Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday 21 August 2020

Things of the Week, 21st August 2020: Best Horror of the Year #12, Black Shuck Novellas, After Sundown, These Foolish And Harmful Delights

The strangeness that is 2020 continues.

I'm still off work, as I have been all year, trying to find a way back through the anxiety maze. It's bloody draining; that's the most frustrating thing about it. One day you can schedule a series of tasks and stick to them, and think you're progressing - the next it all falls apart, with panic attacks, random general anxiety or general debilitating knackeredness kicking in. I do not recommend it, at all.

Most of last year was spent completing the final draft of one huge novel I've been revising on and off for the better part of a decade; my then agent enthused about it, but then took a job as a commissioning editor. Still, the Huge Novel was ready to be sent out in the hope of securing new representation, so towards the end of last year, out it went... which point I should probably mention that it's about a devastating global pandemic that collapses civilisation. I have a certain knack of timing!

Luckily, one agent liked it enough to ask to see my next book. I've completed two novels so far this year (one begun last summer) and am hard at work on a third. The first one has now gone out into the world. 

Despite everything, I'm managing to write 1000 words every day, with very very rare exceptions, and that ensures steady progress gets made. I used to write a lot more than that per day, and still think it wasn't enough, always in a hurry to get somewhere else; now, a thousand words seems plenty. It frees up time and energy to work on more than one thing at a time, and more importantly, it helps make the book about the journey and not the destination.

Best of all, I'm still lucky enough to have a wonderful and loving spouse who is also a phenomenal author in her own right. Anyone who's not read Cate's collection These Foolish and Harmful Delights really should.

The fantastic illustration at the top of this post is by Reiko Murakami, for the cover of Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year #12.  As always, it contains a roll-call of fantastic authors, including Gemma Files, Laura Mauro, Nathan Ballingrud, Stephen Graham Jones, Sarah Read, Paul Tremblay, Sarah Langan and Joe Lansdale. My story 'Below', from Paul Finch's Terror Tales of North West England, is included therein.

Best Horror of the Year #12 is released on October 6th, and you can preorder it here

October will also bring the first of two all-new novellas, brought to you by that fine gentleman Steve 

Shaw of Black Shuck Books. The second one will be out next year; the first, all being well, should see the light (or the dark) on Halloween. More details to follow soon.

So October's looking like a good month, but then so does September, with Flame Tree Press bringing out an original, non-themed horror anthology, After Sundown, edited by Mark Morris. The successor to the Spectral Books of Horror and to Titan Books' New Fears, After Sundown features stories by a host of amazing writers -- too many to list here, but just take a closer look at the cover for a full roll-call! My story 'We All Come Home' is included. 

After Sundown is out on September 15th, and can be preordered here

And that's all the latest news from Castle Bestwick. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Simon x

The Lockdown with... Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a prolific writer of fiction across a broad range of genres, having written more

than fifty full length titles and over a hundred short stories. He is the co-host of Blackpool's Pub Poets and a regular participant (and occasional winner) in their monthly Haiku Death Match.

Aside from regularly blogging about writing, Ashley also teaches creative writing in the North West of England. He has recently completed a PhD in creative writing where he looked at the relationship between plot and genre in short fiction.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.

1) I own the two cutest dogs in the world. This is Oswald and Dee. Dee is sticking out her tongue in this photo. Oswald is looking fed up with Dee’s flippant shenanigans.

2) I’ve got a PhD in creative writing. I wrote a thesis that looks at the relationship between plot and genre in short fiction.

3) I’ve written a book called Blackstone Towers, a horror novel, and I think it’s awesome.

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?

Perhaps we should call it ‘Writer’s Blockdown’? I will admit it hit me hard.

Lockdown gave me a lot of free time. I was able to work from home in the day job, you can still deliver lectures online, but I had free time because I wasn’t traveling to work, or going to the gym, or walking the dogs very much, or doing any socialising.

But I didn’t have the enthusiasm to do any original writing.

Then I had the idea to self-publish some of my back catalogue. I hadn’t done much in the way of self-publishing previously. I’ve usually worked with established publishing houses, but rights had reverted to me on a handful of titles so I thought I would see what the experience was like. Once I’d finished revising and uploading the previously published titles, I wondered if I should try to release a novel that I hadn’t yet placed with a publisher.

I surveyed my Facebook friends to establish the most effective title for the book and that’s how I come to be here, today, talking about Blackstone Towers.

3. What was the first thing you had published?

When I was eight, I had a poem published in a school magazine. Not only was the poem dreadful (rhyming ‘boy’ and ‘toy’) but I seem to recall it was also plagiarised. After that, when I was in my early teens, I had a letter published in the British comic Bullet, and they managed to change my surname from LISTER to LISTEN. After that my first success as an adult writer came when I wrote an erotic story for the adult magazine Forum.

4. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?

I’m torn between two choices here. Part of me wants to say my PhD thesis, which can be found at this link. It embodies research from four and a half years of my life, includes a variety of original short stories in a range of genres, as well as my supported arguments for the difference between the semantic and syntactic aspects of genre.

