What first attracted you to horror writing?
I guess it was a combination of different things which set me off down this path. Someone somehow managed to slip a copy of The Day of the Triffids into my primary school library, and once I’d read that I became hooked on horror and all things post-apocalyptic. Maybe nine year olds shouldn’t have been reading stuff like that, but I’m glad I did. I quickly developed a fascination for horror, and I used to creep downstairs late at night to watch the old horror double bills which were shown on the BBC – usually the original Universal monster movies with the odd Hammer and Amicus film thrown in for good measure. I grew up in the 1980’s and that was important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the paranoia about ‘video nasties’ around that time had the opposite effect on me to what the government intended – the fact I couldn’t get to see films like Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead and The Exorcist meant that I made it my life’s work to get hold of copies and it became an addiction. Second, I was around when the Cold War was at its height, and when you grow up thinking you could be blown to oblivion at any time with just four minutes’ warning, you can’t help but be focused on horror!
I think my answer to this would have to be that it’s a tie between Hater and Autumn. Autumn was the book which enabled me to get a foothold in the horror market, and everything I’ve subsequently achieved came as a result of that novel. But Hater gave me my big break. I originally self-published it. It had been out for a couple of months and had sold a few hundred copies when it (somehow) ended up on the desk of some pretty important people in Los Angeles. Within six months I’d sold the film rights and Guillermo del Toro was involved!
What are you working on now?
I’ve got a number of different projects on the go. I’ve just finished Them or Us, the final book in the Hater trilogy which is out towards the end of 2011, and as well as editing the remaining Autumn novels, I’m about to start writing Autumn: Aftermath, the last book in the series. On top of that, I’ve written the script to a short movie which we’re hoping to film early next year, and I’m currently scoping out my next novels which I hope my agent will start shopping around shortly.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently as I’ve started to plan what comes next for me after the Hater and Autumn books. I think the one person who’s had the biggest impact on me in terms of horror is David Cronenberg. He’s been responsible for a vast number of incredibly original horror stories over the years. He has a unique talent for making stories which are grotesque, startling and disturbing, but at the same time deeply emotional and affecting. Shivers, Rabid, Videodrome, Scanners, The Fly, Dead Ringers to name but a few… phenomenal.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
I think there’s a place for both, but the key for me is context. Films like Hostel and the Saw movies leave me cold, because it’s all about the gore with the emphasis on grossing out the audience at any cost. On the other hand, I recently watched Martyrs which I thought was very graphic and very disturbing, and it wouldn’t have been half the film it was if it hadn’t been so grotesque. I mentioned Cronenberg in my previous answer, and many of his films sum up what I’m trying to say. Take The Fly, for example. It’s a horrific movie in places, but the gore adds to the story. Jeff Goldblum’s transformation from quiet scientist to foul, deformed creature is disgusting but completely watchable and terrifying because you care about the character. No amount of blood and guts can compensate for a lack of story!
Why should people read your work?
Because it’s different. It’s original. I think I look at things from a different perspective to many writers. I’m not a fan of clichés and typical hero figures, so my books tend to look at huge and terrible, life-altering events from the point of view of the man on the street. I want people to finish reading my books and think “shit, what would I do?”
Recommend a book.
Domain by James Herbert. Not the finest example of horror literature, but it’s a book which had a massive impact on me and my writing. Until I read it, I’d never come across a book which portrayed horror on such a massive and relentless scale. Bloody brilliant!