What first attracted you to horror writing?
Big. Scary. Monsters. That’s what started it all. I loved dinosaurs and sharks as a kid, and was always fascinated by the ‘man versus mutant nature run amok’ movies. Peter Benchley’s Jaws was my first adult novel, and that fed into the golden age of British pulp horror with James Herbert’s The Rats novels and Guy N Smith’s Crabs books.
I was a bit of a gore-hound at that age – what kid isn’t? – and I did enjoy the graphic descriptions of carnage and blood-spill, but the main appeal for me was really seeing how ordinary people cope with a fantastical threat that’s beyond their comprehension. And I much preferred to read about it than watch it on screen. My imagination seemed to make the experience more rich and fulfilling. This led on to creating my own monsters.
In recent years Lovecraft has been my biggest inspiration, particularly his Deep Ones.
What is your most notable work?
Notable? Well, in terms of size and scope, it’ll be my Cambridge based novel The Caretakers. It’s garnered some very positive reviews and sales are going well, particularly in America. The book is as British as fish & chips, so I’m pleased to see it doing well over the pond.
Shorter works – many readers have been quite pleased (and quietly terrified, they told me!) with The Bodymen, Crabmeat, The Interview and Warpigs.
What are you working on now?
Two novels: Fairlight and Snareville III.
Fairlight is a Lovecraftian novel set in a British seaside town where teenage self-harming has become an epidemic, and the cure is just as devastating as the illness. The tagline is ‘In mutilation there is evolution.’ I’ll be posting some sample chapters on my website in the next few weeks to give people an idea of what to expect.
Snareville III is a continuation of DM Youngquist’s zombie apocalypse saga, written in collaboration with DM. We’ve been taking it in turns to write the story from our respective sides of the pond, where his characters are trying to reach my survivors in the UK before the next stage in the zombie evolution begins. It’s nice to put a British spin on the zombie apocalypse and tie it in with real-time events in Youngquist’s world.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
The living? Steve Duffy, Gary McMahon, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Graham Masterton, F Paul Wilson, Robert McCammon and Steve Harris. The latter has been very quiet on the horror scene in recent years, sadly. I hope he’ll make a comeback soon.
Guy N Smith for actively encouraging new writers – I had my first break in 1998 with a story in his magazine Graveyard Rendezvous. Without Guy, I wouldn’t be a writer, simple as that. Blame him!
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
All depends on the story and the author. I loved gore when I was younger and it still has its place as long as it’s not overused. I’m not a fan of torture porn at all, and I stay away from the serial killer or man-as-monster horror, because I much prefer supernatural threats in my fiction – as a reader and a writer.
I strive to create something new all the time, and I do like to mix quiet horror and action/adventure with many pieces. I’m moving more into novels now because that format gives you a much broader canvas to paint on, and more scope for characterisation.
And if you buy The Caretakers at FCon this year, I’ll treat you to a shot of very fine absinthe, which will help you see the Green Spirit that haunts Andy Hughes and Rob Benson…
And a beer chaser, of course. And some nuts. Have another drink. Now, how many copies can I put you down for? Go on, have another drink…
Recommend a book.
I’m going to cheat and recommend three…
Tragic Life Stories by Steve Duffy. A superb collection of short stories from British Horror’s best kept secret.
The Hoodoo Man by Steve Harris. Truly breathtaking, epic in scope and storytelling. One of the best horror novels I’ve ever read.
The Left Hand by Serenity J Banks. A gobsmacking debut. I know, I know, she’s part of Dark Continents – but please believe me when I say it’s not a plug. Read it and be amazed – you wouldn’t believe it’s a debut novel.