On the 30th November DEMAIN will be publishing Greenbeard, a contemporary fable novella by John Travis (cover by Adrian Baldwin). The ebook is currently available for pre-sales. As Lockdown #2 struck, Dean and John sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hi John, great to talk at last, let’s get straight down to it – can you tell us a little about yourself…
JOHN TRAVIS: I’m not sure there’s that much to tell, really. I’m middle-aged, too short but thankfully still have a full head of hair. I read, listen to a lot of music, watch films and go for walks. And the only thing I’ve ever want to do is be creative. Why writing? I used to think writers were made, but the older I get the more I think they are born to it. It’s in there, perhaps just waiting for some kind of fuel to trigger it all off, or maybe you’re one of those people who just has a lot to say. If you’re doing it purely for the money… well, good luck with that.
DP: Indeed and I’m glad you’ve still got your hair ha ha. What’s your background and has had that had some influence on you as a writer would you say?
JT: My background to becoming a writer is a peculiar one, although I only realised that a few years ago. I’ve written from the age of seven in one form or another – poetry, comedy sketches on my ZX Spectrum – but I never read fiction until I was eighteen, and that’s when I got serious about writing. Apart from my mum who read Jackie Collins and Catherine Cookson, I didn’t know anybody who read books. In twelve years at school I remember seeing one kid in all that time reading for pleasure rather than because they had to. On the few occasions I told people I wrote their reactions were so negative I instantly regretted it. I’d say all this as well as a lot of ongoing mental health issues that started in childhood have definitely influenced my worldview and writing.
DP: I went to college with a guy who was studying for a degree in English lit – he NEVER read a book in the time I knew him, when challenged he said he read all the time “crisp packets…signs…record inlays…” Odd…very odd! Anyway, what was your first introduction to the horror genre?
JT: Would you believe Scooby Doo? Again, I didn’t know anything about books and there wasn’t anything genre-based that got watched on the TV at home, so that was it for years. But I always seemed to be drawn towards odd things in general and eventually when I did start reading I found that horror fiction was natural fit for me.
DP: Oh I love that and in all the interviews I’ve done I don’t think anybody has ever mentioned Scooby Doo before – love it! Let’s talk about Greenbeard.
JT: I’d been reading some fairly tales and it struck me that they were like a mix of horror and crime stories but for children, so I decided to write my own version combining all three elements. I was also interested in the idea of the killer who is never caught – Jack the Ripper, the Black Dahlia, the Zodiac Killer – and the mystery that surrounds them. It occurred to me the reality of their lives (killing aside) might often be quite mundane. I also wanted to write a story about how people get lost in certain ways and just don’t fit in and how it could cause problems for them. And how some people who seem to fit in are the actual ‘weird’ ones.
DP: That’s a couple of good points you’ve made there, I suspect that in reality a lot of killers’ lives are mundane and there’s nothing ‘exciting’ about them at all…creatively what is your biggest success so far?
JT: Even though I love short and long fiction equally, I’d have to say the three novels I’ve written. I finished the first, The Terror and the Tortoiseshell, in 2004, and a part of me still can’t believe that not only did I somehow have the wits to write a novel, but I also found someone to publish it as well as the next one I wrote too. If you measure success in terms of sales then it and the next book, The Designated Coconut, weren’t a success. But the fact that I was able to write them at all feels like success to me.
DP: Definitely a success as far as I’m concerned. Not everybody can write a novel so well done you. Who are your influences?
JT: Of my three big influences only one is a writer – HP Lovecraft (the other two are the group the Pixies and the sitcom One Foot in the Grave). Most of my influences I’d say are fairly regular – Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, TED Klein, Ambrose Bierce, the circle of writers associated with Lovecraft during the Weird Tales era, Arthur Machen and tons of others. I try to read as widely as possible and usually each book I read is a reaction to the last – if I read a serious book, the next one will be light. They all influence me to hopefully be a better writer by showing me how it should be done.
DP: So what does horror mean to you?
JT: I think horror is a different thing for me than it is for other people. It can disturb me in many different ways, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve found it scary. The main draw of it for me is that at its best it’s incredibly imaginative. Also as horror is an emotion its reach extends to virtually all types of fiction, making it a genre which is an extremely broad church.
DP: Totally agree – I was talking to a film producer recently about me writing something for him. I asked him what he was looking for exactly and he said “horror” and I went “yeah, but what exactly” and he said again “horror” – I then reeled off some ideas and he said he didn’t want blood, guts, psychological, quiet etc etc – it was a very ‘difficult’ conversation ha ha. What is John Travis frightened of?
JT: The late Diana Rigg summed it up beautifully for me years ago when she was asked this on a chat show. I can’t remember the exact words but it something along the lines of gradual mental and physical deterioration, and being painfully aware that it was happening. On the other hand, not knowing sends a shiver down my spine too. That turns up in my stories time and again, people who lose all perspective on life and can’t find a way out. And people scare me – when you see what one person or group of people can do to others it’s terrifying.
DP: I’m with you – I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently and my / our ultimate demise. It’s not death that scares me, it’s that moment just before when you’re about to leave this life and you can taste what’s coming on the back of your tongue…sends a shiver down my spine every time…must be a story in that somewhere ha ha. For you is writing a short term or long term career?
JT: It’s a way of life. I don’t think I’m here for anything else and I’ve never wanted anything else. I stopped looking at it as a career a few years ago. Most of the stuff I write isn’t really deemed commercial and I’ve no interest in watering it down to sell more books. And I’m not the kind of writer who has vast amounts to say about the world. I try and keep my stuff as free from what’s going on in the world as I can. I’d be lousy if I tried to do it and other people out there are much more articulate than I am. So for me it’s a case of doing it for myself because I want to and have to. Writing and life are indivisible.
