I’ve always had an interest in horror and the supernatural, plus I’ve always loved the mysteries involved in the latter. When I first started writing seriously (about fifteen years ago), I initially went the urban fantasy route but then found that my plots were becoming darker as they progressed. So, after writing a few books, I went for the horror angle instead and then everything clicked. To be honest, that shouldn’t have surprised me. I grew up reading horror. When I was about eight or nine, I got hold of various books my dad and my eldest brother owned – everything from Stephen King to James Herbert to the Pan Books of Horror – and haven’t really looked back since.
Horror occasionally gets the reputation of being low-brow or worth less than other genres simply because it can involve violence and gore. But that overlooks the fact that it often explores a hell of a lot of the nobler qualities people possess: bravery, self-sacrifice, determination. Take Dracula for instance. Despite all the blood and death and horror, the characters do their best to destroy a great evil. They stand up against it even if they’re just legging it. Dracula is, of course, a classic piece of literature and that’s one of the reasons people have read and enjoyed it for over a hundred years. It’s also a superb horror story. And that’s another reason why people have read and enjoyed it for over a century.
It has to be my debut novel The Red Girl, which was published in January by Musa Publishing. I wrote the first draft over roughly six weeks (compared to my usual eight to twelve) and knew I had something even with that rough draft. It went through a few versions to tidy it up and develop some plotlines, then obviously edits with the publisher. While I aim to improve with each book and have written another since that novel, it’s definitely my most notable.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just sent my latest completed book off to a writer friend for her feedback. If there are any horrendous mistakes or problems which I’ve missed, I’d rather get them fixed before the book goes out on submission. I’m also at the planning stages for my next book. Generally, I write with a loose outline and was actually planning on winging this one, but I realised a couple of weeks ago that it does need an outline. It’s gone through a few changes since I decided that but it’s now taking shape into what I hope will be an exciting, frightening mystery with a character and an angle with which people can identify.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
Although Stephen King has moved away from out-and-out horror over the last decade or so, he’s still a great storyteller. I’ve also got a lot of time for Tim Lebbon, Simon Clark, Joe Hill, Sarah Pinborough, Joseph D’Lacey, Gary McMahon and Susan Hill. The writer and director Neil Marshall is also a definite favourite. God knows how many of my Friday nights have involved a few beers while watching Dog Soldiers or The Descent.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
While it always depends on the story and characters, I tend to side with chills over straight gore. Being gross is easy and, unless it involves characters the reader actually cares about, it’s often dull. For example, I read a book several years ago which opened with a detailed torture of a couple in their own home. Nothing was left to the imagination and yet, I didn’t really care because I didn’t know the characters at all. They just existed to be tortured. Gore is an ingredient for the horror writer. I’ll use it when it’s needed and have no problem with doing so. I just think it takes more effort to frighten the reader, to get under their skin. If I write a scene that makes them uncomfortable in a personal way and which they keep thinking about after they finish reading, then I figure I’ve done my job.
Why should people read your work?
Because my characters are (hopefully) people the readers can relate to. They can empathise with them because they’re as normal as we would like to be and sometimes as messed up as we really are. And if you’re after a frightening, page-turning story, I’m your man.
Recommend a book.
Well, my own is always a good place to start. Other than that, I’ve read some great books over the last few months. The Thief of Broken Toys by Tim Lebbon, The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon, The Dog Faced Gods series by Sarah Pinborough and Blood Crazy by Simon Clark were superb reads.
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