So it's true, the Short Sharp Shocks! series one has come to an end. 51 books published between March 2019 and January 2020! No mean feat hey?! Of course it couldn't have been possible without the authors and Adrian for the brilliant covers / branding. It's certainly been a blast. The books will soon be available in print form. Concentration will now be our other releases but don't worry, we're now reading for series two which will be released later in the year...thank you to our readers...without whom...well, you know the rest - but thanks a million, it allows us to continue what we do...
(artwork by Adrian Baldwin)
DEMAIN is really happy to be republishing Dave Jeffery's novel Finding Jericho. It will be out on 31st January but is available now for pre-orders on Amazon. Please watch this space for more information and a mini-interview with the author himself!
The final Short Sharp Shocks! is Dark Corners by David Charlesworth. It is published on the 31st January but is out now for pre-orders. Dean and David talked about the book prior to publication.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome to DEMAIN David – for those that don’t know you, can you please tell us a little about yourself.
DAVID CHARLESWORTH: I'm a 36 year old Scouser who was born and raised on horror and the macabre by a family of like-minded misfits. Growing up my main passion was art, but unfortunately I've never been able to fully express my feeling and what I see in my mind using a pencil and paints, so I turned to writing instead. I only really got into writing a few years ago―we were actively dissuaded from pursuing literary endeavours in my school.
DP: I really wish I could paint or draw but it seems I haven’t got the talent though I did buy myself a colouring book for Christmas so I’ll have to make do with that. What is your Short Sharp Shocks! about?
DC: Dark Corners is an unabashedly grotesque little tale about the worst humanity has to offer finding out that somehow, there's something in this world worse than them.
DP: And your protagonists?
DC: Paddy is an amalgamation of multiple people I've known and had the displeasure of having to deal with. He's his own worst enemy, which in turn makes him society's worst enemy. Only he'll never admit to it. His woes, his drug abuse, his thievery and murders and everything else... it's always someone else who caused that to happen.
DP: Ah, I think we all know people like that! When writing Dark Corners did you have to do much research?
DC: With most of my work I think (and I hope this comes across) there is a sense of hyper-realism to everything. For example there's some scenes involving police procedures in the story and whilst I've tried to keep it grounded, for the story to work some things aren't quite ‘real’. If you catch my drift.
DP: Oh I do, don’t worry. With that in mind, were there any scenes which were particularly difficult to write?
DC: There are! I often feel bad writing gruesome ends for people, even when they deserve it. I often feel maybe I go too far...but then after it's all said and done I often think maybe I wasn't extreme enough.
DP: Ha! There’s always some room for a little bit of ‘extreme’ stuff in our work particularly if certain characters deserve it. Sometimes we shouldn’t hold back ha ha…anyway, creatively David what would you say was your biggest success to date?
DC: I self published a few short stories a year or so ago. I released them unedited and it was just a huge mistake. However, the actual stories were exactly what I wanted to get out of my head and onto paper. They're being cleaned up now for a re-release soon, hopefully. Lots of weird cosmic shenanigans and kaijus involved.
DP: Awesome, keep us updated with how that goes. Tell us about your inspirations…
DC: I was raised on Clive Barker and he's absolutely an inspiration. I can't imagine what my life would be like without the Books of Blood...well, probably a little more sane!
DP: They’re great aren’t they…stories you can return to time and time again. What would you say ‘horror’ means to you?
DC: Wonder. Awe. I love the idea of things being greater than what we understand or can perceive. Unfortunately as wondrous as those things are... nine times out of ten they're utterly horrifying.
DP: So what scares you?
DC: I'm not afraid of anything. Not saying that to sound like a hardcase, but when I have nightmares I cherish them. Though if I wasn't too stupid to ponder my own morality I'd probably say the fragility of the human body.
DP: Yeap – ain’t that the truth. So is there a book / film you’re looking forward to?
DC: Color Out Of Space if only to see how utterly bonkers Nic Cage is. That and The Lighthouse.
DP: I can’t wait myself for Color Out Of Space – not just because of Cage but because it’s directed by Richard Stanley, whose work I just love! We talked about creativity – is there anything you’d like to do but haven’t managed it just yet?
