Craig Wallwork is the author of the short story collection Quintessence of Dust, Gory Hole and the novels To Die Upon a Kiss and The Sound of Loneliness. His fiction has appeared in various anthologies, journals and magazines. He is also the fiction editor at Menacing Hedge Magazine. He currently resides in West Yorkshire, England.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
I didn’t read that much horror when growing up. I dipped into a couple of Stephen King novels, like everyone else, and James Herbert too, but I found my true appreciation of horror came from watching movies. This was the 1980s when the ‘video nasties’ were commonplace. I remember watching films like Evil Dead and Dawn of the Dead when I was around 10 years old. I loved zombies after that. My father would watch B-movie exploitation and horror films at night, then the next day fast-forward to all the gory scenes on our old VCR for a special ‘edited highlights’. Over my cornflakes I’d be exposed to spikes piercing eyes, decapitation via broken window panes and men skewered by railing posts. I became desensitised to the gravity and scariness of horror and gore from an early age because of this exposure. For me, watching a zombie have the top of his head sliced off by a helicopter blade was no different than watching Tom being struck down by a fast moving train driven by Jerry. It was comical, funny and quite amazing.
Because I’m not a genre writer, which is to say I never allow genre to dictate the story, I find myself stumbling into horror writing by chance. And when I do, I generally draw upon the silliness and the grotesque that peppered my past. My new book, Gory Hole, is more or less a pastiche of the movies I grew up with and some that I have grown to love in more recent years. The book consists of three very tongue-in-cheek horror stories. The first is Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters, which I wrote as more of an experiment. I wanted to give my imagination free reign without the forethought of the story being accepted or even read by another person. The second story is called Human Tenderloin, which is about a group of high class cannibals who enjoy fine dining. The final is Sicko, and details what happens when a group of men embark on a bachelor party of deer huntingand find themselves holed up in a quaint bed and breakfast in England while mutant deer hunt them.
What is your most notable work?
I have a few other books out, but in the horror market, I guess it would be Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters, which first appeared in May December’s Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology. I’ve had some wonderful feedback about The Hole too, which featured in my short story collection, Quintessence of Dust, and is about a man obsessed with his elderly neighbour who is digging a hole to Hell. There is another horror short story that will be in The New Black anthology coming out next year through Dark House Press called The Dollhouse. That is more psychological horror and is about a little girl who finds an old dollhouse in her attic which is identical to the house she lives in with her mother and father. Every night she visits it and every night it changes in some way; carpets are added which match those in the living room, the fruit bowl consists of the same fruit in the bowl in the kitchen. Eventually three little figurines are added, each resembling her family. One night she visits the dollhouse to find the little figurine of her mother is in the bath with its tiny wrists cut. The figurine of her father is hanging by a noose from a beam. As you can probably tell, what happens in the dollhouse happens in the real house, but what the girl doesn’t anticipate is what happens to her figurine.
What are you working on now?
No horror work planned at the moment. I’m currently writing a new novel about a young boy with mental health issues. It’s actually a very sweet, funny and sad story that I’ll aim at the young adult demographic. And no, it’s not autographical.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
I’ve enjoyed novels by Ramsey Campbell, King, Herbert, in the past. More recently some of the ‘bizzaro’ authors, like Carlton Mellick III and Bradley Sands, have impressed me with their complete abandonment of conventional horror in exchange for punk-trash tongue-in-cheek B Movie- style horror. I also really loved Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones because it was one of those novels that broke away from the constraints of traditional narrative structure to offer a slasher/scream style story which reads like a screenplay within a novel. It uses footnotes to bolster the narrative much the same way Mark Z. Danielewski did in House of Leaves. Stephen is one of those writers who may have seen every horror film on the planet, so you know you’re in for a wonderful ride when reading his stories.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
It’s probably obvious by now, but for me it’s gore. I remember having a really visceral reaction to the ending of Psycho when I first watched it. It was that marriage of realising all along it was Norman who was killing everyone and that he had convinced himself his mother wasn’t dead. At the point Lila Crane turns that corpse around in the fruit cellar and Norman runs in dressed in his mother’s clothes with a kitchen knife in hand, you replay that whole movie in your head again; the voices of the mother were really Norman’s, the shower scene, the life he lived, the isolation and lengths he went to. Within just a few seconds you’ve gone from thinking you know who the killer is to realising you were wrong. The bitter aftertaste of this revelation is the understanding of how sick and crazy some people can be. That it was loosely based on the life of Ed Gein still makes my stomach summersault. From that moment on I’ve always tread carefully around psychological horror for the reason it is seated within reality. Zombies, demons, the Devil, werewolves and Dracula, they’re all the fruits of a fertile imagination. There is never a clown under the bed. There will never be a mall full of zombies. But there are sharks under the water, and there are psychopaths who own hotels.
Why should people read your work?
There is no reason to read my work. They’re not going to change the world or make you want to be a writer. All I can offer my readers is an experience. Gory Hole is pantomime, it is a book forged by a man who did not censor himself, nor did he allow the pressures of a demographic to dictate the story. Gory Hole is fun, and very tongue–in-cheek. If you love films like Dog Soldiers, Braindead, Evil Dead, Zombies, Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead then you’ll love Gory Hole. Morally there are messages in there, which the reader can choose to unearth or disregard.What I’m hoping will happen is those who are brave enough to read it will have a laugh. What some writers forget is that writing should be entertaining. It should move the reader in some way, and pull them into different worlds. If the writer offers words that are as flat as the pages they are fettered to, then they have failed. I’m sure no one will say that about Gory Hole.
Recommend a book.
For the reasons outlined above, Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones, which I’ve recently found out is going to be adapted into a comic too.
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