Author Interview. Steve Stred - The One That Knows No Fear (Book 45 in the Short Sharp Shock! series)
The final release in this tranche of Short Sharp Shocks! is Book 45, The One That Knows No Fear by Steve Stred. It’s available for pre-sales now and is published on 30th November. Dean and Steve recently spoke together about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome to Demain Steve, for those that don’t yet know you, can you tell us a little about yourself and how / why you became a writer.
STEVE STRED: Hello! My name is Steve Stred and I’m an author who writes bleak, dark fiction. I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where I’ve now been for just over 3 years. I was born in a very small town in remote British Columbia. I’ve only been focusing on my writing for the last 4 or so years after my athletic career ended. My day to day job is that of a Certified Canadian Pedorthist. What this means is that after graduating with my Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology, I did another 3 years specifically being trained to assess peoples lower body mechanics and foot mechanics so that I can assess, design and manufacture Custom Made Foot Orthotics, Custom Made Shoes and Custom Shoe Modifications. I’m married to my fantastic wife Amanda and we have a 10 year old fur kid named OJ and a 3 year old human kid named Auryn!
DP: Ah, sounds a busy life. And your Short Sharp Shocks!?
SS: The One That Knows No Fear is a dark coming of age story set in the 70s about a young kid who wants to connect with his stepdad. They find this connection watching a Daredevil stunt TV show. When the show comes to town, they go to watch it. I really love this piece.
DP: Yes, we could tell that for sure and we think that many readers will really connect with it. Who is your protagonist?
SS: This story really focuses on our young main character. This is a boy who wishes for that father figure to be in his life and because it’s not there, he attaches to this specific Daredevil, the one they call ‘The One That Knows No Fear.’ He is really an innocent kid who just wants to believe that adults are saints, which we all know is far from the truth.
DP: That’s true...did you have to do much research?
SS: Not to any extent. I did do some searching on well known stunt people from that era. Everyone knows Knievel, but who else was out there risking it. The 70s were many years before 24 hour news channels, X-Games, the internet – these were really figures who risked it without ever really being known.
DP: Yeap, they did, that’s so true. Perhaps there’s a documentary idea there...did you find any of the scenes difficult to write?
SS: One in particular. Staying spoiler free but there’s a moment where our young one experiences a moment of horrible internal pain because of his stepdad and that choked me up. Kids are kids. Having a three year old, I see already just how much he’s put his trust and love into me and my wife. So, that was a tough one.
DP: I bet, I bet. Creatively what would you say was your biggest success?
SS: Two things easily. The first is the Ladies of Horror Fiction Writer’s Grant that I was able to help develop and facilitate this past year. It’s working towards an annual thing and behind the scenes I’m already working to get the next book completed to help off set costs. The first winner, Carina Bissett, messaged me to tell me what she was doing with the cash and I was blown away. She used the money she was awarded to host a writing seminar so other women writer’s could work towards achieving their dreams. The second is through writing, releasing and reviewing books, I’ve connected with a lot of great people and been able to work hard to support them, lift them up – create a positive environment. The world of athletics can be very hard and isolating. When my time ended there, I made sure to keep focusing on building people up!
DP: Yes, and you’ve certainly been successful there – we were certainly aware of Steve Stred before we actually started communicating! What books (or authors) have influenced you?
SS: I read a lot! As of writing this I’ve read 180 books this year haha! I don’t think anything I read influences me. I think I’ve developed my own writing voice and really just work hard to refine and get better all the time. I have a really solid team behind me – David Sodergren copy-edits, Mason McDonald does 90% of my covers and my sister Jodi typically reads my stuff first to let me know if it sucks – so they all help to keep me improving. From the authors I read, I look for how the person acts in the social media world. I’ve made some outstanding friends through this journey, all of whom are themselves world class writers.
DP: Is there a book / film which you’re looking forward to seeing / reading?
SS: Right now – Andrew Pyper’s next release! Pyper is my all-time fav author and through social media I’ve had the great fortune of even connecting with him. He’s indicated a new release next year so I’m down-right giddy. Otherwise – also looking forward to what David Sodergren, Andrew Cull & JH Moncrieff have in the pipeline!
DP: Again, some great names. Finally then Steve, what does ‘horror’ mean to you?
