What first attracted you to horror writing?
I’ve always loved horror. Some of my first memories are of being scared silly by Dr Who in the early 1970s. When I was little I was one of those children who was terrified of everything and perpetually nervous, and horror seemed to take the edge off that and allowed all those neurotic emotions to be channelled somewhere, and actually I think it was tremendously healthy for me to have an outlet like that from an early age. As I got older I relished the more imaginative aspects of the genre, and as I got older still, I realised I loved horror more than anything else because it really is the most extreme of genres –if you take love stories, dramas and even comedies to extremes you end up with horror. It really is a very broad church, a genre you can do almost anything with. It can make you think, it can make you cry, it can make you love your fellow man or think twice about going near him. When I realised I needed to be a writer there was no question what kind of material I was going to write – I never made a conscious effort to write horror, but if I had tried to write anything else the stories would have come out forced.
It always feels as if it’s the next thing I’m working on, and certainly that’s a driving force, the constant desire to ‘get it more right’ the next time. Having said that I’m pleased with what I’ve been able to achieve so far and all the books I’ve done delight me for different reasons – The Faculty of Terror because it was the first one I did, The Catacombs of Fear because I think I did a better job with that one, Coffin Nails because as far back as I can remember I dreamed of publishing a book of supernatural tales (and it’s an Ash-Tree book so it’s beautifully produced), Against the Darkness because I had always wanted to do a kind of X-Files/Avengers type book and Wicked Delights because that’s the most recent one and some of the stories in it were the most complex to construct and the most satisfying to commit to paper.
What are you working on now?
There are two more books in the pipeline at the moment, a novel featuring my detective characters from Against the Darkness, which I’m writing for Atomic Fez, and my third book for Gray Friar Press which will probably be called The Asylum of Nightmares. That will be another book consisting of five or six stories linked by a framework, which this time is going to be a huge old Victorian asylum filled with doctors who have gone insane. Other than that I hope to write more about horror films. I’ve reviewed so many on message boards and in print over the last few years that I’m planning on starting a blog so people who want to read my articles know where to go. It will also give me the chance to write about whatever takes my fancy film-wise and the plan is to start it off with a piece I’ve just written on plastic surgery horror films.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
I grew up reading the works of Robert Bloch, R Chetwynd-Hayes and Charles Birkin and some of my stories definitely show their influences.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
Oh both! It all depends on your subject matter and what kind of story you’re trying to tell. I think both are equally difficult to do well but both have their place in the horror genre. I like a good ghost story as much as a good conte cruele.
Why should people read your work?
At the moment I don’t think there’s anyone else out there doing the same kind of thing that I do, or at least not in quite the same way. To be honest if they were I probably wouldn’t be writing. One of the main reasons I started was because I wasn’t finding anywhere near enough of the kind of stories I liked to read. I very much believe that horror stories should be nasty at times, but I also enjoy the use of morbid (and at times quite cruel) wit and many of my stories use a combination of the two, which seems to be quite a rarity these days. I also believe that horror stories should be nothing if not entertaining, which is always the ultimate goal of one of my books – the reader should come away feeling they’ve had a good time.
If it’s all right I’m going to recommend a series, because it’s the closest in spirit to the kind of horror I love the most, and that’s The Black Book of Horror edited by Charles Black and available from Mortbury Press. I always loved the Pan, Fontana, Sphere and other British horror anthology series of the 1960s and 1970s, and this series is like a modern version of those books. Many, many writers I like and respect have had stories published within its pages and Charlie deserves all the encouragement in the world for the excellent work he’s doing.
John L Probert