Rich Hawkins is a horror writer from Salisbury, England. He has several short stories published in various anthologies, and his debut novel ‘The Last Plague’ will be released in summer 2014.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m a horror writer with a fear of sharks and large crowds of people. I’m originally from the wilds of South West England; born in a backwater village in the middle of nowhere. I now live in Salisbury with my wife and our dog. I’ve been nuts about horror and monsters since childhood, when I crept downstairs one night to watch John Carpenter’s THE THING on telly while my parents were asleep. I’ve always had an affinity with the weird and the strange, so I guess it makes sense that I spend most of my time daydreaming about tentacled abominations and other awful things. So far, I’ve had a few short stories published in anthologies, the most recent being my first paying gig. Also, my novel ‘The Last Plague’ is due to be released during the summer by Crowded Quarantine Publications.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Spending time with my long-suffering wife and our dog. Watching films and reading. Procrastinating on Facebook. And eating. To be honest, between my day job and writing, I don’t get that much spare time, and with a baby due at the end of July, I suppose there will be even less!
What’s your favourite food?
It’s between pizza and cheesy chips. Or fish and chips. Or cheeseburgers. Sod it, I’ve decided: pepperoni pizza. Definitely not pizza with pineapple as a topping. Or mushrooms. What madman thought of putting fruit on a pizza?
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Bit of everything, really. Bit of Johnny Cash, some Muse and Manic Street Preachers. Plus some heavier stuff. Then some ‘Eye of the Tiger’ for any training montages I need to compile.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Horror. Weird fiction comes close, as my writing is veering in that direction. But I see that as coming mostly under horror anyway. It’s unfortunate that many people wrinkle their noses at ‘horror’, as though they’ve just glimpsed the contents of an unflushed toilet.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Adam Nevill, Gary McMahon, Wayne Simmons, David Moody, HP Lovecraft, Tim Curran, Laird Barron, Conrad Williams. If I could be a fraction as good as any of them, I’d be overjoyed.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
My favourite horror novel is Conrad Williams’s ‘One’, a truly great work of apocalyptic terror. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. In my humble opinion, it’s close to perfect. John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ is my favourite horror film. A sublime piece of filmmaking that manages to horrify and leave me awestruck. The scene when Doc Copper gets his forearms bitten off by the mouth-thing in Norris’s stomach still amazes me now.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
I’m not sure if it’s a cliché, but happy endings annoy me in horror films/books. There are no happy endings, in the long run.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
My perfect neighbour would be Rust Cohle from ‘True Detective’. We have similar philosophies on life, although he might be a bit more severe than me. Just a bit.
My nightmare neighbour would be Edward Cullen from the vamp-teen shitfest ‘Twilight’. He’d just be hanging around all day, brooding, pouting and poncing about the street, taking off his shirt at inappropriate moments. And, of course, there’d be legions of screaming teenage girls outside his house all night and day.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
The genre is doing well, I think. There’s plenty of new blood coming through. Of course, there’s a lot of crap out there, but some of the stuff I’ve read and watched recently has been excellent. There’re so many talented writers out there that it’s a little intimidating for newbies like myself. But it’s all for the good of the genre. It’s a shame that the horror genre is looked down upon by so many.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Adam Nevill’s ‘The Ritual’ is the last great book I’ve read. Absolutely superb novel, full of dread, eldritch horror and forgotten gods in ancient forests. Also, it’s spot-on study of old friendships and lost youth, which makes the terror that plagues the four characters much more effective.
The last book that disappointed me was ‘The Night Eternal’, the final book in ‘The Strain’ trilogy by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The first two books were very good, especially the first, but the last book was a bit of a let-down. It could have been epic. I hate it when that happens.
How would you describe your writing style?
