July 7th sees the publication of Gerald Mood’s horror collection, The Faces We Fear (with a cover by Adrian Baldwin and central art-piece by Dark Artist Roberto Segate). Gerald is new to DEMAIN but came highly recommended by Dave Jeffery (author of the A Quiet Apocalypse series amongst many others and our good friend) so when Gerald’s manuscript landed in the DEMAIN in-box it was already highly anticipated. A month or so prior to publication Dean and Gerald talked all things scary…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Gerald, great to talk to you – welcome to DEMAIN. So, tell us a little about you…
GERALD MOOD: Hello! And thank you…I’d be happy to introduce myself. I was born and raised in Delaware, USA, which is the second-smallest state in the country. I’m an Environmental Scientist for a living, where I help prevent hazardous air pollutants, particulate matter, and other dangerous airborne emissions from entering our atmosphere. I started writing as a young teen using roleplaying games, like Dungeons and Dragons, as a vehicle for my adventures. Initially, I was a player, but I discovered very quickly that I liked being the narrator even more. Creating the drama and impetuses for conflict in a way that would celebrate my players was very satisfying for me. In fact, I still reminiscence with my friends over their old characters and the trials and tribulations that they went through. Those experiences and memories are held very dear to them, even to this day. Listening to them fondly [I still] remember those adventures I crafted years ago has had a tremendous impact on me. I want to do that for a larger audience.
DP: Nice one, sadly I was never really into D&D and all that – no real reason I guess, maybe I just didn’t know others who were into it. I do remember trying to play it one drunken night at Towson State but enough said about that the better (and now I do have some friends who are well into it perhaps I need to give it another go) – anyway, so your background and did that have some influence on you as a writer…
GM: Something I didn’t know about myself until I was a young adult is that I’m compelled to create. When I entered university, I began studying Biology. Three years in, I had reached my limit and thought about dropping out. It forced me to really take stock of what I enjoyed. I remembered all those fond memories that I had crafting RPG adventures for my friends, and wondered if I could somehow do that for a living. When I brought up to my academic advisor the idea of switching my major to English Literature, she laughed; I was three-quarters of the way to a Bachelors of Science. In an effort to help keep me on track, she suggested I double major. It was brilliant. While I could have written-off my science degree while job hunting for a more creative career, the distinct nature of my education allows me to work full-time using the technical and analytical side of my brain while saving up my creative energy to pursue writing fiction when I’m not working. If I was spending my creativity on my day job, it’d be much harder for me to work on my personal projects after hours, and I most likely wouldn’t be here.
DP: Fair play to your academic advisor then and by the sounds of it yes you were able to have the best of both worlds. At college I double majored in history (American/World History - focusing on Revolutions) so all my creative stuff was done outside of my studies which worked for me. I started writing stories for the college magazine which I then discovered were being discussed (positively I will add) by one of the English tutors to his classes– when I heard about this I should have spoken to him about it as he may have been able to guide me and it would have been fun to talk to others about my creative process at that time (which hasn’t changed too much – lots of booze haha) but I didn’t…our college also offered a couple of writing prizes but I never went in for them either…again a bit of a missed opportunity now I look back at it. I’ve always wanted to do a Masters at some point so perhaps I’ll try and right those wrongs…anyway, before I get lost down memory lane I have to remember this interview is about you, not me (though of course Dear Reader I am available for interviews hahaha) – what was your first introduction to the genre…
GM: I think my first introduction to Fantasy was the movie Willow. Everything–from the late 80’s special effects, to the characters and storyline–was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I remember thinking Madmartigan, played by Val Kilmer, was the coolest person I’d ever seen. Regarding Horror, I remember reading Vampire of the Mists by Christie Golden, and being blown away by the duality of its characters and the severity of their moral consequences. They were horrific and beautiful at the same time. I think that’s what made the biggest impression upon me.
DP: I haven’t heard of Vampire of the Mists before so will check it out. I’m not a great fan of Willow personally (but I’m glad it resonates with people even today!) but Val Kilmer I adore [and if you haven’t I thoroughly recommend you check out the recent documentary about him called Val]. So now we’re a couple of questions in, let’s talk your collection…
GM: I hope they’re cautionary tales. Stories about characters who want something so badly, they’ll go to extraordinary lengths to obtain them. Lengths that make them monsters. Having said that, regardless of what they’ve done, no one is beyond redemption. My stories are about taking my characters to some of the worst possible places, and then attempting to bring them back into the light. Ultimately, it’s for the reader to decide whether or not they’ve redeemed themselves.
