DEMAIN welcomes author A.D. Barker to the family! April 8th sees the publication of his novella Society Place (cover by Adrian Baldwin). During February, Dean sat down with him to chat…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome, welcome. I know we’ve been trying to work together for a while so we were very happy that you considered DEMAIN as a home for Society Place. Let’s start with who you are and how (and why!) you became a writer.
A.D. BARKER: And I’m very happy to be here. I had a pretty poor education and left school not really knowing how to read and write, certainly not to the standard I should have been at at 16 anyway. It took me a long time to catch up after that. Most of my 20s really. Yet, I always had a head full of ideas, and it was incredibly frustrating that I had no real outlet for them. I couldn’t even get them down on the page, not really. But the drive was there and slowly, over a number of years, I taught myself how to read and write. And I wrote a lot. All of it terrible, but over the course of about a decade or more, I began to find my way and develop my own style.
I don’t know where it came from, and I’ve often thought it best not to analyse it too much, but a lot of it is to do with movies. I was obsessed with cinema when I was growing up and it’s been a lifelong love. Movies made me want to create, to do something with my life. They made me, and still make me, want to create. Moreover, writing has been a way for me to focus my life. I don’t feel right when I’m not writing.
DP: You and me both. So your background, did that influence you as a creator do you think?
ADB: I come from a working class family in Derby. My dad is a bricklayer and mum was home with me and my sister. I had a very happy childhood and I am filled with nostalgia for my past. I’ve always been a nostalgic person. I get nostalgic for times I didn’t even live in. The past and our relationship to it seems to be a theme that runs through my books. I’m drawn to writers and filmmakers who also have that yearning sense of nostalgia: Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, these artists have that pull of the past and I am very influenced by all three of them.
DP: Yes, I can definitely see the Spielberg influence actually in Society Place. I’m intrigued about your having nostalgic feelings for times you haven’t lived in. I’m a bit like that with Napoleonic France. It’s very odd. Actually saying that now whenever I’m in Paris (in particular) and I come across something ‘historical’ it does affect me. I remember finding the spot where Henri IV was assassinated in 1610 and I was overcome with emotion, very overwhelmed, quite odd but hey ho, it takes all sorts haha. So what was A.D. Barker’s first introduction to our wonderful ghost/horror genre?
ADB: My first introduction to the horror genre came from watching all the Universal monster movies at a very early age. They ran on BBC 2 in the 6pm slot and I devoured them. I was pretty young. Five or six maybe. I loved Lugosi in Dracula, but my favourite was The Wolf Man. I love all those films still, they're beautiful. They also showed a lot of 50s Sci-Fi in that slot, but that may have come later. I remember Invaders From Mars really scaring me. I wish they'd show stuff like that on TV now. They’re difficult to find on streaming services as well.
My mum and dad both like horror movies and encouraged my interest in monsters and ghosts. Dad tried to show me the original King Kong when I was very, very young, but that was too much for me. I made it up until Fay Wray was chained up and Kong was moving through the trees. That was it for me. Too scary. What a film that is.
They got me a copy of A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford, which was a seminal book for a lot of horror fans growing up in the 70s and 80s. I would look through that book for hours. I still have it.
DP: Us talking is making me nostalgic now. You just don’t get those films on tv nowadays do you? BBC2 used to be brilliant on a Friday night (I seem to remember) where they’d run the old horrors, the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes and series like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and (had to check this to get the title right) King Of The Rocket Men. When I was a kid I lived in Saudi for a while and there was a video shop we’d go to and there was no copyright over there so it was all ‘knock offs’ but there were so many US shows we didn’t get in the UK. Halcyon days for sure. The kids today are sure missing out! Anyway, anyway, Society Place…
ADB: Yes. Society Place is a ghost story about a young widower who moves into a very haunted house during the blistering English summer of 1976. I wanted to play around with the traditional set up of a ghost story and subvert it somewhat. I suppose if it has the flavour of any other author it would probably be James Herbert, but for me it’s a little different to my other books in that this is the first one to have a female protagonist, and the first not to feature the world of movies and movie-making as a backdrop. It is also my first horror novel, I suppose. The Electric was supernatural and Dead Leaves is about horror fandom, but neither were horror novels. This one has some creepy stuff in it, I think.
DP: It definitely does! When I read it the first time I really got the James Herbert vibe and it wouldn’t look out place next to him on the shelf. Because of the nostalgic aspect and because the setting seems very close to your heart (not saying it is, that’s just the way it comes across, there’s a real ‘love’ there) I guess you didn’t have to do much research?
ADB: Not too much, but the research I did was a lot of fun. Like what was on Saturday night telly August, 1976, and how hot it got that summer. I was one year old during that heatwave, so of course I can’t remember it, but my mum has told me about it many times. Especially about the ladybird invasion. Had to do a bit of research on that.
But mainly the book came together from a sense of place that I knew very well, as the street and the house are based very much on the house I grew up in until I was eight. Nostalgia again, you see.
DP: I love ladybirds. One time in Cannes I was sitting out on my terrace writing and I suddenly realised that the paper I was writing on, the table, the floor, the bushes were all covered in them. Beautiful! Um, so, did you find Society Place difficult to write?
ADB: Only in terms of finding the time to write. I began the book in 2017, wrote a couple of chapters and then got distracted by other projects and didn’t touch it again for about a year. And this happened again and again. It was just one that I kept coming back to, until I finally sat down and finished it during the first lockdown in the spring of 2020.
DP: The best projects take the longest time I find. There’s a screenplay which was so easy to write the first draft but I knew it wasn’t ready and for the past four/five years I’ve taken it from the shelf, tinkered with it, put it back. Another couple of years and I’m sure it will be ready. I was annoyed at first with the process but now I love returning to it every couple of months and changing a comma here or a full stop there haha. I ‘knew’ you before I knew you because of your novels (and your film work)- what would you say was your biggest creative success so far?
ADB: Hard to say. The Electric and Dead Leaves both did pretty well. Especially in terms of reaction they got from readers, but I’m still working on that big success that will enable me to get up every morning and create and get paid for it. I still have a day job. I think if you’re able to make a living from doing something creative in this day in age, I’d say that is a big success. Whether you’re earning millions or just enough to pay the bills. That’s success to me.
DP: Especially with everything that’s happened this past year or so. It’s been tough for a lot of industries but for us creatives I’d it’s been even tougher and a lot find themselves as part of the ‘excluded’. Hopefully we’ll start to see some movement come the summer and we can put some of this behind us…tell us about the books (or authors) you read and do they influence you?
ADB: Well the aforementioned Ray Bradbury and King are pretty high on the list, but there are many others. I like Paul Auster a lot, Magnus Mills, Bret Easton Ellis. I tend to find an author and read a lot of their work in quick succession and learn everything about them. Been on a Walter Tevis kick lately. Mockingbird is great. And Daphne du Maurier, been working through her work as well. I also love Dickens.
