wrote a fascinating article for Litro on the joy of second hand book shops, where did your lover for them come from? 
 
I’m not sure, really. There was a secondhand bookshop in Ilford, where I grew up. Edward Terry. The E in Edward, I seem to remember, was missing from the sign above the door. But I didn’t visit it as a child. I suppose a love of secondhand bookshops goes with a love of reading. It springs from the same place. In a new town or strange place, my head is always turned by the sight of a dusty old bookshop. Once upon a time I used to ogle pubs in the same way. You never quite know what you’re going to find in a secondhand bookshop. I do like them, even if they’re disappointing.

And what has been your most prized discovery from a second hand  bookshop?
 
I was thrilled in my early twenties to find BS Johnson’s Christy Malry’s Own Double Entry in Edward Terry. It wasn’t a particularly rare edition, a King Penguin. I’d heard of this writer. He written a novel in a box (and that was the book I really wanted to find, forgotten and unappreciated in a bargain bin). I was always on the look-out for his stuff. This was in the days before the web. You couldn’t click a button and order a copy. Finding books was often a matter of chance. Collections were built slowly. You read what you could find. Or afford. I think it was a Saturday afternoon when I found Christy Malry. I went to Valentine’s Park with a couple of beers and read most of it in a sitting. Asian lads played cricket on the grass. The internet has changed how I browse in secondhand bookshops. I no longer hunt for favourite authors with the zeal I once had. I’m jaded, I suppose. Or lazy. I know it’s all there on the internet. I was in Whitby recently and there’s a little bookshop down one of the twisting side streets. I found a book called The Romance of Essex Inns, generously annotated in pencil by a previous owner, a good find. That’s the sort of thing I look out for these days.
 
There is a move from the more literary side of the writing world into writing about the weird, traditionally this has been the domain of the lowly genre writer.  Why do you think they are doing this? 
 
It’s not something, I must admit, that I’ve been aware of. I don’t really see much value in being wilfully or deliberately ‘weird’. I don’t tend to think of writing – or my writing at any rate – in terms of genre. I suppose my imagination tends towards what could be called the ‘weird’. I recently read a story by Krzhizhanovsky, ‘Quadraturin’. A man lives in a poky room or bedsit. He is sold a tin of paint, ‘an agent for biggerizing rooms’. He coats his room with the substance. His room grows and grows … He becomes lost within this expanding room … It’s a great story. Weird, phantasmagoric, absurd. But somehow true and believable, mundane, real. Life is weird. Thoughts are strange. It is inevitable that words arrange themselves into weird or strange stories.

One of your stories has been selected to appear in Shadow Booth, how did you come to appear in the anthology?
 
Dan Coxon invited me to submit a story. I didn’t know him, I hadn’t met him. It was nice to be invited. I think he knows my work from my stories in Black Static. It came out of the blue. I was happy to contribute.

Can you tell us about some of the themes of the story? 
 
It’s set in an office. Spreadsheets feature strongly. Being glib, I could call it a story about a haunted spreadsheet. Stare into the spreadsheet for long enough and the spreadsheet will stare into you. I suppose it touches on the strangeness of office life. The strangeness of exchanging one’s time, one’s life, for money. The conversations, the routines. The politics, the petty ambitions, the loneliness, the fear, the daydreams, the boredom. It’s a kind of chunnering but inescapable horror.
 
What  has been a major influence on your writing?
 
That’s hard to say. I really don’t know. I have authors I admire, authors I like to read. But I don’t know if they’ve influenced me. Influences come from many directions.

The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
 
I suppose most people think of films when they think of “horror”. They think of monsters, ghouls, Dracula, zombies, psychopaths, buckets of blood and glossy guts, screaming women and flashing knives. In terms of fiction, “horror” is perhaps associated, rightly or wrongly, with a kind of cheap thrill, with producing a shock or a jolt. I don’t think labels are particularly helpful. If something’s good, it’s good. I wrote a story called ‘The Visitors’, which appeared in Black Static. I think it was my third story they bought. I read a review online, on a horror site, which said something like, ‘it’s well written but I don’t know what this has to do with horror’. I took that as a compliment. I knew I must doing something right.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
 
There’s so many favourite books and films. I don’t know if they define me though. The list changes. Here’s a few, in no particular order, off the top of my head, as a new day, full of softness and melting blue, fills the window in front of me. A Matter of Life and Death. ‘The Nose’. ‘The Overcoat’. ‘Interference’ by LP Hartley. The short stories of VS Pritchett and Elspeth Davie. Casque D’Or. Rear Window. Amicus. Halloween. The Baby. Bad Timing. Anthony Burgess. Down Among the Meths Men. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The London Nobody Knows. Iris Murdoch. Prelude to a Certain Midnight. Repulsion. The Servant. ‘The Daemon Lover’ by Shirley Jackson. Keats … I could go on and on …

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
 
Naomi Hamill. How to be a Kosovan Bride has just been published by Salt. Dan Coxon’s anthology contains plenty of upcoming talent while Black Static has a great track record of encouraging new writers. There’s plenty of interesting, fresh writing to be found in so many small magazines, from Gorse to Popshot. Such publications deserve our support.

How would you describe your writing style?

I find it hard to describe my own writing. But this from Anthony Burgess strikes me as pertinent: ‘Language exists less to record the actual than to liberate the imagination.’

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

Editing or excising a cherished scene or a carefully worked passage is always difficult. And sometimes the words just don’t seem to flow. Or the mind is sluggish. Or tired. That’s when it’s difficult.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

It’s not really something I think about. The subject is bound up with style. I never sit down and think: I’ll write a story about this topic or that topic. It’s more vague. I start with an image. Or a line. A character. A face. A situation. It goes from there. I usually know if a story is going to be dark. That’s about it.
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 

I’ve not been writing for very long. My face is old but my words are young. I’m not sure how I’ve developed since ‘World of Trevor’ was published in Black Static back in 2014. I’m probably more inclined, these days, to attempt stories that do not have an overtly weird or supernatural element. But often they end up being weird anyway.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         

Nose, eyes, ears, shears.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
 
Turn down the volume.

Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

You just have to keep at it. There’s no secret. It’s difficult. When I wrote ‘World of Trevor’, it was just a story to me, a pub tale, a Mancunian pub tale. I didn’t think of it as a ‘weird tale’, although it had dark themes. It got rejected by a few literary mags. So I sent it to Black Static, not sure if they’d like it. They did. Andy Cox has published quite a few of my stories now. You build up slowly. I know there’s a few people out there who rate my stuff, who like what I write. The next step is to get a collection published. And to get my novel out there, too. Rejection and indifference – that comes with the territory.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least  favourite to write for and why?
 
I don’t really see my characters as children. I’m a bad parent in that respect. I often forget their names.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
 
That’s difficult. At the moment I guess it’s ‘Langwell Sorrow’ in Black Static 60.

And are there any that you would like to forget about?

I’m more or less satisfied with everything that’s found its way into the real world of readers. There are probably some unpublished things that I am happy to let rot.

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your  books do you think best represents your work and why?

My name has yet to appear on a spine. The stories in various issues of Black Static represent my darker imaginings. ‘The Bury Line’, ‘The Toilet’, ‘McMara’s Rock, ‘Mittens’, and so on. There’s ‘Through the Flowers’, too, which appeared in Popshot Magazine (illustrated with macabre invention by Kate O’Hara).

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
 
Sometimes I read a line and can’t remember coming up with it. Did I write that? But I don’t have a favourite. I do enjoy some of things my characters say. I like to eavesdrop.

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
 
I’ve just finished The Sea by John Banville, which is very good. I loved Zero K by DeLillo. I read a short story not long ago by Angela Readman. The narrator cuts her boyfriend in two. (It’s in the collection Don’t Try This At Home.) On one level, it’s a fairy story, a ‘weird tale’ – preposterous, flirting with whimsicality – but it conveys some very real and sad truths about the relationships between men and women, about loneliness, about performing a role in life, about disillusionment. At the start of the year I read LJ Davis’s blistering A Meaningful Life. Very funny. I was disappointed by Thomas Tyron’s The Other, which I’d been looking forward to. Some wonderful writing but it just didn’t excite me. Or frighten me. I remember it as a long, hazy, sunny dream. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Perhaps I should give it another go.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?
 
I don’t know. But the answer is silence.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE TALES FROM THE SHADOW BOOTH KICKSTARTER 

RELATED POSTS 

FACE THE STRANGE: A CASE FOR THE WEIRD AND THE EERIE BY DAN COXON

ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH SARAH READ

ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH:  AN INTERVIEW WITH GARY BUDDEN

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<![CDATA[A SPARK OF GENIUS: AN INTERVIEW WITH LEX H JONES]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 02:19:03 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/a-spark-of-genius-an-interview-with-lex-h-jones
To help promote the new charity anthology Sparks an electric themed anthology to raise money for Resources for Autism,Burdizzo Publishing.  Ginger Nuts of Horror is bringing you a series of interview with the authors involved in the anthology.  Today it is the turn of Lex H Jones  to feature in the spotlight.  

Lex H
Jones is a British cross-genre author, horror fan and rock music enthusiast who lives in Sheffield, North England.

He has written articles for websites the Gingernuts of Horror and the Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog on various subjects covering books, films, videogames and music. Lex’s first published novel is titled “Nick and Abe”, and he also has several short horror stories published in anthologies. When not working on his own writing Lex also contributes to the proofing and editing process for other authors.
You can find out more aboutr Lex and his work from the following links  

His official Facebook page is: Lex  H Jones , Amazon author pageTwitter


Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

I was born and educated in Sheffied, where I still live at the time of writing this. I have more cats than I ever chose to adopt, as they just seem to find their way to my home. I also own three chinchillas, which are only moderately less annoying than the cats.
 
I’ve been doing writing as a serious thing (rather than purely for my own amusement) for about eight years now. I got my first novel, ‘Nick and Abe’ published at the start of 2016, and since then I’ve had quite a few short stories published in various horror anthologies. My current project is a series of 3 ‘weird fiction’ children’s books, for which I’ve also commissioned an artist to do the illustrations.
 

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Whilst it’s probably a fairly standard answer for a writer, I like to read a lot. Not just books, but I’m also a big comic book fan too. I also love a good comedy podcast, it completely transforms a long journey. It’s probably fair to say I’m also very social, I love to have random daytrips with friends to obscure places, or have a games night, and I also spend an awful lot of time watching films.

Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
 
Sacrilegious as it may be to say so here, I’m not actually a horror writer. I do write horror stuff sometimes, but I’m as likely to write crime, fantasy, or a children’s book. So my writing is influenced by a wide spectrum of things depending which genre I’m currently focusing on!



The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
 
I think there is a very negative opinion that horror is somehow lesser than other genres. It’s seen by some writer-types as almost like a sub-genre. There’s a snobbery against it that something like crime or science fiction doesn’t seem to get. Personally I think that is massively unfair. Some of the most talented people putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) right now are in the horror genre, and people might see that if they were able to look past their own preconceptions.
 
As for what I think of as ‘horror’, it is a wonderfully wide term. Personally I love the supernatural. My favourite horror stories always include it in some way, subtle or otherwise. I think that’s probably because I’m very much a rationalist atheist in real life. I have no problem walking through a graveyard or dark wood because I am under no delusion that anything monstrous is lurking there (random perverts aside). However in a book where the supernatural is real, I’m transported to a world where there’s suddenly a lot more to be afraid of, and in the bizarre way that the human mind works, I find that appealing.

A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?

I think there’s going to be increasing focus on the horror of abused authority. You only have to turn on the news to see the dangers of the ‘wrong’ people being given power, and it’s a form of horror all its own. The helplessness that comes from it is chilling. Two men with daft haircuts, neither of whom should be anywhere near a seat of power, could start a nuclear war tomorrow, something that either ends or completely ruins the lives of millions of people, and there’s nothing we can do about it. I think a lot of people will be feeling that, and I’ve already seen themed anthologies, films and TV series starting to take on a similar tone to reflect this. The idea of a ghost in your house suddenly seems less scary when there’s a mental Oompa Loompa having a row with what could basically be 1960s Thunderbirds Oriental stereotype villain, and they both have nuclear weapons.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

The first horror stories I remember reading and truly digesting, that weren’t aimed at children, were short ghost stories by M.R James. A little later I came to Poe, and Lovecraft and Machen. The greatest compliments I’ve had about my work have referenced the clear influence of one of those names, and whilst I would never use that comparison myself, it’s nice that other people thought to mention it.
 
What I love about M.R James’ ghost stories is that, more often than not, they’re very subtle. There’s often no witness to the terrifying thing that just happened, which makes it all the scarier. Imagine being the victim of a terrifying haunting, only to find you had no evidence with which to convince anybody of the reality of it? That’d probably drive you mad. It’s a bit different to typical American ghost story where the entire house turns into a giant face or something, which surely the entire street must notice. I’d like to think my work carries some of that same subtlety, but then again I’ll probably do a big House Face at some point.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?

I don’t know how “new and upcoming” these folks are because they’re pretty well established, but Rich Hawkins, Kit Power and Adam Neville immediately spring to mind.
 
How would you describe your writing style?

When I’m doing horror, as mentioned above I like to try and keep it subtle. That’s not always possible depending on the story, but where possible, I like to aim for it. I have no problem with gore, and I admire those who can write it so effectively that it can make the reader feel ill. There’s an art to that, and I defy anyone who says it’s cheap or easy to do. But it’s not what I like to write myself, so if you’re a fan of really brutal hard-core stuff, then my stories may not be really be for you.
 
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?

My favourite review of Nick and Abe, my novel, was somebody who emailed me to say that it made them go and call their mother, with whom they’d not spoken in a year. I won’t give away too much of the book, but the plot is strongly focussed on the idea of repairing broken relationships whilst you still can. So to hear from somebody for whom it had inspired a real-life version of that was heart-warming.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
 
Starting a new book or story. I always have all the ideas running around in my head, but when it comes to making a start, I just stare at a blank page. Once the story gets running then I get into a flow and it all just pours out. But that first chapter, first page, first paragraph even, is always hard.
 
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

I’m very lucky in that I’ve had a relatively nice life up to now. Yes, I’ve had some issues with mental health and some experiences I’d rather not have, and made some mistakes I wish I could take back (who hasn’t?). But I’ve never been the victim of any serious abuse or trauma. As a result, I wouldn’t feel right writing about such things. For people who have sadly suffered such events, I understand the cathartic benefit of writing it down and making people aware, I really do. Getting stuff out of your head is often a good thing. But because I haven’t gone through that, it’s not an area in which I want to place my head.
 
