We welcome Erik Hofstatter back to DEMAIN (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 19 Isidora’s Pawn) with his outstanding new novella Toroa published as an ebook on 9th September 2022 (paperback to follow shortly; cover by Adrian Baldwin). In August, the middle of a heat-wave no less, Dean and Erik chatted…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome Erik ,welcome. Let’s go for it, for those few that haven’t read your work yet can you tell us a little of your background and whether that had some influence on your writing.
ERIK HOFSTATTER: Hello. I’m a human puck—I slide across the world. As you move, you collect experiences. Some hit harder than others. I worked in as many industries as I have teeth. On a farm in the four-leaf clover country, where I got paid in bread and cheese shovelling wood shavings all day, to high end watch market in the UK. My father was a ‘better life’ scout, with original hopes of bringing us from The Czech Republic to Toronto, then Austria, almost Australia, but eventually dropping anchor in England. This gypsy lifestyle forced me to grow up in the fast lane, with fast observations and even faster instincts. I’m quiet. I read people. The half-erased diaries in their eyes. And I listen. Always interested in thinking styles and angles. Situations viewed through different lenses, you know what I mean? What drives you. What makes you tick. A lot of this is future ammo for the page war.
DP: I do know what you mean, particularly as I too led a bit of nomadic lifestyle particularly as a child/early teenager living in several countries throughout my current life too so we’re definitely on the same page there. Let’s talk horror and your first introduction.
EH: Again, my father and his bazaar of old junk. He sold anything from VHS tapes to nunchakus. Sometimes he’d bring new spoils home for me to watch. He wouldn’t let age ratings limit my curiosity. Nothing was forbidden. And I was an explorer. My child mind was shaped by early Cronenberg, films like Scanners & The Fly. Later on, it was Gate II: Trespassers & Body Parts with Jeff Fahey. His horror tapes were like an electric eel, they’d shock me, but I couldn’t stop touching them. He gave the nod, so I read his books on the occult & black magick too. Let’s just say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
DP: Ah, excellent – can’t get enough of Jeff Fahey that’s for sure! What would you say was your biggest creative success thus far…
EH: I’m mega proud of Punishment by Hope and the Tristan Grieves fragments I’m currently writing. The conjoined language. Re-stacking metaphors. That enigmatic marriage of poetry and traditional narrative. But still balancing feelings on love knife’s darker edge. I think my style evolved into a distinct hybrid. These stories unpeeled sacred layers and exposed a raw antenna. Some kind of sensory feeler that allowed me to interpret pain more accurately.
DP: I definitely feel your dark work (which is what attracts me to it)is a ‘distinct hybrid’ – what does horror mean to Erik Hofstatter?
EH: It’s the genesis of my writing. The voice born in a black cave. Originally, I wrote what’s known as Schlock. These cheap, but fun kind of stories. My goal was to entertain readers rather than prose impress. Now I flipped 180. I want to create a language, a turn of phrase, unique to me, something you recognise instantly when you read it. I still want to tell arresting, misdirecting, thought-provoking stories, but I want you to smell that EH ink from page one. Sadly, I’m a melodramatic pessimist with a black & white view of the world. Horror injects a lot of cathartic colours. It opens me up to new complex formulas. For me, happy endings are for the bedroom—not the page. Horror is everywhere. All you gotta do is look around.
DP: That’s very interesting because I too started off writing in a genre (‘extreme’) which I don’t particularly write now – what is strange about that is I was talking to a friend only the other day and he referenced some of my earlier stuff (and the discussions we always had about it) and said that he knew I missed it (the religious aspects of it) and I’ve been thinking about it ever since (I hadn’t actually realised I did miss it but perhaps he was right) and might have come up with something new hahaha – anyway. What would you say draws readers to the horror genre? What do readers look for?
EH: Horror is an emotional instrument, but it depends on the player. Some readers want to feel scared, others want to feel validated. For me—horror feels like home. A place where I don’t have to run away from who I am. A place that accepts me for everything I feel. A place where I can spill a streak of dark desires without a judgemental cleaner waiting behind me. But ultimately, a reader wants something to connect with. A perceptive story that echoes into their core.
DP: Love it! Horror is definitely our ‘safe place’ by the sounds of it. Is there a horror novel (or film) that you’re looking forward to getting your hands on…
EH: Nathan Ballingrud’s upcoming Mars book. His words speak to me in high decibels. He translates the human experience in the purest and most unhypocritical form. Also rather excited about Reluctant Immortals from Gwendolyn Kiste. On the film front, definitely Crimes of the Future and Men.
DP: I was lucky to see both movies in Cannes – I know they’re splitting the critics but I loved them both and think you’re in for a treat. Is there a newer writer or director that interests you?
EH: I’m in love with Julia Ducournau’s prototype mind. Just her thinking style and overall artistic sense and vision. Raw was a T-Rex of a film, but Titane raced through echelons of expectation. It suspends disbelief, totally flips that shit upside down. Her ambition comes at you like oil tsunami. Every scene paralyses you. An absolute juggernaut, man.
DP: Again, amazing films! Really enjoyed out chat Erik so let’s finish on (hopefully!) bit of a fun one – do you interact a lot with your readers (or even writers who have influenced you , I mean I could tell a story about Bret Easton Ellis but this interview is about you, not me haha).
EH: In the cyber bar, yeah. Sarah J. Huntington has a rose-gold heart. The gentlest of souls. A master of Ikigai—the art of finding beauty in the simplest of things. I touch base with Casilda Ferrante also. An Italian writer with a heavy talent. Her writing always shakes my bones. Had midnight conversations with a fellow vegan and the magnetic voice behind Punishment by Hope audiobook—Amanda Wrege. Stephanie M. WytoWITCH!!! cooked my head in the cauldron of her wisdom for many years. A phenomenal poet and human being. In person, I bear-hugged CC Adams—the dude who writes London like no other. His voice (in real life) is balanced and therapeutic and commands instant calm. The page is where he gusts you away. There are many more dynamic personalities I’d want to shake hands with—but—I’m a social disaster in an anxious skin. I have no filter. I have no boundaries. I come at you like a cyclone. One day.
One day indeed! And there we have it – Erik, a massive congrats with Taroa. It’s a pleasure to work with you again, all the best with it.
If you’d like to connect with Erik direct:
September 2nd sees the publication of Carrie Weston’s novella, One Ampoule Of Terror (cover art by Roberto Segate; cover design by Adrian Baldwin; cover artist – Tia). Prior to publication, Dean and Carrie had a good old natter about the book, about her career to date and generally put the world to rights.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Carrie, welcome to DEMAIN. Ready? Let’s go for it – tell us a bit about yourself…
CARRIE WESTON: I will, thanks. Hi everyone, so my names Carrie Weston. I am one of those writers who has been dreaming of having their stories published since they were young. I would send work off to the BIG 5 publishers when I was 13 and wait excitedly for a reply. (No need to say I had little life experience then.) So, growing up I wrote every spare minute, until I hit college age where I pursued other career options (it was heavily implied to me that writing was not a job and that with my dyslexia. I would not make it as a writer – but what did they know 😊). After college my health went slowly downhill. When I was approximately 23, I was diagnosed with cancer and that’s when I started writing again. I couldn’t do much for a long time and I felt like my brain was running a race track around my skull in boredom. I wrote one manuscript and then put my pen down, ready to give up. Until one day my son came to me and asked for a story and the story telling box inside of my head exploded with force breaking the lock and turning my world technicolour again. I got the all clear from the hospital. I was gifted a writing course -that didn’t discriminate against my dyslexic – yes, they’re out there – and I had the backing of my son and mother. All in all, my son gave me the strength to fight back against the cancer and beat it. Unfortunately, I was left with C.R.P.S and the mental anguish that came with such a rollercoaster ride of health. Not to mention those who said I would never make it as a writer. It’s amazing what a little belief and persistence can do.