DP: Some AMAZING names. I’m a massive fan of BEE and actually recently ordered all his early books again as I love them. I met him once at a private event in London when he was doing a tour for his Imperial Bedrooms and he’s exactly what you expected – it was a very very funny night. When I personally get interviewed about my own writing I mention Clive Barker a lot as an influence which is 100% true but sometimes I forget how important BEE was too me. I was at university when a friend introduced me to his work and I was blown away. I know this next bit is going to sound pretentious, sorry, but after I graduated I used to spend a lot of time in Eton in this one particular pub and over a series of weekends (not that many actually, I think two months) one summer I wrote a novel which was heavily inspired by BEE. It was very dark, so dark actually that I put it in a box and it’s in my storage unit. I was really happy that I wrote it though and maybe one day I’ll go and retrieve it and see if it’s any good. Lordy, I’m getting nostalgic now! Okay, moving on! What does horror mean to A.D Barker?
ADB: My book Dead Leaves is all about my deep love of the horror genre. That one is set during the video nasty era of the early 80s and is about a group of horror fans and their search for the notorious “nasty” The Evil Dead. There’s a lot of books and films about music and how a passion for a certain band or artist drives a group of individuals to form their own band, but I found there was nothing about how being a horror fan makes you want to create your own horror films or write your own horror novels. The drive and desire that springs from loving something so much is a universal one and applies to anything. Anything you are inspired by that makes you want to create your own art. Horror, both films and books, made me want to create my own art. Romero films made me want to make my own films and Stephen King books made me want to write my own books. That’s how much it means to me.
DP: With that in mind then, what do you think draws readers into the horror genre? What are readers looking for in ghost stories?
ADB: Ghost stories are about atmosphere. They are about tone and style over a driving narrative. Most ghost stories, particularly really good ones, are not heavy on plot. In many ways ghost stories are very internal. Less is often more in a ghost story. I think readers want a real sense of place and time, and a creeping dread running beneath the ordinary and mundane.
Horror has a far wider remit than that. Horror is a genre of extremes and audiences and readers embrace that.
DP: That’s very cool actually. I’m directing a ghost story feature film as soon as the restrictions are lifted and I think the cast will find that useful. Cheers! So it’s been a tough 2020 / early 2021 – so much has changed and nothing will ever be the same again. It’s been a massive shift. Do you think our genre is affected by world events?
ADB: Horror is definitely a genre that reflects its times. Vietnam hung heavy over those 70s films made by the likes of Romero, Craven, and Hooper, and you could say Jordan Peele and Ari Aster are reflecting these times. I’m not sure I have done it myself, although the politics surrounding the video nasty craze and the general state of the country in the early 80s certainly hangs over Dead Leaves. I haven’t written a contemporary novel yet, although there are parts of Society Place set in 2019. I kind of write to escape from modern life to be honest.
DP: There’s nothing with that. I’m working with another writer on a period piece but what’s crazy is that though we were both clear it has nothing to do with the times we find ourselves in, it seems it is even though it’s set 200 years ago. Very weird. Okay, is there a horror book (or film) soon to be released that you’re looking forward to?
ADB: In terms of horror I’m not sure. I’m looking forward to Last Night in Soho and I’m interested to see Army of the Dead. Axelle Carolyn’s The Manor and a couple of others. I’m interested to see what Robert Eggers does next, and David Lowery. As for books I’ll be reading The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix and whatever Stephen Volk has coming out next.
DP: And is there any new name (in books or films) that interests you?
ADB: In terms of the horror genre, I’m into a new horror author named David Irons, who writes very 80s-flavoured horror. His books are like the straight to video horror fun from that decade. But my current interest is an old, classic author, Ira Levin. He’s my next kick. I’m not very current.
DP: Very cool! Mr Levin has certainly written several influential novels hasn’t he? Probably because of the pandemic, when life has been scary enough, it’s been reported that the horror genre is dead, what would you say to that?
ADB: Rubbish. Dark times always spawns great horror and when we look back to the films that have come out in the past five or so years, from Get Out to Hereditary to The Ritual to Lights Out to Host, I think we’ll see how rich it’s been. Horror novels are big business again as well, with writers like Paul Tremblay and Josh Malerman hitting the bestseller lists. And streamers like Shudder are producing fantastic original content. I think there’s a lot more great stuff to come. Audiences and readers want the catharsis, because watching and reading horror is a catharsis act. Always has been and always will be.
DP: I think you’re right. Watch this space, hey?! What is A.D.Barker scared of then.
ADB: Well I have kids now so everything scares me. Once you have kids it’s all over, man. The world is terrible and scary and beautiful and amazing. There’s a scene in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin where a man drowns leaving his baby alone on a beach, and the alien, Scarlett Johansson, just walks away, leaving the kid. Well, before kids that scene probably would have washed over me, but I watched it just after my first daughter was born and it destroyed me. I still think about that scene. It wrecked me.
DP: Creatively is there something you’d like to do but you haven’t quite managed yet?
ADB: I want to write and direct another feature film. A Reckoning was so low budget and so DIY that it was more like a long student film. I’d really like to make something on a more professional level. I’d also like to work as a screenwriter for hire and work for other directors.
On the novel side, I want to write my grand epic. I want to write something big and sweeping and I hope to be in a position to be able to do that someday.
DP: The best of luck, so writing is a long term career for you?
ADB: Whether I make any money or not, whether I have ten readers or a hundred readers or a thousand readers, I’m in it for the long term. I’ll always write. It’s something I have to do.
It definitely is. And we’re richer for it.
Mr Barker, thank you so much for your time. I enjoyed that immensely and I know readers will love Society Place.
If you’d like to connect with A.D. Barker direct:
(Photo of A.D. Barker by Lee Allen)
On the 31st March we welcome Reyna Young to DEMAIN with her horror novella, Welcome Home Natalie (cover by Adrian Baldwin; available now for pre-sales). As the lockdowns both sides of the Atlantic were in full swing, Dean and Reyna found time to chat…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome, welcome Reyna! Hope you’re well and safe. We will talk more specifically about Welcome Home Natalie in a short while but for those that don’t know you can you tell us a little about yourself…
REYNA YOUNG: Hello, I’m happy to be here of course and okay, sure. I was born and raised in San Francisco; I run Last Doorway Productions, an indie film company. I’m also late night Horror Host ‘Miss Misery’ of the popular syndicated show Movie Massacre. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. I was obsessed with Goosebumps, Edgar Allan Poe, Scary stories to tell in the dark, and whatever horror books I could get my hands on. I started writing my own short horror stories at a young age and as I grew and read more I knew it was what I wanted to do. I love to tell stories.
DP: That’s brilliant, so many strings to your bow. Well done. So, Welcome Home Natalie…
RY: The story is set in a small town where a girl who ran away from home, comes back to deal with her mother’s death. Haunted by her past she faces what she left behind and the ugly truth of why her father left her so long ago.
DP: Powerful stuff. In writing the novella did you have to do much research?
RY: I found myself re-reading my favourite ghost stories before writing mine, I find reading others works inspires me.
DP: Me too – I have a couple of novels lying around which I go to if I’m not finding my own words flowing and a few paras in I find I’ve switched off from my own writing enough to find the inspiration needed to go back to it later and hopefully continue – that’s the theory anyway ha ha. Did you find Welcome Home Natalie difficult to write at all?