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
 
This one really does vary an awful lot. Some characters pop into my head with their name attached so strongly that they couldn’t possibly be called anything else. Some get a name halfway through my writing the book. Others are named a particular thing for particular reason. In my novel, for instance, Nick is called Nick because he’s the Devil, and an old name for the Devil is ‘Ol’Nick’.

Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 
 
I plan things out a lot more now. I’ll have reams of notes and sketches and random scribbles before I start a story. I’ve found that’s become useful as time’s gone on, both to remind me of those little bits that pop into the mind during a shower or just before falling asleep, but also as it clears my mind to focus on other stuff. I do have a day job and a life beyond writing, so I am unfortunately forced to spend a lot of my time in the real world, meaning my head space is often required for far more boring things than ghost or monster stories.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         

Someone to talk to about it. Not necessarily the process itself, but about your ideas. Even if it’s just someone to tell you something is crap. That’s often important to hear.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

Don’t stop doing it. It’s such a clichéd thing to say isn’t it, but it’s so valuable because it’s so tempting to ignore each time it gets hard. But if you stop, you’ll never get further than you are now. So just keep writing.

Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

I’ve been lucky enough to be given opportunities to talk about my writing, particularly on this site where Jim has frequently been very gracious in that regard. I’ve also built up a good network of reviewers, bloggers and other writers, which has given me the chance to feature in anthologies alongside authors who are far, far better at all this than I am.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least  favourite to write for and why?

My favourite character to write is one who the public at large haven’t even been properly introduced to yet. My largest project, which is constantly on-again off-again, is a series that focuses on a character called Harkins. He’s essentially a Victorian detective with the sixth sense, except that he’s more Danny Dyer than he is Sherlock Holmes. I love writing him, I’ve spent so long doing it that it often feels like he writes his own dialogue. At some point I’ll approach a publisher with this series.
 
My least favourite was actually the character of Oolu, which is the name given to Cthulhu in the first of my children’s books, ‘The Old One and The Sea’ (the Foreword for which was written by this site’s own Mr Mcleod.) Because Oolu doesn’t speak (I made that decision early on and stuck to it, for my sins) having him communicate with anyone else in the book was, frankly, a massive pain in the arse. I found ways round it, and I’ve been told by both my editor and subsequent readers that it worked well, which was a huge relief.

And are there any that you would like to forget about?

Same answer. If I ever have Oolu in another book I’m having him buy one of those little voice boxes that Stephen Hawking has. Stay silent now, you massive green prick.


For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
 
At the time of writing this, I only have one full length novel out there and several short horror stories. If you’re a horror fan, which would make sense given the website this interview is on, than I’d recommend any of the horror anthologies I’m lucky enough to have been featured in. I always make sure to add these to my author page on amazon, so you can find them all there if needed. However if you’re not strictly a horror reader, then I would suggest my novel ‘Nick and Abe’ as a good introduction to my work.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
 
I’m going to say ‘no’ to that one, because I worry that sort of thing never really works out of context. There may be particular scenes or dialogue I was proud of, rightly or wrongly, but pasted here without the context I’m not sure how well any of them would come across.

Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?

The last book I wrote was ‘The Old One and The Sea’, a children’s book re-telling the origin of the Cthulhu mythos in a different way. I’ve not sent it to any potential publishers yet, I’m just waiting on completion of some artwork. However it’s been read by a fair few people now, with several other authors providing blurb comments and such, and the response has been great. I can’t wait to get this one out there, as the thought of it possibly being the first ‘horror’ book a child reads is very exciting to me.
 
My next one is the second book in my children’s trilogy. They’re not linked in terms of character or narrative, but there’s thematic links and some subtle suggestion that they might be set in the same world. This one is called ‘Time and Frozen Tide’, and follows a young penguin (bear with me) who finds a T-Rex egg when some permafrost thaws. The cast of characters includes two human ghosts (a Victorian explorer and a WW2 fighter pilot), and there’s a whole mythology around the Southern Lights, time travel, the spirit world and all sorts of stuff. I am aware of how crazy it sounds so you’ll just have to trust me that it all flows together.
 
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?

The “not finishing someone” off thing. You’ve stabbed him in the leg, he’s fallen, so you just assume that’s the end of it. No, take that knife whilst he’s prone and push it through his throat. It’s not worth the risk, you know he’ll just get up and chase you in a minute if you don’t.

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
 
I just read Night Music by John Connolly, and really enjoyed it. It’s a great collection of stories. Before that I read a bunch of graphic novels and the one that stands out as disappointing me was a massive Marvel Comics event called Secret Wars (not to be confused with the 1980s story of the same name.) It’s a good premise, lots of good characters….and it just goes nowhere. In true Marvel fashion, anything of significance gets magically undone, there’s no real consequence to anything, and you just come away feeling like you wasted your time. DC are much better at doing stories that have lasting impact.
 
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer

This one. And my answer would be “this one”. That just messed your head up, didn’t it?
 
But seriously, I’ve always liked the question ‘if you could go back to any point in history when would it be and what would you do?’ The answer isn’t dinosaurs or the Victorian era or anything like that, I’d just like to go back and meet my grandad when he was a young man. I was very close with him, but obviously I only ever knew him as a man in his late sixties onwards. I’d love to have met him when he was about my age (early-mid thirties). Perhaps I’d walk into the local pub where he went after work (he was an ambulance driver for a steelworks) and strike up a conversation with him. Maybe we’d get on. Maybe we wouldn’t, and without the Teflon coating of “he’s my grandson” he’d think I was some Goth twat who talked too much. Actually he wouldn’t, he didn’t have a judgemental bone in his body. Who knows, but it’d be nice to find out, and to get that opportunity to see him in his prime.
 
One final thought, Emma Dehaney is the loveliest person I’ve ever worked with and her editing skills are top notch. Was….was that OK? Can I have my cat back now please? Preferably with all its feet attached.
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This is a public service announcement on behalf of Burdizzo Books.
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Every once in a while, God and Lucifer visit the earth and make a wager. Now it’s time for the next one; the most daring yet, and quite possibly the last. “This venture to live as men for a full year had been such a hilarious idea to start with. Prove Abe wrong… again… then head back to their respective domains and gloat about it forever. Only it hadn’t worked out that way. Things were different now. Having omniscient sight removed from him actually made Nick see things more clearly than he ever had. There’s harm in getting too close to a picture, but a different sort of harm comes from getting too far away from it.” What starts as a simple contest becomes something more as their newfound humanity forces them to revaluate their relationship not only with the world, but with each other as father and son.

Related Posts 

A SPARK OF GENIUS: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK CASSELL
CHILDHOOD FEARS: LEX JONES RETURNS TO HIS PAST

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<![CDATA[ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSEPH SALE]]>Fri, 13 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/enter-the-shadow-booth-an-interview-with-joseph-sale
As part of Ginger Nuts of Horror's support of the Kickstarter for Tales From The Shadow Booth, we have teamed up with some of the contributors for a series of exclusive interviews.  Today Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes Joseph Sale. 

Joseph Sale is a novelist, writing coach, editor, graphic designer, artist, critic and gamer. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. Since, he has authored Seven Dark Stars, Across the Bitter Sea, Orifice, The Meaning of the Dark, Nekyia and more. Under the pseudonym Alan Robson (his grandfather's name), he won third place in Storgy's Exit Earth anthology competition, judged by Diane Cook.

He is the creator of †3 Dark, a unique publishing project born in 2017 showcasing the work of 13 writers including Richard Thomas and Moira Katson; each story is accompanied by original concept art from Shawn Langley and with cover art by Grand Failure.

He contributes feature-pieces, film, TV, and book reviews. and fiction, to Storgy Magazine. He also writes for GameSpew, and has an enduring love of video-games.

His short fiction has appeared in Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet and Storgy Magazine, as well as in anthologies such as Dark Hall Press's Technological Horror and Storgy's Exit Earth. In 2014 he was nominated for the Sundress Award for Literary Excellence.

In his spare time he plays badminton, watches Two Best Friends Play and puts on his DM hat, concocting fiendish dungeons for his friends to battle through.
 
Hello Joseph, Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Hi! I’m Joseph Sale and I’m a Brit obsessed with all things dark and weird. I grew up on the coast and have an enduring love of the sea. I write I guess what you could call horror but I’m also interested in fantasy and science fiction so I regularly cross them all over. I’m mainly writing novels, as that seems to be the medium I most connect with – the extended story with a longer running time and more room to play with the characters. I’ve published six over the last three years. Recently I’ve started to fall in love with the short story, after going on Richard Thomas’ Advanced Creative Writing Course in May of this year. That was a real eye-opener, and inspired me to write a whole lot of short stories, one of which is appearing in Shadow Booth. My short story ‘When The Tide Comes In’, entered under the pseudonym Alan Robson, won third prize in STORGY Magazine’s Exit Earth anthology competition. I’ve been writing professionally for eight years now and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
 
You quit your job in February of this year to focus on writing full time, how is it going seven months after you made that momentous decision? 

Very kind of you to ask! That moment of stepping away from work was so amazing, so liberating, I honestly was tearful the first few days. However, life is yin and yang, a sine-wave curve going up and then dipping, and it didn’t last forever. 13Dark, my publishing project and the primary reason for my stepping away – was such an amazing project but I think I over-estimated my ability to fully convey what it was going to be to people. I’m introducing a bunch of new writers no one has ever heard of – it’s a big risk for people to take that chance and I didn’t account for that. So although we did get funded, we didn’t get enough to make it into a fully-fledged business. And although I earn from my writing and coaching, it’s not enough, especially near London, so I am now back at work – a different job – doing 40 to 45 hours a week and fitting everything else in around that. It’s exhausting, but no worse than what most people in the UK have to do to survive. And at least I have a job, which is something in this economy. Summoning the energy to write is very difficult and draining at times, but luckily I’ve always erred towards a disciplined writing practice.

You completed a degree in creative writing, was your degree path deliberately chosen with an aim to hone your writing skills? 

Absolutely! I almost didn’t go to University, because of some misguided sense that it would mean forever conforming to some kind of aristocracy... Thankfully my mother talked me into sense and found this course. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I’ll never forget it. Quite apart from working with some of the best lecturers I could possibly have asked for: Richard Thomas (author of The Kills), Luke Kennard (author of The Transition), Elsa Braekkan-Payne, Philippa Semper, Hugh Adlington, so many more I don’t have time to name drop here. Quite apart from working with them, I also became friends with amazing fellow students, many of which I have not only enduring friendships with to this day but also writing partnerships. We still send each other work to feedback on and bounce ideas off each other. I’m currently co-writing something very exciting with one of my coursemates – but it must remain a secret for now.

On what side of the divide do you stand with regards to anyone and everyone can write, or there has to be an innate germ of talent there that needs to be nurtured? 

I honestly think that anyone can learn to write and that writing is a very healing experience. I don’t think everyone is a prophet or a poet – not everyone can become a defining voice that is remembered for all time – but certainly everyone can be taught how to write and make a contribution. I think it’s the same for any skill. Anyone can learn how to swim, but a certain few people, whether through God or through genes, whichever your preference, are born to swim. They glide through the water like a dolphin, it comes naturally to them. For writers like Stephen King, this is clearly the case. Yes, he had to learn the practical skills and build up that knowledge over a number of years, but it was always innate, natural to him. So I guess I’m cheating and saying that both can be true!

You published your first novel through Dark Hall Press, can you tell us of the experience you had submitting the novel, and the subsequent publishing process with Dark Hall? 

That was a really magical experience, one that gave me the confidence to keep writing. I was at university at the time and I’d had this idea for this novel about comicbook supervillains, but making them into real, three-dimensional, and also slightly pathetic characters. I wanted their superpowers to be next-to-nothing – the smallest of small advantages. I submitted to Dark Hall after a string of rejections and waited. They said if I didn’t hear back in three weeks, it was a rejection. On the 21st day I found an email in my inbox! I couldn’t believe it. And you know, all those TV shows where people get good news and jump up and down like lunatics completely have it wrong. I just sat there at my desk brain-dead. It was like my circuits had been fried. I eventually staggered to my feet, went to the local Tesco Express and bought a single beer and a chocolate bar. I sat in the kitchen, drinking that beer and eating that chocolate bar. That was my celebration. I couldn’t stop thinking about this quote from Homer’s Odyssey when Odysseus finally has come home and slaughtered the suitors. He sees the maid dancing on the corpses of the suitors, overjoyed at how her oppressors have been overthrown. Odysseus brings her up on it: “It is wrong to exalt over the slain. Gloat in silence.” I sat there and I gloated in silence and it was glorious. Later, my friends very kindly threw a surprise party for me to “properly” celebrate it – it was one of the sweetest things that’s ever been done for me.
 
The subsequent publishing process was pretty rapid. William Reneham, the Editor at Dark Hall, was very enthusiastic about the work and encouraging. He made some great suggestions, but all pretty minor. Then we released it out into the world. It wasn’t as successful as I hoped, I think possibly because there was a small problem with the release and ISBNs getting mixed up – not Dark Hall’s fault but the printer’s. Even so, at one point it did come #6 in the Kindle charts for Horror! I think that whole experience was a big learning curve. Getting published doesn’t mean an instant 50,000 copies sold and a film deal. Those are things you have to work towards over a long, long time.
 
I’m still in touch with Dark Hall. At one point we were going to work on another project together but for various reasons it didn’t pan out. You should check out their other books like Shane Stadler’s Exoskeleton, that’s a killer novel. William Reneham’s own novella Night Harbor is also definitely worth a read.

With a view to being as diplomatic as you can, in your role as a writing coach have you ever encountered a writer where you just wanted to say please stop, this isn’t for you? 

You know what, never. All of the writers I’ve worked with have been so talented. It’s pretty humbling when they’re coming to you for advice.

And on a more positive note have you coached someone who you felt, “wow this person is going to go places”?

Almost every time I think that. It’s so exciting, especially when you send them feedback and see how it’s implemented, and that the story is now able to shine. You have to scrape the muck away sometimes – the confused sentences, the personal intrusive writerly thoughts, the baggage – the stuff that’s getting in the way of the story, to see what lies beneath is really this beautiful artifact. To talk about some writers specifically I’ve coached – you really want to check out Tice Cin, Jamie Parry-Bruce and Matthew Blackwell. Tice is published in the first issue of 13Dark, called Dead Voices. Her story Under Soil is one of the most sensual and terrifying pieces I’ve read in a while. Her storytelling is really unique. Jamie is doing loads of amazing things – including an audio-book series called Out of the Wild that you can find on YouTube, read by a professional voice-actor. Matthew Blackwell is another one to watch. His writing is again quite different because his influences are mostly screenplay, Lynch, that kind of dark, weird stuff, so you never know what he’s going to do next. He has an amazing short story published up at STORGY magazine called After The End – which you can read for free – it was the winner of a short story competition I hosted a while back and is featured in the special hardback edition of my collection Seven Dark Stars: Blackness Absolute.

