By day, A.S.Chambers is a mild-mannered genealogist, armed only with a tweed jacket and a finely sharpened HB pencil. By night, he is the top-hatted creator of the long-suffering Sam Spallucci - investigator of the paranormal and all things weird.
The first outing for Sam was The Casebook of Sam Spallucci, published in 2012, where the poor chap suffered such unfortunate tasks as babysitting a new born vampire, tracking down an angst-ridden poltergeist in a local high school and overcoming a lycanthropic zoo-keeper as it bayed for his blood. The next book in the series, Sam Spallucci: Ghosts From The Past, should hopefully be in print later this year.
As well as books concerning his beleaguered investigator, Austin also whips out the occasional short horror story from time to time. The first compilation of these, Oh Taste And See, was published in February this year and, like The Casebook of Sam Spallucci, is available to buy as an ideal present for your dear old Gran at amazon.co.uk. (Let's face it, she'll prefer these books to those mint imperials that you bought for her birthday last year. She was young once too, remember!)
Austin has a Facebook page which he would be delighted for you to follow (@A.S.Chambers) as well as the obligatory collection of ramblings in the Twittersphere (@ASChambersUK).
There is also a lovingly crafted website for you to peruse: www.aschambers.co.uk which fills you in a little bit more about his work and has the relevant links to Amazon for his books.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I'm a writer of horror and urban-fantasy fiction and I live in the North West of England. I'm an avid reader of many genres including ancient myths and urban legends as result my material tends to be less “hack and slash” but somewhat more quirky in nature than many horror writers, taking normal people and placing them in impossible situations.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I am normally complaining bitterly that I should be back at my desk writing! It's an obsession which the real world does have a tendency to interrupt.
What’s your favourite food?
It has to be any type of fruit. Whenever I get bored or need to slob out in front of a sci-fi box set I just grab whatever there is in the fruit bowl and chow down.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Oh, interesting one! There would be three music maestros for me, all of whom I listen to incessantly when I'm writing, depending on what I want to write. I've always been a massive fan of Mike Oldfield (I'm a total hippy at heart) and his music just washes over me. John Barry (the composer of the early James Bond music) is also a great inspiration for me. I love walking round town with his soaring brass ringing through my ears. Then last, and certainly by no means least, there has to be Beethoven. The guy was an absolute genius and whenever I need to create some badass villain I always flick on his seventh symphony.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I think this depends on what exactly I'm writing at the time. My first book “The Casebook of Sam Spallucci” could not really be classed as any of these. It is firmly in the Urban Fantasy camp – a normal everyday setting populated with fantastical creatures and stories. My second book “Oh Taste And See” falls far more into the Horror genre. I mean, there is a story in there entitled Teeth which will seriously put you off having dental implants...
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Some? You really want me to narrow it down? There are so many... I grew up on a diet of Stephen King, Anne Rice and Bram Stoker. These set me off on what has become an amazing roller coaster ride.
Now however, as my age has increased in proportion to the white hairs on my head, my tastes have really expanded. My many bookshelves contain all sorts of authors from Terry Pratchett to Bernard Cornwell; from Kathy Reichs to the latest Star Wars novels. Basically I love any book which has believable characters. If I can't engage with the characters then I immediately switch off.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
All time favourite horror novel has to be Dracula. It was the first one that I read and to this day I do not feel it can be beaten. Stoker created a tour de force and makes his characters interact so wonderfully. He is a master juggler keeping all the balls up in the air in perfect horrific harmony.
My favourite horror film might raise a few eyebrows. I would say Alien. Yes, I know it is a sci-fi movie, but it is still a fantastic horror creation. There is shock, suspense and a monster in the shadows. Plus it is in space! What more could the viewer desire?
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
Twilight. Sparkly vamps????? No.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
Perfect neighbour: Richard Sharpe from the Bernard Cornwell novels. The guy is just so damn practical! I'm sure he would have the perfect tool for everything so I would be round there every five minutes borrowing things or asking him if could help build an out house or something. Plus, come the zombie apocalypse, he would be one mean shot with a rifle.
Nightmare neighbour: Dr Temperance Brennan from the Kathy Reichs novels. This is a woman who has a great job as a forensic anthropologist and she should be happy with her lot in life. However, she just has to stick her nose into every case that wanders past her and ends up not only getting herself in trouble but also getting those around her killed. The cost of house insurance for living next to her would be phenomenal!
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Honestly, somewhat mixed. I've more or less given up on the mainstream genre as it just seems so dull and repetitive. There are, however, some great gems out there. When I go round the conventions I meet guys like Wayne Simmons and David Moody. These fellows are so alive and hungry for writing so they produce much fresher material.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I really enjoyed reading the Star Wars: Medstar books. They were written by Michael Reaves (he created the TV cartoon series of Dungeons & Dragons – remember that?) and Steve Perry (Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire). It was like M.A.S.H in space and I really engaged with the characters.
As for disappointments, “Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold. It had so much promise and there were some cracking scenes in there yet I ultimately felt it rambled and the ending felt like a cop out.
How would you describe your writing style?
