Author and Scriptwriter

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

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Lowdown with... Nadia Bulkin

Nadia Bulkin writes scary stories about the scary world we live in, thirteen of which appear in her debut collection, She Said Destroy (Word Horde, 2017). Her short stories have been included in editions of The Year's Best Weird Fiction, The Year's Best Horror, and The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror. She has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award five times. She grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, with her Javanese father and American mother, before relocating to Lincoln, Nebraska. She has a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A. in International Affairs, and lives in Washington, D.C.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.
- I've been stung by jellyfish or jellyfish-adjacent creatures twice, in California and Florida. The second time was actually a man o' war, and I had to rip the tentacles off my leg with my hand while swimming. Suffice it to say, I didn't take any chances when studying abroad in Australia.

- My first dream job was "first female soccer player," until I realized many women had gotten there before me. My second was paleontologist. I still fantasize about that one.

- I'm kind of obsessed with plane crashes, which I realize is very morbid. I find shows like Air Crash Investigation very calming (although I'm still not sure the Hong Kong International Airport should have aired it), because they show how far we've come in aviation safety.

2. What was the first thing you had published?
"The Five Stages of Grief," a short story in Three-Lobed Burning Eye, in 2008. It's about a family that can't let go of their dead youngest daughter, even when her ghost starts going bad. The first stories I published were almost exclusively about mourning and accepting deaths in the family - it was the best way I knew to work through my father's death. It helped a bit, though therapy helped more!

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
 Probably "Endless Life," which I reprinted in my collection. It's a story about a hotel that's haunted by the ghost of a maid; except everyone assumes that she's the ghost of a famous dictator who died in the hotel. Writing this story was like standing up a ship in a bottle - it needed such a soft touch, writing from the perspective of a bored and angry ghost in a post-colonial, post-authoritarian society - even my subplots about death tourism and paranormal investigations were tricky issues of power and exploitation. I loved writing it, and the end result was very me.

4. …and which makes you cringe? A lot of my writing, obviously, makes me cringe. Stuff I never finished, stuff I should have taken another editing pass at. I definitely cringe when I read the stuff I wrote as a kid. I think the only piece that I actually regret publishing was a modern magical realism/fantasy story that I think gave people the wrong impression of who I was as a writer. The sad part was that people really liked it! Alas, I was just mimicking a popular style instead of trying to find my own voice. And that's the part that makes me cringe.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?
It involves a lot of walking. I need a lot of "processing" time to write - when I was a kid walking around the playground and talking to myself, it didn't come across so well - and I process best when walking and listening to music (I make playlists for every story). When actually writing, I always have the TV on. That may sound weird, but sound and stimulation are a huge crutch for me - silence actually makes me kinda panicky. I'm a slow writer, but I'm very deliberate - I don't do second drafts.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?
Depends on what they like (is that cheating?). To compromise between out-and-out horror and "softer" horror, I'd say "Intertropical Convergence Zone," about a lieutenant collecting magically-imbued items for the dictator he works for. I think that story was the first piece of mine that a lot of people read, and it's on my web site. However, I wrote that story ten years ago, so for something more recent I'd say "Wish You Were Here," which can be found in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year vol. 9.

7. What are you working on now?
My agent and I are pitching a grief/mental health memoir, written through the lens of being a long-suffering tennis fan. If it gets picked up, it'll be the saddest thing I've ever written, so I really hope it does! I'm also pleased to be participating in a few fun projects I can't talk about yet.

Monday, 7 January 2019

The Lowdown with... Paul Tremblay

Yup - after a looong hiatus, The Lowdown has returned! And our first subject is the award-winning novelist Paul Tremblay.

Paul Tremblay is the author of the novels The Cabin at the End of the World, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and A Head Full of Ghosts. His other novels include The Little Sleep, No Sleep till Wonderland, Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye, and Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly (co-written with Stephen Graham Jones).

