Ginger Nuts of Horror
Graeme Reynolds was born in England in 1971. Over the years, he has been an electronic engineer in the Royal Airforce, worked with special needs children and been a teenage mutant ninja turtle (don't ask).
He started writing in 2008, and has had over thirty short stories published in various ezines and anthologies before the publication of his first novel, High Moor, in 2011.
When he is not breaking computers for money, he hides in a remote Welsh valley and dreams up new ways to offend people with delicate sensibilities.
Hi folks for my return to a regular broadcasting schedule, I'd like to present to you my interview with Graeme Reynolds. Graeme has just published his début novel High Moor, read on for an enlightening chat where we talk about werewolves, evil chickens and the road to getting High Moor published
Hi Graeme, how are things with you?
Hi Jim. Things are pretty good. Hectic and knackering, but good.
Could you please give the readers a bit of background info on yourself?
My name is Graeme Reynolds, although people have had other names for me in the past that I won’t go into. I’m forty years old and over the years have been an electronic engineer in the RAF, a barman, a support worker for disabled teenagers and most recently I break computers for money. I also do a bit of writing, and have recently moved into a smallholding in mid Wales, in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
What is the best thing about being Graeme Reynolds?
I’m a self employed IT contractor as my day job, so the work is always temporary. It means that if I end up working for some idiot, I don’t have to put up with it for long. I’m also really lucky to have a supportive partner, and we compliment each other’s shortcomings very well. It means that we can achieve almost anything that we put our minds to. I’m really lucky in that respect.
And what is the worst?
I’m often my own worst enemy. I’m pretty outspoken, especially if I think that someone is taking the piss, and if I get angry enough I have a tendency to burn bridges and say balls to the consequences. I’m getting better as I get older though. Also I have one of those deep Geordie voices that tends to carry, even when I’m trying to be quiet. My mates used to use it to home in on me in nightclubs. Can be quite embarrassing at times.
You live with delinquent chickens, aren’t all chickens delinquents by nature? These must be pretty tough avians?
You have no idea. The damn things work out strategies and incorporate team work against me to achieve their goals (usually to escape from the garden to dig up the neighbours flower beds, or to get into the house to eat the cat food). One of these days I’m going to go missing and all that people will find will be a load of fat chickens and a pile of very pecked bones.
So what’s the appeal of horror for you?
I’ve always loved horror. I remember staying up late at the weekends when I was a kid and watching the old Hammer movies, and the first movie that I watched when we got our first video recorder was American Werewolf in London. The great thing about horror is that it allows you so much freedom. You can take almost any story, any genre, and turn it into a horror story by adding an evil little twist to it. It’s all about getting an emotional response from the reader, for me. Horror stories are great for doing that. You can build a character up, get the readers to love them and then do horrible things to them. What’s not to love about that.
What are your three favourite films and authors of all time?
My favourite movie of all time has to be Fight Club. I love the way that, up to a certain point in the film, an awful lot of what Tyler is doing makes a twisted sort of sense. I love it when the line between the good guy and bad guy is just a point of view. I’ve tried to use that in High Moor. None of the bad guys are flat out evil. They just have a different agenda to the protagonist, with valid reasons for what they do.
After that is tough. If it’s a case of which have I watched over and over the most, it’s probably going to be National Lampoon’s Animal House and James Cameron’s Aliens. Truth be told, I’d struggle to say which are my all time favourites though, because I love so many different movies , in so many different genres.
Novels are easier. Stephen King, when he’s on form is flat out the best horror novelist working today. Even if he does go on a bit at times. The Stand is still the best example of post apocalyptic horror ever.
I love Fantasy novels as well. Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles and her Galactic Milieu trilogy are probably some of the best books I have ever read.
In third place, I’d probably have to say Brian Keene. I didn’t get on with all of his books, but Dead Sea and Urban Gothic were both fantastic, and I like the loose continuity that he has going in his books.
Can you remember what first inspired you to be a reader?
