T.C. Parker is a writer and researcher based in the fox-ravaged wilds of Leicestershire. T.C. has been a copywriter, a lecturer, and, very briefly, an academic. T.C. now runs a semiotics and cultural insight agency by day and dreams up horror and crime fiction at night, when the kids are asleep. Visit T.C.’s website here and follow T.C. on twitter here.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
I’ve always been an avid horror reader; like a lot of people in the community, I devoured Christopher Pike and the early King books (‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining and the rest) as a kid, then moved on to James Herbert, Graham Masterton, Clive Barker, Anne Rice … anything grisly, peculiar and/or macabre. I studied literature and film as an undergrad, which got me interested in the gothic and in body horror—everything from Frankenstein and The Island of Doctor Moreau to Cronenberg and ‘50s B-movies. And at grad school, I wrote on the relationship between sexual identity, entertainment media and contemporary British politics, which—all jokes about the current UK political landscape aside—encompassed a fair bit of analysis of the horrific and the queerly fantastical. (I’m still a sucker for Jack Halberstam’s Skin Shows).
All that said: I didn’t actually write horror—or anything fictional at all—until my mid-30s. I’m a researcher by day, and I’d convinced myself, I think, that I wasn’t really A Creative—whatever the hell that means. Then one day, for reasons I still don’t entirely understand, I got frustrated enough with the then-dearth of queer (and especially lesbian) representation in horror and crime fic that I started mapping out a story about two women stuck on an island prison with a sea-monster … and suddenly I was actually writing it, and enjoying the process so much I didn’t want to stop.
Probably Saltblood—the island prison/sea monster book the story above eventually turned into. Of everything I’ve written, it’s sold the most copies and attracted the most interest from readers. I’m still very fond of it.
Hummingbird, which came out this year, has also been quite well-received in the indie horror world, which has been lovely: it’s very queer, very angry and very politically charged, and in that sense is probably the most personal thing I’ve ever written.
To my shame, I haven’t been writing a whole lot lately: I’ve been tied up in editing work, and especially with helping to grow Hold My Beer Publishing, the small press I co-own and co-manage with Edward Lorn and Daron Kappauff. (Our newest release, We Are Legend—a horror-fantasy mashup from Daron and E—is out October 21st, if you want to take a look).
I’m 40k-ish words into a new novel, Lost Things & Forgotten Places, which is a sort of sequel to my weird horror western Salvation Spring, or at least takes place in the same universe. (They’re both a little bit Dark Tower—if Salvation Spring is The Gunslinger, then Lost Things … is definitely The Waste Lands). Progress is slow, though, so I don’t anticipate finishing even the first draft until well into 2023.
I do, however, have a book coming out next year. It’s called Taking Flight, and it’s an office romcom novella, of all things—very different than my usual stuff, but a hell of a lot of fun to write.
The next project after that is another horror story, possibly the first in a series. I’m tacitly thinking of it as The Frighteners Meets You’ve Got Mail—though all I have of it at the moment is a one-page outline, so who knows where it’ll lead me?
What is your writing routine?
I have two young kids, and work can keep me quite busy, as can Hold My Beer, so I don’t always have the chance to stick to a set routine. I do a lot of writing on my phone—on Pages, often in 45-minute increments—which is pretty handy, even if it does lead to some rougher-than-I’d-like first drafts. Then I turn to the laptop when I’m editing.
I used to do a lot of commuting for work, before Covid hit, and would often use whatever dead-time I had on longer flights and train journeys to plan and write; the first few chapters of Saltblood, in fact, were written on a plane, in an airport lounge and in a hotel room in Buenos Aires. I do less travelling now, obviously—but still try to squeeze in bits and pieces of writing when I’m in transit. Being able to whip out the laptop mid-journey is one of the few benefits of not having a driving licence.
How long have you got? I’m incredibly lucky to know so many talented people in the community: E and Daron, of course—and Todd Keisling, whom the three of us would be lost without; my partner Shauna (Mc Eleney—whose amazing novel Awake In The Night, which you should also check out, is coming in November); the incredible Hailey Piper, who somehow manages to be not only a genius but the kindest person you could possibly meet; the equally incredible (and equally lovely) Laurel Hightower, April Yates, Lynn Love, Steph Ellis, Catherine McCarthy, and Beverley Lee, not to mention Cina Pelayo, Gemma Amor, and Paula D. Ashe, whose collective talent blows me away. Kev Harrison is a gentleman, a scholar and an international treasure. Daniel Barnett is probably the new King, and is just fabulous. And Andy (Austrian) Spencer is not just a wonderful guy, a talented author and the best damn beta-reader out there … he also grew up in the same UK Midlands town I did. Our mums probably knew each other at school.
Do you prefer all-out gore or psychological chills?
I’m not sure they’re mutually exclusive—they can coexist beautifully, if the execution’s right. I enjoy a bit of both.
Why should people read your work?
The one thing I can guarantee, if you read something I’ve written, is that you’ll get some mix of queer/lesbian representation, body horror, ancient evil (and/or mythological underpinning) and unmodulated cultural-political rage. So if any of those things grab you, you should definitely give one of my books a whirl!
Recommend a book.
Again: just one?
I’ve already plugged We Are Legend and Awake In The Night, but I have no shame, so to reiterate: you should definitely check them out.
Hailey Piper’s No Gods For Drowning is a masterpiece. I’m also tremendously excited for her sequel to The Worm & His Kings, Even The Worm Will Turn, which apparently drops next year.
And if you haven’t listened to the audio adaptations of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (Acts I, II and III) … you should rectify that immediately.
Buy T.C. Parker’s books