What first attracted you to horror writing?
Having so much great supernatural horror fiction read to me when a boy. The impact on my imagination was enormous.
I’m not sure writers can critically acclaim themselves (much as we’d like to). But in terms of being personally notable, so far all three of my novels stand together as milestones. I cut my fangs on Banquet, and paid homage to my precursors, while learning so much about the craft during that novel’s composition; Apartment 16 was an idiosyncratic and personal story – that story that so many writers carry as a kind of creative ulcer – that I had to excise before I could go any further; The Ritual came out of me like a force of nature with more fluency and compression than I’d ever experienced before – and I’ll admit to being a little frightened of the book. It really unsettled me. Each was an epic journey for me.
What are you working on now?
I won’t say too much, because I have found to my detriment that talking about a book can be counterproductive. It’s almost like you write the book in your imagination when you’re talking about it, without doing any of the work, and then have to stare at the peak of a mountain from the bottom, thinking, but I’ve already climbed this in my head. But it is a very ambitious book in its own way, again, that has involved a great deal of research. I’m writing the second draft now. In some ways I can already see that it’s a synthesis of all I learned writing the previous three novels. There’s also two scenes that have made me look over my shoulder while reworking them, to make sure nothing did actually come into the room and then stand in the corner behind my chair to watch me. Might sound a bit cheesy, but hey, nice to know I can still freak myself out. I even had a slight panic one evening, just after the lights went out, that by going deeply into some really horrible things I might actually be inadvertently stirring something up and making myself “available” to its presence.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
Lots of people. From the Brits my chief influences have been M R James, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Walter Del La Mare, Ramsey Campbell and Robert Aickman. Lovecraft, William Blatty, Dan Simmons, Shirley Jackson and Thomas Ligotti from the US.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
The most often asked question in horror. I’ve always leaned towards psychological chills, or what I prefer to call psychic terror. But don’t get me wrong, physical horror has its place too in my writing, but it’s how it’s written in the genre that counts. On either side of the effects fence, I prefer to avoid clichéd or overwritten descriptions.
Why should people read your work?
Well, it’s been a long time since a new British horror writer has been published by a large international publisher. I’ve been attending genre events and conventions for nearly ten years now and the subject was raised and bemoaned at every one. We have been the outcast, the derided and the forsaken in literary terms for a long time. Against the odds, I’ve been given a chance (after fifteen years in the salt mines). If people truly want British horror to have a stake in the mainstream again, then support the new wave of writers going over the top in a very difficult retail environment. David Moody, Gary McMahon, Joseph DeLacey, Sarah Pinborough, Conrad Williams have all appeared in mass market paperback in the last couple of years. I hope there will be others too. Get into the mix and continue the momentum. We can’t even get to the end of the runway without readers.
Recommend a book.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. This incredible novel falls within the “domestic horror” the author made her own. I think it’s even better than the magnificent The Haunting of Hill House that we all know about. Penguin recently brought it back into print.