Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday 29 January 2016

Things of the Week: 29th January 2016

So, it's been a week of mostly nice things.

One exception, of course, being DOING MY TAXES. (Hisses, brandishes crucifixes and garlic at the HMRC website.)

Not really the HMRC's fault. My brain starts melting when I try to figure out the wording of the various questions I have to answer, augmented by the fact that the wrong answer could lead to fines and Lord knows what else.

Still, it got done. Now, of course, for the biting of nails in fear I got/did something wrong.

It will pass.


Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. I've got to say, that pulled me up short. I was in my first year at secondary school. Can't remember when exactly I heard the news - off my parents, off someone at school, or off Newsround in the afternoon. The men and women of the Challenger weren't the first fatalities of space travel, of course: before them there'd been Vladimir Komarov (Soyuz 1, 1967), 'Gus' Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee (Apollo 1, 1967) and Georgy Dobrolovsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev (Soyuz 11, 1971.) (There'd also been fatalities we hadn't heard of in the West at the time, such as Valentin Bondarenko - and maybe others.)

But all those had been before I was born, certainly before the Space Shuttle flew. It didn't happen any more. Except that it did.

30 years. It passes so fast.

Nicer things happened. Damien G. Walter tweeted this, which made my week. And then, just as I was typing this blog post, I found he'd posted this, which made it all over again.

"Simon Bestwick’s horror stories are perhaps the most engaged with ordinary British life of any horror writer working today... 

I had to read the opening chapter of Simon Bestwick’s Angels of the Silences twice – it could have been clipped from my own teenage memories – and I would guess the same is true for many British horror readers. Emily and Biff are those two girls you found in every goth club in the 90s. Except for being dead of course.

Bestwick is brilliant at capturing an ordinary Britain made up of cheap cafes, Bacardi Breezers and over-applied eyeliner. A working-class Britain, in our class-confused age, that’s rarely reflected in mainstream culture, but finds its expression in horror fiction, in large part because of editors like Andy Cox."

He had me at 'Bestwick is brilliant,' of course. :-)

There were also some extremely good pieces of hard-won advice for writers out there on Teh Interwebz this week. There was this piece by Chuck Wendig:

"Let’s face this train head on: a book that super-sucks might do really well, and a book that is legitimately fucking amazing and everyone knows it and it wins awards and is precious to many might sell like a rock dropped into a toilet. This is far from universally true! Sometimes great books sell equal to its perceived quality. Sometimes bad books huff glue and die in a gutter. And nearly always, good and bad are totally subjective declarations because outside of core writing competency, stories are not plug-and-play dongles."

And there was THIS ESSENTIAL PIECE by the awesome Kameron Hurley (read her Lowdown!) I
The highly-cool Kameron Hurley.
just wish Kameron had written this five or six years earlier when I was starting out.

"One of the big issues we’ve been dealing with the last 15 years or so as self-publishing has become more popular are the increasing rights grabs and non-compete clauses stuck into the boilerplate from big traditional publishers terrified to get cut out of the publishing equation. Worse, these clauses are becoming tougher and tougher to negotiate at all, let alone get them to go away. Worser (yes, worser) – many new writers don’t realize that these are shitty terms they should be arguing over instead of just rolling over and accepting like a Good Little Author. What I’ve seen a lot in my decade of publishing is new writers on the scene who don’t read their contracts and who rely on their agent’s judgement totally (and that’s when they even HAVE an agent! eeeee). They don’t have writer networks yet. They aren’t sure what’s normal and what’s not and they don’t want to rock the boat.

I am here to tell you to rock the boat."

So any of you who are writers, especially if you're looking to make a living at it, should read these. Kameron's because she is awesomely tell-it-like-it-is, Chuck because he's funny as hell, and both of them because they're full of vital information.

And apropos of Kameron's piece, you don't have to be a fan of the singer Kesha to know what she's being put through is fucking appalling.  Here's hoping she wins her case.

At the start of the week, I finished a long story for an anthology and sent it off. (Can't say any more because the anthology is super-secret till further notice.) And then I got to work on writing a detailed outline for the next Black Road novel, The Devil's Highway.

It's been weird, and a little scary. On the one hand this is a world and cast of characters I know well and have already novelled about; on the other hand, I finished Hell's Ditch back in 2012. It's been nearly four years since I last spent time in the heads of Helen, Gevaudan, Danny, Alannah, Colonel Jarrett and Tereus Winterborn. A lot's happened since then. What if I can't do it again? But I have to do it again. But slowly, it's coming back. I should be hitting the Black Road again next week.