DC: I'm trying to get back into art. It just takes so much time and practice and all of my spare time is already taken up by writing. I'd love to draw my own horror comic one day. There's so much to do and explore with the medium.
DP: Perhaps I need to take some lessons…two quick ones then. Marvel or DC?
DC: Dark Horse. Hahaha. And Hellbound Media, of course.
DP: Of course, of course! Finally then, what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about David Charlesworth?
DC: Despite looking like a serial killer I'm actually a nice bloke and I'd love to buy you a pint.
Next time I’m in Liverpool, I’ll take you up on that offer! Thanks so much for your time David, it was a pleasure talking with you. All the best with Dark Corners.
If you would like to connect with David direct:
Short Sharp Shocks! 49 is Moonlight, Gunshot, Mallet, Flame by Alicia Hilton. It is published on January 31st but is currently available for pre-sales.
A couple of weeks before publication, Dean and Alicia sat down and talked.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome, welcome Alicia. For those that don’t know you – can you please tell us a little about yourself.
ALICIA HILTON: Hey. I am an author, attorney, law professor, actress, and former FBI Special Agent. I received her BA in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and my JD and MA from the University of Chicago. I have had work appear in Akashic Books, Bronzeville Books, ChiZine Publications, Dreams & Nightmares, Vastarien, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror 4, and elsewhere.
DP: Impressive. Why did you become a writer?
AH: I wrote my first poem when I was twelve. My English teacher suggested that I enter the Oregon Zoo’s poetry contest. My poem was about a lion, and I won the contest. My mother was a writer, and she encouraged me to write more poetry and fiction. I enjoy writing about nature. Many of my stories and poems incorporate animals.
DP: Brilliant. In your mini-collection there are two stories, what are they about?
AH: As a whole, the book is about dangerous, passionate women who risk their lives confronting supernatural forces. When the moon is full, passion simmers and demons strike. Who will survive? MOONLIGHT, GUNSHOT, MALLET, FLAME: Laura is a hitwoman who murdered men to avenge and protect innocent victims, but her violent past catches up to her after she kills her nephew. Are Laura’s terrifying visions hallucinations, or real? And in A LITTLE DEATH: An Internet date unites two monsters. Descended from flesh-eating witches, Darla must choose whether to embrace her magical powers and kill, or risk her own destruction for love.
DP: Very different stories on the face of it but you’re right, they are definitely connected by your protagonists. When writing Moonlight, Gunshot, Mallet, Flame, did you have to do a lot of research?
AH: When I write fiction, I tend to borrow from my own life. I’ve never killed anyone, and I don’t have supernatural powers, but I know how to use weapons. If I’m going to write about a real place, I always visit that location so I can incorporate landmarks and learn about the flora and fauna. Moonlight, Gunshot, Mallet, Flame is set in New York and Connecticut. I’ve lived in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Connecticut. Some of my relatives are farmers, and I’ve seen industrial incinerators. A Little Death is set in Oregon. I grew up in Oregon.
DP: What books / authors do you read and do they also influence you?
AH: Reading is one of my favourite pastimes. I love horror, and I read other types of fiction, plus poetry and nonfiction. Most of my fiction is weird or cross-genre. I’ve been influenced by many authors, including: Jane Austen, Mikhail Bulgakov, Angela Carter, Brian Evenson, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Graham Jones, Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Josh Malerman, Cormac McCarthy, Chuck Palahniuk, Priya Sharma, Mary Shelley, Lucy Snyder, Richard Thomas, Chuck Wendig, and A.C. Wise.
DP: A real varied lot which I think is really important if you’re going to become a well rounded author. What does the term ‘horror’ mean to you?
AH: Lack of control over your destiny, threats that cannot be seen or fully realized, seemingly random events that collide, coincidences that create a sense of wonder or dread, psychological torment, supernatural elements, crime, and gore, all can be part of horror.
DP: Ah, I like that. Is there a horror book or film you’re looking forward to?
AH: Malorie by Josh Malerman.
DP: I’m not aware of that so thanks, I’ll check that out. What is Alicia Hilton frightened of?
