Tell us about your publishing journey…
It’s been a long one. Mostly my own fault, I think. I’m a slow learner. I started out writing fantasy around ten years ago, hoping I’d get the big deal, the agent, the study with broad windows overlooking the sea…didn’t happen. In a way, I did everything wrong, except for one thing, I suppose, which was to keep writing. I didn’t know any other writers, had no sound advice – I thought an agent was the only route to publication. I wasted plenty of time, years, even, chasing agents.
I finally figured out that writing is a job like any other. I think that discovery came partly from networking, but more from reading Ellen Datlow and Stephen Jones anthologies and yearly round-ups instead of ‘Writer’s Market’…I decided that if I wanted to make a go of this, I’d better start approaching it like a job. I do that now, and things have changed for the better.
What do you love about being an author?
All of it, pretty much. I like creating, doing my own thing. The most enjoyable times for me are when I’m writing a new story and it’s flowing. My least favourite part is doing a second or third draft. I rarely do more than three. I haven’t got the patience to be an editor – they’re amazing. Me? My eyes begin to bleed after a third run through.
If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?
Any character, eh? There are tons I could choose from, but one I’ve read recently – Logan Ninefingers, from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law stories. I think he’d be interesting, if he didn’t kill me. And I’d have steak, I think. My favourite is spaghetti, but I’d worry he’d strangle me with it. Failing that, maybe Dirk Gently, though I think he’d get on my nerves, what with him being such a smartarse.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?
I’ve a few books out, but the latest, my DarkFuse novella Deadlift? It’d have to be someone big, because the main character, David Lowe, is a big man. I honestly don’t watch too many movies (I do like superhero movies, though), but I’d go with the guy who plays Hodor in Game of Thrones. I’d love to see what that guy can do with a few extra lines. His wife, Freya Lowe…Famke Janssen. What? No reason. *Whistles*
As a horror writer you are looking to scare readers – what scares you?
I think, oddly, the scares are secondary – mostly I’m trying to tell a good story, keep people reading. But what frightens me…everything! Casual violence, freak accidents, indifference, insanity…more, I think, these sort of things, rather than supernatural creatures. I’m not, for example, particularly afraid of leprechauns or goblins. Deep water, though…no way.
If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?
I’d like to say something sweet, like I’d go back to a time full of hope and promise…maybe the sixties and the seventies and flower power and peaceful protests and great music, or Victorian London, on the cusp of so many amazing advances, or the dawn of the Renaissance…but realistically, I think I’d prefer medieval times, a big boar roasting and pennants flying, some ale, and a comfortable seat to watch a tournament full of knights bashing each other. Preferably a seat beyond the range of the splatter. I should imagine knights made quite a mess.
What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?
Silly thing, really – look after yourself. I always imagined I’d be pushing up daisies early. Now I’m still going, still young enough, and wishing I didn’t ache walking up the stairs. ‘Ooh, me hip,’ has become my refrain already, and I’m only just gone 40.
If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
Vampire, hands down, no thought needed. Don’t like the sunshine much, I’d happily live forever, not squeamish about a diet of blood…yeah, I could be happy as a vampire.
What is the scariest book you’ve ever read and why?
I’m not sure I’ve ever read a truly scary book. I read a fairly widely, not just horror. Things I find scary, or perhaps just disquieting, are more esoteric. I found Camus’ The Stranger oddly disturbing, and sometimes Murakami’s stories, or even McCarthy’s, leave me feeling uncomfortable. I guess ‘scare’ for me is more something that makes my belly turn a little – maybe some scenes in Adam Nevill’s work, or Gary McMahon’s. A Neil Gaiman story can sometimes give me a pretty good chill, too.
What’s your take on zombies? In your opinion, could they actually happen?
Nope. Not in the strictest sense, I think. Reanimating dead flesh seems, to me, highly unlikely in scientific terms. Perhaps in a biblical or occult tale, it might work (biblical/occult, of course, being far more believable than silly old science ;) ). The idea that the dead might rise from the release of some kind of toxin or chemical or virus? I, personally, don’t think so. The mechanics of death, the degradation of a person’s flesh, would make movement alone nigh-on impossible. Were they infected before death? Then, possibly…the tissue might be preserved and retain some rudimental function…but the old worm-eaten corpse rising from the grave, no flesh, sinew, cartilage, muscle fibres…nope.
Doesn’t mean it’s not fun to wonder what might happen, though. Vampires, werewolves and their ilk…all by and large impractical, in terms of realism, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t fun. I think zombie tales are great. I’ve written them and read plenty I’ve really enjoyed. I kind of prefer the speedy, 28 Days Later vibe, wherein people are still living, but crazed by infection. I write, sporadically, a series of zombie novellas (Dead Days), and I’ve written the first of trilogy of apocalyptic horror/thrillers – survival horror and the apocalypse are two sub-genres (I guess they’re sub-genres of horror…or maybe big enough these days to stand on their own feet…) that I’ve always enjoyed. Ian Woodhead’s zombie yarns are great fun, but I’ve read plenty of others, too. Zombies are cute.
If you didn’t write horror, which other would you prefer and why?
Haha – fantasy! Heroic, for preference. Like I say, I’m a sucker for a big guys encased in steel hitting other people. Tolkien was an eye-opener when I was maybe eleven or twelve, but Gemmell’s brand of fantasy was right up my street. When I discovered Druss I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up…not a writer. Pfft. I wanted to be an old guy with a massive white beard and a nasty axe called Snaga.
I dabbled with crime writing, but I’m not devious enough of mind, I think, to make a living doing that. I even tried a sci-fi, which was great for discovering that I’m not a sci-fi writer and never will be. I write horror mostly because I lean toward the macabre, but I was a fantasy fan long before I came to horror. I don’t write fantasy as often as I find it far more complicated and time-consuming to do right. As I writer, I prefer horror…but as a reader, I’ll always enjoy a spot of fantasy.
Where can fans find you online?
I’m on Amazon, too. ;)
Thank you, Nicky, for having me on your blog!