RY: Since this particular story began as a dream I had, I found myself kind of floating through it, I wrote it down after having it sit in my mind for a few weeks. I wrote down pieces of the story from my dream, did some reading and then finally sat down to write it out. I find everything I do to be a challenge, I do my best not to feel or think something is difficult in fear I’ll never get it done.
DP: Yes, the problem with ‘over-thinking’ hey…affects us all from time to time. Creatively then what is your biggest success.
RY: It’s hard to say, I have had so many creative successes it’s hard to choose. I have a successful syndicated television show; I have four films in worldwide distribution. I’m also a published author; I find everything I do to be a big success. Not to sound conceited; I’m proud of everything I‘ve done as anyone should.
DP: Exactly and why not…you touched before on your influences…
RY: I still read Goosebumps; I love R L Stine books. Stephen King, Caroline Kepnes, Joe Hill, Fred Wiehe. Everything I read influences me. I can read Shirley Jackson over and over again and never get tired of her.
DP: Some great names there…a very broad church of horror writers actually…what does ‘horror’ mean to you?
RY: It’s the thrill of being scared and loving every second of it. That spine tingling sensation that draws up your back scaring and exciting you all at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with jumping from a scare in a film or reading it in a book that puts a smile on your face after.
DP: Nice! Is there a horror book or film coming up (and appreciate that due to the current pandemic everything’s a bit up in the air on that front) that you’re particularly looking forward to?
RY: I was looking forward to the next Ghostbusters film or Halloween but that is now on hold due to the pandemic as you say so I’ll just have to wait a little longer. I have not bought Stephen King’s new If It Bleeds book yet, I’m looking forward to reading that.
DP: Cool, cool. So, is there anything Reyna Young is frightened of?
RY: Honestly; Home invasion films scare me, I have not written anything like that yet, I’m sure I will down the road but for now I haven’t thought about writing one. They scare the crap out of me because it’s something I’ve feared since I was little, to have your home that you feel so comfortable in to be invaded, especially now that I have a child. Having an intruder or intruders take over your happy home scares me.
DP: I know where you’re coming from on that score…creatively you’ve achieved a lot (again, well done) but is there anything you’re yet to do which you really want…
RY: Ah, good question. Good question. To be honest, I would like to publish a romance novel. Don’t laugh.
DP: I wouldn’t dare…and why not a romance novel, I’d read it. So these lockdowns, what’s your routine been like?
RY: Honestly; just less going out. I work from home and take care of our little one and work on running the film company and working on my projects. Kind of nothing new to me; I think the one thing I freaked out the most about was not having the option of going out which is weird. I feel bad I can’t take my son out to the park, things like that but luckily we have a back yard and I ordered him a slide and some yard toys for him to play with.
DP: Brilliant and finally Reyna, what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
RY: After I finish writing a short story of novel I like to drink a tall glass of Ovaltine to reward myself. Hahaha.
LOVE IT! Thank you so much for your time Reyna, stay well and safe. The best of luck with Welcome Home Natalie which will be out as an ebook from March 31st.
If you’d like to connect with Reyna direct:
February 28th sees the publication of TR Hitchman’s horror novella Little Bird (with a cover by Adrian Baldwin and currently available for pre-sales). Just after the New Year, Dean and the author sat down to discuss it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello and welcome to DEMAIN! It’s great to have you here and hope 2021 isn’t treating you too badly (all things considering). I appreciate (especially nowadays) that time is precious, so let’s get straight down to it: who exactly is TR Hitchman and why did they want to be a writer.
TR HITCHMAN: Hello! I initially wanted to be an illustrator, but have always loved reading so began to write short stories that I hoped to illustrate, the writing took over though and I found myself writing more and illustrating less!
DP: And did your background have some influence on you as a writer?
TRH: My dad is a great reader and loved ghost stories, so his reading choices influenced me a lot, I remember him talking about Borley Rectory and the ghost hunter Harry Price, we often watched Hammer House of Horror and I loved Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected and his stories influenced me today – love a story with a dark twist.
DP: Ah, I love Tales Of The Unexpected! What were your other introductions to the horror genre?
TRH: Mainly ghost stories, MR James, HG Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, Walter De La Mare, really stuff on my dad’s bookshelf, also a child of the eighties so Hammer House of Horror!
DP: Some great names there for sure. Let’s talk about your novella…Little Bird…
TRH: It’s primarily a ghost story. I am intrigued about certain places, especially where something horrific has happened, Auschwitz is such a place that has a horrific past and I have also wondered what lost souls may remain there. It’s a story about loss too, a daughter’s relationship with her father, a father’s loss of a daughter, the children that lost their innocence in those camps.
DP: Indeed…did you have to do much research when writing?
TRH: Most of my stories I tend to set in modern day or at least somewhere in my life time. Sometimes if you want to set a story in a particular place it’s good to get a feel for the area etc – Google comes in handy! With Little Bird I had to do a little research, I haven’t visited a camp myself, so I read a lot online, looked at photographs and read some articles from people who had visited them, even watched an online tour.
DP: I suspect you found some very harrowing stuff…did that impact the writing of the novella – did you find it difficult to write?
TRH: I find all writing difficult, the first draft always is! Some ideas come easy than others. Little Bird, I had an idea of the story how the story was going to end so that always helps.
DP: Yes, it does! Okay so what is TR Hitchman’s biggest creative success to date?
TRH: In 2016 I had a short story collection called Child of Winter published with Corona Books.
DP: Brilliant! Can you tell us about the books (and / or authors) you read and whether they influence your writing?
TRH: I read a whole host of fiction, not all ‘horror’ but the stuff I enjoy has a dark edge, a favourite author is John Ajvide Lindqvist, there is something strange and beautifully disturbing about his writing, I love Shirley Jackson’s short stories, most recently I’ve enjoyed Adam Nevill. Of course Stephen King – he’s an excellent story teller. I’ll mention Roald Dahl – I recently reread his short stories and his dark twists certainly inspire my work.
DP: I’m a great fan of Let The Right One – the book and the movie versions and of course Adam Nevill is a writer at the top of his game. Horror is a very broad church, what does it mean to you…
TRH: It’s that feeling that something isn’t quite right, the slow creeping fear that builds slowly, when you say to yourself “I don’t like this…” For me it’s a form of escapism, strange though that sounds.
DP: No, I think that’s perfect and many a time I’ve escaped into horror…do you think that is what draws readers into the genre?
TRH: I think people like to feel fear, it makes you feel alive, it wakens something inside that in our otherwise ‘comfortable world’ we don’t experience, it’s a form of escapism. I think readers like that feeling of unease.
DP: They do! So, we’re going through some tough times right now but perhaps by the end of the year things might have returned to ‘normal’ (of course, whatever normal is) – do you think the genre is affected by world events?
TRH: It can do, I often get inspiration from news articles, most recently I wrote a flash fiction piece inspired by the recent pandemic. We seem to be living in a disaster/horror movie at the moment!
DP: We do don’t we, BUT perhaps it is providing a lot of inspiration to us creatives…is there a horror novel / film that you’re looking forward to reading / seeing?
TRH: I’m always on the lookout for writers I’ve never read before, I often discover writers that have been out there for a while but are new to me! No one specific in mind, but the internet always is opening up new doors for me!
DP: It’s great for that isn’t it…is there a new writer (or director) that interests you right now?
