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The importance of editing, Simon Bestwick & nuns, and the perfect Halloween viewing

sexy horror nunWithout editors, gentle reader, most people in my profession would be screwed.

Editors wipe our noses, change our nappies and make certain we’re not late for nursery school. They also pay off the police, bury the bodies, buy up all those naked photos from when we were young and needed the money and burn them for us. Or in my case, burn them for me, rinse their eyes with bleach then impale them with a letter opener and run around the office screaming: “I can still see them, oh God I can still see them!”

In fact you can see them here (Editor’s note: warning you may see more of Mr. Bark than you ever wanted to, if you click that link). Possibly the perfect thing to watch on Halloween.

Getting back to editors, though, I’m really not exaggerating. One noted comic editor was told by her colleague, from whom she was taking over at DC, that she had to phone a famous artist (whose name I can’t disclose because it would get too many people into trouble) every morning at exactly 10:30am and tell him, very firmly, that it was time to get to work. Thinking this was a preposterous piece of advice, and absolutely no way to talk to such a revered professional, the editor ignored the instruction. About a fortnight passed and no pages came in from this artist. In a panic the editor phoned him to check that everything was on course. The famous artist admitted he hadn’t done a blind bit of work because no one had called him so it hadn’t crossed his mind (even though this was a monthly book that he’d been working on for several years). Needless to say the very next morning editor made sure she called the artist at 10:30 am and told him very firmly it was time to get his shiftless ass back to the drawing board.

Take me for example. I’ve been writing this column for over a year now. It comes out on a monthly basis and I have a lot of other obligations besides. You’d imagine that being a seasoned pro I would mark the due date of my next column on a calendar and factor it into my monthly work schedule. You’d probably also imagine that politicians never tell lies, the cheque really is in the post and a reference from Jimmy Saville is a great way to start your childcare career.

The truth is however, that until the long suffering Michael Wilson drops me a line to remind me that the column is due in a few days time, I don’t even start thinking of excuses as to why it’s going to be late, let alone what I’m going to write about. This time the e-mail reminder ended up in a spam filter which is why I’m typing this when the column should be live.

So, I won’t lie to you, this month’s column has been cobbled together from stuff we took out of a previous column because it didn’t quite fit. Namely an interview with my fellow This Is Horror columnist Simon Bestwick, acclaimed author of Tide of Souls and The Faceless (Editor’s note: and a little chapbook co-written with Gary McMahon called Thin Men With Yellow Faces, it’s very reasonably priced, too). Now I know that this column is supposedly about horror comics and Simon has never (to the best of my knowledge) drawn nor written one, but Simon and I both have stories in a new anthology called Tales of the Nun and Dragon and in a desperate attempt to boost sales and our royalties, we’ve decided to interview one another about our respective contributions to the book. This was how I grilled Simon (note that I said grilled and not spit roasted):

Simon, thank you very much for hitching a ride on my column.

I want to start with the genesis of the idea behind ‘Lex Draconis’. Was it something you’d been toying with before you were asked to contribute, or did you develop it especially for the anthology?

SB: It came from the premise of the anthology.  Adele Wearing said there had to be either a nun, a dragon, or both, so I went for the ‘both’ option.  The Catholic Church is not one of my favourite institutions for a number of reasons – not least its attitude towards women and its related loathing of natural sexuality – so that was always going to be an element, and I wanted to do something other than make the dragon an evil monster. I may also have used the phrase ‘hot nun-on-dragon action’ at some point and found it stuck in my head.

Did it take a bit of work to put the whole plot together or was it one of those wonderful gift-stories that come as one almost fully formed package? The sort that impels you to just sit down and start writing it?

SB: The elements I’d mentioned above were bubbling in my head, and then one day – while I was on a bus to Bolton Market, if I remember alright (you know how inspiration can strike at the oddest, most random times) – the idea of Sister Leonora’s mission came to me and the basic plot clicked together around that. I always tend to outline story plots these days – I have to slot them in between bigger projects – so it’s handy if I know roughly where I’m going and can get straight to work, but it slotted together pretty easily.

Without letting any spoilers slip, I’d like to explore a little more of the back story of Sister Leonora, the central protagonist. Prior to the events of the story Sister Leonora has had a serious relationship with a young man called Neil. It’s apparent that the relationship ended, and most probably so badly that it caused her to take the veil. Could you let us know a little more about the circumstances surrounding the break-up and how much of this is pertinent to her state of mind at the beginning of the story?

SB: The way I saw Sister Leonora was as a woman in whom a deeply and prescriptively religious upbringing is at war with a passionate and sensual nature.  She’s been brought up to regard sex as wicked and herself as lesser and sinful, because she’s a woman.  Ultimately she was torn between what she wanted and what she’d been brought up to believe was right, and her religion won, leading to the break-up of the relationship and her decision to take the veil – something she regrets but feels guilty about regretting.  In her heart she’s discontented and yearns for the forbidden. The events of the story don’t transform her into a different person so much as reawaken what’s already there.

Finally, without giving too much away, again, do you think the events of the story have ensured that dragons won’t be extinct for a little while yet?

SB: In the broad scheme of things, things won’t change much, but the dragons will endure, as they always have. It’s what they do.

Thanks once again for hitching a lift with me Simon. I’ll drop you off at the next paragraph, but before I do you can probably tell by that hand on your knee and the devilish glint in my eye that there’s no such thing as a free ride. What do you say to a quick game of Fallen Nuns and Dragons hmm, big boy…

SB: I knew when you talked about me ‘riding your column’ that this wasn’t going to end well…

Simon, as I said before, was supposed to interview me about my contribution to the anthology. However, we all know that’s not going to happen until such time as Michael gives him a none too gentle prod.

Like I said, without editors we’re screwed.

And Adele Wearing, the lovely editor of Tales of the Nun and Dragon, has put together a whole cadre of talented writers who wouldn’t otherwise have pulled their fingers out. You can read a glowing review from this very site Tales of the Nun and Dragon review. And you can purchase Tales of the Nun and Dragon here.

Well go on then, what are you waiting for?

JASPER BARK

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