Ginger Nuts of Horror
To help promote the new charity anthology Sparks an electric themed anthology to raise money for Resources for Autism,Burdizzo Publishing. Ginger Nuts of Horror is bringing you a series of interview with the authors involved in the anthology. Today it is the turn of Lex H Jones to feature in the spotlight.
Lex H Jones is a British cross-genre author, horror fan and rock music enthusiast who lives in Sheffield, North England.
He has written articles for websites the Gingernuts of Horror and the Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog on various subjects covering books, films, videogames and music. Lex’s first published novel is titled “Nick and Abe”, and he also has several short horror stories published in anthologies. When not working on his own writing Lex also contributes to the proofing and editing process for other authors.
You can find out more aboutr Lex and his work from the following links
His official Facebook page is: Lex H Jones , Amazon author page, Twitter
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I was born and educated in Sheffied, where I still live at the time of writing this. I have more cats than I ever chose to adopt, as they just seem to find their way to my home. I also own three chinchillas, which are only moderately less annoying than the cats.
I’ve been doing writing as a serious thing (rather than purely for my own amusement) for about eight years now. I got my first novel, ‘Nick and Abe’ published at the start of 2016, and since then I’ve had quite a few short stories published in various horror anthologies. My current project is a series of 3 ‘weird fiction’ children’s books, for which I’ve also commissioned an artist to do the illustrations.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Whilst it’s probably a fairly standard answer for a writer, I like to read a lot. Not just books, but I’m also a big comic book fan too. I also love a good comedy podcast, it completely transforms a long journey. It’s probably fair to say I’m also very social, I love to have random daytrips with friends to obscure places, or have a games night, and I also spend an awful lot of time watching films.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
Sacrilegious as it may be to say so here, I’m not actually a horror writer. I do write horror stuff sometimes, but I’m as likely to write crime, fantasy, or a children’s book. So my writing is influenced by a wide spectrum of things depending which genre I’m currently focusing on!
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 there is a very negative opinion that horror is somehow lesser than other genres. It’s seen by some writer-types as almost like a sub-genre. There’s a snobbery against it that something like crime or science fiction doesn’t seem to get. Personally I think that is massively unfair. Some of the most talented people putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) right now are in the horror genre, and people might see that if they were able to look past their own preconceptions.
As for what I think of as ‘horror’, it is a wonderfully wide term. Personally I love the supernatural. My favourite horror stories always include it in some way, subtle or otherwise. I think that’s probably because I’m very much a rationalist atheist in real life. I have no problem walking through a graveyard or dark wood because I am under no delusion that anything monstrous is lurking there (random perverts aside). However in a book where the supernatural is real, I’m transported to a world where there’s suddenly a lot more to be afraid of, and in the bizarre way that the human mind works, I find that appealing.
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?
I think there’s going to be increasing focus on the horror of abused authority. You only have to turn on the news to see the dangers of the ‘wrong’ people being given power, and it’s a form of horror all its own. The helplessness that comes from it is chilling. Two men with daft haircuts, neither of whom should be anywhere near a seat of power, could start a nuclear war tomorrow, something that either ends or completely ruins the lives of millions of people, and there’s nothing we can do about it. I think a lot of people will be feeling that, and I’ve already seen themed anthologies, films and TV series starting to take on a similar tone to reflect this. The idea of a ghost in your house suddenly seems less scary when there’s a mental Oompa Loompa having a row with what could basically be 1960s Thunderbirds Oriental stereotype villain, and they both have nuclear weapons.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
The first horror stories I remember reading and truly digesting, that weren’t aimed at children, were short ghost stories by M.R James. A little later I came to Poe, and Lovecraft and Machen. The greatest compliments I’ve had about my work have referenced the clear influence of one of those names, and whilst I would never use that comparison myself, it’s nice that other people thought to mention it.