TRH: I know he’s not new – but the films of Ben Wheatley intrigue me. I love the films of Guillermo del Toro…
DP: Two great directors there…there have been numerous reports of late that the horror genre is dead, would you agree?
TRH: We go through phases I think, vampires were big a few years back, people like to be scared, we just change what scares us….
DP: Fair enough…what is TR Hitchman frightened of?
TRH: I have anxiety, so there’s a long list, life is scary! Death is a thing that frightens me and yes, it’s in a lot of my writing.
DP: I’m with you on that one – particularly as you get older. During this whole pandemic it’s like one day blurs into another and your life flashes before your eyes…before you know it…okay, let’s stop there. Is there something creatively you haven’t been able to do yet?
TRH: I would like to write a script for a film – something short and creepy!
DP: So writing for you is a long term career?
TRH: Definitely long term!
DP: Cool. So these lockdowns…
TRH: The first one I struggled – I found the anxiety of it just squashed any creativity! This time around I’ve tried to be proactive, I work full time anyway so have to fit my writing around that. I’ve started a book review blog and working on a novella, so keeping myself busy!
DP: That’s the way forward I think. Outside of the pandemic Do you interact a lot with your readers?
TRH: I don’t have that much experience but I did do a launch with my collection and it was lovely to talk to potential readers but I’m not that famous yet!
DP: And finally, what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
TRH: I have a sense of humour – I’m quite funny in real life and not very dark and serious as my writing may suggest.
I bet you do!
Thank you for your time, the best of luck with Little Bird!
If you’d like to connect with TR Hitchman direct:
Book Review Blog: www.tanyastratford1.wixsite.com/treads
January 29th also sees the publication of Yolanda Sfetsos’ The Wired City which is Book 2 in our new Weird. Wonderful. Other Worlds’ series. The cover is by Adrian Baldwin. Over the Christmas / New Year period Dean and Yolanda (who also has Short Sharp Shocks! AND Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! Books under their belt) sat down and talked about this new story.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Happy new year Yolanda! Welcome to the new series…for those that don’t know you (yet!) can you tell us about yourself…
YOLANDA SFETSOS: Hello! Great to be back and yes, happy new year to you too. Well, I live in Sydney, Australia and spend a lot of my day lost in fictional worlds. Sometimes they’re mine, other times they’re not, but I love to lose myself in stories. It’s the reason I became a writer. There was nothing else I could do, not when ideas started turning up inside my head when I was a kid, and the characters wouldn’t be quiet until I told their story. Being a writer has always been a part of who I am.
DP: Me too! What was your first introduction to the fantasy / sci-fi / weird genre?
YS: Like most people my age, Star Wars was one of my earliest introductions to sci-fi/fantasy. I was a little kid when Episode IV came out and can still remember how amazing it was to experience this movie. After that, anything that came along featuring robots, space and an interesting but weird ensemble of characters caught my attention.
DP: Definitely, I’m definitely a Star Wars guy 100% but also love Star Trek and I’d love to write something in that universe one day, I’ve got a couple of ideas for novels, I also wrote a spec episode of The Next Generation when I was a kid which is in a drawer somewhere but a film, that’d be the ultimate…anyway, anyway, tell us about your novella…
YS: The Wired City is a story about a bored android who wants to live a better and more exciting life. When she stumbles on a mysterious classifieds message, her life gets a huge boost of adventure. A LOT more than she ever imagined. This is a story that I’ve wanted to tell for a while, but it didn’t come together until last year. One night, I was wondering if I should trunk the idea, when suddenly—Tolliver decided to speak up and tell me all about her adventure. After that, the story came together very quickly and I really enjoyed writing it.
DP: And we enjoyed reading it so well done. Did you have to do a lot of research before writing?
YS: Most of my research for this one was about mechanical brains, androids, cyborgs and Mars. I did all of this online. The internet can be a very helpful creature sometimes. Besides, I’ve been doing robot research for years.
DP: Ah, then I guess you didn’t find the story particularly difficult to write?
YS: Not really because I LOVE robot stories and have always wanted to tell one of my own. This is my love letter to a genre I’ve enjoyed and have found fascinating since I was a kid.
DP: What would you say is your biggest creative success to date?
YS: My biggest, personal success is having the ability to write. Telling stories is one of my favourite things to do and I feel very fortunate to be able to do it.
DP: And you do it very well – which has been proven by the great reviews you’ve received for your DEMAIN titles…with regards to the WWW! series – what does ‘weird’ mean to you?
YS: To me, ‘weird’ is pretty much anything that isn’t considered mainstream. It’s a label that people put on something they don’t understand. I find most of what’s considered to be weird to be very interesting and even beautiful in its own very unique way.
DP: That’s great and I’m with you on that. Creatively is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t yet achieved?
YS: I would love to write a cosy mystery one day. One featuring an amateur sleuth who loves tea, books and cats. Ideally, I would like to keep the supernatural out of this story…but I know that’s an almost impossible thing for me to achieve. LOL.
DP: Haha – I know what you mean, there’s so many stories I start writing which are meant to be ‘calm’ but by the time I’ve finished them they’ve become a very very different beast. I’m guessing writing isn’t a short term career for you?
YS: Always a long-term thing for me. I can’t imagine not writing. I mean, where would all of these ideas trying to burst out of my head go? 😊
DP: True, true…trying not to end on a depressing note, how are you handling all the covid restrictions / lockdowns?
YS: I can’t believe it’s 2021 and we’re still in the middle of this Covid-19 nightmare. I’m a homebody, so the lockdown hasn’t been that much of a problem. As long as I get to go out for a daily walk, I can handle spending the rest of my days inside writing, reading, watching, and hanging around with my husband and cat.
Great to speak to you again Yolanda…all the best with The Wired City.
If you’d like to connect with Yolanda direct:
On the 29th January DEMAIN will be releasing the first two books in a new series called: Weird. Wonderful. Other Worlds. The first title is The Raven King by Liz Tuckwell who is already part of the DEMAIN family with two Short Sharp Shocks! to her name. The covers and general branding for the series is by Adrian Baldwin. A couple of days into the new year Dean and Liz spoke about this new book and exciting venture.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Happy New Year Liz! Welcome back to DEMAIN and congrats to you – kicking off the new WWW! series in style. For those that don’t yet know the Weird. Wonderful. Other Worlds. titles will have a very broad brief covering a bit of fantasy, a bit of sci-fi, a bit of weird…more on that as we talk, let’s first remind our readers a little about yourself and why you became a writer.
LIZ TUCKWELL: Happy New Year! Yes, I’m Liz Tuckwell, I’ve only started writing seriously since 2011. I’ve always been interested in writing and wrote a very bad children’s novel when I was thirteen. English was my best subject at school. But life and work took over for a long time and I stopped writing. Then in 2011, I went to a seminar where the speaker was talking about doing what you loved. In her case, it led her to starting a smoked kipper business (each to their own). That had a big impact on me – what did I really want to do? The answer - of course - was write, so I started writing again and attended writing courses. I went part time at work then which helped to get me started again. I do regret getting distracted and giving up writing but tell myself the old cliché – better late than never!
DP: Dead right. What’s your background Liz and has that influenced you as a writer?