DP: Too right and well done you. That certainly sounds a journey. And thank you to your son…I guess your experiences have influenced your writing…
CW: Thanks. My life has been a rollercoaster of nightmares and cloud nine. I live a very turbulent existence, so I can truthfully say that yes, I do think my life experiences have influenced my writing and that all of them hold some flavour of truth within my life. I find it grounds the writing more when a twist of truth is added to spice it up. I just like leaving it to the reader to decide what part they think is the twisted truth.
DP: Yeah I like that a lot. And I bet your readers do have fun with that. What were your influences…
CW: I have always loved the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and Roald Dahl’s B.F.G. But I would probably say the very first introduction of dark fantasy/horror in my early life would have been Gobbolino The Witch’s Cat by Ursula Williams. In teenage years I loved the popular (mostly American) paranormal/ dark fantasy genres and at 18 whilst working abroad for the first time and room sharing with a load of girls. I read Crickley Hall by James Herbert and although it scared the bejeebies out of me- I couldn’t put it down.
DP: Some great titles there and love it when Jim Herbert’s name gets mentioned. I love his work and my favourite is The Magic Cottage though also love The Fog…let’s talk One Ampoule…
CW: I wrote the start of this novella during lockdown when I was a part of a writing group that liked to use pictures to prompt creativity. This novella was birthed from what at the time I considered the most boring of picture prompts possible; a shadow person with top hat stood in a lit doorway. The rest of the picture was black. This filled me with no inspiration at all until I started looking at it from the angle of what he could possibly have left behind him. That’s when Gilbert was born.
DP: Who exactly is Gilbert then?
CW: Gilbert is the kind of man you would cross the street just to avoid. He exudes darkness like the shadows of the past that haunt his life. But if there is one thing no one can fault, it’s that he loves his daughter and daddy’s little girl will get everything she wants even if he has to cut a vein or two open to do it. The only things standing in his way are his arch nemesis Asoth and the council.
DP: Great description. Considering the way your novella was ‘birthed’ (as you say) did you end up having to do much research as you wrote it?
CW: I always like to do research on my work as it helps to ground the story. I use all means I can find to help i.e., internet, books, libraries and people who have knowledge in the field I am researching. The most important thing when researching is to remember to ask yourself one question: “How reliable is your source?” This can mean the difference between getting a fact right or accidentally getting someone’s opinion as to what is right. I thoroughly enjoy researching strange little facts, for instance the rarest blood type in the world is called GOLDEN BLOOD – named so because it can be used to match any other blood type without complication. Amazing right?
DP: Actually that is pretty amazing [and might help me with a plot hole in a film script I’m writing so thanks as I’d never heard of it!] – did you find One Ampoule hard to write?
CW: Writing this novella was indeed tricky because I wanted to write on a new level. This is my first fantasy horror and although I write dark fantasy going that step further was a delectable challenge. I very much enjoyed crafting Gilbert’s character as he is a warped individual determined to indulge every whim of his daughter. This being a quite normal human tendance. I wanted to explore how far a character will go. The most difficult part to write was the beginning as I wrote it multiple times until I crafted the paragraph with an ability to be read two different ways – it’s the reader’s choice how they interpret it.
DP: What would you say horror means to one of your readers?
CW: Readers love the chance to explore their darker impulses in a safe yet thrilling environment - so what better way than a book? Admitted some would say film. But I think book 😊. I like to lead the readers mind, to let it mull on situations or events enough for the viewer to come to conclusions emphasised by the fear we trigger in their own, so that it connects with its audience like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Hitchcock’s…well everything. I think each reader is different so by broadening your net as a writer you’re allowing a reader to immerse into the dark/horror story- letting their mind go where it will. In this way, as proven by many psychological studies, we are giving in to our base natures, allowing the fight or flight instinct to kick in and rush adrenalin through our veins – and that’s what makes it so addictive.
DP: I think you’re so right. I mean when I was a teenager and then at college all I did was read horror, horror, horror and then intriguingly when I actually started writing horror I had moved away from reading the genre - by broadening what I was putting into my brain it then came out of my pen very very darkly. Fascinating stuff for sure. I’m not sure that I do anymore [though I was talking to a friend only the other day and he was telling me that he liked my early writing because I did exactly what I’m about to ask you] but do you write about what scares you in any way?
CW: I was once told that to be a good writer you need to have life experiences so that you can delve into your own emotions of how things make you feel. Hence to say that yes, I do put things that scare me into my writing. I figure if I’m not scared, then how the hell am I going to scare my reader? I want to make the experience as authentic in emotion as I can so I pull on my own emotions and twist them into my stories along with situations or objects that frighten me. I have a favourite quote: “Do one thing every day that scares you” – It is believed Mary Schmich said this. I like to embrace the philosophy behind this quote and try to do something a little scary, meaning something new to me, every day.
DP: Yes that’s a great mantra to live your life and I certainly subscribe to it. Okay, as much I’m enjoying this we’re running out of time, so final Q: can you tell us one fact that your readers might not know about you:
CW: Most of my followers already know I use a walking stick. But what they probably don’t know is that during an author meet at a school we used my stick as an opening to thinking outside of the box. When the attention of the class was gained, I lifted my walking stick and asked “What is this?” To most of their distress I had to deny its existence as a walking stick until one girl answered “It’s a sword!” A strange but true fact.
Indeed it is – Carrie, thank you so much for your time, it is appreciated. The best of luck with your novella, One Ampoule Of Terror.
If you would like to connect with Carrie direct please do so:
Tik Tok: @authorcarrieweston
Sept 2nd sees the publication of Rudolf Kremer’s mini-collection The Singing Sands & Other Stories (cover by Adrian Baldwin). Prior to publication, Dean and Rudolf sat down and talked about it…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Rudolf! Nice to meet you. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how/why you became a writer?
RUDOLF KREMERS: Hi! I’m a Dutch/Spanish man who somehow has ended up living in Canterbury in the UK. Writing has always fascinated me, even at a very young age. The ability to construct your own reality, with its own history and characters and stories seemed like some kind of powerful magic to me, and still does. Most people grow out of telling stories when they become adults. I doubled down on them. They’re much more fun than reality.
DP: Oh they are aren’t they? I still get that magical feeling even now when I put down a couple of words onto a blank piece of paper – I know it’s a cliché but there is so much potential there – anyway, anyway – what’s your background and has that influenced you as a writer?
RK: I had an epiphany in my late 20s, telling me that I would never be able to hold a ‘regular’ job and be happy, so I turned my then-hobby of making video games, and somehow turned that into a career in the games industry. I started work at Douglas Adam’s company TDV where I worked on an ill-fated Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game, followed up by stints at various companies working on a bunch of titles, including Harry Potter and Championship Manager games. Eventually I started my own company, and nowadays I alternate between releasing my own games and offering my services as a consultant, covering areas ranging from game system design to narrative design and production. I’ve been doing all this in the UK industry for 22 years, and before that I have been making games and game levels pretty much since my teens, dating way back to the mid-80s. This has been a major influence on my writing because game development – like writing – deals with the creation of new worlds and stories. They may be virtual worlds and gameplay stories, but nonetheless there is much overlap. So, I’ve always been able to flex that writing muscle in one way or another which was really helpful. I think creativity is a habit, as state of mind, a philosophy, a way of life. I wouldn’t know how to live if I wasn’t constantly engaged with the creative process. (I tried, believe me, and it wasn’t pretty).
