Tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Mark West, I live in Northamptonshire in the UK, I work as a Finance Manager and I write horror fiction.
What was the first story you ever wrote, and what would you change about it now?
Wow, the first story I ever wrote was way back in the late 70s and was probably either an ‘homage’ to Star Wars or The Six Million Dollar Man. The first story I had published was “Back Above The Clouds” in The Dream Zone magazine in 1999 and, reading it back, I’d probably edit it a little tighter but otherwise it seems okay.
A funny thing happened on the way to getting published…
I started out writing horror stories in the late 80s, then in the early 90s I shifted to contemporary drama. I wrote three novels, between 1992 and 1998 and sent them off to London publishers and all of them were rejected. A chance purchase – I was loitering in a shop, waiting for my wife – of Dark Voices 4 rekindled my love for short horror fiction and notes at the back introduced me to TTA Press. Through them, I picked up their listings zine (kind of like Ralan’s is now, except this was a little mag) and discovered the small press and I haven’t looked back since.
Is there a book that you’ve read and thought, ‘damn I wish I’d wrote that!’
Loads of them. The one that probably sticks most in my mind is “Boys Life” by Robert McCammon because it’s just beautiful. It’s about a boy, growing up in the 60s in the American south and his adventures (and misadventures) along the way. It made me cry twice, it scared me, it made me smile, it made me want to be Robert McCammon, I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I read it in 1997 and I keep going to re-read it, then realise I can still recall it vividly!
What scares people can be subjective – what would you say is the universal scare factor?
For me, as a parent, the Achilles heel is kids. The thought of something happening to them, the thought of being unable to prevent anything from happening to them, brings me out in a cold sweat. Not that I haven’t taken advantage of it though and in several of my stories, a child gets put squarely into harms way (though more often than not they escape).
What makes you sleep with the lights on?
I can’t remember the last time I did. Books and films nowadays can make me jump (they do quite often, in fact) but I can’t remember the last time I was scared enough to want to turn the lights on.
Tell us about your newest release…
My newest release is the story “The Bureau Of Lost Children”, which will appear in “ill at ease 2”.
What inspired this story?
Briefly losing my son in a shop. We’d gone into Game, he didn’t hear me say to him that I was going to look at something, panicked and left the shop when he couldn’t see me. I found him, a few minutes later, in HMV and it was the scariest five minutes of my entire life. So I took that situation, those feelings and created a terrifying shopping centre out of it, that acts as a front for an operation you really don’t want to know about!
Who, in your opinion, is the ultimate horror author, and why?
It has to be Stephen King, I think. Despite the naysayers, the man has been on top of the genre – and his game, for most of it – for forty years and at the same time, he’s really opened up horror for new fans whilst constantly acknowledging the past masters who guided him.
What advice would you give to new authors?
Learn your craft. Don’t write a story, print it and self-publish it straight away – it’s nice, it’s immediate, but you’re not doing yourself any favours and you need to write a lot before you find your voice and you need to find it. Get your work edited – even if it’s a handful of knowledgeable friends (join a writing group) – and present it in the best way you possibly can. Be professional.
What is your favourite social media platform for authors, and why?
I don’t use any social media purely for my writing – I love Facebook but I spend at least 50% of the time, if not more, doing stuff other than talking about my writing and the same is true with Twitter. My blog also appears to operate on a 50/50 split. In fact that’s the other piece of advice I’d give to new authors – don’t go on and on and on and on and on and on about your new story that’s just been published. People get fed up and, poison for your career, they tend to ignore it.
Where can fans find you online?