Yes, they definitely are. Thanks John for your time, I enjoyed that. All the best with Greenbeard.
If you’d like to connect with John direct: facebook.com/JohnTravisWriter
Short Sharp Shocks! 61 is Old Slosh & The Wind Chill Factor by Ryan Bevan. The book is released on the 27th November but is currently available for pre-sales. The cover is by Adrian Baldwin. Dean and Ryan sat down to talk about it…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome Ryan – for those that don’t know you could you tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer?
RYAN BEVAN: It’s a pleasure to be here…I grew up in Quebec, in a small town on the south shore of Montreal. When I was in Grade 7, my English teacher read a short story that I had written out loud to the class. She was merciful enough to keep it anonymous. The story was about a kid who turned into a werewolf in the middle of class and savagely attacked his schoolmates. When she finished reading the story, all the kids in class applauded. I felt pretty good about that. I figured if I could get that response from a bunch of cynical teens like myself, maybe I had a chance.
DP: Oh nice, I like that. So can you tell us a little more about your background – has it influenced you as a writer?
RB: I come from a very average, Kevin Arnold [The Wonder Years] type, suburban background. My friends and I were into horror. We spent nights drinking beer and watching slashers. We listened to Black Sabbath. I read King and Lovecraft. I think the biggest impact my upbringing has had on my writing is how it determined my perception of the reader. Specifically, the reader that I wanted or preferred to reach. In a sense, I’ve always been chasing the applause from the high school class. My friends growing up became and still are the people that I write for. People who don’t necessarily read a lot but dig a good scary story. People that aren’t interested in a showery display of literary prowess but get a kick out of a simple, creepy campfire tale.
DP: The slashers were your first introduction to the horror genre?
RB: I’ve been into horror for so long that it’s hard to trace it back to the catalyst. I think it stemmed initially from hanging around with older kids from the neighbourhood who would watch horror movies and then relate to the younger and very impressionable kids like me the plot and the kills in unsympathetic, graphic detail. So I knew who Jason Vorhees was long before I ever watched a Friday the 13th film. The exploits of Jason, Freddy, and Michael Meyers were pretty different than what was happening in the books we read in school or the biblical tales we listened to in church. Well, maybe not that much different than the biblical tales. Some of those are pretty horrific.
DP: They are that aren’t they? Your Short Sharp Shocks! what is that about?
RB: The two tales are part of a series of stories that I began writing a year or so ago. I wanted to create a collection in the same vein as ‘Tales From The Crypt’ and ‘Creepshow’. Horror stories that are scary but don’t take themselves too seriously. Old Slosh is the more recent of the bunch, whereas The Wind Chill Factor was one of the first that I wrote.
DP: You mentioned influences there, what about books / authors…
RB: I mean, in my early teens it was Stephen King. I devoured all his works, but Night Shift was the collection that I returned to the most. I graduated, if that’s the right word, to Poe and Lovecraft. I studied English Literature at university, and I’ve always favoured the classics. Spencer, and Malory. I have a soft spot for the Romantics. Byron and Shelley in particular. Thomas Hardy, and Tolkien and the Inklings, of course. Chesterton, Robert Bloch, Bukowski, Dylan Thomas. I’m afraid I’m not very modern.
DP: There’s no harm in that – some great names there…would you say the horror genre is affected by world events and do you put them in your work?
RB: I try not to. I mean, everything can seem to apply to world events with a little interpretation. I’d rather begin with the intention of telling a story than making a statement. I think the reader feels a bit cheated once they sense they are being manipulated into adopting a certain point of view, particularly if it’s overtly political. As far as horror being affected by world events, Tolkien swore up and down that The Lord of the Rings was not an allegory for the First World War. And I believe him. Psychologically, it makes a certain amount of sense that what you’re experiencing and processing through the subconscious in response to whatever shit is going on in the world would make its way onto the page in some form or another. But if you set out with the specific intent to devise an allegory, I think you’re starting off on the wrong foot.
DP: Definitely! It’s been said that the genre is dead, what would you say to that? Do you agree?
RB: No. But personally, I think it needs a shot in the arm. I think horror needs to recover its sense of humour. It’s sense of fun. I’d rather see a crowd of moviegoers leave a horror picture with a smile on their faces like they’ve just come from a fun party rather than looking dejected, pale, and depressed, like they’ve just been watching the local news.
DP: I’m with you – everything is very depressing isn’t it – I like horror movies myself where you might have been scared witless for 90 mins but you’re busting to talk about it with your friends / family…a few years back now when I lived in London I used to go to the cinema every week with a friend of mine and we’d always be watching horror movies and some of them were downright scary where we’d be gripping the arms of the chairs but then having a laugh about it in the pub afterwards…happy days (I know he was more scared than me but would never admit it ha ha)…so, the lockdown: how did you handle it…
RB: I live in a small village in Switzerland. The local shop was open so I could get my wine and beer – and food. We could still go for walks and sit in the garden. So in that sense it did not affect us in a really profound way, besides the general anxiety that everyone felt and is still feeling. The most difficult part was isolating the kids from school and their friends. It’s very unhealthy. Keeping the kids happy, healthy, hopeful, and busy was the foundation of our routine.
DP: Final question then Ryan – have you ever interacted with your influences?
RB: Joe Hill once tweeted that he liked my band! That was pretty damn cool. In all other matters of interaction, to quote Seinfeld, “I prefer the company of nitwits.”
Ha ha – thank you so much for your time. Stay safe and well. Best of luck with Old Slosh & The Wind Chill Factor.
