Vincent Holland-Keen resides in the North of England, as well as writing novels, he’s an artist and the director of the book show Un:Bound Video Editions (UBVE). He works for a major metropolitan university as a business analyst/system designer.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
As a young boy, I was most attracted to writing that contained fantastical elements – stories that dealt with the humdrum of reality just didn’t interest. When I started writing myself, elements of horror seemed to creep in, not because of any conscious decision on my part, but as an inevitable consequence of trying to generate high stakes drama. Putting my characters up against horrible creatures and nefarious schemes where failure would lead to horrific outcomes just seemed, well, sensible. I’m sure my characters would much prefer it if getting things wrong only led to a bit of existential angst and their neighbours treating them with haughty derision, but stuff ‘em, I have more fun this way.
What is your most notable work?
The Office of Lost and Found is my only published novel so far. It concerns Thomas Locke, who can find anything; his business partner, Lafarge, who can lose anything; and a femme fatale called Veronica Drysdale who comes asking for their help and finds her world suddenly twisted by rules very different from those she’s used to. It’s been likened to Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently series thanks to the detective agency setup and quirky comedy, but delves into much darker and weirder places. This does seem to give it a love it or hate it flavour, though I’ve been lucky enough that the majority of reviews I’ve had have been overwhelmingly positive.
I’m actually trying to work on two novels simultaneously. One is a superficially conventional thriller, where an everyman hero goes up against a system that can predict your every move, while the other is a standalone sequel to The Office of Lost and Found. I’m hoping I can work on the thriller during those weeks where I’m trying to devise something fresh and weird for the other book.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
This may sound shocking to many horror fans, but I’ve never actually read any Stephen King, however I can admire the example he’s set for other writers. The stories of H.P. Lovecraft struck me as quaint rather than terrifying, but the power of the mythos he originated is plain to see in the works they inspired (and the Cthulhu bestiary may have inspired the look of some of the creatures who appear in The Office of Lost and Found).
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
Personally, I don’t find gore scary. It’s usually a result of a physical peril that leaves me frustrated the victim didn’t have the wherewithal to fight back effectively. Psychological chills I find far more effective. Without drawing a single drop of blood or touching the hair on one person’s head, you can still dig your way deep into a character’s (or reader’s) psyche and plant an idea that disturbs them in more damaging and lasting ways than just merrily turfing their guts out onto the carpet (which I recommend reserving for characters rather than readers if you feel you have to resort to that). My choice of best horror film isn’t The Shining or The Thing or any of the traditional picks – it’s Memento. Watching a guy living at the mercy of a memory that doesn’t stretch back further than a handful of minutes I found more disturbing than Jack Nicholson going psycho or spider legs sprouting from a man’s head (even though both of those things are cool).
Though, now I think about it, the news media also do a pretty formidable job of dispensing psychological horror on a daily basis, but I can’t appreciate the art quite so much in that case.
Why should people read your work?
Because The Office of Lost and Found is not a book where you’ll know after the first page how the story is going to end. There’ll be things in there you won’t have read before and there’ll be mysteries that confuse and confound, but hopefully the mix of humour and horror, action and adventure will propel you through to the reach the answers. Of course, if you don’t like any of the above, you’re best advised to go for something more conventional instead.
Recommend a book.
I always feel awkward recommending a book without knowing the tastes of who I’m recommending for, so on this occasion I’ll pick a book simply by virtue of the fact that it contained a short story with a character I could identify with so closely that it felt like a literal punch to the stomach when I finished reading it. What You Make It is a collection by Michael Marshall Smith and I’m not going to tell you which of the stories I’m referring to, but you’ll almost certainly know when you read it.
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