DP: That’s really cool. When I was a kid I dabbled in writing games (adventure games mostly) and sometimes I wish I’d pursued that a bit but well done, I doff my hat to you sir. Let’s talk the horror genre, what would you say was your first introduction?
RK: Oh my, that’s a tricky one. If I count all forms of media then it’s probably an amazing episode of the Six Million Dollar Man tv show, where the titular Bionic Man encounters Bigfoot. Perhaps not formally horror, but I was about 8 years old when it aired on Dutch tv and it scared THE BEJEEBUS out of me. Yet at the same time, it was also tremendously exciting and Lee Majors was particularly cool in my eyes, so that made it all ‘safe’ and hooked me in. In terms of horror fiction I suspect (I can’t be sure, it’s too long ago) that it was Stephen King’s The Stand, which I revere to this day. I even love the made-for-tv adaptation with Molly Ringwald and Rob Lowe. I was more into sci-fi when I was a teenager, but since this book was regarded as one of the ultimate postapocalyptic novels of modern times, I figured it was worth a try. I was glad that I did as I was enthralled reading it from the very first page, blown away by the scope and vision on display. I loved the supernatural and mythical nature of it, the characters and indeed the horror aspects. After (breathlessly) finishing it, I felt compelled to try out some other King writings. His books then became a gateway drug for other horror writers, and ever since the genre has been an important part of my reading experience.
DP: I like that. Whilst I’ve often said I’m not a massive fan of Mr King I do like The Stand a great deal and he is a way in for many readers to the genre, so he deserves a round of applause for that if nothing else. So, let’s focus on The Singing Sands…
RK: Sure, I started writing these stories a few years ago after finishing my debut sci-fi novel which will be published in 2023 by Elsewhen Press, and I felt the need to play with short form fiction, to relax a bit after such a long project and also to process a lot of bad stuff I was feeling about the state of the world. I wrote one story for fun for Halloween, and enjoyed it so much that I took it a bit more seriously, and started thinking about other horror stories I could write. A funny thing happened then; new stories just started bubbling up in my brain, big chunks of em, fully formed, without graft or prodding or writerly laments, and frankly it was as struggle to keep up with the ideas, which I collected in a ‘short story ideas doc’. The pull of these stories became irresistible, and interestingly: thematically and stylistically connected in unexpected ways. Most of them take place in an alternate or liminal world, often dealing with supernatural and ‘weird’ themes. For some reason they never mention mobile phones or computers or current events. Maybe it’s a reaction to my games and sci-fi writing, but in these horror stories I instinctively stay away from grounding them in explicitly modern settings. I learned to trust that feeling, and writing these stories became very natural. They felt ‘right’, from the start. This collection bundles my favourites, and although the stories are diverse, they feel connected. For me (pomposity alert 1:)) , these are the kind of stories I find when I look for characters who got lost - exploring behind the mirror, and whose curiosity took them to places they didn’t expect to go.
DP: I really enjoyed them so well done – and I’m looking forward to reading your novel next year too. Did you have to do much research before you put pen to paper for The Singing Sands?
RK: Generally, I do a fair bit of research, at times a lot more than that. Sometimes because the story setting or subject matter demands it; for example, I wrote a novel about a teenage girl and a female warrior in 1630s Japan. That required over a year of research to even be considered a viable project. In other instances, there might be research need on a defining aspect of a lead character, just to make sure that I understand the psychology of that character. I research generally in two ways: Deep immersion, where I get everything I can on a subject; films, books, art, you name it, and just absorb through long term osmosis, taking notes as I find bits I want to use. Or I do short, focused research sessions where I hone in one specific aspect I am interested in. Both methods are essential to me. There are many reasons for research. For example, one of the stories in this collection (“The Ballroom Under the Lake”) features several aspects that required some study. First, the setting: the story was inspired by a real-world architectural folly and its history, and I wanted to make sure that I knew enough details about it to inform the story. Second, the protagonist suffers from CIPA disease - a hereditary medical condition that prevents those who suffer from it from feeling pain, and they lack the ability to sweat. (For real, it’s messed up!). Researching this condition opened up all kinds of doors on how I wanted to write this character, and how he engaged with the events in the story. I guess to me, good research provides me with lots of pieces of a story puzzle. Once I have enough of them, the story falls in place naturally.
DP: I get you – so were the stories hard to write?
RK: Contrary to some of my other literary adventures, these stories were the easiest writing I have ever done. Like I said before; they just bubble up, maybe on a morning run, or while walking my dog, and they are short enough to outline quickly. I then play with the raw ideas, do some research, examine the characters, and generally mull it all over until they can’t be contained anymore. Then I write, and I write them pretty quick, requiring only 3 drafts or so. (For me that is quick).
DP: That’s very interesting. I personally think I’m a quick writer but will admit as I’ve got older I feel myself labouring literally over every word. I think that goes back to what I mentioned earlier about putting words down onto blank pages. When I first started writing I felt the ‘magic’ or the spell beginning as soon as that first word was written, now it does take a little while and much editing before I feel that way again (this is very weird now I’m thinking about it – let’s move on haha). What would you say has been your biggest success to date?
RK: I have no idea! I’ve been immersed in creative projects for so long that it’s hard to pick one. One of my games being nominated for a BAFTA and an IGF award was very rewarding. Finishing my first novel was quite a milestone too (as was subsequently receiving a publishing offer). My published game design book doing well enough to warrant a 2nd edition is nice. And of course DEMAIN’s interest in these short horror stories is a great feeling too. :-) I don’t know … it’s about the process really. Just finishing a project is the key thing, and even that isn’t always all that matters.
DP: Totally agree. Okay, who do you read and do they influence you?
RK: Oh yes, I read a lot. Always have and always will. And as such, there are many authors who influence me. I’m continuously amazed at how much great stuff is out there! These can be ‘big name’, classic writers, or relatively unknown newcomers. I mostly read genre fiction, so if pushed to name some examples I’ll opt for these:
DP: And we all wish you the best of luck! What would you say horror means to you Rudolf?
RK: To me, as a reader, it means (pomposity alert 2) a chance to marvel at the grotesque, to dance with the forbidden, to indulge in the outrageous. As a writer it allows me a chance to explore the darkest corners of both existence and fantasy, and rather than cowering from what I see, use it in a creative, positive act.
DP: Nice, so what draws readers into the genre…
RK: I think this is often deeply personal, but ultimately, horror provides a safe space to expose oneself to some dangerous and dark ideas. And that can be thrilling and life affirming and rather useful.
DP: The Earth seems in a pretty screwed up place right now, would you say the horror genre is affected by what’s going on and do you ever put these events in your work?
