Book 24 in the Short Sharp Shocks! Series is Richard Meldrum’s The Plague. Prior to publication Dean and Richard sat down and chewed the cud...
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Richard, can you tell us a little about The Plague and what was your motivation for writing it.
R.J. MELDRUM: Hi. Sure. The story is set in early 20th century Russia, in a small, isolated rural village. The children in the village are suffering from a mysterious plague and the village doctor and priest set out to investigate. The story is set during what I’ve called a dry winter – a period of unseasonal warmth that occurs once in a blue moon. I had the idea for the dry winter first, then the rest of the story just flowed from that. The Russian setting was something I opted to do, but it seemed to fit. I wanted the village to be completely isolated.
DP: It certainly seemed isolated and reminded me of a recent film shoot where we were in the Highlands of Scotland and I believe the nearest shop was over 17 miles away...no phone signal either anything could have happened (and has provided inspiration for a new story!). What were your challenges when writing The Plague?
RJM: The Russian naming convention was one, but it was interesting to learn about them. The other was not mentioning a certain word and leaving it to the readers’ imaginations to work out the type of creature that was causing the plague.
DP: Indeed, I was aware of that and think you were successful...when you wrote the story were any of the characters based on you or events in your own life?
RJM: My day job is a scientist, so if a story has that type of character (scientist, doctor etc.) I usually end up projecting some of myself into those characters. In this case, the character I feel ‘closest’ to is probably Smirnov, the village doctor. Thankfully, the story isn’t based on my own life.
DP: Thankfully indeed! Would you say you have a specific writing style?
RJM: I’d like to think that I have a distinctive style that is recognisable to readers. I don’t try to write in any particular horror theme, and instead I write about many different dark fiction topics. I find writing enjoyable, even the editing; it’s still a novelty to me that I can develop an idea, write the story and get it accepted and published!
DP: You deserve the accolades...who would you say influenced you...
RJM: Like most dark fiction writers who grew up in the UK in the 70s and 80s, the first books I bought were Stephen King and James Herbert. In recent years, I’ve been collecting stories and books from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I also have an interest in history and that is reflected in some of my writing. In terms of influence, MR James and Basil Copper spring to mind. Copper was a brilliant short story writer and his story The House by the Tarn is one of the best short stories ever written (in my opinion).
DP: And you’re entitled to it! So, what next, can you share any of your current / future projects?
RJM: [2019 is] turning out to be a busy year for me. My stories are appearing in a number of anthologies being published this year and I’ve also just been asked to join The Pen of the Damned group – a group of authors who post stories on The Pen of the Damned website in rotation. And of course, I’m immensely proud and flattered to be part of the SSS! series.
DP: Many thanks...you ever suffer from the dreaded writer’s block?
RJM: Yes, not that frequently, but yes. When it happens, I just ‘walk away’ from the story and let it ferment in my mind. Sometimes a solution presents itself, sometimes not.
DP: So you work from an outline?
RJM: I usually just go for it – I normally know in my mind how the story will work, but I never write an outline.
DP: Fair enough – favourite genre, horror I presume?
RJM: I [actually] don’t have a favourite genre – other than the broad theme of dark fiction, and even then, some of my stories have happy endings.
DP: So, pitch me The Plague if it was going to be a film.
RJM: In an isolated Russian village, children are being affected by a strange disease. The priest and doctor realise they will have to battle a supernatural monster to destroy this curse.
DP: And if someone was writing a synopsis for a magazine...
RJM: In a small, isolated Russian village, nestled in the foothills of the Ural Mountains, children are being struck down with a strange new disease during an unseasonal dry winter. The village priest and local doctor soon discover the cause of this plague and realise they will not only have to battle a supernatural monster, but the villagers themselves, to free the village from the curse.
DP: Brilliant – finally, can you tell me something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
RJM: One of the more unusual aspects of my non-writing life is that my wife and I own a recreational kennel of sled dogs. We currently have 19 Siberian huskies and husky mixes. I compete and participate in a number of sled dog races and events during the winter months, running either a four dog or a six dog team.
WOW! Now that sounds exciting – thank you for your time and all the best for the book.
If readers would like to connect direct with Richard:
Facebook: richard.meldrum.79 (Facebook)