Friday 1st December 2023 sees the publication of Wolf World by Terry Grimwood. Terry is no stranger to DEMAIN and will be our third major publication of his – AXE and JOE are his previous titles. The book initially appears as an ebook, cover/design by Adrian Baldwin. As the nights drew in, Dean and Terry sat down to talk about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to chat again Terry. I know you’ve done a couple of interviews with us before BUT if you wouldn’t mind, let’s pretend we’ve never met: Terry Grimwood can you please tell us a little about yourself and how (maybe even why) you became a writer ?
TERRY GRIMWOOD: [LAUGHING] Hello Dean, yes of course. I’m a country boy who grew up under the big skies of Suffolk and spent a lot of my childhood alone. I guess that’s why I developed a vivid imagination. I loved to lose myself on long walks deep into the countryside and soak up the landscape and landscape. I also became an avid reader, first of comics, the old-fashioned kind like Valiant and Buster, then those Commando war books and finally Westerns, before discovering science fiction. In those days, bookshop shelves were still groaned under the weight of novels and collections by Asimov, Heinlein, van Vogt and their ilk. In fact, some of them were still writing new stories. However, a new wave had hit, spearheaded by the likes of Ellison, Spinrad, Aldiss and Moorcock and by the time I was hooked on sf, the genre had matured into a more literary form.
Then, of course, there was Star Trek, which had an enormous influence on my own youthful writing. I recently rewatched the original series and, startlingly, experienced that same sense of wonder that had swept me away when it was first shown on the BBC back in 1969. Here, at last, was real tv science fiction. Up until then we had made-do with programmes like Lost in Space (I was deeply in love with Marta Kristen [Judy Robinson], so I could forgive the ridiculous storylines), Doctor Who (never a fan) and the awful Land of the Giants.
DP: I know what you mean about Lost In Space haha. I did like Doctor Who as a kid but not so much now. Also, was recently having a conversation about those old Commando books – loved them! So, I know you’ve mentioned a couple [of authors] already but talking about books, which ones influenced you would you say ?
TG: Book-wise, my biggest influences are hard to pin down. Michael Moorcock’s heroic fantasy certainly inspired me to attempt my own juvenile epics, and my novella The Last Knight of Llanth (serialised in Trevor Denyer’s Legend magazine) owes an enormous debt to Moorcock’s flawed sword-and-sorcery heroes. Stylistically, John Steinbeck’s sublime The Grapes of Wrath, and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca brought me up short and showed me that there is a way to write that is more than simply telling a story. Clive Barker, showed me that monsters can be truly strange, alien and terrifying. Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, and Nina Allen’s The Rift and The Race all taught me that the strange can be a vehicle for emotionally powerful storytelling and inspired my, as-yet-unpublished novel, The Alone.
I’m certain that I’m not alone in claiming Stephen King as an enormous influence and like so many writers fumbling their way into the horror genre, I emulated him shamelessly until I found my own rhythm. For example, my novel Axe is directly inspired by The Shining.
DP: For sure, definitely saw those King inspirations in Axe. And as I get older (though I did study The Grapes Of Wrath at university) I certainly find myself tilting back to those old American masters such as Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway etc…interesting…okay, so, Wolf World.
TG: Wolf World has been stuffed into my mental Unwritten Stories Filing Cabinet since 1987. I dreamed up the basis of the plot during the same, lonely, dark and rainy car journey as the one in which I first encountered the idea for Axe. So, it is a very old story indeed. I’ve tried to write it several times but could never make it work, until, finally, it all came together a year or so ago, and almost wrote itself!
As the title suggests, it’s a werewolf story, but, hopefully, an original take on the trope. The novella is, on one level, a straightforward supernatural thriller. On another, there is ambiguity. Where is the border between the two worlds visited by the reader? How much of the protagonist’s adventure is real and how much the manifestation of his unresolved personal trauma? Wolf World can be read as a Place story, or as a horror thriller that, hopefully has the reader on the edge of their seat.
What, you cry, is the Place? It is a parallel universe visited in two previous novellas, The Places Between and Enuma Elis. Both are standalone stories, as is Wolf World. The Place underpins and reflects our world and is where protagonists find themselves as they attempt to resolve past and current trauma. It is different for everyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of its somewhat vaguely delineated borders.