Your collection Nekyia, is themed around the four horsemen of the apocalypse, what made you decide to write a collection of stories based around them. 

Nekyia evolved over a long, long period of time. I started writing a novella called The Contained which was partly inspired by the video-game SCP: Containment Breach. It revolved around a scientist, Fred Lazarus, trapped in an underground facility with all of nature’s abhorrent anomalies – things that needed containing – and another scientist who’d caused the facility to go into meltdown: Dr Monaghan. Dr Monaghan was the first of the horsemen, although I didn’t know it at the time.
 
I’ve always been fascinated by the horsemen and the Book of Revelations. I think the imagery in that book – regardless of what you think about its content – is just mind-blowing. Surreal, disturbing, and yet so apt for so many situations. Whether we create the meaning ourselves or there is implicit meaning, the result is the same, there is something about this text that speaks to us. I’ve always enjoyed modern renderings of ancient ideas. I loved Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and the late master Terry Pratchett. That was funny but also beautiful and dark and moving. The four horseman in that are brilliant. I wanted to go even further away from source, but despite the massive difference in tone, Good Omens was a reference for me.
 
 
It took me a long while to work out what I was doing. I was kind of writing these four horsemen unconsciously. I came to write a novella called City of Illusion and in that story found my second horseman, Yin. Dr Monaghan was War – only nowadays wars are fought by people in labcoats pushing buttons. Yin was Pestilence, only his kind of plague was one of the mind – after all, we’re far more scared of mental health deterioration. We’ll take the disintegration of our bodies – actively encourage it in fact – but speak the word dementia and it’ll put the fear of God in anyone.
 
I ended up writing four novellas – despite being continually told that novellas couldn’t sell – and each one was about a different horseman. Only after I’d completed all four did I see that they were a set and came together. So I started to edit them all again to bring them into line. After I put them together, this was only half of what would become Nekyia. At the end of the fourth novella, I had kind of drawn all the characters to the same place, but the story wasn’t finished. I had to tell the final story about what happened when they got there. This became a novel called The Fifth Horseman. The four horseman combined with this novel came to 170,000 words. There was talk of serialising it, but in the end, I thought it worked better as one (long) reading experience. I wanted people to get a similar vibe to The Stand. King’s work was a big influence for Nekyia. I was trying to go for a little bit more of a poetic style, but in essence, I wanted to emulate King’s multi-verse full of twisted villains. The Stand is one of my favourite novels of all time – it’s so mind-blowingly epic in how it deals with the concept of good and evil on a modern stage – and that was another reference point for me. In terms of the multi-verse aspect, there are allusions to most of my books in Nekyia including The Darkest Touch (one of the horsemen is a returning character from that).
 
Nekyia was nominated for the Guardian’s “Not The Booker” Prize. Sadly, it didn’t get anywhere. But it was lovely of so many people to put it forward. 

And if you could be one of the horsemen, which one would you be, and why, and what would you name your horse?

Ah man that’s so tough. Probably I’d be Death, because then at least that’s without suffering. I’d get to be the merciful one, swooping in and taking souls in the night. War is going to bludgeon you to death. Pestilence will rot you away like a Nurgle Plaguebearer. Famine is going to make you waste away. Death is the merciful one, one swift chik of his scythe and you’re done. But having said that, Dr Monaghan was so much fun to write. I mean it was just an absolute joy to get inside his fucked-up head. So, being him for a day would be fun too.
 
As to my horse, I would try and resist the temptation to name it something too cool – because it’s never as cool out loud as it is in your head. The horse would probably be black as I’d be Death, so “Crow Bag” would be a good name for a horse, I think. “Crow Bag” is a derogatory term for an incompetent soldier in the military. The “Crow” stands for Combat Recruit of War. It’s kind of affectionate in a bizarre way, and it gets in a reference to crows, which are black. Maybe I’m over thinking it!

There is a move from the more literary side of the writing world into writing about the weird, traditionally this has been the domain of the lowly genre writer.  Why do you think they are doing this? 

Because the average literary fiction writer sells 263 copies of their book a year! I’m being cruel, but I think people are starting to see that people want to read stories, not exercises in style. Style is great when it comes hand in hand with a great tale, but on its own, it’s just masturbation really. A dash of the supernatural is a great way to turn a scene from mundane to interesting and to introduce a necessary dimension of plot without having to work too hard. Of course, I also think for a lot of writers it’s a genuine shift of consciousness because of the times we live in. “May you live in interesting times,” so the Chinese saying goes, and boy are we. That naturally has an affect on us. We must also consider the move towards the Weird in TV: Game of Thrones, True Detective (primarily season 1), Twin Peaks, these shows are such masterpieces and they demonstrate that genre fiction can be deep, insightful, true to human nature. The weirdness of those shows is a big part of what makes them great.

One of your stories has been selected to appear in Shadow Booth, how did you come to appear in the anthology? 

I was very lucky. Dan Coxon reached out to me out of the blue. I think he had read a couple of my stories up at STORGY magazine. I then placed third in that Exit Earth competition – and a lot of people were surprised because I’d done it under a pseudonym, even creating a fake email and PayPal account as a front. So that ironically did the reverse of what I intended and when it came out it was me, drew a lot of attention. At that point he emailed me and asked if I wanted to be part of his new journal, Shadow Booth, alongside Richard Thomas, Paul Tremblay and Gary Budden. I mean, it was an instant yes! I couldn’t believe it. He said he wanted longer short stories which was right up my street. I sent him something, but it wasn’t really what he was looking for, more dark fantasy than weird, uncanny, eerie, which is what the Shadow Booth is going to be all about. He very graciously said I could have another shot. There was this story I’d been working on for a while, a really short 2,000 word one, and I thought it might be a good fit, so I edited it and sent it off. Dan came back five minutes later with a yes – it was a much better fit.

Can you tell us about some of the themes of the story? 

The story is called City of the Nightwatchers, and is really a tale about voyeurism and our increasing move in society towards watching rather than doing. Studies have shown that we’re actually having less sex than people in the 1920s. It seems crazy given our modern values and being less uptight about the topic, but the fact is, back in the day, if you wanted sex you had to just go out and get it. Now, we watch porn. I’ve heard stories from single friends that they’ve been midway through the act and realised their partner is filming them without their permission. Even when we’re actually doing it, we’re still in the mindset of watching ourselves doing it. It’s madness. In City of the Nightwatchers, I tried to show it as a physical change as well as a mental one. I drew a lot from the film Nightcrawler, which is really a neo-noir masterpiece, and tackles similar themes.
 
What has been a major influence on your writing?

All sorts of things can pull into a writer’s work but perhaps a more unusual influence for me are video-games. The work of Hideo Kojima and Hidetaka Miyazaki is particularly inspiring to me. With the Metal Gear Solid series, Kojima told an unprecedented story. It really is an epic of our time, dealing with all the major themes of existence but in such quirky and unique ways. In creating Solid Snake, he has created an archetypal hero of our age. It’s amazing he got the opportunity to tell that story with virtually no inhibitions on his vision.

The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

You’re right. There are a lot of negative associations with horror: cheap and nasty, shallow and thrill-driven. In reality, it’s like any other genre in that there are good and bad examples of it. Good horror is deeply rooted in empathy as Stephen King once observed, and hence we actually have to have three-dimensional characters, real plots, real human issues and drama, as well as weird or disturbing elements. I actually think a lot is happening already to break past these assumptions. The success of the new It film and, as I mentioned earlier, TV that draws on horror elements, is really bringing horror back to the forefront of people’s minds and showing what it can do when it’s well done. I think the 80s were a real renaissance for the horror movie genre with films like The Thing and many other classics, but hopefully we can get back to that. Television is especially promising these days as the writers seem to have more control as opposed to producers and conglomerates.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

Wow, this is such a hard question as there are so many important films and books that’ve influenced me. The Lord of the Rings will always be an enduring influence on me. The power of that story and prose, the sheer grandeur and beauty of it, that will be in my heart forever. The Stand was another turning point for me that helped me see what modern literature, particularly the modern novel, could do. Game of Thrones, or A Song of Ice and Fire as the book series is called, is similarly a major influence. The complexity of its characters, the three-dimensional morality, all of this is something I’d love to emulate in my own work.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?

I’ve mentioned a few already, but let me mention a few more. Grady Hendrix, whilst now he’s becoming more well known in the horror field, is still relatively unknown. His book My Best Friend’s Exorcism is one of the best books I’ve read in years. It’s a work of sublimity, for sure. All of the writers I’m publishing at 13Dark are a must too: Eden Royce, Veronica Magenta Nero, Christa Wojciechowski, Moira Katson, Tomek Dzido, Anthony Self, Ross Jeffery, Samuel Parr and Andy Cashmore. They are all incredible and most have short stories you can check out online.

How would you describe your writing style?

My writing has changed a lot since I first started and is still changing. I used to write very much in imitation of King. I was going for that direct style that really pulls you in. I’ve realised now that’s not really me. I’m more tangential as a person. I come to things the wrong – or just a different way – and I needed to let my writing reflect that. I also have synesthesia which means my senses are very intermixed, so I focus a lot on very intense imagery when I write. That’s kind of my signature, if you will, and the thing that hasn’t really changed from day one of writing. Really out-there similes and metaphors. It doesn’t always work, nothing does, but I like to think that at least I’ve tried to be original in some way.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

Once, it was dialogue. But things change. After writing The Meaning of the Dark, dialogue became one of my favourite aspects of narrative. That novel is almost entirely dialogue because it’s a transcript of an audio recording, so it tested me to my limits with what I could do and how authentic I could make it sound. Now, I think the thing I find hardest is actually the plotting. I never have problems with characters and settings, or even character arcs and subplots, but the central arc is the challenge, getting it just right. I guess that’s what writing is all about!

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

This is a tricky one! I guess as a horror writer there’s a lot that’s not off limits and that’s why I like horror. I’ve always been drawn to darker literature and felt inhibited when I first started writing because I couldn’t write about the things I was interested in: addiction, psychological disturbance, acts of extreme violence, the darkest versions of ourselves. Horror allowed me to open up and write about those things. I like to think empathy is also an important part of writing too – understanding what it’s like to be someone else – but of course without falling into the trap of cultural appropriation. There are some things which have happened to me which I feel unable to write about. I’m not sure I ever will. Not until I break my pen, perhaps. And even then, only by the grace of God.
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 

I think the main thing that’s changed in me is how I approach emotion in writing. My early novels have the hallmarks of a young madman – a monodimensional lunatic writing about one thing with maniacal zest. I didn’t want to write about the everyday. I wanted every scene to be as weird and off-the-wall as possible. I couldn’t stand any form of sentiment. Even in just a few years, I’ve mellowed. I’m now much more interested in the interiors of my characters, and those everyday conversations, and those long relationship histories. From this connection to reality and real people comes a little bit more of a catharsis. I also think this means I’m putting a lot more of myself in my work. My own doubts and fears and feelings and personality – I’m opening up. I was so determined that my writing would not be therapy, would not be just somebody downloading about ‘personal issues’, that I think I choked myself up. Hence my books were really like books written by someone else, some cold impersonal author. Now I’ve let go a little, people are noticing and saying there’s a lot more of an emotional kick waiting at the end of my books. I think what happened was I was forced to confront a lot of my prejudices and faults as a person and this in turn affected the writing at a deep level. I also just read more, practiced more, got deeper into the craft. I see the merit in things now which I never would have acknowledged before.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         

I guess this question can be answered on a number of levels, both literal and practical, and emotional. On the practical side, the ideas notepad is a must. Always take it with you. Always take a pen. Be ready to jot down a spark of inspiration at any time. On a more technical side, I recommend the project management tool Trello for mood-boarding and plotting your novels. You can attach pictures (I use images of actors and concept art from films) for your characters and places, write descriptions. It can really be as deep as you want. The whole program is free and works like a digital post-it note board. Genius. On an emotional level, observation is a key tool. To observe not just what someone is doing but why. Only then can you do the same for your characters.
 
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

I’ve received lots of generous and helpful advice over the years, and I’m grateful for every word it. I’ve had some wonderful teachers. The best piece, something I come back to over and over, is probably something I read in a book by Tristine Rainer: Your Life As Story. She posits that the climax of a book should be: ‘Something lost so something is gained’. That’s one of the things I talk about a lot when coaching writers. It’s one of the best ways to get your ending to that place where it hits like a hammer.

Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

Man, it’s almost impossible, or it can feel it, but literally my tactic has been keep going and make friends. At the end of the day, if you keep looking to the future where one day you’ll be recognised and it’ll solve all your problems, you’ll grow bitter and resent the now. I’ve learned this the hard way.  Love what you do and be as original as possible. Don’t write what you think will sell. It brings temporary fruits, granted, but never long term. People only started noticing me when I said: ‘Fuck it, I’m just going to do my own thing and write weirdly intense novels and awkward-length novellas’. As soon as I gave up trying to write a best-seller, people saw what I was doing and took notice. Albeit, my following is still pretty minimal, but it’s climbing every day. One of the things that’s boosted others’ awareness of me is the fact I’m boosting awareness of others – paradoxical, I know!
 
I realised that lots of people feel very, very lost. They’re looking for something new but they’re not sure what. I help them find great writers and artists by recommending them. I don’t do it for money or anything, just because I love introducing people to cool stuff. There are writers out there of such immense talent they should be getting all the book deals and film and series deals, but they remain obscure. I love nothing more than showing people the way to their work. As a result, lots of people start following me to get at these other writers and artists I’m promoting. They also follow for free writing advice. I’ve become known as someone who makes good recommendations, in short. If they also see one of my books while they stop by, then that’s an added bonus!


To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least  favourite to write for and why?

This is so, so true. But as Stephen King said: “Kill your darlings!”. My favourite “child” by far is Michael Banner. He is a recurring character in my fiction. Currently he’s appeared in three novels and a short story. In brief, he is a mad one-eyed prophet – the cause of nuclear holocaust on multiple worlds – an incarnation of all that is antithesis. Exactly what he is remains to be seen but there are hints. His nickname is ‘The Prince’, but it’s not what you think. He is really a dark and deep part of myself, I think. I had this terrible demon in me and the only way I could deal with it was by putting him on the page. I just didn’t count on him coming to life and taking over! Post-Nekyia I feel very at peace with this alter ego however. I think I learned to assimilate and understand him. As I said, writing can be very healing in that way.
 
The least favourite is really hard because generally I try to create characters who at least I love! Haha. Sarah in City of Illusion is definitely a candidate. She was so highly strung I felt myself getting wound up writing in her head.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

This is hard. My partner insists that The Meaning of the Dark is my best work. Quite a lot of people agree. I think, though, I’m most proud of Nekyia. Perhaps because it took 5 years to come together. Perhaps because it is just so big. Also I’m contrary.