SS: Everything. An escape. Hurt, sorrow, fear, being unnerved, turning on the lights, bawling your eyes out after the author kills a character, not seeing stuff coming, watching an idea be implemented and then executed with joy and gusto. Horror, to me, is the glue that connects me to the best people in the world.
Thank you so much for your time Steve, all the best with your Short Sharp Shocks! you certainly deserve it.
Book 44 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series is Last Meal In Osaka (and other stories) by Gary Buller. It’s being published on the 30th November but is currently available for pre-sales. Prior to release Gary and Dean sat down to talk about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome Gary, let’s get straight down to it, can you tell your readers a little about yourself and how (or why) you became a writer.
GARY BULLER: Hi. I’d always been interested in writing since I was small, putting together very short horror stories for my parents and friends, but I didn’t start writing to submit until around 2016 when I was in my mid-thirties. It was a combination of the monotony of my old job plus the flow of creative juices.
DP: And your stories which make up Last Meal In Osaka?
GB: My chapbook collection is a combination of three short stories I wrote between 2016 and 2019. Last Meal in Osaka is a nasty little tale from 2016, Swashbuckle Cove, inspired by childhood visits to theme-parks, is from 2018 and Rise of the Chiggy-Pigs, about the fear of creepy-crawlies, is my latest story from 2019.
DP: You’re dead right about Osaka being nasty but we thoroughly enjoyed it here at Demain so well done. Who are your protagonists?
GB: We have three completely different protagonists in this collection, from the innocent all the way through to unexpectedly nasty. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end very well for any of them.
DP: Yes, that’s true isn’t it? Particularly in Chiggy-Pigs but I won’t say any more as I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone...I’m interested, did you have to do much research for your stories (or are you an expert in Japanese cuisine – if so, nice one!)?
GB: I had to do a little research for Last Meal in Osaka, particularly around Japanese food, but the other two stories are all about nostalgia and childhood memory. I think some of our deepest fears are rooted in childhood experiences.
DP: That’s true..so with that in mind, I suspect that some of the scenes were difficult to write?
GB: I had to dig deep with a couple of the stories, recalling how I felt when similar experiences happened to me. I wouldn’t say this is difficult, but it does bring back memories, not all of them pleasant.
DP: Creatively what would you say was your biggest success?
GB: My publication by the excellent Gallery of Curiosities (two stories) both led to my HWA membership and my first semi-pro sale. I am also very proud to have a story in Unnerving magazine (#5.) Eddie Generous runs a very tight ship, and it takes a special story to catch his eye, so I was delighted.
DP: Yes, I’ve heard that – well done on both. Which books / authors do you read and are they an influence do you think?
GB: I love the work of Joe Hill (20th Century Ghosts is a personal favourite) and his World Famous father. I am also a big fan of Adam Nevill and would recommend anyone read The Ritual. I find their stories original and inspirational. I hope one day to come close to emulating their success.
DP: We at Demain believe you will! So what does the word ‘horror’ mean to you?
GB: It is the psychological stuff frightens which me the most. I don’t think gore, jump scares or big monsters cut it alone. The tension has to build steadily and the payoff has to be worthwhile without being cheap. I think Pet Sematary by Stephen King is one of the most horrific things I have read, especially as a father of small children.
DP: Oh it is, isn’t it? I can really see that Mr King is an influence...so what up-coming horror book (or film) are you looking forward to?
GB: I would really like to see Doctor Sleep as a big fan of The Shining. The reviews are positive, which is pleasing. I haven’t read Full Throttle the new collection by Joe Hill yet, I am looking forward to that one and I recently purchased Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay. I read a short excerpt months ago on-line and pre-ordered straight away.
DP: Ah, cool, I’ll check that out, that sounds really interesting. Taking a step backward for a moment and the question about horror, what is Gary Buller afraid of and has it ever made its way into your work?
GB: I’m claustrophobic, so being buried alive is a biggie, as is a fear of unseen underwater creatures. I touch upon these in my story Amabie’s Pond (Gallows Hill Magazine) and also Swashbuckle Cove in this Demain collection. It likely comes from a time when I swam in a Florida lake only to be told there were alligators in there too.
DP: Ah, that reminds me of something that happened to me in Kenya...hang on, I need a lie down a moment ha ha...okay, I’m back. So, creatively, what would you like to achieve...
GB: I always said I would write a novella, should I receive an acceptance from a pro or semi-pro publication. This has come to pass, but I have yet to start.