Finally, there's a new free story of mine you can read, from my first collection, A Hazy Shade Of Winter. It might be the last Friday Freebie, at least for a while, as I'm not sure enough people are reading it. We'll see. Anyways, the story's called 'Come With Me, Down This Long Road' and it's here, till next Friday.

And on that note, have a good weekend, everybody!

The Lowdown (Mr and Mrs Edition) Part Two... with Paul Kane

Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan
Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over fifty books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, plus HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network television, plus his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane) and the sequel to REDBlood RED – from SST Publications. He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan (see Monday's Lowdown), his family and a black cat called Mina. Find out more at his site, which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.
1. Tell us three things about yourself.

1) Incredible as it might seem, especially to me, I’ve been writing professionally for almost twenty years – there’s a ‘Best of…’ collection coming out later this year from SST called Shadow Casting to mark the occasion of my being older than I would like to be. 
2) I write film, TV and graphic novel scripts, as well as fiction and non-fiction. 
3) Before I became a writer, I wanted to be either a comic book artist or a special effects guy. Both seemed more attainable than starship captain – at least back then.   

2. What was the first thing you had published?

The first things I had published, in a non-paying market, were reviews in a small press magazine called Drone back in the early ‘90s. Mainly film and book reviews, but some model reviews, as I was heavily into making genre models at the time – because of the interest in special effects – and Drone covered a lot of that kind of stuff. I still have all kinds of oddities in the garage, from a full-sized Facehugger to a Spider-head from The Thing. I’m frightened of getting them out, though, in case I scare the cat. The first fiction story I had published was ‘Facades’ in Planet Prozak a few years later.  

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?

Probably a short story called ‘The Butterfly Man’, which was published in the PS collection of the same name. I wanted to write something that was a meditation on life, love and everything in-between, and think I managed to just about pull it off. I remember telling my better half Marie (O’Regan) the broad strokes of this one in the car on the way back from the shops before I’d even written a word. She started crying, in a good way thankfully, so I knew I was probably on to something. It’s one of those stories I hope I’m remembered for in years to come, and will definitely be in the ‘Best of…’ this year.

4. …and which makes you cringe?

How long have you got? The ones that used to make me cringe were the first pieces of prose I had a bash at when I was in my teens, trying to emulate horror authors like Jim Herbert. There’s a novel – if you can call it that – called Night Beast, about a killer alien that lands in a lake, which had Garth Merenghi-style rangers in choppers with Magnums hunting the thing in the Peak District. I say they used to make me cringe because now I just find them hilarious; in fact I get them out every now and again if I want to cheer myself up.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?

I’m sure a lot of writers say this, but I don’t think there actually is a normal writing day. You can try and plan what you’re going to do, but other things always crop up, some of which are infinitely more fun than being shackled to a keyboard all day. For example, I was recently invited to go and talk about Hellraiser – one of my passions for anyone who doesn’t know – at the Grimm Up North film festival, which was a lot of fun. When I’m working on something like a novel, which I was over last summer, I try keep office hours and average about 3 – 4,000 words a day, so I can usually get a first draft done in about a couple of months or less. Then comes the hard part of editing and rewriting…

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

Probably the Hooded Man omnibus of all the Arrowhead novels (published by Abaddon), as it reflects a lot of my interests – mythology, SF, horror – and I think has some of the best characters I’ve ever come up with, not to mention some rollocking action scenes. Those stories are probably what I’m best known for, and definitely changed my life. I’ve just recently revisited that universe for the e-novella Flaming Arrow, which picks up a few years after Arrowland and catches up with the characters now they’re a bit older; that will be reprinted in the mass market paperback The End of the End this August. In terms of short stories, probably my last collection Monsters (from Alchemy Press), which spans my career so far. Plus it has a really cool cover by Clive Barker and an introduction by Nicholas Vince, who played Chatterer Cenobite in Hellraiser and Kinski in Nightbreed; both people who know a little bit about monsters themselves.

