I was tagged by the fantastically talented writer, Thana Niveau, in the Next Big Thing networked blog interviews series which is basically a cross-section of writers talking about their forthcoming books. As I’ve only had one book published so far – and face the very real possibility that it may be the only one I ever have published – I thought it would be better for me to talk about that instead. I’m nothing if not a maverick.
1) What is the working title of your next book? Have you not been listening? I just said I was going to talk instead about my LAST book. Which was called Peel Back the Sky.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book? Well, it’s basically a collection of short stories. They are 21 in total – 15 of which have been published already in various magazines and anthologies (and on-line in a couple of instances) since 2006 when I started writing. I wrote 6 original tales for the book. I’m not that lazy.
3) What genre does you book fall under? I suppose it would be classed as horror, although there are definitely science fiction stories and very dark fantasy tales in it. Some crime too. Many of the stories don’t feature supernatural elements at all, although I hope you’ll find most of them contain a sense of horror. I’d like people to just take the stories as they find them.
4) What actors would you choose to play the parts of the characters in a movie rendition? The only way it would work as a movie would be in an anthology-style, like the Amicus portmanteau films from the 1970s. I could have a framing device set in a circus sideshow and the four stories that would make up the film would be The Trauma Statement (starring Anna Maxwell Martin), Persistence of Vision (starring Andrew Garfield), Room Above the Shop (starring someone unknown) and Cone Zero (starring Benedict Cumberbatch).
5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? Stories that shine the light on the dark side of the human condition.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I just told you – it’s already out! And it was published by Gray Friar Press, one of my favourite UK independent presses.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Well 15 of the stories had already been published, so all I had to do was go through them individually and make sure they were as I remembered them. In a couple of instances I had to tweak several bits so they didn’t clash thematically. It took me almost a year to write the 6 original stories (I’m a slow writer). Only one of them had already been done, so the others were incredibly fresh and current to where I am at the minute with my writing. The short answer is approximately 6 years in the making, but I guess that’s a cheat because when I started having the stories published originally I had no idea that they might one day end up in my collection. But from the date the book was accepted for publication to its actual release it took about 18 months.
8) What other books would you compare your story to in the genre? This is a difficult one. There are books I’d list as influences, not specifically on this book, but to me as a writer and a reader. I’m not particularly interested in the usual horror tropes so I tried to avoid writing about them. Having said that, there are a couple of stories in Peel Back the Sky which touch on zombies, ghosts, etc, but I sense that those are themes that don’t really interest me too much. The type of short stories that I like to read defy genre, defy traditional viewpoints, sometimes even defy plot! I prefer atmosphere and ambiguity and a sense of otherness. I can’t say I’ve managed to achieve that with this book, but it’s definitely a target I’d eventually like to achieve.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book? It’s a combination of things really. Back in 2005 I was working a day job I absolutely loathed. As a way of getting through the mundane aspect of the work, a work colleague and I decided to have a go at collaborating on a Doctor Who novella (he was a huge Doctor Who fan with no desire to write, I was someone who wanted to write but had no knowledge of Doctor Who). Anyway the novella, Fogbound, never saw the light of day. But my desire to write – obsession to write – was fuelled by that initial process. Shortly afterwards I changed jobs and found I had far more free-time on my hands – and this enabled me to write. I had also recently become a father, and I was finding that the world in general was a very scary place. So all these things collided into launching me towards writing. Now, I write about things that frighten me as a husband and a father (I’ve now got 2 kids), and also as a friend and a son and a brother and an uncle. The world is a truly terrifying place.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? It has a wonderful piece of artwork gracing the cover, painted by the talented Les Edwards. And one of my favourite authors, Nicholas Royle, was kind enough to write an introduction. And then you just might enjoy the stories…one about a desolate walled-garden that’s blighted by a centuries’ old curse, one about some shop mannequins that seem to have a life of their own, one about a monstrous insect that consumes thoughts, and many, many others…