RK: Yes, very much so. I think that most writers respond to the world they live in through their writing. They may use it as an escape vehicle, or a lens through which they try to make sense of it all, but either way, it’s a response of sorts. For me personally this happens indirectly. I never put current world events in my (horror) work; that would be too on the nose for my liking considering the state of the place! But … my themes and subtext are often influenced by world events. The troubling political realities and events of the last six years or so have greatly impacted me, and much of that unease, and at times anger, has made it into my fiction – sometimes coming out as indirect commentary, sometimes as a mood. (I wanted to say dark ‘miasma’ instead of ‘mood’, because I love that word so much.)
DP: Is there a book (or film) that you’re particularly looking forward to?
RK: Dave Jeffery’s TRIBUNaL, which concludes his “A Quiet Apocalypse” series. I’m sure it will be superb. Also, if it ever arrives, Clive Barker’s third and final entry of his “Books of the Art” series.
DP: Having read Dave’s TRIBUNaL I know you won’t be disappointed and yes I’m looking forward to Clive’s new work too. He’s a hero in my book…is there a new writer (or director) that interests you?
RK: The film director Brandon Cronenberg (son of David Cronenberg). His recent film Possessor was incredibly tense, brave, disturbing and thought-provoking. A heady mix of horror and cyberpunk that showed enormous promise. Can’t wait to see what he does next.
DP: Yeah, I loved that one too…a bit of a contentious one: there have been numerous reports that the horror genre is dead, would you agree?
RK: Haha, I hope not! Because I want to write a lot more of it! I don’t think it’s dead at all, far from it. Maybe it’s taking a breather from huge, mainstream commercial success, but then again there are green shoots everywhere and some recent films have been pretty successful. I see so many new writers and filmmakers creating great content that I feel that this can only lead to a renaissance.
DP: Let’s hope so! What are you afraid of (and has that ever made its way into your work)?
RK: Winged spiders! Think about it! GAH! (I won’t even write about it)
DP: Hahaha – I know that fear hahaha. Creatively is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet? If so – what is it?
RK: That list is endless, but specifically, I would love to write a horror novel, direct a horror movie, write a fantasy series, get much better at drawing … I could go on but let’s just say that I have a long to-do list. For now, I want to finish my current horror story “Destrier” which is threatening to become a novella, which is hinting at becoming a novel.
DP: Sounds great and so I’d say that writing for you is a long term career?
RK: Without hesitation. Being a writer was one of my earliest ambitions in life, and now that I am finally lucky enough to get my work published I’m going to build on that. I don’t know if I will ever be able to become a fulltime writer, but regardless; I’ll write till I drop.
DP: A couple of fun ones: do you interact a lot with your readers (or writers who have influenced you)? If so, how / why? Any funny stories to tell?
RK: Not enough! My non-fiction readers tend to be super sweet when they reach out or mention me and that makes me feel very grateful and happy. (Also, I am a flawed human and suffer imposter syndrome, so confirmation of having reached somebody with my work is really nice). I have been in touch with a few writers. Despite my awkwardness, they have been wonderfully supportive of me, some even becoming friends. That still blows me away, and is something I cherish. Not many funny stories yet, although I did once block Douglas Adams from entering his own company in Covent Garden while I was on a fag break, because frankly he looked dodgy and I didn’t know who he was and he didn’t know the access code [Now that is funny! – DP]
DP: And finally, what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
RK: I am currently completely obsessed with classic Hong Kong cinema, especial HK action and kung fu movies.
What a great place to finish. Thanks Rudolf for your time! Very much appreciated and the best of luck with The Singing Sands & Other Stories.
If you would like to connect with Rudolf direct:
The Short Sharp Shocks! series of books (Numbers 0 - 50) - ebook/paperback. Available on all the Amazons (and the ebooks are part of the KU scheme).
All covers by Adrian Baldwin
Short Sharp Shocks!
Book 0: Dirty Paws - Dean M. Drinkel
Book 1: Patient K - Barbie Wilde
Book 2: The Stranger & The Ribbon – Tim Dry
Book 3: Asylum Of Shadows – Stephanie Ellis
Book 4: Monster Beach – Ritchie Valentine Smith
Book 5: Beasties & Other Stories – Martin Richmond
Book 6: Every Moon Atrocious – Emile-Louis Tomas Jouvet
Book 7: A Monster Met – Liz Tuckwell
Book 8: The Intruders & Other Stories – Jason D. Brawn
Book 9: The Other – David Youngquist
Book 10: Symphony Of Blood – Leah Crowley
Book 11: Shattered – Anthony Watson
Book 12: The Devil’s Portion – Benedict J. Jones
Book 13: Cinders Of A Blind Man Who Could See – Kev Harrison
Book 14: Dulce Et Decorum Est – Dan Howarth
Book 15: Blood, Bears & Dolls – Allison Weir
Book 16: The Forest Is Hungry – Chris Stanley
Book 17: The Town That Feared Dusk – Calvin Demmer
Book 18: Night Of The Rider – Alyson Faye
Book 19: Isidora’s Pawn – Erik Hofstatter
Book 20: Plain – D.T. Griffith
Book 21: Supermassive Black Mass – Matthew Davis
Book 22: Whispers Of The Sea (& Other Stories) – L. R. Bonehill
Book 23: Magic – Eric Nash
Book 24: The Plague – R.J. Meldrum
Book 25: Candy Corn – Kevin M. Folliard
Book 26: The Elixir – Lee Allen Howard
Book 27: Breaking The Habit – Yolanda Sfetsos
Book 28: Forfeit Tissue – C. C. Adams
Book 29: Crown Of Thorns – Trevor Kennedy
Book 30: The Encampment / Blood Memory – Zachary Ashford
Book 31: Dreams Of Lake Drukka / Exhumation – Mike Thorn
Book 32: Apples / Snail Trails – Russell Smeaton
Book 33: An Invitation To Darkness – Hailey Piper
Book 34: The Necessary Evils & Sick Girl – Dan Weatherer
Book 35: The Couvade – Joe Koch
Book 36: The Camp Creeper & Other Stories – Dave Jeffery
Book 37: Flaying Sins – Ian Woodhead
Book 38: Hearts & Bones – Theresa Derwin
Book 39: The Unbeliever & The Intruder – Morgan K. Tanner
Book 40: The Coffin Walk – Richard Farren Barber
Book 41: The Straitjacket In The Woods – Kitty R. Kane
Book 42: Heart Of Stone – M. Brandon Robbins
Book 43: Bits – R.A. Busby
Book 44: Last Meal In Osaka & Other Stories – Gary Buller
Book 45: The One That Knows No Fear – Steve Stred
Book 46: The Birthday Girl & Other Stories – Christopher Beck
Book 47: Crowded House & Other Stories - S.J. Budd
Book 48: Hand To Mouth – Deborah Sheldon
Book 49: Moonlight Gunshot Mallet Flame / A Little Death – Alicia Hilton
Book 50: Dark Corners - David Charlesworth
As it's been a little while (and these processes are always organic) - we thought we'd update our readers with all our titles ! Please remember that right now all our books are available on Amazon and are part of the KU scheme - they are also available as paperbacks at very acceptable prices !
Please note all our covers are by Adrian Baldwin.
Murder! Mystery! Mayhem!
Maggie Of My Heart – Alyson Faye
The Funeral Birds – Paula R.C. Readman
Cursed – Paul M. Feeney
The Bone Factory – Yolanda Sfetsos
Garland Cove – Deborah Sheldon
Death In The Dugout – Bruce Harris
Beats! Ballads! Blank Verse!