LT: I grew up in South East London/North West Kent, so I think London has had a big influence on me plus having airport and ports close by to fly away to other countries. I realised that London wasn’t the centre of the universe when I studied for my degree in Manchester. I’m very much a city person. My feeling about the countryside is that “it’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there”. That’s why urban fantasy is one of my favourite sub genres. I actually did my dissertation on science fiction, it was called “Images of Women in Science Fiction” and featured Ursula K Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.
DP: Really? I never knew that, I’d love to read it…mine was about the Salem Witches and I’ve always wanted to revisit it and completely rewrite the conclusion…anyway, so your first introduction to the fantasy…
LT:…fantasy/sci fi genre was through my dad who liked to read science fiction. I read the books he had lying around. These were mainly what you’d call classic science fiction, I suppose, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov etc. I remember going to the adult library to pick out books for him. Librarians were more relaxed in those days about children going into the adult sections. So, I got to know the science fiction shelves of my local library very well. There used to be a Woolworths near the library that had a stall full of remaindered paperbacks from the USA. I was first introduced to Fritz Leiber’s Gray Mouser and Fafhrd and other sword and sorcery authors through those and some other great SF novels such as the Greenwich Village Trilogy.
DP: That’s amazing – I need to check those books out as I’ve definitely not read any Leiber before…and your WWW! Book, The Raven King, let’s talk about that…
LT: It’s the second story I’ve written about [characters] DI Lis Liszt and DC Jaz Sharma although it’s the story of how DI Lis Liszt and DC Jaz Sharma met and the start of the Supernatural Crimes Squad. The first story was called A Dead Mermaid on Eel Pie Island and appears in the MCSI: Magical Crime Scene Investigations anthology. It’s set in a world a few years after the ‘Great Unveiling’. This was when supernatural creatures revealed themselves to the world after centuries of hiding. The world is still getting used to the fact that they and magic really do exist. I thought that the Tower of London would make a great setting for a story and once I learnt more about the ravens, well, they had to be in it as well. The ravens disappear from the Tower of London and the fledgling Supernatural Crimes Squad has to work out what is going on and who is behind this.
DP: Yes I think that was a particularly clever angle…I’ll have to check out the first story (as I’m sure a lot of your readers will once they’ve read The Raven King). Did you have to do much research before writing?
LT: I had to do a fair amount of research. I researched the ravens, Welsh mythology, Welsh, and the Tower of London. Ravens are amazing creatures. I hadn’t realised that they really can talk. Google is my best friend for finding useful and interesting websites. I visited the Tower of London to get a feel for the layout, the buildings and the sense of the place. Looking at maps was not enough. It’s a fascinating palace (and it is a palace not just a fortress as I learnt during my research). There was a documentary series about the Tower on TV at the time, which I watched purely for research purposes of course. Luckily, the ravens featured a lot in the programmes.
DP: I will admit that there is a plot line / character in your story which has affected me profoundly since I read it about a certain period of history I’m really into and I’ve been thinking about it a lot now – I won’t say what as I don’t want to ruin it for anybody else but I’ve made a connection between two points / episodes in history which as far as I know have never been linked before so I’m going to do some more research on that…thank you very much! Um, anyway, did you find The Raven King particularly difficult to write?
LT: I found it difficult to write as it’s a prequel and I was trying to keep it as realistic as possible while being a fantasy story. I found a prequel much harder to write than starting from scratch because you have to make sure that you don’t contradict what you’ve already written and there aren’t any discrepancies. I regretted a couple of the decisions I’d made in the first story but too late now! It’s very tempting to stop and spend ages looking up a query rather than getting on with the story.
DP: That’s so true! Can you tell us about books / authors who influence you?
LT: I love Ben Aaronvitch’s Rivers of London series, that’s obviously been an influence on this novella. His sense of place and the interesting characters he creates is inspirational. I also like Charlaine Harris, China Mieville and Jasper Fforde. Charlaine Harris was one of the earlier writers about vampires and I loved her take on them. I think China Mieville’s The City and the City is a great book about the amazing capacity of human beings to see what they want to see. Jasper Fforde has such a fantastic imagination and he makes the impossible seem plausible and logical especially in his later novels such Shades of Grey (I bet he wishes he’d chosen a different title for that one), Early Rising and The Constant Rabbit.
DP: I wonder how many customers have picked up Jasper’s Grey rather than the slightly more famous one and then got to the end and thought “hang on, what the hell is this?!” ha ha…do you have a favourite ‘weird’ author / book / film?
LT: I’m not sure that I do. I really like China Mieville as I mentioned before. I read the ‘classics’ by H P Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith when I was younger. Some of the authors I like who can be considered ‘weird’ are Neil Gaiman, Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, and Tanith Lee. One author who’s not normally associated with ‘weird’ is Daphne Du Maurier but I think her story, The Birds, is brilliant and memorable, and much better than Hitchcock’s film.
DP: That’s a great call. It is a cracking story and I’ll have to find some time to read that again. What does ‘weird’ mean to you?
LT: To me, ‘weird’ means old weird like H P Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith although I realise there’s a lot more variety in weird fiction than that. China Mieville described it as ‘tentacle fiction’ which does sum it up for me. It’s a crossover between horror and fantasy with a dash of science fiction. I think it’s fair to say that some horror fantasy is also weird fiction but not all weird fiction is horror fantasy. One sub-genre of ‘weird’ fiction I like very much is occult detective. I love the nineteenth century occult detective stories and modern ones like Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files and Randal Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories. I especially like the Lord Darcy ones because they’re also alternate history. I think my Lis and Jaz stories fit into that although I haven’t written a story involving tentacles yet.
DP: Personally I’m not into alternate history too much but a few years ago I did read and enjoy a great deal Richard Dreyfuss / Harry Turtledove’s The Two Georges and when I moved to France a friend gave me a book by Ben Elton called Time And Time Again which really captivated me and had a cracking twist…what do you think draws readers into the genre…are they looking for something specific?
LT: I think readers are looking for stories about non-traditional monsters in a universe where the protagonists are pretty insignificant and sometimes powerless against malign creatures and forces they don’t understand. That’s certainly a mood for our current times. I feel there’s a surfeit of vampires, werewolves and zombies at the moment, so to have other monsters is refreshing.
That’s so true Liz!
Thanks a million for your time.
The best of luck with your WWW! And congrats again for being the author to launch the series.
If you would like to connect with Liz direct:
January 29th sees the publication of Dave Jeffery’s Cathedral (cover by Adrian Baldwin; central art piece by Roberto Segate). As Lockdown 3 was about to hit, Dave and Dave sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to speak to you again Dave, glad that you’re well and safe. We’re here to talk about Cathedral…the story is set in the same universe as your previous (and critically acclaimed) A Quiet Apocalypse – is it a sequel?
DAVE JEFFERY: Hi Dean, great to speak to you too. To answer your question, no there are no characters from A Quiet Apocalypse featuring in Cathedral. This is one of the things I enjoy about this particular universe, the ability to have stories that could be happening at the same time as each other, just like real life, is liberating as a writer. There are references to places and certain events that link the books, but its chronology is deliberately ambiguous.