AH: I used to be terrified of spiders. When I was a kid, I decided to conquer that fear. I grabbed a spider’s egg sac, and dozens of baby spiders crawled on my hand. Fortunately, I was not bitten. I’ve written about arachnophobia.
DP: Nice! Back to your creativity, is there something you’d like to do which you haven’t managed to achieve just yet?
AH: Finish writing my first horror novel! I’ve written 55,000 words of the novel, and I’ll finish writing the book this year.
DP: Brilliant and keep going. We’d love to read it when finished. Lastly then, can you tell us something which your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
AH: As an FBI Special Agent, I was a member of a foreign counterintelligence squad. I also worked undercover in two long-term criminal cases, posing as a drug dealer with ties to organized crime.
I don’t think there’s anything I can add to that. Thank you so much for your time and the very best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
If you would like to connect with Alicia direct:
Dean recently sat down with Deborah Sheldon to talk about her upcoming Short Sharp Shocks! Hand To Mouth – Book 48. It is out now for pre-orders and is released on the 31st January 2020.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome Deborah, let’s get straight down to it – can you tell us why you became a writer?
DEBORAH SHELDON: Over the 34 years of my professional career, this question has come up a lot and it’s always difficult to answer. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been a writer. As a pre-schooler, I drew my stories because I hadn’t yet learned my letters. I’ve devoted my entire adult life to writing in so many forms―TV scripts, feature articles, health and medical writing, play scripts, flash fiction, short stories, novelettes, novellas, novels―and I’m still exploring new forms. My latest crush is poetry. I expect I’ll keep experimenting with words until the day I die. So, why did I become a writer? Well, that’s like asking a cold virus why it causes a runny nose. The urge to write is simply hardwired into my DNA and I can’t resist the compulsion.
DP: And what about your story?
DS: On the surface, Hand to Mouth is a novelette about an imprisoned man who writes letters to his son to explain why he’s behind bars. It’s also a sci-fi exploration of cutting-edge technology. And while Hand to Mouth is a horror story, it’s a puzzle too; a layering of truth and deception, like a ‘choose your own adventure’ story. Ten readers will have ten different interpretations of what happened. It took a lot of drafting to work in so many possibilities.
DP: An intriguing premise then, who is your protagonist?
DS: Graham is the first-person narrator, so we don’t get the balancing act of any other character’s point of view. It means we have to take Graham at his word…or not. He’s an English lecturer who prizes intellect over anything else except his son, James. Graham may be a distant, non-demonstrative and awkward father, but his love for James shines through the narrative.
DP: I love the idea of an unreliable narrator! I guess, considering the subject matter you’ve alluded to, that you had to do a lot of research?
DS: The crux of Hand to Mouth is the prosthetic arm. I had to familiarise myself with the latest technology―not so much as to write a thesis on robotics, but just enough to offer credibility. The idea for the story came from my husband. At his workplace, the HR department regularly holds safety seminars. One such seminar was presented by a man who had lost his arm in an industrial accident. While his talk was about keeping safe amongst machinery, he also happened to be in a medical trial for a new generation of prosthetics that attune to the nervous system. As my husband told me about this meeting, the roots of my scalp began to tingle which, by the way, is how my brain tells me that I’ve just found the germ of a story idea.
DP: That’s brilliant! Did you find any of the scenes difficult to write?
DS: The final act. I knew all along what I was working towards―I never start a story before I have my ending in mind―but that didn’t make it any easier.
DP: I bet. So, tell me, creatively what would you say was your biggest success so far?
DS: Moving my skillset from non-fiction to fiction. For most of my career, I specialised in health and medical information for the layperson across a range of media, including magazines, CD-ROMs (yes, I’m that old), and websites such as the Better Health Channel. In 2005, I wrote my first short story. In 2007, I switched my focus from non-fiction to fiction. And in 2014, I wrote my first pure horror story. Making the transition into fiction was challenging. I had to figure out which skills I needed to take with me, which to jettison, and the ones I needed to keep but adapt. A steep learning curve, yes, but fascinating. I’m still on that learning curve.
DP: Aren’t we all – we should never stop learning. What books / authors do you read and do they influence you?