Book 1: Echoes From An Expired Earth – Allen Ashley
Book 2: Grave Goods – Cardinal Cox
Book 3: From Long Ago – Paul Woodward
Book 4: Laws Of Discord – William Clunie
Book 5: Fanged Dandelion – Eric LaRocca
Book 6: Halloween’s Best Cellar – Martin Richmond
Book 7: Existential Jibber Jabber – Marc Shapiro
Weird! Wonderful! Other Worlds
Book 1: The Raven King – Liz Tuckwell
Book 2: The Wired City – Yolanda Sfetsos
Horror Novels & Novellas
House Of Wrax – Raven Dane
And Blood Did Fall – Chad A. Clark
The Fallen – Anthony Watson
The Underclass – Dan Weatherer
Cheslyn Myre – Dan Weatherer
Greenbeard – John Travis
Tower Of Raven – Kevin M. Folliard
Welcome Home Natalie – Reyna Young
Little Bird – TR Hitchman
Society Place – Andrew David Barker
Axe – Terry Grimwood
Wicked Blood – E.C. Hanson
Between The Teeth Of Charon – Grant Longstaff
The Again-Walkers – Deborah Sheldon
Science Fiction Novels & Novellas
Odyssey Of The Black Turtle – Paul Woodward
Sons Of Sol – Kevin R. McNally
The ‘A QUIET APOCALYPSE’ Series
A Quiet Apocalypse – Dave Jeffery
Cathedral (A Quiet Apocalypse Book 2) – Dave Jeffery
The Samaritan (A Quiet Apocalypse Book 3) – Dave Jeffery
A Silent Dystopia (Stories Of A Quiet Apocalypse) – Edited by D.T. Griffith
Tribunal (A Quiet Apocalypse Book 4) – Dave Jeffery
Joe – Terry Grimwood
Finding Jericho – Dave Jeffery
Science Fiction Collections
Vistas – Chris Kelso
Horror Fiction Collections
Distant Frequencies – Frank Duffy
Where We Live – Tim Cooke
Night Voices – Paul Edwards & Frank Duffy
The Darkest Battlefield – Tales Of WW1/Horror
The 30th June sees a very special release for DEMAIN – SSS!74 is by resident cover artist/brander, very much part of the DEMAIN family as well as being an award winning writer in his own right: Adrian Baldwin! His Short Sharp Shocks! is called ‘Forty Seven’. The book will be published on the 30th June (cover as always by Adrian) and is available now for pre-sales. Before Dean headed to Cannes for the film festival and Adrian went to Chillercon in Scarborough, they sat down and talked!
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to have you here Adrian, in slightly different circumstances than usual. Okay, let’s go for it: first question, please tell us a little about yourself and why/how you become a writer in the first place.
ADRIAN BALDWIN: Sure, and thanks for having me. I am Adrian Baldwin, an author and designer from Manchester who now lives and works in Wales. (Yep, I moved from rainy Manchester to rainy Wales.) I write dark comedy novels, short stories and screenplays for grown-ups. I have always enjoyed quirky, surreal, and unusual comedy. For someone who grew up reading Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and watching Monty Python perhaps it was inevitable. In the 90s I wrote for several tv comedians and sketch shows; my most famous sketch is The Predictable Lighthouse Keepers which was brilliantly performed by Smith & Jones. (Check it out on YouTube if you haven’t seen it.) I later became a fiction writer as I had somehow, over the years, accumulated several strange stories in my head and one day I decided I needed to get them all out on paper or they’d be forever rattling around in my brain.
DP: I remember that sketch very well and very funny it was too so well done and thanks for that. Would you say your background had an influence on you becoming/being a writer?
AB: I was a very odd child looking back; I didn’t really read age-appropriate books - I was more interested in Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Philip K. Dick, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and believe it or not, I spent a lot of time reading the Oxford English dictionary - one of those mammoth editions in two volumes! That’s right, I was a nerdy kid.
DP: Some great authors there…what about horror?
AB: As a child I was lucky enough to have a small portable TV in my bedroom, and as I’ve always had a problem falling asleep, I got into the habit of watching The Midnight Movie, which was nearly always a classic Hammer Horror or such – so yeah, I was aware of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price at an early age. I also remember being very fond of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and The Invaders.
DP: Yeah, they were classic weren’t they…I seem to remember as a kid there were the infamous ‘red triangle’ films on Channel Four which were violent/scary (and probably a little sexy) and had a massive impact…shame we don’t get those evenings anymore. Anyway, your Short Sharp Shocks!
AB: It’s the tale of Colin Hackett, a second-rate indie Horror writer with an unstable personality, a terrible dark secret, and deep-rooted anger issues. He is extremely short-sighted, considerably overweight, an incurable hoarder and is an unsociable loner. It’s a roasting hot day, his noisy neighbours are at it again, he’s struggling to write his latest story, and he’s growing more and more frustrated!
DP: It’s a great tale. Did you have to do much research?
AB: I always do thorough research on any story I write, when required, but to be honest this one didn’t need any research at all; not that I can recall. But Colin Hackett isn’t me, just so we’re clear.
DP: I hope not! Was the story easy to write?
AB: No, for some reason this is one of the hardest short stories I’ve ever written. The version in SSS!74 was my third go at pushing Colin and his story to a point where I am, now, finally happy with the results.
DP: And so you should be. Let’s talk about your successes…
AB: STANLEY MCCLOUD MUST DIE! is the most popular story with my readers and I can understand why. A story of an inveterate gambler who isn’t given long to live places a massive bet that he will reach his next birthday; unfortunately for Stan he picks an unscrupulous bookie who decides to try and bump him off with a range of ever-so-slightly fatal high-odds proposition bets.
I have interest from a director who wants to make SMMD into a film, and he has already managed to get the script I wrote for it into the hands of the actor I want to play Stan, and the actor has said yes! So, fingers crossed and watch this space.
DP: Looking forward to seeing how that turns out – well done. Who are your influences?
AB: I guess all books and authors have some influence on writers to some degree or other. I know for sure that I’ve been influenced by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, Alan Sillitoe, Bruce Robinson, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Irvine Welsh, Stephen King, Robert Rankin and Jasper Fforde; and I’m certain there must be many others.
DP: I’m sure – let’s pause for a moment, what does ‘horror’ mean to you?
AB: To me, Horror means disturbing the reader/viewer, and I like my Horror with a dose of Dark Comedy thrown in – I feel if you can disturb someone and make them laugh at the same time, it’s even more disturbing in some ways. If any of my readers ever think: Oh my God, why am I laughing, I shouldn’t be laughing at this, but I am – then I feel I’ve succeeded.
DP: I believe you have! What do you think readers look for in horror books?
AB: I’m sure it varies from reader to reader, but I guess at the end of the day, or night, it’s the same for any work of fiction: it’s about escapism and being entertained for a wee while. And in the case of dark comedies, having a few laughs along the way. I tend to think of Dark Comedy as Horror’s weird cousin.
DP: And would you say that horror is affected by world events?
AB: As I’m not strictly a horror writer but more a dark comedy writer who occasionally dabbles in the horror genre, I would say that world events must surely creep into a whole range of genres – at least sometimes. Thinking about my own stories I can only recall one offhand and that was in Stanley McCloud Must Die! – the story was set in 2010 during The Banking Crisis with its Credit Crunch, Global Financial Meltdown, Double-Dip Recession, and so-called ‘Austerity Measures’.
