Ginger Nuts of Horror
As part of Ginger Nuts of Horror's support of the Kickstarter for Tales From The Shadow Booth, we have teamed up with some of the contributors for a series of exclusive interviews. Today Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes Joseph Sale.
Joseph Sale is a novelist, writing coach, editor, graphic designer, artist, critic and gamer. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. Since, he has authored Seven Dark Stars, Across the Bitter Sea, Orifice, The Meaning of the Dark, Nekyia and more. Under the pseudonym Alan Robson (his grandfather's name), he won third place in Storgy's Exit Earth anthology competition, judged by Diane Cook.
He is the creator of †3 Dark, a unique publishing project born in 2017 showcasing the work of 13 writers including Richard Thomas and Moira Katson; each story is accompanied by original concept art from Shawn Langley and with cover art by Grand Failure.
He contributes feature-pieces, film, TV, and book reviews. and fiction, to Storgy Magazine. He also writes for GameSpew, and has an enduring love of video-games.
His short fiction has appeared in Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet and Storgy Magazine, as well as in anthologies such as Dark Hall Press's Technological Horror and Storgy's Exit Earth. In 2014 he was nominated for the Sundress Award for Literary Excellence.
In his spare time he plays badminton, watches Two Best Friends Play and puts on his DM hat, concocting fiendish dungeons for his friends to battle through.
Hello Joseph, Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m Joseph Sale and I’m a Brit obsessed with all things dark and weird. I grew up on the coast and have an enduring love of the sea. I write I guess what you could call horror but I’m also interested in fantasy and science fiction so I regularly cross them all over. I’m mainly writing novels, as that seems to be the medium I most connect with – the extended story with a longer running time and more room to play with the characters. I’ve published six over the last three years. Recently I’ve started to fall in love with the short story, after going on Richard Thomas’ Advanced Creative Writing Course in May of this year. That was a real eye-opener, and inspired me to write a whole lot of short stories, one of which is appearing in Shadow Booth. My short story ‘When The Tide Comes In’, entered under the pseudonym Alan Robson, won third prize in STORGY Magazine’s Exit Earth anthology competition. I’ve been writing professionally for eight years now and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
You quit your job in February of this year to focus on writing full time, how is it going seven months after you made that momentous decision?
Very kind of you to ask! That moment of stepping away from work was so amazing, so liberating, I honestly was tearful the first few days. However, life is yin and yang, a sine-wave curve going up and then dipping, and it didn’t last forever. 13Dark, my publishing project and the primary reason for my stepping away – was such an amazing project but I think I over-estimated my ability to fully convey what it was going to be to people. I’m introducing a bunch of new writers no one has ever heard of – it’s a big risk for people to take that chance and I didn’t account for that. So although we did get funded, we didn’t get enough to make it into a fully-fledged business. And although I earn from my writing and coaching, it’s not enough, especially near London, so I am now back at work – a different job – doing 40 to 45 hours a week and fitting everything else in around that. It’s exhausting, but no worse than what most people in the UK have to do to survive. And at least I have a job, which is something in this economy. Summoning the energy to write is very difficult and draining at times, but luckily I’ve always erred towards a disciplined writing practice.
You completed a degree in creative writing, was your degree path deliberately chosen with an aim to hone your writing skills?
Absolutely! I almost didn’t go to University, because of some misguided sense that it would mean forever conforming to some kind of aristocracy... Thankfully my mother talked me into sense and found this course. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I’ll never forget it. Quite apart from working with some of the best lecturers I could possibly have asked for: Richard Thomas (author of The Kills), Luke Kennard (author of The Transition), Elsa Braekkan-Payne, Philippa Semper, Hugh Adlington, so many more I don’t have time to name drop here. Quite apart from working with them, I also became friends with amazing fellow students, many of which I have not only enduring friendships with to this day but also writing partnerships. We still send each other work to feedback on and bounce ideas off each other. I’m currently co-writing something very exciting with one of my coursemates – but it must remain a secret for now.
On what side of the divide do you stand with regards to anyone and everyone can write, or there has to be an innate germ of talent there that needs to be nurtured?
I honestly think that anyone can learn to write and that writing is a very healing experience. I don’t think everyone is a prophet or a poet – not everyone can become a defining voice that is remembered for all time – but certainly everyone can be taught how to write and make a contribution. I think it’s the same for any skill. Anyone can learn how to swim, but a certain few people, whether through God or through genes, whichever your preference, are born to swim. They glide through the water like a dolphin, it comes naturally to them. For writers like Stephen King, this is clearly the case. Yes, he had to learn the practical skills and build up that knowledge over a number of years, but it was always innate, natural to him. So I guess I’m cheating and saying that both can be true!