DS: I read widely across a range of genres, from literary to crime to horror to classics to self-help to memoir to you-name-it. Everything I read influences me. I firmly believe that the best way to improve your writing is to be an avid reader.
DP: I’m with you on that one. So, what is ‘horror’ to Deborah Sheldon?
DS: Emotional honesty. No other genre allows you to delve into life as it really is―unpredictable, violent, unfair, ultimately lethal―instead of how we wish it could be. And unlike other genres―which have strict parameters and tropes that fans expect to be honoured―horror allows the writer to do whatever the hell they want. The range of subgenres is staggering. In fact, mashing genres together is not only tolerated, it’s expected. Readers always want to be surprised. This freedom allows the horror writer to slip the leash and explore any theme or storyline they desire; in whichever format they’d like to try. I find this freedom exhilarating. If I end up living a long life, I could spend its entirety writing horror stories and never run out of subgenres.
DP: I like what you’ve said about readers want to be surprised, that was the whole reason we started the Short Sharp Shocks! in the first place. Creatively, is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet? If so, what?
DS: I’ve written for TV, but I’ve never had my own stories translated onto the small or silver screens. I’d like that very much. It’s also been a dream to make a documentary, but apart from a couple of false starts in my twenties, this dream has never eventuated. Opportunities for scriptwriting in Australia are limited. For example, free-to-air channels prefer reality TV series and cooking shows. Australia’s film industry mostly exists to provide production staff for Hollywood blockbusters. Our own stories don’t seem to matter anymore.
DP: Really―that’s a massive shame! Though also true because not that long ago I was talking to an Australian film producer and he said he was having issues finding an ‘Australian’ story and was unsure actually what that was nowadays...he felt the ‘identity’ had been totally lost―lots to seriously think about there...so let’s end with something completely irrelevant but fun: Marvel or DC?
DS: When I was a kid, I loved comics and my hero was Wonder Woman. I liked Supergirl and Superman too. And the Legion of Superheroes featuring Superboy, Lightning Lad, Mon-El, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Shadow Lass…oh, it’s DC all the way, baby.
Hope you’re watching Titans then [did I mention previously I LOVE this show?]. Thank you so much for your time Deborah. The best of luck with Hand To Mouth.
If you would like to connect directly with Deborah:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0035MWQ98
Short Sharp Shocks! 47 is Crowded House & Other Stories by S.J. Budd. The book is published on the 31st January but is available now for pre-orders on Amazon. A few days into the New Year Dean sat down and talked to the author.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hi! Great to meet you – can you tell us a little about yourself?
S.J. BUDD: Hi, I‘m Sarah I’ve been a horror writer for about five years. I live in London but am originally from Cornwall which is an ancient Celtic region in South West England. Cornwall is home to many myths and legends as well as ghosts which had a big effect on me growing up.
DP: Ah, a beautiful part of the world. Been a little while since we’ve been down that neck of the woods but definitely one to add to the list of places to visit in 2020. What are you stories about?
SJB: Sure. Until I Go – This is a tale of a young woman, Selina who is seeing her mother for the last time. They have had a troubled relationship but she still hopes that maybe some love can be salvaged before the end. Selina visits her mother in hospital hoping that maybe her mother will finally tell her she loves her only child, but not all mothers are kind and loving. Crowded House – Near where I live there is an abandoned house is a very nice little street which has fascinated me for years and is the inspiration for this story. Most people dream of owning their own home, creating their own little sanctuary from the outside world in which to build a family. So how come this one was allowed to fall into ruin? I began to wonder who had lived here and that’s how this story came to be. A young woman has been left a house from her mysterious Uncle. She hopes this will be the start of a new life, a better life. When she arrives, the house is in a dire state, but she is determined to fix it and to also find out more about her Uncle. She feels guilt at never making an effort to see him. A Bubble of Friendship Will Keep Us is about trying to hold on to the magic and innocence of youth, of wanting things to always stay the same.
DP: Three great stories – we really enjoyed them here at DEMAIN so well done. Did you have to do much research when writing them?
SJB: None, unless day dreaming counts!
DP: Ah, fair enough. What would you say was your biggest creative success?
