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Jasper Bark

What first attracted you to horror writing?

The fact that it’s the genre you go to when you want to think the unthinkable. The genre where all our worst fears and neuroses bubble up to the surface. What if my child doesn’t come home one night? What if my home, my body or my mind is invaded and I’m powerless to stop it? What if consensus reality is just a cosy fiction that masks a deeper more irrational universe than we can ever understand?

This last fear is probably what attracts me the most. Horror stories are where I first learned about people who held heretical beliefs and practiced unthinkable acts in the name of both science and religion. Who had the balls to lift what Shelley called “the painted veil that those who live call life” and peer at what lies behind it. Granted they usually came to a bad end because of it, but in the brief moments before their fall I always thrilled to their Faustian excitement, drunk on the power of forbidden knowledge.

The Gnostics used to believe that fearsome angels, known as Archons, patrolled the outer limits of reality to terrify and attack all but the bravest and most dedicated seeker after the truth from venturing into the unknown. Sometimes the deepest and most profound truths lie beyond a howling chasm of fear. To experience those truths we have to leap blindly into that chasm with no guarantee that we will get to the other side.

That moment of electrifying, near hysterical terror, when we leave behind everything we know to be true, and hurtle towards a new reality, that’s the note of cosmic terror that I love the best.

What is your most notable work?

One of the things that gives me comfort as a writer, is that the most notable works of many writers weren’t considered particularly notable in their day. Mark Twain was the biggest selling author in America when he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer but it was a critical and commercial flop when it was released. Same with F Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, which was ignored by critics and sold only a few hundred copies to begin with.

The works you, as a writer, consider most notable are often the hardest to sell and gain the smallest amount of attention at first. I like to think that my most notable works are still to be discovered and still to be written.

This said, my biggest selling and most highly acclaimed work to date is my fourth novel Way of the Barefoot Zombie. It would be nice to think that the audiobook anthology I’ve just released – Dead Air also contains a lot of notable stories, but more on that in a moment.

Why don’t you ask me what I’m working on now?

What are you working on now?

I’m really glad you asked me that. I’m doing a lot of promotion for an audiobook anthology called Dead Air which was also a one man show that I performed last year. It’s a portmanteau collection of horror stories in the tradition of old TV shows like The Twilight Zone. It’s about a place where the dead go to record their final stories. An underground frequency that carries the last testaments of the damned and the dispossessed. Broadcasts that lurk in the black static between stations, whispering truths too terrible to tell anywhere else.

Aside from that I’m working on a graphic novel for Markosia called Bloodfellas which is a horror/noir hybrid. I’m quite excited about this story and we’ve just got up and coming artist Mick Trimble on board. I have an ongoing series coming out in the new UK comic Strip Magazine (due to launch in October 2011) called Steampunk Sherlock that I’m doing with the exceptionally talented artist Andrew Chiu. I’m writing an ongoing superhero series for the acclaimed American publishers Silver Phoenix Entertainment, called Roller Derby Drama that promises to be a lot of fun. I’ve been commissioned to write a couple of graphic novels around the work of fine artist Ray Ching, which look to push the envelope of both the graphic novel and the art book. I’m also due to be writing a 36 issue graphic novel series that I can’t say anything more about because I’ve signed a NDA.

Sometime in amongst all that I hope to sleep for at least one night a week.

Who do you admire in the horror world?

I think the greatest British horror writers of all time are M R James, Robert Aickman and Ramsey Campbell. For television horror no-one can top Nigel Kneale or Rod Serling.

I also have an enormous amount of admiration for Fritz Leiber, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and Robert Bloch.

The contemporary horror writers I most admire would probably be Lisa Tuttle, Stephen Volk, Gary McMahon and Simon Bestwick.

Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?

I think that depends on the story you’re telling, the themes you’re exploring and the scene you’re concentrating on. Both have their place in any horror story.

What connects them for me is that they’re both about revealing the mysteries of the interior. Very few of us get a sustained and intimate look at what goes on inside our bodies. Few of us get to hold a beating human heart, to use sharpened steel to remove a vital organ or watch as the blood drains from a still warm body until it stops kicking and turns cold.

Few of us ever explore the truly damaging nature of an aberrant human mind. Few get deep inside a psychosis so destructive it will bend a human will to murder over and over again. Or find ourselves caught up in the maelstrom of a meme, like mob justice, that culminates in genocide.

Horror is important because it’s the one genre where we can take those parts of us that remain mentally and physically hidden and bare them to the light. So that in plumbing the depths of our bodies and minds we might chance upon our souls.

Why should people read your work?

Because I need the money!

Also because they’ll discover imaginative, edgy and unexpected fiction that explores social and spiritual issues while pushing at the boundaries of what genre fiction can and ought to do.

Because I’ll take them to places they’ve never been before and will never get to visit again. That’s a money back guarantee.

Recommend a book.

My favourite book of all time is Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller.

My favourite horror book is a three way tie between Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley, 999 edited by Al Sarrantonio and Black Water edited by Alberto Manguel.

I know technically that’s four books but, well … erm, I’m special, and they’re all really worth a read.

Jasper Bark

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