John L Probert interviewed Christopher Fowler, author of Hell Train, ahead of this appearance as Guest of Honour at Edge-Lit this weekend. Don’t forget to buy your tickets for Edge-Lit here, we’ll be there – will you?
What first attracted you to horror writing?
CF: The Pan Books of Horror. I read every one and ended up being in the final few.
What is your most notable work?
CF: I like Psychoville and Calabash best, although a lot of people love Spanky. I met a guy with the image tattooed on his arm.
If there was one pet project of yours you could have filmed the way you wanted, which would it be and why?
CF: That would be Calabash, because it’s a kind of reverse Wizard of Oz with huge special effects. Although Hell Train would make a good Hammer film – hint!
Some of my favourite short stories of yours have been the more metafictional tales like ‘Learning to Let Go’ in Personal Demons. You obviously enjoy this sort of experimentation – is it something you would like to do more of?
CF: Yes, I’d like to do lots more, and yet my most experimental book, the recent Red Gloves, didn’t even make the BFS longlist, so maybe we’re in play-it-safe times. There’s a story called ‘Enjoy’ in that volume which also fits the category.
London plays such a part in so many of your books. Do you ever think there will come a time when you might consider moving elsewhere to find inspiration?
CF: Well, I have a history of living in other countries and am just buying a flat in Barcelona, so yes, I think Spain may feature!
Are you someone who plays music while you write and if so, what?
CF: Are you kidding? It’s never off. A lot of soundtracks – Giacccino, Nyman, Wim Mertens, Murray Gold – and a lot of Ibiza sounds.
What are you working on now?
CF: The next Bryant & May novel The Invisible Code comes out 2 August, followed by a graphic novel, then Film Freak, the sequel to Paperboy, and a dark thriller called There’s Something I Haven’t Told You.
Whom do you admire in the horror world?
CF: Right now I think Reggie Oliver, Rhys Hughes, Nick Harkaway and Ann & Jeff Vandermeer’s collections are really pushing the boundaries.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
CF: Gore is lazy and old-school. Psychological chills are where it’s at right now. Harder to pull off, too, because they rely on good characterization.
Why should people read your work?
CF: Because I work on Margery Allingham’s Plum Pudding Principle; it’s all tasty, but every few pages there’s something really juicy you’ll love.
Recommend a book our readers should pick up.
CF: Charles Maclean’s The Watcher, one of the eeriest and oddest books ever written.
JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT
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