It take the mundane and twist it. I can be sat in a coffee shop watching the world go by and think to myself, “What if some of the people out there weren't human but were actually put there as sleeper creatures to bring on an apocalypse...?”
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I've had a number of reviews on Amazon where people have said that they could not put my books down or where they commented that they loved the characters. This really makes me smile.
I had one negative rating on Goodreads. I did a little digging and discovered that the reviewer was an evangelical Christian who designed stained glass models for a living. What on earth was she doing reading my books anyway???
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Writing is not the problem. Day-to-day life is the problem! It constantly gets in the way with its bills to pay and dripping taps to fix. This is why I need someone like Richard Sharpe living next door. I could persuade him to do all that stuff for me.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Infant mortality. It really upsets me, the idea of a young life snuffed out brutally short. I started reading the King/Straub book “Black House” but had to stop when I came to a description of a dead child. I just could not go any further, so I know I could never write about that topic myself.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
Just for the hell of it I think I would want to kill off Death from Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. I have not got a clue how I would achieve this but I'd love to know where he went and would he meet a Death of Deaths?
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters. A good story has to have real, believable characters. The plot can be the biggest piece of crock ever to dribble from the fingers of a ageing hack, but if the characters have life and vitality then you will want to read it to the end just to see what happens to them.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
I know a lot has been said about this over the recent years what with J.K.Rowling and her use of appropriate names in the Harry Potter books and I'm inclined to agree that characters do need distinctive names. For example, my main character Sam Spallucci sounds like a private investigator. However, sometimes it plays to go a bit left field and lead the reader up the garden path. I also have a character named Malcolm Wallace. A plain, bland name so the reader sits up quick when they discover that he in fact is a sociopathic killer.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
My characters have evolved along with my use of language. This is down to my reading materials spreading into other genres. Back in my teens all my writing was basically Stephen King knock offs. Now, however, I like to play around with things a bit more and, as my life experiences have increased, I've also been able to colour my fiction accordingly.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A damn decent laptop! For many years I put up with cheap pieces of junk which were constantly taking up time and money when they broke down. A few years ago I forked out for a Mac and I've never looked back.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Get a good proof-reader. It doesn't matter how many times you re-read and re-draft, you will always miss a number of glaring errors. It's a basic law of probability.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Obviously there is the whole Facebook thing but to be perfectly honest nothing competes with getting out to conventions and comicons and meeting good old, real-life book readers. I think we are becoming switched off to online advertising and the like; we gloss it over as we play Candy Crush or drink our first cup of coffee. What people really like is being able to talk to someone who has created a new book. That way they get a real feel as to how it will sound and whether it will be for them.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
I have two.
The first is a favourite of many of my readers. The Reverend James Francis Macintyre (or Spliff to his friends) is the best mate of my investigator, Sam Spallucci. He is the Anglican chaplain at local university. His position requires that he be a sober, responsible, god-fearing individual. He is none of the above. He chain smokes Silk Cut, drinks his gin neat and is for ever getting into sticky situations with young, male undergrads. There was a wonderful description of him in a review on Amazon describing him as “being portrayed by the great Ian McKellan at his most devilishly camp.”
The second is a vampire called Nightingale. She features in a number of my stories and I feel that I got her just about perfect. She is both kind and caring when it comes to her progeny but also cool and collected when it comes to her job hunting down Constructs. I love her to bits and I can't wait to use her again.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
I can't really say that I have any characters that I really dislike. There are some side characters that get pushed into the shadows a bit, but that is mainly down to how the plot moves in a story and certain sacrifices have to be made.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Not bothered about any of them. Just let me write and I'll be happy.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I love the fact that I am in the process of creating a complete universe populated by all these chaps that are currently running around in my head. I feel like I'm creating a sanctuary for my own little fantasies and whimsies.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
If I told you about any of those I would have to kill you afterwards...
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
If people are new to my work and can't decide which one to start with I normally recommend “Oh Taste & See”. It is short and accessible and clearly shows how I like to keep my writing style fast-paced and moving.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
“Oh Taste & See” was my last book, published earlier this year. It is nine short horror stories ranging from a vampire spaghetti western to a “what lurks behind the closed door” story. Some are quite dark; some are more quirky. I say to people that it is good bedtime reading if you are fond of nightmares...
My next book is due out this summer. “Sam Spallucci: Ghosts From The Past” picks up where “The Casebook Of Sam Spallucci” left off. It continues with his trials and tribulations as Lancaster's only investigator of the paranormal when he is hired by his ex-girlfriend to investigate an old university friend who has set up a cult.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
“I've heard you are working on a rather large book entitled 'Fallen Angel'. Can you tell me about it?” I would reply, “For now, you will just have to wait and see.”
Follow the links below to find out more about A.S. Chambers and his books
What lurks behind that locked door? What do they keep in that biscuit tin? Why would two beautiful women really want to date the office sleaze? Are false teeth capable of jealousy?
A.S.Chambers provides answers to these questions and many more in this collection of short horror stories concerning such themes as vampires, cowboys, confectionery and dentistry.
Have a quick taste and see just what lurks in the shadows.