Steven Deighan and Garry Charles are two of the bright young stars of the UK Horror Small Press. Being too damned lazy to interview them ourselves, we chained both writers to the wall in the Whispers sub-basement and held them prisoner until they agreed to interview each other. What follows is the result.
SD: You said I could go first, so here goes and Ill take it easy on you. What age were you when you began writing?
GC: That was a long time ago, a very long f**king time ago! I wrote my first novel when I was 10. At that age an exercise book stolen from the teachers cupboard is classed as a novel. It was called the Radioactive Cream Cake . You could say it was inspired by The Rats , but Id not read it yet. An untitled novel (another stolen exercise book) about a man who married rich women just to kill them followed that.
Over the years Ive continued to dabble, but it was always just for fun. Heavens Falling was my first attempt at writing a real novel. (No exercise books were stolen during this period.)
Right, my turn to interrogate and Im playing tougher than you are. With horror being a genre that is frowned upon, how does it make you feel?
SD: Garry, this isnt celebrity death match, theres no need to be rough!
But, to answer the question, I look at my writing and try to find the horror in it thats not too obvious. I mean, you can write a plain story and call it ordinary until you put in that monster from the dark, or go into detail about the deterioration of a character who opens their mind and reveals horrors beyond comprehension! I think until I find a steady balance with my horror writing, Ill consider feeling some way about it. I am disappointed when a site or shop refuses to stock something from a small press publisher because its not got so-and-sos name on it, though recently the small press outlets have been receiving praise from the better known horror writers like Ramsey Campbell and Simon Clark, so theres hope yet!
Now, my turn! What attracted you to the horror/dark fantasy genres? Do you have any major influences, old and/or new?
GC: I watched Inferno by Dario Argento when I was about 10 and it scared me rigid. Not long after that I saw The Omen . I loved the adrenaline rush of being pant-shittingly terrified. Later I was given a copy of Poes complete works by an older relative and I loved it, quickly moving onto Herbert and Hutson when I was given my first library card. I grew up with horror and it nurtured me into the sick and twisted adult Ive become. I owe who I am to so many writers and directors. I hope that one day I get to thank them.
As to influences I cant say I do. To have an influence dictates that Im trying to emulate those I look up to. Far too many newer authors are falling into this trap and the result is unoriginal style and lack of imaginative storytelling.
I like to think that people have inspired me to write, an inspiration to give the readers an enjoyable piece of fiction that is pure escapism. I think Im achieving this and so
Ill take another shot now and Ill make it gentle.
It is said that most authors consider fiction to be a natural extension of their fears and/or desires. I have to admit to having used some of my short stories (and some parts of Heavens Falling ) to rid myself of demons that haunted my past memories. How about you?
SD: I have had this pointed out to me in the past, though I never see it when Im writing. Quite often, you have to bleed for you art, huh? I mean, its difficult for any genre writer, but for myself to include my fears in my horror writing, its hard. I cant see when its there, and I cant admit to being afraid of the supernatural beings that I write about because theyre not real. In saying that, the loss--the emptiness of life after some tragedy--is incredible, and is sometimes what I write about because I have experienced something like it. Thats probably my real fear when I write. That someday Ill lose it all. It actually makes me feel safe writing about the bad things that happen to others.
But, how do you find the discipline to sit down and write after a hard days work? I find it near-impossible!
GC: Sometimes I dont. Luckily its not usually a problem. I love the periods when I can sit and write. Its just me and the little worlds Im creating. If anything its having the time to sit and do it, but once my arse is in the chair my fingers go to work and I dont stop until theyre bloody stumps that drip red on the keys of my laptop!
Life does tend to try and get in the way, dont you think? With having a day job and a family (havent we all?) do you ever wake up in the morning and feel like quitting the writing? I know I am finding it harder to fit everything in, but Id never quit. I am, however, working with Oil of Olay to create a time expansion cream.
SD: I think you could be onto something there, Garry! I dont rely heavily on my writing financially, which is like a hobby right now. That doesnt mean I dont enjoy it as much, its just better for me to feel secure that I have other things to busy myself with. I go to work in the evenings and know I have something to come home to thats just as big a community as any workplace. That way, you get the best of both worlds. And, if youre lucky, money at both ends!!
So, time to dig deep into your psyche, Mr Charles! What has your experience as a writer taught you about yourself in the last few years?
GC: Ive learned that I should keep my mouth shut when I have opinions. This is not an industry where opinions outside the general mould of thinking are allowed (well, its allowed, but its frowned upon with distaste by most). Sadly, Im not one for taking lessons on board so my mouth still opens and says what Im thinking. In truth I feel this is the best way to be. If people dont like it, f**k them.
But lets get back to you before I begin to ruffle feathers! Steve, whats your opinion on the state of the Horror/Dark Fiction genre?
