TO THE SYSTEM
JMF I'm ashamed to admit that I can no longer recall exactly when or with whom this interview took place (though from my answers, it was either November or December of 2000), but I rediscovered fragments of it recently when trawling through some old disks, and decided to reproduce it here.
old were you when you first started to write stories?
this is one of those indefinable answers, like Ďhow long is a piece of
string?í. Itís just something which Iíve been doing for as long as I
can remember. I think we all invent imaginary worlds when weíre young
and we all have a wonderfully vivid imagination which can become
restricted by growing up, and I turned mine towards acting out stories set
in make-believe worlds, and also writing down tales and drawing my own
comic books. Iíve certainly been doing it since I was about five or six,
and maybe even before then.
you always been interested in horror?
Yes, and again I think most children are. All children have this love of scaring themselves with thoughts of vampires and werewolves and the like, and I was no different and I still havenít changed after all these years! Thereís nothing quite like a good chill down the spine. I remember when I was young Ė again probably about five or six Ė staying up late at the weekends to watch the re-runs of the old Hammer Horror movies and I would spend half the time hiding behind a blanket. Yet thereís something that attracts us to that kind of thrill even if we avert our eyes at the critical moment Ė like looking over the edge of a cliff, or going on a roller coaster. Who can explain it? Perhaps itís just a good shock to the system. Maybe weíre never more alive than when faced with the danger of death.
books do you most enjoy reading and why?
All different kinds; I really do. I absolutely love books of all varieties, or all that I can think of anyway. There was a time were I read horror almost exclusively but Iíve never really limited myself in that way for any length of time. Iíve got so much enjoyment from branching off into other genres and reading stuff that I wouldnít normally have considered that Iím not about to blinker myself and miss out on a world of pleasure. As long as a story is well-told and involving, with good characters and good structure then Iíll be hooked. Iíd urge everybody to read widely Ė no matter what subject is their number one love. I still very much enjoy reading horror, but itís good to follow your nose into other avenues of interest. If you think something looks interesting or might be enjoyable, then give it a try. Youíve nothing to lose and everything to gain.
projects are you working on at the moment?
Right now Iíve two main areas of interest to focus my writing energies upon. Thereís a new novel Ė THE LOST AND THE LONELY Ė which is a very grim and dark and disturbing ghost story, and thereís also a collection of stories which has recently been commissioned by a UK publisher, called INHUMAN NATURE. Both the novel and the collection have really just taken off, and should be finished sometime next spring. If all goes well, then the collection will be published by the end of 2001. As for the novelÖ well, we can only see if publishers are more willing to delve into the dark side by thenÖ fingers crossed.
you had any out of the ordinary experiences happen to you?
Assuming that you mean of a supernatural nature, then it would have to be a yes. Over the years there have been several odd occurrences, but never Ė I feel Ė any definite proof (if such a thing exists, which it probably doesnít) of the supernatural. Iíve heard the voices of people who were miles away speaking in the room next to mine as I lay in bed. Iíve seen UFOs. I had an encounter with a snarling black hound one night in Derbyshire after visiting a landmark on a lonely and infamous moor which was reputedly haunted by such a beast. Also, more recently my girlfriend and I became lost in some woods one evening and stumbled upon two weird little stone huts with thatched roofs and stone circles outside. You had to be thereÖ that place had such an unnatural and disturbing atmosphere. The buildings were so weird. My girlfriend took a picture of them, and we eventually found our way back to our hotel. But when the photographs were developed, they showed only a small clearing in the forestÖ of the huts, there was no sign.
you sceptical of the unexplained?
Surprising as it may seem after all of the above, and more, that Iíve experienced, yes I still am. Iím a very scientific and rational person; the boring type who can explain everything that happens. I donít want to Ė I would love something to happen that just defied any kind of ordinary explanation Ė and I think the thing in the woods with the cottages is the closest Iíve got to that stage. But still, I need more convincing. But itís great Ė I love the mysteries of the paranormal and would love to know that these things are out there. Itís a shame that these days scientists can explain Ė or think they can explain Ė everything that occurs. I yearn for the days when fearful villagers bolted their doors on dark and misty nights through fear of what demons might stalk the moonlit streets.
Whatís it like to be surrounded by all the many big names of horror being your friends?