DP: With all the BS that’s been happening in the world recently it’ll be interesting to see how writers weave that in to their work…so, is there a horror (or dark comedy) book/film coming out soon that you’re looking forward to?
AB: I have yet to read Japer Fforde’s latest book, THE CONSTANT RABBIT, so that is a story I am really looking forward to reading. To be honest, I am often disappointed with new films, so I tend to revisit a lot of old favourites. I am a big fan of so-called kitchen-sink movies from the 60s. I also like sleazy novels from the 50s/60s and have several newly acquired old titles to read, partly for a new project I’m aiming to pen at some point in the not-too-distant future.
[HERE, DEAN EXITS THE INTERVIEW AND IS PICKED UP BY HIS ASSISTANT!]
ASSISTANT: Hi Adrian, can you let us know about a writer (or director!) who interests you…
AB: Of course! I am currently very interested in the work of writer/director Dean M. Drinkel – not least because he has expressed a keen interest in directing a series called DEVIL’S ACRE – the pilot of which I wrote quite recently (as a book and a screenplay). I’ll be working closely with Dean on the second episode and then the aim is to approach Netflix or Amazon. It’s about Victorians vs ‘Aliens’ vs Zombies – what’s not to like! So, fingers crossed!
ASSISTANT: Yes, Dean was showing me his notes for Episode 2, the series looks very interesting indeed. Thank you.
[THE ASSISTANT EXITS, DEAN RETURNS]
DP: Is the horror genre dead?
AB: Again, I am more Dark Comedy than Horror, but my understanding is that Horror, and perhaps Dark Comedy too, is, if anything, increasing in popularity. Perhaps people have been reading more than usual recently what with having to be at home more due to Covid. If ever there was a time when folks needed entertainment it is surely now.
DP: That’s so true – first there was Brexit, then Covid, then Ukraine…what a crappy time to be alive in all honesty…anyway, are you afraid of anything?
AB: I am afraid of heights and yes, it has made an appearance in one of my novels. I also dislike clowns – I’m not afraid of them, just don’t like them – and I believe a clown or clowns have appeared in two of my stories to date: my novel BARNACLE BRAT and my short story ‘PIED!’ If you love, hate or dislike clowns maybe check them out.
DP: I will! Creatively Adrian is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet?
AB: Other than completing my DEVIL’S ACRE series, I would like to put out a series of 50s/60s-inspired trashy sleaze titles, under the banner Bawdy Books, perhaps working with other writers – and probably under assumed pen-names – just like they did back in the day.
DP: Love that idea! Count me in. So I’m guessing with everything you’ve got going on that writing is a long term career for you?
AB: I will keep on writing until it ceases to be fun for me or until I totally run out of ideas. Hopefully, that’s a way off yet. I also design book and magazine covers so that helps provide some variety to my days.
DP: I know we’re (hopefully!) past the lockdown now, but what was your routine…
AB: As a total hermit who hardly ever leaves the house – unless I really need or want to for some reason – nothing much has changed for me personally. My routine is basically to work late mornings and afternoons, either writing or designing, then game, read or watch movies in the evening; it’s quite a life and I heartily recommend it.
DP: Sounds sublime. Okay, two more fun ones: Do you interact a lot with your readers (or writers who have influenced you)? Any stories you can tell us?
AB: I interact as much as I possibly can with my readers and fellow indie authors – it’s great to have that social support network. Funny stories? From my interactions with readers and other writers? I wish I did. Then I might have more raw material to draw on and to shape into a narrative! So, no, not really. There are lots of real happenings in my own life that have made their way into my stories, does that count? Like the time when my dad rushed me to get in the car for school and when he dropped me off, I quickly realised that I was wearing my fluffy slippers! I got some terrible stick that day; they can be such cruel bullies, teachers!
DP: HAHA, and okay, final one: what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
That I really do take my research very seriously. If they had checked my Google searches over the years, they could easily have seen things like: How long does it take a frozen torso to defrost at room temperature? How much does a severed human head weigh? Would it float? - And though my descriptions may seem extremely realistic in my books, I have never killed a clown or a hooker in real life. Honest.
DP: And we believe you! Almost…
Thank you Adrian for your time, all the best with ‘Forty Seven’.
If you’d like to connect with Adrian direct:
We welcome Deborah Sheldon back to DEMAIN with her horror novelette The Again-Walkers, published on June 24th (with a cover by Adrian Baldwin and available now for pre-sales). This is Deborah’s third title with DEMAIN, following her Short Sharp Shocks! Hand To Mouth and her Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! title Garland Cove. Dean and Deborah recently sat down and talked about all things Norse…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello again Deborah! Great to be working with you again. So, for those that don’t know your work can you tell us a little about yourself.
DEBORAH SHELDON: Hi. I was born a writer – I used to draw stories before I knew my letters – and I’ve never fallen out of love with the written word. Over 37 years, my career has segued from magazine articles to TV scripts to non-fiction books to medical writing to fiction to horror fiction to stage plays to poetry, and I love it all with every breath. I’ll die a writer too. You’ll no doubt find me slumped over my keyboard, a half-drunk glass of chardonnay on my desk and a half-written story on my computer monitor.
DP: Sounds a great way to go out to be honest. So, The Again-Walkers, why did you decide to write it?
DS: I’m married and our son is now in his early twenties. Throughout his childhood, he held a deep fascination with antiquity and old cultures. My husband is Danish on his mother’s side so, naturally, our young son was fascinated with all things Viking. In supporting his hobby, I discovered an interest of my own in the Viking lifestyle, gods and traditions. Contrary to popular tropes, the Vikings weren’t marauding horn-helmeted savages. Instead, they enjoyed a sophisticated culture which they shared – quite often non-savagely! – with other peoples and lands, to everyone’s benefit. I enjoyed the Viking superstitions and found myself drawn to their belief in revenants and particularly “again-walkers”, which are restless souls whose thirst for payback reanimates them as mindlessly vengeful creatures.
DP: That’s really cool, so did it take long to write?
DS: I’d wanted to write something about Viking revenants for some time, but the idea didn’t take root until I experienced one of the worst nightmares of my life. The nightmare woke me, sweating, in a sheer gasping panic. I had to get out of bed and turn on lights just to stop my heart from slamming around. (If I wake from a dream and start thinking about it, I often slip back into it when I fall asleep again.) How did I calm down? By telling myself that, wow, I’d just got a kick-arse ending to my again-walker story, and all I had to do was work backwards to find the plot. So, my nightmare actually forms the climax of my novelette. I started writing The Again-Walkers the next day. It probably took about three weeks to write, allowing for fallow days in between. The Again-Walkers was first released in my award-winning and multi-award-nominated collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (IFWG Australia, 2017), and I’m thrilled that DEMAIN Publishing has chosen to turn my novelette into a stand-alone title.
DP: I really enjoyed reading it and even more so now reading your explanation above. Can you tell us a little more about your writing process…
DS: It’s start stop, start stop, start stop. I researched ninth-century Danish mythology, superstition and culture to get myself grounded before writing, but still had to pause at every turn to check historical accuracy. For example, what was the fashion? What about jewellery? Hairstyles? How did villages look and function? What was the layout and décor of a typical house? How did people travel? What was the hierarchy of professions? Relations between the sexes? Between relatives? Opinions on marriage? Blood feuds? Political systems? Justice systems? And on and on. Even what people ate for dinner and how they cooked their meals had to be researched. The Again-Walkers was perhaps one of the most research-intensive stories I’ve ever written because it mattered to get the details right. Verisimilitude suspends disbelief in the reader. The only way to get verisimilitude is through extensive research. That said, I only included the very tip of the iceberg. If a writer gets too enamoured with research, the story risks becoming a Wikipedia info-dump.