You published your first novel through Dark Hall Press, can you tell us of the experience you had submitting the novel, and the subsequent publishing process with Dark Hall?
That was a really magical experience, one that gave me the confidence to keep writing. I was at university at the time and I’d had this idea for this novel about comicbook supervillains, but making them into real, three-dimensional, and also slightly pathetic characters. I wanted their superpowers to be next-to-nothing – the smallest of small advantages. I submitted to Dark Hall after a string of rejections and waited. They said if I didn’t hear back in three weeks, it was a rejection. On the 21st day I found an email in my inbox! I couldn’t believe it. And you know, all those TV shows where people get good news and jump up and down like lunatics completely have it wrong. I just sat there at my desk brain-dead. It was like my circuits had been fried. I eventually staggered to my feet, went to the local Tesco Express and bought a single beer and a chocolate bar. I sat in the kitchen, drinking that beer and eating that chocolate bar. That was my celebration. I couldn’t stop thinking about this quote from Homer’s Odyssey when Odysseus finally has come home and slaughtered the suitors. He sees the maid dancing on the corpses of the suitors, overjoyed at how her oppressors have been overthrown. Odysseus brings her up on it: “It is wrong to exalt over the slain. Gloat in silence.” I sat there and I gloated in silence and it was glorious. Later, my friends very kindly threw a surprise party for me to “properly” celebrate it – it was one of the sweetest things that’s ever been done for me.
The subsequent publishing process was pretty rapid. William Reneham, the Editor at Dark Hall, was very enthusiastic about the work and encouraging. He made some great suggestions, but all pretty minor. Then we released it out into the world. It wasn’t as successful as I hoped, I think possibly because there was a small problem with the release and ISBNs getting mixed up – not Dark Hall’s fault but the printer’s. Even so, at one point it did come #6 in the Kindle charts for Horror! I think that whole experience was a big learning curve. Getting published doesn’t mean an instant 50,000 copies sold and a film deal. Those are things you have to work towards over a long, long time.
I’m still in touch with Dark Hall. At one point we were going to work on another project together but for various reasons it didn’t pan out. You should check out their other books like Shane Stadler’s Exoskeleton, that’s a killer novel. William Reneham’s own novella Night Harbor is also definitely worth a read.
With a view to being as diplomatic as you can, in your role as a writing coach have you ever encountered a writer where you just wanted to say please stop, this isn’t for you?
You know what, never. All of the writers I’ve worked with have been so talented. It’s pretty humbling when they’re coming to you for advice.
And on a more positive note have you coached someone who you felt, “wow this person is going to go places”?
Almost every time I think that. It’s so exciting, especially when you send them feedback and see how it’s implemented, and that the story is now able to shine. You have to scrape the muck away sometimes – the confused sentences, the personal intrusive writerly thoughts, the baggage – the stuff that’s getting in the way of the story, to see what lies beneath is really this beautiful artifact. To talk about some writers specifically I’ve coached – you really want to check out Tice Cin, Jamie Parry-Bruce and Matthew Blackwell. Tice is published in the first issue of 13Dark, called Dead Voices. Her story Under Soil is one of the most sensual and terrifying pieces I’ve read in a while. Her storytelling is really unique. Jamie is doing loads of amazing things – including an audio-book series called Out of the Wild that you can find on YouTube, read by a professional voice-actor. Matthew Blackwell is another one to watch. His writing is again quite different because his influences are mostly screenplay, Lynch, that kind of dark, weird stuff, so you never know what he’s going to do next. He has an amazing short story published up at STORGY magazine called After The End – which you can read for free – it was the winner of a short story competition I hosted a while back and is featured in the special hardback edition of my collection Seven Dark Stars: Blackness Absolute.
Your collection Nekyia, is themed around the four horsemen of the apocalypse, what made you decide to write a collection of stories based around them.
Nekyia evolved over a long, long period of time. I started writing a novella called The Contained which was partly inspired by the video-game SCP: Containment Breach. It revolved around a scientist, Fred Lazarus, trapped in an underground facility with all of nature’s abhorrent anomalies – things that needed containing – and another scientist who’d caused the facility to go into meltdown: Dr Monaghan. Dr Monaghan was the first of the horsemen, although I didn’t know it at the time.
