What first attracted you to horror writing?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a house filled with books, and among them were such wonderful treasure-trove anthologies with titles like Great Ghost Stories of the World and An Omnibus of Strange and Supernatural Stories that dated back to the 1920s and 1930s or earlier, and the collected works of Poe, Bierce, Charles Fort and Saki (H.H. Munro). Like many kids, I loved to hear, read, and re-tell scary stories, and I guess I never grew out of that. I’ve always been an omnivorous reader, and my interests have never been confined to just one genre, but I still have a particular liking for strange, unsettling, disturbing tales, especially as a writer. In my teens, I became equally interested in science fiction, but it says more about the state of the market in the late sixties and early seventies – when horror simply didn’t exist as a publishing genre – that I started my career identified as an SF writer. The very first stories I sold were about a woman who mysteriously returns as an adult to her childhood home and becomes the menacing creature under the bed that she used to fear (Stranger in the House) and cannibalistic dolls (Dollburger) and even my futuristic stories have been more concerned with psychology and alienation than with what most people probably think of as hardcore science fiction.
I’m not sure it’s for me to say, but if you want a recommendation, in this field, in terms of the strange and horrific, I’d suggest The Pillow Friend among my novels (Neil Gaiman called it “a disturbing novel about dreams and wishes, a nightmarish distaff monkey’s paw of a book that’s impossible to forget”), or a collection of my short stories. Ash-Tree Books has embarked on a project to publish all my horror and supernatural stories over a number of volumes (and a number of years) – the first one, now available from them, is titled after the first story in the book:, the first one I sold: Stranger in the House.
What are you working on now?
Probably too many things. I am struggling with a novel in progress, have a children’s book (dark fantasy) half finished, and keep getting distracted by yet another irresistible idea for a new short story…which is fun, but no way to make a living!
Who do you admire in the horror world?
I am getting chills at the very idea that there is a place called the horror world and I don’t think I want to go there!
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
Psychological terror, every time. I don’t like gore, which I generally find more sickening than frightening.
Why should people read your work?
Only because they want to – there’s no obligation.
Recommend a book.
Painted Devils by Robert Aickman.