And are there any that you would like to forget about?

Oh yes! Lots. Many don’t even get to print or even beta-readers! And there are novels I would re-write now. Like Who’s Afraid of the Slenderman? I’d probably write very differently now. I was very young and inexperienced. The Door In The Mountain too. That was something I wrote as an online fantasy series when I was 17. People really seemed to enjoy it actually. I guess it had a B-movie feel to it, and they can be quite charming precisely because of their imperfections. But were I to write a fantasy novel like that now, or more accurately a Sword & Sorcery novel, I’d do virtually everything different. Still. I don’t think I want to take it down. If people read it and leave a bad review, I’ll consider it late-learning!


For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your  books do you think best represents your work and why?

I think The Meaning of the Dark is very much what I’m about. It’s about loneliness and despair and technological isolation, but also this strange, fragile hope that people have even in the most dire of all situations. Pilot 93, the protagonist, is pushed to the very limits of human endurance and I pushed myself to the limit to write those 30,000 words. At the time I was working 60 hours a week, had no real time to write properly, and felt like my life had lost all meaning. Everything was falling apart, even the things I thought were most solid, like my relationship with friends, family and my partner. But even in that absolute dark, virtually near suicide, I found there was this strange flicker of something that kept me going. I couldn’t end it all. There was something drawing me on. I came out the other side of that book a very different person. And I like to think that’s reflected in the reading experience.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?

Ah, you are far too kind. Here is an extract from my story Night Drive. I hope you like it:
 
But there is nothing: no station, no hope. The cassette continues its dark litany as my rearview turns opaque, no longer reflecting anything, the road both before and after becoming invisible.
A blackness arrives which makes tree and road and car indivisible from one another. My breathing is an interruption of the hissing noise which reigns like a god. The blackness fits into every space, closes around the car like a blanket falling over it, or the walls of a tunnel. I pop my seatbelt and lie back, for a moment feeling the shadow of another long embrace in the dark, for a moment remembering that children’s tears wash the shrine of Dahaka.
The cassette cuts out and I feel a presence in the back of the car, a person. The darkness deepens and deepens until it is agony to even hold open one’s eyes.
I whisper her name, a fleeting string of syllables the night swallows.
She answers with my own, as we share a final communion.


What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?

100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed) by Nate Crowley was the last book I read that blew me away. Man, that guy can write. He’s witty and so knowledgeable about not only the genre of video games but human nature too. It’s basically a post-truth book detailing 100 groundbreaking, iconic video games – none of which are real. There’s a kind of hidden narrative through the whole thing. I was lucky enough to interview him for STORGY magazine about that book. It’s a genius work.
 
In terms of disappointment, I think The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood. There were some sterling passages in there but it didn’t carry the ending for me. I also felt there were a lot of places the narrative was twisted to suit an agenda. I guess, at the end of the day, I’m a believer – the supernatural is my jam. I felt like The Hidden People was kind of making fun of people like me, and Gothic, rather than pastiching it in a celebratory way. Of course that may not have been Alison’s intent, but it’s how I felt. Contrast this with Nate Crowley’s 100 Best Video Games which satirizes gamers, games and the gaming industry at every level whilst also clearly displaying an unbounded passion, love and respect for it.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?

This is a very hard question to answer indeed! I’d love to be asked about certain specific scenes in my books – particularly in Nekyia. Because the weirdest parts of it are the most real. I know that’s a cliché, but I’m being serious. It’s been a wild ride. Long may it continue. Praise the Sun!

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<![CDATA[A SPARK OF GENIUS: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK CASSELL]]>Mon, 09 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/a-spark-of-genius-an-interview-with-mark-cassell
To help promote the new charity anthology Sparks an electric themed anthology to raise money for Resources for Autism, Burdizzo Publishing.  Ginger Nuts of Horror is bringing you a series of interview with the authors involved in the anthology.  Today it is Mark Cassell's turn to feature in the spotlight.  

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK where he often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in many reputable anthologies and zines.
 
His best-selling debut novel THE SHADOW FABRIC (2014) started what has now become an expanding mythos of demons, devices, and deceit. Other published work includes SINISTER STITCHES (2015), CHAOS HALO 1.0 (2016), HELL CAT OF THE HOLT (2017), and most recently IN THE COMPANY OF FALSE GODS (2017).
 
To snatch up Mark's free stories, go to www.markcassell.com or visit the website www.theshadowfabric.co.uk.
 

Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Every school report said something along the lines of, “If Mark would spend more time on his work rather than entertaining his class mates, he would accomplish so much.” And that, my friends, sums me up a quarter of a century later.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Throwing weights around in the gym, sleeping, and… um… yeah, sleeping.

Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?

Steampunk and sci-fi. However, even when I write in both those genres, I will still sprinkle some horror into the mix. Just to make it glisten, you know?

The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

There are varying levels of horror. My novella, Hell Cat of the Holt, begins with a car crash, which in itself is horrific, right? The story then follows a lady who’s lost her cat. Again, this is horror to anyone whose pet goes missing. The horror levels then escalate. Big time.
 
So, for the horror genre, how about having a child go missing? That’s pretty damn horrific. Okay, so let’s drop it down a few notches: what about your winning lottery ticket, and discovering you’ve lost it? Imagine your frantic search around the house. And through the rush of blood in your ears, you realise that far-away humming sound is the washing machine on the final spin…
 
A story does not need gratuitous gore to be labelled horror, it doesn’t need a gun and a headshot, nor does it require frayed rope digging into a character’s wrists as an unseen captor lurks in the shadows. Every story needs emotion, and us as horror writers have chosen our genre. So we make certain our readers feel precisely that.

We will never break the taboo when it comes to horror, and quite frankly, it is that which makes me proud to stand among the ranks of horror entertainers.

A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?

Every time I turn on the news, there’s horror. I don’t know whether the world is getting worse, or the media slaps it across our faces so much it seems that way.
 
Regardless of whether the shelves in Waterstones are tagged with Horror, or those books are hidden in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section, our beloved genre is here to stay.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

The book that I can say was the catalyst is James Herbert’s Magic Cottage. As for a film, it would have to be Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, whose written work inspired me as much as Herbert’s. Another author who massively influenced me was Shaun Hutson. I can add here – and I’m still jumping around with excitement – that I’ll soon share pages in an anthology with him and several other of my literary heroes from the 80s and 90s. In fact, I’ve managed to nab a movie role in which Mr. Hutson is the script consultant, but that’s a whole other story.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?

This list could be endless. But I’m going to choose a guy whose work I’ve recently been getting into: Duncan Ralston. I’ve not long finished reading his Salvage. Such a brilliant, haunting story.

How would you describe your writing style?

Creepy, scary, and intelligent. This last is how I’ve been labelled, so please don’t think I’m riding the arrogance wagon. My work can be complex, like one big puzzle, and is perhaps why that particular word was used when referring to my work.

Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?

Yeah, my debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, received a three-star review which simply said, “Not read yet.” However, I guess it evens out all the others which are four and five-stars (yay!), but I find it incredible someone would think it’s okay to write such a thing as a review and to give it a star rating.

What aspects of writing do you find the most difficult?

When that procrastination demon leaps on my shoulders and refuses to let go.
 
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

Only one? I have several: child abuse, animal abuse, gore for the sake of gore. Oh, and weak females who trip over while fleeing from a bloke with an axe.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?"

I hate choosing names for my characters. I have no idea why, but I find this the second most difficult aspect in writing. Typically, I snatch up a name and go with it, then later in the story as the character’s trait shines through, I’ll rename them to suit.
 
Writing is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 

My first stuff was shit, I read so many how-to books I went cross-eyed, and then my stuff started to get published. However, I am still learning. And that is something I believe every writer, at whichever stage in their career, must remember it’s so important to keep learning, keep developing the gameplay.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?       
  
Dedication to a project. It’s way too easy to get excited by a shiny new idea and lose momentum with your current project. So, if dedication was a tool that could be kept on the desk, then I’d constantly polish the damn thing.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

“Re-write that, it’s shit.” This is something we all need to recognise, because every one of us is capable of writing complete shite, no matter how many years we’ve been in the game.

Getting your work noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

Be sure to entertain with not only your words, but as a human. And be nice. Don’t be a dick.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?

The main character in The Shadow Fabric, who’s also the guy from several short stories in the expanding mythos, is Leo and has always been a favourite of mine. He’s a confused character, yet strong, fun, and down to earth even when the crazy shit is going down.
 
My least favourite? As a writer, if we have a least favourite character, then we should sculpt them into one who strives to be the favourite. Each and every character cannot be weak, no matter how incidental.

And are there any that you would like to forget about?

Again, if I want to forget about any of my characters, then I’m not writing them well. Think about it, the readers will forget about them… and that is not good wordsmithing. At all.
 
Does this all make me sound like I’m hard on myself? Perhaps I am. That’s got me thinking now…

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?

Each of my books are standalone stories, however, my supernatural work is all in the Shadow Fabric mythos. The one which perhaps represents that mythos as a whole, would be Hell Cat of the Holt because it explores demons, ghosts, and a black cat legend. Plus, it has a healthy balance of horror on a human level, as well as an other-worldly level.

Do you have a favourite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?

From Hell Cat of the Holt:
 
More to myself than to him, I said: “Where are their heads?” Again, bile rose in my throat. Somehow, I managed to swallow it down, the bitterness snatching me from my daze. In the space of twenty-four hours – had it been that long? – I had seen the Black Cat for myself, a ghost, and now this Frankenstein horror.
 
The woven skin and bone, of jean material and T-shirt and shirts, was like a patchwork quilt. But it was the stitches, they … they somehow twitched as though with a life of their own. I remembered how Leo had mentioned the darkness was sentient, a veil between worlds, he’d said. Those stitches were indeed a part of the Shadow Fabric. If I’d ever needed proof, then here it was.
 
On the floor below this nightmare, a heap of crimson muck had soaked into the carpet. What I assumed had been the thumps we’d heard were fleshy sacks of muscle and offal that quivered amid barbed vines – similar to the one I’d stepped over in Pippa’s garden. The vines snaked and twitched, flexing upwards as though trying to reach for the appendages above.
 
“Leo …” I whispered.

Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?

I’ve just released In the Company of False Gods, a Lovecraftian steampunk horror. Its tagline: “He had no idea his creation would take him to the threshold between worlds.” It jumped to #4 on Amazon’s fantasy and steampunk charts.
 
I am currently juggling three projects: a larger piece in the Shadow Fabric mythos puzzle, another story in my steampunk world, and also a random short story.
 
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?

The hooded man on a book cover. Seriously, lose the hood, dammit. It’s like chiseled abs on an erotic romance cover.

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?

I’ve just finished Lydian Faust’s Forest Underground, and gave it a five-star review. Seriously, for a debut, that is one fine book. The one that disappointed me was, sadly, James Herbert’s Shrine. I just could not get into it and actually gave up halfway through.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?

Generous Person: “No catch, would you like a million pounds?”
Mark Cassell: “Too right, I would. Yes please.”
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This is a public service announcement on behalf of Burdizzo Books.
Ghosts in the machine? Killer currents? Demonic disturbances?
Then you need Sparks!

Keep your family safe from bulbs and batteries that go bump in the night by reading Sparks. 15 electrifying tales of horror, sci-fi, bizarro and fantasy. Visit post-apocalyptic nightmare worlds, listen to recordings of the dead, feel the friction of electric lady love and be struck by lightning from the past.
Plug in, turn on, tune in and get buzzed.
Sparks – it’s alive!

Picture
When commissioned to build a clockwork construct, wheelchair-bound Attacus doubts his abilities. Once powered up, his creation escapes and runs amok, destroying more than just the town he calls home. Hunting his deadly automaton forces him to confront his past.

He had no idea his creation would take him to the threshold between worlds.

And soon he finds himself ...
In the Company of False GodsFrom Mark Cassell, author of the best-selling supernatural horror novel The Shadow Fabric, comes a Lovecraftian steampunk novelette.

His work has been compared with British horror authors such as James Herbert, Clive Barker, Dennis Wheatley, and Brian Lumley. Also, his influences spread over to the US where he admits to having been first inspired by Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, and H P Lovecraft.

RELATED POSTS 

ON MY RADAR: MARK CASSELL IS IN THE COMPANY OF FALSE GODS


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<![CDATA[ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID HARTLEY]]>Sun, 08 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/enter-the-shadow-booth-an-interview-with-david-hartley
As part of Ginger Nuts of Horror's support of the Kickstarter for Tales From The Shadow Booth, we have teamed up with some of the contributors for a series of exclusive interviews.  Today Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes David Hartley

Writer, performer, optimist, vegan, rabbit enthusiast, PhD student. He writes strange stories about strange things for strange people and read them out loud on various stages in Manchester and beyond. His  tales tend to be short, sharp, and weird, and more than a little unsettling. His favourite authors include John Wyndham, Ursula Le Guin, JG Ballard, China Mieville, Alan Garner, Adam Marek and Iain Banks. 

His fiction has been published in numerous places including Ambit Magazine, Black Static, Structo Magazine, Shooter Lit Mag, The Alarmist and two Boo Books anthologies; After the Fall (2014) and We Can Improve You (2015). You can find links to lots of his fiction on the Stories page.
click here to support the kickstarter

Hello David, Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Hello! I’m a writer, performer, and PhD researcher based in Manchester. I’ve been writing weird little tales for about ten years now and can often be found haunting the various spoken word stages of the rainy city.
 
On your website you mention that you took part in an apocalyptic arts event in Preston Bus Station, you have to tell us more about that. 

This was an amazing event, and such a joy to be a part of. For the uninitiated, Preston Bus Station is a bit of big deal in certain circles. For Prestonians, depending on your perspective, it’s either a big archaic eye-sore and dangerous place to be at night, or it’s a stunning example of Brutalist architecture. It’s been threatened with closure and demolition for many years but various architectural campaigns have kept it alive. Back in 2013, the Preston arts collective They Eat Culture put together this one-off live performance event inside the bus station with this apocalyptic theme – the fate of the station seemed to be fixed on destruction at that point. It was a promenade event with various performers, including a choir, an MC, a poet and me doing a madcap Choose Your Own Adventure story next to the men’s toilet. The station itself was still open and operational while the show was happening so my audience was a combination of paying customers and bemused commuters. It was a freezing cold March evening. I was wearing an A-board with ‘THE END IS NIGH’ written on it. It was one of the strangest but most brilliant events I’ve ever been involved in. The bus station is still standing.

Performing live is something that you appear to love, what is it about the live venue that you find so appealing? 