DP: It’s a very expanding / expansive universe and quite honestly thousands of different stories could be told. Congratulations on what you’ve created. I suppose for those that haven’t yet read A Quiet Apocalypse can you tell us a little about it?
DJ: Sure. A Quiet Apocalypse is set in the aftermath of a pandemic. A mutant strain of meningitis (MNG-U) has killed most of the world’s population and left the majority of survivors with profound deafness. There are a few hearing survivors, and they are hunted as a commodity for those affected. The story is told from the perspective of Chris, a hearing survivor enslaved by Crowley - a deafened farmer. It explores the brutality of slavery and the fears associated with both physical and psychological trauma. It is a very dark story and I’ve been stunned by reader response, with many reviewers likening its emotional impact to that of seminal greats like The Road and I Am Legend.
DP: You thoroughly deserved the plaudits Dave, it’s a great story with really believable three dimensional characters and I don’t believe I’ve read one bad review – so well done! In Cathedral who are your characters?
DJ: In keeping with the first book, the narrative is told in first person, this time from the perspective of Sarah, a citizen of Cathedral. Like all citizens, she has been deafened and quietly continues to mourn the loss of her family and best friend. Sarah is compliant and generally accepting of the ritualistic -and often brutal - laws of Cathedral but is left with a sense that she is missing something in her life. Her best friend, Alice, holds what is known as a High Role and is a proponent of Cathedral’s ethos. Conflict arises when Sarah falls in love with Paul, a man who has been rescued from the wilderness. As relationships form part of a quota system, Sarah must share the man she loves with others for the betterment of the whole community. The book explores Sarah’s battle to keep both her lover and her place in Cathedral, and the results of this conflicting scenario.
DP: Thank you – now, without giving any spoilers away (I know this one might be difficult though I am genuinely interested) – somebody called Abraham Maslow features heavily in Cathedral. He’s a real person right?
DJ: Yes. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who created a theoretical framework based on chronologically meeting human need. At the bottom of a five-tier pyramid is physiological needs such as food, water, warmth etc, and at the apex is the concept of self-actualisation, or the ability for an individual to achieve their full potential. In order to progress, Maslow theorised that a person must have each need met in his proposed hierarchy. Of course, for the purposes of Cathedral’s version (or Maslow’s Law as it is known in the city), the top two tiers that foster individuality are removed for the betterment of the whole community. The resulting trapezium shape this creates is a symbol of order in Cathedral and features on the city flag, and the doorways of the arboretum are fashioned in such a shape as a reminder to all that they are always under the influence of its doctrine. This removal of individual achievement ultimately creates an intriguing conflict between protagonist and the world they inhabit.
DP: I honestly haven’t found many horror authors who have gone to this level of detail in their stories Dave and this is why I and everybody else love what you have created with the A Quiet Apocalypse universe…I’m assuming that a lot of research was required?
DJ: As with A Quiet Apocalypse, I drew upon my existing knowledge as a mental health professional to explore Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the adaptation of it to meet the skewed ethos of Cathedral. It was an odd thing to pick apart such a well-established and lauded framework so that it became something at odds with the original ethic established by Maslow. However, the more I worked on it, the more right it felt for the story. There was no going back once I started.
DP: I bet – so did you find any of the scenes particularly difficult to write?
DJ: Well, there were a few scenes that had me wincing, one even had me questioning whether I should edit it out because it was too barbaric. There are several bleak core concepts in the origins of Cathedral as a city and the ethos it has adopted. One of the overarching issues is a universal (yet unfounded) belief that people from the Deaf Community were carriers of the original disease and are therefore branded Harbingers. If harbingers are captured, then they are brought back to the city where they are ritualistically killed in a ceremony known as Retribution, a cathartic outpouring of hate that is inflicted upon the poor soul who is caught. The scene is pretty nasty but I feel there is counterweight when we look at Sarah’s rationalisation of events and the impact this has on Paul.
DP: Considering the times we now find ourselves in and though you began writing Cathedral before the Covid pandemic do you think what you are creating in your universe can be seen as a metaphor for the virus / current landscape?
DJ: I think any book written during such a time is bound to become a product of events. Cathedral (and A Quiet Apocalypse for that matter) try to be as realistic as possible in terms of human interaction and response to adversity. Cathedral explores how this is done on a grander scale, a city with radical policies to prevent a return to the chaos that is the immediate aftermath of World’s End. But like many human endeavours, the cure can sometimes be as harmful as the disease.
DP: Too true…so what next for the A Quiet Apocalypse universe?
DJ: The Samaritan, the third book, is already written and will hopefully be released later in 2021, if not early next year. Again, this will be a first-person narrative from one of Cathedral’s search units who becomes trapped in the wilderness beyond the city walls. Of all the books, this is possibly the darkest in terms of content.
DP: That sounds exciting…do you think that there might be further stories?
DJ: Okay…there is also another, super-secret project that is also greenlit for late 2021 that may well feature a story set in Cathedral, certainly an origin tale, but at the moment I’m not at liberty to give out any more information than that, sorry!
DP: Ah, spoilers! Love it…finally then, 2020 was a very tough year for most, how did you handle it and did it affect your creative work?
DJ: I was fortunate in that I’d literally only just retired in February 2020 and had a long ‘to-do’ list for the year, particularly around writing projects. I also have two young adults in the house who needed my support, so in all, I have been lucky in that my focus was predetermined. However, I am aware that not everyone has been so lucky, and my heart goes out to all those affected by this terrible disease.
Dave, thank you for your time and all the best of luck with Cathedral. You honestly deserve it.
Cathedral is released on the 29th January but is currently available for pre-sales.
If you would like to connect with Dave Jeffery direct:
Facebook: Dave Jeffery Writer
December 31st sees the publication of Dan Weatherer’s novella Cheslyn Myre (cover by Adrian Baldwin) – currently available for presales. Dan is no stranger to DEMAIN with a contribution to the Short Sharp Shocks! series (Unnecessary Evil & Sick Girl – cover by Adrian Baldwin) and his recent release The Underclass (cover by Adrian Baldwin, central art piece by Roberto Segate). Dean and Dan recently talked all things Cheslyn Myre…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to speak to you again Dan, let’s get straight down to it, is Chesyln Myre based on a real town?
DAN WEATHERER: Yes, Cheslyn Myre is based on the town I grew up in. Many of the places mentioned are real, with slight name tweaks here and there. The Air Ministry was also real. I say was, because it was decommissioned. I think it’s a private residence these days.
DP: Reading your book brought back a memory of somewhere I lived in Kent when I was very young, there was some military ground nearby where we were ‘allowed’ to play. In the ground there were these metal doors which led to an underground chamber of some kind…I remember going into one once, I must have only been six, seven, something like that…scary but great fun ha ha. Anyway…did you find Cheslyn Myre difficult to write?
DW: No, because this book is probably the closest work to resembling my childhood of all. It seems fitting that my writing career looks to be ending with this release, if only for now.
DP: Indeed. When you create Dan do you challenge yourself or give your readers more of the ‘same’?
DW: I think a quick glance through my back catalogue will show that I don’t have a set style of writing. I like to keep things fresh, as much for me as my readers. I like to challenge myself to different styles, perspectives, even media. I’m happy with what I’ve produced.
