Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday, 4 November 2016

Things Of The Week: 4th November 2016

Me, Nightmares, and early morning bed hair
Well, Offline October wasn’t as offline as I intended – social media’s a definite addiction of mine, and one I need to address as it’s been eating into my writing too much. I was worried that I might have writer’s block, but once I unplugged the wireless router (downstairs), fired up the laptop (upstairs) and made myself write I found the prose still came easily enough. So, basically, it was simple laziness.

I’m still not underway on the first draft of Wolf’s Hill, and that needs fixing – I’m hoping to get rolling in the next week or two, and try and finish the first draft, at least, by year’s end. At the moment I’m working on a couple of short stories; once those are gone, it’ll be the book’s turn. The Lowdown will resume next week: meanwhile, here are some things that have been going on.

The first piece of news is a sad one: the sudden and unexpected passing of literary agent Carole Blake. Although I never met Carole personally, many other writers have spoken of her with great warmth and affection in both professional and personal terms. Along with Julian Friedmann, she co-founded the agency that represents me; she also wrote 29 Ways Not To Submit To An Agent, which was handy (although I was relieved to note that I didn’t do most of them anyway) and I know that her book, From Pitch To Publication, was a big help to many writers. My thoughts go to her family and to her friends and colleagues at Blake-Friedmann.

With the run-up to Halloween, it seemed a good time to catch up on horror movies (as per my recent posts. I have a tendency to buy books and DVDs which then sit around for months or even years before I finally get round to watching or reading them, and I caught up with a few titles in October. In the book stakes there was Ramsey Campbell’s The Seven Days Of Cain (great title!)*, while in the realm of movies there were two corkers: Oculus and The Babadook.

Oculus centres around a mirror with demonic properties. By controlling the perceptions of those who own it, it drives them to suicide. Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) lost their parents to it, and Tim was incarcerated in a mental institution for years; now, Kaylie has tracked the mirror down and sets out to prove there’s a genuine supernatural force present. The narrative cuts back and forth between the events of their childhood and the present day; if it has a weakness, it’s that this format means the parents’ psychological deterioration feels as though it happens a little too quickly. Cate and I found this seriously unsettling: there are a few jump scares, but that’s not where it’s at.

The Babadook: wow. Amelia (Essie Davis) was widowed in a car crash the night her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) was born. Now, her son is plagued by nightmares of a monster coming for him, building weapons to fight it; as his behavioural problems place Amelia under ever-increasing strain, she finds a pop-up book called The Babadook, after the shadowy monster it centres on. Soon, the creature from the book begins to invade their lives, and Amelia’s own sanity begins to crumble. Original and very, very disturbing.

We’ve also started watching the new E4/Netflix series Crazyhead, starring Cara Theobald and Susan Wokoma. The trailer looked as though it could be good or terrible; we only needed to watch about five minutes to know we liked it. Amy (Theobald) has just stopped taking anti-psychotic medication to suppress the hallucinations she keeps having. Except that they aren’t hallucinations: she’s one of a tiny number of people who can see those possessed by demons. One of them nearly kills her till she’s rescued by Raquel (Wokoma), another ex-mental patient with the same gift. Crazyhead manages to be both genuinely funny and full of genuine scares, and has real heart, especially in the relationship between the two leads. There’s also a strong supporting cast – Amy’s flatmate and best friend Suzanne (Riann Steele), her amorous work colleague Jake (Lewis Reeves), Raquel’s brother Tyler (Arinze Kene) and head demon Callum (Tony Curran) – plus a willingness to bump off supporting characters that helps ramp up the tension among the humour. Crazyhead’s only downside is that, being a British series, it’s only six episodes. Here’s hoping it gets a second series.

Three really nice things happened this week.

Nice Thing No. 1: My contributor’s copy of Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror arrived. Nightmares has been very well received, with a host of excellent reviews appearing, including a starred review in Publishers’ Weekly. Not many of them mention my own tale, ‘Hushabye’, but I can live with that – I’m happy to be published in that company!
Me with The Feast Of All Souls, plus yet more bed hair.
Ellen Datlow’s latest anthology collates stories from between 2005 and 2015 that have had a ‘lasting impact’ on her. Authors such as Mark Samuels, Laird Barron, Livia Llewellyn, John Langan, Gene Wolfe, Margo Lanagan and many more appear within; I’m proud and delighted to see ‘Hushabye’ included.

Nice Thing No.2: My author copies of The Feast Of All Souls, published next month by Solaris, turned up too. Complete with that beautiful cover art by Ben Baldwin. Please get in touch if you’d like to review the book. Which brings me on to…

Nice Thing No.3: Gill O’Rourke recently started reading my stuff, starting with Tide Of Souls, which she raves about on her blog here. She also co-presents the radio show Lifestyle MK, where she continues the rave-age, and solicits a few words with me on reviews. You can listen to me blather on here. Many thanks, Gill!

So, about that:

One thing I’ve become very aware of recently is the importance of reviews in driving book sales. The algorithms on Amazon (and let’s face it, this is where a lot of people are buying their books now) give you more visibility if you’ve had more reviews. 50 is usually the magic number that means you show up near the top of the search results in your chosen category.

So, if you’ve read my stuff and liked it, please leave a review. Or just leave a review (honest ones are better any day of the week!) I’ve certainly decided to start doing this more with books I’ve read and liked. It’s a simple and direct way to show your appreciate for a writer, and something concrete you can do to help them out.

* ETA: And yes, I'll be writing an Amazon review!

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