What first attracted you to horror writing?
I read horror widely when I was a teenager in the 1980s, reading many of the popular horror writers of the time such as Richard Laymon, Dean Koontz, Graham Masterton, Clive Barker and of course, Stephen King. I won’t be the first writer of my generation to be profoundly affected by IT. I think that book was the one that truly kick-started my writing life. After completing it I filled about three notebooks with a story about a group of children wrestling with a monster before realising how derivative it was and moving on to something else. Still, the seeds were sown by then…
I am missing out my contemporary novels here (which were reviewed in the national press and are sold in all the recognisable outlets – one has been developed as a script for BBC films) and focussing on my genre fiction. The story I’ve had the most exposure with to date is The Knowledge, the lead story in my collection. It was selected as the lead story in an anthology, nominated for an award and reviewed quite widely. The subject matter has been compared to Stephen King’s Stand By Me and I make a slight nod to Stephen King within the story but in truth there is no connection. When I was a boy a friend of mine discovered the body of a hanged man in a shed by the railway tracks. That was the catalyst for the story, not Stand By Me.
What are you working on now?
I completed a quiet horror novel recently and that is currently doing the rounds looking for a publisher. It’s called The Hollow and is set in Cornwall. It’s my comment on the 21st Century British attitude to home. There are hints of James Herbert’s The Magic Cottage in it and some loose comparisons with Straw Dogs but I like to think it stands on its own foundations.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
Anybody who can craft a good story really. Aside from the names above and the many others who have carved a career over many years such as Ramsey Campbell, I’d like to think my tastes are quite broad ranging. I subscribe to Black Static, Crimewave and Cemetery Dance and religiously purchase modern horror collections and magazines such as the Stephen Jones Best New Horror anthologies. Shadows and Tall Trees is a new publication worthy of a mention and the pamphlet series from Nightjar Press. I wouldn’t want to single out any one of the authors appearing in these publications above any other. They’re almost always fantastic. I also admire Thomas Emson for his output. He writes all action horror novels that I wish I could write but my work is just not like that…
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
I’ll read anything but I write very quietly. I love the ghost stories of M R James for their subtle, haunting qualities and recently read a couple of Hugh Walpole stories that would fit nicely into that oeuvre. Joel Lane is a writer who is doing something similar today perhaps. Of the six stories in The Knowledge and other stories I would suggest only one is out and out horror. All of the rest are far more suggestive and open to interpretation.
Why should people read your work?
I like to think I’m at least demonstrating something of the craft. Where there’s a lack of blood and gore there might be a nicely crafted sentence or a haunting image. I always feel confident that my stories achieve that. I love the Twilight Zone and the stories of Richard Matheson, the idea of trying to drop a tiny drop of fantasy or horror into everyday situations and that’s what I strive for.
Recommend a book.
Can I recommend a couple? Richard Matheson’s The Incredible Shrinking Man for the incredible subtext as well as the horror of that spider and Graham Masterton’s Prey. It was only recently that I learned this book was Masterton’s homage to Lovecraft or that the terrifying Brown Jenkin was one of Lovecraft’s creations…