Live performance has always gone hand-in-hand with my writing and I’m never too far away from the stage. I love having the chance to inject a bit of theatricality into my stories, to bring them alive in front of a room full of people. Storytelling is one of the most ancient arts and we’ve lost a little of that by hiding behind typewriters and keyboards. Also, reading a story or poem at a spoken word night can do wonders for your evolution as a writer. You get a real sense of what works and what doesn’t, and how to make your pieces sound good, not just read well. Throw a bit of theatre in there, with accents, props, even costumes, and you’ve suddenly got a room full of people hanging on your every word. There’s no greater feeling. Plus, it really helps to sell books!

Your PhD thesis sounds fascinating, what was the main factor in you specialising in portrayal of autism in science fiction? 

My older sister Jenny is autistic so it’s always been a major part of my life. I’d stored autism to one side as a writing theme for quite a while but last year I felt ready to start tackling it, so I turned it into a PhD. The sci-fi side of things came naturally as I rarely write anything outside of SF&F. I’ve discovered that there’s a real appetite for this particular combination as it has never been seriously explored before – or at least not in any great depth. And yet autistic people themselves are often huge fans of sci-fi and fantasy. There’s something really fascinating about our culture at the heart of all this so the PhD is my way of trying to dig that out…

Out of all of the instances of autism in science fiction, which one do you think came closest to “getting it right” and which one has annoyed you the most?
 
Weirdly, the answer is the same for both of these questions. There’s one major sci-fi novel about autism: Elizabeth Moon’s Speed of Dark. In many ways Moon really nails what it is like to be autistic in a non-autistic world and the principle character, Lou, is a fascinating hero, complexly imagined and very believable. He works for a tech company who give him the opportunity to undergo experimental brain surgery to cure his autism and the novel becomes about how he battles with the decision about whether he should or not. It’s all very interesting and compelling, but then the ending is a massive let down for me which I think sends out completely the wrong message. I won’t spoil it, but I found it utterly deflating. Perhaps that was always Moon’s point, but rather than making me think, or chilling me, it just made me feel overwhelmingly sad. I think it was a misfire.
 
Far and away the best depiction of autism, for me, is Abed Nadir from the TV comedy Community. Not only in the way he is depicted, but also in the way he has powerful narrative agency for many of the best episodes of the show. Autistic characters rarely achieve any real agency – Abed is the stand-out exception.
 
Your stories have a diverse range of themes from haunted bath tubs, time travelling libraries, and an insect crime scene. Are you more comfortable writing in the fabulous and the bizarre? 
 
Yes, absolutely. The fabulous and bizarre excite me far more than the mundane and realistic. There’s some deep magic in the thrill of leaping into the fantastic and strange where you can throw normality around and make it deviant and vibrant. For me, I think a lot of it stems from my exposure to my sister’s autism. Her unusual perspective on life has always made me see things from a quirked angle where reality is not so fixed and obvious. One of the worst things a person can do is chase normality because there is no true version of normal. Autism shows us this, if we listen.

There is a move from the more literary side of the writing world into writing about the weird, traditionally this has been the domain of the lowly genre writer.  Why do you think they are doing this? 
 
They’ve perhaps finally realised its power and potential - something that genre writers have been well aware of for a long, long time! And with the frenetic nature of the modern world, where it feels impossible to get any kind of firm grip, where identity and reality are continually shifting and fracturing, sometimes at an alarming and dizzying rate – well, the weird is perhaps the only natural response.

One of your stories has been selected to appear in Shadow Booth, how did you come to appear in the anthology? 
 
The editor Dan approached me and asked for a story. I think he’d read a very dark tale of mine, ‘Pigskin’, which appeared in issue 55 of Black Static (TTA Press) and we took it from there. 

Can you tell us about some of the themes of the story? 
 
My story for Shadow Booth is one of my animal-based stories. I’ve been writing about animals for many years now – it’s one of my main thematic preoccupations. I’m a vegan and a bit of an animal rights advocate so my thoughts often run to the mistreatment of animals, which very quickly turn into dark and disturbing stories. This one, ‘Betamorphosis’, is a reversal of Kafka’s classic tale and features a cockroach who is turned into a video game character. It’s a comment on the RoboRoach – a real thing where engineers have captured and modified live cockroaches by grafting a chip onto their heads. The chip allows the engineers to control the cockroaches with a remote device – all while the insects are still alive. That sort of thing triggers all my animal welfare alarms and the story came quite naturally after that…

What has been a major influence on your writing?
 
I’ve already covered most of them above – animals, nature, autism, the theatre. Music also has a big influence I think. I often listen to music when I write and I think it really helps with me striking the right tone and rhythm. I have a long, long playlist of ambient electronica which helps transport me to the strange and distant lands of my weird worlds. Plus another playlist of dramatic classical and energetic EDM for when I need to write fight scenes or chase scenes! Music, for me, acts as a form of silence – it blocks out everything else and makes me focus right in on what I need to be doing. Along the way, it sets the right mood.


The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

It does indeed carry a lot of difficult imagery – fear, gore, terror – but I think things are changing. Horror films are having a good run of things at the moment and becoming more sophisticated in their exploration of what actually scares us, rather than just making us jump or squirm. I’m think of films like Get Out and Raw and Under the Shadow.
 
It’s curious, I never really intend to write ‘horror’ stories as such but they often become quite horrible – and if they do, I tend not to temper it down. Horror still has something very profound to say and if a writer is skillful enough to remove the schlock but keep the shock, a bit of sophisticated gore or terror can take the reader to some important philosophical places. So, when people ask what sort of thing I write, I do now tend to include Horror alongside SF&F as one of the genres I work in.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

Oh, there are loads. Main ones: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley for teaching me how to shock and surprise, Elidor by Alan Garner which instilled a love of magic and how it can terrify, and pretty much everything and anything by China Mieville who is something of a god. Films: Blade Runner, Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky, Chungking Express by Wong Kar Wai, and a clutch of films about unstable identity which came out around the turn of the millennium: Donnie Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Matrix and so on. I’m also very much influenced by video games, particularly the Zelda series.  

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?

Aliya Whiteley springs to mind. Her two novellas The Beauty and The Arrival of Missives, and a number of her short stories, have made her a real one to watch. She’ll be massive. She’ll be winning prizes all over the place, just watch.

How would you describe your writing style?

Fidgety. It never really sits still. I sit down, splurge it out and let it play and dance around while I try to pin it all down into something that makes sense. I’m not particularly interested in writing to rules or specific structures. I write until I get a proper feel for the tone and direction of the story (and that can take many drafts or mere minutes) and then think if there’s anything strange I can get away with in terms of voice or the framing. It doesn’t always work but it keeps things fresh and interesting!

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

Editing I think. I’m bad at going back to a story that hasn’t worked and fixing it up. I tend to just ditch it and move on to something else. I really have to love the idea at the core of the story for me to go back to it again and again to get it right. I’ve got files full of abandoned half-stories which I’m sure I could whip into shape if I had a little more patience.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

There are certain areas which have been done to death in short fiction. I’m sure there are ways to approach these topics in fresh and interesting ways, but I think they just need to be set aside for a while because, frankly, it’s getting kind of boring. So, it’s unlikely I’ll ever write about the following: a) love affairs b) getting drunk c) taking drugs d) rich people with money being sad e) cafés
 
Also, I sort of made a pact with myself right at the beginning to never write a story where the main character is a writer (King’s Misery springs to mind). It can be done well, but it’s usually a bit self-indulgent and it always suggests to me that the author has lost a bit of imagination. 
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
 
For the first few years of writing I just chased ideas and wrote about anything I could think of. This was good – it enabled me to experiment and get a ‘feel’ for sitting at a keyboard and hammering out the words. After a couple of years of this there was a turning point: I started writing about topics I had a passion for. More than that: things I was angry about. Writing then became a catharsis for dealing with injustices – for me it was writing about animals that turned me into a proper writer and made me realise that I wanted to carry on and push it as far as possible. I wrote a furious story about a robot dog which was picked up by a literary magazine. I’ve chased that fury ever since. And now I’m trying to write novels with the same drive.    

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         

Patience. Achievements in writing don’t happen overnight. You have to be patient with your own brain as it works out how it wants to write. You have to get into this strange relationship with the creative core of your subconscious which absorbs the world and stores it while you get on with normal life. Then you need to set it into a comfortable nook while you start crafting together the words. All this takes practice and patience, but it comes. 

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

My dad, who is also a writer, said that you know when you’re a writer when you realise you’ve got this nagging little voice in your head saying; hey, do some writing. An instinctual impulse to write which sits inside your chest like an imp, poking you into anxiety if you’ve not written anything for a while. It can be irritating, but it’s there for life, and it reminds you that you can’t get away from it: you’re a writer. Might as well embrace it, right?

Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
 
Live performance helps a lot here because it’s an instant way of showing you and your fiction off to a ready-made crowd of people. It also opens doors. If you make yourself good at live reading, more opportunities for it will always come along, exposing you to more and more people.
 
But there’s a bigger point here: say yes to opportunities. Leap at creative endeavors when they come along and chase them down if you don’t have any. They may not always pay in actual money, but they always pay back in good faith and experience.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least  favourite to write for and why?

Tough question. I never really get all that close to my characters. Although, at the moment, my PhD novel is become a very personal endeavor. I’ve written my sister into the book and I’m very conscious of getting her ‘right’ and doing her justice. She’s becoming a really fun character to write because she goes against many of the conventions of narrative. She doesn’t talk or act in the way a ‘normal’ character ‘should’ in a book. I find this sort of thing deliriously exciting. 

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
 
I had a short story called ‘Shooting an Elephant’ published in Ambit Magazine a couple of years ago. It’s probably my best story and I’m immensely proud of it. This was another result of furious anger at human treatment of animals – in this case; big game hunting. It’s a ferocious tale about violence, masculinity, terror and performance. It’ll need another airing soon no doubt. 

And are there any that you would like to forget about?

Oh there are many. Failed experiments that I’ve left languishing in abandoned files. Fortunately, I’m part of a very brutal writing group who happily and cleanly kill off stories which JUST DON’T WORK DAVID. I recently wrote a story that tried to set the Channel 4 programme First Dates in a labyrinth with minotaurs. A delicious idea, but it just didn’t go anywhere and I had to put it to sleep.  

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
 
I think my collection Spiderseed which came out last year. It collects together a bunch of my flash fictions from the previous few years, including many which I’ve honed in live performance. It will introduce readers into how my mind works and what I’m trying to do with form and tone. Also, it’s got some really brilliant illustrations in it by fine artist Emmy Ingle.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
 
The opening line of Pigskin: “Pig was born with skin made of bacon.” I’ve always been happy with that. I’ve always been very keen on getting the opening lines of stories right – often they are the very first thing that comes into my head and the stories spin out from there.
 
The opening line of Betamorphosis was exciting to write too: “When Gyrx Gyrxsyn awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself changed into a monstrous Lara Croft.” – buy Shadow Booth to read on!

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?

I very much enjoyed China Mieville’s Last Days of New Paris about the various figures from surrealist art coming to life during the WWII. It’s even better, and more bonkers, than I’ve made it seem.
 
I read a lot of non-fiction nature books and there was one which everyone got super excited about a few years ago – and I hated it. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, a biographical account of the author taking on falconry while dealing with grief. I thought it was middle-class animal abuse dressed up in beautiful prose. Macdonald is a fantastic writer no doubt, but I really, really felt for the poor bird dragged through it all. No-one else seemed to care. I’m currently trying to write a riposte called B is for Bird.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?

This set of questions has already been very thorough! I’m struggling to think of something else…
 
Ok here’s one: What do you do to get through writer’s block?
 
Answer: writer’s block is a very real thing. In the short term: long showers and long walks usually help. Putting my body and mind in a totally different situation sometimes helps to keep everything continually refreshed. Also; eat well, stay active, don’t stay up late. Basically: look after yourself, be kind to yourself.
 
And if it lasts for longer, days on end, just allow yourself a break from writing. It will come back, as long as you’ve still got that imp lodged in your chest giving you a poke. Your brain will sort things out and when you get back to it, the writing will soon flow true again.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE TALES FROM THE SHADOW BOOTH KICKSTARTER 

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<![CDATA[ENTER THE SHADOW BOOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH ANNIE NEUGEBAUER]]>Wed, 04 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/enter-the-shadow-boooth-an-interview-with-annie-neugebauer
As part of Ginger Nuts of Horror's support of the Kickstarter for Tales From The Shadow Booth, we have teamed up with some of the contributors for a series of exclusive interviews.  Today Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes Annie Neugebauer.  

Annie specializes in horror, literary fiction, poetry, gothic, and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared  in more than a hundred publications, including magazines such as ApexBlack Static, and Cemetery Dance, as well as anthologies such as Bram Stoker Award finalist The Beauty of Death and #1 Amazon bestseller Killing It Softly. My story “Hide” was included in Ellen Datlow’s recommended list for Best Horror of the Year Volume 7. Her book of poetry received an honorable mention in the Stevens Competition by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and placed 2nd in the Edwin M. Eakin Memorial Book Publication Award by the Poetry Society of Texas. 

Annie is an active member of the  community, a founding member and past president of the Denton Writers’ Critique Group, webmaster for the Poetry Society of Texas, member of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and active member of the Horror Writers Association. She is a columnist at two different Writer’s Digest award-winning websites: Writer Unboxed and LitReactor.
She lives in Texas with two terribly cute cats and a husband who’s exceptionally well-prepared for the zombie apocalypse.She is  hyperactively organized and willing to share that neurosis with other writers at The Organized Writer. While you’re there, you can also find her published works, read the latest buzz about them, and browse pictures of writers’ offices at The Decorative Writer. She usually post new blogs 1-4 times a month, and she loves to read your comments! You can also find her flitting around the Twit-o-sphere @AnnieNeugebauer, and generally hanging out anywhere books live.
Hello Annie, Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Hi there! I write novels, short stories, poems, and blogs. Horror, literary fiction, and speculative work are my main genres.

And what exactly is a craftologist?

A goofy word I made up for a person who invents and does a lot of crafts. I’m big into design, aesthetics, and DIY, everything from dinky little paper throwaways to retiling our bathroom floor. (Mostly somewhere in the middle.) In fact, look for my horror-reader-geared craft tutorial on this year’s Halloween Haunts, the October blog event hosted by the Horror Writers Association. I’ll be sharing how to make your own ‘witch books’ using old hardbacks you don’t want.

And just how prepared is your husband for the zombie apocalypse?

More than your average bear, but less than your average prepper. We don’t have a secret basement stockpiled with gear, but my spousal unit happens to be the single best person to have around in an emergency that I’ve ever known. All our friends and family agree that if zombies happen, they’re headed to our house. With his survival skills and my zombie knowledge we’d be an unstoppable team.