If you’d like to connect with Ryan direct – he’s on instagram: bevan_writer
DEMAIN welcomes Mark Anthony Smith to the Short Sharp Shocks! series with Book 60 – Brood. The book is being published on the 27th November but is available now for pre-sales. The cover is by Adrian Baldwin. As Lockdown #2 approached, Dean and Mark had a quick chat about the upcoming release.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hi Mark – hope you’re well, for those that don’t know you can tell us a little about yourself and why you became a writer?
MARK ANTHONY SMITH: Hello! I'm Mark from Hull. I read a lot of Horror in my twenties – particularly James Herbert, Shaun Hutson and Clive Barker. I love The Rats. But it was the exactness of Ian McEwan’s Black Dogs that made me want to hone my style through fiction.
DP: Cool, were these great writers your first introduction to the horror genre?
MAS: No…definitely Betamax video rentals such as Critters and Day of the Dead. Bub [in Day Of The Dead] freaked me out at the time (I was 14). Dawn…is one of my favourite films now.
DP: What is your Short Sharp Shocks! all about then?
MAS: Brood is my fourth book. I'd describe it as a bawdy Christmas day soap opera, on a bloated stomach, with blood. I tried to kill some of my characters but they came back!
DP: Did you find it difficult to write?
MAS: Yes. It started as a really simple idea. Then, as I wrote, it threw up lots of questions and I had to unknit the relationships, events, plot twists...and entrails.
DP: What is your biggest success to date would you say?
MAS: Keep It Inside And Other Weird Tales has received good book reviews. I’m always trying to build on previous successes by keeping it fresh.
DP: That’s often the best way – is there a horror book or film you’re looking forward to?
MAS: I can’t wait for The Dunwich Horror if Richard Stanley directs it. Wilbur Whateley will be really creepy. The Color out Space was fantastic.
DP: I’m a great fan of Richard’s work too and glad that he’s returned to film making…is the horror genre dead?
MAS: Absolutely not! It seems everyone is writing Horror. There’s a lot of adaptations and remakes gracing screens. Take The Lighthouse and Midsommar, for example. Horror seems more mainstream than ever.
DP: Mark is writing a short or long term career for you?
MAS: I’ll write as long as I can. It feeds my soul and surprises me too. Writing is meditative.
DP: Do you interact a lot with your fellow writers?
MAS: The Writing Community on Twitter is really supportive. I do have a few funny stories but my Mam will read this!
DP: Good for you and finally, can you tell us something surprising about yourself?
MAS: I’ve written a fair bit of poetry and I can’t dance. But I sing well...
You and me both! Thanks for your time Mark, all the best with your Short Sharp Shocks!
If you’d like to connect direct with Mark Anthony Smith:
Twitter Address: @MarkAnthonySm16
Facebook: Mark Anthony Smith – Author
Book 59 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series, is Yvonne Lang with her The Doll’s House & Prison Break. The book is published on the 27th November but is now available for pre-sales. The cover is by Adrian Baldwin. Recently Dean and Yvonne sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome to DEMAIN Yvonne, it’s great to have you here. Let’s start at the beginning [often the best place to start!]: could you tell us a little about yourself and how / why you became a writer.
YVONNE LANG: Hi. Of course. I have always loved reading, all the women in my family love reading so it was just normal to read that much to me growing up. So naturally I took an interest in creating my own stories as well as reading other peoples. I love the idea that something I have made up can have an impact on someone I will never meet – a message that sticks with someone, someone too scared to turn the light out at night as they read a scary part or someone crying over a character I have conceived. I worked as a librarian for close to 15 years, then switched to working in children’s publishing so have always been surrounded by books and people who love them. I find a real escape in writing and it comes quite easily to me – well the ideas and the first draft, editing is more of a chore! I was first published at 13 (it was a ghost story!) and have managed to get a steady stream of bits and bats published ever since. I still get a huge thrill at finding out that I am shortlisted in a competition or have been selected for publication by an editor. It is a great sense of validation that the words I am churning out are of interest to someone other than myself and my nana!
DP: We really enjoyed your stories! What was your first introduction to the horror genre?
YL: I think that credit has to go to my grandparents. They loved speaking about ghosts and had a bookshelf of local hauntings and ghost sightings throughout the country and specifically in Yorkshire. I found it fascinating that so many people believed in this and there was so much science still can’t explain, so I suppose it was non-fiction that first got me into it. Growing up I loved the ‘Goosebumps’ series and then the ‘Point Horror’ series which I got hooked on. As an adult I went off it a little as I don’t like violent, realistic horror – murder, abduction, women trapped in basements. It was not for me and I personally cannot fathom the enjoyment of sitting through a film such as Saw. My partner still laughs that he has to check the certificates on films, if they are an 18 he has to check the reason – and if it’s torture – I won’t watch it! Then I just got pickier. If it is horror with a paranormal or fantasy element, I really enjoy it. Subtle hauntings or characters trying to explain the unexplained really kept me reading. I was writing a thriller that had nothing to do with horror when my local library ran a ghost-writing course and I thought, why not? The first story I ever had published was a ghost story that was published in Blush magazine, but I hadn’t written many ghost stories lately and felt I should brush up on them. I bought the book of the writer running the course, Badlands by Alyson Faye and she told me about Demain Publishing so I owe a lot to her and that course!
DP: Oh great! Yes, DEMAIN have published a couple of books my Alyson already – she’s been a great friend…so, your Short Sharp Shocks!?
YL: I had been reading a lot of classic Victorian ghost stories and noticed how many of them featured dolls and doll houses. It really piqued my interest to create one myself, where you are not sure if the doll’s house if the saviour or the villain, and what to do if a toy seems to be either causing or fixing problems. It really intrigued me and I had great fun writing it. For my second story I tried to think very basically about what was scary – to me it was being trapped with something dangerous, or even something unknown. There is no escape from a holding cell, and if it is shared then you could be at risk even in a normal situation, with the outside world typically being unsympathetic if you have found yourself locked in one. I wanted to play around with someone who not only wasn’t a criminal locked in a cell, but was a victim – trapped in there with something supernatural and totally unpredictable.