DP: Ah – I know that pain my friend...so many commissions, so little time. Need to kick my own backside...so a couple of fun questions. Marvel or DC?
GB: Dark Horse all the way. This will be an unpopular opinion, but superheroes have never really done it for me. I think the whole idea of men and women running around with their pants on the outside of their clothing has been done to death.
DP: I hear you, I hear you. And finally then, please tell us something surprising about you.
GB: I like to participate in runs for charity and raise money for Manchester Children’s Hospital when I can. Recently I was lucky enough to run a half-marathon in South Korea. I am also an expert in 3D print.
Thank you so much Gary for your time. Best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
If you would like to connect with Gary direct:
R.A. Busby’s Short Sharp Shocks! is Book 43, Bits. It’s published on November 30th but available now for pre-sales...
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello, great to meet you. Let’s get straight down to it, tell us who R.A. Busby is and how you became a writer.
R.A. BUSBY: I started writing when I was seven and dreamt up a Wizard of Oz fanfic starring myself and my pet mouse. If I remember, my story took up three whole pages of that dreadful school paper with the large wood chunks in it, but what I loved was that in a way, the story did get me to Oz. The act of writing opened up what I think of as ‘the reality hole’ and I was able to fall inside. I was instantly hooked.
DP: With regards to Bits, can you tell your readers a little about your protagonist.
RAB: I started thinking about her when I was nearing the completion of my novel. Around that time, I had to go to an elementary school for a workshop, an experience I found personally unsettling. Friendly flower-covered signs were everywhere: Don’t walk on the right side of the hall, Cover your mouth, Wash your hands, Put your coat in the cubby, Sit on the blue squares for circle reading, and so on. When I had to use the teachers’ bathroom, I realized I’d come to the true heart of the place. The facilities were as I described them in the story, though I left out the Pottery Barn-style furniture. I started imagining the life of a teacher in this place that was all about regimentation, order, and of course, the complete denial of the female body. I thought, “Why, you wouldn’t even be allowed to possess something as embarrassing as toes, with all their clefts, much less anything else. Your body should be smooth all the way down, like Barbie.” Around then, I had also been thinking of women’s invisibility. Women take on a kind of invisibility past their forties, and I toyed with my protagonist becoming invisible herself, but I didn’t like the idea because (ironically) the process of turning invisible would actually attract attention, and besides, how would you function? Could you still drive? That’s when I came up with the idea that my protagonist was literally falling apart bit by bit, a fact she would feel ashamed of and have to conceal. Nadie Denneby’s name is a double pun, actually, a combination of the Spanish word for ‘nobody’ and the Irish for ‘no one’ (duine ar bith). Throughout her life, Nadie’s obeyed the rules: she’s covered her mouth and walked on the right side of the hall, and as an elementary teacher, she’s instructed children to do the same. Finally, she comes to the realization that a lifetime of obeying the rules―of toeing the line, if you’ll forgive the joke―has brought her nothing.
DP: In writing Bits then did you have to do much research?
RAB: I’m not an elementary school teacher, so I had very little idea of what teachers did in the first five minutes of their day, for example. Fortunately, I have friends and relatives who are teaching professionals, and on my own, I watched tons of classroom management videos and read about chore charts, study stations, and Cricut machines until I felt I could establish a believable scene. It also gave me a deepened respect for those teachers, especially their incredible level of planning and commitment, and an appreciation of the need for order and routine at that educational level.
DP: I suspect that some of the scenes were difficult to write?
RAB: No, they were extremely fun! I particularly enjoyed giving Nadie a chance to fight back, to tell off Cheryl and the patronizing doctor, and most of all, to make a last-ditch effort to strike out for freedom (and what I hope is a chance for renewal) at the end.
DP: That’s me told ha ha and you’re dead right, I really enjoyed Nadie’s character arc but I won’t say anymore so as not to spoil the story...what books / authors do you read and have they been an influence?
RAB: Although I have treasured every minute with Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, horror has always been a liberating genre for women both as authors and characters: it’s one of the few places where readers trust that a woman’s sense of things is actually right. She’s not crazy; she really is seeing things. As a writer, I’m deeply indebted to Shirley Jackson, whose work deserves greater acclaim for her careful focus on women’s interiority of experience, and to Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Angela Carter, Amparo Dávila, and many more. More recently, I have delighted in the work of Carmen Maria Machado and other writers such as the incomparable Margaret Atwood, and above all, Toni Morrison, whose book Beloved blew open the genre and forged entirely new paths of its own.