You have had a lot of success in publishing your short stories through some amazing publications such as Apex, and Black Static. What advice would you give to up and coming authors with regards to submitting to publications such as this?

Thank you! Yes, I’m very honored by the markets who’ve published my work. My best advice: never give up. That’s the only way to crack the big markets. (You need to send in good work, obviously, but there’s some kismet to it too.) Keep a submissions chart with detailed records of dates and responses. Submit way more times and to way more markets than you think you should need to. Seriously, my submission chart is pages and pages long. The market can’t say yes if you don’t send in your work. So send, send, send.

You also write for LitReactor and Writer Unboxed, how does writing for sites such as these help a writer?

LitReactor and Write Unboxed are quite different in tone and readership, but they’ve both helped me in countless ways. They’ve enabled me to reach a wider audience and connect with people: other writers, editors, agents, and readers. LitReactor is a steady part of my income. Writer Unboxed gave me the incredible opportunity to contribute to their Writer’s Digest anthology Author In Progress. And they’ve both taught me lessons about time management, writing on deadline, and receiving impersonal reader feedback. They’re both great sites I’m grateful to be a part of.

You write in many different styles horror, literary fiction, poetry, gothic, and speculative fiction, do you have a favourite in which to write, and do you have a thematically common thread that runs through them all?
 
I always answer that horror is sort of my home base, but I could never commit to a single one. Really my favourite place to live is in the blurring of genres and styles. I like the work that falls between labels and strikes me as fresh and interesting. I have plenty of thematic threads that connect my work, but none of them are overly intentional or rigid. I just explore what thrills me and hope to find readers who feel the same.

There is a move from the more literary side of the writing world into writing about the weird, traditionally this has been the domain of the lowly genre writer. Why do you think they are doing this?

Honestly, I think the designations are somewhat arbitrary and the shifts are in perpetual cycle. I’ve largely stopped worrying about it; that’s just marketing. I write what I like, which is often a blending of literary and weird and genre, and let labels come after I’ve created something I’m happy with. Readers have distinct tastes, but they’re as vast and varied as any writer’s, so I just follow my own.

One of your stories has been selected to appear in Shadow Booth, how did you come to appear in the anthology?

I heard about it on Twitter, I think, and reached out to share my excitement for the project. Then Dan invited me to send something in for him to consider, which he thankfully liked!

Can you tell us about some of the themes of the story?
 
“That Which Never Comes” is an experimental horror story about what it means to run or hide from our fears.

What has been a major influence on your writing?

My love of books, the books I’ve read, the poetry and horror and comedy and romance and drama. I mean, everything I live and love influences my writing. Some stand-out influential authors have been Poe, King, Laurell K. Hamilton, Anne Rice, the Brontës, Ray Bradbury…
 
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

I feel so passionately about this that I’ve written entire essays. Here’s the short version: horror explores fear and associated emotions. That’s it. That’s the only defining requirement. Monsters and gore and genre conventions are secondary. So the best way to break past the stigma and assumptions associated with horror is to use the label liberally and consistently – to claim all of the types and styles of horror, not just a select few. People have to get past this equating of slasher gore with horror; there’s so much more out there that’s deep and intellectual and emotionally valuable. And fun, too. Don’t forget fun. They’re all valid uses of the genre.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

I touched on this above. Poe was one of the earliest. House of Leaves came later in my life and changed me. Shirley Jackson as well. Films are slipperier for me. Wait Until Dark stands out, as does the first Paranormal Activity (I’ll fight you), Halloween, and Psycho. Eraserhead scarred me the most deeply. My passion catches easily, so I’m vastly influenced by more art than I could ever list.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?

This is an awesome question! I mean, the really new ones I guess I don’t necessarily know yet. But of the somewhat newer-wave contemporary authors working hard in horror, I adore Gemma Files, Gillian Flynn, Paul Tremblay, Lucy Snyder, and Justin Cronin. I’m also watching Iain Reid and Marisha Pessl.

How would you describe your writing style?

What I aim for is the tagline of my website: Sharp, dark, and beautiful.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

Probably the non-writing accoutrement. Fear, doubt, waiting, disappointment, those types of things. The lifestyle is hard. The writing is hard sometimes too, but in such a rewarding way.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?


There aren’t any subjects that I can say with 100% certainty I’ll never write about, no. There are plenty that I don’t feel called to write, but I never make anything off limits – there just has to be a purpose.
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?

My confidence and the clarity of my artistic vision has certainly grown. I’d like to think my skills and abilities have improved as well. I think I’ve become more comfortable being true to myself, to staying the course and not letting outside opinions influence me unless I want them to. I feel sure.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?  

A computer, a word processing program, and the time + space to write. Everything else is icing.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

It’s a quote from Lisa Morton at World Horror Con 2015. I keep it on my bookshelf as a reminder. It simply says: “Be bold.”

Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

Sheer stubborn persistence! I just keep believing that if I work hard, create good writing, and continue to put it out there then eventually people will take notice. I do the marketing stuff too, but at the end of the day I have to believe that good work rises to the top – so I put most of my effort into writing well and challenging myself.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?

I’ve honestly never felt that way, maybe because I don’t always write particularly ‘likeable’ characters. More often they feel like parts of myself – or like people I would want to watch but not know. My least favorites are the ones who I struggle to make come to life; my favorites (whether villains or protagonists) are the ones who spill onto the page as if on their own. I enjoy writing characters I ‘know,’ not the ones I ‘like.’

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

I’m proud of different projects in different ways. I’m very, very proud of the story I have forthcoming in Cemetery Dance as well as the one coming in Apex this October.

And are there any that you would like to forget about?

Of course. They live in a folder in my computer called The Cellar. I never open it. (I once wrote a cheeky horror poem about them coming back to get me.)

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?

Of my stories, I’d say my super short piece “Hide” in Black Static Issue 43 is fairly representative. That one was long-listed by Ellen Datlow for that year’s Best Horror and podcasted by Pseudopod, where you can listen to it for free.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?

There’s no way I can choose a single favorite! But how about a little sneak peek at my story forthcoming in Shadow Booth?
 
It was in the closet, whatever it was. It was alive, but not breathing. Unspeaking, but audible. Invisible in the darkness of his bedroom, but absolutely present. Daniel couldn’t help but wonder if there was some seed of truth to all the monster-in-the-closet stories. Was it coincidence, or had people’s lizard brains been on to something from long since before he was born? It didn’t matter. It was in his closet now.
It had started as a faint click, like the sound of two plastic coat hangers tapping together. Click, click, click. The air conditioning wasn’t on, though. It was still spring enough to feel cool at nights. So how had the hangers clicked? The slow slide of gravity finally shifting a shirt, maybe, or a fly hitting a wrinkle just so on its path through the air, or maybe even a distant vibration snaking imperceptibly through the house, up the wall, and through the wooden rod the hangers rested on, moving them ever so slightly from beneath.
Click, click, click.
Or a long fingernail tapping the painted shell of his hollow closet door.

 
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?

Books disappoint me all the time, but I don’t like calling them out. The last great book I read was The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. What a masterful piece of work.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?

I think every writer wants to be asked, “How can I help?” I have to make a living. You can help me do that by donating directly through my website, or – totally free to you – shopping at Amazon through my affiliate link so I get a percentage of your spending there. And of course, I want to be read. Money pays the bills, but readers are why I do this. Much of my work is available free online in various magazines and journals if you’d like to check it out – others for purchase. If you read something and enjoy it, please consider telling your friends, leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or even just dropping me a note to let me know. It means the world to me.
 
Thank you for having me, Jim!

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE TALES FROM THE SHADOW BOOTH KICKSTARTER 

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TALES FROM THE SHADOW BOOTH: VOL 1
ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH SARAH READ
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<![CDATA[FIVE MINUTES WITH ​DAMIAN MURPHY AND HIS DAUGHTERS OF APOSTASY]]>Wed, 04 Oct 2017 07:31:59 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/five-minutes-with-damian-murphy-and-his-daughters-of-apostasy
​Damian Murphy is the author of The Academy Outside of Ingolstadt, Seduction of the Golden Pheasant, and The Exaltation of the Minotaur, among other collections and novellas. His work has been published on the Mount Abraxas, Les Éditions de L’Oubli, and L’Homme Récent imprints of Ex Occidente Press, in Bucharest, and by Zagava Books, in Dusseldorf. His latest collection, published by Snuggly Books in September of 2017, and the first to be offered in a paperback edition, is entitled Daughters of Apostasy. He was born and lives in Seattle, Washington.
 
 
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
 
I think the main thing to know is that I’ve been a practicing occultist for my entire adult life (about 25 years now). This absolutely informs every other thing I do. I’ve been told that my writing is “drenched in the occult”. A writer is supposed to write what they know, and I often feel that I know little else.
 
Other than that, I’ve been obsessed with literature, art, and cinema for as long as I can remember. I have a persistent fascination with obscurity. I often stay awake into the unacceptable hours of the night playing very old electronic games on emulators that run on a PC. 
 
 
How would you describe your writing style?
 
My writing explores aspects of the occult that, to the best of my knowledge, have rarely been explored or acknowledged in fiction (or in non-fiction, for that matter). I find myself wondering what it would be like if, say, Anaïs Nin or Andre Gide decided to write a short story or novella that’s thoroughly suffused in occult ideas and practices. This is most often where I start. Where it goes from there is another matter entirely.
 
Many of my stories are concerned with the motifs of deception, trespass, and transgression. My characters are always sneaking around, doing things they’re not really supposed to be doing, crossing boundaries, eavesdropping, or committing minor acts of theft and vandalism. There’s a tendency for them to be rewarded for their illicit efforts, though the rewards themselves may be somewhat dubious. There’s a decadent streak that runs through almost everything I write as well, and an inclination toward fetish and obsession.
 
Jean Cocteau once said that style is a matter of taking something complicated and making it simple. It’s essential to me, first and foremost, that the reader finds my stories to be easy and enjoyable, despite the fact that some very complex ideas run through them. 
 
Somebody once described my prose as ‘delicious’. This was a huge compliment to me, as that’s exactly the effect I’m aiming for.
 
 
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
 
I go back and forth on which piece is my favorite. Currently it’s a toss-up between two pieces: ‘The Ivory Sovereign’ and ‘Seduction of the Golden Pheasant’. The former (published in Exaltation of the Minotaur) is based on the dark rides, or ride-through haunted houses, that proliferated (kind of) in the US and parts of Europe between the 1960s and 1980s. The best of these dark rides were a little odd, to say the least. I’m far more interested in rides like Flight to Mars, which spent time on Coney Island and in Seattle’s Fun Forest, among other places, than I am in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. In ‘The Ivory Sovereign’, an entirely different type of ride is imagined, an attraction found only in small towns across Europe and which are known as ‘Mystery Houses’. The protagonist of the story winds up wandering through the bowels of a Mystery House which may or may not have fallen into a state of malfunction.
 
‘Seduction of the Golden Pheasant’ is about a young woman that becomes obsessed with the images in her wallpaper. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ was the starting point for that story, though it ended up going to a very different place: a stolen medallion, a masked party at a lavish chateau, an obscure (to the West) form of Taoist alchemy known as Mao Shan. 
 
 
To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least  favourite to write for and why?
 
This is definitely the case with me. So far, my favorite character is Theodora from ‘The Scourge and the Sanctuary’ (one of the stories included in Daughters of Apostasy). Theodora performs ritual operations on keys that she finds lying in the street, which she then slips beneath locked doors in order to gain access to what’s behind them. She uses Finnigan’s Wake for bibliomancy, sends periodic reports to a distant friend in which her arcane activities are described in detail, with certain omissions, and is an unrepentant, if very petty, thief. She has a poetic and slightly affected manner of speaking and thinking which I’ve adapted, with modifications, to many other stories. She serves as the prototype for several of my later characters.
 
 
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your  books do you think best represents your work and why?
 
Daughters of Apostasy is a great place to start. It’s the first book of my work published in an affordable, paperback format, and collects four early stories along with a new novella, ‘The Music of Exile’. As such, it encompasses a fairly wide range of styles.
 
 
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
 
I tend to be attracted to works of art that emanate a sense of mystery so compelling that I find myself thinking that I would kill to know more. There’s an art to revealing just enough—not too little, not too much—to compel a reader or viewer to explore a work at a greater depth, and to try to find patterns and connections in order to further understand something that remains partially concealed.
 
Authors like Alain Robbe-Grillet, Bruno Schulz, Angela Carter, and Robert Aickman have long exerted that type of fascination on me as a reader. Gene Wolfe’s New Sun series has had a tremendous influence on the way in which I go about constructing a narrative (though some of his work has also led me to avoid writing stories that resemble elaborate crossword puzzles). Jean Cocteau and Marguerite Duras for their approach to style. Marcel Schwob’s Book of Monelle and The University of Chicago’s recent publication of The Nightwatches of Bonaventura both came as a revelations to me.
 
What I take from film is largely a matter of style and atmosphere. Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf, Robert Altman’s Three Women, Cocteau’s Orpheus—the motifs and atmospheres presented in these films are so irresistible that I’m always trying to find new ways to introduce them into my writing.
 
 
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
 
Some of the best fiction that I’ve read throughout the course of my lifetime has been written in the last 20 years by little-known authors. To give only a few examples: Quentin S. Crisp, Adam Cantwell, Colin Insole, Justin Isis, Brendan Connell, George Berguno, John Howard—this is anything but an exhaustive list. There’s a man who goes by the name M Kitchell that writes insanely intriguing, and often very fractured, narratives.
 
 
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
 
I tend to switch things up from story to story. Sometimes I’ll choose a name that reveals something about the character or their situation that isn’t revealed elsewhere, while in other instances I’ll choose a name that just feels right for the character. In more than one instance, the name of a character has been used to provide a major clue to part of the subtext of the story. I recently named a character after the code-name for a gaming console from the late 1970s, with good reason.
 
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
 
There’s a feedback loop between reading and writing that can be exploited in order to allow a deeper approach to both. I’ll often return to my sources of inspiration after having written something based in them only to find that there’s even more there than I had previously thought. The act of exploring another author through writing opens previously unseen doors within that author’s work. Some books are like never-ending wells—you can keep going deeper and deeper into them without ever seeming to reach an end.
 
 
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
 
The last major piece I finished is ‘The Star of Gnosia’, which will be included in a book of the same name, along with some more early pieces, published by Snuggly Books in 2018. The story concerns three siblings in their teenage years, two male, one female, who are left alone for two weeks in their expansive Spanish manor. They decide amongst themselves to attempt to reach a state of Gnostic enlightenment, each according to their own techniques, within that brief space of time.
 