However, another part of me wants to talk about my poetry. During lockdown I managed to put a lot of my poetry into a single collection (Old People Sex and other highly offensive poems), and I like that book because I know it makes readers laugh. My late father was a stand-up comedian and it’s always been an ambition of mine to entertain an audience in a similar way to him, so I think this book would have made him proud.

This is the opening stanza from the title poem of that collection:

Granny pulled on her surgical stockings
She put her false teeth in the glass
She took the Tena pad out of her panties
And said, “Grandpa, could you please f**k my ass?”

5. …and which makes you cringe?

There is a trilogy of erotic stories that I wrote a few years ago.

If I found a genie in a bottle, and I was granted three wishes, rather than doing something nice like removing illness and disease from the world or establishing a fairer balance of economic distribution, I’d ask the genie to remove each of those books.

6. What’s a normal writing day like?

When writer’s blockdown isn’t happening, I have a fairly rigid schedule. I get up at five and go to the gym for an hour. When I get back I breakfast, shower, shave and dress. A couple of days a week I go onto the campus and deliver lectures on creative writing and other English-related subjects. This completes my nine-to-five.

On the days when I’m not lecturing, I’ll spend a couple of hours writing from nine to eleven, walk the dogs, and then spend the afternoon either working on edits, researching, blogging or immersing myself in other tangentially related writing projects.

I’m very lucky in that I can spend so much of my time immersed in writing and stories.

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

good book?

My horror novel Blackstone Towers is due out on August 22nd. I’m very pleased with this one because it contains ghosts, zombies, daemons and lots of background supernatural elements. I think it was Toni Morrison who said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” Blackstone Towers is the book I wanted to read that I had to write.

This is the blurb from the back of the book.

The talismans of the magi control seven realms of the mortal world. One can grant the bearer immortality; another gives its owner unfathomable wealth; a third gives the holder unerring foresight. There is a talisman to control reality, success, the deliberate and the accidental, and a talisman that governs the balance between love and hate.

The planets are now aligning, and one worldly resident of Blackstone Towers knows the talismans urgently need collecting and destroying before they fall into the wrong hands.

The only problem is establishing whose hands are the wrong ones.

8. What are you working on now?

I’m about to embark on a blog tour to promote Blackstone Towers, with dates and locations below. [Ed: the blog tour's now complete, but why not check it out anyway? :) ]

My next project is going to be a series of horror novels, each one set around the same fictional university. There’ll be a Lovecraftian theme to all of the stories because I’ve recently been binging my way through the Herbert West – Reanimator stories and they have a definite allure that I think is always overshadowed by the Cthulhu mythos.

On top of that, I’m planning to spend a little downtime reading The Feast of All Souls because it looks like it’s going to be a delightful read. [Ed: Aw, shucks - thank you!]

Thank you for inviting me to visit your blog today. It’s been a genuine pleasure.

Monday 17 August 2020

The Lockdown with... Catherine Cavendish

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include The Garden of Bewitchment. The Haunting of Henderson Close, the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy - Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.
Her novellas include The Malan Witch (to be published in Summer 2020), The Darkest Veil, Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife.
Her short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies including Silver Shamrock’s Midnight in the Graveyard and her story The Oubliette of Élie Loyd will appear in their forthcoming Midnight in the Pentagram, to be published later this year.
She lives by the sea in Southport, England with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat called Serafina who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue.
You can connect with Cat here:
  1. Tell us three things about yourself
I was born in Hereford and for the first two years of my life we lived in the same village as serial killer Fred West. Fortunately, our paths never crossed.
I used to work in advertising – for a number of newspapers, including The Yorkshire Post
The last time I saw my natural hair colour was in 1972!
  1. 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?
When the lockdown began, I was working on my new novel and was in the process of redrafting it. I carried on. I think the continuity of it helped. I have been one of the lucky ones because I have heard and read of people who have been badly affected and haven’t been able to create anything much since this all started. One thing I have been determined to do though – I am not writing a novel about lockdown!
  1. What was the first thing you published?

A short ghost story set on the Yorkshire moors near where I grew up. It was called In My Lady’s Chamber.
  1. Which piece of writing are your proudest of?
Always a tough question to answer because it’s usually whatever I’m currently working on or whatever has been most recently published but, taking a step back, I would say one of my personal favourites is The Pendle Curse, which is a novel centred around the infamous Lancashire Witch trials of 1612. It has witches, a time slip, ghosts, haunted buildings, demonic possession and evil children – all my favourites.
  1. and which make you cringe?
Fortunately, nothing that is currently in print. However, I do cringe whenever I read the outpourings of teenage angst I wrote many years ago and had the nerve to call poetry
  1. What’s a normal writing day like?
It starts with the ‘business of writing’ as I call it – responding to emails, writing emails, blogs, social media and so on, and then, in the afternoon, I settle down to work on whatever is in progress at the time. This may involve more reading and note-taking than actual writing if I am at the embryonic, research stage. A lot of my stories have a historical setting and I need to get the details right and the atmosphere as authentic as possible. If I am working on a first draft, I like to try and get around 2000 words down per day but sometimes it’s more, sometimes a little less. Sometimes of course, yesterday’s 2000 may hit the dust the following day, when I read over it and find I have made about as much sense as a politician on lockdown.
  1. What work of yours would you recommend for people on lockdown?
Now that depends on their particular preference. The Pendle Curse I have already mentioned for fans of all things witchy, The Haunting of Henderson Close if you like scary, haunted places, Edinburgh and dark shadows. Then there’s The Garden of Bewitchment – the wild and rugged moors of the West Riding of Yorkshire, two sisters with a passion for the Brontës, ghosts and a really scary toy that no one in their right minds should play with.
  1. What are you working on now?
A novel set mainly in 1941 in the middle of the London Blitz. This one features the occult, Churchill, and a young woman who has become an unwitting target…