DP: Again, we’re learning so many new names / writers here at Demain. It’s refreshing when our authors answer this question differently and of course there will be the standards like King, Barker, Poe, Lovecraft etc etc but you’ve mentioned some authors there we haven’t heard from but now we do know them we will seek out their work. Thank you. Any new horror book or film you’re looking forward to?
RAB: I’m excited about seeing Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse. His work, especially The Witch: A New England Folktale, focuses so richly on isolation, of being wholly cut off from anyone except a tiny (and often antagonistic) group of others and forced to endure daily life in a wilderness that does not care if you live or die. I think it’s also why I loved Dan Simmons’ The Terror, both book and miniseries: they share that sense of isolation―and a similar loving attention to accurate period detail. In addition, I’m going to be re-watching Ari Aster’s Hereditary. In that film and in Midsommar, which I thought was spellbinding, Aster is so deeply concerned with exploring the nuances and shapes of deep grief, and he understands that this is the real source of horror for many people: not ghosts, but the loss they represent.
DP: So what scares R.A. Busby and do those fears ever make it into your work?
RAB: Oh, I’m afraid of a ton of things, but I’d have to say the greatest fear I have is one many of us share: the loss of the ones we love. I think that’s a major reason why many of us believe in ghosts: it suggests that there’s at least some kind of continuance of identity beyond death, that death is not really the ultimate end either for us or for those others. For that reason, I find horror really rather reassuring: it presents us with our worst fears (and I’m thinking of the wrenching losses in Aster’s Hereditary right now) and forces us to face them, often victoriously. In answer to your second question, it’s all my novel is about, really. My stories deal with loss as well: the loss of self, the radical revision of your identity or the understanding of those around you.
DP: Can you tell us something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
RAB: I can’t watch slasher films. When I was a kid, I must’ve seen every Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare on Elm Street that cable made available, even (God help us) Children of the Corn. Nowadays, though, I just can’t. I tried watching the new Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis, whom I love, and I couldn’t get through it. That said, though, I have a soft spot in my heart for offbeat horror—not precisely comic horror, but horror that is so Grand Guignol, so over-the-top, that it doesn’t take itself entirely seriously and yet enjoys every minute of the universe it’s creating. The Wicker Man is one film like that, and it’s no surprise to me that Christopher Lee considered his favorite role to be Lord Summerisle, but my all-time favorite is Ken Russell’s Lair of the White Worm. It’s hard to top Peter Capaldi using his bagpipes (and a hidden kilt mongoose) to subdue a vampire postman―that is, until you see Amanda Donohoe. What else? Well, when I’m not reading (or writing), I love trail running and obstacle course racing, and I’ve helped out as part of the World’s Toughest Mudder pit crew for several years, which has to do with a whole new set of fears mostly having to do with bandaging feet and not getting puked on.
DP: Ha ha ha ha, good for you. Final question then: Creatively is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet? If so – what is it?
RAB: I would love to finish editing my novel, which is about as much fun as it sounds, and publish it, which sounds more fun. Let’s keep fingers crossed.
We will, we will!
Thanks so much for your time and the best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
If you would like to connect with R.A. Busby direct:
Instagram: R.A. Busby
Short Sharp Shocks! Book 42 is Heart Of Stone by M. Brandon Robbins. The book is out now for pre-sales and is published on the 30th November.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to talk to you! What a horrible (and we mean that in a good way!) story Heart Of Stone is, for those don’t know yet know M. Brandon Robbins, please tell us a little about yourself and why / how you became a writer.
M.BRANDON ROBBINS: Hello! My day job is as a school librarian, but I’ve wanted to write professionally ever since I knew you could do such a thing. I majored in English in college and tried for years to make it, but I just wasn’t at the right point in my life for that to happen. I took some time off, lived through some experiences, and I’ve recently tried throwing myself back into the fray. I love to write because I love to create. I love creating characters and worlds. I love telling stories. I like maybe people feel something, be it fear or joy or even sadness. If you can make somebody feel something, then you’ve touched their life. There is power in that.
DP: I hear you and totally agree. Also sometimes it is worth taking a break / stepping back for a while before you’re able to press forward / succeed – I can speak from personal experience there...anyway, Heart Of Stone, what’s it about?