I’ve always been fascinated by the horsemen and the Book of Revelations. I think the imagery in that book – regardless of what you think about its content – is just mind-blowing. Surreal, disturbing, and yet so apt for so many situations. Whether we create the meaning ourselves or there is implicit meaning, the result is the same, there is something about this text that speaks to us. I’ve always enjoyed modern renderings of ancient ideas. I loved Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and the late master Terry Pratchett. That was funny but also beautiful and dark and moving. The four horseman in that are brilliant. I wanted to go even further away from source, but despite the massive difference in tone, Good Omens was a reference for me.
It took me a long while to work out what I was doing. I was kind of writing these four horsemen unconsciously. I came to write a novella called City of Illusion and in that story found my second horseman, Yin. Dr Monaghan was War – only nowadays wars are fought by people in labcoats pushing buttons. Yin was Pestilence, only his kind of plague was one of the mind – after all, we’re far more scared of mental health deterioration. We’ll take the disintegration of our bodies – actively encourage it in fact – but speak the word dementia and it’ll put the fear of God in anyone.
I ended up writing four novellas – despite being continually told that novellas couldn’t sell – and each one was about a different horseman. Only after I’d completed all four did I see that they were a set and came together. So I started to edit them all again to bring them into line. After I put them together, this was only half of what would become Nekyia. At the end of the fourth novella, I had kind of drawn all the characters to the same place, but the story wasn’t finished. I had to tell the final story about what happened when they got there. This became a novel called The Fifth Horseman. The four horseman combined with this novel came to 170,000 words. There was talk of serialising it, but in the end, I thought it worked better as one (long) reading experience. I wanted people to get a similar vibe to The Stand. King’s work was a big influence for Nekyia. I was trying to go for a little bit more of a poetic style, but in essence, I wanted to emulate King’s multi-verse full of twisted villains. The Stand is one of my favourite novels of all time – it’s so mind-blowingly epic in how it deals with the concept of good and evil on a modern stage – and that was another reference point for me. In terms of the multi-verse aspect, there are allusions to most of my books in Nekyia including The Darkest Touch (one of the horsemen is a returning character from that).
Nekyia was nominated for the Guardian’s “Not The Booker” Prize. Sadly, it didn’t get anywhere. But it was lovely of so many people to put it forward.
And if you could be one of the horsemen, which one would you be, and why, and what would you name your horse?
Ah man that’s so tough. Probably I’d be Death, because then at least that’s without suffering. I’d get to be the merciful one, swooping in and taking souls in the night. War is going to bludgeon you to death. Pestilence will rot you away like a Nurgle Plaguebearer. Famine is going to make you waste away. Death is the merciful one, one swift chik of his scythe and you’re done. But having said that, Dr Monaghan was so much fun to write. I mean it was just an absolute joy to get inside his fucked-up head. So, being him for a day would be fun too.
As to my horse, I would try and resist the temptation to name it something too cool – because it’s never as cool out loud as it is in your head. The horse would probably be black as I’d be Death, so “Crow Bag” would be a good name for a horse, I think. “Crow Bag” is a derogatory term for an incompetent soldier in the military. The “Crow” stands for Combat Recruit of War. It’s kind of affectionate in a bizarre way, and it gets in a reference to crows, which are black. Maybe I’m over thinking it!
There is a move from the more literary side of the writing world into writing about the weird, traditionally this has been the domain of the lowly genre writer. Why do you think they are doing this?
Because the average literary fiction writer sells 263 copies of their book a year! I’m being cruel, but I think people are starting to see that people want to read stories, not exercises in style. Style is great when it comes hand in hand with a great tale, but on its own, it’s just masturbation really. A dash of the supernatural is a great way to turn a scene from mundane to interesting and to introduce a necessary dimension of plot without having to work too hard. Of course, I also think for a lot of writers it’s a genuine shift of consciousness because of the times we live in. “May you live in interesting times,” so the Chinese saying goes, and boy are we. That naturally has an affect on us. We must also consider the move towards the Weird in TV: Game of Thrones, True Detective (primarily season 1), Twin Peaks, these shows are such masterpieces and they demonstrate that genre fiction can be deep, insightful, true to human nature. The weirdness of those shows is a big part of what makes them great.
One of your stories has been selected to appear in Shadow Booth, how did you come to appear in the anthology?