DP: Ha, it was definitely unpredictable…what books / authors do you read?
YL: I adore Michael Connelly; I think he is an absolute genius. I always say Lee Child is a bit of a one trick pony, but it is a damn fantastic trick and I am a huge fan. The fact that Conan-Doyle is still so famous and well-read even today shows how wonderful his work was, it is still being used to inspire film and TV series as well as spin off series such as Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock. There have been odd books that I have chosen due to recommendations or just picked them up from the library shelf that have really stuck with me, some well-known ones such as The Woman In The Window and lesser known ones such as Defending Jacob. I love it when a book surprises me and that is what I aim to do with my readers – surprise them but not by withholding anything vital so they feel they have been conned. To have some light reading you would struggle to beat Jill Mansell and Milly Johnson – always hilarious, always great characters and carefully woven plots. Great authors. I tend to write a slightly different genre though, darker, less police procedural. I take my inspiration for these from non-fiction books and TV programmes related to the paranormal.
DP: And what does horror mean to Yvonne Lang?
YL: Something that has you on the edge of your seat, that preys on your suspension of disbelief to make you uneasy even whilst tucked up in your own bed. Something scary, whether paranormal, fantasy or just showing the terror of real life, something that people read for the fun of the fear factor.
DP: Great definition and totally agree. Is there a new horror writer (or director) that interests you?
YL: Sorry to be non-specific but all of the new authors deserve to be read. If they are good enough to be published there will be something about the story worth reading, even if the it does not grip you throughout or part disappoints, the characters could be sympathetic, a great twist ending, wonderfully descriptive language. I read the blurb of a book and if it appeals, I try it, I often do not even know the names of some of the authors I have read. The joys of working in a library, always surrounded by so many fantastic books.
DP: I’m envious! So, there have been numerous reports of late that the horror genre is dead, would you agree?
YL: Definitely not, horror has a huge online following. Films and books of the genre are successful and there are so many online communities and physical publications dedicated to the genre it would be impossible to argue it is not still popular and enjoyed by a large audience. Halloween seems to be getting more widely celebrated each year also, with horror themed things being appreciated more than usual.
DP: Yes, that’s so true about Halloween – weird to me but hey ho, horses for courses so to speak and I suppose right now we all need something to celebrate…what are you afraid of and have you ever written about your fears?
YL: Mostly all things medical, it is an ordeal for everyone within a 5 mile radius if I need an injection especially. I feel very sorry for any member of the medical profession who has to deal with me, I turn into the most uncooperative and quite frankly crazy person they will have had to deal with that week, if not their careers. It is a total personality switch where I sort of become detached from reality. I have had all sorts of panic attacks and even blackouts, I cannot even watch medical programmes that people watch for pleasure so it would be a rubbish story from me as I could provide no details to make it remotely believable. I think even writing it would probably cause my mind to turn to mush and it would most likely turn into incoherent ramblings instead of a well-crafted and enjoyable piece of fiction!
DP: I know what you mean about injections – not my cup of tea at all. Let’s move on quickly - creatively is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet? If so – what is it?
YL: I have written two novels and my first is currently with a publisher – if it gets published then that will be a major creative goal achieved. Then I can set a new goal of having a best seller or reaching number one in a particular chart.
DP: That’s amazing to hear so writing for you is a long or short term career?
YL: I would love it to be long term, that is the dream. At the moment I have a term time only job so it does give me a reasonable amount of time to write whilst also giving me a reliable steady income, which freelance work cannot guarantee. The balance is OK but I would love to be a full-time writer in the future.
DP: Well, I’m sure you’ll get there! The lockdown then…how did you handle the first one and are you ready for #2?
YL: I went through stages, almost like grief. At first I was terrified, then saw it as an opportunity to make the most of uninterrupted time to write, then I got unbelievably sad (my partner and I do not live together so were separated for months), then bored, then angry. It was quite an emotional journey. It has certainly dragged on and I think it is fair to say as a country we are fed up that we still have to live like this. It would be a lot more bearable if we had an end date, but of course no-one knows. With libraries shut and my job in limbo I could not afford to keep myself in books, I had borrowed a large stack just before lockdown hit but they didn’t last long. I got really into jigsaws (my mum is a fanatic so I had a huge stash I could borrow and work my way through) and found them really relaxing. They needed some concentration but not too much when my brain was a bit foggy with anxiety. They provided a nice distraction and a break from screens – everything was being done online, via zoom or watching TV and I kept getting such eye strain I really worried. I live very near the canal and usually walk along it weekly; I began to do this daily and it really helped me to be out of the house, near nature and getting some exercise. I also planned, plotted, wrote and redrafted and entire novel from scratch. My debut novel is currently with a local publisher with them reading the manuscript and my initial plan was to get feedback on that before starting a second one, but there will never be a time when I have this much time again so I knuckled down and wrote a ghost story in the style of Susan Hill that I am very proud of. I’m just trying to decide what to do with it next, it is nice to have something to show for my time in lockdown though. I prefer to write by hand as I can write as fast as I can think but can’t type accurately as fast as the words come to me. Typing it up is also a way of redrafting and editing as I go, so I tended to start the morning with a walk, do some writing/typing, watch a bit of TV, then jigsaw until stupid o’clock in the morning. I swear chunks of time just went missing whilst I was jigsawing! It got to be my normal routine freakishly quickly. It was my new normal, and if the book is as good as I think then at least I can say I achieved something with this terrible time.