MBR: The protagonist wakes up in a basement to discover they’re tied to a chair and there’s a table nearby with a heart on it. What follows is a story of obsession and distorted views of love, with a heartbreaking act of desperation. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that there’s no happy ending.
DP: And in writing it did you have to do much research?
MBR: I didn’t but it went through several revisions. It started out as just one scene and it was a far more gory work, with lots of visceral detail. I then tried expanding on it, turning that scene into a more proper story, but it then felt like too long of an introduction before you got to the true conflict. So I decided to start where the story really does begin―with the protagonist tied to a chair, lost and confused―and go from there.
DP: I’m not sure whether you’ve written screenplays before but it had that vibe for me (again a good thing) and I truly believe Heart Of Stone would make a cracking short film (or part of an anthology film)...did you find any of the scenes difficult to write?
MBR: Yes, I found one scene very difficult to write. I’m not shy when it comes to violence and gore―I grew up playing Mortal Kombat and Doom―but this scene required violence an innocent and sympathetic character. I was afraid it would come off as unearned, but I think it paid off with a sense of torment that was fitting for what happens.
DP: No spoilers from us but I think you achieved that so well done. Creatively so far, what you say has been your biggest success?
MBR: I have a novel forthcoming from Dragon Soul Press. It’s titled Mr Haunt and is scheduled for an October 2020 release.
DP: Well done! Looking forward to reading that in due course then. Let’s talk about other authors / books and how they influence you...
MBR: Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allan Poe are my old standbys. It’s impossible for those works to not influence you if you write horror or fantasy, save for the blatant racism of Lovecraft’s works. That’s easy and necessary to avoid. Honestly, though, I haven’t read many novels lately. I’ve always loved comic books and those make up the bulk of my reading. Right now I’m liking anything by Scott Snyder, Tom King, Tini Howard, and Jeff Lemire. They all influence how I write dialogue, I think. When you write comics, you have to be skillful at writing dialogue, and they excel at it. Warren Ellis is another big influence. He writes very natural, conversationalist dialogue.
DP: Ah, there’s some names I need to check out. I used to read a lot of graphic novels / comics but not for a long while...so, what does horror mean to M. Brandon Robbins?
MBR: There are as many definitions of horror as there are of fantasy or science fiction, but to me it all comes down to this: horror is an examination of fear. It can be fear of the unknown. It can be the fear of death. Fear can come in the form of a fantastical creature. But horror is ultimately fiction about things that scare us, and sometimes the things that scare us aren’t obvious or in plain sight.
DP: Too true...too true. Are you interested in working in any other creative forms / mediums?
MBR: I would love to write comic books. I would love to do a Batman story with Scarecrow as the main villain and just make it a bone-chilling tale of terror, like an old-school EC Comic meets a superhero book.
DP: I love that idea...actually perhaps Heart Of Stone would also work as a graphic novel...bit of fun: Marvel or DC?
MBR: Generally, I like DC’s comics better and find Marvel’s movies to be better done. The quality of the comics fluctuate, of course, especially with talent moving back and forth between the two companies.
DP: And finally, What is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
MBR: Two things, actually. First, I also write westerns. I’ve had a western short story published online and have written a western novel that I see as being part of a series; I’m just not sure if it’s the first book or not. Second, I’m an Episcopalian. I know that horror and religion don’t have to be mutually exclusive―religion is the source of some the most horrifying imagery out there after all―but I know I find it entertaining when I’m in church the day after I just wrote the first draft of a bloody new short story while listening to black metal. We’re all a contradiction I suppose.
That we are my friend, that we are.
Thank you so much for your time – truly appreciate it.
If you would like to connect to M. Brandon Robbins direct:
Author Interview - Kitty R. Kane (Book 41 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series, The Straitjacket In the Woods
Book 41 in the Short Sharp Shocks! is Kitty R. Kane’s The Straitjacket In The Woods. Published 30th November but available now for presales. Recently Dean and Kitty sat down and had a quick chat about her life and work.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome to the family. For those that don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
KITTY R. KANE: Hi! Of course – I’ve been a lifelong horror fan since very young when I would steal Richard Laymon novels out of my father's bedside cabinet. It was Laymon that inspired me to become a writer of horror. I always knew I wanted to write but received little encouragement at school. Maybe part of me felt like it was one in the eye to the doubters when I was first published, and I've really not stopped since.