DP: I like it – so in that regard did you find the stories hard to write…
GM: Oh, definitely. Some of it was uncomfortable. A few of my stories travel to some pretty dark places. Realizing what has been done, coupled with how things are dealt with, was difficult. I try to be very sensitive and thoughtful though, because I understand I’m taking my readers along on this journey with me.
DP: Well I for one think you’ve been very successful, so well done! Okay, I’ll throw this out there – what has been your biggest creative success to date?
GM: You mean aside from this, my first time being published? I’d have to say it’s my yet-to-be published novella, The Sea Under the Mountain. It’s a Lovecraftian tale surrounding a doctor and her investigation into a long list of strange maladies plaguing the fictitious village of Prism, Alaska. What makes it my biggest success is that it’s not only my longest piece to date, but it’s also proof to myself that I can write a manuscript of admirable length. Having accomplished that, I’ve outlined a full-length novel, and I now know I’m unequivocally up to the task of writing it.
DP: Good luck with the novel for sure. I promised myself I’d write my long planned one a couple of years back and the covid struck and I ended up writing other shorter stuff and now as well as DEMAIN I’ve got my film company (with Sharon Axcell) called DrAx Productions BUT I’m going to put some time aside, find myself a little place in either Paris or Marseille [Lordy that sounded pretentious didn’t it] and write the damn thing…so what does horror/fantasy mean to you?
GM: Initially, it was hunting literal monsters in an imaginary setting. Very black and white. It meant saving the damsel in distress. David versus Goliath. Slaying the dragon. Now, it’s more of a gradient. Nothing is completely good, or completely evil. Discovering that threshold for each character is intriguing, while evoking an emotional response is what keeps us revisiting those stories in our minds. They can be cautionary tales, or ways to experience the Otherworldly. Sometimes, both. Whether it’s a way for us to observe behavior we don’t expect or wouldn’t want to come across in real life, or a fresh perspective to challenge us and how we perceive the world, it's what allows us to reflect on life from a safe distance.
DP: I like that and you’re so right about nothing being completely good/completely evil and sometimes it does come down to perception (there’s a meme/gif you maybe aware of – based on a sketch in a UK comedy show called Mitchell and Webb - where one Nazi officer says to another “Are we the bad guys?” – which whilst funny in its own context is also quite profound…). For Gerald Mood is writing a long-term career…
GM: I’d have to say it’s a long-term endeavor. Whether I continue to be published or not remains to be seen, but I can’t stop writing stories. While I view writing as a positive and enjoyable activity, it’s also very cathartic for me. I used to call it, “getting the poison out.” Sometimes, when I don’t have the energy to sit down and formally write, I’ll have my characters tell me a story, usually by asking them where they go or what they do, and then watching them in my mind as they go about doing those things. When they interact with another character or situation where they don’t have any control, I’ll roll a die to see what happens. It’s incredibly entertaining, albeit quite solitary. Of course, before I met my wife, being alone was one of my favorite places to be!
DP: Keep at it is my advice – you’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days but keep on going! Okay, I’ve enjoyed this but don’t want to take up too much more of your time so last one: what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
GM: I’m on YouTube co-hosting the first fourteen episodes or so of a show called Digitally Distracted. We talked about retro (80s and 90s) topics related to video games, movies, and technology. I’ve also acted in a short-lived YouTube sitcom called Looking for Love by the same content creator. It’s shot in a mockumentary style, à la The Office, and follows the trials of a naive divorcé looking for love in modern times. I ended up playing the character’s best friend. I think some of the episodes are still floating around out there.
DP: Wow – will check them out immediately. Great to chat with you Gerald – all the best with The Faces We Fear.
If you’d like to connect with Gerald directly:
Website Address: www.geraldmood.com
Facebook Address: https://www.facebook.com/geraldmoodauthor
Twitter Address: https://twitter.com/geraldmood
Instagram Address: https://www.instagram.com/gerald_mood/
July 7th sees the publication of David Watkins’ novella St Neith. David is no stranger to DEMAIN with his previous Short! Sharp! Shocks! title Rhitta Gawr. Both covers are by Adrian Baldwin. St Neith is now available for pre-sales. Late May, Dean and David sat down and talked about the (horrible – but in a good way !) new release…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello David, it’s great to speak to you again. So I appreciate this is a busy time for you so let’s get down to it…
DAVID WATKINS: Hello Dean and to those that don’t know me, I’m David Watkins – Dave to my friends. I’m a maths teacher as my day job, running a team of maths teachers in a small secondary school in North Devon. I’ve written for as long as I can remember and had a five-year plan when I became a teacher: write in the holidays, then give it up and bask in the glory of being an international best seller. I’m still appalled at how naïve (and arrogant) I was. I have been a teacher for 28 years now and have learned to fit my writing in around the day job.