I’ve always been an avid reader, from a very early age. As a kid, I would always have a book on the go, and some of them I re-read over and over. One of my secondary school teachers once told me that, rather than exploding when I was angry or upset, that I should write down what I was feeling to get rid of the raw emotions. That worked really well for me as a child, and through adulthood as well. Looking back, that was laying the ground work for me as a writer, because emotions can be very tricky to write properly.
You have been cutting your writing teeth with short stories and flash fiction. DO you think it’s important for an author to develop his craft and style through shorter fiction?
In my case it certainly helped because I could try different things out. If I wanted to write something with a certain tone and focus on a particular emotional response from the reader, then I could try it out in a thousand word flash fiction piece that wouldn't take me weeks to write. The more you write, the better your writing becomes, especially if you are always trying new things. It took a while for my writing style to evolve. So much that I had to go back and rewrite the first few chapters in the book from scratch because the style had changed so much by the time I finished it.
On that note how would you describe your writing style?
When I started off writing I was all about description. Now I like to start a scene with a really vivid description, incorporating as many senses as I can to place the reader in the scene, and then get on with the story. I love to include humour in stories as well. Even when things get very dark, it's good to let the reader draw breath for a second and give them a laugh before plunging back into the horror. I suppose that these days I'm much more character focused. I try to keep my dialogue as realistic as I can, which means that most of the characters in High Moor swear like dock workers. That's how it was, growing up in a council estate in North East England, so I try to stay true to how I saw it.
Do you have a favourite short story out of all of the ones you have written?
That's a tough one, because a lot of the flash fiction I wrote was so different. The most popular one on my site is one called "Two's Company" which is a love story about a man who finds out that his wife is having an affair with his cannibalistic mutant conjoined twin. I also love "Mr Whiskers", which is a story about a feline serial killer and "Picnic", which is a re-imaging of the teddy-bears picnic as an illegal rave. If I'm honest though, the one I like the most is called "When Evening Falls" after the Enya song. That one is about a newly turned vampire who is watching his family through the window, wondering if he can go back to the way things were. It’s quite sad in many respects, and you feel sorry for the main character, until it becomes clear that he’s just a monster with a few lingering memories of being a man.
On the back of a wee discussion I had on facebook, would you describe yourself as an author or a writer, and what do you think is the distinction between the two?
At the moment, I would say that I’m a writer, because that’s what I do. My perception of an author is someone who does it full time, or at least has several books out there and has a fan base. I might classify myself as an author at some point in the future, but at the moment I’m just content to be a writer. I’d feel a bit pretentious if I started calling myself an author at this stage in my career.
How easy does writing come to you, is it something that just pours out of you, or do you have to beat your muse with a big stick?
It really depends on her mood, unfortunately. There are times when the words pour out and it's as if I'm just recording what's playing back on the big tv screen in my head. Those days are great.
Then there are the other days, where I sit down, try to get into the zone, and discover that my muse has been buggering about on Facebook and Twitter instead of writing.
I found that I was able to get her co-operation after a while by imposing a routine and sticking to it. An hour and a half, from 18.30 after I got in from work seems to be when she's most co-operative, so I try and stick to that and its working so far.
Do you ever have days where you think sod it, I’m going to take up knitting?
Apart from all the rejection letters, there was one episode in a writing class where some nut-job accused me of being sexist because werewolves were a metaphor for the female menstrual cycle. On reflection, in her case she might have been right. There was also a failed attempt at joining a local writers group where I was the youngest person there by a clear twenty years. On the second meeting we had to read out a story that we'd written that week. Needless to say, after a series of sweet, touching stories about the assembled old ladies lives, mine didn't go down quite so well. I didn't go back after that for some reason.
What’s this I hear about you getting hate mail for your story On the Third Day?
Ah. Yes. Ahem. Not my proudest moment. I was in a writing group a few years ago, and someone (it may have been me) suggested a holiday based short story prompt. My entry was the retelling of the Easter story as a zombie tale. Sort of Life of Brian meets Shaun of the Dead. The whole thing was very tongue in cheek, but this didn't stop several people from becoming quite upset by it. Maybe "Judas Iscariot: Zombie Hunter" was pushing it a bit far.
OK, maybe some people shouldn’t be allowed to have writing materials?
Like Stephanie Myer you mean? I completely agree. The only time a vampire should sparkle is if they had a pocket full of iron filings when they burst into flames.
You are about to unleash your debut novel, High Moor, is this based at all on your short story One dark Night?
One Dark Night isn't set in the same world as High Moor. That story came about as the result of a Halloween writing contest on a site called Microhorror, where the story needed to be set in the past. After I did the version for the competition, I went back to it and added another three or four hundred words, because the word count requirements for the competition didn't allow me to do the story justice.
High Moor is set in its own universe, although I do have an "in continuity" story coming out in an enhanced e-book anthology called "Tooth and Claw" later this year. That's a pretty cool project. I narrated the story myself and it has music and artwork specially commissioned for each story. The short in that anthology is set between Part 2 and Part 3 of the novel.
So why werewolves, are these a monster that is close to your heart?
I've always been fascinated with them. I had a book of monsters when I was a kid and the picture of the werewolf scared me so much that I'd skip past the page. Then, when I was a little bit older than the kids in the book, we had a big cat in the area that was attacking sheep. We had police coming to the school, warning us about going into the woods alone, and that, I suppose, was where High Moor started. I incorporated bits of that real life story into the book, but with the twist that, as well as the puma, there's a werewolf in the area too.
Why do you think werewolves have never been exploded in the same way as vampires and zombies? I feel sorry for Mummies, nobody seems to want to write about them.
I think that it's just a matter of time before it happens. A lot of readers are sick to death of vampires, and zombies are going the same way. It will just take one or two successful werewolf novels or movies to kick it off. There is a lot of scope with werewolves, to explore the duality of human nature. Plus there's not many things scarier than a seven foot tall monster that's faster and stronger than you are, and will literally tear you apart.
Saying that, traditional werewolf stories can be tricky to write, because the monster only shows up once a month, so it can be tough to keep the tension high. It was one of the hardest things to get right in High Moor.
How close to the traditional idea of a werewolf are the ones that appear in the novel?
I've got three types of werewolf in the novel. They are all afflicted by the same curse, but depending on the mindset of the individual, they become a different type. The traditional wolf-man type are called Moonstruck in the novel. They are at war with themselves and fight the change, so on the full moon, when the wolf part breaks free, they end up caught halfway between man and beast - all instinct, pain and rage. The ones that live in harmony with their wolf side can change at will and are more fully wolf, but retain their intelligence and personality. Most of the ones like that in the book belong to a sort of werewolf organised crime gang, who's main purpose is to keep the existence of werewolves a secret. The last kind are those who give in to the wolf and become little more than wild animals, even in their human form.
And how have you tried to avoid the clichés of the werewolf novel?
In many respects, I've embraced them and then built on them. There are so many books out these days where people try to be too clever and get away from what's interesting and frightening about the monster they are portraying, be it vampires, zombies, werewolves or whatever. I've tried to go back to the root of things, give it an original twist but not stray too far from the core legends, especially in part one. Some of the other clichés have been given a sly little nod as well. The only thing I made a point of doing was staying well away from the monster as love interest to a human cliché. No one will ever accuse High Moor of being an urban fantasy or paranormal romance novel, that's for sure.
So other than werewolves what is the novel about?
I have a few themes running through the book. Part one is the more traditional
werewolf tale, but it's also very much about coming of age. The children in the book start off as normal, carefree, mischievous kids, and have to come to terms with some very harsh realities by the time part 1 ends. Part two is about how people come to terms with change and how it can affect their lives. In this instance, it's about how a family learn to cope with the fact that their ten year old son is a werewolf. Part three is about consequences of your actions and how things that you do can come back to haunt you, years later.
How long has it taken from sitting down to writing the first draft, to it actually being published?
I think it's almost exactly three years. To be fair, I think I managed to write five chapters in the first year and a half. It wasn't until after the World Horror Convention last year that I really started going for it. Part three was written in about six weeks, so I'm defiantly getting faster. Hopefully the sequel won't take anywhere near as long to complete.
How much has the novel changed from first draft to final published article?
The book changed an awful lot. I'd try and write chapter plans, only to find that the characters would go off and do their own thing and often in the space of a chapter, I'd find that my old plan was worthless. I looked back on some of my old working notes and apart from a few key scenes in part one, the end product bore almost no resemblance to the one that I thought I was going to write. It all worked out for the best though, because the final incarnation of High Moor is much better than I could have dreamed when I first started it. It's by far the best thing that I've ever written.
Who is publishing the novel?
The book is being published by a small press called Horrific Tales Publishing. It’s actually an imprint that I set up myself, with the express purpose of publishing High Moor. Technically its self publishing, but I’ve tried to do all of the things that a “real” publisher would do, such as paying for an artist to design the cover, getting an editor and proof reader to sort out the manuscript etc. I may branch out and publish some books by other authors in the future, and turn it into a proper imprint at some point. I’ll have to wait and see how well High Moor does. At least by having my own publishing company selling it, with my own ISBN’s, it should hopefully avoid some of the stigma attached to self published books. I’ve certainly done my best to produce a quality product.
The cover has gone through a number of concept changes by the look of it, how much input did you have over the actual cover?
The nice thing about doing this myself is that I had complete control over what the cover looked like. I know an artist, called Stu Smith and he did some rough concepts for me after reading the first draft. I agreed which concept to go for, and then worked with the artist to refine it into the final cover for the book. I’m really happy with the way that it turned out.
If you could create a soundtrack to the book, who would appear on it?
2/3 of the novel is set in 1986, so it would need to be mostly rock music from that era. None of the ballads though. Some early Guns n Roses would make it in there, maybe some Iron Maiden. Stuff like that. Maybe some ironic ones that were cheesy and cheerful for when things get dark and horrible. The last third would probably continue the rock theme with some indie stuff and acid techno in there for good measure.
It’s being published as both an E-Book and as a physical book, what is your take on the E-boom?
I think that it’s only going to escalate. People said that CD’s would never replace vinyl because of the unique sound a record has. They said the same thing about mp3’s because people wanted to own something tangible in a CD. I think that it will start to go that way more and more in the future, for convenience if nothing else. It’s much easier to read the new, 1000 page Stephen King on a Kindle when you are sitting on a bus than lug the hardback about. Paper books won’t ever go away, but I think that they will end up becoming more of a specialist product. People will still buy them for the bookshelves at home, because they love the look and feel, but will use an ereader as well.
The floor is yours sell the book to the readers.
High Moor is the perfect antidote to paranormal romance novels that pretend to be horror. It’s a plot driven book that’s full of tension and has more than a little bit of dark humour thrown in for good measure. There are so many crap werewolf books out there, that they have given the sub-genre a bad name. So far the feedback on this one is that its good. One of the beta readers said it was the best werewolf novel that he’s read since Wolfen. Plus, if you get the Kindle version its only a couple of quid. Think of it as the equivalent of buying me a half pint for entertaining you all with this interview. Don’t make me beg...buy the book...please...ahem...sorry about that.
Arrrggghhh I’ve just read your blog post on editing now I can’t stop editing these questions, I hope you feel good about yourself. (and before anyone asks Really? I'm dyslexic and that's like asking a fatman to keep an eye on your cream cake). Not a good idea )
Yeah, pretty much. The more people realise how important editing is, the fewer ebooks will get published that are essentially first drafts submitted straight to Amazon. The depressing thing is that, even after I’d done all of the things in that blog post, my editor STILL found a ton of things that needed fixing. And my proof reader found a few more. It just goes to show that there will always be things that you miss.
You used the help of a writing critique group in the editing of High Moor, how helpful was this?
It was invaluable. It was a fairly small, invite only group and we each posted a chapter a week. I was the only horror writer there, but it was good because it meant that I was not only reading lots of different genre's, but it also meant that people writing anything from fantasy to chic lit were commenting on my work and helping me to improve it. It meant that by the time the first draft was finished, an awful lot of the punctuation and plotting issues had been cleaned up. Made the editors job a lot easier. It also gave me quite a bit of confidence in the story. When you have people that are writing historical women's novels telling you that they normally don't like horror, but they love your book, despite the scary blood-soaked parts, then it means that I've probably done something right.
Was there ever any fallouts between the members, I’ve heard of some major meltdowns within these groups?
I've been a member of groups where that has happened, but I really was blessed to be a part of the group that I'm in, because I honestly can say that unpleasantness like that never occurred. The fact that it's invite only helped a great deal, because if anyone ever did start causing problems then they would be removed. Fortunately it never came to that. People do need to be careful though. A lot of the public writing groups are filled with people who will pour scorn on work to make them feel important, or even worse, steal your idea or your manuscript, and pass it off as their own.
How do you get yourself noticed among the flood of authors out there?
I’ll let you know when I manage it. Seriously though, you need to be active on social networking sites. Not just spamming your book, but actually engaging people in conversations. People will buy books from authors that they have interacted with online. I find that getting some stories published on the free ezines is really useful as well, because some of them, like Flashes in the Dark and New Flesh have a massive reader base. If people like what they see, they will go and check out your other work. I get a massive hit spike on my blog whenever I publish a new story anywhere.
GNOH – Can you tell us of any future projects?
I've been told by my editor and a couple of the beta readers that if I don't do a sequel as my next project, then they will "send the boys round." I have another idea that I've been mulling over for about a year that had the final puzzle piece click into place, so I'm really keen to get started on that one as well. It's an expansion of a flash piece that I did a few years ago where a massive solar flare knocks out all of the electronics on the planet in one hit. Most of the people are still alive, but all of our infrastructure is gone, so the food and water supplies are used up within a couple of days. There is a supernatural twist to things as well, but I don't want to give too much away. I've also got a couple of short stories that I'm dying to finish. One of them is a comedy horror zombie Santa Claus tale, with Rudolph the psychotic red nosed reindeer and exploitative Christmas elf porn. The other one is about a near future fascist society where TV, video games and the internet have been replaced by directed lucid dreaming technology. I'm going to try and get those two finished before I get on with the next novel.
GNOH – Cheers for popping over for a chat Graeme, it’s been fun, and good luck with High
Moor, maybe you could get those delinquent chickens to bully folks into buying a copy.
The flock has already been dispatched. Beware the sounds of malicious clucking!
Thanks for having me, Jim. It’s been a pleasure.
Folks you can buy a copy of High Moor by Clicking the links below. My copy arrived through the door this morning and it is a great looking book. I'm looking forward to cracking this one open.
"When John Simpson hears of a bizarre animal attack in his old home town of High Moor, it stirs memories of a long forgotten horror. John knows the truth. A werewolf stalks town once more, and on the night of the next full moon, the killing will begin again. He should know. He survived a werewolf attack in 1986, during the worst year of his life.
It’s 1986 and the town is gripped in terror after the mutilated corpse of a young boy is found in the woods. When Sergeant Steven Wilkinson begins an investigation, with the help of a specialist hunter, he soon realises that this is no ordinary animal attack. Werewolves are real, and the trail of bodies is just beginning, with young John and his friends smack in the middle of it.
Twenty years later, John returns to High Moor. The latest attack involved one of his childhood enemies, but there’s more going on than meets the eye. The consequences of his past actions, the reappearance of an old flame and a dying man who will either save or damn him, are the least of his problems. The night of the full moon is approaching and time is running out.
But how can he hope to stop a werewolf, when every full moon he transforms into a bloodthirsty monster himself? "