SJB: Recently I had a short story released on the No Sleep Podcast. I’m a huge fan! I never thought for one moment they would accept my story but they did and it allowed me to join the HWA.
DP: Good for you and again well done. Which books (or authors) do you read and would you say they influence you?
SJB: I read so many books! They are mostly horror, but I will occasionally delve into contemporary fiction. I’m a big fan of short stories as well as novels. Currently I am reading the latest Ellen Datlow – The Best Horror of the Year (Volume 11) and am really loving it. I also love Aphotic Realm which I’ve been published in. They are really going places [they are!]! My favourite authors include; Adam Neville, Stephen King, Patrick Rothfuss, Susan Hill, Jonathan Janz and Shirley Jackson.
DP: Some great names again. What is ‘horror’ to you?
SJB: Horror is so many things to different people. To me horror is a quiet force that sneaks up on you. It’s not about scary creatures and monsters with big teeth. Horror is a daily part of our lives, there’s no escaping it. It’s it the dark underside of life, of things going wrong, life not turning out how you expected it to. We only have one life, and for some it’s not very long. If we mess up, we can’t always fix our mistakes. There’s no rest button, our past haunts us, our ultimate demise is inescapable.
DP: So true, so true. Sadly as you get older a point quickly comes when you realise how fleeting it all is...is there a book or film you’re looking forward to?
SJB: I’m really excited about The Reddening which has just been released by Adam Neville. He’s one of my favourite authors whose stories scare me so much I usually end up having nightmares! I’ve still yet to see Midsommar and Pet Sematary.
DP: Us too, though did actually get out to see Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker recently...what is S.J. Budd scared of?
SJB: I’m afraid of EVERYTHING! I am the world’s biggest wimp. My fear gives me never ending inspiration for horror tales. Recently I flew to Iceland and cried all the way there as there was some slight turbulence.
DP: Oh my lord, I’m with you on that one. I hate flying. And oddly I was recently commissioned to write a horror movie set on a plane. It’s going to be filmed in the Ukraine on a purpose built set. Don’t worry though I’ve done my research and if I travel over night etc I think it’ll only take me three days to get to Kiev by train. There’s no way you’re getting me in the air again! Let’s change the subject: creatively is there anything you’d like to do which you haven’t quite managed yet?
SJB: I’ve been writing seriously for about five years, but I still feel like I’m just getting started. There’s so much I want to do with writing. In the future I’d love to release a short story collection, as well as longer works of fiction. I’ve recently finished a novella and will be submitting it this year.
DP: Good for you! Never give up either. A frothy one: Marvel or DC?
SJB: Eeek! Can I say Batman? My kids are obsessed with Harley Quinn and the Joker. That’s DC right?
DP: [Right!] Finally then, can you tell your readers something they might be surprised to find out about you?
SJB: I have an obsession with Cactus plants!
DP: That’s...unusual ha ha!
Thank you so much for your time and the best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
If you’d like to connect with Sarah direct find her on Twitter: @sjbuddj
Book 46 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series is Christopher Beck’s The Birthday Girl & Other Stories. The book is out for pre-sales now on Amazon, with a publication date of 31st January 2020. Dean and Christopher recently sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING. Hey Christopher, great to speak to you again. It’s been a little while since we’ve worked together. For those that don’t know about you – please tell us about yourself and how (or why) you became a writer.
CHRISTOPHER BECK: Hi! I was born in San Diego, CA but raised (and still live) in the small town of Fairton, NJ. My love for storytelling started in high school and while I dabbled with writing during those (and following) years, it wasn’t until much later that I really committed to the craft. I was going through some rough times personally and writing stories became therapeutic for me. It gave me a way to sort through and express feelings that, at the time, I didn’t know how to deal with otherwise.
DP: That’s really interesting, we could tell that the stories in your collection were deeply personal. Please tell us a little more about your stories specifically...
