Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Lowdown with... Douglas Thompson

Douglas Thompson: Born in Glasgow, 1967.
Won Herald/Grolsch Question Of Style Award 1989.
Won 2nd prize Neil Gunn Writing Competition 2007.
Short stories and poems published in numerous magazines and anthologies such as Ambit, Chapman, New Writing Scotland, Postcripts, Albedo One, and Poetry Scotland.
Published first novel “Ultrameta” in 2009. Ultrameta nominated for BFS Award for best novel, best newcomer, and for Edge Hill Short Story Award 2010. Second novel “Sylvow” published in 2010.  Third novel “Apoidea” published in October 2011. Fourth novel “Mechagnosis” published by Dog Horn in September 2012.Fifth book “Entanglement” published by Elsewhen Press as an e-book August 2012, and as a paperback in November 2012. Sixth book, “The Brahan Seer” published by Acair Books on 14th July 2014. Seventh book, “The Rhymer” published in paperback by Elsewhen Press on 16th August 2014. Eighth book, “Volwys & Other Stories” published in paperback by Dog Horn on 30th September 2014.
He also has another website, and can be found on both Twitter and Facebook.

Tell us three things about yourself.

I am fat. I am bald. I am old. You didn’t say the things had to be interesting. I thought I’d start with the known knowns, although I dare say even those are not uncontroversial.

What was the first thing you had published?

Discounting letters and articles in student magazines and the like, I suppose it would be my short story “Last Week’s Man” in the Glasgow Herald in 1989. They printed it because it had just won the Grolsch ‘Question of Style’ award.  I was only 22 years old. It created the terrible and damaging temporary illusion in my head that I was going to be a famous writer for the rest of my life. The come-down has been crushing, but
like all of life’s humbling experiences: ultimately greatly insightful in terms of perceiving our true place in the greater scheme of things. Everything matters equally or nothing does. The scale of the universe renders all hierarchies unsupportable.

Which piece of writing are you proudest of?

Hard to say. But my next book, released next month by Terry Grimwood’s The Exaggerated Press, called “The Sleep Corporation” is a collection of short stories from all across my life to date. Reading that back over at the proofing stage really made me take stock of things and offered surprising insights. I think perhaps
that a very early story called “Raymond and Arlene” which you can read online here was the best thing in there, hence why it will open the collection. It’s not Horror or Sci Fi or all that surreal at all. But in terms of honestly recording the poignancy of life and love, I worry that I may not have surpassed it since. Various magazines rejected it I think, but to me that is only an endorsement. Seriously, that’s how I think. No disrespect to all my editor and publisher friends, but my hardest won achievement over the years is confidence in my own judgement of my work and relative disregard for other people’s myriad of varyingly warped angles on it. Writing, like life, is a game of Montana Wildhack. No one can see the ace card stuck to their own forehead. Causing offence, getting an irrationally hostile review, things like
that are the best clues you get that you might be doing something right.

…and which makes you cringe?

My short story “Last Week’s Man” in the Glasgow Herald in 1989, winner of the Grolsch ‘Question of Style’ award, as above.  Which is why we didn’t include it in “The Sleep Corporation”. You can read it online here. There is more importunity in praise than in blame, as old Freddy Nietzsche nailed it. Praise is how people derail you up the siding they want you in. Plough your own furrow if you can. Always ask yourself what your descendants will take from your work, rather than your contemporaries. My architectural training taught me that. Build to
be future proof, not fawned over and lauded now. Live secretly and quietly if at all possible, by the light of hidden windows in distant rooms.

What’s a normal writing day like?

There’s never any normal about it. The aim of my writing career, for me, is to give up writing and become a normal well-balanced human being one day who doesn’t need to write at all. By best day might be sitting sketching in cafes, catching trains to unexpected districts, walking through parks and looking at the light on distant buildings, taking photographs, talking to friends over a beer or performing poems in pubs in the evening. I am always trying not to write at all. Despite my best efforts, it occasionally still happens, suddenly and shamefully, like a short-circuit, in a half-dark room
somewhere near midnight, like sex between two repressed Victorians. Writing is a filthy habit for sick people. If I’m any good, it just goes to show how deeply sick I really am. People should pity us, all of us.

Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?

Maybe Sylvow, my second novel, or the short story of the same name (which was chapter one) which was published in Ambit Magazine back in 2008. You can read it online here.  Reggie Oliver reviewed the book and described it as “ripe stuff”. That’s pretty rich from him and his verbosely florid Historicist chums, but I like Reggie and I like to think he liked it really. The literary crew disliked the way the book gets more and more fantastical as it goes on. The Fantasy crew disliked the
way the early chapters were so straightforwardly literary. Montana Wildhack, you see? The book was probably therefore bang-on because it broke everybody’s daft wee rules and boundaries. There’s something in there to offend everyone. And take a look at the planet: everyone needs to be offended, or we won’t have a planet left soon.

What are you working on now?
As I said, the grand dream of giving up writing altogether. I’ve been doing poetry and painting instead this last year or so. But we all know I’m kidding myself. I’m incurable. It’s only a matter of time until I hit the keyboard again. At the moment I’m reading voraciously, literary stuff, going back to my roots, working my way through a personal reading list from Nina Allan: Grace Paley,
Jayne Anne Phillips, Claire Vaye Watkins. Writers like Eudora Welty and John Cheever are where I started out. The worst thing about writing is how profoundly useless your own work is to you once it’s in the past. Only other people can gain anything from it then. I want to forget myself and start out all over again. Sometimes I think I’ve learned nothing of any value in the last 25 years except how little I know. But maybe that right there is the greatest enlightenment. My next novel will be about everything, the whole damned meaning of life. But aren’t they always? Joel Lane was the greatest living author I’ve ever met, because his topic was life, nothing more, nothing less. Writing wasn’t a Victorian parlour game to him, it was a personal attempt to stay alive and sane. His anger was real, his energy unforgettable. If we can’t write like that, we shouldn’t write at all.

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Lowdown with... Gary McMahon

Gary McMahon was born in Sunderland in 1969 and has a lifelong love of genre fiction. His critically acclaimed short fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies. His first mass market novel was Hungry Hearts, which was then followed by the Thomas Usher books (Pretty Little Dead Things and Dead Bad Things) and the "Concrete Grove" series of horror/urban fantasy novels. His latest books are The End and The Bones Of You.

His work has been nominated for the British Fantasy Award on seven seperate occassions. When reminded that he is still to win one of these, he gives a wry smile.
1. Tell us three things about yourself.

I’m a first kyu in Shotokan karate. My legal middle name is Zed. I have no super powers.

2. What was the first thing you had published?
The first published piece I got paid for was short story called 'Neighbours'. It was published in a little small press magazine called Nasty Piece of Work back in the early 90s, I think…and it was inspired by a story called 'Coffee' by Simon Bestwick. Before that, I had a poem published in a school magazine. I won a carrier-bag full of sweets because it was voted the best thing published in the magazine that year.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
I know it’s a cliché, but I’m going to say my latest book, a 30,000-word novella called The Grieving Stones. It’s about a woman who attends group therapy to try and deal with the grief of losing her husband. A few members of the group go away to an isolated old house in the country, where they plan to clean up the rundown place and take part in more in-depth therapy sessions. But the house, and the area around it, has a strange history, and as she begins to discover the secrets held within the landscape, her grip on reality starts to loosen – or does it simply become stronger and clearer, allowing her to see what nobody else can? The novella is due out from Spectral Press early 2016.
4. …and which makes you cringe?
A number of my early short stories – some of which even saw print!

5. What’s a normal writing day like?
I get up. I cycle to work. I spend 8.5 hours in the office doing my day job. I cycle home and spend a little time with my family. I go to karate training. I come home and have dinner. I think about writing and end up watching a late-night DVD instead. Sometimes I do write, but these days it isn’t much.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?
I think the Concrete Grove trilogy (published by Solaris) nicely sums up what I’m trying to get at in my work.