Well done you! Great speaking to you Yvonne, the best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
Short Sharp Shocks! 58 is The Lost Girl & Spindleshanks by Alyson Faye is no stranger to DEMAIN, contributing to both the SSS! previously and the Murder! Mystery! Mayhem series. The Lost Girl & Spindleshanks (with a cover by Adrian Baldwin) is published as an ebook on the 27th November but is currently available for pre-sales. Dean and Aly sat down and chatted about it:
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome Aly, good to see you again. For those that don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself…
ALYSON FAYE: Hello! I loved reading and going to the local library where I grew up in Birmingham, UK and as an only child I was a massive bookworm. I wrote stories all the time, with titles like The Gryphon of Death! Words, unlike numbers in maths, came easily to me. I discovered writing was therapy too, after a major illness in my twenties. I started sending off my work in the 1990’s – poetry and children’s books – which fitted in well since I taught kids and I have carried on – with time off in between!
DP: I’ve never heard of The Gryphon of Death! but it sounds well worth checking out. What was your introduction to the horror genre?
AF: Probably like a lot of folk, the R.L. Stine paperbacks, and then Stephen King and specifically, Salem’s Lot, both the book and the 1979 TV movie starring David Soul. At aged thirteen the vampire children knocking on the window to be let in terrified me. I re-watched it this year (2020) and the movie holds up very well. It has guts and is still damn scary.
DP: That’s a great movie isn’t it? I’ve been lucky to spend a night drinking with David Soul – it was a great time. I know he’s not everybody’s cup of tea but it was fun. ANYWAY – your Short Sharp Shocks! tell us all about it?
AF: My first one last year was the Gothic story, Night of the Rider. This year, 2020, I will be SSS58 in the series and this time it is a pair of stories:- The Lost Girl and Spindleshanks. The Lost Girl stars a parapsychologist who is investigating a haunting, which leads him to unravel the mystery of a missing teenage girl from 1970. Spindleshanks is a nightmare creature who visits children in dreams, who may or may not be real.
DP: Thank you for that. Let’s talk about the books / authors you read – would you say they influence you?
AF: I am lucky to get to read a lot of review freebies now from indie horror publishers – a real perk and pleasure. Currently I am reading the latest dark thriller from Sarah Rayne, who is one of my all-time favourite authors. I also was very impressed by the début Gothic historical horror from C.S.Alleyne, Belle Vue and I also love Alison Littlewood and Laura Purcell. There are so many really. I also read thrillers like those by Ruth Ware, S.K.Tremayne and Rhiannon Ward.
DP: Nice and is there a new writer (or director perhaps) that interests you?
AF: During lock down I have been watching a lot of horror films online (Netflix’s His House last night being the latest) and also many horror shorts, through Alter on Youtube, and I am following certain directors’ work. There is a vast array of talent out there writing/directing indie horror. I am especially interested in the films of female writer/directors e.g. Jennifer Kent (Babadook), Bree Newsome (Wake on Vimeo - stunning), Sarah Polley (Alias Grace), Rose Glass (St. Maud). I wrote an article for the Horror Tree on female directed horror films-
DP: Excellent, well done you – I’ll check that out. I’d add Relic to that list – I recently saw it as part of the London Film Festival, an Australian movie – it was very very good. What is Aly Faye afraid of?
AF: I have a range of tangible fears, spiders and snakes are two biggies, and more intangible ones – fear of spooky woods at night, of the darkness, of being buried alive, you know the usual- but yes I do include them in my stories at some level. Spindleshanks who inhabits the children’s nightmares is very much like a creature I used to dream about as a young kid.
DP: Is writing a short or long term career for you?
AF: I wouldn’t call writing a career for me, it’s a hobby, a passion, which has grown and grown over the last few years and it has introduced me IRL and online to some interesting, amazing creatives and taken me on a journey which has enriched my life.
DP: Great answer! We’re now in the second lockdown – how are you handling it all?
AF: I felt very lucky that when lockdown started in the UK in March because I had two invitations to write for short story anthologies and I work as an editor / proofreader for an indie press too, and they had several work projects for me. This kept me occupied and I am fortunate to live with my husband and son, and a rescue dog, Roxy, who makes me go out every day for walks. I also have been co-editing an anthology, Inferno, with Stephanie Ellis (SSS3 and co-editor at The Horror Tree) for her press.
DP: Best of luck with the anthology – as you know I am also working on a Dante themed antho for release late 2021 early 2022 so the best of luck! A couple of ‘fun’ Qs next then: Do you interact a lot with your writers? If so, how / why? Any funny stories to tell?
AF: Yes, online, via FB and twitter and I run a local writing group on zoom as well. Steph Ellis is a close friend from the writing world, and there are a few others I chat to (Theresa Derwin, Ruschelle Dillon, Kev Harrison and Richard Meldrum) about life, writing, getting rejected and accepted and not murdering your editor!).
DP: Brilliant and a few DEMAIN authors there! What a family we have now hey? Last one then: What is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
AF: I used to sing and act in shows at my local arts centre in Edgbaston in Birmingham. I have been caving, micro-lighting, stock car racing and four-by-by driving in my time. I can’t live without an animal in the house, and never will. Currently we have four rescues – three cats, and a Lab cross.
Great! Thanks for your time Aly – stay safe and well.
If you’d like to connect with Alyson Faye direct:
FB: under Aly Rhodes
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alyson-Faye/e/B01NBYSLRT
We welcome back Liz Tuckwell to DEMAIN with her second [her first was A Monster Met] Short Sharp Shocks! Book 57 Scared Of Girls (with a cover by Adrian Baldwin). The ebook comes out on the 27th November but is currently available for pre-sales. As Lockdown #2 hit England, Liz and Dean sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome Liz…let’s get down to it, what was your first introduction to the horror genre?