I was very lucky. Dan Coxon reached out to me out of the blue. I think he had read a couple of my stories up at STORGY magazine. I then placed third in that Exit Earth competition – and a lot of people were surprised because I’d done it under a pseudonym, even creating a fake email and PayPal account as a front. So that ironically did the reverse of what I intended and when it came out it was me, drew a lot of attention. At that point he emailed me and asked if I wanted to be part of his new journal, Shadow Booth, alongside Richard Thomas, Paul Tremblay and Gary Budden. I mean, it was an instant yes! I couldn’t believe it. He said he wanted longer short stories which was right up my street. I sent him something, but it wasn’t really what he was looking for, more dark fantasy than weird, uncanny, eerie, which is what the Shadow Booth is going to be all about. He very graciously said I could have another shot. There was this story I’d been working on for a while, a really short 2,000 word one, and I thought it might be a good fit, so I edited it and sent it off. Dan came back five minutes later with a yes – it was a much better fit.
Can you tell us about some of the themes of the story?
The story is called City of the Nightwatchers, and is really a tale about voyeurism and our increasing move in society towards watching rather than doing. Studies have shown that we’re actually having less sex than people in the 1920s. It seems crazy given our modern values and being less uptight about the topic, but the fact is, back in the day, if you wanted sex you had to just go out and get it. Now, we watch porn. I’ve heard stories from single friends that they’ve been midway through the act and realised their partner is filming them without their permission. Even when we’re actually doing it, we’re still in the mindset of watching ourselves doing it. It’s madness. In City of the Nightwatchers, I tried to show it as a physical change as well as a mental one. I drew a lot from the film Nightcrawler, which is really a neo-noir masterpiece, and tackles similar themes.
What has been a major influence on your writing?
All sorts of things can pull into a writer’s work but perhaps a more unusual influence for me are video-games. The work of Hideo Kojima and Hidetaka Miyazaki is particularly inspiring to me. With the Metal Gear Solid series, Kojima told an unprecedented story. It really is an epic of our time, dealing with all the major themes of existence but in such quirky and unique ways. In creating Solid Snake, he has created an archetypal hero of our age. It’s amazing he got the opportunity to tell that story with virtually no inhibitions on his vision.
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?
You’re right. There are a lot of negative associations with horror: cheap and nasty, shallow and thrill-driven. In reality, it’s like any other genre in that there are good and bad examples of it. Good horror is deeply rooted in empathy as Stephen King once observed, and hence we actually have to have three-dimensional characters, real plots, real human issues and drama, as well as weird or disturbing elements. I actually think a lot is happening already to break past these assumptions. The success of the new It film and, as I mentioned earlier, TV that draws on horror elements, is really bringing horror back to the forefront of people’s minds and showing what it can do when it’s well done. I think the 80s were a real renaissance for the horror movie genre with films like The Thing and many other classics, but hopefully we can get back to that. Television is especially promising these days as the writers seem to have more control as opposed to producers and conglomerates.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
Wow, this is such a hard question as there are so many important films and books that’ve influenced me. The Lord of the Rings will always be an enduring influence on me. The power of that story and prose, the sheer grandeur and beauty of it, that will be in my heart forever. The Stand was another turning point for me that helped me see what modern literature, particularly the modern novel, could do. Game of Thrones, or A Song of Ice and Fire as the book series is called, is similarly a major influence. The complexity of its characters, the three-dimensional morality, all of this is something I’d love to emulate in my own work.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
I’ve mentioned a few already, but let me mention a few more. Grady Hendrix, whilst now he’s becoming more well known in the horror field, is still relatively unknown. His book My Best Friend’s Exorcism is one of the best books I’ve read in years. It’s a work of sublimity, for sure. All of the writers I’m publishing at 13Dark are a must too: Eden Royce, Veronica Magenta Nero, Christa Wojciechowski, Moira Katson, Tomek Dzido, Anthony Self, Ross Jeffery, Samuel Parr and Andy Cashmore. They are all incredible and most have short stories you can check out online.
How would you describe your writing style?
My writing has changed a lot since I first started and is still changing. I used to write very much in imitation of King. I was going for that direct style that really pulls you in. I’ve realised now that’s not really me. I’m more tangential as a person. I come to things the wrong – or just a different way – and I needed to let my writing reflect that. I also have synesthesia which means my senses are very intermixed, so I focus a lot on very intense imagery when I write. That’s kind of my signature, if you will, and the thing that hasn’t really changed from day one of writing. Really out-there similes and metaphors. It doesn’t always work, nothing does, but I like to think that at least I’ve tried to be original in some way.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Once, it was dialogue. But things change. After writing The Meaning of the Dark, dialogue became one of my favourite aspects of narrative. That novel is almost entirely dialogue because it’s a transcript of an audio recording, so it tested me to my limits with what I could do and how authentic I could make it sound. Now, I think the thing I find hardest is actually the plotting. I never have problems with characters and settings, or even character arcs and subplots, but the central arc is the challenge, getting it just right. I guess that’s what writing is all about!