7. What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a story for a chapbook, which will be published in October by White Noise Press. That one’s called 'There’s a Bluebird in my Heart'. I’ve been working on a novel called The Quiet Room for about four years and still have a long way to go before it reaches even the first draft stage. I’m also thinking about trying to put together a new short fiction collection, under working title of Blood From Stones.

'There's A Bluebird In My Heart' is released next week, on October 14th 2015.

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Lowdown with... Kameron Hurley

Kameron Hurley is an award-winning author and advertising copywriter. She grew up in Washington State, and has lived in Fairbanks, Alaska; Durban, South Africa; and Chicago. She has a degree in historical studies from the University of Alaska and a Master’s in History from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, specializing in the history of South African resistance movements. Her essay on the history of women in conflict “We Have Always Fought” was the first blog post to win a Hugo Award. It was also nominated for Best Non-Fiction work by the British Fantasy Society.

Hurley is the author of God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture, a science-fantasy noir series which earned her the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer and the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel. Her latest novel, The Mirror Empire, is published by Angry Robot Books, and the sequel, Empire Ascendant, will be out in October 2015. Her first space opera, The Stars are Legion, will be published from Simon and Schuster’s Saga imprint in fall of 2016.

She has won the Hugo Award twice, and been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Additionally, her work has been included on the Tiptree Award Honor List and been nominated for the Gemmell Morningstar Award.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.

I am a human.
I write exceptionally weird fictional worlds.
I like cheese.

2. What was the first thing you had published?

My first published piece was actually a nonfiction essay about how participating in high school theatre helped me overcome – or at least learn how to manage – my severe introversion.  I was sixteen and it came out in my local paper. I believe they paid me $100 for it, which was great. The next year I sold my first fiction story to a now-defunct online magazine for $5. The nonfiction paid better, as you can see– a lesson in what was to

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?

This is a tough question, because on some level, I’m proud of everything I’ve written (with one exception). I love my God’s War novels. Nyx, the main character, is easily the most fun and memorable and messed up character I’ve ever written. But when it comes to “world-changing” stuff, I’d have to say that the piece I’m most proud of is writing the essay, “We Have Always Fought,” about the people we erase from the history of conflict. It’s had the most impact on the wider world. People have changed what and how they write because of that piece, which is a pretty exceptional example of how a single piece of writing can have ripple effects that change the world.

4. …and which makes you cringe?

I was asked to write a satiric story for an online magazine in just two weeks – sort of newsjacking on popular events – and it didn’t come out at all how I’d hoped. I’m not a satirist and it had to be edited quite a lot. It was a good lesson in learning when to say no to opportunity, for sure.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?

Instead of trying to squeeze in 500 or a thousand words a day during the week, I do all of my writing on the weekends. If I’m on deadline, it’s Saturday AND Sunday, but generally just Saturday. So I’ll be up at 7:30 a.m. and head over to the coffee shop by 9 a.m. Depending on how things go, I’ll be there until 2 p.m. or so, writing maybe 3,000 words, then switch to the beer lounge nearby and write another 3,000 or so. My goal is to do 8-10k every Saturday, but 5-6k is generally what ends up happening. When I’m really busting out words under deadline, I’ve been known to clear nearly 20,000 words in a weekend, working from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Which is a useful skill to have.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?

I like to point people to God’s War first, which was the award-winner, but lots of people find it too weird. If you prefer epic fantasy, The Mirror Empire might be a better starting point. It’s certainly sold the most!

7. What are you working on now? 
I’m finishing up the edits on my essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution, and frantically putting together the first draft of my first space opera, The Stars Are Legion, which is due in November. Both books are coming out next year: the essay collection May 31st and the space opera in the fall. It’s a mad dash right now to kick all of this work into shape. But I’ve pulled off greater writing miracles, so there’s hope.