I set myself a low word count (500 words per session) so that every time I sit down to write, I hit my target and feel like I’ve made progress. If you go to any writing forum or twitter, there seems to be a lot of competition around word counts and it can be very intimidating. My tip to anyone starting out would be to ignore that and set your own goal. If you are beating yourself up because you didn’t hit 4000 words today, then you’re not giving yourself room to improve as a writer and kind of missing the point. The only thing that counts is ‘bum on seat’ and actually writing. Who knows if the people who say they’ve written 10,000 words today a) actually have and b) write anything at all for the next week. Writing is a bit like going to the gym: consistency is the only way to see real results.
All writers know someone who says: ‘I want to be a writer’, and then say they don’t have the time. These same people can also tell you the intricate plots of at least five tv shows they are watching – why not make it four and use the time you just gained to write? The world is full of distractions, but to write you need to carve out the time – no-one else is going to do it for you.
DP: You’ve made some cracking points there and I definitely agree about setting your own goals and keeping to them. Right now I’m personally involved in a couple of projects (stories and scripts) so I’ve got to stay disciplined…I think (though of course I may be wrong) it was Stephen King who said about not worrying if you finish mid-sentence either and in fact that was better if you did because it got you straight in the zone the next day and I’ve tried my best to stick to that…so tell us about your background and whether that has had some influence on you as a writer…
DW: I grew up in South Wales in the 70s and 80s, when mining was at its height. I lost my grandfather when I was about four. He died of emphysema, brought on by being a miner. My mother always said she would never allow her children to go into the pits and she pushed me, my brother and sister to do well at school. Obviously, Maggie (Margaret Thatcher – ex British Prime Minister and awful, awful human being) came along at that time and so the mines weren’t an option anyway.
From there, I lived and taught in London and then moved to Devon where I now live. I find the open spaces of Dartmoor contrasting with the closed, dark spaces of woods and forests to be inspirational for writing horror!
DP: I bet ! I love when writers talk about how the landscapes around them influence them/their work. When I’m in France as much as I love the hustle/bustle of Paris (and it does inspire me don’t get me wrong) I do love sitting by the sea in either Cannes or Marseille with a glass of wine [okay more than a glass] a new pen and notebook and it only takes a couple of sips before the words start flowing…anyway, enough about me – what was your first introduction to the horror genre.
DW: The first horror book I really remember reading was Christine by Stephen King. I know it’s a cliché that a modern horror writer was influenced by King, but there is a reason for that. It’s easy to bash him these days, and in certain Facebook reading groups, it’s almost a daily sport, but I think he’s superb. His characterisation is second to none, and is the main reason for his success, I think.
From King, it was a short step to James Herbert, Ramsey Campbell and then Clive Barker. The ‘80s horror boom produced a lot of work that was not very good and existed just to shock or gross you out, but there were also many gems from that period and beyond. Anyone interested in that period should also check out Christopher Fowler and Mark Morris in addition to those mentioned above. Ramsey Campbell is still churning out high quality work too, and I am in awe of that. Lovely fella too.
DP: Yes, I’ve said elsewhere I need to be reading more Ramsey – he is a great writer and encourager. I love Clive but you’re right too about the late Chris Fowler – I was lucky to work with him on a project and have had a few drinks/chats with him in the past. He’s sadly missed already. I personally don’t know Mark as well as I probably should and haven’t read too much of his recent work but those early ones – well up my street ! So, let’s talk your novella…
DW: Two teenagers are enjoying a slice of freedom by exploring their local woods. Unfortunately, there’s something living there now and it’s hungry….
To say more would veer into spoiler territory, and given it’s a short story, I don’t want to give anything away.
DP: Haha that’s so true (and hopefully we haven’t ruined it with the cover but it does work so well) ! Okay we’ll move swiftly on – in writing St. Neith did you have to do much research…
DW: No research, beyond some anatomical stuff for the bad guy (check the cover out for an idea…). It has scarred me, seeing close up photos of those things. Urgh.
I did have a sensitivity reader also, to make sure I got the teenagers right. Luckily, as I work in a school there were plenty to hand.
DP: Oh nice one – hope you didn’t scare those teenagers though hahaha. What would you say is David Watkins’ biggest creative success thus far ?
DW: I was blown away by the response to The Exeter Incident. I thought I’d written a dumb action thriller with added monsters, but the reviews have been absolutely stellar for it. Currently sitting at a solid 4.8* on Amazon, with rave reviews from websites such as Gingernuts of Horror, Happy Goat Horror and GBHBL. Tim Lebbon said, “Great monsters and dynamic characters make this brutal, bloody, brilliant novel an essential read.” That meant the world to me as I admire him as writer and his career is inspirational. He’s written in the Star Wars, Alien and Predator universes! I would love to do that.