DP: As somebody who writes period drama/historical stories I really loved your balance…you totally nailed it so well done. Right now I’m looking at several historical projects…if The Again-Walkers was going to be made into a movie, who would you want in it?
DS: Fun question! Anya Taylor-Joy has an otherworldly, ethereal, sensual, Nordic beauty about her. I think her acting style would make a wonderfully complex and nuanced Svana Norup (my main character).
DP: Great choice. Deborah, horror fiction has a long history, which era do you consider the most effective period in the whole history of the genre?
DS: That’s a tough one to answer because I believe every period has something to offer. Over my lifetime as a reader, I’ve delved through the centuries – basically, from ancient Greece onwards – and read a lot of amazing works. Currently, I’m re-investigating nineteenth-century horror fiction, including In a Glass Darkly by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. As a fan of horror films, I’m also working my way through Lon Chaney’s filmography – what an incredible actor! In short, every horror era is amazing in its own way. My advice for the novice aficionado is to cast a wide net and enjoy.
DP: That’s brilliant and you’re so right regarding Lon Chaney – I don’t think people realise what a great actor he actually was. What would you say horror meant to you?
DS: Honesty. The universe is chaos, bad things happen to good people, and everyone suffers and dies. Yeah, I guess I’m a bit of a nihilist although I try to consider myself a stoic. As both a writer and a reader, the horror genre helps to reassure me that life is messy and we’re all in this random meat-grinder together. It keeps my propensity for generalised anxiety in check.
DP: And finally Deborah, what draws readers to the horror genre? What do readers look for?
DS: I believe that readers are looking for truth, for a window into the genuine human experience. It’s reassuring to read a story where crazy things happen for no reason, especially when life is kicking you about. And it can feel cathartic to be scared or unsettled in a safe environment and come out the other side not just unscathed, but moved and entertained.
With that, thank you very much for your time Deborah. Best of luck with The Again-Walkers.
If you’d like to connect with Deborah direct:
Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0035MWQ98
We welcome author Grant Longstaff to DEMAIN with his exciting new stand-alone title Between The Teeth Of Charon (cover by Adrian Baldwin) – released as an ebook on June 24th (but available now for pre-sales). In mid-April Dean and Grant sat down to talk about it…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome Grant to DEMAIN, loved reading Between The Teeth Of Charon and can’t wait to unleash it (so to speak haha) – no better place to start than at the beginning: can you tell us all a little about yourself.
GRANT LONGSTAFF: Hi Dean and yes! I’m from Gateshead, a town in the north east of England. The poor relation of Newcastle. I’ve always loved stories. Books, TV, film, theatre, games even – sometimes you just want to lose yourself. Growing up in Gateshead, there was a need for it. I suppose it was inevitable I would eventually want to try and tell stories of my own. I’ve been writing for the last few years and I’ve had a handful of stories creep out into the world. Between the Teeth of Charon is the longest of those and my first solo release.
DP: Is it? Well, well done! Thoroughly deserved. What would you say was your first introduction to the horror genre?
GL: That came unexpectedly when I was around five or six years old. My mother entrusted me to my great grandparents whilst she went to work. My Granda, who we affectionately called ‘Nutty Granda’, had recorded a film for me to watch. He sticks me in a chair, pops in the VHS, presses play and leaves me to it. Turns out the film was the 1989 classic, Puppet Master. Rated 18. A film about murderous puppets. I had nightmares for weeks. Probably goes some way to explaining why my Granda was given his Nutty moniker.
DP: Oh my lord! That’s the one directed by Charles Band for Full Moon if memory serves. Great movie. I like your Granda already. Tell us about Between The Teeth Of Charon.
GL: Between the Teeth of Charon tells the story of Jack, a pensioner, who has recently lost his wife, Nora. Jack is asked by their friend, Ellen, to fulfil a promise Nora made a long time ago. Reluctantly, Jack agrees and, along with Ellen and her grand-daughter Dani, the three return to Hethpool Grange - a forgotten psychiatric hospital in Northumberland - to confront a dark and brutal past. A past Jack has tried for almost sixty years to forget. The abandoned hospital is fertile ground for horror, there have been many books and films with such a setting. I hope Between the Teeth of Charon adds something.
DP: I don’t see why it won’t. I really enjoyed the characters, the plot and the story as a whole so again well done. As you say there have been other books/films with a similar setting so could you write from ‘memory’ or did you have to do a lot of research?
GL: I spent a lot of time researching the history of mental health treatment before and during writing. I read testimonies from people who had endured years of abuse. People left broken by the institutions who were supposed to help them. Of course there were historical accounts from places like Bethlem/Bedlam, but not all the stories were dredged from the days of overcrowded lunatic asylums in the 1800s. Many were from people still alive today. We’re talking about relatively recent history. I also read up on lobotomy (also known as leucotomy). I have always found the concept chilling; a procedure that can reduce a person to just a shadow of themselves, carried out with a tool modelled on an ice pick. So many patients were needlessly lobotomised, the amount of harm this operation caused far outweighed the good. Alongside this I trawled through images and videos made by urban explorers to get a feel for the architecture and decay which Jack, Ellen and Dani might experience. Most of the research didn’t make the story, but it did inform how I envisaged the world of Hethpool Grange and the horrors which may have taken place there.
DP: And personally I think you really succeeded in dragging us into that world! Are any of the characters based on real people?
GL: No, the characters are fictional. But I will say that I know a lot of strong and driven women, both in my family and among friends. I hope their strength bled into Ellen, Nora and Dani. Jack on the other hand is much closer to me - guilty of being a bit of a passenger. I was not prepared for this therapy session...
DP: Haha that’s what happens my friend. I was wondering, did the novelette take a long time to write?
GL: It was written in two parts. I wrote a chunk, went away, and returned a few months later to finish it. I probably took three months or so to write each part. I’m a terribly slow writer. Believe it or not the idea for this story – or rather some iteration of it – has been kicking around for about 20 years. It looks a lot different now to how it did back then. Unrecognisable. When I was a teenager I envisaged writing a sprawling novel about a small town living in the shadow of an old hospital. Probably heavily influenced by the work of Mr King. A few years back it developed into story with multiple points of view. The town was exorcised, replaced by a group of disparate characters drawn to the hospital for one reason or another. I wrote 30,000 words before abandoning it. Over the years, the story kept shrinking, becoming smaller and more personal, until it became what it is today.
DP: And I think it’s much better for that (though I will admit I like the idea of a sprawling novel in the small town too…). Who influences Grant Longstaff?
GL: Where do I start? There are of course the big hitters. Stephen King. Shirley Jackson. Joe Hill. Richard Matheson. I’m also in awe of Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones. They have such an easy way with words, their stories seem to zip by effortlessly. I mean, I’m sure they have to work at it, but they make it look so bloody easy! There are so many others I could name or talk about. Check out any of the following: Michael Wehunt, Ray Cluley, Lynda E. Rucker, Nathan Ballingrud, Victor LaValle, Carrie Laben, Norman Partridge, Hailey Piper, Max Booth III, Eliza Clark, Ian Rogers and so many more I’m forgetting right now. When I grow up I’d love to be able to write as well as any one of them. I’m also regularly motivated by Dan Howarth, Kev Harrison and Paul Feeney. They keep me turning up at the keyboard and hold me accountable. Bastards.
