Tim Major is the author of Carus & Mitch (Omnium Gatherum). His short stories have been published in horror and SF magazines, including Interzone. He blogs about reading and writing at Cosy Catastrophes.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
Tapping into basic fears is a great hook, both for readers and for writers. I enjoy writing about extraordinary events occurring to ordinary people. In my SF stories, the extraordinary events are usually caused by external sources. Writing horror stories gives me the chance to write about the threats within characters’ own minds.
Carus & Mitch a novella published by Omnium Gatherum. It’s a psychological horror story about two young girls who live entirely alone in a remote house. Fifteen-year-old Carus must protect her little sister from the dangers outside by barricading them both inside the house. The only problem is that Mitch’s curiosity is beginning to threaten their safety.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing up editing a novel called The House-sitter, about a man who steals a time machine and lies low in a mansion in the north-west of England. After he uses the machine he becomes certain he’s being watched – perhaps by himself. Although that might sound like an out-and-out SF plot, it’s really as much a psychological horror story as Carus & Mitch. I like using SF tropes as a jumping-off point for nastier stuff, I suppose.
How much planning and research do you undertake before writing?
I usually prefer to map out the entire plot in broad terms before I start a first draft, although the plot will often change a great deal in later drafts. My research generally occurs in later drafts too – I’m terrified of anything becoming an obstacle to getting a decent idea down, so in a first draft I prefer to miss out any fiddly details in favour of letting the story flow.
Describe your writing routine.
I have a one-year-old son, so I’ve become used to grabbing writing time when I can. I write in short bursts, often first thing in the morning before I start work. Most days, I manage a minimum of 700 words, which all stacks up quickly enough. My main requirements are headphones and Spotify. I listen to industrial or drone music while I write, to overwhelm any background noise.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
I love creepy tales – for example, Edgar Allen Poe. I think that Shirley Jackson is one of the finest writers of any genre and Carus & Mitch owes a debt to her work. Even though Patricia Highsmith is a crime writer, her remorseless characters and her ability to rack up tension are an inspiration, too. In terms of more recent titles, James Smythe’s novel, The Machine, is terrific.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
In terms of novels, it’s psychological chills all the way for me. My horror tastes are broader when it comes to films. Lots of my favourite scary films are chillers (such as Don’t Look Now and The Innocents) but also I’m a sucker for gore-filled B-movies, lurid Dario Argento shockers and Alien, which has healthy doses of both gore and tension.
Why should people read your work?
I find horror stories most effective when the creepiness is partly imagined by the reader. I hope that Carus & Mitch is that kind of book. There’s a great deal of mystery surrounding Carus’s past and I’m interested to see whether readers come up with a version of the ‘truth’ that’s as unsettling as the one I had in mind.
Recommend a book.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe. It was Poe’s only novel and less well-known than his shorter stories. I love its vast sprawl and its absolute weirdness. It’s like HP Lovecraft writing Moby Dick. Actually, just thinking about it makes me want to reread it immediately.
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