What I love about M.R James’ ghost stories is that, more often than not, they’re very subtle. There’s often no witness to the terrifying thing that just happened, which makes it all the scarier. Imagine being the victim of a terrifying haunting, only to find you had no evidence with which to convince anybody of the reality of it? That’d probably drive you mad. It’s a bit different to typical American ghost story where the entire house turns into a giant face or something, which surely the entire street must notice. I’d like to think my work carries some of that same subtlety, but then again I’ll probably do a big House Face at some point.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
I don’t know how “new and upcoming” these folks are because they’re pretty well established, but Rich Hawkins, Kit Power and Adam Neville immediately spring to mind.
How would you describe your writing style?
When I’m doing horror, as mentioned above I like to try and keep it subtle. That’s not always possible depending on the story, but where possible, I like to aim for it. I have no problem with gore, and I admire those who can write it so effectively that it can make the reader feel ill. There’s an art to that, and I defy anyone who says it’s cheap or easy to do. But it’s not what I like to write myself, so if you’re a fan of really brutal hard-core stuff, then my stories may not be really be for you.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
My favourite review of Nick and Abe, my novel, was somebody who emailed me to say that it made them go and call their mother, with whom they’d not spoken in a year. I won’t give away too much of the book, but the plot is strongly focussed on the idea of repairing broken relationships whilst you still can. So to hear from somebody for whom it had inspired a real-life version of that was heart-warming.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Starting a new book or story. I always have all the ideas running around in my head, but when it comes to making a start, I just stare at a blank page. Once the story gets running then I get into a flow and it all just pours out. But that first chapter, first page, first paragraph even, is always hard.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I’m very lucky in that I’ve had a relatively nice life up to now. Yes, I’ve had some issues with mental health and some experiences I’d rather not have, and made some mistakes I wish I could take back (who hasn’t?). But I’ve never been the victim of any serious abuse or trauma. As a result, I wouldn’t feel right writing about such things. For people who have sadly suffered such events, I understand the cathartic benefit of writing it down and making people aware, I really do. Getting stuff out of your head is often a good thing. But because I haven’t gone through that, it’s not an area in which I want to place my head.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
This one really does vary an awful lot. Some characters pop into my head with their name attached so strongly that they couldn’t possibly be called anything else. Some get a name halfway through my writing the book. Others are named a particular thing for particular reason. In my novel, for instance, Nick is called Nick because he’s the Devil, and an old name for the Devil is ‘Ol’Nick’.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
I plan things out a lot more now. I’ll have reams of notes and sketches and random scribbles before I start a story. I’ve found that’s become useful as time’s gone on, both to remind me of those little bits that pop into the mind during a shower or just before falling asleep, but also as it clears my mind to focus on other stuff. I do have a day job and a life beyond writing, so I am unfortunately forced to spend a lot of my time in the real world, meaning my head space is often required for far more boring things than ghost or monster stories.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Someone to talk to about it. Not necessarily the process itself, but about your ideas. Even if it’s just someone to tell you something is crap. That’s often important to hear.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
Don’t stop doing it. It’s such a clichéd thing to say isn’t it, but it’s so valuable because it’s so tempting to ignore each time it gets hard. But if you stop, you’ll never get further than you are now. So just keep writing.
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
I’ve been lucky enough to be given opportunities to talk about my writing, particularly on this site where Jim has frequently been very gracious in that regard. I’ve also built up a good network of reviewers, bloggers and other writers, which has given me the chance to feature in anthologies alongside authors who are far, far better at all this than I am.
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 character to write is one who the public at large haven’t even been properly introduced to yet. My largest project, which is constantly on-again off-again, is a series that focuses on a character called Harkins. He’s essentially a Victorian detective with the sixth sense, except that he’s more Danny Dyer than he is Sherlock Holmes. I love writing him, I’ve spent so long doing it that it often feels like he writes his own dialogue. At some point I’ll approach a publisher with this series.