DP: Tim’s a great guy for sure and love his work. And congrats on the reviews/comments about The Exeter Incident – thoroughly deserved. What does horror mean to you ?
DW: This is a great question! I have been having this exact discussion with many of my friends for a while. Most of them are adamant they don’t like horror, which lead to a discussion of what horror is. One of my friends said she didn’t think A Quiet Place was horror. I was quite shocked by that – what the hell do you think it is then?
My wife’s book group read a lot of psychological thrillers, but they won’t read horror. I find that a bit weird to be honest, as some of those thrillers come from a very dark place. There’s a Harry Hole novel (by Jo Nesbo) where the murderer keeps his victim in his waterbed and sleeps on her every night. Jesus, Jo, that’s really messed up! See, that’s horror to me, far more than monsters like vampires or werewolves, because it could happen.
My wife also has a definition of horror that essentially means ‘otherworldy’, as in there has to be something fantastical or monstrous about it. Something that doesn’t exist in the real world. I’m not sure I agree, but I can see where she’s coming from. I suspect that for far too many people, horror means blood, guts and gore. Whilst all that definitely has its place, horror is so much more than that to me. If anyone thinks horror can’t be literary or well written, I would point them to Priya Sharma or Adam Nevill. Funny? Try Kit Power. Heart breaking? Um, Kit again and Dave Jeffery – particularly with the A Quiet Apocalypse series (published by DEMAIN, so I hope that doesn’t look like I’m sucking up!). Unnerving? Try CC Adams. Beautiful characters that horrible things happen to? Try Phil Sloman or Laura Mauro.
DP: Some great names there and happy to say that either DEMAIN or myself personally have worked with Dave, CC and Phil. Have read Adam’s books and he too is a great guy – very friendly/approachable. Yes I have an ‘issue’ sometimes with readers who love the grisly aspects of those thriller type books but if you slapped ‘horror’ on them suddenly they turn their noses up – it’s all about perception I suppose. And yes, I do also believe that A Quiet Place is horror ! Thinking of this then, what do you think brings readers into our genre…
DW: Another great question. I wouldn’t presume to speak for all readers, so this is my personal response. I look for escapism, first and foremost, but that has to be tied to good characters and a driving plot. If you’re going to write about vampires or werewolves, do something different. If you can’t do that, make me care.
DP: I’m loving this – so I keep being told the genre (horror/fantasy) is dead…
DW: No, definitely not. For fantasy, just take a look at Brandon Sanderson’s recent Kickstarter. He made over $40 million, with more than 180 thousand backers. It was the most successful Kickstarter in the history of the site. That’s before we talk about Game of Thrones and the countless attempts to cash in on that (eg World Of Time, Rings Of Power). I think there’s a huge appetite for genre writing.
For horror, there are so many great writers currently turning in high quality work that I firmly believe it won’t be long before it occupies more than a single shelf in Waterstones or your local bookstore. And it won’t just be King either.
DP: You’re 100% right – we need to get the stores stocking horror again ! Okay, so without guessing this – what scares Dave Watkins ?
DW: Heh heh, spiders. Hate them. Really, passionately despise the freakish things. It’s the way they move, and the speed those limbs propel them forward. Never trust anything with more limbs than you.
Write about them? Yep, I’ve done that. The Original’s series I’ve written features spiders, which is just one reason my mother didn’t make it past the opening chapter. In fairness, the death and destruction would have seen her off too. Sorry mum.
St Neith, my latest novella, takes its name from the Egyptian Goddess Neith, was associated with spiders as a result of her weaving the strands of destiny and the world.
DP: I didn’t know that until I did a bit of research before reading the novella (which perhaps I shouldn’t have) but I loved that you did that…okay, I said I wouldn’t take up too much of your time so a couple of quick ones: creatively is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet?
DW: Make a film of one of my books. I recognise it would be stupidly expensive, but I’d love to see Carter and Kingston from The Exeter Incident or Jack and Knowles from The Original’s Return on the big screen.
DP: Well, you never know what is around the corner…so last one: what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
DW: I once got kicked out, and barred, from the same nightclub twice in one night. It’s a stupid story, so if you’re reading this and want to know more, ask me in person. Buy me a pint first though.
And I just might Dave !
Thanks so much for your time – enjoyed that – hope to see you in real life again soon.
If you’d like to connect with David Watkins:
Amazon Author page: http://author.to/DavidWatkins
Instagram: @david.watkins.writer (hugely original, I know…)
Dean M. Drinkel