LIZ TUCKWELL: I think it was when I and my twin sister were eleven and we watched the 1944 film, The Uninvited, late at night on TV. I remember running out of the room screaming to our big brother who was not impressed with us. The film is really tame by today’s standards but it scared the bejesus out of me at the time. Another one that made a big impression on me even though it was decades ago, was a BBC Christmas production of M R James’ story, Lost Hearts. I’d love to see that one again.
DP: Having written an M R James inspired story recently (for Trevor Kennedy) I know what you mean about Lost Hearts…and what about your second Short Sharp Shocks!?
LT: It’s a short fantasy horror story about a sad middle-aged man with a strange phobia - he’s scared of teenage girls. He lives the life of a recluse but his problems start when a gang of teenage girls start sitting on his front garden wall and escalate from there.
DP: It’s a great little tale which we enjoyed reading. When you wrote it did you have to do much in the way of research?
LT: I didn’t have to do too much research as I have a phobia myself, so I know how I react when faced with my phobia. Also, it has a domestic setting so not much research needed there. If I need to research, I tend to use Google a lot. I will buy specialist reference books if I need to. I’m not fond of using ebooks for reference, I much prefer print copies for that.
DP: Yeap, know what you mean there…Google, a writer’s best friend, especially now with the libraries being closed…so did you find Scared Of Girls particularly difficult to write?
LT: I had the basic premise, which was inspired by a real life incident and the beginning was easy to but it took me a while to think up what the twist should be (I definitely wanted a twist) and to write that. I did have some conflicting advice on how to write the story and the main character but in the end, I ignore that and went with what I felt worked best.
DP: What does horror mean to Liz Tuckwell?
LT: I think for me, horror really means terror. I don’t like slasher films or splatterpunk or even grimdark. I prefer my horror to be more psychological. I loved the novel, The Woman in Black. I’ve also seen it twice as a play and it still made me jump the second time. I also like horror comedy such as Shaun of the Dead. I prefer my horror mixed with laughs.
DP: Mixing comedy with horror is very difficult to pull off – we used to do a lot of it in the theatre which was fun – mainly about a family called The Crumps who were based a little on Fred and Rose West. It was a very dark piece – a sit-com about serial killers. Seemed to work though and very recently we were talking to some of the actors about reviving it but perhaps in a different medium – we’ll see. Anyway, anyway – what draws readers to the horror genre do you think?
LT: I don’t think you can lump horror readers into just one category. There are so many sub-genres of horror just as there are in fantasy. Gothic horror, supernatural horror, religious horror, non-supernatural horror, splatterpunk, horror comedy, slasher horror, dark fantasy, erotic horror. While I’m sure that there are readers who will read any type of horror, there are also many who prefer a particular sub-genre. While there are tropes that readers expect, the bump in the night or isolation or characters at a low ebb, they also want good writing and plots.
DP: Yes, that’s certainly true. For a period I was very interested in dark, ‘erotic’ (well, I’m not sure it was exactly erotic when I look back at it ha ha) but I’ve moved on from that (saying that though I’ve got a couple of ideas for ‘sequels’ to pieces I wrote a few years back). I was talking to a producer recently about some horror pitches he wanted from me, I told him horror is very much a broad church and the pitches reflected that – some were very quiet but then there was one or two where a lot of people were going to suffer a lot of pain (because of the story obviously) which I’d really like to develop into full scripts. With everything going on right now would you say that our genre is affected by world events?
LT: I think the horror genre is affected by world events. For example, the number of horror stories and novels with a background of the First or Second World War, two of the most important events of the twentieth century. I’m sure there will be a number of horror stories and novels being written at the moment inspired by the Corona virus. Personally, I haven’t put world events in my work so far.
DP: It’s tempting to write about world events BUT on the flipside I think it can immediately date a piece of work…do you think (because of the virus etc etc) the horror genre is dead?
LT: I strongly disagree [with that question]. It seems to me that the horror genre is alive and well. And I think the pandemic has only made interest in horror stronger. It’s comforting to confront fears that don’t exist as compared to the real life horrors of the moment.
DP: Indeed…so what is Liz Tuckwell scared of?
LT: I am very sympathetic to the hero of my latest Short Sharp Shocks! story because I have a phobia myself, about rats and mice. I find hamsters and guinea pigs pretty difficult as well. If a show or a film comes on the TV with a scene with rats or mice in it, I either change the channel, shut my eyes or leave the room. And if one more person tells me you’re never more than six feet away from a rat in London, I shan’t be responsible for my actions. So far, I haven’t used this phobia in my work but I suspect it’s only a matter of time…
DP: I was on my morning walk earlier and (though I’m not in London right now) we saw some dead rats by the river…but let’s move on quickly! Creatively is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet? If so – what is it?
LT: I’d like to write a novel or rather publish a novel. I’ve drafted a few but not got any of them to a publishable stage as yet.
DP: Well we’d definitely be up for reading it / them when ready…so writing is a long term career for you?
LT: Hopefully. I’ve retired now so I can devote more time to writing.
DP: So, the lockdown…how did you handle #1 and now #2…[got to say it’s all a bit depressing isn’t it?]
LT: I found writing really helped with the first lockdown. It gave a focus to my days. Some of my friends have told me they got really bored but I can honestly say I was never bored. I also had a number of zoom meetings every week including writers’ groups. That also gave structure to my days. I did try to go out to have a walk most days, just to get a change of scenery, get some exercise and just see real people. Having a garden to look after, also helped. I felt so sorry for people living in flats without access to a garden. I’ll probably do much the same during the lockdown #2 although it’s hard to work up enthusiasm for going for a walk when the weather is bad. (Yes, I am a wimp.) I think I’ll have to start doing some online exercise classes.