CB: Sure. Missing Child is based on real life. I once was married and my ex-wife had a little girl with whom I developed a great relationship. After the marriage failed, things between the ex and I were a bit sour and that left my relationship with her daughter uncertain. This story was an attempt to deal with that uncertainty. It was tough at the time, but I am happy to say that, years later, I still have wonderful relationship with the kiddo. The Birthday Girl: sometimes, in life, terrible things happen, and sometimes there are no happy endings. Stories like this aren’t easy to tell but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be told. The Trash Can: the great thing about short stories is that they don’t always have to explain things, they can just be pulpy fun. I was living with my brother and he had dog that liked to raid the trash. So my brother purchased a trash can that was basically dog proof. Soon after, our roommate at the time threw a paper towel into it and the lid seemed to slam down way too hard. Instant story.
DP: You’re so right about ‘pulpy fun’ – I’m glad that we ordered the stories in your collection the way we did but I won’t spoil things...did you find any of the stories particularly difficult to write?
CB: The entirety of The Birthday Girl was tough. I sat on the story idea for some time as I was worried where writing it would take me emotionally.
DP: Well done though! I know it was tough but you got there! Slightly lighter, what books (and / or authors) do you read and do you think influence you or your writing?
CB: King. Koontz. Bentley Little. Robert McCammon. John Grisham. David Morrel. Robert B Parker. Paul Tremblay. Josh Malerman. Max Booth III. This, of course, is a short list. There are many, many others that I enjoy reading, and I would say something can be learned from all of them.
DP: Without a doubt. Right now I’m reading one of the best books I ever have – yes, appreciate that is quite a statement but it’s about the way French people think / what influences them and already it’s had a massive impact on something I’m writing...massive...anyway, what does ‘horror’ mean to Christopher Beck?
CB: Horror, to me, is the darker side of life. Life can be fun and wonderful at times but in the blink of an eye it can all change. Unfortunately bad things sometimes happen, and those things can really mess a person up.
DP: Yeap, so true...living in the moment is so important...is there a horror book or film you’re looking forward to?
CB: Book - Touch The Night by Max Booth III. Film: A Quiet Place 2.
DP: Ah, I need to read some more of Max’s work and I’ll be honest I did start watching A Quiet Place but never got to finish it – that’s one of my missions for January, thank you. It was quite a scary film I seem to remember...is there anything which scares you?
CB: I would say loss of loved ones, and that certainly has made it into my stories.
DP: Yes, having worked with you over the years I would attest to that. Creatively, is there something you’d like to achieve...
CB: I have yet to publish a novel, that’s definitely something I’d like to shoot for.
DP: And here at DEMAIN we’d certainly be interested in reading that. Okay, two quick ones: Marvel or DC?
CB: I enjoy both, but would put my flag in the Marvel Camp.
DP: Cool, cool...I’m sure you’re looking forward to seeing Morbius with Jared Leto – I saw the trailer the other day and it looks very intriguing and obviously has a clear link to the Spiderman universe...have to say though I’m certainly doffing DC’s Titans Season 2...and finally then, can you tell us something surprising about yourself?
CB: Ummm…Once upon a time I had the privilege of being on a radio show with Joe Lansdale.
And I bet that was a blast.
All the best with your Short Sharp Shocks! Christopher.
If you would like to connect with Christopher direct:
Here at DEMAIN we wish you all the very best for 2020. It's going to be a very busy year by the looks of it with quite a few releases...no time to rest on our laurels...let's get straight down to it...
Author Interview. Steve Stred - The One That Knows No Fear (Book 45 in the Short Sharp Shock! series)
The final release in this tranche of Short Sharp Shocks! is Book 45, The One That Knows No Fear by Steve Stred. It’s available for pre-sales now and is published on 30th November. Dean and Steve recently spoke together about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome to Demain Steve, for those that don’t yet know you, can you tell us a little about yourself and how / why you became a writer.
STEVE STRED: Hello! My name is Steve Stred and I’m an author who writes bleak, dark fiction. I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where I’ve now been for just over 3 years. I was born in a very small town in remote British Columbia. I’ve only been focusing on my writing for the last 4 or so years after my athletic career ended. My day to day job is that of a Certified Canadian Pedorthist. What this means is that after graduating with my Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology, I did another 3 years specifically being trained to assess peoples lower body mechanics and foot mechanics so that I can assess, design and manufacture Custom Made Foot Orthotics, Custom Made Shoes and Custom Shoe Modifications. I’m married to my fantastic wife Amanda and we have a 10 year old fur kid named OJ and a 3 year old human kid named Auryn!
