Conrad Williams was born in 1969. He is the author of nine novels (HEAD INJURIES, LONDON REVENANT, THE UNBLEMISHED, ONE, DECAY INEVITABLE, LOSS OF SEPARATION, DUST AND DESIRE, SONATA OF THE DEAD and HELL IS EMPTY), four novellas (NEARLY PEOPLE, GAME, THE SCALDING ROOMS and RAIN) and three collections of short stories (USE ONCE THEN DESTROY, BORN WITH TEETH and I WILL SURROUND YOU). He has won two major prizes for his novels. ONE was the winner of the August Derleth award for Best Novel, (British Fantasy Awards 2010), while THE UNBLEMISHED won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993. He won another British Fantasy Award, for Best Novella (THE SCALDING ROOMS) in 2008. In 2009 he was Guest of Honour at the World Horror Convention. He edited the anthologies GUTSHOT, which was shortlisted for both the British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards, and DEAD LETTERS. He is an associate lecturer at Edge Hill University and an external moderator for St Mary’s University. He lives in Manchester, UK, with his wife, three sons and a cheeky Labrador called Coco.
1. Tell us three things about yourself. (If you’ve done this previously, ideally tell us three different things than last time!)
I’m a purple belt at karate, I hold a PhD by publication from Huddersfield University, and I once had a brief discussion with Alan Alda about lifts in a Los Angeles hotel.
2. Many writers have said the COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdown have made it harder for them to create. Have you found this? Has the outbreak affected you as a writer and if so, how?
My parents died within a month of each other at the start of the year (not COVID-19 related), so I’ve been trying to process the fallout from that. It’s causing me more creative and emotional disruption than the coronavirus, to be honest.
‘Dirty Water’, a short story back in 1988. But I told you that first time around, so I’ll go with my first novel, which was ‘Head Injuries’ in 1998, written on a PC with a 10” screen while living in a B&B in Morecambe during the winter. Over those six months, studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, I won a British Fantasy Award (Best Newcomer), went out with a girl called Amanda who dumped me for a girl called Reg and received a visit from Nicholas Royle, Mark Morris and Joel Lane. I took acid at Christmas, wrote 5000 words in a couple of hours and watched ‘Carnival of Souls’. I woke up to find a Post-it note stuck to the window, a warning I’d written to myself the night before: ‘Conrad, man cannot fly’. Some of my acid experiences found their way into the novel, including tiny babies’ faces screaming behind the skin of my knuckles. It was an interesting six months.
4. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
I mentioned ‘Loss of Separation’ last time round, so I’ll go with a novella, ‘Rain’, which was a finalist for the British Fantasy Award but was beaten by ‘The Scalding Rooms’, another of my novellas. I still have a feeling the wrong book won.
5. …and which makes you cringe?
The hundreds of poems I wrote between 1985 and 1987. They included ‘Black Butterfly’, which was a paean to the vagina. Jesus Shivering Christ. When we last moved house I burned them in the garden and felt not one iota of regret about it.
6. What’s a normal writing day like?
I don’t have writing days any more. I tend to snatch moments here and there. I miss trips out to the café for an hour to write notes while listening to music.
7. What work of yours would you recommend for people on lockdown and in need of a good book?
I’d love my Joel Sorrell trilogy to get a bit more attention.
8. What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a ghost story I’ve been tinkering with (slowly) over the past ten years. It was called ‘House of Slow Rooms’ when I mentioned it to you last time. It’s now called ‘One Who Was With Me’ and will be published by Earthling as part of their Halloween series this year. I’m ten thousand words into a fourth Joel Sorrell novel called ‘Catching Up with Dead Men’. And I’m also sketching out a plan for a horror novel called ‘The Backs’, although I’ve been doing that for four years now… I don’t want another decade to go by before I finish this one.