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
This is a tricky one! I guess as a horror writer there’s a lot that’s not off limits and that’s why I like horror. I’ve always been drawn to darker literature and felt inhibited when I first started writing because I couldn’t write about the things I was interested in: addiction, psychological disturbance, acts of extreme violence, the darkest versions of ourselves. Horror allowed me to open up and write about those things. I like to think empathy is also an important part of writing too – understanding what it’s like to be someone else – but of course without falling into the trap of cultural appropriation. There are some things which have happened to me which I feel unable to write about. I’m not sure I ever will. Not until I break my pen, perhaps. And even then, only by the grace of God.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
I think the main thing that’s changed in me is how I approach emotion in writing. My early novels have the hallmarks of a young madman – a monodimensional lunatic writing about one thing with maniacal zest. I didn’t want to write about the everyday. I wanted every scene to be as weird and off-the-wall as possible. I couldn’t stand any form of sentiment. Even in just a few years, I’ve mellowed. I’m now much more interested in the interiors of my characters, and those everyday conversations, and those long relationship histories. From this connection to reality and real people comes a little bit more of a catharsis. I also think this means I’m putting a lot more of myself in my work. My own doubts and fears and feelings and personality – I’m opening up. I was so determined that my writing would not be therapy, would not be just somebody downloading about ‘personal issues’, that I think I choked myself up. Hence my books were really like books written by someone else, some cold impersonal author. Now I’ve let go a little, people are noticing and saying there’s a lot more of an emotional kick waiting at the end of my books. I think what happened was I was forced to confront a lot of my prejudices and faults as a person and this in turn affected the writing at a deep level. I also just read more, practiced more, got deeper into the craft. I see the merit in things now which I never would have acknowledged before.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
I guess this question can be answered on a number of levels, both literal and practical, and emotional. On the practical side, the ideas notepad is a must. Always take it with you. Always take a pen. Be ready to jot down a spark of inspiration at any time. On a more technical side, I recommend the project management tool Trello for mood-boarding and plotting your novels. You can attach pictures (I use images of actors and concept art from films) for your characters and places, write descriptions. It can really be as deep as you want. The whole program is free and works like a digital post-it note board. Genius. On an emotional level, observation is a key tool. To observe not just what someone is doing but why. Only then can you do the same for your characters.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
I’ve received lots of generous and helpful advice over the years, and I’m grateful for every word it. I’ve had some wonderful teachers. The best piece, something I come back to over and over, is probably something I read in a book by Tristine Rainer: Your Life As Story. She posits that the climax of a book should be: ‘Something lost so something is gained’. That’s one of the things I talk about a lot when coaching writers. It’s one of the best ways to get your ending to that place where it hits like a hammer.
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
Man, it’s almost impossible, or it can feel it, but literally my tactic has been keep going and make friends. At the end of the day, if you keep looking to the future where one day you’ll be recognised and it’ll solve all your problems, you’ll grow bitter and resent the now. I’ve learned this the hard way. Love what you do and be as original as possible. Don’t write what you think will sell. It brings temporary fruits, granted, but never long term. People only started noticing me when I said: ‘Fuck it, I’m just going to do my own thing and write weirdly intense novels and awkward-length novellas’. As soon as I gave up trying to write a best-seller, people saw what I was doing and took notice. Albeit, my following is still pretty minimal, but it’s climbing every day. One of the things that’s boosted others’ awareness of me is the fact I’m boosting awareness of others – paradoxical, I know!
I realised that lots of people feel very, very lost. They’re looking for something new but they’re not sure what. I help them find great writers and artists by recommending them. I don’t do it for money or anything, just because I love introducing people to cool stuff. There are writers out there of such immense talent they should be getting all the book deals and film and series deals, but they remain obscure. I love nothing more than showing people the way to their work. As a result, lots of people start following me to get at these other writers and artists I’m promoting. They also follow for free writing advice. I’ve become known as someone who makes good recommendations, in short. If they also see one of my books while they stop by, then that’s an added bonus!
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?