Good for you! Always a pleasure Liz, thanks for your time. The best of luck with Scared Of Girls, Book 57 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series…
If you’d like to connect with Liz direct:
Book 56 in the Short Sharp Shocks! range of books is Michael Reyes and his The Rubble King. The book is released on the 27th November but is now available for pre-sales (cover by Adrian Baldwin). Recently Dean and Michael sat down and talked about the book.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Michael, welcome to DEMAIN, could you tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.
MICHAEL REYES: Hi! I was born and bred in pre-gentrified Brooklyn. I grew up in a dingy, railroad apartment raised by women (mother+ grandmother) HRA, and books. The living situation was morbid and eerie. A cousin committed suicide in the apartment below me in 1986, and I have a toddler memory of hearing the shotgun blast. She was a schizophrenic and married to a first cousin of Paul Castellano, who had been killed a year earlier in a hit. I guess she became super paranoid and freaked out after the murder, and that eventually led her to take her own life. Death was around at a pretty young age for me. Books were an escape, windows to different and better worlds. My grandmother fostered my addiction to reading. I knew I wanted to be a writer from around the age of 6 years old. I read and wrote obsessively until I was 14. Then I got off track until after joining the army, taking some college classes, and traveling around Europe (I was stationed in Germany, the Eurail made it super easy). I was then deployed to the Ministry of Oil during the first year of the Iraq War, and that changed my perspective on everything. I came back to New York and was all in; 100 percent dedicated to writing. I got involved in local theatre than began to write prose again.
DP: Have to say Michael that’s certainly a story in itself – it must have had a very deep impact on both your life and your work…can you tell us perhaps a bit more about your background and whether that also had some influence upon you as a writer.
MR: I have Puerto Rican, Irish and some Afro-Caribbean blood, but I’ve never really been accepted by any of those nationalities. It’s given me a deep sense of individuality and a weird sense of humour. I was raised underclass. It colours my writing. I once knew a mediocre playwright who graduated from Harvard. Doors were flung open for this person, grants were awarded. Not happening if that mediocre playwright was from City College of New York or UT Rio Grande Valley. Diversity in publishing/ the arts should also apply to class inclusivity.
DP: Yes, we’re having that argument right now in the UK! What was your first introduction to the horror genre?
MR: I have an early memory (4 or 5 years old) of thumbing through a Time Life book named Wizards and Witches. It was part of ‘The Enchanted World’ series. The creepy, macabre illustrations really stuck in my head at that time and they’ve never left. When I got a little older, I started hanging out more with my dad’s side of the family. I had cousins and uncles who put me on to all kinds of cool ass horror stuff. Fangoria, The Nightmare on Elm Street movies, Friday the 13th, but most importantly the The Exorcist and The Evil Dead. I saw those movies while very young and they changed my life and got me addicted to the genre.
DP: I still pinch myself that I was interviewed by Barbie Wilde for Fangoria. We actually did the interview in the dingy basement of a drinking establishment in Soho, London. It was a brilliant afternoon and to appear in those hallowed pages…okay, your Short Sharp Shocks!
MR: The Last Rubble King is a pulp horror morality tale set in the Bronx during the night of the Great Blackout in 1977. It’s the jump off story in a horror collection about that night, so I wrote it all fast and brutal. The Warriors, both film and book, plus old EC horror comics influenced The Last Rubble King.
DP: We totally got those references and The Warriors is a firm favourite here. Did you have to do much research when writing The Last Rubble King?
MR: I live in the Bronx, and there’s still a chapter of the Savage Nomads around Mount Eden. They were a 60s/70s era fighting gang, and they’re mentioned in The Last Rubble King. Parts of the Bronx are funny like that, lost in time. These guys still dress, act and talk the same. Two characters in the story are kind of modelled after these Old Schoolers around Walton Avenue.
DP: It’s been a little while since I was in New York but I met an old college friend and we had a day on the booze visiting some of the quieter districts and I totally get the idea that some areas / people were lost in time – if I remember correctly The Sopranos had recently ended and there were a few characters on the streets who obviously modelled themselves on Tony, Michael et al. Um, okay, did you find your Short Sharp Shocks! particularly difficult to write?
MR: Yeah. It’s a dark story. It’s really about saving souls, not lives.
DP: Indeed…what would you say is your biggest success to date in terms of creativity?
MR: Clock’s Watch III: Alpdruck! It’s the newest dark urban fantasy collection chronicling Coney Island’s supernatural protector. I went off the deep end with this one. It’s out early 2021.
DP: That sounds great – we’ll have to check that out. What books / authors do you read and do they influence you?
MR: The Books of Blood, Clive Barker. The Talisman, King and Straub. Labyrinths, Borges. I Am Legend, Matheson. The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson. Mythago Wood, Holdstock. The October Country, Bradbury. Our Lady of Darkness, Leiber. Plus, 70s-80s era Nuyorican poets, Amiri Baraka and the great poetry of Ed Dorn. All early age influences. The indie horror scene is alive and well. I read almost all of its contemporary authors.
DP: Some great titles! I definitely want to check out Labyrinths asap! I haven’t read enough Borges that’s the truth. Is there a horror book / film you’re particularly looking forward to?
MR: I’m looking forward to Clive Barker’s newest novel and novella. Also, Ari Aster’s next movie. It’s a four-hour long nightmare comedy. Should be fun!
DP: Should be! I too can’t wait to read new Clive Barker – he’s been such a massive influence on me and writers of my / our generation. There have been numerous reports of late (especially when there’s so much horror happening in the world right now) that the genre is dead, would you agree?