Currently I’m working on a piece provisionally entitled ‘A Spy in the Panopticon’, the motifs of which include, as it states within the text itself, “an illicit broadcast, a receiving station assailed by high winds, a mechanized eye, a lethal signal, an invisible city and a geomantic conspiracy.”
 
 
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
 
I will give a single sentence, from ‘The Hour of the Minotaur’, first published in The Gift of the Kos’mos Cometh! anthology, and which will be included in the Snuggly Books release of The Star of Gnosia in 2018:
“To be fair, I must concede that I am not a reasonable man.”

click here to purchase a copy
Picture
An act of trespass, the subtle topology of an opulent hotel, a lengthy composition involving an exiled abbess, a letter mailed to an unknown recipient, a border station concealed by inexplicable winds, an antiquated electronic game, a rite of passage modulated by a metronome, a Gnostic heresy, a ruined church, an employee engaged in illicit acts of passion: by these and several other devices do the daughters of apostasy seek to irritate the vessels of the earth. Strange wine may be distilled thereby, and thus might the obsessive aspirant perceive the tenets of a hidden doctrine.

In these five stories and novellas, the intrigues and stratagems of interlopers, initiates, poets, and bibliophiles are revealed in all their illicit splendor. By way of complex and labyrinthine routes do they come to obtain impossible relics not known even among the kings of the earth.

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<![CDATA[ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH SARAH READ]]>Thu, 28 Sep 2017 08:14:24 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/enter-the-shadow-booth-an-interview-with-sarah-read
As part of Ginger Nuts of Horror's support of the Kickstarter for Tales From The Shadow Booth, we have teamed up with some of the contributors for a series of exclusive interviews.  Today Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes Sarah Read.  

Sarah Read is a dark fiction writer and freelance editor recently relocated from the foothills of Colorado to the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in GamutBlack Static, and other places, and in various anthologies including Exigencies, Suspended in Dusk, and BEHOLD! Oddities Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders. She also writes numerous articles about crocheting and fountain pens. She is the Editor in Chief at Pantheon Magazine and an active member of the Horror Writer’s Association. When she’s not staring into the abyss, she knits.

Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @Inkwellmonster or keep up with her on Facebook.

And to support this wonderful Kickstarter click here for the full details 
Hello Sarah, Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

I’m a writer, mom, editor, librarian, stationery blogger, yarn-thing who lives in a very old house by a river. My walls are full of books and I keep spiders in every window. I’ve been a horror fan since I was a toddler and I’m raising my kids to appreciate the uncanny side of life.
 
Tell us about your love for fountain pens and crocheting?

I’ve been collecting fountain pens since I was a student. I’ve never enjoyed typing much, so most of my writing is done with a pen and paper. I just think better in ink. Especially pretty ink in a pretty pen. The friction on the page helps me connect, somehow.

I knit and crochet and spin yarn on a spinning wheel while I listen to audiobooks or podcasts. It (mostly) keeps me out of trouble.

You have lived in two of the most breathtaking places in the US, Wisconsin and Colorado, has the landscape and natural beauty of these places ever been an inspiration for your writing? 

Absolutely! I’m dreadfully prone to homesickness and I fall in love with places easily. Everywhere I go winds up on the page somehow. And if I get too far from rocks and trees and water, I get odd-in-a-bad-way. It’s been a year since I’ve seen the Rockies, so there’s a strong chance I’ll be spending more time there in fiction, to make up for it.

You are the editor in chief at Pantheon Magazine. How did you become involved with editing? 

Matt Garcia is the brains (and the big heart) behind Pantheon. He bought a few of my stories early on, and asked me one day if I’d like to help read slush, since I seemed to have a good idea of what he was looking for. I did that for a while. Then he asked if I’d like to help out as fiction editor. I’d been a magazine editor for a big publisher for about six years, so that seemed perfect. Then, as we got busier and busier, it made more sense for us to split duties more, and he became publisher and I became head editor. Letitia Trent now does our poetry editing and we have an awesome team of first readers. We’re completely reorganizing for next year. It’s going to be exciting.

What’s the biggest misconception about being an editor that you have come across? 

Probably that I cackle gleefully as I push the big red button. Okay, I’ve done that maybe two or three times—but it’s super rare and always very well deserved. No, I really hate sending rejections. Most of the time I’m rejecting because a piece isn’t a good fit for the theme or the magazine in general. It’s excruciatingly common that the best story I receive in any given submission period gets rejected because it has nothing to do with that issue’s theme.

Your short stories have appeared in such places as Black Static Magazine and Gamut, these two publications in particular have a certain style and theme when it comes to the fiction that they publish.  Do you write specifically with these markets in mind, or do you just write a story and find that it suits places such as these? 

I write first and find a market later. I’m a bit of a market stalker—I like to read the magazines for a while and really figure out their style. I submit based on what I think is the best fit for the piece, instead of working my way down a hierarchy of white whales. On the one hand, I feel like the stories find a home more quickly that way. On the other—I have dozens of pieces I’ve never subbed because the right place hasn’t opened up. I will sometimes rewrite a story to fit a specific call, but not very often.

Is there one market that you would love to crack, and do you have a story in mind for it?

I really want to work with Ellen Datlow someday—so I guess my dream market would be one of her anthologies. She’s been one of my idols since I was a teenager. Working with her is on my die happy/bucket list. No story in mind for this dream scenario. I imagine that if the opportunity ever arose, the performance anxiety might be the end of me.
 
There is a move from the more literary side of the writing world into writing about the weird, traditionally this has been the domain of the lowly genre writer.  Why do you think they are doing this? 

Maybe they’ve noticed we lowlies are having more fun down here. Or maybe people are noticing that the world is so weird that the weird feels like home. I still experience genre bias pretty often. Mostly from friends and acquaintances who I’m sure don’t even realize they’re doing it—implying that my stories can’t mean something important and also have monsters in them. I usually just give them an odd smile and quietly question their critical reading skills.

One of your stories has been selected to appear in Shadow Booth, how did you come to appear in the anthology? 

Dan was kind enough to invite me to submit something for consideration. It was one of those times where I had a story waiting for the right market to appear. When he told me what mood he was going for, I knew which piece I would send him. I’m very excited to be a part of the first issue! Can’t wait to read the whole thing.

Can you tell us about some of the themes of the story? 

It’s about a ghost Winnebago and carrion crows and a dead man who has lost a son and a dead-inside man who’s finding the ghost of a son he never had. It’s about winter in the desert and missing people who never existed and having no one to miss you. And how sometimes shooting your own foot off is the best cure for a snakebite.

What has been a major influence on your writing?

Well, life. I imagine a lot of horror writers have had lives full of inspiration. And also reading—I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve always loved reading dark things. A lot of that came from my grandmother. She put a lot of lovely gothic novels and myths and mysteries and true crime books into my hands. She’s currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, and it’s a tremendous heartbreak. But she still reads—constantly.
 
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

There are so many lovely flavors of horror. And there are bits of horror in so many lovely things. Like there’s a centipede at the center of every lollipop, and yeah—eventually you’re going to start to feel it against your tongue and maybe it’ll ruin things for you. But not before you’ve enjoyed all that sweet candy, first.

Everyone experiences real-world horror at some time in their life—I think learning to navigate those feelings in the safety of fiction is a really healthy thing to do. People have always used fiction to find their way through feelings. I think the misconception comes when people think horror is meant to just punch you in the face and your job is to do your best to ignore it or deny that you’re even in pain at all. No, you’re meant to let yourself feel it and savor it and let it soak in, then master it. I often hear, “there’s already enough horror in the world, why add to it?” I sometimes wonder if there’s too much horror in the world because not enough people have let themselves learn how to process it. They’re just leaving it there like emotional litter. It’s the old “the only way out is through” deal. I think horror fiction can help people find the way through, instead of covering their eyes and humming.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

My grandmother gave me a lot of classics. Children’s classics are surprisingly full of horror. The Secret Garden is probably the book that sneaks tendrils into a lot of my work. Frankenstein and Dracula and gothic mysteries. As a kid, I read a lot of Anne Rice and Dean Koontz. I didn’t come across Shirley Jackson until later, and now I feel like she’s my biggest influence. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series got me through my teens. As far as films, I saw The Exorcist and Poltergeist when I was seven—probably not a great idea, but I LOVED them. I also loved Ghostbusters and Are You Afraid of the Dark and Unsolved Mysteries. I still love all those things. My current favorite film is Guillermo del Toro’s The Orphanage.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?

Anyone I might name here inevitably has way more experience writing than I do. But I recently loved Gwendolyn Kiste’s collection. And Julie C. Day has a new collection coming out soon that I can’t wait for. Karen Runge is writing some of the most upsetting, raw stuff out there. And Letitia Trent breaks my heart over and over in her books.

How would you describe your writing style?

My favorite place to play is in a weird, dark world where magical realism and madness get a little blurry.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

Making time to sit down and get work done. I’ve recently gone back to work after staying home for a few years with my youngest (who needs a lot of extra care), so between work and kids and the house, and editing for Pantheon—I’m writing two or three sentences here or there throughout the day. It’s not my ideal routine. I need to work out something better.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

Nope. I’d never say never. But I might write about something upside down or sideways.
 
Writing is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 

Well, I think I’ve only recently found my voice. But I still like to write in a lot of different moods, so there might be some ventriloquism going on with it. I do think I’m less afraid to write from life experiences, now. I think I was afraid of that vulnerability before, or of making people angry. But I don’t care so much now what people think, I just write. I don’t read many reviews unless someone points one out to me. And rejections don’t bother me as much—maybe because I send so many, myself, that I know there’s nothing personal in it.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         

Fountain pens…? No? I really do think a reliable pen and a pocket notebook are a must. But, also, I would say a community of fellow writers—especially ones who will give you honest feedback and crack the whip when you’re slacking. There are some great places online to gather and workshop and help keep each other motivated.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

Get back to work. My life is so crazy busy—I use that as an excuse a lot. I have a few friends I can reach out to who won’t let me get away with that shit.

Getting your work noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

Just keep writing, keep finishing things, edit them till you can’t stand it anymore, keep sending them out. Familiarity is something that builds slowly, over time. No one will remember you the first time they read you. Or the second…maybe not even the third. I think this is why we keep hearing about “new” authors who have been publishing for decades. Just keep going. Be stubborn.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least  favourite to write for and why?

I confess, I’ve never made that kind of bond with a character. I don’t get very attached to or precious about my work. My heart’s in it—but I can disconnect, too. Maybe it’s the editing background. But I do have more fun with some characters than others. My favorite is probably from my story Making Monsters—a woman who makes her living selling photographs of cryptozoological creatures that she’s constructed from roadkill taxidermy.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

Well, my novel manuscript—because I wasn’t sure if I could do a longer piece. But I like it. And I hope I will find a good home for it soon.

As far as short pieces go, my favorite is “Tall Grass, Shallow Water”, which will be out soonish in a place I can’t say yet.

And are there any that you would like to forget about?

Of course! But if I tell you which ones, you might go looking, and I can’t have that. Just let the dead sleep.

For those who haven’t read any of your stories, which do you think best represents your work and why?

If I had to pick one, I’d say “Endoskeletal” from Black Static #59. It has a lot of the elements I like to play with and it grew from one of my biggest phobias: broken bones.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?

This was my favorite bit to write in “Endoskeletal”:
 
Her knuckles twisted as the skin pulled tighter. The grooves of her knuckles split, the fissures like small gaping mouths from which erupted bone upon bone. She shrieked at the sting of it and tried to close the split flesh by straightening her fingers, felt the pressure grow, pulsing under her nails—saw the white of bone pale like blisters at the tips of her fingers. She stretched her fingers further and the skin burst, springing back along the protruding shafts of bone, curling back like a blooming flower. Her fingernails scattered around her. Each breath, deep and ragged, felt as though it contained less air than the one before.
 
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?

One I recently loved: It’s really hard to choose. There are so many! Horror has been having some excellent years, lately. I’ll say White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi.

One that recently disappointed me: The Gunslinger by Stephen King. This is the third time I’ve tried to read it. I tried once in book form and couldn’t get into it, so I tried the graphic novel, and still nope, so this time I tried audio. I think I might have to let this one go. I’ve kept trying because so many of my friends love it. But I guess it isn’t for me.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?

“Hello, Sarah, I have this nice fountain pen—would you like it?”
“Why, yes—yes I would, thank you.”

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<![CDATA[ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH:  AN INTERVIEW WITH GARY BUDDEN]]>Wed, 27 Sep 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/enter-the-shadow-booth-an-interview-with-gary-budden
As part of Ginger Nuts of Horror's support of the Kickstarter for Tales From The Shadow Booth, we have teamed up with some of the contributors for a series of exclusive interviews.  Today Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes Gary Budden.   ​ 

Gary is the co-founder and director of independent publisher Influx Press and an editor at Titan Books. He writes fiction and creative non-fiction about the intersections of British sub-culture, landscape, psychogeography, hidden history, nature, horror, weird fiction and more. A lot of it falls under the banner 'landscape punk'. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals. A full list can be found here. His  debut collection, Hollow Shoreswill be published by Dead Ink Books in October 2017.

M John Harrison called him  'redoubtable'.
Hello Gary, Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
 
I am a writer and editor. I live in North London, and have my debut fiction collection, Hollow Shores, coming out with Dead Ink Books in October.

As well as being an author your are also the co-founder and director of independent publisher Influx Press and an editor at Titan Books.  How do these two roles shape you as an author, and what insights do they give you as a subbing author?
 
I think it gives me a much better perspective on how the whole industry works. Obviously, reading and editing a huge variety of different manuscripts always helps my own writing; you become very attuned to what works and what doesn’t and it gives me a sense of objectivity about my own work. I can admit to myself when something I have written is substandard and needs work. It has allowed me to avoid, I hope, cliché and develop my own style. I also don’t get annoyed with other editors, as I know how the whole process works. I welcome people editing my work – the whole point is to make it better. Editors are there to help a writer, not to hinder them. Every writer needs an editor.

What’s the biggest misconception about being a fiction editor that you have come across?

It sounds odd, but I think a lot of general readers don’t realise a book is edited on a structural level. People often think I’m essentially a proof-reader (not belittling proof-readers in any way; it’s just a different job).

I’m fascinated by your description of your writing: “I write fiction and creative non-fiction about the intersections of British sub-culture, landscape, psychogeography, hidden history, nature, horror, weird fiction and more. A lot of it falls under the banner 'landscape punk'”. Can you elaborate more fully on what you mean by this, especially with regards to what you mean by psychogeography? 
 
