Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday 29 May 2020

The Lockdown with... Conrad Williams

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.

3. What was the first thing you had published?

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.

Monday 25 May 2020

The Lockdown with... Matthew M. Bartlett

Matthew M. Bartlett is the author of Gateways to Abomination, The Stay-Awake Men and Other Unstable Entities, Creeping Waves, and other books of supernatural horror. His short stories have appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals, including Lost Signals, Vastarien, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Vol. 3, and Ashes & Entropy. He has recorded two albums for Cadabra Records, Mr. White Noise and Call Me Corey, both with backing music by Black Mountain Transmitter. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife Katie Saulnier and their cats Peachpie and Larry.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.
I don’t feel comfortable unless I have a pen – almost anything but a ball-point—in my right front pocket. 

I am susceptible to excessive sentimentality, though
you might not be able to tell that from most of my writing. 

I started out in college as a theater major, but I found the egos of my fellow students overwhelming.

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? 
I have found it more difficult, especially in the first few weeks of March. Even before the pandemic, work-stress had taken a toll on my productivity. When the seriousness of the pandemic became apparent, I was almost completely taken up with worry, about my job and the virus and the economy – almost like a mantra of worst-case-scenario what-ifs--and took comfort in distractions like social media (hiding all virus-related posts) and Words With Friends. Plus, I typically write before work, but I had been switched to a schedule that included days when I worked at home. That threw off the self-imposed structures of my mornings. I still was able to complete one story and start several others, and my productivity has begun to climb again, though not to the heights of early 2019, not yet.

3. What was the first thing you had published? 
A very short piece from my debut collection. The contract was drawn up before I self-published the book, but the story came out some time after. The story was called Pharaoh.

4. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
Maybe the stories in my collection The Stay-Awake Men and Other Unstable Entities. Those were an homage to my favorite kind of weird fiction, and were not interrelated, as were stories in my other books. But also I’m extremely proud of the short story Rangel, one of the first longish
pieces I wrote, and it ended up in the Year’s Best Weird Fiction.

5. …and which makes you cringe?
I’m not too cringey about anything I wrote except maybe some very naïve “political” stuff I wrote as a teenager—come to think of it, I got one of those published in a punk zine, so THAT was the first thing I had published. I do cringe at the fact that I completely unconsciously stole a phrase from a writer I deeply admire, and didn’t notice it until after the story it was in
was published.

6. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I sit down in front of the computer around 7 am and write until I think it’s getting sort of late and I need to shower and get ready for work, usually a half-hour to forty-five minutes of writing/editing/research. Sometimes I’ll write a few paragraphs or pages if I’m at the computer on the weekend and
something strikes me.

7. What work of yours would you recommend for people on lockdown and in need of a good book? 

Creeping Waves is my longest book, and contains some stuff I’m really proud of. When I wrote that book I was firing on all pistons. It gives a view of my range, and I think people tend to come back to it more than once.

8. What are you working on now? 

A short story of grotesque eroticism and radio.

Buy Creeping Waves here.
Buy The Stay-Awake Men here.
Buy Gateways to Abomination here.
Buy Call Me Corey here

Friday 22 May 2020

Things Of The Week: 22nd May 2020 (Hell Is Children, Kanaida, Winter Fruit, The Teardrop Girl)

Hi there. Hope you're all weathering the pandemic reasonably well. We're still at home, and I'm still writing stuff. What else is there to do, really?

That includes some new stories. 'Kanaida', a tale of unintended consequences, has just been published over at Unsung Stories online. You can read it here. I hope you enjoy it.

I've also published two new stories over on my Patreon. You can read 'Hell Is Children' (a conclusion I expect a few of my friends with families have come to while on lockdown) either there or on my Ko-fi page. It's also now available as an audio reading.

The second story, 'Winter Fruit', is a grimly humorous tale of an old lady's hard-won peace in the middle of a near-future war. This one's pay-walled - you have to sign up to my Patreon to read it, but at as little as a dollar a month that's good value.

Finally, I've started uploading excerpts from my latest novel, The Teardrop Girl, to Patreon, a mixture of adventure thriller and dark fantasy set in Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the First World War. When marauding troops of the Freikorps murder a young Latvian girl, mysterious forces bring her back to life to hunt down the German commander - a mission that may decide the fate of the world.

The opening chapters of the novel are available for all to read. A second excerpt is also up now, exclusively available to members of my Patreon Book Club.

Hope you're all keeping well, and have a good weekend, folks.