DP: And we’re happy to work with you! Do you want each of your releases to stand on their own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each title?
DW: There are some, subtle ties between books and stories of mine. Some take place in the same universe. Others visit the same locations, albeit at a different time. I like to leave details for my readers to come across. They aren’t integral to the story, but I see them as little rewards for my more dedicated readers.
DP: That’s brilliant. Dan, what does horror mean to you?
DW: It used to be my outlet – my way of processing the world and its demons. These days I’m not close to the genre. I think 2020 has forced great struggles on a lot of people, and while some find respite in horror fiction, I tend to find myself searching for lighter relief. While I was suited to the darker realms of thought and creativity, I no longer feel that is the case. Perhaps this book sees the end of that particular chapter – as I mentioned, Cheslyn Myre contains chunks of my childhood within its pages. Releasing it into the world is my way of letting it go.
DP: That’s interesting and I don’t think you’re alone actually – it’s been a tough year all around hasn’t it – I wonder if as you say this will be your last ‘horror’ book? I think a lot of the more darker creators might end up expressing themselves in a different way moving forward just because 2021 has been so dark in so many different ways…on that depressing note, final question Dan: Do you interact a lot with your readers? If so, how / why? Any funny stories to tell?
DW: I don’t. I’m quite reclusive. I used to when I was starting out as a writer, but these days I prefer a quieter life!
Great chatting to you again Dan, all the best with Cheslyn Myre and here’s to a much better / brighter 2021.
If you’d like to connect with Dan direct:
Short Sharp Shocks! 67 released on the 31st December is A.S. MacKenzie’s Unwelcome Space. The cover is by Adrian Baldwin. It’s currently available for pre-sales. A couple of weeks before publication Dean and A.S. MacKenzie sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome to DEMAIN! It’s a pleasure to have you as part of the SSS! series…what was your first introduction to the horror genre?
A.S. MACKENZIE: My first introduction to horror was when I was in the 3rd grade and got my hands on an overlooked copy of The Pit & The Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe. I say overlooked because my school was in a very conservative area of the Appalachians and they would only allow stories like this to those in higher grade. I obsessed on this story as I read it and went out of my way to find more by Poe. Then, I discovered that he wasn’t the only one and then I grabbed whatever I could, be it pulp, comics, or novels. Concurrently, I also fell in love with Doyle’s Sherlock around the same time and with the help of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, I found that the thing I loved the most from both mysteries and horror was the suspense. So, here years later, my writing focusses heavily on the thriller/suspense part of horror and less on the macabre or gross.
DP: That’s brilliant – personally love a bit of Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew…so, your Short Sharp Shocks!
ASM: I actually wrote this story right after listening to an audiobook about a cemetery on the moon. It spurned in me the idea that while we continue to expand ourselves out into the universe, there may just be some who don’t find us welcome. I also wanted to shy away from the typical ‘alien’ approach and make it something more sinister and unknown. Something you couldn’t see coming. A line in the audiobook really struck this idea home when they mentioned that when you’re in space, you don’t really see the stars due to the lack of atmosphere and the direct exposure to the sun. Just thinking about the inky blackness of it all made me think it couldn’t be entirely empty.
DP: Interesting – and definitely agree it’s more sinister / unknown – which is what appealed. Well done. Did you have to do much research?
ASM: This is where I show off just how much of a science geek I am and say I didn’t really have to research much at all, because I had already started studying the space station and other space faring vehicles long ago. Just for my own amusement and edification. I took that knowledge and envisioned the environment and scene as I went. There was one or two small names for things I had to remind myself of, but most of it was already up there in my mind.
DP: Ha – that’s very cool, well done you! Can you tell me about other books / authors which influence you?
ASM: I think every book influences a writer, in either big or small ways. I can’t count the number of books and authors I’ve read who have imparted something to me. If I were to be specific, the big names that come to mind right away are Jonathan Maberry and any book of his extensive library; Scott Sigler and his Earthcore epic, along with his recent Alien:Phalanx; Delilah Dawson with Phasma and her X-Files comic run; Nicholas Sansbury Smith and his Extinction series; and Chuck Wendig for his Miriam Black series and Damn Fine Story.
DP: There’s some great titles – well worth checking out. What does horror mean to you?
ASM: I find the best aspect of horror is the suspense and the thrill, or the tension, if you will. When thinking back on the stories that have stuck with me or creeped me out so bad I had trouble sleeping, they centre heavily on tension. Not the tension of ‘jump-scares’ which I find are a crutch and overused (though one or two in a story is fine), but the real building tension that comes from an increased sense of unease, danger, fear, or terror. Watching it build to a crescendo and then taking the read to the next step is what I live for in a story.
DP: I’m with you…it’s been a tough year: would you say that the genre is affected by world events?
ASM: There’s no way it couldn’t be. Even if we write for a certain period, our minds are locked inexorably here in time so what we experience and think goes into the story. With all the tumult of 2020, I won’t be surprised to find the stories we write now to reflect that in the dialogue, actions, character motivations, and outcomes. Whether it is to develop a shift in style to cope with what the writer is experiencing or using the words as a relief valve for the pent up feeling within. We will see the stories affected by this year and understand them as only those who have gone through this would. Whether that stands the test of time is to be seen.
DP: Definitely – it’ll be interesting to see what the future brings in term of literature / films / culture…is there a new writer (or director) which interests you right now?
ASM: I’m really impressed with the writers (Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry) and the director, John McPhail, of Anna & the Apocalypse, more so than I have been with most others lately. Which is saying something because we’ve had a pretty good glut of entertainment come out in recent years. The movie is a campy, fun, rather bloody musical romp filled with tropes and I love it. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and doesn’t make fun of itself, either. The tropes are easy and fit with the story so well you don’t mind them at all. I’ve not seen a movie that easy to watch for a while and I hope to crack its secrets one day.
DP: I’m not aware of that one so will check it out – thanks for the recommendation. There have been reports of late that the horror genre is dead…do you agree?
ASM: Not remotely. Horror isn’t dead because we still have the capacity for fear. Admittedly, a great amount of the horror literary world has gone indie and away from the big publishers, which has made it more difficult for work to get in the hands of a large-scale audience. But, those indie outlets are as committed as the readers who know they are there. It might take a while for horror to claw its way back into mainstream so that the horror section of the bookstore is more than King and Koontz, but it’ll get there. Until then, it’s not going anywhere.
DP: It definitely isn’t. So is writing a long term or short term career for you?
ASM: Writing is absolutely a long-term career, though not the one I will use to pay my bills. I have a career that pays me well enough to keep my bills paid and food in my hand, while also giving me the flexibility to get into writing on my own terms and at my own speed. This has taken a LOT of the pressure off and given me the chance to write and submit to outlets with the knowledge that if they pass, it’s not the end of the line for me. If my writing takes off well enough to pay me a living wage, then I’ll probably put it to the side and cover my retirement so I can continue to write stories even then.
DP: Final question then, do you interact a lot with your readers (or writers who have influenced you)? Any funny stories to tell?
