With Undying Love...


Ah, Love Stories of the Undead, bless its heart; which on the cover of the first edition a demon is tearing from its own chest and offering to the reader. This was my first book, published when I was barely 19 years old, and it did very well for me. I hadn’t been writing seriously for very long, picking up again after a few years in the wilderness of high school and girls and sex and music and… well, more of the same. Though I’ve been writing stories for longer than I can possibly remember, and made my first professional sale when I was 13, I consider my real writing to have started when I was 18. I received an invitation to a horror event and that inspired me to start writing again, in earnest. Love Stories of the Undead is the product of that first year, or maybe it wasn’t even that long.

There’s an undoubted youthful energy and enthusiasm in this book, and the very fact that it came to be in such a short space of time, whilst so much else was going on in my life at the time. I was going through the personal changes that most teenagers go through – and also some worse ones and some better ones. Much of the non-supernatural violence and aggression and turmoil and other darkness in the book is the result of trying to grow away from my angry youth and an unhappy and unstable childhood spent in run-down urban roughness. One reviewer noted how much stabbing there was in the book, and certainly one of the characters thinks nothing of carrying a switchblade on his nights out, not surprising coming from a young man who at one point carried two Stanley knives in his jacket pockets. On a far less grim note I was putting myself through a teacher training course and then later working as a fitness instructor, taking time off every couple of months to run away on some hedonistic holiday somewhere and come back stuffed with beer and experience. Attending various horror events inspired me onto greater things than just getting stories published (as big a thrill as that was) and before long I wanted a book with my name on the cover that I could impress people with. My best friend at the time had one. He had handfuls of them, everywhere we went. He’d carry them down the street, wave them at women in bars, leave them in his hotel room or present them to the staff there. Back at home he had even more, under his bed.

Thus inspired, as soon as I had 8 or 9 complete new stories, I called him excitedly and said ‘That’s it! I’ve got my book!’, and that’s what it was going to be at first – a book considerably smaller in size and scope than it eventually (and pleasingly) turned into. I’d also intended to illustrate the book myself, though only got as far as one for ‘Crimson Lips’ – perhaps just as well though because I would have been forever re-touching the pictures before I was halfway satisfied with them. When it came to getting somebody else to illustrate the work, my thoughts turned immediately towards Desmond Knight, who I’d worked with on a couple of different projects and had much faith in, but I was eventually convinced to take a risk on somebody else, and indeed it was exciting to think what somebody new would make of my work. Beyond the cover illustration, which I designed myself on the cover of the proof manuscript one fine day in a bar at the end of a pier, the illustrations for the first edition were conceived by Steve Lines.

Over the next few months before the book was ready to go, it grew in size as I wrote more stories that I felt deserved to be included, and so by the time it was published it was 15 stories long, a good size for a collection. 1999 came, and was a good year for my writing. Love Stories of the Undead became a reality, and we held a very enjoyable and well-attended launch party at a Manchester hotel, by blood-red invitation only. Before the event I signed some books at the nearby branch of Waterstone's, and then it was onto the event for a flattering introduction, a couple of readings, a question and answer session and much eating, drinking, cigar smoking, signing books, shaking hands, talking to friends old and new and feeling pretty damned pleased with myself.

By this time, though I’d planned to spend the next few years writing stories only, I was well into a novel – the first draft of Those Left Behind, which was a large and thoroughly enjoyable task, which I finished late in the summer of that year, and when I returned to writing stories they were bigger and more mature than the ones which had preceded the novel. But I’m getting ahead of myself, and we’ll save that for another time. Love Stories of the Undead became a success and earned a pleasing amount of money for me, some kind of a reputation, some loyal readers and overall very favourable reviews.

I think that most artists will look back on their early work with a mixture of horror and pride, and while it’s true that I feel I’ve moved on and improved since those days, I think there’s also a lot to be proud of amongst all those words, and more and more lately I have a great affection for it, and am pleased to see this special edition come to be. There are a lot of happy memories here, not least when both Clive Barker and Ramsey Campbell asked me to sign their copies of the book.




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