His fiction and essays have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Supernatural Noir, and numerous Year’s Best anthologies. He is the author of the short speculative fiction collections In the Mean Time and Compositions for the Young and Old and the hard-boiled/dark fantasy novella City Pier: Above and Below. He served as fiction editor of CHIZINE and as co-editor of Fantasy Magazine, and was also the co-editor the Creatures anthology (with John Langan). Paul is currently on the board of directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards as well.

Paul is very truthful and declarative in his bios. He once gained three inches of height in a single twelve hour period, and he does not have a uvula. His second toe is longer than his big toe, and yes, on both feet. He has a master’s degree in mathematics, teaches AP Calculus, and once made twenty-seven three pointers in a row. He enjoys reading The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher aloud in a faux-British accent to children. He lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.
I'm an excellent three-point shooter (basketball). I suck at gift wrapping. When I listen to music I still imagine myself as the performer.  

2. What was the first thing you had published?
A short story called "God of Roads." It wasn't very good. 

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
A Head Full of Ghosts. It remains the story that came closest to matching what was in my head before I wrote it.

4. …and which makes you cringe?
A whole slew of short stories written during the years 1996 to 2003.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?

Procrastinating, self-flagellation, then maybe and hour or two or 500 words, whichever comes first.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?
A Head Full of Ghosts, again. For my horror work, it's my statement of purpose.

7. What are you working on now?
Finishing a few short stories I owe and a novel with the working title Survivor Song.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Goodbye, 2018, Hello 2019...

I love this picture far too much not to use it again.
So... whew. It's really strange to think another year's passed already. But it has, and now we're nearing the end of the first day of 2019.

364 of them to go.

Some people are dismissive about New Year's Resolutions. I'm not: this is the perfect time to look back on what you've achieved, and look ahead to where you want to be.

I wrote a novel this year, and a play, and several short stories. I saw another novel into print, plus a mini-collection and (with Penny Jones) a chapbook. I saw a novelette published by Tor.com; I saw my fiction published in major anthologies, reprinted in The Best of the Best Horror of the Year.

Cate and I celebrated our second year of marriage, and our sixth year together.

I got to see Laura Mauro win a totally unexpected (on her part) and hugely well-deserved award for Looking For Laika.

I helped start up something new: Shock Against Racism, raising money to combat racism and the far-right.

I discovered a new sense of purpose in my writing, one I thought I'd lost.

So, for 2019, what do I want to strive for? Where do I want to be?

I still want the dusk. I still want to be able to earn my living doing what I love. Time is short, for all of us. God alone knows what the next year will bring, for the world at large and for the UK in particular. I want that time to count, to be spent doing the stuff I care about and that I was put here to do.

I'm still hoping against hope that we'll find a way to halt the national insanity that is Brexit before this deranged suicide cult screws us for decades to come. (Even if we do, there'll still be divisions, but you know what? Maybe, just maybe, it's exposed the hatred and ugly-mindedness that's festered so long in our country. We can't be in denial about those things any more. And yes, I know that not every Leave voter did so out of bigotry, but don't tell me that there isn't a sewer of racism, small-minded, mean-spirited spite and cruelty running through our public life and our national culture. Maybe, now it's publicly on display, we can hope to recognise it and drain it. Crazily optimistic? Yes, but you've got have some hope.)

I want to see a change of government too. So I'm going to try and be more politically active in both those causes in the coming year.

This year, I'm going to write the final book in the Black Road series. I'm going to rewrite the one I drafted in 2018, and try to complete, or at least begin, another book after that. I want to start learning how to draw. I want to lose more weight and become fitter and healthier. I want to find more ways to turning what I love to account, so I can spend all my time doing it.

One step I've taken in that direction is to launch a Patreon account. Among other things, I'll be serialising a novel, The Mancunian Candidate, there for my supporters to read. There's a free sample available to read, to whet your appetite.

Let's hope we can get through 2019, that the things we fear don't happen and that the things we hope for do. Let's hope we're all still here at the end of 2019, and that things are better for us than they were at the start.

Good luck, everybody.

See you soon.