DP: Some great names there and you should be proud that one or two of them are now your stable-mates! Let’s talk about ‘horror’ – what does that mean to you?
GL: Stephen King said it best when he said, “we make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones”. Horror gets a bad reputation, but it does what all other fiction does. It allows writers and readers to explore elements of real life through the safety of a lens. The universal themes are the same. It’s just that with horror things tend to get a little bloodier, a little weirder. The horror of real life is always closer than we think. At least in fiction we can understand the rules. There is solace in stakes and silver bullets when you compare it to the terrifying unpredictability of reality. Not sure where that came from. Yikes.
DP: And what a great place to finish…
Thanks Grant for your time, all the best with Between The Teeth Of Charon.
If you would like to connect with Grant direct:
DEMAIN welcomes author E.C. Hanson and his dark novella (and slasher inspired) Wicked Blood. The book (with a cover by Adrian Baldwin) will be published at the end of March but is currently available for pre-sales. Prior to publication, Dean sat down with E.C. Hanson and talked all things wicked…
February 25th sees the publication of Paul Woodward’s novel Odyssey Of The Black Turtle (cover by Adrian Baldwin). Paul has been previously published by DEMAIN with his poetry collection From Long Ago. Towards the end of 2021, Dean and Paul sat down and talked about it…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Paul, welcome back to DEMAIN. We’re really happy to publish your new novel, so a general question first: what was your first introduction o the weird fiction genre?
PAUL WOODWARD: Hello. If we are going to describe weird fiction as odd, unexplained, otherworldly, and I’d like to say a bit mysterious it would have to be Enid Blyton. As a pre-teenager I read the Adventures of the Wishing-Chair, and The Faraway Tree Adventures. At school you got badges for reading achievements and after so many badges you could pick a book from the headmistress’s office. Everybody else went for the Famous Five and whatnot, but they were the ones I got. I still remember them as mind blowing.
DP: Have to agree especially with The Magic Faraway Tree. I’ve always wanted to make a film set in that universe – I believe (though could be wrong now) that Russell Brand bought the rights so heyho but yeah, loved those books. Odyssey Of The Black Turtle then…
PW: Yes, it is a re-imaging of Homer’s epic in a futuristic setting. Some of the episodes are recognisable, and some are new, but the driving momentum is that of a journey, and a return. As a deliberate response to the patriarchy in the classical tale the main characters are mostly women. And automata once driven by the gods are now godlike in themselves.
DP: I loved the premise (and love Homer obviously) – did you have to do a lot of research?
PW: Quite a bit of research was involved. Not least renewing my understanding of Homer. And remaining careful to keep my story loosely associated with it. There was no intention to make a blow for blow re-interpretation. Also I spent some time researching life in the first century Palestine for the biblical episode. And for subsequent novels I have spent time researching Black Holes and Event Horizons, Pilgrims on the Mayflower. Research is conducted on both internet and printed books and magazines.
DP: Looking forward to reading them then. What books / authors do you read and do they have an influence on you as a creator?
PW: I have a wide reading field. Most books I read influence me in some way or another, often in obvious ways like how to write, and also how not to write. I generally have half a dozen or so books on the go which I read in turns.
AI Narratives, a History of Imaginative Thinking about Intelligent Machines (this is for research and quite fascinating anyway, very historical and not just literary)
Ravenna, Capital of empire, Crucible of Europe (this is filling in a gap of my knowledge of the later Roman Empire)
The Lure of the Beach, a global history (what it says on the tin, a history of beach holidays since the year dot and I expect will give background flavour to my writing)
Written in Bone, hidden stories in what we leave behind (Forensic anthropology and includes graphic details of murder in a non-sensationalist way)
The Age of Islands, in search of new and disappearing Islands
Drawing Down The Moon, Magic in the Ancient Greco-Roman World. (This is taking a long time to read but it is very thorough)
Next I have a cultural history of the representations of mermaids to read which is research for the 4th novel and doesn’t have a title yet.
There is no fiction in the list at the moment but I have recently read the new Alan Garner, the new Jeff Vandermeer, and The Mermaid of Black Conch. All of which were very good.
DP: Some great titles there, will definitely check some of them out and from what I’ve seen the new Alan Garner novel is picking up some great reviews. I love that Odyssey Of The Black Turtle can be classified as ‘weird fiction’. What does that term mean to you?
PW: I could delve into the dictionary and contemplate how accurate the definition of weird is. Dictionaries give a variety of meanings, odd, supernatural, strange, all of those sort of words. But when I think of weird fiction and start naming names I get Alan Garner (I think this may be because I’ve recently read his new book and has made me think of his previous books too). But I also come up with Samuel Becket. The Malone Trilogy, and the plays Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days. You have people sitting in dustbins, or buried to their neck in sand, for the duration. How odd can you get? Perhaps Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? And then I think Robert Holdstock, the Mythago Wood sequence. And Franz Kafka. Man turns into a fly. How do you get your head round that one, especially if you now find you have compound eyes? Thomas Mann, Dr Faustus. An old fashioned pact with the devil. The old ones are the best as they say. The Magical Realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other South American luminaries. If I sit here long enough I’m sure I could list more and more. And it can become something of a loop activity. Because when you look at it weird fiction per se is crossed over from other genres. Or no genre at all, as such. Are there unifying tropes in ‘weird’ fiction? I don’t think so anyway.
DP: I think you’re right and I personally feel that sometimes writing weird fiction is looked down upon. I’ve attended a couple of ‘weird fiction’ panels at conventions and have found they’ve not been well attended and that those who have attended are only doing so to ‘have a go’ at the panel – very weird. Anyway, is there is a ‘weird’ film you’re looking forward to seeing?
PW: I want to re-watch Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. I’m not sure if anyone else would think it weird, but from memory the episode of carrying a huge paddle steamer overland through the jungle I found impressively odd.
DP: It definitely is that! And with the great (acting wise anyway) Klaus Kinski. There have been numerous reports that the weird fiction genre is dead, would you agree?
PW: If it was dead, it wouldn’t be for long. There is always the propensity for something strange. Especially when you least expect it. (I can just hear the theme tune from The X-Files ear worming me). What I am saying is, if anything can come back from the dead, it’ll be in weird fiction.
DP: True, true. Creatively is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet? If so – what is it?
PW: Is there anything I’d like to do that I haven’t done yet? Well I’ve already written the best poems I’m ever going to write and they’ve been collected in From Long Ago. When I’m writing I’ve always got one eye ahead to the next thing I’m going to write, or the next one after that. So in that sense something I haven’t done yet is what you would call a moveable feast. There’s always something I haven’t done yet. I have always got ideas chuntering around even if I haven’t written an outline down.
DP: Is writing for you a long term or short term career?
PW: Writing for me is definitely long term. I started with writing poems and had some success as a stand-up performance poet, reading to audiences both large and small, but now concentrate on novels. I have been a writer for longer than I can remember and have every intention of continuing.
DP: Finally Paul, is there something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
PW: They might be surprised to discover that I enjoy sucking dark chocolate, even peppermint chocolate.
And on that note – thank you very much Paul, best of luck with Odyssey Of The Black Turtle.
Dean M. Drinkel