7. What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished writing a short film and have been doing a lot of promo publicity for Blood RED, my sequel novel to 2008’s sellout novella RED. That’s a horror reworking of Little Red Riding Hood, which comes with a cover from Dave McKean and introduction by Alison Littlewood – out again through SST. Just before Christmas I finished edits on both my new mass market novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell from Solaris and the non-fiction book Hellraisers from Avalard. I also wrote a new novelette called Snow for Stormblade, which is another dark take on a certain well-known fairy tale – that’ll be out soon in print, e-book and audio. The New Year sees me hitting the ground running, doing two brand new stories for my upcoming Nailbiters collection, another graphic novel, writing a newly commissioned post-apocalyptic novella called The Rot and turning my attention to some more film work. Plus Marie and I have just taken over as co-chairs of the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers’ Association, which should keep us pretty busy this coming year.  

You can buy Monsters here.
You can buy Flaming Arrow here.

Monday 25 January 2016

The Lowdown (Mr and Mrs Edition) Part One... with Marie O'Regan

Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan
Marie O'Regan is a British Fantasy Award-nominated author and editor, based in Derbyshire. Her first collection, Mirror Mere, was published in 2006, and her short fiction has appeared in a number of genre magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Canada, Italy and Germany. She was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Short Story in 2006, and Best Anthology in 2010 and 2012. Her genre journalism has appeared in magazines like The Dark Side, Rue Morgue and Fortean Times, and her interview book, Voices in the Dark, was released in 2011. An essay on 'The Changeling' was published in PS Publishing's award-winning Cinema Macabre, edited by Mark Morris. She is co-editor (with her husband, Paul Kane - see Friday's Lowdown) of the bestselling Hellbound Hearts, Mammoth Book of Body Horror and A Carnivàle of Horror - Dark Tales from the Fairground, plus editor of The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women. A collection, In Times of Want, is due to be published in September 2016, and Marie is currently working on a novel and various other writing projects. Marie is represented by Jamie Cowen of the Ampersand Agency.
1. Tell us three things about yourself.

I write short stories, screenplays, novellas, novels... always horror, at least so far, though they range from supernatural to psychological in tone.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to draw Marvel comics. Now I'm just trying to write my first graphic novel script (not for Marvel, I hasten to add!).

I was Chair of the British Fantasy Society for four years (2004-2008), a committee member for seven overall, and am now Co-Chair of the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers' Association.

2. What was the first thing you had published?

The first story I sold was 'Suicide Bridge', which appeared in Here and Now #4, edited by the lovely Jenny Barber. The first one to see print, though, was 'Alsiso', in Elastic Press' The Alsiso Project, edited by Andrew Hook - it just beat Here and Now to print.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
Probably the current novel, a supernatural tale called Lie Still; partly because it's the newest piece and therefore, hopefully, the best written if I'm progressing as I hope - but mainly because I just really love the story, and grew very fond of some of the characters as I wrote it.

4. ...and which makes you cringe?
Nothing specifically that's been published, although obviously looking back there are a few I'd like a chance to rewrite now to smooth out the bumps. So probably a couple of the earliest stories I wrote - thankfully there are a few that didn't see print :)

5. What's a normal writing day like?

I watch TV with Paul over breakfast, then around half nine I check email and answer anything that's come in and spend the morning doing admin (whether my own or something for the HWA UK chapter). Once that's done I start writing, whether that's before I break for lunch or after. I keep going until six or six thirty, then start dinner and spend the evening with the family. Those are the days that are just for writing - then there are days when Paul and I do workshops in various places, or attend events (I was a panellist at several events last year, including Double the Horror in Derby, Sledge Lit and FantasyCon).

6. Which piece of writing should someone who's never read you before pick up first?
Oh God, that's difficult. I'd say maybe the first collection, Mirror Mere? It contains some of the stories I love most, and to get them separately now would be very difficult - a number of the magazines they were published in are now defunct, sadly. If you don't want to read a whole collection, then the eponymous novella is on sale as an ebook through PS Publishing.

7. What are you working on now?
Far too much, probably :) I have two novels and a novella at various stages that are currently with my agent, so they should be going out on submission fairly soon. The one nearest to being ready is a supernatural novel called Lie Still, as I mentioned earlier. The second one is called Suthina and is also supernatural, and the novella is called Icon. I'm just waiting for notes on those. I'm currently writing a short story for an Industrial Horror anthology, then it's a novella called 'Resurrection Blues' for a couples novella project I've been asked to contribute to... and I'm doing the story notes for my second collection, In Times of Want, which should be launched at FantasyCon in September, all being well. Other than that, refining a pitch for another novel and finishing a couple of short stories. And Paul and I have just agreed to act as Co-Chairs for the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers' Association, so in between the writing we're trying to get that set up, organise what meetings we can etc. It's going to be a busy year!