Itís great Ė but Iíve had it since a very early age so Iím used to it. Besides which, these days there isnít as big a horror scene for these people to be names in, but theyíll always be heroes to the real fans. I have some great friends that Iíve made over the years through my involvement in horror. And Iím lucky because of it because Iíve had some useful guidance and advice and inspiration Ė and some wonderful moments.
do you do to relax?
I enjoy art Ė of many kinds. Iíve a great love for classical music and opera. I love movies. I like taking walks in the country or along the beach. Naturally Iíll read. Maybe go for a drive Ė go off and spend to cheer myself up like a kid on pocket money day. I play chess Ė though not very well, and might occasionally paint or play guitar. I like good food Ė the spicier the better, and enjoy eating out from time to time. Fine wine and cigars are a natural addition to this kind of lifestyle!
How often do you write, and do you write as though you are in the story yourself?
I try to write every weekday, at least 1,000 words which I feel is a nice, steady pace. And yes, I guess I do write as though Iím in the story myself. Whatever character Iím dealing with at any one time Ė I try to latch onto their mind so I can fully open them up and almost see things through their eyes. Itís method-writing I guess, like method-acting. You become that character Ė if only in your mind. It makes it easier for me to write about them, and I guess thatís why so much of my prose deals with characterís thoughts and feelings.
new and exciting coming your way soon?
I look at my everyday life as new and exciting to be honest. Obviously Iíve got the books going on that we mentioned earlier, but aside from that Ė I fill my life with new experiences and pleasures, and live it to the full. You have to take great pleasure in the things that you enjoy or life would be bland and pointless.
there any one person who youíd like to meet?
Iím going to be really boring here and say that no, there isnít. Not at the moment anyway. Iíve met many interesting people over the years as it is. I think when folk talk of somebody theyíd like to meet they more often than not have a superficial reason Ė that itís a celebrity whose work they enjoy, for instance. But what would you talk about if you met them? If you meet somebody and get along well with them then wonderful. But contrived meetings and introductions leave me cold. I prefer relationships to develop naturally.
you any hopes and dreams for the future?
Many, but Iím very much the kind of person who sets about building these early on. I donít just sit back and dream of things Ė I go out and get them. Even if itís one step at a time, one must work towards what one wants to be, because these things will never come to you. Itís all about self-improvement to me, and being a better person than you were last month or last year. Being good to those close to you, and achieving success in whatever field means something to you. I want to get my two current books finished more or less on time and see them in print (the story collection at least), launch into some new projects with great enthusiasm, whilst keeping my home and personal life improving constantly.
well have your books sold since being published?
Sometimes surprisingly well, other times just comfortably so. Itís often related to advertising, and if thatís being done right Ė even moderately Ė then folk will pick up on your work. If itís not then how can anyone be expected to hear of it? Iím not a man for numbers. Iíve no idea how many books or magazines or whatever Iíve sold or how many fan letters Iíve got or anything like that. I just know that the work is out there and from time to time it brings wonderful opportunities and feedback back home to you.
Are you finding it difficult to get published since horror books have been given a wide berth?
Absolutely. My novel THOSE LEFT BEHIND met with a surprisingly good reception from major UK publishers, but behind it all was this feeling of No, sorry, nobody will buy a horror book so weíre not publishing any. Itís very embittering at times, but what I do is borne from a desire to be doing it, not from a desire for money or big deals, so I do it. Or try to. I think it would be unbearable if Iíd carved out a living from being a published horror novelist before all this shunning began, so in a way Iím lucky that it happened whilst I was still placing my first major novel. But itís not going to stop me. I can see myself always writing horror, whether itís getting published by the major publishing houses or not.
you know of any other authors who are finding it just as hard?
Oh absolutely. Harder. I can name several friends whoíve been earning their income from horror writing for a decade or more whoíve found themselves unable to negotiate a new contract with their publisher, and that must be awful.
we expect to see a lot more of you
in years to come?
Without a doubt. Next year will see completion of at least two new books, with the publication of one of them (fingers crossed). After thatÖ well I aim to write at least one novel a year, and then just throw a load of projects on top of that. Iím still interested in writing for film and TV, despite my initial ventures soon fizzling out. But Iím not going to vanish from the scene in any way Ė Iím going to be producing the work more and more as time goes by, without a doubt.