My least favourite was actually the character of Oolu, which is the name given to Cthulhu in the first of my children’s books, ‘The Old One and The Sea’ (the Foreword for which was written by this site’s own Mr Mcleod.) Because Oolu doesn’t speak (I made that decision early on and stuck to it, for my sins) having him communicate with anyone else in the book was, frankly, a massive pain in the arse. I found ways round it, and I’ve been told by both my editor and subsequent readers that it worked well, which was a huge relief.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Same answer. If I ever have Oolu in another book I’m having him buy one of those little voice boxes that Stephen Hawking has. Stay silent now, you massive green prick.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
At the time of writing this, I only have one full length novel out there and several short horror stories. If you’re a horror fan, which would make sense given the website this interview is on, than I’d recommend any of the horror anthologies I’m lucky enough to have been featured in. I always make sure to add these to my author page on amazon, so you can find them all there if needed. However if you’re not strictly a horror reader, then I would suggest my novel ‘Nick and Abe’ as a good introduction to my work.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
I’m going to say ‘no’ to that one, because I worry that sort of thing never really works out of context. There may be particular scenes or dialogue I was proud of, rightly or wrongly, but pasted here without the context I’m not sure how well any of them would come across.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
The last book I wrote was ‘The Old One and The Sea’, a children’s book re-telling the origin of the Cthulhu mythos in a different way. I’ve not sent it to any potential publishers yet, I’m just waiting on completion of some artwork. However it’s been read by a fair few people now, with several other authors providing blurb comments and such, and the response has been great. I can’t wait to get this one out there, as the thought of it possibly being the first ‘horror’ book a child reads is very exciting to me.
My next one is the second book in my children’s trilogy. They’re not linked in terms of character or narrative, but there’s thematic links and some subtle suggestion that they might be set in the same world. This one is called ‘Time and Frozen Tide’, and follows a young penguin (bear with me) who finds a T-Rex egg when some permafrost thaws. The cast of characters includes two human ghosts (a Victorian explorer and a WW2 fighter pilot), and there’s a whole mythology around the Southern Lights, time travel, the spirit world and all sorts of stuff. I am aware of how crazy it sounds so you’ll just have to trust me that it all flows together.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
The “not finishing someone” off thing. You’ve stabbed him in the leg, he’s fallen, so you just assume that’s the end of it. No, take that knife whilst he’s prone and push it through his throat. It’s not worth the risk, you know he’ll just get up and chase you in a minute if you don’t.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I just read Night Music by John Connolly, and really enjoyed it. It’s a great collection of stories. Before that I read a bunch of graphic novels and the one that stands out as disappointing me was a massive Marvel Comics event called Secret Wars (not to be confused with the 1980s story of the same name.) It’s a good premise, lots of good characters….and it just goes nowhere. In true Marvel fashion, anything of significance gets magically undone, there’s no real consequence to anything, and you just come away feeling like you wasted your time. DC are much better at doing stories that have lasting impact.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer
This one. And my answer would be “this one”. That just messed your head up, didn’t it?
But seriously, I’ve always liked the question ‘if you could go back to any point in history when would it be and what would you do?’ The answer isn’t dinosaurs or the Victorian era or anything like that, I’d just like to go back and meet my grandad when he was a young man. I was very close with him, but obviously I only ever knew him as a man in his late sixties onwards. I’d love to have met him when he was about my age (early-mid thirties). Perhaps I’d walk into the local pub where he went after work (he was an ambulance driver for a steelworks) and strike up a conversation with him. Maybe we’d get on. Maybe we wouldn’t, and without the Teflon coating of “he’s my grandson” he’d think I was some Goth twat who talked too much. Actually he wouldn’t, he didn’t have a judgemental bone in his body. Who knows, but it’d be nice to find out, and to get that opportunity to see him in his prime.
One final thought, Emma Dehaney is the loveliest person I’ve ever worked with and her editing skills are top notch. Was….was that OK? Can I have my cat back now please? Preferably with all its feet attached.