Monday 18 January 2016

The Lowdown with... David Nickle

David Nickle is a Canadian novelist and journalist, living and working in an old Toronto stable building, in the company of his wife, science fiction writer and futurist Madeline Ashby. As a journalist, he covers city politics in Toronto. As a novelist, he writes on diverse subjects, including the early American Eugenics movement and crypto-parasitology (Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism) Cold-War espionage and psychic phenomenon (Rasputin's Bastards) and poltergeists and the modern marriage (The 'Geisters). He is a past winner of the Bram Stoker, Aurora and Black Quill Awards. In 2015, he and Madeline Ashby co-edited the Canadian-only Bond anthology Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.
I'm the child of artists: my late father Lawrence, a plein-air landscape painter who worked
mainly in northern Ontario, and my mother Olga, a sculptor and high school art teacher. They were both always certain about the value of a career in the arts, properly skeptical of my interest in horror fiction but ultimately supportive. I work as a journalist covering Toronto municipal politics, so was there for the Rob Ford mayoralty and all that entailed (mostly stake-outs and foot chases). I wrote a short story, “Knife Fight,” as a bit of a commentary on that time, and put it in the marquee spot of my 2014 collection Knife Fight and Other Struggles. When fellow writer Madeline Ashby and I were married in 2015, we took wedding photos in our favourite butcher shop's meat locker, and George the head butcher tells us the photo we left there, of us dancing among the carcasses in what is surprisingly good light, has garnered the admiration of a good three-quarters of the customers who come in and the horrified attention of all of them.

2. What was the first thing you had published?
You have to go back a long way for that. It was a short story called “The Killing Way,” in On Spec Magazine in 1991 (more on that later). 

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
For a long time, it was “The Sloan Men,” which appeared in 1994 and has been reprinted a bunch of times, taught at university and also adapted for television. Herman Sloan's image graces the cover of my story collection Monstrous Affections, to terrifying effect. “The Sloan Men” was also the first story that I wrote that I felt really nailed the theme and pacing I was going after. Hard not to be proud of that, but discouraging to be most proud of a story that's so old.
So now I'm cautiously going to put forward a very new story, “The Caretakers,” which is live at January 20. It's hard to talk about that one much—the blurb-writers at Tor put forward the blandest description you could imagine, and they were probably right to do so: it's that kind of story. But as with “The Sloan Men,” I feel like it nails the thing I wanted to do. We will see if others agree.

4. …and which makes you cringe?
Whatever they may tell you, the first time is often the worst. So I'm going to say “The Killing Way,” my first published story, written back when I thought I could write science fiction in the mode of Joe Haldeman and Larry Niven. It's a piece about a literary writer in full-on toxic-Martin-Amis-level writer's block, stuck at an Antarctic writer's colony with a cybernetic vat-bred soldier who's written a DaVinci-Code popular piece of war porn. They meet, amid attempts at clever allusions and hard-boiled prose. Gah. It works, I guess, in that it sold. But it reeks of pastiche and makes me feel a bit like the protagonist when I reread it.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?
There isn't really a normal writing day. I work full time as a reporter, so I squeeze in work as I can: often on the subway into work, or early in mornings or on weekends. For a long time I felt badly about this: there's a sense n the writing world of genre fiction that a proper writer sets aside four or so hours a day to maintain a daily word count in the middle four digits and does this consistently. That's a good ideal, but a punishing one for those like me maintaining an enjoyable, full-time career in another field at the same time.
When I'm on deadline, however, a writing day reaches that level of anxious productivity. 

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

I'd say my 2011 novel Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism. It's my first-published solo novel, and is a bit of a mash-up about the early years of the American eugenics movement and the middle years of American utopians. It's also about a terrible monster, and in that way it's a little bit Lovecraftian. So there is something for everybody—and probably something in there to irritate everybody. But if you're not being irritating to at least somebody, you shouldn't be writing...

7. What are you working on now?
The sequel to Eutopia, right now titled Volk. It follows the characters who met in Idaho in 1911 over folly and bloodshed, through the other side of the First World War to Paris and Bavaria in 1931, for a helping of more of the same. And, hopefully, then some...Also, a couple of short stories are on order, and they're not going to get written on their own. Which means I really must get to it. Thank you for having me!

Don't forget to check out David's 'The Caretakers' at - live from Wednesday 20th January!