This is so, so true. But as Stephen King said: “Kill your darlings!”. My favourite “child” by far is Michael Banner. He is a recurring character in my fiction. Currently he’s appeared in three novels and a short story. In brief, he is a mad one-eyed prophet – the cause of nuclear holocaust on multiple worlds – an incarnation of all that is antithesis. Exactly what he is remains to be seen but there are hints. His nickname is ‘The Prince’, but it’s not what you think. He is really a dark and deep part of myself, I think. I had this terrible demon in me and the only way I could deal with it was by putting him on the page. I just didn’t count on him coming to life and taking over! Post-Nekyia I feel very at peace with this alter ego however. I think I learned to assimilate and understand him. As I said, writing can be very healing in that way.
The least favourite is really hard because generally I try to create characters who at least I love! Haha. Sarah in City of Illusion is definitely a candidate. She was so highly strung I felt myself getting wound up writing in her head.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
This is hard. My partner insists that The Meaning of the Dark is my best work. Quite a lot of people agree. I think, though, I’m most proud of Nekyia. Perhaps because it took 5 years to come together. Perhaps because it is just so big. Also I’m contrary.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Oh yes! Lots. Many don’t even get to print or even beta-readers! And there are novels I would re-write now. Like Who’s Afraid of the Slenderman? I’d probably write very differently now. I was very young and inexperienced. The Door In The Mountain too. That was something I wrote as an online fantasy series when I was 17. People really seemed to enjoy it actually. I guess it had a B-movie feel to it, and they can be quite charming precisely because of their imperfections. But were I to write a fantasy novel like that now, or more accurately a Sword & Sorcery novel, I’d do virtually everything different. Still. I don’t think I want to take it down. If people read it and leave a bad review, I’ll consider it late-learning!
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
I think The Meaning of the Dark is very much what I’m about. It’s about loneliness and despair and technological isolation, but also this strange, fragile hope that people have even in the most dire of all situations. Pilot 93, the protagonist, is pushed to the very limits of human endurance and I pushed myself to the limit to write those 30,000 words. At the time I was working 60 hours a week, had no real time to write properly, and felt like my life had lost all meaning. Everything was falling apart, even the things I thought were most solid, like my relationship with friends, family and my partner. But even in that absolute dark, virtually near suicide, I found there was this strange flicker of something that kept me going. I couldn’t end it all. There was something drawing me on. I came out the other side of that book a very different person. And I like to think that’s reflected in the reading experience.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
Ah, you are far too kind. Here is an extract from my story Night Drive. I hope you like it:
But there is nothing: no station, no hope. The cassette continues its dark litany as my rearview turns opaque, no longer reflecting anything, the road both before and after becoming invisible.
A blackness arrives which makes tree and road and car indivisible from one another. My breathing is an interruption of the hissing noise which reigns like a god. The blackness fits into every space, closes around the car like a blanket falling over it, or the walls of a tunnel. I pop my seatbelt and lie back, for a moment feeling the shadow of another long embrace in the dark, for a moment remembering that children’s tears wash the shrine of Dahaka.
The cassette cuts out and I feel a presence in the back of the car, a person. The darkness deepens and deepens until it is agony to even hold open one’s eyes.
I whisper her name, a fleeting string of syllables the night swallows.
She answers with my own, as we share a final communion.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed) by Nate Crowley was the last book I read that blew me away. Man, that guy can write. He’s witty and so knowledgeable about not only the genre of video games but human nature too. It’s basically a post-truth book detailing 100 groundbreaking, iconic video games – none of which are real. There’s a kind of hidden narrative through the whole thing. I was lucky enough to interview him for STORGY magazine about that book. It’s a genius work.
In terms of disappointment, I think The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood. There were some sterling passages in there but it didn’t carry the ending for me. I also felt there were a lot of places the narrative was twisted to suit an agenda. I guess, at the end of the day, I’m a believer – the supernatural is my jam. I felt like The Hidden People was kind of making fun of people like me, and Gothic, rather than pastiching it in a celebratory way. Of course that may not have been Alison’s intent, but it’s how I felt. Contrast this with Nate Crowley’s 100 Best Video Games which satirizes gamers, games and the gaming industry at every level whilst also clearly displaying an unbounded passion, love and respect for it.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
This is a very hard question to answer indeed! I’d love to be asked about certain specific scenes in my books – particularly in Nekyia. Because the weirdest parts of it are the most real. I know that’s a cliché, but I’m being serious. It’s been a wild ride. Long may it continue. Praise the Sun!