What first attracted you to horror writing?
I suppose I came to it in an oblique manner. As a child I was a huge fan of The Three Investigators Mysteries – a series of children’s books created by the American writer Robert Arthur. The stories involved these kids having their cases introduced by the real-life film director, Alfred Hitchcock. Through reading them I became interested in the great man’s films. Also, by name association, I began reading the numerous anthologies that Hitchcock put his name to – largely assembled from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Contributors to the series included Robert Bloch, Algernon Blackwood, August Derleth, Ray Bradbury, Patricia Highsmith, William F Nolan, M R James, Daphne Du Maurier, Avram Davidson, Richard Matheson, Joseph Payne Brennan, John Collier, Basil Copper, etc. Although a great deal of these books were billed as crime or suspense stories, the darker tales were the ones that tempted me towards horror. I think it was the classic WW Jacobs story The Monkey’s Paw which finally made me realise that I loved being frightened.
I tried my own clumsy attempts at writing – let’s just say I wasn’t quite ready at that age. So instead I just kept reading, reading, reading. My parents allowed me the freedom to read what I wanted. They found my love for horror rather surprising, but they didn’t try to deter me. I devoured absolutely everything – horror, crime, fantasy. In 2003 my first son was born. Suddenly the world changed. Things that previously seemed mundane now felt scary. So in 2006, just as I made the decision to change my day-job to one that allowed me weekends with my family, I decided to start submitting fiction. Since then I’ve had nearly 30 short stories published in various areas of the small press.
What is your most notable work?
Ha, ha. The honest answer is ‘I don’t have one’. I suppose the story that I’m most proud of is one called Husks that will be appearing later in the year in Murmuations – An Anthology of Uncanny Stories About Birds edited by Nicholas Royle. I’m definitely punching above my weight on that one. My offering sits alongside such writers as Conrad Williams, Tom Fletcher, Joel Lane, RB Russell, Michael Kelly, Mark Valentine, etc. I feel like Karl Power, the bloke that sneaked onto the Manchester United’s Champion League team photo in 2001. I imagine the other writers are looking at me sideways and nudging one another quizzically.
Together with the writers Mark West and Neil Williams, I’ve just had a story in an ebook called ill at ease published by Penman Press. It’s available for the Kindle and other electronic formats. The ordering info is here and the price is £1.77/$2.87.
I have several slots in anthologies later in the year – The Monster Book For Girls edited by Terry Grimwood (Exaggerated Press), Alt-Dead edited by Peter Mark May (Hersham Horror Books), and The Eighth Black Book of Horror edited by Charles Black (Mortbury Press). I’ve written a novella called Lantern Rock, which is currently going through rewrites. And I’m currently speaking to a UK press about the possibility of putting out a collection at some point in the future. More information on that as soon as I have it.
The one thing that will definitely happen is that I’ll continue writing.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
The person who’s had the biggest impact on me, both as a reader and a writer, is probably Nicholas Royle. I first read his work in the UK magazine, Fear, back in the late 80s, and I’ve followed his career ever since. His collection, Mortality, is one of my favourite books. So I was incredibly thrilled to work with Nick on several stories last year. He helped me improve a couple of pieces by showing me the best way to edit and rewrite. It was one hell of an education, I can tell you. Already it feels like my writing has divided into two distinct phases – before working with him, and after. As well as being a superb writer/editor/teacher, he’s incredibly generous with his time. One of the nicest people I’ve met in the industry.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
As a younger reader I enjoyed fast-paced writing, though not necessarily gore. I think chills tend to linger in the mind longer. Now I’m much older I’d go for psychological chills every time. I prefer writers that suggest rather than spell things out. I go for atmosphere over action. For my own fiction, I feel I’m still looking for my voice, still searching for that path. The themes I’m interested in, however, do seem to favour a quieter sense most of the time. I’d hate to be pigeonholed though!
Why should people read your work?
That’s another tough one! Modesty forbids me from recommending my own work. But what I will say is that I’ve been fortunate enough to grab slots in some brilliant magazines and anthologies where my stories sit alongside fantastic ones from other writers. I’d urge you to read them.
Recommend a book.
One by Conrad Williams. Easily one of the best novels of the past few years. Conrad is so versatile it’s difficult to categorise him, but this book blends brilliant prose with visceral imagery into a breathtaking story. It transcends the apocalyptic novel. I’ve yet to read anything by him that I haven’t loved outright.