Monday 3 August 2020

The Lockdown with... Sean Hogan

Sean is a writer and filmmaker living in Margate. He has published three books to date: England's Screaming, Three Mothers, One Father and a critical monograph on the film Death Line. His feature film credits include The Devil's Business, Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD and The Borderlands, as well as a long trail of cinematic corpses that he'd rather not talk about.
  1. Tell us three things about yourself.
I once annoyed Sylvester Stallone so badly at a London Film Festival Q&A (simply by asking a non kiss-ass question) that they terminated the session immediately afterwards.

I own a psychotic cat named Tuco, who I have long suspected isn't actually a feline at all, but a demon familiar from the lower depths of Hell.

Kim Newman and I devised two horror anthology plays, The Hallowe'en Sessions and The Ghost Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (written by ourselves and a host of other extremely talented genre writers) and staged them both in London. People often ask if we'll ever do another. The answer to that is, I directed both shows and it nearly killed me. Twice. I'm not particularly eager to try for third time lucky.
  1. 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 haven't found that it's affected me too badly, possibly because, as someone who's decidedly agnostic about social media anyway, I usually manage to resist the urge to doomscroll too much. So my day-to-day writing routine is pretty much what it always was – bursts of activity punctuated by general indolence.
  1. What was the first thing you had published?
That would be my book on Gary Sherman's excellent film Death Line, back in 2017. I'd done various bits of non-fiction writing (interviews, essays, reviews) over the years, but when I was actually commissioned to contribute to what was ostensibly meant to be a series of critical monographs, the book somehow ended up being mostly fictional. I had such a good time doing it that it A) served as a gateway into me doing more prose fiction, and B) ended up spawning the next two books I had published.
  1. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?

I suppose it would have to be England's Screaming, simply because it was an idea I'd long fantasised about, without ever really believing I would or could actually write it. And when I did finally decide to make the attempt, I still had no idea as to exactly how I was going to go about it, or whether I was capable of writing something of novel length. So the fact that I even completed it felt like a massive accomplishment at the time. Now that the book's been published and people seem to be responding to it, there is definitely a certain sense of pride that I managed to pull it off.
  1. and which makes you cringe?
The horror stories you hear about screenwriting are all entirely true. So you can pretty much go to my IMDB page and pick out any film not called The Borderlands (where, incredibly, they just shot what I wrote without changing anything, and it worked!) where I was employed solely as a screenwriter, and I guarantee you that not only do they make me cringe, but reliving the memories of working on them is enough to send my blood pressure surging through the roof.
  1. What’s a normal writing day like?

It really depends what I'm working on. Scriptwriting is almost second-nature to me now, so I find that decidedly less onerous and can get much more done without wanting to burst into tears or make a dash for the wine rack. But if I'm working on prose fiction (which I've been doing a lot more of recently), I'm still training my writing brain to think that way, which makes the work a lot slower/more frustrating. Add to that a healthy case of Imposter Syndrome (“I'm just a screenwriter, what moral or ethical right do I have to write ACTUAL PROSE?”), and I'm grateful if I can slog through 1000-1500 words in a day. And possibly this is entirely down to my own laziness, but I also seem to be an either/or writer. That is, I only seem to be able to work on one thing on any given day – I generally don't, say, find myself bouncing between prose pages in the morning and scripting in the afternoon.
  1. What work of yours would you recommend for people on lockdown and in need of a good book?
If I actually liked kids, I might compare this to having to choose between my own children. Well...I'll say England's Screaming again, because it's the meatiest of the books and seems to generally be having the desired effect for readers; that is, it's not solely aimed at those people who'll get every last obscure film reference, but should also work both as a primer on some interesting movies you might not have seen, and as a plain and simple story. But while I'm at it, I'll be completely shameless and say that if you liked that one, then you might want to consider picking up my other 2020 book, Three Mothers, One Father, which is a Eurohorror semi-sequel to England's Screaming, and possibly even the monograph on Death Line, the narrative portion of which functions as a sort of prequel to it. (I hear shared universes are very hot right now.)
  1. What are you working on now?
Two writing projects, currently: a game script for a first-person shooter, and a novel proper, The Corpse Road. And there are one or two film projects bubbling under, assuming we're not all just scrabbling around in the ruins of civilisation come the end of the year...