Psychogeography is something that has become something of a cliché in many ways. It’s a term that has its roots in the French Situationists and the English topographical writers of the 1930s. It was popularised, in the UK at least, by the writer Iain Sinclair who wrote some fantastic books that helped cement my love of London writing as a genre in its own right– Downriver, London Orbital and Hackney: That Rose Red Empire are all essential reads. He ended up disavowing the term, and it’s probably true that Sinclair accidentally opened the doors for a lot of sub-par place writing, of which I am probably a part of. What always interested me was psychogeography’s intersection with weird fiction and horror. There are many examples of this – look at Alan Moore’s From Hell, which draws heavily on the ideas in Sinclair’s Lud Heat (Sinclair turns up in the appendix comic, ‘The Dance of the Gullcatchers’). Arthur Machen, famous to fans of horror and the weird for ‘The Great God Pan’, ‘The White People’, The Hill of Dreams, was also a writer of strange non-fiction books like The London Adventure, essentially one big digression of a book about a failure to write a book about London. Machen transposed the methods he used to explore the Welsh borderland country of his childhood to the streets of London; so psychogeography is a method for exploring a usually-urban environment – paying attention to the details, the things that run counter to the official narratives, the strange graffiti and messages, the layering of history and architecture, the myriad cultures and sub-cultures all co-existing and rubbing up against each other. It ties in to ideas of the occult in its literal meaning i.e. hidden knowledge. So, for me, psychogeography and weird fiction were always natural bed fellows. And as someone who will always consider themselves to be a part of the DIY punk community, itself a half-hidden substratum of society, it seemed obvious to bring that culture into the mix too.
 
It’s about paying attention to the specifics of where you are, which I think is increasingly important in an age where the areas we are encouraged to spend our time – identikit high streets, pseudo-public spaces, neat and clearly signposted parks – are becoming increasingly homogenous. I’m more interested in the skull beneath the skin, as it were. The anxiety produced by the process of gentrification and corporatisation of our urban environments is something that I channel into my fiction. My story ‘Greenteeth’, which has now been adapted into a short film by Adam Scovell (author of Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange), is an example of this – an attempt to use a London environment I adore (the canal network) and make it specifically about the anxiety of a rapidly changing city, but in the tradition of writers like Robert Aickman and Ramsey Campbell. There’s a trailer here.
 
Lazily, psychogeography is a term applied to any kind of writing concerned with place. I am an  admirer of W.G. Sebald, Rebecca Solnit, Robert MacFarlane and so on, but I wouldn’t really call their work psychogeographic. ‘Landscape punk’ is a conscious effort to separate myself from those modes of writing, whilst still following on in that tradition.
 
In the realm of horror and weird fiction, I love books and writers that possess this strong sense of place. I would claim Ramsey Campbell’s Creatures of the Pool, and much of Joel Lane’s work like From Blue to Black, and Where Furnaces Burn, as good examples of this fusion of place-obsession and the weird (Liverpool and Birmingham/the Black Country respectfully). I love M John Harrison’s stories that take place in a mundane London – stuff like ‘The Horse of Iron and How We Can Know It and Be Changed by It’ and ‘A Young Man’s Journey into London’. I love the BBC M.R. James adaptations, A Warning to the Curious and Whistle and I’ll Come to You, that draw maximum effect from their bleak East Anglian landscapes.
 
So the reason I describe my writing that way is that really is what it is. DIY punk, folk, anti-fascist, and SHARP skinhead culture is a massive part of my identity. I have shit Conflict and Oi Polloi tattoos, love Doc Martens and simply love the music and that whole world. I live about ten minutes away from one of the big remaining non-corporate London punk venues, T Chances. It’s great: cash bar, warm tins of Red Stripe, threadbare carpets and a heady smell of the unwashed. The history of Britain’s underground culture is a fascinating parallel narrative and had been a crucial part of my life since I was a teenager. It only seemed natural to write about it. To deny that in the aim of fitting a mould of what a writer should be seemed disingenuous.
 
‘Landscape punk’ as a term was actually coined by my friend, the creator of Hookland and all round excellent person, David Southwell. I stole it off him. Psychogeography had become something of a derisive term; new nature writing was becoming a bit twee; by the time we reached deep topography, the wheels were falling off. So, a new term was needed to describe an approach to landscape and environment that came from the perspective of the person coming from the underground, with a love of the weird and horrible things like genre fiction and grotty punk venues. ‘Landscape punk’ sounded good. We’re still trying to work out what it actually means, but hopefully some academics will do that for us.

You have a deep-rooted love for London, what is it about the city that incites such a love? 


I have lived in London for nearly thirteen years now, as an adult. I was born on its very outer fringes, and a lot of my family are from the city. My mum is from Willesden, a number of family members are buried in Gunnersbury cemetery, my nan who died this year at the ripe age of 100 lived in London before, during, and after the Second World War.
 
I think being both a huge fan of literature and music is a part of it; London looms so large as an idea that it is very hard to ignore – especially if you grew up in the south-east of England where it is the most obvious place to go to escape the small towns. I associate London with reggae sound systems, punk rock, with squat parties, riots, carnivals, raves, pubs, art, literature, multi-culturalism, diversity, good food, and a certain hard-edged inclusivity.  For me, it was an escape from the quotidian realities of small town England that I, probably unfairly, felt I’d grown up in. A place that was a bit dirty, dangerous, fun, exciting, a place where you could lose yourself and find yourself in a different form. Stuff happens here. The sad reality is that London is being bombed by blandness and forcing people out due to huge rises in the cost of living. It’s a ridiculous place in many ways. I may very well end up leaving it, but I it will always have my heart. Essentially, it’s the place I think of as mine.
 
As I’ve mentioned, London is almost a genre of literature in its own right. It generates its own mythologies. It’s not a cinematic city in the way Paris or New York are, but it exists in fictional form in a way that I feel isn’t matched by many other places. Off the top of my head, here are some books that use London as its subject that utterly thrill me: I Was Dora Suraez and He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond; King Rat by China Mieville; Mother London and King of the City by Michael Moorcock; Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter; The Lowlife by Alexander Baron; The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing. I could go on for ever.
 
It’s a place that rewards exploration. After many years here, I still find things that surprise me. The challenges of gentrification and the privatisation of public space is a very real issue right now, but London will still reward you if you’re willing to get out there and explore. And by that, I mean walk. Only the other day I decided to go for a walk in an unfamiliar direction and found myself lost somewhere near the North Circular, on the Lee Navigation by a derelict café with flocks of rooks squawking above me and some Polish guys fishing the dirty river. It was great.

What’s your favourite “hidden part of London”?


I have a great deal of love for the flood barrier at Barking creek. People think there’s only one flood barrier in London, but they’re wrong. The spriggan sculpture in the abandoned railway line near Crouch End is also a strong contender. Tottenham cemetery, which is right next to where I live and has the trickle of one of London’s ‘lost’ rivers running through it, has a special kind of magic to it.

What are the stories or the novels that you want to publish through Influx Press? 
Essentially, anything I would want to read that doesn’t yet exist, and might have trouble finding a home elsewhere.

There is a move from the more literary side of the writing world into writing about the weird, traditionally this has been the domain of the lowly genre writer.  Why do you think they are doing this?
 
I always thought of weird fiction as a method rather than a strict genre, a method of getting to a deeper truth than anything strictly realist. The world is fucking weird. And right now, the world appears to resemble a tasteless, surreal and ill-thought out joke. Brexit, Trump, Nazis, ISIS, climate collapse, Love Island and the Bake Off. It’s a weird and frightening world that seems to be untethered from any logic. What better way to address this in fiction than by employing the weird? Weird fiction is reportage from the real world of our psyches.
 
It’s interesting that weird fiction and literary horror has become very visible right now. Thomas Ligotti appears in a Penguin Classics edition! (And he didn’t have to beg for it like Morrissey). Jeff Vandermeer is getting mainstream acclaim. Everyone loves China Mieville. Weird collections like Fen by Daisy Johnson and The Decline of the Great Auk According to One Who Saw It by Jessie Greengrass are being published my mainstream houses. Robert Aickman is back in fashion.
 
I genuinely think this reflects the sour times we live in.
 
One of your stories has been selected to appear in Shadow Booth, how did you come to appear in the anthology? 
 
No great mystery to this one. I know Dan, the editor. We share a love of literary dark fiction and he asked me to contribute something to the journal. I of course said yes, knowing that Dan would allow me to go where I wanted with the story.

Can you tell us about some of the themes of the story? 
 
It’s been a terrible year in London, and the UK in general. Horrific terrorist attacks. Grenfell Tower. Brexit doom hanging over all of us. A chaotic election. The EDL and Britain First marching in central London.
These things affected me more deeply than perhaps I admitted to myself. So, the story is an attempt to get across the feeling of living in a city’s nightmare during a hot and sweaty summer. It’s called ‘Where No Shadows Fall’, which is an inscription I saw on a grave in Tottenham cemetery, and I couldn’t get the phrase out of my head. It’s not a cheerful story.

What has been a major influence on your writing?
 
Everything I have mentioned so far!


The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

Horror, at its best, is a way of examining our collective fears and anxieties. I feel it is a way to get to a greater truth than strictly realist fiction and really examine what unsettles us; if we can do that, we may be able to overcome that fear and do something about it. For me, horror is not about gore, or sexy vampires. It’s primarily a psychological thing, it’s about incipient madness and the horrors of depression and other mental illness brought on by a sick society. But I don’t mean it should work just as allegory – the monstrous or the supernatural is never just a metaphor. The monsters are really there, even if they are only in our heads. What is reality anyway if not how we perceive and understand the world?

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?


I could write a ten-page list here. Books: huge formative influences on me were Grits by Niall Griffiths and The Course of the Heart by M John Harrsion. But honestly, so much stuff. I’m as much influenced by the books of weird and creepy folk stories I read as a child as anything. In terms of film, again there’s so much, but I was very affected by Ben Wheatley’s Kill List when I saw it at the cinema back in 2011. That’s how to do a contemporary British horror story, I thought.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?
 
Right now, there are some fantastic short story writers I think people should be taking notice of. They are: Eley Williams, Irenosen Okojie, Camilla Grudova, Daisy Johnson and Jessie Greengrass. Fans of weird horror have to check out Malcolm Devlin’s collection You Will Grow Into Them. Aliya Whiteley is a future star so if you haven’t read The Beauty yet, sort it out.

How would you describe your writing style?


Melancholy.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
 
I’m quite bad at plotting out a short story in advance. I tend to start with just an image, or a phrase, that keeps popping in my head until I decide the time is right to develop it. I procrastinate for ages and then work in big bursts, which is almost certainly not the way they tell you to write. But I’m more of the opinion whatever works for you, works.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
 
Not really. The more extreme the subject matter though, I’d really have to question what point I was trying to achieve. I don’t like grim subject matter that is there merely to shock or provoke. It’s kind of pornographic, when you think about it.
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 
 
I read some early efforts of mine recently. My god they were dreadful: pretentious, laboured, clearly mimicking writers I loved without adding anything new. I can see, however, a few kernels of good ideas in them, drowning in a sea of nonsense. I think I have developed (I consider myself very much a beginner still) in the sense that I now have the courage to write about the things I am really interested in, in my own style. I think it’s fair to say that even weird fiction itself is at the risk of becoming codified – but I always saw the weird as a method, rather than a concrete genre.
 
When I really thought about what I was interested in, what was it? Well it was London, it was punk rock, birdwatching, folklore, horror, and landscape. I stopped trying to write about what I thought people should write about, and wrote about what mattered to me. I set my stories in the places I knew and that held a deep significance to me, which also meant being honest with myself. Sometimes if the things you care about, and the places and people that mean things to you, are not represented in the fictional world, you can start to think they don’t really matter. They do matter, and if no one has written about the subjects you want to write about, that is more reason to do so, not less.
That’s when I progressed as a writer, and started getting published. Editors especially have good bullshit detectors – we can tell when a writer doesn’t believe in what they’re writing.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
 
In practical terms, time and space to work.
I think all writers need to be curious, and you need to read. Read widely, read outside of your genre, read as many different voices as you can. It only ever helps you.
You need to have the courage of your convictions, unless you’re a fascist of course.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
 
Cut the first paragraph and see if your story still makes sense. Keep cutting until you reach the actual beginning of your story.

Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?


I think I’ve been lucky having a good network that has developed slowly through doing Influx Press, and working at Ambit, Unsung Stories and now Titan Books. I find Twitter very useful for finding like-minded people, but nothing really substitutes for getting out there and doing the things you say you want to do. I really enjoy doing live events, both readings and talks. Of course, not all authors feel this way, and I’m not saying they must, but reading and talking about my work in front of live audiences I always find rewarding, and very beneficial in getting work noticed. There has to be a willingness to put oneself out there, and being aware that not everyone is going to like it, and dealing with that. Writers, those frailest of creatures, ironically must learn to be quite tough.
 
Persistence is the key. Always writing, submitting, doing readings, and being an active part of a community (but not a clique). Believing in what you do and getting on with it will, in the end, pay dividends. This is something the punk scene taught me, and I fully believe in that approach.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?


I feel quite sorry for Lisa in ‘Greenteeth’. She doesn’t have a great time, and I liked her. The character I like the least is the narrator of ‘Mission Drift’ because he’s an undercover policeman.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
 
I am currently most proud of the final story in my collection Hollow Shores, ‘The Wrecking Days’. It is a real attempt to gather all the strands of my work to date, and to go off the deep end into the weird. I hope it succeeds. I’ve read the story in a few places already and people seem to like it.

And are there any that you would like to forget about?


Some early works of mine I think are weak. Nothing totally shameful though; we all progress, right? And writing things you later hate is part of that progression.

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?


I only have one book so far, so it would be Hollow Shores.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
 
‘There is one choice in this city. Submersion.’

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
 
I loved The Rift by Nina Allan. The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova was also deeply impressive. The last book that disappointed me was His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnett. It had all the elements of books I love – a bloody, anti-pastoral tale of murder in the Scottish highlands sounded like it would be great. But it felt like a clever facsimile, lacking any heart or passion.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?

Q: What’s the best landscape punk song?
 
A: ‘Dead Industrial Atmosphere’ by Leatherface
To find out more about the Tales from The Shadow Booth Kickstarter campaign click here 
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​Gary Budden's debut collection blends the traditions of weird fiction and landscape writing in an interlinked set of stories from the emotional geographies of London, Kent, Finland and a place known as the Hollow Shore.

The Hollow Shore is both fictional and real. It is a place where flowers undermine railway tracks, relationships decay and monsters lurk. It is the shoreline of a receeding, retreating England. This is where things fall apart, waste away and fade from memory.

Finding horror and ecstasy in the mundane, Hollow Shores follows characters on the cusp of change in broken-down environments and the landscapes of the mind.

purchase a copy here

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