ASM: Yes, I try to interact with anyone who would like to. I send out a newsletter to around 1400+ subscribers and receive a few emails a month from readers with questions or comments. I’m also on social media regularly (maybe too regularly) and interact with readers, but also other writers. Both unknown and known. There’s even a couple of well-known writers who followed me back and we interact often. I’m also quick to promote writer friends about their latest achievements and releases. As for stories, it’s not as funny, but because of this social media interaction I’ve gotten a chance to meet some authors in the real world. One in particular, Scott Sigler, was such a defining moment for me as not just a writer, but a writer who interacts with others. It was after a panel at DragonCon and I’m sure he needed to go somewhere but he took the time to chat with me about one of his then upcoming stories, telling me about the characters, asking my opinion on some of it, getting my feedback on other things he wrote. It was such a good, genuine experience that really made me examine what I want as a writer. Do I want to just write a story and send it out, or do I want to write something and connect with someone about it. His kindness and openness told me the latter is the way to go.
And on that note! Thank you so much for your time, the best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
If you would like to connect with A.S. MacKenzie direct:
A.S. MacKenzie also runs another Instagram account @oneposthorrorstory with short one-post drabbles and images.
Entry 66 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series is Let Me Take You Down by Marc Shapiro. The book is out on the 31st December but is currently available for pre-sales. The cover is by Adrian Baldwin. Recently Dean and Marc talked about it…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hi Marc, hope you’re doing as best as you can during this difficult period. For those readers who aren’t yet familiar with you or your work, can you tell them about yourself?
MARC SHAPIRO: Hi, yes of course: Born in Boyle Heights, California. Grew up in Monterey Park on a steady diet of Saturday matinees and old pulps and paperbacks. Graduated from high school. Only a so so student. Spent two years in the army. Went to college. Got a degree in journalism. Freelanced for underground newspapers, music magazines and horror film publications like The Los Angeles Free Press, Zoo World and Fangoria. Started writing books. Wrote a shitload of books and still do. Happily married for better than 40 years. One daughter. One granddaughter. Film rights available.
DP: Excellent! Fangoria is brilliant isn’t it – one off my bucket-list was when Barbie Wilde interviewed me a couple of years back – we had a fab time doing the interview and when it was published…still makes my heart beat a bit faster now…anyway, why did you become a writer…
MS: I was always kind of introverted but had a creative outlook on things so, by the time I was thirteen, I figured writing was the way to go. I love the freedom that writing brings. I also love the idea of making a living doing what I love to do and proving decades of doubters wrong.
DP: Without a doubt and good for you. What would you say was your first introduction to the Horror genre?
MS: Too many to remember but some faves growing up were Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury. Movies like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Blob, The Wolfman, Attack Of The Puppet People, Them. You get the picture. Toss a dart in any direction in my world and you’ll hit an influence.
DP: Which is exactly the way it should be – I know that certainly when I was younger and just starting out, though Horror was my be all and end all, my actually influences were far more ‘literary fiction’ – it all goes into the mix…so let’s talk about your Short Sharp Shocks! Let Me Take You Down.
MS: It’s horror but I like to think of it as something more cerebral, something that makes its points without the necessity of exploding in your face. I had recently read the autobiography of Miles Davis and I found myself immersed in the culture of jazz and the collective tenor of the times. I knew there had to be a sense of menace and encroaching unease which is how I developed the sense of evil that had more on its mind than cheap booze and good music. It had to be a sense of something engrained in the culture. And for my money, there’s an underpinning to The Twilight Zone connected to it, something with a message or a philosophy that emerges in all the weird and erotic happenings as an ultimate truth.
DP: I loved your approach and definitely agree that it is something ‘cerebral’ – here at DEMAIN we treat Horror as a very broad church, there’s room for all believers but I personally love something that really makes me think – so well done. What does Horror mean to Marc Shapiro?
MS: Horror is an escape, just like any form of literature, at its core, is. Going to an unsettling place where evil or the personification of evil dwells and dealing with it is cathartic. It scares. It enlightens. Like all good literature, Horror is an escape.
DP: Exactly – so what are you afraid of?
MS: In real world terms just about anything on the 6 O’clock news these days is pretty frightening. Getting a job done to everybody’s satisfaction makes me uneasy a lot. Nobody is perfect but I think creative people in general, carry around a lot of emotional baggage and insecurities that cause them to lose a lot of sleep. My demons usually arrive around 3 a.m. and that’s usually the end of any hope for a good night’s sleep.
DP: Yeah, and it’s been getting a lot worse for me this year – not getting much sleep at all and always feeling that there’s not enough hours in the day, worried a bit about the next ‘crisis’ coming down the road…it’s been quite depressing…did you find Let Me Take You Down difficult to write?
MS: When I’m writing non-fiction I’m very focused on the manuscript and the deadline and that makes the process fairly stress free. My philosophy when it comes to writing fiction is that if an idea has been kicking around in my head for more than a couple of days, it’s worth writing. When that happens, I tend to write fairly quickly usually a day or two for the first draft of a short story, then a couple of passes through to self-edit and polish. I try real hard to finish something even if it means taking another look somewhere down the road.
DP: That’s a good philosophy – I’ve personally got two story commissions on the go right now, need to get the first one finished before I can really work on the second…never suffered from writer’s block before but for some reason I’m really having an issue with the last few paragraphs…it’ll come I know but it’s been a pain in the proverbial these last couple of weeks…anyway, considering what we’ve been talking about (or perhaps it’s just the elephant in the room) – would you say that the Horror genre is affected by world events?
MS: Certainly. You’re going to see tons of books with variations on the current pandemic in the coming years. The mess that our current political system is will be ripe with different takes on 1984. The Horror genre is like a sponge. Turn on the television, radio or read a newspaper and ideas are everywhere.
DP: Ha! You’re so right – I’m working on a tv project with another writer - it’s period drama / sci-fi – and we were clear that though it’s going to be about the pandemic it’s got to be as far as away from current times as possible because we know it could just get rejected out of hand as “just another covid story” – which it isn’t really, that was just our way in. There’s also a French period history idea I’ve been trying to crystallize recently and found my angle and then realized that it could be viewed as being about covid which it definitely isn’t…with regards to yourself I would say that writing is a long term career?
MS: Let me see. I’ve been writing professionally for more than fifty years which makes me older than dirt. I’d say I’m definitely in this for the long haul.
DP: Good for you – okay, two quick questions. First, what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
MS: I once had an editor wave a loaded pistol in my face because I was hounding him for the $20 he owed me. I roadied for the band Blue Oyster Cult for a night while researching a magazine article. I was an extra for three days in a truly awful martial arts movie called Force Five, playing a Mexican prisoner who gets the shit beat out of him. But when the writing wasn’t paying the bills and you’ve got a family, you do what you’ve gotta do.
DP: You definitely do – will have to check out that movie if I can – and finally then Marc, what, creatively, has been your biggest success to date?
MS: I’ve had books on the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Canadian Bestseller Lists. When you’re recognized, that’s definitely a plus in your heart and soul. But at the end of the day, it’s as simple as writing the best books you possibly can and finding out that people are reading them and enjoying them. That makes it all worthwhile.
Doesn’t it just!
Marc thanks for your time. Best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
More about Marc can be found at:
Goodreads: Marc Shapiro (Author of J. K. Rowling) | Goodreads
And: Marc Shapiro | Authors | Macmillan