Ginger Nuts of Horror
To help promote the new charity anthology Sparks an electric themed anthology to raise money for Resources for Autism, Ginger Nuts of Horror is bringing you a series of interview with the authors involved in the anthology. Today it is the turn of Ash Hartwell to feature in the spotlight.
Ash Hartwell was born in Maine in New England but lives in Old England. His stories have appeared in numerous anthologies including Rejected For Content, The Black Room Manuscripts and Monsters v Zombies. He had a collection of his own stories Zombies, Vamps and Fiends published in 2015 by JEA. 2017 saw Stitched Smile Publications (where he is a VIP Author) publish his debut novel Tip Of The Iceberg. He is currently writing his second novel and putting the finishing touches to a short novella which he hopes will be published early 2019.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I didn’t start writing until I’d turned forty so came into it later in life although it had long been a dream of mine. I spent the previous years working in the retail sector then as a nurse, working in a busy ICU. I’m married to Nicki, who is my muse but always sleeps with one eye open, and we have four children, although they are nearly all grown up (or should that be “all nearly grown up). We share our house with many cats and a lot of dogs.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Reading, obviously, and films. I also enjoy watching several different sports and generally spending time with the family.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
My grandmother encouraged me to read when I was young and she appeared to enjoy the more fantastical element in literature so I think it was instilled in me at an early age. My father enjoyed Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and several people had spotted his influence in my stories. My novel is set in 1912 and falls very much into the later Holmes era.
I also think my time in health care had an influence in twisting my creative side into something darker than it once was, there is nothing like a bloody trauma to corrupt the soul.
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
I think people associate the term horror with the more extreme end of the genre. They expect blood and gore liberally spread throughout the book regardless of its relevance to the story. I think for that reason many ‘horror’ authors find themselves shoehorned into a different label ie ‘thriller’ or ‘paranormal thriller’ as opposed to ‘horror-paranormal’ or ‘horror-supernatural’. Most traditional book shops view horror as Stephen King with a dash of James Herbert and Neil Gaiman. Others such as Adam Nevill and Shaun Hutson are edging in but the limited horror space is still filled with safe anthologies featuring Shelly, James, Poe and Lovecraft.
How do we change it? Simple. Get people reading horror books from horror authors and shouting about it. Go and ask for horror titles from your local bookshop. They can order them. The success of the film IT should help refocus the public’s interest plus Sarah Pinborough topping the Sunday Times best sellers list gives us an opening to force our twisted beliefs right down the reader’s throats. (smiley face)
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
Apocalyptic fear or a search for a dystopian new world order. Look at American Horror Story; cult. Zombies will feature but I think other fears will also surface, think Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
The one book that started my love of the genre was James Herbert’s The Rats. Him and Richard Laymon dominated my reading list for twenty years – and I still pop back and revisit them occasionally. I love the old Hammer films, and The Exorcist and Omen. So many films over the years have had an effect it’s hard to narrow it down.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
Adam Nevill, although I think it fair to say he’s already arrived. Duncan Bradshaw, JR Park and Sparks own David Court are all under-appreciated so search them out. Gary Mcmahon, AJ Brown, CC Adams Daniel Marc Chant and many others I haven’t got space for. Oh…and me, obviously! lol
How would you describe your writing style?
Erm… Well edited! Lol I hate these types of questions because I think others are better placed to define my style. I write how I feel I want to write. I like to think it’s literal and unrestricted. Not sure how to define it really. I’ll settle for – brilliant!
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Yes. Being compared to Conan Doyle was humbling. JR Park also waxed lyrical about Tip Of The Iceberg which left me speechless when I read it. I think when a writer you admire acknowledges your work it means so much more.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Spooling and gamma. Lol. Really – letting the work go to an editor.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
Probably more than one but it depends on the angle you take on a subject. Will I use a subject for shock value alone? No.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
In Tip Of The Iceberg which is set on the Titanic many of the names are real people who were there. Other names I looked at passenger lists to make sure they were time period correct. Some names I use in stories have specific meaning some are just right for the character. You know when you hit on the right name. Think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind or Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
More economical with those horrible filler words. I listened to every piece of advice I was given and listened to every editor – especially those that rejected stories. If you want to improve these are the people to ask for advice. Many are surprisingly helpful if you ask nicely. I have always tried to keep moving upwards in my submissions – it’s easy to pick low hanging fruit but It won’t help you develop.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Thesaurus. Patience. Thick skin.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
Take your time. When you finish a story put it away for a while and look at it with fresh eyes.
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
I’m really bad at this. Facebook, web page, readings and book signings. I also did a panel at Edge-Lit which was terrifying but fun. I’m looking in to things like Thunderclap etc so maybe you should ask me again in a few months.
To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?
My favourite is always the one I’m writing at the time – as is the least favourite. I liked a character in my novel so much I think they may get a second outing but I won’t say who as it will spoil the book (which you are all downloading now, I hope 😊)
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
No – because each is a part of my development as a writer and so important in some way to me.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
Tip Of The Iceberg (my only novel) But I think the story I wrote for The Black Room Manuscripts vol 3 is a little special.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
Not really ever thought about it. Here’s one I like. The speaker is an old sailor giving advice to a young man out to make his fortune. They are playing cards. “Take my advice lad, travel through life like it’s a game of cards. Hold ‘em or fold ‘em, but do it with belief, not fear.”
Can you tell us about what you are working on next?
I’ve just finished a novella about a paramedic who arrives at a call out, then sits back and lets them die. Taunting them as they slip away. But he encounters the daughter of one of his victims when she starts work as a student paramedic at his ambulance station. Who knows the truth of what happened the day her father died?
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
The predictability of the order of death in slasher movies.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Rich Hawkins The Last Plague was great. If a book disappoints me I don’t ever tell.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer
Do you want this pallet full of bundled up cash?