Nov '12


Five minutes with Joseph Freeman

Interview by Jim Mcleod

Today I am very honoured to have Joseph Freeman over for a chat. Joseph Freeman's is a life lived amongst horror and ghost stories. From this lifelong fascination developed a deeper interest, further fuelled by his own numerous investigations into - and encounters with - the supernatural. His first book was published when he was just 19 years old, and since then he has gone on to publish some twelve more. His work is highly acclaimed for his use of subtlety, psychological techniques and mood to create an unsettling atmosphere and disturbing imagery that lives long in the reader's mind after he or she has put the book down and turned out the lights.

Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Why not? I’m Joseph Freeman, and amongst other things I’m the author of thirteen published books and several dozen short stories. Horror – specifically supernatural horror – is my passion, both as an artist and as a fan of the genre. A good deal of my work is inspired by my real-life experiences of the ghostly, though I have to say that so far none of them have ever been as vicious as my fiction, and I pray they never will.

Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?

One of the biggest problems horror fiction suffers at the moment is people tying themselves up in knots trying not to say it’s what they’re actually writing. Call it what you will, it’s still the same thing and there’s no need we should be ashamed of that – nor of the wonderfully rich heritage we should be proud to be adding to. Horror, to me, is such a wide field that I certainly haven’t come close to its boundaries in any direction and can’t imagine ever doing so.

Who are some of your favourite authors?

Ramsey Campbell, M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, and Arthur Conan-Doyle have been favourites of mine for many years, though the list of authors I’m a fan of is lengthy and varied. I’m always willing to discover new writers who make an impression on me, and always overjoyed when I do.

What are you reading now?

Best New Horror; Steve Jones’s annual selection of what’s worth knowing in the genre. Always worth looking forward to each autumn. One of the joys of a large collection of stories of any kind is the near-certainty that you will discover a couple of real treasures to remember for a long time to come.

Which book do you wish you had written?

I wouldn’t have minded putting my name to Ramsey Campbell’s ‘The House On Nazareth Hill’.

How would you describe your writing style?

I’m not sure I’m aware of it. If it’s there, and I certainly hope that it is, it happens naturally. I like to think there’s a good deal of atmosphere and emotional intensity. I nearly always deal with the supernatural, and how characters attempt to come to terms with it and the lingering affect it has upon them. Beyond that, I suppose some recurring elements find their way through; characters losing their loved ones or their own identities, unusual or tainted locations, ghosts that refuse to be conventional or even explicable.

Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?

I like to write early on in the day (in that brief window of time between the moment when my brain wakes up and before it switches off again). I have no writing habits – I think fetishising the whole business and becoming dependent upon too many conditions or rituals is an excuse, an avoidance of the work itself, and is leaving the door open to some blockage in the future, subconscious or otherwise. The trick – and the only trick worth knowing – is to sit down and get on with it. Writing for me is a very weird experience; I have little awareness of anything until the work is done for the day and I re-emerge blinking into the daylight. It’s a lot like spirit-channelling must be, and sometimes I feel little more than a vessel for the story. Perhaps it’s my art that invents me for its own purposes rather than the other way around.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

Lord, I love them all in their shambling, deformed way. I think everything currently in print has some merit to it; ‘Those Left Behind’ and ‘The Lost & The Lonely’ are multi-viewpoint novels full of the pleasingly weird set-pieces and incidents that I myself love in the genre, whilst ‘They Come At Dusk’ has some of the best short stories I’ve ever written. I like the structure of ‘Vermilion Dawn’ – it feels nicely complete to me in a way that I can’t pretend everything I’ve written ever has. Having said that, it’s devoid of any supernatural element so I could hardly say it was representative of my work. ‘This Is My Blood’ has a wide array of my short fiction, but some of the pieces date back to my teenage years so it’s hard not to think how differently I would do them now. My most notable work is always the one coming next.

Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?

My latest into print is ‘They Come At Dusk’. It’s a collection of short stories, my first for a good number of years, and I’m pleased to return to the form. There are spooks and horrors aplenty, and one factor that seems to particularly please people is that it’s a thoroughly illustrated book! I like how people’s eyes light up at the mention of this, and that I’m not the only to think that grown-ups are entitled to such things too.

Coming in 2013 are two books; a new (illustrated!) edition of ‘This Is My Blood’, which gathers together 21 of my best stories from my first ten years of ‘proper’ writing, and a new novel called ‘The Cold Heart Of Summer’, which draws together so many strands I’ve wanted to write about for so many years, and twists them all into a fantastic and apocalyptic vision. Whatever you want, it’s in that book – orgiastic witchcraft cults, evil babies, things from outer space, ghosts, devil dogs, mutants, depraved aristocrats, sinister henchmen, corpses coming up out of the ground, a love story, and – to a degree – the end of the world.

Joseph Freeman, author

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