That’s a hard question to answer without sounding pretentious. I try to make it restrained and descriptive, but evocative, too, hopefully. That’s the intention, anyway. But not too descriptive that the prose turns purple. I try not to rely on gore and cheap shocks; I’d much rather get under the reader’s skin with atmosphere and a carefully-placed word.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
My first published short story was about an alien invasion. A reviewer described it simply as (I may be paraphrasing here) ‘A spaceship turns up. Explosions happen. People die. That’s it.’ Really in-depth, as you can see.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
I dislike writing dialogue; it’s a struggle. It’s a difficult to master, and I’m nowhere near mastering it. Also, the self-doubt. Always the self-doubt. It never goes away.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Any explicit child or animal abuse. I hate to read about dogs being killed or harmed, even in fiction. Breaks my little black heart. Dogs are the coolest animal to grace the planet.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you choose and how would they die?
I’d kill ‘Jacob Black’ from the Twilight books. I’d chuck him into a vat of toxic waste and recreate the scene from ‘Robocop’.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters with all the faults and flaws of real people. A storyline that entertains, unsettles and challenges the reader; gets inside their head and stays with them for a while.
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 think names are very important. The right name makes a great starting point for a character. I’m not bothered about meaning. I keep a list of the names I like, and the unusual ones, too. Sometimes a character’s name will just pop into my head and it fits. Other times, despite my weird list, it’s a bloody chore trying to get the right name.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’d like to think I’m a better writer than I was this time last year. I’d like to think I’m always improving. I’ve grown a thicker skin concerning criticism, but the occasional negative comment will always bug me until I exorcise it. My storytelling isn’t as formulaic as it was when I first started out; I’m a bit more adventurous in the scope of my stories, trying new things and avoiding the predictable. The aim is just keep improving.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Thick skin and a stubborn streak. And the ability to absorb criticism, good and bad.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
To keep my head down and just keep writing through the bad patches.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Facebook and my blog. I’m not sure which works better. It’s difficult to get the word of mouth out there because I’m terrible at promoting my work and find it really awkward. Plus I’d hate to be one of those bloody spammers constantly posting links Amazon, etc. It gets boring after a while.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
My favourite character is Ralph Barrow from my novel ‘The Last Plague’. He comes across as a crude, stubborn dickhead with the manners of a slob, but he’s a nice bloke underneath all that, and he is fiercely loyal to his mates when times are hard. He’s a survivor.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
It would have to be Magnus Heap from the same novel. He’s one of the four main characters in the story. I wrote him as a put-upon, emasculated husband, and he’s a bit of a coward, too. He’s not a bad man, by any means, just weak.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
The money would be nice; it would make life a lot easier. Not bothered about the fame, I’d rather be an anonymous writer hiding in the shadows. It’d have to be the respect. To be respected by writers that I admire and regarded as a competent writer, would be brilliant. I suppose we all hunger for the respect of our peers, don’t we?
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
My debut novel ‘The Last Plague’, purely because it’s my first novel to be released and I put in a lot of work towards it. It was good to know I could write a full-length novel and not quit halfway through it. I can’t wait for it to be released.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
There are a few unpublished short stories I’d rather just consign to oblivion. They were crap.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
I’d say ‘The Last Plague’ would be the best place to start, seeing as it’s the only full-length work I’ve got coming out. Failing that, I’ve just had a short story published in Big Pulp Magazine’s latest issue ‘Black Chaos: Tales of the Zombie’, which I’d say is the best short story I’ve written.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
‘The Last Plague’ is a novel about four old friends who spend a stag weekend at an isolated holiday cottage. Unknown to them, a virus is spreading across the country, turning those who are infected into horrible, cannibalistic mutations (not zombies) whose only urges are to spread the virus and feed. When they leave the cottage to return home, they are caught in the panic and devastation of the epidemic, and have to make their way across England to reach their loved ones. It’s a pretty simple premise and it’s been done before, but I’ve tried to add something different to it. I hope it works.
I’m currently working on a novella called ‘Vermilion Fields’, a Lovecraftian/cosmic horror story. I’m quite enjoying writing it, and I’ve almost finished the first draft.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
“Who would play you in the movie based on your life?”
Find out more about Rich by following the links below