MR: Nope. The indie horror scene is awesome, great movies are being made, and superb original content is streaming on the small screen! Excellent time to be a creator and fan.
DP: Dead right! Finally then Michael, can you tell us something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
MR: I’m not on any medication.
Ha ha! Like it – really enjoyed that chat Michael, the best of luck with The Last Rubble King!
If you’d like to communicate directly with Michael Reyes:
Author Yolanda Sfetsos is no stranger to DEMAIN as she was part of series one of the Short! Sharp! Shocks! Books (27 – Breaking The Habit). This time around she has now joined the ranks of the Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! with her exciting new novella The Bone Factory which is published on the 27th November but is currently available for pre-sales (cover by Adrian Baldwin). It is Book 5 in the series. Recently Dean and Yolanda spoke about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to speak to you again Yolanda, the world has certainly changed a lot since we last spoke but I’m glad you’re well and safe. So, for those that don’t yet know you, can you tell us a little about yourself and why you became a writer.
YOLANDA SFETSOS: Hi. My name is Yolanda and I live in Sydney, Australia with my very supportive husband and cheeky kitty. We also have a daughter who lives in Canada. I LOVE reading, collecting books and enjoy going for daily walks around our suburb. We’re lucky to have a river within walking distance and love to take that path as much as we can. There’s a lot of beautiful wildlife around here that brings me a lot of joy. I started writing stories when I was in my early teens. I’d been making up stories in my head for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I was about fourteen that I decided to start writing and typing these out on my typewriter. (Does this make me sound old? LOL) So, I kept writing and reading. I never stopped. I don’t think I had a choice. I was meant to be a writer. And judging by the many stories pushing to get out, if I don’t write them out of my head, it might explode.
DP: I certainly know what you mean about stories in your head dying to get out – I ‘suffer’ from the same malady I think. What was your first introduction to the horror (as not revealing any spoilers but your book is very dark in places) genre?
YS: Believe it or not, my introduction to the horror genre was the movie House of Wax starring Vincent Price. I remember being really young and watching it on TV. I was fascinated and after that, all I wanted to watch was scary movies.
DP: Oh a great movie! Tell us more about your MMM!
YS: The Bone Factory is a story that came to me early this year and wouldn’t stop hounding me until it was written. It’s a mix of thriller noir with a bit of supernatural crime, featuring a wicked city, shady characters and a lot of horror. As soon as Max entered my mind, her dark and gritty world started coming together quickly. The catalyst for this story was skeletons. I love skeletons. If you read it, you’ll see how important they really are.
DP: It certainly is a great world you’ve created and we enjoyed reading it very much. Did you have to do much research when writing it?
YS: Yes, I did quite a bit of research about the human skeleton. I also looked into the morbid reality of what can melt a person down to the bone. The internet was a very good research partner for this book.
DP: Ha, it often is isn’t it – especially right now when many libraries / bookshops are closed sadly. Did you find The Bone Factory had to write?
YS: No, I didn’t find this novella difficult to write because I had a lot of fun writing it. The story came out pretty smoothly and during revision I smoothed out any of the spiky edges. Also, if you’ve read Breaking the Habit, you’ll catch one of the secondary characters in that novelette is also in The Bone Factory.
DP: I didn’t want to reveal that so won’t say anymore haha. Crime / mystery / thriller – what do they mean to you?
YS: I LOVE these separate subgenres and stories that mix them together. It’s great to read a good mystery. I enjoy the feeling of being so hooked on the story that it keeps me so engaged my mind races to try to solve what’s going on. There’s nothing better than trying to figure out who did what to whom and why. All right, maybe there is something better—and that’s solving the mystery.
DP: Definitely, definitely – personally I want to write a mystery novel, I’ve been using lockdown to work on some ideas and think I’ve found a plot so we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out...what do you think draws readers into the mystery genre, what do they look for in our stories?
YS: I think a good and interesting premise draws a reader to mystery, and the need to find out what happened and why. Also, the characters, because if the reader doesn’t like the characters, more than likely they’re not going to care about the outcome. I think mystery readers also want to enjoy the ride to the conclusion, and getting an answer at the end that ties things together and closes the door, but might also open others. At least, that’s what I look for.
DP: Ah, me too. Creatively then, is there anything you’d like to do you haven’t managed just yet?
YS: I’m a bit of a genre-hopper, so I’m always looking to write stories that push the limits of the genres I’ve already explored. There’s always going to be an edge of darkness in my work, even when I consciously go out of my way to exclude it, the darkness creeps back in. So, I won’t bother fighting that. I think writing a script would be a very cool thing to try someday. I’ve never attempted to write a screenplay.
DP: Really? I could see a film of The Bone Factory for sure (and if I’m honest, of Breaking The Habit too)...writing, is it a short or long term career plan?
YS: Writing will always be long term for me. I won’t stop writing and will continue to tell stories and try to find an audience for them for as long as I can. I love to write and if the ideas don’t stop, I will keep churning them out and hope they find their way into the world.
DP: In the UK we’re about to head into a second lockdown (though most of the country already has been in some kind of curfew since March) – how are you handling it all?
YS: Actually, I’m quite a homebody anyway, so the lockdown didn’t affect us as much. The only thing we had to change was the amount of times we went for a walk outside and didn’t have anyone over. Toilet paper shortages was an annoyance we had to get used to. We also tried to distance ourselves from everyone while outside, which is something I’ll probably never stop doing now. So, our routine didn’t change much. Oh. And did you know that I actually wrote this novella while in lockdown? 😉
DP: I didn’t know that – well done you! Is there anything else your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
YS: They might be surprised to find out that I’m a day person.
Yolanda – great to speak to you again. The best of luck with The Bone Factory.
If you would like to connect with Yolanda direct:
Dean M. Drinkel