DP: Ah, sounds a busy life. And your Short Sharp Shocks!?
SS: The One That Knows No Fear is a dark coming of age story set in the 70s about a young kid who wants to connect with his stepdad. They find this connection watching a Daredevil stunt TV show. When the show comes to town, they go to watch it. I really love this piece.
DP: Yes, we could tell that for sure and we think that many readers will really connect with it. Who is your protagonist?
SS: This story really focuses on our young main character. This is a boy who wishes for that father figure to be in his life and because it’s not there, he attaches to this specific Daredevil, the one they call ‘The One That Knows No Fear.’ He is really an innocent kid who just wants to believe that adults are saints, which we all know is far from the truth.
DP: That’s true...did you have to do much research?
SS: Not to any extent. I did do some searching on well known stunt people from that era. Everyone knows Knievel, but who else was out there risking it. The 70s were many years before 24 hour news channels, X-Games, the internet – these were really figures who risked it without ever really being known.
DP: Yeap, they did, that’s so true. Perhaps there’s a documentary idea there...did you find any of the scenes difficult to write?
SS: One in particular. Staying spoiler free but there’s a moment where our young one experiences a moment of horrible internal pain because of his stepdad and that choked me up. Kids are kids. Having a three year old, I see already just how much he’s put his trust and love into me and my wife. So, that was a tough one.
DP: I bet, I bet. Creatively what would you say was your biggest success?
SS: Two things easily. The first is the Ladies of Horror Fiction Writer’s Grant that I was able to help develop and facilitate this past year. It’s working towards an annual thing and behind the scenes I’m already working to get the next book completed to help off set costs. The first winner, Carina Bissett, messaged me to tell me what she was doing with the cash and I was blown away. She used the money she was awarded to host a writing seminar so other women writer’s could work towards achieving their dreams. The second is through writing, releasing and reviewing books, I’ve connected with a lot of great people and been able to work hard to support them, lift them up – create a positive environment. The world of athletics can be very hard and isolating. When my time ended there, I made sure to keep focusing on building people up!
DP: Yes, and you’ve certainly been successful there – we were certainly aware of Steve Stred before we actually started communicating! What books (or authors) have influenced you?
SS: I read a lot! As of writing this I’ve read 180 books this year haha! I don’t think anything I read influences me. I think I’ve developed my own writing voice and really just work hard to refine and get better all the time. I have a really solid team behind me – David Sodergren copy-edits, Mason McDonald does 90% of my covers and my sister Jodi typically reads my stuff first to let me know if it sucks – so they all help to keep me improving. From the authors I read, I look for how the person acts in the social media world. I’ve made some outstanding friends through this journey, all of whom are themselves world class writers.
DP: Is there a book / film which you’re looking forward to seeing / reading?
SS: Right now – Andrew Pyper’s next release! Pyper is my all-time fav author and through social media I’ve had the great fortune of even connecting with him. He’s indicated a new release next year so I’m down-right giddy. Otherwise – also looking forward to what David Sodergren, Andrew Cull & JH Moncrieff have in the pipeline!
DP: Again, some great names. Finally then Steve, what does ‘horror’ mean to you?
SS: Everything. An escape. Hurt, sorrow, fear, being unnerved, turning on the lights, bawling your eyes out after the author kills a character, not seeing stuff coming, watching an idea be implemented and then executed with joy and gusto. Horror, to me, is the glue that connects me to the best people in the world.
Thank you so much for your time Steve, all the best with your Short Sharp Shocks! you certainly deserve it.
Book 44 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series is Last Meal In Osaka (and other stories) by Gary Buller. It’s being published on the 30th November but is currently available for pre-sales. Prior to release Gary and Dean sat down to talk about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome Gary, let’s get straight down to it, can you tell your readers a little about yourself and how (or why) you became a writer.
GARY BULLER: Hi. I’d always been interested in writing since I was small, putting together very short horror stories for my parents and friends, but I didn’t start writing to submit until around 2016 when I was in my mid-thirties. It was a combination of the monotony of my old job plus the flow of creative juices.
DP: And your stories which make up Last Meal In Osaka?