DP: Good for you. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Laymon’s work but I was big fan a few years back. What is The Straitjacket In The Woods about?
KRK: My story is a Laymon inspired tale. It has been kicking around my mind for a long time, I wanted to explore family units with a difference, and spin a Laymon style twist in it.
DP: Yeap, I could see the influences...tell us about your protagonist.
KRK: My main protagonist is a woman called Pendulous Sedge. It's the name of a plant that I stole but she is my experiment with what can happen to misunderstood people when evil people get a hold of them and abuse them. And a shining example of humanity and love in the face of severe horror.
DP: That’s a great way of coming up with a character’s name – will have to try that one day. Did you have to do much research before writing your story?
KRK: The research I had to do for this was centred around deformity and the differing forms it can take and the effects it has upon the afflicted. I also researched a little about genealogy and the effects of inbreeding.
DP: With that in mind, where there any scenes you found difficult to write?
KRK: The most difficult scene for me in this story was the sexual assault. I am a sexual assault counsellor in my real life, and bringing it into my work is always difficult, but sometimes for the story to work it is required. The Laymon inspiration demands there be a sexual element in the story, but it is certainly more subtle than my earlier work.
DP: Other than Richard Laymon, which other authors influenced you / your writing?
KRK: Author who inspire me are of course Richard Laymon, but also Ramsey Campbell, Susan Hill, Graham Masterton, Tim Lebbon, Jack Ketchum, Diane Guest, Robert R McCammon and many more.
DP: Some great names there – I do need to read some more Ketchum. Always happy to see Graham mentioned too. What would be your definition of horror be?
KRK: What is horror to me? It's not the creature created by a brilliant mind. It's not the ghost cooked up by a great tale-spinner, it's not even the blood and gore of films like Saw, horror to me, as I've witnessed too many times in real life, is what man is capable of doing to fellow man.
DP: Sadly very true...in terms of films, anything you’re looking forward to seeing?
KRK: Without question Dr Sleep. I loved the book, I can’t wait to get chance to see the film.
DP: And finally, what frightens Kitty R. Kane?
KRK: I'm scared of a few things, I have a strange phobia of balloons, anything that goes bang really, but what terrifies me more than anything else is not seeing my daughter with her own family.
Thank you so much for your time and all the best with your Short Sharp Shocks!
The Coffin Walk (Book 40 in the Short Sharp Shocks!) is by Richard Farren Barber, is available now for pre-sales and is being published on the 30th November.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Richard, how you doing? Let’s dive straight in. Tell us a little about yourself and how / why you became a writer.
RICHARD FARREN BARBER: Hi, yes, I’m Richard. I grew up with a love of books; I have a clear memory from primary school where we would walk down to the local public library in Hyson Green, Nottingham (a fantastic old Victorian building) to be allowed to pick/return books. I can even remember picking up my first Doctor Who book there (I don’t remember the exact title, but it was by Terence Dicks and it starred the Daleks) and then ploughing through the series. And I suppose that’s why I became a writer; because I loved reading. I loved pouring myself into a book and entering a different world. I see writing as an extension of that experience. When I’m writing I am immersed in the story and that thrill of the first draft, where I’m watching the story unfold at my fingertips, is intoxicating.
DP: Indeed it is! What’s The Coffin Walk about?
RFB: A group of four people go on ghost hunting tours. In truth, they never expect to find anything and they each have their own reasons for taking part, but then they stumble upon a genuine supernatural event and the story follows what happens.
DP: Who are your protagonists?
RFB: There’s a lot of history in this group. There are only four of them but they’ve been meeting for their ghost hunting trips for three years and they’ve fallen into an uneasy conspiracy where everyone has their own roles; Harry likes to think of himself as the leader and the others let him think that, Steve is just a little apart from the other three and is immersed in his tricks and toys. And Amy…it’s a complex relationship between the narrator and Amy.
DP: Did you have to do much research before / during the writing of your story?
RFB: The coffin walk in the story is a real place; and just a few miles away from where I live so it’s somewhere we go for a walk. In that way I’ve done a lot of research just walking up and down the route. Also, I’m the sort of person who stops at every blue plaque in London, every tourist information panel in a city or every inscription on the side of a castle wall. I’m useless at retaining the information long term, but I love reading about places and their history. So I didn’t so much research The Coffin Walk as absorb it.