DP: I personally loved the fact that [as you say] a more original take on the trope, so well done ! I also think it’d make a great feature film…but we can talk about that in private. What would you say Terry is your biggest success thus far ?
TG: Hard to measure. My novellas Joe, Skin For Skin and The Last Star have all been well received and that counts for a great deal for me. Of course, having my science fiction novella Interference nominated for a British Fantasy Society Best Novella Award was an amazing experience. Even though it didn’t win, I’m delighted to get into the final six. I’ll dine out on that for a long time to come!
DP: Thoroughly deserved ! So what does horror mean to Terry Grimwood ?
TG: Let’s return to that car journey mentioned earlier. In the winter or 1987/88, I was in the midst of an intensely difficult moment in my life. My children were being fostered, through a private arrangement with some friends of mine, to allow me to deal with my then wife’s illness. I had travelled some twenty miles to drop them off and was probably more distressed than I realised at the time. They came home after a few months, but that illness never went away and a few years later returned to beat both my wife and myself to a bloody pulp and bring tragedy in its foul, leathery wings.
This is not self-pity. I’m trying to show how writing, and particularly writing in the horror genre, helped me through. It gave me an escape, yes, but it was also a mechanism by which I unconsciously explored, examined and even dealt with the trials, anger and bleakness around the situation I was in. I had a way of expressing my feelings. I could sort through the chaos, the mess, and give it structure. The monsters in my mind and soul could become “flesh and blood” demons which could be fought and sometimes defeated. It is said that dreams, bizarre as they might be, are the mind’s way of making sense of our recent memories and preoccupations. I think writing horror stories served the same purpose for me.
The short stories I wrote at that time were eventually gathered into a collection called The Exaggerated Man. The book was reviewed by D. F. Lewis and it was he who picked out recurring themes that I realised were obvious links to what had happened during those years.
DP: Terry thank you for telling us that – very much appreciated. And don’t worry I/we know you didn’t do it for self-pity and can totally understand your definition of horror, very personal…okay, let’s talk about a book or film you may be looking forward to ?
TG: The Last Voyage of the Demeter. Radio Four once produced a superb play on the same subject; Dracula’s sea voyage to England and what happened on the ship. That and The Fall of the House of Usher series that has recently appeared on Netflix.
Books; the rest of Simon Clark’s newly resurrected Blood Crazy series. Book one is out. Can’t wait for the rest.
DP: I really enjoyed Usher so hope you do too. I would say then that as far as you’re concerned horror (as a genre) isn’t over ?
TG: No. It’s certainly alive and well on the silver screen and there have been some excellent tv series; The Haunting of Hill House, Midnight Mass, The Haunting of Blyth Manor and Brand New Cherry Flavour, to mention but a few.
There is something else. I attended the British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon 2023 recently and was impressed at the upsurge in new members, and that the majority of them appeared to be young women. Not only are they readers and lovers of horror, fantasy and science fiction, but, at last, are making their presence felt on the book shelves. Superb authors such as Penny Jones, Eugene Bacon, Priya Sharma, Alison Littlewood, Lee Murray, Aliya Whitely, Susan York, Carole Johnstone and many, many more are revitalising the speculative and supernatural genres. They are taking their place in publishing too, Space Cat Press and Luna Press to name but two enterprises with women at the helm. More than this, most of the award winners in 2023 were women. That’s where the future lies and it is in very safe hands indeed.
DP: Agreed and hope that the BFS does get itself back on its feet because in my opinion its had a bit of a rough few years – I guess it needs to make itself relevant again. I personally haven’t been able to attend FantasyCon for a couple of years but hopefully will return in 2024. Okay, last one Terry…can you tell us something surprising about yourself ?
TG: Sure, I sing and play harmonica in the Ripsaw Blues Band…
And on that note, Terry thank you so much for your time, all the best with Wolf World…
If you’d like to connect with Terry direct:
Ripsaw Blues Band - https://www.facebook.com/the.ripsaw.blues.band
Dean M. Drinkel