Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday, 21 August 2020

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.

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