DP: Ah, that’s really cool. Creatively Richard what would you say is your biggest success so far?
RFB: Hmm. How do you define success? Commercially my biggest success is a novella called The Sleeping Dead which was published by DarkFuse in 2014. Unfortunately, DarkFuse closed a few years ago so it’s not currently in print. Creatively…hmm. I’m trying to stay away from saying something trite along the lines that whatever I write next is my biggest creative success. So, maybe instead of obsessing on success I’ll focus on what I’m most proud of writing. I’ve had six novellas published (The Power of Nothing; The Sleeping Dead; Odette; Perfect Darkness, Perfect Silence; Closer Still; and All Hell [which appeared in Demain’s WW1 / horror anthology The Darkest Battlefield in 2018) and one novel (The Living and the Lost). All of them have a place in my heart; I’m not saying they’re all creatively brilliant – hopefully I’ve got better at telling a story over the years – but they all mean something to me. I’m currently working on a novella and a novel which I’m excited about, but I’m going to keep my mouth shut in case I mess them up. But I would say I consider something successful if I finish writing it, people get to read it, and they find something to connect with in the story.
DP: I’m with you there...when you can actually type The End or put that last full stop (or even a final FADE OUT: ) there is such a sense of achievement isn’t there...which books or authors do you read and do they influence you?
RFB: I tend to read across the piece; horror, science fiction, fantasy, crime, thriller, literary fiction. In a quiet moment last year I worked out that if I didn’t buy any more books, the unread books already on my Kindle would last me through the next ten years. Reader, I have bought more books since then! In terms of authors, my ‘go to’ list is Stephen King, John Steinbeck and Robert Westall, but there is a great wealth of talent both inside the horror genre and beyond. Names that spring to mind include Ramsey Campbell, Michelle Paver, Adam Nevill, Neil Gaiman, Paul Tremblay and Sarah Pinborough (The Death House is awesome!!!). But there are just so many great stories out there. As well as the mainstream I read a lot of Independent Press with authors such as Simon Bestwick, Peter Mark May, Mark West, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Dave Jeffery. I would really need to pull up my list of books read from Goodreads to give a proper account of my reading habits, I’ve missed a large number of great authors (even as I’m saying this more names are popping to mind, but I could spend much of the day creating a list!). In terms of influence, I think everyone is influenced to some degree by what they read. My early writing read like very bad Stephen King, but hopefully I’ve got beyond that. Sometimes I will be reading something and notice the impact it’s on me having and try to work out what the writer is doing to achieve that effect. Sometimes I’ll spot a particular trick and consider whether I can (and should) incorporate it into something I’m writing. Perhaps the most direct influence, though, is when I read something and it sets off an image or an idea in my head. The author usually goes in a different direction but the idea stays with me like a seed waiting to germinate. Perfect Darkness, Perfect Silence came about in that way. It was from a single image in a Tim Lebbon novel in which someone was dumping a body overboard.
DP: We love Tim’s work too and you’ve named some great writers there, several of whom have (or will be!) worked with Dean / Demain. I was wondering, what does ‘horror’ mean to you?
RFB: I have two answers! Firstly, horror is an emotion. It’s a visceral response to what is usually a sense of danger. But for me as an art form (and there’s a danger I’ll trip over into pretension here, so hold onto my hand and haul me back if I go too far) horror is able to reflect on the core questions of humanity: why are we here? What is important to us? Is there anything else? I love the fact that in a horror novel you can be dealing with the surface of ‘the monster’ but then you can peel back to what that means for the characters and by extension, what it means for us as individuals.
DP: Is there a horror novel or film coming out soon that you’re looking forward to?
RFB: The next Stephen King. Always…that said, I tend to save up my ‘Stevies’ and read them when I know I will have time to really focus on them, rather than reading five pages at night and then falling to sleep. (I hearby apologise to all the authors whose works I’ve maimed through death-by-a-thousand-cuts as I stagger through the pages each night.) I don’t really watch a lot of horror films. I think horror is particularly interesting in that there feels like a wide gulf between films and books. That said, it’s closing to some extent with recent adaptations such as BirdBox, The Silence, and The Girl With All The Gifts.
DP: Ah, we’ve heard great things about Girl With All The Gifts but haven’t had time yet to watch it...is there anything you are scared of Richard?
RFB: I’m not sure afraid is the right description, but I find ghosts fascinating. When you look at all the tropes within horror; vampires, zombies, etc I find myself most attracted to ghost stories. I love what they represent, and the potential they have to explore so many emotions. The Coffin Walk was actually intended as an anchor story for a collection of my ghost short stories I was putting together.
DP: Creatively is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet? If so – what is it?
RFB: A fair few years ago I tried to write a TV script as part of the BBC’s Writers’ Room project. I wrote the opening few scenes but it was really, really difficult and I realised it was not the same skillset as writing prose and I’d have to invest in learning new skills. At the time I set it aside (although that TV script became my novella, Closer Still) but maybe one day…
DP: Best of luck! Couple of quick / fun ones, Marvel or DC?
RFB: I don’t really watch superhero movies. That said, I watched Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker and thought it was absolutely brilliant. The sort of film where you come out of the cinema talking about what you’ve just seen.
DP: And finally then, tell us something surprising about you?
RFB: There’s a lot of autobiographical details that seeps into my stories; The Coffin Walk is an example where I use real life and give it a little twist. Depending on what readers have picked up already they probably know I have an affinity with Nottingham (Where I was born and grew up. I now live in exile over the border in Derbyshire) and support Nottingham Forest (this year…surely this year). The football savvy observant reader may even enjoy playing “Where does that name come from?” where I use Forest players as character names. They may already have picked up on my politics (this year… surely this year). I could go for the mundane (I’m colour-blind; this actually impacts on my writing as I have to make a conscious decision to check how I refer to colours in my stories) to the unusual (I have drive a police boat).
Ha ha – driven a police boat?! We’d love to do that.
Thanks a million for your time Richard and best of luck with The Coffin Walk.
If you would like to connect with Richard direct:
Happy to announce that the next batch of Short Sharp Shocks! are now available for pre-sales and will be published on November 30th.
The authors are:
Richard Farren Barber
Kitty R. Kane
M. Brandon Robbins
2019 has been a successful year for Demain Publishing. First (and thanks to Trevor Kennedy for making the introduction) cover artist (and author!) Adrian Baldwin joined the team. This segued nicely into the launch of the Short Sharp Shocks! in March – the first series is coming to a close in late December with FIFTY ebooks published (the print versions will be coming in 2020 which we’re looking forward to); Joe by Terry Grimwood, Maggie Of My Heart by Alyson Faye, House Of Wrax by Raven Dane and A Quiet Apocalypse by Dave Jeffery. Next year will be even bigger and we will be hitting the ground running from January.
We are both happy and proud to announce that we have now partnered with Kendall Reviews – something we have been talking about behind the scenes for a couple of months but now all parties agree it is time to make reality.
What does this actually mean?
First, any Demain news will be released FIRST on the Kendall Review site before appearing on Demain’s social media or other review sites (which we will to continue to work closely with and nurture those relationships particularly non-horror review sites / blogs etc).
Secondly, as the partnership develops there will be exclusive content on the Kendall Reviews site whether that’s interviews, guest blogs, extracts, stories, subs calls, competitions / give aways.
There could also be one or two surprises along the way.
Be assured, this is not a vanity partnership: Kendall Reviews will continue to provide honest reviews of Demain’s works – as they have done to date.
Both Kendall Reviews and Demain Publishing are extremely excited about the future and making a real mark in our genre.
Thank you for reading and I wish you a happy day.
Dean M. Drinkel
Just a quick word to say thank to you to all our readers who downloaded the free Short Sharp Shocks! on Halloween. Whilst we kept it on the 'down low' (except for mentioning it on Kendall Reviews and one or two other tweets throughout the day) we 'sold' over 600 books - all of the titles hitting the top of the charts too. I'm happy that DEMAIN books are getting out there and resonating with people. The first series of 50 ebooks will soon be coming to an end. We then move into the print versions. 2020 is going to be very exciting indeed.
Thanks again - it is very much appreciated.
There will be more on this in due course but just a quick announcement: DEMAIN will be working very closely with Kendall Reviews from here-on-in. They are one of the most important genre review sites and we are all looking forward to this immensely. More in due course.
Please check out the site: http://kendallreviews.com/
Together we will promote horror!
Dean M. Drinkel