SD: Garry, I wish I had enough time to read more! Seeing as Im fairly new to this area of writing, I have been in contact with some other guys awhile now who are all involved a bit more. From what I can gather, it has its ups and downs, and this isnt new with any genre, really. Its not that it isnt a large, recognised market; if you go into most bookstores you will only really find a small section of horror titles on display, with the majority of that space dedicated to Stephen King! I think other books (genres) are overshadowing it, but then thats a marketing thing. I mean, folk like to see superstars biographies in the shop windows, and the latest recipes for health foods, or whatever Dan Browns just written. Its very rare to see the gruesome posters for say, Shaun Hutsons latest release. I know seeing Things From The Past on the shelves at my local Waterstones made me feel great. How has seeing your books in print affected your view on the business of writing? Has it encouraged you to write more or less?
Without doubt I know that this is what I want to do. When I get an email from a new fan saying they enjoyed the books and asking when the third will be ready I feel happy to have pleased someone I may never meet. At the end of the day its the reader who counts. They are the people we are here for. No one else matters.
If I ever stop writing its because Ive been destroyed in a fatal car crash.
I have to say that working with Hadesgate has made it easy moving into the writing world and I have to thank them. What was your experience like working with Hadesgate Publications?
SD: Nothing but the best. Id approached them after reading one of their releases and suggested they take a look at my manuscript after one of their authors--you--liked my first book. They agreed to publish it and accepted the work, no fuss. I think what also solidified the deal was that I had my own website and stuff too, so that showed I was serious and committed about the writing scene. Throughout the books publishing, I was kept up-to-date continually about the direction of the book and more importantly, how I wanted to see it finalised.
What surprised me about Hadesgate Publications was the attention given to the project. Its initial publication date was April 2007, but their enthusiasm to see the finished book--and with the help of sufficient finances!--meant it could be brought forward to September 2006, to coincide with the FantasyCon event in Nottingham. Then I was asked if Id like for it to be brought forward again to benefit me in my city (Edinburgh) where the annual Book Festival is held. This was fantastic because it meant I was writing to a deadline, which was something Id never tried before. At least, not on this level.
One other thing I like about Hadesgate Publications is that it offers an online forum, where the other authors in the house could meet and post messages to one another (readers can as well). To me, this seemed like a new thing and I enjoyed it because it meant I could ask the other authors what they thought about their books and how they were treated. All, I dare say, would agree to the above.
I need a rest so let me ask you if youre ever completely happy with a finished story, or do you find yourself going back and tinkering?
GC: I work pretty much the same way on novels and short stories. I blast the entire thing out onto paper. If I try to keep it my head for too long the f**ker threatens to explode!
Once its all written I leave it for awhile before I go back for a second draft and same again before the third. I always call it a day at the third otherwise the routine would go on and on. Any writer will always want to make more changes (if they say they dont and claim a story to be perfect then theyre a lying c**t). If you want the work to be seen you have to call it a day on the tinkering and be brave. Let the baby leave the nest and good things will happen.
Not much else I can add to that so I apologise for not letting you have much of a breather. Dont panic this is my last question for you, mate!
I have found that the small press is a great place to get hold of a diverse range of titles if you look hard enough. Amongst it all there are some gems just waiting to be unearthed. Do you read the small press much or do you stick to the bigger names?
SD: I try to read a bit of everything, Garry. Im still young and undoubtedly nave, as my collection of horror books consists mainly of Stephen Kings. I have these past few years managed to accumulate a nice pile of signed small press books and also relationships with their authors. I am proud of this, and its fantastic being involved with them and knowing what theyre up to.
Well, its time to say goodbye, but before we go; what's in store for the future with Garry Charles?
GC: Ive been pretty busy lately. Ive got Twisted Imaginings ready to go for a release early next year. Ive got a novella called Tranquillity under consideration with a US publisher and Im in talks with Johannes Roberts (UK director of Forest Of The Damned and the mobile download horror series When Evil Calls ) about turning it into a script. Ill let you know how that goes.
My short story Best Friends was accepted for inclusion in a US anthology entitled Our Shadows Speak, which should see the light of day around the end of the year. Ramsey Campbell said this about the story: It pins down that kind of summer holiday when boys have one foot in childhood, one in adolescence, and dont know which way to hop. Not bad coming from a master in the field.
Another short entitled Pleasure Of Pain will feature in the last ever issue of The Horror Express . Im very proud of this one.
The Greenhouse Effect is pegged for release in a future edition of Black Petals .
And hopefully Ill find time to work on The Nightmare Man project with your good self.
Theres more but it gets boring!
SD: Thanks for the chat, its been fun.
GC: See you on the flip side.
SD: And not the floppy!
For the latest news on Garry Charles, check out his website and his myspace page
For the latest news on Steven Deighan, check out his website and myspace page
And the website for Hadesgate Publications, who publish both Steven Deighan and Garry Charles, can be found here
Finally, go here if you wish to discuss this interview or provide the authors with feedback
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