GB: My chapbook collection is a combination of three short stories I wrote between 2016 and 2019. Last Meal in Osaka is a nasty little tale from 2016, Swashbuckle Cove, inspired by childhood visits to theme-parks, is from 2018 and Rise of the Chiggy-Pigs, about the fear of creepy-crawlies, is my latest story from 2019.
DP: You’re dead right about Osaka being nasty but we thoroughly enjoyed it here at Demain so well done. Who are your protagonists?
GB: We have three completely different protagonists in this collection, from the innocent all the way through to unexpectedly nasty. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end very well for any of them.
DP: Yes, that’s true isn’t it? Particularly in Chiggy-Pigs but I won’t say any more as I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone...I’m interested, did you have to do much research for your stories (or are you an expert in Japanese cuisine – if so, nice one!)?
GB: I had to do a little research for Last Meal in Osaka, particularly around Japanese food, but the other two stories are all about nostalgia and childhood memory. I think some of our deepest fears are rooted in childhood experiences.
DP: That’s true..so with that in mind, I suspect that some of the scenes were difficult to write?
GB: I had to dig deep with a couple of the stories, recalling how I felt when similar experiences happened to me. I wouldn’t say this is difficult, but it does bring back memories, not all of them pleasant.
DP: Creatively what would you say was your biggest success?
GB: My publication by the excellent Gallery of Curiosities (two stories) both led to my HWA membership and my first semi-pro sale. I am also very proud to have a story in Unnerving magazine (#5.) Eddie Generous runs a very tight ship, and it takes a special story to catch his eye, so I was delighted.
DP: Yes, I’ve heard that – well done on both. Which books / authors do you read and are they an influence do you think?
GB: I love the work of Joe Hill (20th Century Ghosts is a personal favourite) and his World Famous father. I am also a big fan of Adam Nevill and would recommend anyone read The Ritual. I find their stories original and inspirational. I hope one day to come close to emulating their success.
DP: We at Demain believe you will! So what does the word ‘horror’ mean to you?
GB: It is the psychological stuff frightens which me the most. I don’t think gore, jump scares or big monsters cut it alone. The tension has to build steadily and the payoff has to be worthwhile without being cheap. I think Pet Sematary by Stephen King is one of the most horrific things I have read, especially as a father of small children.
DP: Oh it is, isn’t it? I can really see that Mr King is an influence...so what up-coming horror book (or film) are you looking forward to?
GB: I would really like to see Doctor Sleep as a big fan of The Shining. The reviews are positive, which is pleasing. I haven’t read Full Throttle the new collection by Joe Hill yet, I am looking forward to that one and I recently purchased Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay. I read a short excerpt months ago on-line and pre-ordered straight away.
DP: Ah, cool, I’ll check that out, that sounds really interesting. Taking a step backward for a moment and the question about horror, what is Gary Buller afraid of and has it ever made its way into your work?
GB: I’m claustrophobic, so being buried alive is a biggie, as is a fear of unseen underwater creatures. I touch upon these in my story Amabie’s Pond (Gallows Hill Magazine) and also Swashbuckle Cove in this Demain collection. It likely comes from a time when I swam in a Florida lake only to be told there were alligators in there too.
DP: Ah, that reminds me of something that happened to me in Kenya...hang on, I need a lie down a moment ha ha...okay, I’m back. So, creatively, what would you like to achieve...
GB: I always said I would write a novella, should I receive an acceptance from a pro or semi-pro publication. This has come to pass, but I have yet to start.
DP: Ah – I know that pain my friend...so many commissions, so little time. Need to kick my own backside...so a couple of fun questions. Marvel or DC?
GB: Dark Horse all the way. This will be an unpopular opinion, but superheroes have never really done it for me. I think the whole idea of men and women running around with their pants on the outside of their clothing has been done to death.
DP: I hear you, I hear you. And finally then, please tell us something surprising about you.
GB: I like to participate in runs for charity and raise money for Manchester Children’s Hospital when I can. Recently I was lucky enough to run a half-marathon in South Korea. I am also an expert in 3D print.
Thank you so much Gary for your time. Best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
If you would like to connect with Gary direct: