Ginger Nuts of Horror
Andrew Garvey is co-author (with Mike Staples) of the collection, Little Penny Dreadfuls – 99 dark tales of 99 words. Andrew has been fascinated by horror since his aunt let him watch An American Werewolf in London when he was five years old. His short stories have been published in anthologies by Red Rattle Books – ‘Dracula’s Midnight Snacks’ and ‘Zombie Bites’. He also writes non-fiction about mixed martial arts for Fighters Only magazine and about horror and history for www.spookyisles.com and runs the @News_of_1890s Twitter feed. He lives in Staffordshire with his girlfriend, son, bull terrier and books.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’ve got a background in working in museums and with disabled people. I’ve been focusing more on writing fiction in the last couple of years but I also write non-fiction articles and reviews for the Spooky Isles website and for the last ten years or so I’ve been writing about the sport of Mixed Martial Arts for Fighters Only magazine.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m usually reading or watching or otherwise researching things that I’ll end up writing about anyway. I used to love drawing and was good at it, until having all enthusiasm kicked out of me by formal art classes in high school. I’m getting back into drawing more this year.
What’s your favourite food?
Cheese. I effing love cheese. I’ve got an engraved, personalised cheeseboard that says exactly that.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
The crashing and banging of pots and pans and things falling over.
Tell us a dirty little secret?
I’ve never actually watched the Exorcist.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Work harder. And get your hair cut.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
Not the last time, but probably the most memorable was when a UFC fighter at a roundtable media event had read something I’d written about him and decided he didn’t like it. He didn’t seem too pleased to be doing media that day in the first place and has a reputation for being difficult anyway. I smiled a lot, explained my position, politely disagreed with him and relied on the fact there was no way he was actually going to beat me up at a media event. My then-editor found the whole thing hysterical.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Clive Barker, Stephen King, Alan Moore, P.G. Wodehouse, Misha Glenny, Terry Pratchett, Robert McCammon, Ira Levin, Joe Sacco, Iain Banks, Mark Twain and Christopher Hitchens.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great one was From Hell, Alan Moore's Jack the Ripper graphic novel. It's incredible. And bonkers.
The last one that really disappointed me was the Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. When it works it's really, really good but there's so much padding and so many annoying and essentially irrelevant characters.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
Novel – The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. I have so many unread books I never go back and re-read them usually but I think I’ve read this three or four times. It’s a great, great book.
Film – An American Werewolf in London. My aunt let me watch it when I was five. I lasted until the dream sequence where the Nazi mutants slaughter the family and quietly hurried off to bed, terrified. It took me a few years to try again but now I just love it. I watched it yet again earlier this week.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would it be?
In films especially, the monumental stupidity of characters in mortal danger. Humans have fairly decent survival instincts in real life. They probably should in fiction, too.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
Perfect neighbour – Erin from the film, You’re Next. She seems nice, and very useful to have in the neighbourhood when murderous gangs are on the loose.
Nightmare neighbour – Dr Josef Heiter from the Human Centipede. I don’t want to look out of my window and see people crawling about the lawn stitched together, mumbling and crapping in each other’s mouths. That kind of thing’s bad for house prices.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
I find most of the characters I’ve ever found incredibly irritating get killed off sooner or later anyway. I suppose the Hobbit could have done with a few less dwarves cluttering up Middle Earth so I might be tempted to have one or two of them squished to death by stone giants.
And if you had free range what fictional character would you like to write for?
Not just a single character but I’d love to have a go at writing something in the Hellraiser universe.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Exactly the way it’s always been. There’s some great horror films, TV shows, books, comics and games, some awful ones and a huge amount of stuff inbetween.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing horror fiction right now?
The same as any genre, really. There’s a lot of product out there and finding what’s good isn’t always easy, and a lot of talented writers, directors, artists, whoever, they don’t get the credit and opportunities they deserve but I’m overall pretty positive about horror fiction, in all its forms.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I've had some really nice rejection notices from BBC Radio 4 (for a short story competition) and the Bluecat screenplay contest (for an especially unpleasant short film script). They’ve been very encouraging and handed out some decent advice.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
I'm fundamentally lazy and ill-disciplined. Oh, and easily distracted. I love writing but actually sitting down and giving the time to it that I need to, when there's so many distractions that are easily available, that's by far the toughest part.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Nothing at all. There are things I find deeply unpleasant and disgusting, like paedophilia, things I’d only over hint at because I don’t want to write about them in great detail but I don’t think anything’s completely and totally off limits.
What do you think makes a good story?
Anything and everything can be a decent starting point. From there, it’s all in the skill of the writer, and their imagination. Oh, and some research and logic help quite a bit. Nothing takes me out of a story faster than things that are just plain wrong or completely nonsensical.
How important are names to you in your books?
I don’t worry about them too much, really.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Notebooks and pens, notepad and voice recording apps for phones, tablets whatever. For me, the ability to write or record ideas and inspirations instantly is all-important.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
More or less everything Stephen King wrote in Danse Macabre. It might be a bit dated now but it’s still really useful.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
Nothing I can think of is particularly demeaning. I've had comments I think are harsh or just plain wrong but it's not something I take personally. When you've been in a face-to-face argument with a displeased UFC fighter over something you wrote about him, you tend not to worry too much about more run-of-the-mill criticism.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I'm learning as I go. So far, social media has been good for getting the word out but I'm not convinced that the conversion rate from 'likes' and retweets to purchases is especially good. Calling in favours and knowing people who actually understand marketing seems to be a good idea.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
The format of the book doesn’t lend itself especially well to character development, really. Its more ideas and narrative-driven.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Again, given the format, there’s not really the facility to develop really vile characters.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I’m not sure proud is the right word. I think I’ve written some good stories and some of the ones in Little Penny Dreadfuls have prompted interesting reactions. One of them, ‘She Fluttered’ made someone physically recoil and say “oh my God, that’s appalling.” I took that as a good sign, hopefully.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Oh yes. When Mike and I were deciding to choose which of the stories to put in the final collection I went on a five minute rant about how atrocious one of my contributions was. It was just terrible, completely useless and awful.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
I think Little Penny Dreadfuls will give people a good idea of the range of my writing, from the grotesque and the gory to the downright strange. The format of writing 99 word stories is obviously quite limiting in some respects. Hopefully people like what they read there and they’ll see more of things like character development and slow-build storytelling in upcoming projects!
What are you working on right now?
Everything and nothing. Promoting Little Penny Dreadfuls is taking up a lot of time and I have so many story outlines, ideas, part-finished projects, scraps of dialogue and bits and bobs of research that I just don't know what to do with. It changes day by day but right now, it's a novella based on a particular story from English folklore and/or a non-fiction piece, a biography of a long-neglected Victorian professional wrestler I've been researching on-and-off for a couple of years.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
Question: what's the best gourmet filling for a traditional Staffordshire oatcake?
Answer: Gouda and prosciutto. I stopped eating meat years ago but that was fantastic.